Where do your words come from?

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In her Bible study on James, Beth Moore shares that “God can draw people to the gospel by enabling us to speak in ways they understand or our tongues can cause people to hightail it like their heels are on fire. It can bring comfort and courage, or it can bring destruction and deafness. We do have a choice which fire lights our tongues. Just keep in mind that the natural default setting leans south.”

Be kind and uplifting, people! That’s what the world needs … it’s what each and every one of us needs.

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Book Break: Fried Nerves and Other White Meat

This post is a little different from some of my other book break posts, as it isn’t a review, and the book I want to tell you about hasn’t even been printed yet. However, I have had an opportunity to read it because I am currently editing it. So, even though it isn’t available yet, I still wanted to share with you a little about this book and its author.

fried-nerves-book-coverFried Nerves and Other White Meat is a book of memoirs written by a pretty amazing woman. Its text is compiled from the blog posts (Fried Nerves and Jam) that Micaela Bensko wrote during a particularly trying time in her life. While confined to bed for 11 months after a “freak” accident right in her own driveway, Micaela had a lot of time to think:

“not just about life, but about those random memories that float through the mind but life is so busy we are not able to take time to reflect on how each of them truly impacted our life. In each blog entry, I attempt to wrangle these memories and dissect them, unraveling the meaning behind each one, and how it taught a lesson I was never able to learn, until now.”

In future posts, I look forward to sharing some of Micaela’s “Aha” moments of discovery with you as well as some of the nuggets of hope and encouragement that you can eventually read for yourself in her book, Fried Nerves and Other White Meat. (If I can ever get my part of the process finished.)

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Here is a glimpse into the life of this multi-talented (and full of heart and hope) writer, photographer, friend (she is friends with one of my sisters), wife, and mother taken from her online bio:

Micaela recently published her first children’s book The Soldier and the Squirrel, which has been procured by The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to raise awareness of the Purple Heart to our youth. [You really should check this book out too; especially if you are a librarian (hint to my sis-in-law, Jana).]

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As a photographer, Bensko was featured as a leader in her field by Professional Photographer Magazine. Her photography has been displayed at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and has been the subject of an Emmy Award winning FOX News segment. Bensko is also Vice-President of Rebuilding America’s Warriors, providing free reconstructive surgery to troops returning from war. Bensko is married to Don Bensko who is a Producer (of TV and children). They have four children and live in Los Angeles, California.

micaela

Some other random thoughts from Micaela to describe herself:

“I worry if I’m parenting properly. I believe love is based on respect and without respect there cannot be love. The proudest moment of my life was completing my degree as a single mother of two. … I believe fame is fleeting. Feeling is forever. Relationships are the key to purpose and meaning is only found in following your truth. … I think we have many soulmates and not just one. Like many teachers so we learn different lessons. I think marriage is made by hands with hope for the future of our world. …

Perfection to me is fascinating and then boring. I like my dogs to sit on the sofa. … My husband is my best friend. …

When I feel strongly about something I will express it, but time has taught me to listen more than to speak. …

I believe in God. A power greater than anything our world could ever understand. So I don’t try to understand. I just believe. I believe God is in me. In my children. My husband. In my neighbor’s quiet house. It is in the boy who broke my heart and the man who stole it and made it whole. I believe one day it will all make sense. So for now the only thing I can do is be me. I am broken but aren’t we all? We connect because we have missing pieces that others fill. Life is a puzzle. When it’s complete we will see what it is. From above.

I know there is more to life but for now it is enough. Because grasping for it too soon will be fruitless. I believe in stopping. In letting life happen as it should. In showing up.

I will live until my time has come and embrace the end as the final chapter in the most wonderful book I’ve ever read. Like a child not wanting it to end, but too desperate to know the ending to stop. …

I hope you embrace your journey with observation and reflection. And to believe that all you are is already enough. Even if you are perfectly broken. Like me.”

micaela1Micaela Bensko, Copyright © 2013, Fried Nerves & Jam. All rights reserved.

I think you will find Micaela and her life discoveries intriguing, touching, heart-wrenching, entertaining, and encouraging. It just depends on what part of her book or blog you are reading.

Stay tuned, and I will share more with you later on The Soldier and the Squirrel, as well as let you know when Fried Nerves and Other White Meat has been printed and is available for purchase.

Meanwhile, keep on hoping and praying and trusting in God’s plan and in His grace.

greater-grace

20 Minutes a Day …

Twenty minutes may not really seem like a lot of time to accomplish something important, but, if you think about it, what kinds of things do you or can you accomplish in 20- to 30-minute chunks of time throughout your day?

