Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Being Asked to be a 'Prayer Group Leader' Stirs up Fear and Uncertainty

It’s not that I fear prayer itself. Well, that would be plain silly.

When the scriptures tell me to go to the hidden place, to seek out the space less sought, to remove myself from the chaos and the noise and the distractions, I welcome the invitation. It’s not prayer that I fear.

What I fear is man. Or in most cases, woman. What I fear are the words I speak audibly; the ones spilling out of my mouth that are better left unsaid. They really are just sounds and blends and yet, once verbalized they cannot be taken back. The spoken word has such power. Power that, when usurped carelessly, can crush and wound or empower and encourage.

He knows my heart, yet those that look at the outside, those that simply hear the words and react, are unable to see the intent, the thoughts, the desires I desperately wish to speak.

Unfortunately, I lack eloquent speech and divinely inspired verbiage (I didn’t even know that was a word). The ability to express and truly portray myself- that gift was administered to another. I have so many thoughts rolling around in this little mind of mine; so many cares and needs, ideas, and reflections of praise.  Why can’t I simply speak and be understood- because I’m not a walking lexicon. He says, “Let there be light” and all of creation obeys. I utter phrase upon phrase and yet neglect to verbalize the heart behind the mess.

It’s all there, and He knows. But do you? Do they? And do my words come close to articulating the spirit behind the terminology?

And so I choose to pray alone. I choose to sit before Him, solely Him, because He knows me so intimately. His love for me is so unrestricted that nothing audible could ever come between that love and His child.

So when you ask me to pray with you, and I seem a little quiet, and my words remain few, know that my heart is full, and my needs are many. The one who is introverted and hesitant in daily discourse, will likewise be timid and cautious regarding group prayer and public displays of faith. The recluse trusts the Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart far more than those looking and listening from the outside.

Know that I love you, and I want to fellowship with you. Know that I want to pray with you and grow in this area alongside you. Know also that a fear of woman is terrible and can knock the words right out of the meekest of sisters. 

Because if everyday words are unworthy for the casual hearer, then uncertain and indiscernible words spoken for the ears of the Most High are the unworthiest (and no, that is NOT a word). Because He and only He can see past the words and into the depth that really counts.

And if any of this makes any sense at all, then feel free to agree or disagree in the comments. Only do it gently, because otherwise I may cower from blogging altogether. 

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Are You?

We’ve all read the parable. We’ve heard numerous teachings on it, and I would venture to guess I’m not the only one who has been asked the question, whether in a sermon style teaching or in a group bible study: “Who are you in this parable?”

Many see themselves as The Prodigal Son himself: having walked away from the Father, pursued things of the world, only to discover them all to be a lie. This is the one who praises God for His incomprehensible grace. Who proclaims he was lost and is now found. Who gives all glory to the Father who never gave up on him. The Father that watched daily, patiently waiting for him to return to his senses.

Then there are those parents who can relate with this Father: the ones holding on to hope for that wayward child. The parent that aches and grieves, offering prayers day and night, watching expectantly. To this parent, the parable offers reassurance that God can save, even to the uttermost. Even when the sinner has knowingly chosen to walk away, setting aside the cross and taking up the desires of world. You may be that parent.

Or you may associate more closely with the brother. You know, the ‘Other Son.’ The one that despised his Father for welcoming his brother home with celebration and a fatten calf after squandering his inheritance. The son who felt he ‘deserved’ so much more. This one proclaiming himself to have followed the commands of the Father to a T, never wavering in his service, always doing what was good and expected. He looks down on his brother as the sinner that he is: no grace, no love, no compassion or understanding. My mind puts this brother in the place of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’ The brother proudly declares he has kept all the commandments from his youth. The Father gently responds in the form of a question: “You too have an inheritance, Son. Will you sell all that you have and give to the poor?” But when the son hears this, he becomes very sorrowful because his inheritance is much.

I have pondered the question time and again, “Who am I in this parable?” Recently the answer I received was one I never would have expected. The person I clearly saw isn’t even in this parable, but could easily have received a starring role. You see, as the son wasted his possessions with prodigal living, God was at work. As the son found himself in the middle of a famine, desiring to eat the food he fed to swine, God was at work. As the son began coming to his senses, seeing clearly the foolishness of his ways and the need for his Father, God was at work.

BUT, what would have happened if…

What if someone had stepped in and helped this son? What if a brother, friend, or someone simply passing by had brought him food, given him money, or offered him a place to sleep?

What if…?

