Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Sad, Sad Day

Many, many years ago, the Lord brought a very special friend into my life ~ Brenda Steinmeier.

I was working as the Children's Director at
Mars Hill Bible Church when I hired Brenda as our Nursery Coordinator. Little did I realize that Brenda would not only be a co-worker, but a lifelong friend and sister in the Lord.

Over the years, we've experienced many of life's joys together. Brenda and her husband Tim watched me get married. I was there when she went on bedrest and then had baby Abigail. She was there when I had a baby, and then she had a baby, and then I had a baby and another baby. :) (You get the drift ~ smile)

Brenda was a part of our "original" Bible Study, and we've enjoyed many, many hours praying together, in the Word, and enjoying fun, friend times together.


Our husbands are also good friends, and our families have journeyed together through unemployment/job changes, many "taco nights", church changes, moving of houses, marriage "bumps", health concerns and so much more. Brenda and I have extended much grace to one another, and watched God take two very different women and shape their hearts into a beautiful, lifelong friendship.

Earlier this spring, Brenda received the shocking news that her sister (Brenda's very best friend) died very unexpectedly at home. As you can imagine, the loss for Brenda and her family was enormous. Our Bible Study girls rallied together to pray, bring meals, and help in any way we could. It was an extremly painful time for Brenda and her family.

Over the past few months, I've cried many tears with Brenda as she started living her "new normal" ~ life without her sister/best friend. The journey through grief is never easy, is it?


I've had the opportunity to share what I learned through my own loss when my fiance was tragically killed. But most importantly, I've had the privilege to journey closely with my good friend as the Lord very slowly has been bringing comfort to her broken heart.

This past 4th of July was especially difficult, and I was thankful our families could spend time together, as well as her mom. (Here is a picture I took at the fireworks of Brenda's family and her mom).

Monday morning I was home working on my computer, putting the finishing touches on my message, "Navigating through Life's Interruptions". When the phone rang, I was not prepared for the news I would receive. Earlier that morning, Brenda's mom Nancy had unexpectedly passed away in her sleep.

Talk about a Life Interrupted.

I have been wrestling big time with the Lord over this one. "Really, Lord?? Really?? Brenda just lost her sister this Spring....how can You take her mom?? Lord, how is she going to make it through the holidays?? Oh Lord, Brenda and Nancy were so close. This just seems like too much for her to bear......" I have wept openly before the Lord, and feel so "helpless" as a friend.

If I was the author, this is not how I would write the story.

But, of course, I am not....He is ~ and I must remember God does know what He is doing ~ and that in the midst of this shock, pain, grief, and tragedy, He is there.

Friends, may I please ask that you would pray for Brenda and her family during this very difficult time??

May the Lord provide much comfort and peace, make His presence so known to them all, and may He reveal His goodness and His grace in the midst of this sad, sad time.


Matthew 5:4

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. I thank God for you.
In His Great Love,


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Chili!! :)


West Michigan friends: Thank you to the amazing women who joined us for our Magnificent Monday Bible Study last night! What a GREAT turn-out! Woo Hoo! If you are still thinking of joining, it's not too late! We'll be meeting again on Monday, October 3rd ~ and we would love to have you join us! :) To pre-register, please visit http://bit.ly/95AqV3.

Hi Friends!

I hope you have been enjoying this beautiful Fall season!! :)

Our family had a wonderful "Fall Family Fun" weekend ~ Jake's football game, raking leaves, Fall BINGO, and my favorite fall meal, Chicken Chili! :)

I'm excited to share my quick, yummy Chicken Chili recipe. It comes from my very best friend Julie Richardson, who happens to be in Israel right now. (Hurrry home ~ we miss you, Julie!!).

Julie made this Chicken Chili at my home years ago, and it was super easy and delicious! :) I hope you think so too!!


Julie's Chicken Chili

2 large chicken breasts cooked & diced (I boil the chicken for 20-25 minutes)
1 jar salsa
1 small can chicken broth
1 small jar Great Northern beans
1 2C bag shredded cheddar cheese

Crock pot - low- 3-4 hours. Enjoy!! :)


Saturday night I made a double portion of Chicken Chili and set up our Chili Bar (this is a favorite with Jake and his football buddies!). What fun! :)

(I'm definitely not a photographer, but here's a picture from Saturday night.
The Chicken Chili is in the white crockpot dish, the first bowl you see is filled with salsa).


What's for dinner at your house tonight?? I'd love to hear your Tasty Tuesday ideas!!

And for more great recipes, head over to
Tempt Your Tummy Tuesday and Tuesday's at the Table recipe exchanges. What fun!

Have a Terrific Tuesday!!



Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall Family Fun from A to Z


Can I just tell you ~ I love FALL! I love the smells, the beautiful colors, the traditions. And one of the main reasons....my kids have taught me how to enjoy the season! They love jumping in leaves, picking apples, decorating our porch, football games, and more!

I am pleased to share some of our new favorite family activities, plus other simple, inexpensive ways for you to make the most of your fall ~ A to Z style!!