You could:

  • fold a load of laundry
  • watch a recorded episode of a TV show
  • straighten up your desk/file some paperwork
  • read an online article or a chapter of a book
  • scroll through Facebook/Instagram posts
  • make a phone call to a family member or friend
  • check/respond to emails
  • take a walk to clear your head
  • empty the dishwasher
  • play with the dogs
  • stretch or exercise
  • plan a meal/find a new recipe
  • build an intimate relationship with God

Wait! What was that last point? Build a relationship with God? In 20 minutes? That’s not on my “to do” list.

No? Well, perhaps it should be. We all have the same amount of time allotted to us each and every day. And yet, so often the days just seem to slip away from us. Things we never intended or planned for steal our days away, minute by minute. We find ourselves wishing we had more time, but, more likely, what we really want is more peace, more joy, more connectedness … more real-life moments that matter.

Many of us use the lack of time as an excuse for not accomplishing certain things in our days or in our lives. In her blog post on things to do with 30 minutes or less, Courtney Carver shares:

… the real excuse, even if we are really busy, isn’t lack of time. It’s lack of priority. …

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Author Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

2016-09-11-22-53-472016-09-11-22-54-45Two weeks ago, I chose to take time away from my work (which I spend a lot of time doing) to attend a Women’s Ministry Kick-off Dinner with my sister-in-law, Jena, and my niece-in-law, Brittany. It was a dinner put on by their church to introduce their upcoming Bible studies for the fall, and I was thrilled to hear that Debbie Stuart (who used to be the Director of Women’s Ministry at a church I attended in the past) was going to be the guest speaker that evening. Debbie is currently Director of Ministry Initiatives at Hope for the Heart.

Well, as usual, Debbie did not disappoint. I had done a study with Debbie in the past and though I knew she was good, I had forgotten just how good of a speaker and connector she was. She shares personal stories (funny as well as heart-wrenching) and Scripture in such a way as to touch the lives of those around her and to infuse in them a desire to know and serve the Lord as she does.

I have to be honest here. Even though my thoughts are not biblical, I envy her heart for Jesus. I want what she has. Not her life or the things she has accomplished or acquired in her lifetime … but I want a relationship with God where I seek Him and hear from Him daily, and He is obviously at work in my life the way He is in hers. Debbie reminded us:

The truth is: It is absolutely essential to spend time with the Lord. No excuses. You will not know Him, His will or His way apart from His Word, the Bible.

So simple, and yet so true. The thi2016-09-17-09-19-39ng is – I have been reading the Bible lately. I do this from time to time but not on a regular, daily basis, and not always in a way that I feel I am getting much out of it. In fact, sometimes I don’t really feel like I understand what I read (although when I take the time to use my MacArthur Bible Commentary and/or compare passages to those in The Message [which is very reader friendly], it does help).

20-minutes-a-dayThe night Debbie spoke, she brought with her a book she co-wrote titled, 20 Minutes a Day for the Rest of Your Life. She explains it this way:

This resource is an excellent guide to studying God’s word for practical application. It teaches various Bible study techniques, dynamics and methods to learning how to apply God’s Word to everyday life. It’s not enough to ask, “What does the Bible say, we must discover what does it say TO ME!” It’s not enough to know what the Bible means, we must know what it means TO ME! It is my prayer that you will develop a deeper walk with the Lord and come to know Him better by spending time in His Word.

If you know what you need to do, but you don’t know exactly how to go about doing it, this book might be the guide for you. You can purchase this helpful resource for $6 (plus $2 shipping). They are currently available through this eBay link. Proceeds go to support Prison Ministry for women!

I started using my book the very next day, a2016-09-14-13-09-06fter the dinner. The first method demonstrates studying and praying through the Psalms. Each “session” ends with you asking God for a verse for the day that you can carry with you or post where you will see it and can meditate on it. I put mine up on a little clothesline in my study area.

The following Sunday, I just knew I was on the right track when, in church, the preacher had chosen to focus his time in the pulpit on teaching us all on “How to Meditate on God’s Word.” He used Psalm 1 and walked us all through some methods to 1) Read God’s Word; 2) Study God’s Word (observe, interpret, apply); and 3) Memorize God’s Word. One of the main points I got out of his sermon was the importance of having a plan to follow. There are a lot of books and online sources available to help you set one up; two he suggested were youversion.com (a bible app) and esvbible.org.

Last week, I started a Bible study using Beth Moore’s book James: Mercy Triumphs. The five days of homework each week will definitely give me more than 20 minutes a day in the Bible. But I will continue to use my 20 Minutes a Day … book for the other days of the week so that I can become familiar with the other methods of study and eventually determine what works best for me.