And this friend, this brother, this wanna be savior is the role I would fill had there been written a part for the character. Because I am that person stepping in to save the world. I am that person wanting to make everything ok and assure no one suffers. I am a savior hindering the work of The Savior. Yes, I am an enabler, and I am convicted to the core!

So maybe you’ve been asked countless times as I have. Even so, I ask you again: who are you in this parable? You may be surprised at what the Holy Spirit reveals to you as you seek to find the answer. 

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Super Hero Kinda Day

There are numerous others I would have chosen, yet He chose me. He prepared this work beforehand that I should walk in it. I feel like I have to defend myself. I feel it necessary to prove not only my ability (which I can’t even convince myself of, let alone those questioning), but the very calling. “Do you have a degree? Have you done this before? What are your qualifications?” My qualification is my calling. Period.  

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Wise? Mighty? Noble? Not many, and surely not me. Foolish? Weak? Absolutely.

“How do you spell mousse? Like the dessert??” Day one and I’m thrown by a simple word. “Hmmmmm, how about you choose another word.” Yep, I really said that. And no, it wasn’t the end of the world. She chose ‘pudding’ instead, and I can spell that, and class proceeded, and no one died.

Foolish. Weak.

Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me? Pick me! Pick me! If the qualifications are inadequate, unable, under qualified, insufficient, incompetent, defective, imperfect, foolish, and weak, I’m the woman for the job! If He’s looking for someone who can’t glorify in themselves, He’s to look no further!

Wait- to attend as a servant; to supply the wants of.

Yes, Lord! Here I am! Choose me! I desire nothing more, nothing less, than to attend to You as a servant.  And I need nothing other than to be strengthened by the God who shall supply all my need.

And the last shall be first and the first shall be last and this upside-down kingdom makes no sense at all except that when He puts the desire in your heart and calls you to a calling above all you ever dreamed, you are filled with unexplained excitement, joy, and peace, and abilities not your own. I feel like super woman! Maybe I shall wear a cape to class. Jump out of a phone booth! Do they even make phone booths anymore? Today I will be Mrs. S! Super StephanieJ

Will you be a super hero with me?  

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Minute Friday: FOCUS

This week’s prompt- Focus

Ready? Go!

Israel’s Bible. Full of gore, and kings, and stonings, and laws. Books and books of a life requiring works and sacrifices. What can the blood of a young goat do with your sin?

He held up a curtain and placed a light in front of it. He asked the child on the other side of the curtain, “What do you see? Who is the person standing in front of the light, casting SHADOWS on the wall?” The lines were blurry and the beard resembled a tongue and the poor kid could not FOCUS on the reality of the subject.

A shadow of things to come. A shadow of the REAL thing. And now that veil has been lifted and we see JESUS. The Lamb that was slain. The Lamb that willingly gave up His life. The Lamb that shed His blood. Because the blood of goats could do us no favors but to lay more burdens on the hearts of God’s children. Now the Lamb of God is made clear to us, drawing our FOCUS into His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness; into the reality of God’s plan of salvation.

And we get caught up in the rules; the rules that are just a SHADOW. And we miss the One we are to serve, the FOCUS of our lives. The Jesus of the gospels. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow! I challenge you to take a look into Israel’s Bible. Can you see Him? He’s there! The veil is lifted and the lens has been FOCUSED. Pointing us to Him!

Tresta at sharppaynes is faithful to Lisa-Jo’s weekly challenge: take a measly five minutes and write. No over thinking, no backtracking, no ‘wait that’s not spiritual enough, and I can’t share that in cyber city’ mentality. Only writing. Writing for five minutes and risking the outcome. Won’t you join us? Ready? Set. Your turn! 

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Cast Because He Cares

I don’t doubt the splitting of the sea, the calming of the storm, the turning of water to wine, or even the raising of a dead man. I can clearly envision steel chains and prison bars miraculously being loosed. I am in awe of a God supplying bread from Heaven, not just once or twice or even a hundred times, but day after day for forty years to an ungrateful and undeserving generation.
A God that pours water from rocks and sprouts fruit from sticks? Surely He does the impossible. No doubt nothing is too hard for Him. I know it, and I believe it, and then we open math books, and the directions don’t make sense, and the questions lead to more questions and I am but one teacher. One minute lost in praise and wonder, the next drowning in place value, expanded form, addends, and subtrahends.