(A quick disclaimer....I've tried to think of things that you could participate in regardless of the city you live in. I've included many links to other amazing sites for even more ideas. Be sure to check them out! *** For my Grand Rapids friends, many of the ideas have links that will lead you to more specific local times and information. ***For all of the ideas, I tried to think of inexpensive ideas ~ if it costs more than $5 per person, I did not include it on the list). Enjoy!


*Fall Family Fun ideas from A to Z*....


A - Apples!! Apple orchards, apple picking, apple baking (Grand Rapids orchards & times here); OR
Artprize

B- Bingo (Autumn bingo w/ autumn color M&M's ~ always a kid favorite); OR Baking (great fall recipes
here) OR bike rides enjoying the beautiful fall colors

C - Corn Mazes OR Color Tours OR Caramel popcorn (delicious, easy recipe here) OR Fall Crafts

D - Doughnuts and cider OR Decorate your front porch together (Fun kid decorating ideas here)


E - Events (tons of Fall events in our community ~ GR's Family Fun calendars here & here) OR Eat out (the food court at the mall is always a fun experience for kids)

F- Football Games OR Family Fun Night ~ Invite over another family for food, fun, and fellowship

G - Game Night ~ Have everyone pick a favorite board game to play. (More Game Night ideas
here)

H - Hay Rides

I - Ice Cream Sundae Night (info here)

J - Jump in leaves
OR Jump rope (complete with your favorite jump rope songs here)

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

L -
Fun with Leaves OR Letterboxing (If you haven't tried Letterboxing before, you must! (Get started
here or our family's letterboxing fun here)

M - Mazes! Indoor fall mazes here or corn mazes OR Movie Night (Fun Family Movie Night ideas here)

N - Nature Walk ~ Enjoy the beautiful weather with a Nature Walk! Give each of the kids a brown lunch bag with items listed on it to collect and/or discover. (Also, if you live in the Grand Rapids area, click
here to join the Connect with Nature Challenge!)

O - Enjoy the great outdoors with Outdoor Games (lots of game ideas here
) OR Opposite Day (Do everything backwards! Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast!)

P - Pumpkins!
Baking & Carving & Decorating
OR Pizza Party ~ Let the kids make their own pizza!

Q - Quiet time ~ Enjoy Fall Reading at home (Great resource list
here) OR head to your local library for some quiet reading and/or story time activities. (The link for Kent District Library events ~
here)

R - Rake leaves
(be sure to jump in them afterwards!)

S -Scarecrow Making; Scavenger Hunt (ideas here)

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)

U - Underwater activities ~ Find a local swimming pool and swim, swim, swim! Another idea...we sometimes go to priceline.com 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 (and I love room service ~ no cooking for mom)!!

V - Volunteer. Rake a neighbor's lawn. Walk a neighbor's dog. Pick up trash. The ideas are endless...

W - Walk! Walk to the nearest park and enjoy the beautiful colors. Or walk around the block backwards.

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

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

Z - Head to the Zoo! (Grand Rapids' John Ball Park link
here)

Woo Hoo!! I'm so excited for Fall! What a perfect opportunity to enjoy our children and participate in many of the seasonal outings and activities . Let's make our ordinary fall days "extraordinary"!! :)

What family fun activities do you have planned this fall?? I'd love to hear from you!

May your Fall be filled with much joy, laughter, and fun, family moments!!



P.S. A special thanks to Big Binder,
GR kids.com, Family Fun, Parents Magazine, Kaboose, & Chocolate Cake Moments for letting me pass along some of your fun family ideas!

P.S.S. Grand Rapids friends, just a reminder our Monday night Bible study will be starting Monday, September 27th. (More information here
). This Monday night I'll be teaching on "What to do when life is interrupted". I would love to have you join us! :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's Weighing You Down??

West Michigan friends: Our Magnificent Monday Bible Study begins on September 27, 2010. We would love to have you join us! :) To pre-register, please visit http://bit.ly/95AqV3.

Hello Friends!

What an awesome time I had with the MOPS moms from Vermontville, Michigan yesterday! (Thank you for your prayer support!)


I just love sharing with moms of Preschoolers, especially since it was not so long ago that I was a MOPS mom. The year I was in MOPS, my little gang was ages 1, 2, 3, and 10. Whew! I'm exhausted all over again thinking about those days!!

For yesterday's MOPS gathering, I brought along a backpack, and shared 7 different things that I believe we need to pack for our journey (in this case, our Adventure in Mothering), if we are going to be the Moms that God intends for us to be.


Not items like Kleenexes and cough drops, but things like a Truth Nametag to remind us who we are in Christ, an IV for daily infusions of His power and His strength (don't we all need those??! - I know I sure do!), JOY to remind us to "parent within our personality", a Caribiner to keep us linked to other sisters in Christ, and more!

However, before we start filling our backpack, we need to empty it first.

In my backpack yesterday, I carried two, huge heavy bricks. One brick I labeled WORRY, and one brick was labeled FEAR. Two big weights that, thankfully, we DO NOT have to bring with us on our journey!!

My bricks were real life examples for me. Fear can be huge in my life. I fear not being good enough, I fear rejection, I fear being fat
, I fear losing my friends, I fear missing out on the full life that God has for me. (Sorry, I'm just being honest....)