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While doing one night’s homework on James, I came across Beth’s discussions on Galatians 2:8: For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my (Paul’s) ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Beth said:

God only knows how many effective ministries have disintegrated into irrelevance over addiction to comparison. We talk as those who believe God is omnipotent and omnipresent, but we often act as if He can only work through one person, one method, or one kind of ministry at a time. …

There’s a big, needy world out there, and God’s way of reaching it is to enlist every one of us to do our parts in love and humility, variety and diversity.

So, there is no need for me to compare myself to others or focus on what I lack. God will use me … and you … wherever we are in life and to the extent that we make ourselves available to Him. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day.

Be strong in the Lord my friends. And be faithful.

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“ … it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“… those who seek Him, find Him.” see Proverbs 8:17

Puppies, Prayers, and Praises

I have to apologize for not posting anything in quite some time. I had a very, very busy March, April, and May as our baby girl — Bella — had puppies, and it turned out to be quite a bit of work for both of us.

And then June came along, and I tried several times to write this post, but just couldn’t seem to figure out what I wanted to say. Originally, I was going to write all about what we went through with Bella and the puppies, but today I feel like there is a greater need for a post for those who may need some encouragement (including me). So, I deleted some of the original copy I wrote and started over.

Although there were a lot of sweet moments and fun times during our eight weeks of puppy raising, and I got tons of great photos (plus a puppy to keep), for me personally (and I think even for Bella), it was a pretty stressful time. I worried a lot — about doing the right things at the right times to raise happy, healthy puppies and about making sure they would all be going to good homes. I also worried about the lack of work and a regular paycheck that I had at this time. Of course, if I had had a lot of contract work that I was trying to get done on top of raising puppies, I just might have had a nervous breakdown. There is no way I could have done both. So, I was thankful for the timing, but during this time, I prayed a lot for peace, wisdom, guidance, and for increased faith and trust. I knew that even if my worries seemed unimportant or minor and insignificant compared to what some people were going through, that God cares about me, and the things that affect me matter to Him.

Trusting God

“A lot of people believe that worry is just a part of life. But they are wrong. Worry is actually a kind of unbelief. Worrying says you don’t believe I am big enough to take care of whatever it is that upsets you so much. Worrying says you think I need your help. Wrong! I am big enough. I am strong enough. I love you enough. Bring your problems to Me. You can trust Me to take care of you—and whatever you are worrying about!” ~Jesus Calling for Kids by Sarah Young

Despite the Scripture passages and devotionals (like the one above) I have been reading about worry, I have to admit, I am still having trouble putting it aside. Lately, I have felt overwhelmed by world issues (politics and senseless violence), heartbroken for friends going through relationship issues, concerned for a friend who was recently laid off from her job, and distressed for someone who currently has a job but is so uncomfortable with it that it is making him physically ill.

I am thankful that my work has started up again, but stressed that it will be a little while before the money starts coming in regularly. I am grateful for all the blessings I do have but can’t help but feel anxious about today and the days ahead. I want to move past my stress and embrace an attitude of gratitude … but some days it is just hard.

Lysa TerKeurst recently posted this:

I want to challenge you to pray prayers that make God your focus rather than your circumstances — Here are a few I’ve been inspired to pray:

God, despite my circumstances, I will find reasons to praise You.

God, even when I feel disappointed by what life brings, I will trust You to bring good out of bad.

God, no matter what, I will hold on to You and Your truths.

God, my deepest desire is for more of You in me. And if that is the desire of my heart, I will never be disillusioned.

He will work things out

I am trying to follow her advice and that of other wise counselors.

With God all things are possible. Your impossibilities and mine are really opportunities to trust God and believe His Word. They are opportunities to experience God’s power and faithfulness in our lives. ~Krista Williams

Trust God

I also try very hard to be an encourager to others on a daily basis. In fact, I often post things on Facebook that I hope will help someone else in need. But some days even encouragers need encouragement. Please pray for me if you get a moment, and let me know how I can pray for you.

Rest in God's Rescue

Lord, I know You and I trust You to bring us safely through our trials. Please fill our hearts with Your peace and help us focus on You and all our blessings, not current circumstances. Show us how to respond to our problems in a way that honors You. Help us to notice and respond when others are in need of our prayers on their behalf. We praise you and thank you for Your wisdom, Your kindness, Your love, Your promise of protection, and Your perfect plan for our lives. Thank you for being our Shield and our Comforter, our Deliverer and our Strength. We love you and pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Praises to God