And it’s my turn to question the Teacher: Why does it matter, Lord? What is the point of knowing how to write the same number four ways? Can’t we just go back to our carpet, sing more songs, and be showered in the Word? Let’s get back on our knees and just wait- wait for that strength that I so desperately need right now.
The big things are never too big! God is a God of THE BIG. He’s moving mountains and feeding thousands! But what about the small? Forget the thousands, what about the ONE? What about the math? What about the hard questions and the bad attitudes? What happens when there is nothing BIG and I’m surrounded by little? Just me and these little hearts ready to learn and to grow and to soak it all in. Why is it when my trials are ‘small,’ my God becomes even smaller?
“God is many things: a ruling God, a righteous, a judging God, a holy God. He is also a feeling God. He who knows no sin feels for us who do.”
~Beth Moore, Jesus The One and Only.
What a big job it seemed, declaring salvation to the Ninevites. And what a small thing to offer shade for the messenger. Sending the mighty angel to deliver news of a coming messiah? Not so big that God would neglect to comfort the young handmaiden through the confirming proclamation of an over aged aunt.

This God of grace, God of love, this Consuming Fire. He’s surrounded these little ones with angles- angles that present themselves before the Lord Himself- and I take comfort; I rest in complete assurance knowing that at any moment six of these mighty beings are present. Protecting. Ministering. Taking guard over the one appointed to them. Standing strong in my little classroom.

God’s plan is in effect; His works are evident. I CAN see them in the small if I’m not distracted by the big. That smile and those bright eyes when he suddenly ‘gets it.’ When it all makes sense, and who knew rounding to the ten thousandths place was actually this simple! Who knew the God of the Big was concerned about Declaratives, Interrogatives, joining words, and simple subjects. WHO KNEW?!
Cast your cares upon Him ‘cause He cares for you. And I do, and I am! I’m casting and He’s caring and we’re progressing… one punctuation mark at a time. What Little thing are you seeing Him in? Please share!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating 15 Years!!!

Using the mall restroom has never been the same. Not since that day in June of 1997; three days out of high school and barely 18 years old. The instructions said it would take a few minutes for results, but those bright lines gave no breathing room. Instantly they screamed the truth I refused to believe- your. life. is. over.  And then it was THAT LADY. The one dressed in fancy clothes voicing my options and encouraging me to take the easy way out. She was the professional; she knew more than me. Consumed by the unknown, my head spinning in a fog, baring nothing but worldly wisdom, confusion, and dread, he proposed.

It was a far cry from romantic and I can’t recall the exact conversation, but it went something like this: “James, I’m pregnant.” “Well, you know what I want to do.” I dreaded hearing what he’d want to do. I feared the worst- termination. But he threw me completely off my already unstable foundation “I want to get married.” Married? Did he really just say THAT word? He wants to marry ME? We’d barely been together for six months!

Nine months later I went from a carefree, young, vibrant, loving-my-life-teenager to a married mommy coping unsuccessfully with fat rolls, dirty dishes, piles of soiled, puked on, laundry, and a husband I barely knew. I sit here feeling there are many more women out there who CAN relate to my story than CAN’T. I share because my story is HIS story. On August 16th, 1997 the wayward Jehovah’s witness, and the naïve people-pleasing-teen walked down that isle, exchanged overpriced rings and meaningless vows, then attempted to play ‘the happy married couple with the bald, yet beautiful new baby.’ Most mocked and doubted our future.

Have you any clue what a stubborn teen does when doubted and ridiculed? She fights back and she fights hard. I refused to be the next statistic. However, as desperate as I was to prove them all wrong, my good intentions were nothing more than exhausting failures. AND IN MY WEAKNESS, HE IS STRONG. AND IN MY FAILURE HE IS GLORIFIED. AND IN MY DOUBT, HE IS FAITHFUL. AND IN MY DESPERATION, HE IS DESPERATE FOR ME. MY GOD IS A JEALOUS GOD!
He called me. He beckoned me to a small church and an even smaller fellowship. He showed me love and He taught me truth. He was patient and He was persistent.
In 15 years of marriage, we’ve experienced uncertainty as our time in foreign land expired, doubt as foster children happily returned to bio-parents, and fear when our home schooled kiddos were thrown to the wolves. We’ve had seasons of fruit, and seasons of drought. We’ve known abundant blessing and sudden loss. We’ve stood strong, we’ve fallen weak, we’ve savored sweet joy in knowing God’s will and hearing His voice, but we’ve also tasted bitter sorrow and swam in seas of doubt. Through it all, one thing has remained- WE. We are His, we are each others, we are vessels, and we are a work in progress.
The question is no longer- What good could possibly come from a wayward Jehovah’s Witness and his naïve-people-pleasing wife, but rather- What will God do with the willing heart of weak vessels?
Your. life. is. over. I may have been young, and dumb, and lost in a world of apprehension. I may have been over dramatic, self focused, and in need of a reality check. BUT, those words rang truer than I could have ever known.
My. life. was. over. Because He was calling me into death and offering NEW LIFE. A life of surrender. A life of love. A life of service. And a life of blessing with my best friend and hubby. It’s been 15 years! It’s been amazingly frightening and fulfilling! It’s been a topsy turvy roller coaster ride with nothing to hold onto but each other and our faith.