Most recently, I fear a fire is going to wake us in the night.

If I'm not careful, FEAR can take away my joy, take hold of my mind, and keep me from experiencing God's goodness and grace in my life.

I am thankful for God's Word ~ and His many, many reminders to "Fear Not!". I am grateful that God gently leads us through our fears, speaks Truth into the lies, brings others to be voices of Truth and remind us to keep going (and always at just the right time), and that He never, ever gives up on us. Ever! What an awesome God we serve!

What about for you? Are you feeling burdened, exhausted, "heavier" than you need to?


Are there any "bricks" weighing you down on your journey?

May today be the day that you empty out "your backpack" of anything that is not from Him ~


fear
worry
insecurity
anger
idolatry
addiction
unrealistic expectations...

...so that you can enjoy the full, free adventure of life in Christ!!

May I pray for us??


Dear God, Thank YOU that in Christ we can live FREE, FULL LIVES! Please reveal to us if there is anything that is weighing us down or getting in the way of experiencing all that You have for us. May today be the day we gently place our "bricks" at the cross (and leave them there!). Please use us to make a difference for Your Kingdom! In the Strong Name of Jesus we pray ~ Amen!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Have an amazing, liberating, joy-filled day!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Parenting within Your Personality


West Michigan friends: Our Magnificent Monday Bible Study begins on September 27, 2010. We would love to have you join us! :) To pre-register, please visit http://bit.ly/95AqV3.

Hello Friends!

I am busy preparing for my first MOPS presentation of the Fall season!! I love it! As a former MOPS graduate, I know first hand the blessing of this amazing ministry. I can't wait to share an encouraging message with the Moms from Vermontville, Michigan! Woo Hoo!

In tomorrow morning's message, I'll be sharing 7 things I believe we need to not just "survive" motherhood, but to "thrive" in the role God has called us to. Whenever I share this message, there is one part in particular that seems to especially connect with the women ~ discovering (or rediscovering) what brings us JOY.

In my own journey, there is a definite season in my mothering journey that I lost my joy. When my youngest (Sarah) was born in 2004, I left my full-time ministry job to be a full-time mom. I knew this was what God was calling me to do, and looked forward to the opportunity.

However, once I was home full-time, I felt completely overwhelmed and inadequate. My kids were ages 6 months, 1, 2 and 10. (Yes, we had 3 in diapers!). It was exhausting.

Most of my friends stopped calling. (Not as much fun to "do lunch" when Cindy has 4 kids with her). I was scared to go anywhere by myself with so many kids. I was so lonely.

I watched my neighbor go blueberry picking with her family, and then spend the day making fresh pies. Her son refused to eat my mac and cheese because it wasn't homemade. I felt like such a loser mom.

Another friend was out of the house each day by 8:00 AM. She would go to the park and the beach and always had fresh, healthy snacks for her kids. My kids were addicted to apple juice and ate sugary fruit snacks.

I thought maybe I should go back to work ~ maybe I wasn't cut out to be a stay at home mom. I felt so alone. My counselor at the time said, "Cindy, it sounds like you're going through a desert experience." Really? You think?? I just paid you $10o to tell me that?!

I had completely lost my joy.

And then a dear friend shared with me advice that had been passed on to her. She said, "Cindy, you need to parent within your personality". My personality?? I didn't even know who I was anymore. I was just in survival mode ~ trying to make it through the day without crying and whining (the kids, not me) and have a half-way healthy meal on the table for supper. A shower for me made the day a celebration.

Parent within my personality? Who was I? What brought me joy???? I didn't even know anymore.

So I started to make a list. For me, I love people and parties and celebrations. I love loud fun music, and adventures, and doing things in "themes". I enjoy friends and serving others and most importantly, I am passionate about teaching and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and His great love for us all.

Soon I started to incorporate those things into my days. We had "Terrific Tuesdays" and "Wacky Wednesdays" and "Super Saturdays". We would invite friends over for a pink princess party, or have a luau in our driveway, or have scavenger hunts throughout our house to find mini pots of gold. We sang fun, loud Bible songs and went for prayer walks and put flowers on our loved ones doorsteps (and then rang the door bell and ran away)! We had a ball! :) My JOY was back! :)

Now please know, just like I'm not cut out to bake all day or can fresh vegetables, you may think I sound like a weirdo because I love colorful, plastic table cloths. Or that I love to have indoor picnics complete with plastic ants. That's ok.

The key is to find out who God created YOU to be ~ and then be THAT person!

Live a full life being the man/woman God created YOU to be. Discover what brings YOU joy and then parent within YOUR unique, God-given personality. Your family (and the Kingdom) desperately needs you to be YOU!!! :)

What brings you JOY? What are the things you love to do?? What family activities are most fun for you? Or if you could plan a day full of JOY ~ what would that day look like?? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Here's to a week filled with an abundance of JOY!! :)



P.S. If you would like to lift up Tuesday's MOPS talk, I would be so humbled and blessed. I will be speaking from 9:30 AM - 10:45 EST. May the Lord use my words to bring hope, joy, and TRUTH to these dear and precious moms.