Happy 15th Anniversary, James! Thanks for the adventure! Thanks for your faithfulness, your unconditional love, and your devotion to our God, our children, our marriage, and our family J

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Five Minute Friday- HERE

Lisa-Jo offers the challenge week after week: take a measly five minutes and write. No over thinking, no backtracking, no ‘wait, that’s not spiritual enough, and I can’t share that in cyber city’ mentality. Only writing. Writing for five minutes and risking the outcome. This week’s prompt- HERE

Ready? GO!

What choice do I have? Can I live anywhere but in the HERE and the NOW? I can’t go back to two years ago. I can’t change the past as much as I desire to. As much as I wish I was there to help her. As desperate as I am to talk with her, give her a hug, tell her how our lives are and how much we miss her. No, I can’t and this is THE WAY God has chosen it to be. His WAY is the only WAY and how dare I wish for anything different. So, I live HERE, NOW. I choose not to dwell in the past but I thank God for past memories. I thank God that right NOW I have family, friends, health, a husband that truly does and would do all he is capable of doing for me, our kids, and His Lord. I thank God that even when looking back hurts, and looking forward hurts more because I know she’s not there, I have what is HERE; I have what exists right NOW.

I want desperately to make the most of it! I want to capture this place, this moment, this season and inhale every ounce of life. YES, I MISS HER! And no, I can’t believe it’s been two years! But our life doesn’t cease because a loved one draws their last breath. Our world keeps spinning and our calendars continue filling and we continue on HERE.


Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Phil 3:13-14

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

DIYMason Jar Detergent Dispenser

Yesterday I walked you through the step by step process of making your very own Homemade Dishwasher Detergent! I broke down the cost revealing an unbeatable price tag of $2.23 a batch and only 03¢-05¢ a load. Today I’m going to show you a simple way to create a stylish, yet useful Mason Jar Dispenser for your new Homemade Dishwasher Detergent!

Materials Needed
Mason jar with lid
Morton Salt container
Cutting board & Cutting Utensil
Writing utensil and glue
A piece of decorative paper
1. Use your cutting utensil to remove the top of the salt container.

2. Place your Mason jar lid (not the ring) on your salt container’s top and draw around the lid.

3. Use your cutting utensil to cut along the circle you’ve drawn.

4. Next, take your piece of decorative paper (this is a piece of wrapping paper I had purchased at the Dollar Tree a while back) and draw around your cut out salt container top.

5. Cut out the circle you've drawn on your decorative paper. Place your salt container top ON your already cut decorative paper circle and trace along the inside of the salt container top’s opening.

6. Using your cutting utensil, cut along the lines you traced.

7. Gently remove the metal piece from your salt container’s top. Don’t break any parts because you are going to need them :)

8. Glue your decorative paper circle onto your salt container top and reattach metal piece.

9. Place your new decorative lid into your Mason Jar ring.

10. Enjoy your creative and stylish Mason Jar Detergent Dispenser!
Clear as mud????

Pretty sure I can come up with 100 uses for this kind of dispenser. And again, it cost me NOTHING because I already had everything on hand! I am loving these simple projects! Let me know how yours turn out! AND I’d love to see pictures! You can post them on my Facebook page here!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Welcome to the 3rd installment of homemade cleansers. I certainly hope you’re trying some of these out and I can’t wait to hear your results! If you haven't already, go check out my tutorials for Homemade Laundry Detergent and Homemade Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets. Now, let’s get started, because well, if your family is anything like mine, you have plenty of dishes waiting to wash themselves!

1cp Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1cp Borax
¼cp Kosher Salt
2 Envelopes Lemonade Kool-Aid
Price Breakdown
55oz Arm & Hammer Washing Soda- $3.24
76oz Borax- $6.46
48 oz Kosher Salt- $7.00
Lemonade Kool-Aid- 4/$1

The Washing Soda will make 6.875 batches of Detergent, costing 47¢/batch.
The Borax will make 9.5 batches of Detergent, costing 68¢/batch.
The Kosher Salt will make 12 batches of Detergent, costing 58¢/batch.
And of course, 2 Envelopes of Lemonade Kool-Aid will cost 50¢/batch,

Making our grand total $2.23 for approximately 2¼ cps of Dishwashing Detergent. This is enough for 36-72 loads of dirty, grimy dishes (depending on whether you use 1 or 2 tbsp in each load).