And if you have a heart for prayer, and would like to pray for my other fall speaking engagements, I would love your support. My list of upcoming speaking engagements is here, and if you send me a note with your e-mail address. I'd love to share with you after the gatherings how God showed up! :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Stand Corrected!

West Michigan friends: Our Magnificent Monday Bible Study begins on September 27, 2010. We would love to have you join us! :)


Hello Friends!

Happy Weekend to you! After a full week with a sick little girl, our neighborhood still on high alert (although no new fires ~ Praise the Lord!), and a bjillion other things going on (some sad news ~ I'll fill you in more next week) ~ I feel a very random post coming on. Thank goodness for Caffeinated Randomness! :)

* First, dear Gigi, thank you for sharing on my Dreams & Detours post. I am so sorry for your loss. And dear bloggy friends, thank you for ministering to Gigi through your comments and prayers. What a blessing to be part of such a beautiful on-line community. Y'all make me so proud :)

* Thank you, too, for praying for my Amanda. Thankfully her illness didn't spread (whew!), and I made it through 2 days of movies, games, snuggle time and book reading without losing my joy once. (It also helped that my dad came over so I could run some quick errands, and John came home early too. Thanks, guys!). I appreciate your prayers for my family so very much! :)

* Lastly, as many of you know, this summer I've been very honest about my lifelong weight struggle, and my commitment now to live "Fat Talk Free". (Side note: I've been blown away by the personal letters, emails, and comments that I've received from women around the nation on this subject. Thank you for sharing your journey with me!)

However, I was recently "corrected" by a dear friend, and I now feel like I must ask for your forgiveness.

I try to be careful when I share about my own journey not to mention size or numbers. In fact, personally, I am not trying to achieve a certain size or weight. My goal is health, victory, peace, and freedom.

I once heard a teaching where the Bible teacher (it happened to be Beth Moore!) talked about life in the "free zone".

For some, she said, maybe you live "most free" at a size 10. If you hit a size 12, you know you've been snacking too much, but for you to stay at a 8, you work out more than you should, food becomes your idol, etc..

Ever since I heard that teaching years ago, I just loved it. That's what I want for my life ~ to live in the "free zone". And that's what I want for you too.

Anyway....in my post a few weeks ago, I shared some pictures from years ago when I was at my heaviest. I made comments about how "big" I am in the pictures, and how others responded when they saw my picture. Since I didn't mention a size or number, I thought I was being careful and appropriate. I posted the pictures for you to understand the highs and lows of this journey with weight I've been on throughout my life.

However, one of my good friends from high school pulled me aside the other day (as only friends from high school can!) and shared how my words could have been very hurtful. This same friend has recently lost almost 80 pounds, and when I described myself as "big" ~ she thought I looked pretty good. And she felt that comparatively, she was still much bigger than I am in those pictures. In other words, if I'm saying, "Ohhhh, Mama Big" about myself and she is much bigger, what am I saying about her (or others that might be larger than I am).

Am I making any sense??

All of that to say, please know that if any way sharing my journey and pictures was hurtful to you, I am very sorry. My heart's desire is that each one of us would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are lavishly loved, JUST THE WAY THAT WE ARE.

That God loves us and delights in us, whether we are a size 8, 18, 28, or 38.

That Christ came so that we can have full, abundant, overflowing life today. Regardless of what size our pants are or if we have a muffin top. Or 2.

We are meant to live FREE, FULL, EFFECTIVE, FRUIT-BEARING, KINGDOM ADVANCING lives.

And I am incredibly sorry if anything I've posted has been received incorrectly. Please forgive me. My hope is that *She Sparkles* would always be a source of encouragement, hope, joy, and TRUTH.

And thank you in advance for your grace. :)

While we're talking about it, I'm curious....

Are you experiencing life in your "free zone"? Are you living the full, free life that Christ desires??

If not, what is getting in the way?? Lies?? Faulty thinking?? Bondage?? Addiction??

May today be the day that you allow God to begin a healing work in your heart, mind, and emotions.....and may you experience ALL that He has for YOU!! :)

Thanks for hearing my heart....my randomness is finished, for today. :)

Sweet blessings to you~



P.S. Just in case you didn't see this video on Fat Talk before, PLEASE take 3 minutes to view it today! You'll be so glad you did!



P.S.S. A huge thanks to Michelle for hosting Caffeinated Randomness. Be sure to stop by her blog ~ I'm glad you will enjoy it! :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dreams & Detours


West Michigan friends: Our Magnificent Monday Bible Study begins on September 27, 2010. We would love to have you join us! :)


Hey friends!

Happy Thursday to you!! I don't know about you....but I couldn't wait for today to get here!

A local, amazing church has offered a "writing room" for me this fall! I now have "office days" on Tuesday's & Thursday's where I go and spend hours & hours in this beautiful, window-filled, upper floor classroom and pray, study, write, and dig deep into God's Word. Woo Hoo!! It is a dream come true! :)

My time this past Tuesday studying was awesome!! I'm so fired up about the message God is "downloading" to me. I feel like I'm just going to "bust" with all the "redhot" insights I am learning. Oh how I love God's Word!!

I have been looking forward all week to another chance to sneak off to my "office" today! Plus, I scheduled a quick lunch break in with Julie, my ministry partner and bestest friend. I premade dinner last night, so I can just pop it in the oven after tea time this afternoon, and have a nice, relaxing night home with my gang. What a Thrilling Thursday it would be!

I went to bed last night almost giddy, so looking forward to a fantastic day filled with all of my favorite things!

Imagine my surprise when my daughter Amanda's little canker sore began to grow last night. And grow. And grow. And then we noticed the spots on her feet. NOOOOOO! It's hand, foot, and mouth disease. Highly contagious. And she's unable to go to school...for awhile.

AHHH!

I've been praying like crazy! Praying first, of course, that God would heal Amanda and take away her discomfort, but also begging God to heal her quickly so that she could go to school. Having a sick daughter doesn't really fit into "my" plan! "My" plans are getting tossed right out the window!

However, as I was holding Manda close, I was reflecting on the changes in my day. My hours of studying the Word were replaced with lots of disinfecting, watching an American Girl movie and lots of snuggling. It felt as if I was suddenly given a "detour" on my daily journey.


(I looked up the definition of detour: a deviation from a direct course. Yep, that about sums up my day!)

And then I realized I had a choice. Either I could go on the detour and find the joy in the ride, or be a grump about it all day long and ruin it for everyone! You know what I decided?! I would surrender my plan. And I was choosing joy!

And I did - I've enjoyed every minute of holding my Manda, resting with her, playing Trouble and watching movies. In the midst of this sickness, I am full of peace and patience and joy. (Thank You, Lord!)

I also thought of other "detours" that God has brought my way. Thinking my life would go one way, and then a phone call, and suddenly my life was on a drastically different path. Planning for a job opportunity to last forever, and then the sense that my call was at home. Watching friendships and relationships head in a different direction than the "direct course" we had wanted. Life is full of detours, isn't it??

My dad was given a pretty big detour last year. His company announced they were closing up shop and moving to Mexico. Now he's unemployed/early retired. Definitely a deviation from the direct course he had planned! My dad was thrown a detour.

What about for you?? Have you encountered a "detour" recently? Maybe it was an unexpected health concern or illness? Or relationship trouble? Maybe it was a job loss or job change or financial challenge? Or maybe in the midst of traveling down the path of life, you somehow turned the corner onto a detour filled with hurts and loss and unexplainable sadness.

My hope is that for each one of us we will look for and find the joy in the detour.


Even though we do not know what the future holds, thankfully, we know Who holds the future. And He is good and faithful and true! And He doesn't make mistakes ~ ever!

So let's fasten our seatbelts, take our hands off the steering wheel, and sit back and enjoy the ride ~ wherever He may take us!

Enjoy this Thrilling Thursday!! God's richest blessings to you!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Magnificent Monday" Bible Study starting SOON!

Hello dear Friends!

Fire Update: Thank you for lifting up my neighborhood in prayer. Thankfully there haven't been any new fires in 9 days! I'll keep you posted as soon as the individual is caught & behind bars ~ we'll all sleep a little bit better! Until then, please keep praying! :)

For today, I can't wait to fill you in on our Fall Bible Study that will be starting SOON!!

This fall we will be going through the Bible study Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted 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, September 27th ~ our Magnificent Monday Bible Study will be "re-starting" after our summer 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!!

I've had the chance to go through the Bible study before (just on my own) and it is awesome!! (I originally started this study when John lost his job. It was very timely and Truth-filled ~ just what I needed.)


Here's more from Priscilla about Jonah: A Life Interrupted..



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

You can also view a sample chapter of the book 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 November 15th (just a quick 7 week study ~ perfect!). In the summer, we had over 150 women in attendance. What fun! :)

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

If you would like to register or have any questions about the study, please leave a comment or e-mail me at
cindy.bultema@gmail.com. I'd love to have you join us!!

Many 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 :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Sweet Note


Hey Friends!!

I recently received the sweetest note from a Bloggy friend. She was so kind and gracious, and also asked some really great questions that made me think! Today I'll share her note (anonymously) and my response to her with you. I would also love to hear how YOU would answer her questions. Here is her e-mail...

Hi Cindy. I have been reading your blog recently, and today I read several old posts and just really felt so blessed by your amazing and obvious love for the Lord. I myself have been a Christian since I was a child and I love the Lord too. However, I feel my walk with Him is often so dry . . . my life in general often feels that way.

Anyways, I wondered if you would be willing to share how you structure your quiet times - how do you fit them into your hectic life, how do you know what to read/study/do to really grow and walk with Him? I feel like I really need some input from someone who seems to be thriving in their relationship with the Lord. I'd appreciate your advice. I know the Lord doesn't promise us an easy life with Him, but I know it's supposed to be more "abundant" than I'm experiencing lately.

Thank you for not "judging" me and for modeling a godly life through your blog entries. I so look forward to them.

God bless you and your family

And for my response...