As I’ve shared previously, I decided years ago to purchase safer, cleaner products for my home. This included Dishwasher Detergent and I have been spending $7.89 for a 25 load bottle of Melaleuca’s Diamond Bride Dishwasher Detergent. Their bottle was costing me about 32¢ cents a load. Not so bad for not having to slave away over a sink full of suds and greasy dishes. However, if I can cut that cost, I will. And I have! My homemade Dishwasher Detergent only costs me 03¢-05¢ a load! WOW! That’s quite a savings! And I’m still using a safe and healthy product on our dishes. So, have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to save some money? Here are step by step instructions to make your own Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.

1. Gather your ingredients
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
Kosher Salt
Lemonade Kool-Aid
2. Dump your ingredients into a medium size bowl
1cp Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1cp Borax
¼cp Kosher Salt (this is supposed to reduce the effects of hard water)
2 Envelopes Lemonade Kool-Aid
3. Mix well
4. Store in sealed container

To save myself time on future batches, I printed the ingredients onto an address label and attached it to the back of my Mason Jar J

5. Use 1-2tbsp per load and enjoy clean dishes and saving money $-)
(For an extra cleaning boost, add ½ -1cp white vinegar to the bottom of your dishwasher before starting.)
6. Help me find a recipe for Homemade Dishsoap :) 
7. Be sure and click here to learn how to make this handy dandy Mason Jar Detergent dispenser!!!!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homemade Fabric Softener & Dryer Sheets

You’re back!! I’m so excited! Yesterday I shared with you how to make your own Homemade Laundry Detergent, and I promised you I’d be back today with another tutorial. Today’s lesson- Making Homemade Fabric Softener & Dryer Sheets. This might be the easiest tutorial EVER! Again, I only needed three ingredients (if water counts as an ingredient), and I didn’t even have to search the grocery store for them, because they were already sitting on my shelf! And I’ll bet they’re sitting on yours too!

6 cups Water
3 cups White Vinegar
2 cups Hair Conditioner
Price Breakdown
Water- FREE :)
1 Gallon White Vinegar- $2.56
1 22.5oz Bottle Hair Conditioner (any brand/scent)- $1.46

At 3 cups per batch, a gallon of White Vinegar will make 5.333 batches of Detergent, costing 48¢/batch.
Using 2 cups per batch, the conditioner will make 1.4 batches of Detergent, costing $1.04/batch. 

You do the math. Our Homemade Fabric softener/Dryer Sheets cost a measly $1.52 a batch! You can use this in your washing machine as Fabric Softener. If you do, come back and let me know how you like it, since I’ve only used it as a dryer sheet (successfully, by the way).
Here are step by step instructions to make your own Homemade Dryer Sheets.

1. Gather your ingredients/materials:
White Vinegar
Hair Conditioner
Large Bowl and stirring spoon
Measuring Cup
2. Put all the ingredients into your large bowl:
6 cups Water
3 cups White Vinegar
2 cups Hair Conditioner

3. Mix well.
4. Soak rags in mixture. Rather than purchasing rags, I cut an old towel into 12 pieces, and only soaked 6 of them.

5. After they are completely submerged, wring out well. This is where your cloves come in handy.

6. Pour your remaining softener into a spray bottle.
I had quite a bit leftover after wringing out my rags, so I also stored some in empty bottles for soaking more rags in later. (Again, I'm super cheap and just used old bottles that were lying around. We're cutting costs here, remember.)
7. Let your soaked rags air dry. If you have other rags to use, keep them handy for spraying. (I wasn’t sure if I would prefer to have my rags soaked or to spray them before tossing into the dryer, so I kept 6 rags out for spraying later.)

8. Be sure to mark which rags are ready to use and which need to be spritzed. Now the fun starts- how many loads can you get out of one rag? I’ve been using the same rag for three days! Let me know how it works for you!

To save myself time on future batches, I printed the ingredients onto an address label and attached it to the back of my spray bottle J

9. Figure out how to figure out how much this stuff costs and then let me know! For the last few years I’ve been buying Melaleuca’s MelaSoft Dryer Sheets for $5.69 a box, and I’m dying to know how much money I’m saving!
10. Now click HERE and learn how to make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent!!!!
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