Hello dear one ~

You are so sweet. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’m always blessed to share what I am learning!


You are right…my life is hectic! With 4 kids (6, 7, 9,and 16) I’ve learned I definitely MUST make time in the Word a priority. And first thing. For me personally, (in the summer) I let my kids have some TV time in the morning while I read the Word. Not all moms would agree with this approach. My spiritual mentor (whom I dearly love and value her insight) let her 6 kids watch Sesame Street from 9-10 every morning when they were little. They all now love and serve the Lord. So I make sure every morning I sit with the Word and let it wash over me. (And my kids are thrilled to have some early morning TV time). I study the Word, write verses on index cards and carry them with me throughout the day, pray, and try to start my day with my eyes focused Up.

As for studies, I have such a hard time sticking with one study. (I drive myself crazy!). Thankfully I’ve been leading studies lately, because it then forces me to stick with the study until the end. If you are ever looking for a study, I would be happy to recommend some to you.


Besides being in the Word, I always make sure to spend time memorizing scripture. I do this whenever I have spare time. I have index cards by my bathroom sink, on my kitchen cupboards, by my computer, in my gym bag, EVERYWHERE!! When I walk the dog, I go over my verses.

My life has been transformed because my mind has been transformed.

And this has come by renewing my mind with the Truth of God’s Word. I was such a mess before Jesus. A real mess. But Jesus has set me free…and I don’t ever want to go back (I won’t ~ Lord willing ~ I won’t). I have learned I MUST be intentional about studying, memorizing, meditating, and reflecting on the Word of God. It is my Life.

I certainly can relate on feeling “dry” and like my life should be “more abundant” than I am experiencing. Believe me, I can relate. This summer has thrown me for a huge loop ~ I’ve had such health issues (not big ones, just little irritating ones…but enough to rob me of my joy if I would let it). Life is hard. Just last week as I was talking with Christian friends, I had friends share their very real struggles with divorce and bankruptcy and depression and affairs and other yucky stuff. And these were my Christian friends. Life is just hard.


But I’ve also learned (esp. when my fiancĂ© was killed)…we always have a choice. Always. I can choose to be better or bitter. Pitiful or powerful. I can choose to live defeated or look for God’s goodness. And I choose to look for God’s goodness! The treasures in the hard times, as He promises.

I’m not sure if any of this makes sense…but please know, I would never judge you. I admire your desire to learn and to grow. Your note was a real bright spot in my day. May God bless you on your journey and reveal Himself to you in new and fresh ways!!
In Him,
Cindy

And now it is your turn! How do you structure your quiet times? How do you fit them into your full life? How do you know what to read/study/do to really grow and walk with Him?

Please share with us your tips so we can all learn and grow! I'd love to hear what works for you!! Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! Blessings to you!!


P.S. The winner of the Max Lucado giveaway is Mary Swierenga! Thank you to all who entered! Enjoy, Mary!! :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New Favorite Book & GIVEAWAY

Hello friends! :)

I am so excited for today's Book Review and Giveaway!

I was recently asked by Thomas Nelson Publishers to review Max Lucado's latest book, Outlive Your Life. I thought to myself, "Sure, I could give it a try. I like Max's writings."


(Side note: You should know, not everything that I review I recommend. If I don't give it two absolute thumbs up, I don't pass it along).

When Max's new book arrived, I was intrigued by the fun cover and the book's subtitle: You Were Made to Make A Difference. I picked up the book to skim through it, and was absolutely blown away. What a powerful, life-changing book! I couldn't put it down!

When John came home I shared,"OK, I have a new favorite book ~ you have to read it!" And guess what, John loves it too!!

Max writes, "These are difficult days in our world's history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe.

But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did?

What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let's live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did...."

Can I get an Amen?? What if we rocked the world with some hope?? Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life?! Count me in!!

You will love this book! It's classic Max Lucado ~ brilliant, easy to read but so very insightful, chocked full of beautiful word pictures, and jam-packed with hope, vision, and Truth. I think I'm stuffing lots of Christmas stockings with this book come Christmas.

And, I recently learned Max is donating 100% of his royalties from the Outlive Your Life book and products to World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion. Awesome!

Because I love passing along great, transformational, Truth~filled books to my readers ~ I would love to give a copy of Out Live Your Life, my new favorite book, to a blessed bloggy friend!

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

What is your current favorite book of 2010??

RULES: Starts today, Friday, September 10th and ends Tuesday, September 14th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog on Wednesday, September 15th.

If your email address is not connected to your ID, please leave your email address with your comment or email it to me at cindy.bultema@comcast.net with the subject "Giveaway".

I can't wait to hear from you!! Have a GREAT weekend!!


Thanks for stopping by * She Sparkles*! God's richest blessings to you! :)




P.S. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received my copy of the book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday & What would you do if a reporter showed up at your door??


Hey Friends!

Happy Thankful Thursday to you!! What are you thankful for today??

My list is long....faith, family, great friends, new school year, John's job, football season, and so much more! However, after a month like we've had with the neighborhood fires (recap
here), I have to be honest ~ today I'm thanking God big-time for His protection and safety! Knowing that He is in control is what helps me sleep at night!

Also, you wouldn't believe what happened yesterday! I was in the house playing Trouble with my little Sarah. Benj and a friend were in our front yard playing football, and my other daughter had a friend over too. I was just minding my own business, having fun , when I noticed my neighbor was being interviewed by a reporter. I thought to myself, "Whew. I'm so glad that's not me."

(In case you didn't know, I loathe being videotaped. Watching myself on video after a speaking engagement brings out every insecurity in me. Thus the reason I was thrilled my neighbor was in front of the microphone and not me.)

However, the next thing I know, I see the reporter asking Benj if he could go inside and grab his mom. I thought, "Oh no. Please no." I was still in my smelly work-out shirt, no make-up, crazy curly wind blown hair, and still had absolutely NO DESIRE to be on TV.


What would you do??

I went outside, as requested, and the news reporter woman asked if she could ask me a few questions regarding the recent fires, as well as if I had a phone number for our community watch person. I said, "Let me grab that phone number for you."

I came in the house and started praying, "Oh Lord, I don't want to be on TV!! But, what do YOU want?? Look at me, Lord, I'm not dressed or ready ~ BUT....if it will bring YOU glory, I'll do it. Your will, Lord, not mine."

I put on some lip gloss, grabbed a sweatshirt (to cover up my workout shirt), headed outside with the phone number needed and a willing spirit to be used however. I answered the questions, and then spent the rest of the night PRAYING LIKE CRAZY that the interview would bring glory to God, and that if it was also accidentally destroyed in the editing room, that would be ok too. :)

OK True confession ~ after praying it would bring God glory, I also prayed that no one would see it if I looked fat (until my good friend reminded me I wasn't allowed to talk like that since I've declared my life is a Fat Talk Free Zone~ Thanks, Amy, I needed that reminder!)

Anyway, I peeked on the News 8 website shortly before the 11:00 PM news to see if there was a video clip. Although the video segment wasn't ready, there was a written copy of our time together. The title of the article ~ "One family refuses to live in fear".

And this quote from the article made me cry... "We talk about it openly," (Cindy) Bultema said. "We talk about where our hope and our trust is, and that we don't have to be afraid."

Thank You, Lord!! How I wish the article would have finished that sentence (as I shared our hope and faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ), but praise the Lord for even that sentence. It is true ~ in the midst of this craziness with a "serial arsonist" in our neighborhood ~ our hope and trust is in the Lord, and we do not have to be afraid.....and I'm so thankful for that promise today!! :)

You can watch the video clip here.

So there's a little recap of what's going on in my world today. How about for you?? Has God ever asked you to step out of your comfort zone?? How did you respond?? And what are YOU thankful for today?? I'd love to hear from you!!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Blessings to you, dear bloggy friend!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Favorite "Back to School" Tip

Hi Friends ~

Thank you for your prayers regarding the "serial arsonist" in my neighborhood (recap here). I will keep you posted when he/she is caught. In the mean time, please pray for protection and peace for our neighborhood. As you can imagine, nights are sleepless for many families. Thankfully my kids are not "overly anxious", but others have shared the fears and tears their children are experiencing. Oh, may this all end today ~ in Jesus' Powerful Name!!

I've decided to post on a much lighter, joyful subject today. (Light and fun is needed). Here's my all-time favorite, back to school tip. It sure Works for Us! Enjoy!


OK, true confession time...I used to dread afternoons. Especially from about 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM. The big kids would come home from school hungry, the little kids were whiny and irritable, and no one wanted to talk about school. Afternoons were no fun around our house. :(

Then last school year, I decided to try something different. I called it "Tea Time". You should know, we don't drink tea. (I couldn't think of anything else "catchy" to call it). I resolved to make "Tea Time" one of the highlights of our day!

I purchased a colorful tray and little appetizer plates from Target. I stocked our refrigerator with yummy, (semi) healthy snacks and fun drinks. I shared the vision of Tea Time with the kids, and announced that every single day after school, we would have "Tea Time" immediately when the kids got off the bus.

And you know what?? It worked!! My kids walk in the door and say, "What's for Tea Time, Mom?". If their friends are over, they join us (and comment, "I wish we did this at our house"). We share snacks and highlights from school and lots of laughter. I learn about what happened at recess, on the bus, in class. I treasure this time with my kids!

Most importantly, my attitude has changed. I look forward with eager anticipation to 4:00 PM. I delight in thinking what fun snacks I can prepare for my kids. I don't answer the phone during this time. Tea Time is a special, sacred part of my day!

Now I do recognize, it won't last forever. My high schooler Jake has football practice after school, so he doesn't make it for Tea Time very often. But for my 'little ones' (Benj is 9, Amanda is 7, and Sarah is 6) ~ we are building priceless memories!

And hopefully when they think of 'Tea Time', they'll think of a home filled with love, warmth, beauty, and belonging.
A mom can hope anyway...

Here's 3/4 of my Tea Time Gang! :) Don't they just look like fun?!! :)




And my handsome football player....

Tea Time has really Worked For Me!

What about for you?? What has helped your family life run more smoothly?? What favorite "Back to School" ideas have you tried?? I'd love to hear from you!!

And for more great "Works for Me Wednesday" ideas, head over to We Are That Family. You'll be glad you did!

Have a Wonderful Week!! Many blessings to you!!


P.S. The winner of my Lysa TerKeurst Giveaway is Lisa Shaw. (If you are interested in meeting an amazing, joy-filled, encouraging, prayer warrior check out Lisa's ministry.)

Thank you to all who entered! I have more amazing giveaways coming up soon!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Please Pray!!!

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press


Hello dear Bloggy Friends ~

I need to interrupt my previously scheduled blog post and ask for your prayers.

I mentioned a few weeks ago there were suspicious garage fires in my neighborhood. So far this summer, 7 garages have caught fire. Praise the Lord no one has been hurt, but the situation obviously has placed a great deal of stress on the families in our quiet little neighborhood.

Last night, my husband John asked if I thought the fires were over. Thankfully, it had been 17 days without any fires. We both hoped (and prayed) the person(s) involved had come to their senses and this whole ordeal was behind us.

Imagine our shock when huge, loud fire trucks began covering our street at 2:30 AM this morning.

Yep - a new fire. This time FIVE houses down from where we live. (Yes, just 5 houses).

Praise the Lord, once again, no one was hurt. (Our friend was up reading in the night, heard a POP, noticed a "glow" across the street, ran and started banging on the door. The owner of the residence was home, but is safe). John joined many of our neighbors outside in the middle of the night as our road was filled with the bright lights of fire trucks, police cars, and neighbors with flash lights.

I don't think many of us got much sleep after the fire trucks pulled away.

Today at the bus stop, on the first day of school, rather than an excitement at the beginning of a new school season, the fires were the topic of conversation. One mom wondered if she should hang a sign on her garage letting "the person" know her 4 children are sleeping right above the garage. John and I wonder if we should sleep elsewhere (our master bedroom is right above our garage). We are practicing fire drills with our children and have safety ladders ready to put into position. We are taking prayer walks around our neighborhood, and many neighbors are sharing they are tense, afraid, and getting little to no sleep each night. We are desperate for Divine intervention.

Early this morning I began praying once again for a miracle. For this person to surrender TODAY, and to be placed where he/she cannot make these destructive choices anymore. For this whole mess to be OVER. For God to redeem all of this for His Kingdom purposes, and for our homes to be filled with peace, laughter, and nights of good rest.

Dear friends, would you please take a minute to pray for this situation? However God might lead you...but our little neighborhood is desperate for a mighty touch of the Father.

Thank you so very much! I look forward to sharing how God answers our prayers very soon!!

God's richest blessings to you~

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If I Could, I Would....

Hi Friends!!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!! I hope you get a chance to put your feet up this weekend! :)

Beth Moore recently had a great post on her
LPM blog called "If I could, I would...". She asked the question, "How would you complete the sentence, “If I could, I would…?" If you were not limited by time, energy, ability, or money, what are those things you would do?"

Beth did set two guidelines:

1. You can only name 3 things.

2. These aren’t regrets. i.e. “If I could, I would…live my whole life again without making that stupid choice.” As Beth says, "We all have plenty of those and they’re not likely to encourage others much"

So I've been trying to think this weekend what I would choose, and I think I finally know!

I would say.... if I could, I would......

1. Distribute
Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with my family.

I've had the chance to participate in distributing OCC shoeboxes twice. The first time was in 2001 at the Saharawi Refuge Camp in Northwest Africa (pictured above). The 2nd time was in 2003 while I was in Cairo, Egypt. We visited orphanages, schools, hospitals, and churches to pass out the shoeboxes to such beautiful, precious children.

Both experiences were absolutely life-changing. If I could, I would spend time passing out the shoeboxes, with John and my kids also sharing the blessing.

2. Write a book

God has placed a burning desire in my heart to write a book. I'm not sure when, if, or how this project will happen, but if I could, I would (if it was God's plan, of course!)

My greatest desire is sharing with others the full, abundant, amazing life that Jesus offers ~ regardless of where we have been or what we have done. I would love to put my passion into a writing project, someday...

(Here's a little secret ~ I have set 2 full days aside this fall to begin the writing process, and a local church filled with amazing, generous leaders is setting aside a room for me write in.... woo hoo!)

3. Share a cup of coffee with each of YOU!

I love hearing how God is working in your lives! One of my greatest joys is receiving your notes, e-mails, comments, and prayer requests. THANK YOU for sharing your journey with me.

If I could, I would LOVE to sit with you over a cup of coffee, hear more of what God is teaching you, pray with you, and remind you how much you are LOVED, VALUED, and BEAUTIFUL ~ just the way that you are!!

Thankfully, God has blessed me to meet some dear bloggy friends over the past few months like Julie Sanders, from Come Have A Peace...


and Lisa Smith, from Glad Chatter....



And if I could, I would add YOU to the list, as well!!

There's my list!! What about you? What would you do, if you could? I'd love to hear from you!!

May your weekend be filled with much love, joy, and life-giving moments!! Blessings to you!!

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