Thursday, September 18, 2008

None of Your Business!

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37b)
Feeling a bit parched? Searching to quench that thirst with an iced tea or Diet Coke? Dive into the Word for real refreshment!I try to be diligent in my Bible reading and am often rewarded by God's speaking to my heart through particular scriptures. I pause and sometimes even write them down. The reflection usually ends there, however. This year, I would like to pursue the verses that God lays on my heart by pondering how He wants me to apply these verses in my life.
Here is what spoke to me this week:
Last Sunday evening I attended a church-wide Bible study led by our pastor on the book of Acts. It was scholarly, thorough, and intense, but the most impressive thing about the session was the application that we could make to our own lives. Two powerful points from just a few verses have lingered in my mind this week.
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Acts 1:6-8
When the disciples asked when the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah's restoring Israel to its privileged place would be fulfilled, He basically replied, "It's none of your business." With all of the speculation about the end times lately, this statement is a surprising punch. There are signs all around us that the end could be near; however, almost every generation since the time of Christ has anticipated that it would witness the Second Coming.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't eagerly anticipate Christ's return. In fact, it should give us hope (Titus 2:12-14). We simply shouldn't let our anticipation overshadow our mission.
A few verses down, the disciples are wistfully staring into the heavens after Christ's ascension, wishing, I'm sure, that He were back on earth to lead them. Two angels appeared and redirected their attention to where it should be--the mission field (Acts 1:9-11).
Christ promised his disciples (and us) power through the Holy Spirit, and this power was to fulfill our mission of witnessing to others. Jesus then goes on to describe three concentric circles of our mission field. Let's start with the largest one first. We know that there are some people who have a heart for missions abroad. These people are attending to "the ends of the earth" mission field. Although we may not be in a situation where we would go abroad, we can still support this mission by supporting missionaries sponsored by our church and participating in activities like Operation Christmas Child.
The disciples' "Judea and Samaria" would be a smaller concentric circle, more locally concentrated, but not immediate. These efforts should be made to share the good news, in word and deed, to those closer to home but not in our everyday sphere of influence. Finally, the smallest concentric circle of the mission field is those with whom we come into contact every day: strangers we come across during our errands, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, and family.
I pass on to you the challenge that was given to me last Sunday: Are you going to stand looking at the sky wondering when Christ will return, or will you find a way to fulfill the mission that He left us?
So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Giveaway Winner

The winner of From Clutter to Clarity Kathryn from Pure Wells. Congratulations, Kathryn!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cast Your Burdens

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

I used to be a big worrier. The smallest things would keep me up at night. I would spend time wondering about the title of a grant that I was writing for school, or if I had chosen the right novel for my AP Literature students to read. I would worry if I sounded silly or dumb in a conversation I just had with an acquaintance. Although I had read the words of Matthew 6:27, I had yet to put them into practice.

When I was pregnant with Emily Anne, I worried even more. I worried about how she was being formed in my womb. I worried about how I would be a good parent. I worried about what kind of person she would grow up to be. I worried about worrying too much.

Then a friend of mine gave me this book. I began praying one prayer a night and gradually found my worries decreasing. Now, I wouldn't classify myself as a worrier; when I do start to worry, I become a pray-er.

Lately, though, I've been coming across 1 Peter 5:7. It was the key scripture verse for the Weight Management breakout session at our Spa for the Soul Women's Retreat. It is on a CD put together by our Youth Pastor, and we play it constantly in the car. It came up in a conversation with a friend the other day. Okay, what is God trying to tell me?

Am I worrying about how much the children are learning in homeschool? Am I choosing to teach the right things? Am I choosing to share the right things on this blog? Am I spending too much tiime with it? Am I going to be able to keep up with the housekeeping and homeschooling, too? Am I worrying too much? . . . Okay, let me take Stormie's advice again.

Dear Lord, Thank you that we can cast our cares on You. Thank you for the assurance that You care for us. Lord, I place our homeschooling in Your hands; we trust You to guide us in what You would have us to learn. Give us wisdom, Lord, not the earthly wisdom that surrounds us, but the wisdom that comes only from You. Lord, guide me in my sharing my stories with others, so that they might be used to glorify You. Lord, help me to manage my time so that You are my first priority. Let the other things that need to be done fall into place after I have first spent time with You. Thank you for relieving my burdens and taking up your yoke, which is not heavy. Amen.

So, what Scripture has spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Also, don't forget about the giveaway for Nancy Twigg's book From Clutter to Clarity! Clutter is a burden, too!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Simple Little Giveaway

The other week, I reviewed Nancy Twigg's great book From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out. In addition to this book, Nancy has also written Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions; and A Month of Mites: 31 Devotionals on Simple Christian Living. Nancy has graciously agreed to answer my questions, and the interview is below.

Nancy, you seem to have a mission to live simply. Could you please share with us how you were led to such a mission?
I have always been interested in simplicity, but that inclination to live simply became a necessity to live simply in 1997 when my husband, Michael and I both left our jobs to begin working at home. The initial plan was not for both of us to quit; I planned to stay at my job. But when my already stressful job became intolerable, we agreed it was best for me to quit, too. As we learned more and more about being good stewards of our resources and keeping our lives focused on what is most important, I felt called to begin sharing what we had learned. That "sharing" took the form of writing and speaking.

In addition to being a published author, you have created two Internet ministries: Creative Frugality and Counting the Cost. Please tell us about these websites.
The Creative Frugality is really just a hobby site. In fact, it is actually being phased out and will soon be replaced with my new work-in-process, . is my main Internet presence. Counting the Cost began as a printed newsletter. I started it in 1998 when I began feeling called to help others live simply too. After almost 3 years as a print publication, Counting the Cost became a free, twice-a -month email newsletter in August, 2000. The website is simply an extension of the newsletter. All the great reader tips as well as the back issues of the newsletter get posted online.

Did From Clutter to Clarity grow out of these two ministries?
Yes and no. My first book, Celebrate Simply, definitely got its start in my newsletter. I had addressed the ideas of simplifying holidays, saving money on gifts, etc., many times in Counting the Cost. My second book—a self-published book called, A Month of Mites: 31 Devotions on Giving God Your Very Best—also started there because it is a collection of all the "Scripture Thought" columns that ran each month in the printed newsletter. When I wrote From Clutter to Clarity, I definitely drew on all of my experiences with living simply but I believe that book would have been written with or without Counting the Cost.

How did you first begin speaking and writing? Which came first for you?
I have been speaking all my life—I helped teach children’s Sunday School classes and VBS when I was still a child myself! Also my church had a wonderful program called "Lads to Leaders/Lasses to Leaders" that helped young people learn at an early age to speak in front of groups of people. However, my "professional" speaking began after I wrote my first book. The first edition of Celebrate Simply was self-published (later republished by Kregel Publications). To promote the book, my family traveled all over the eastern part of the country. I spoke for free anywhere they’d let me sell books. After a year or so of that, I began to actually get invitations to speak for a fee or honorarium.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I would say, "Just do it." In other words, find a way—any way—to use your writing to bless others. When I first began Counting the Cost, I wasn’t thinking about writing a book. But now, ten years later I have written three books and had freelance articles published in national magazines. At the time I was just finding a way to use my gifts for God’s glory. With the prominence of blogging and self-publishing these days, it is easier than ever before to share your message for the world. Keep writing. Keep blessing others with your gift. Eventually God will open doors for you to reach bigger and bigger audiences.

You homeschool your daughter. What do you find most challenging about homeschooling? What do you find the most rewarding?
We are "part-time" homeschoolers. Lydia is part of a homeschool co-op that meets three mornings a week. I teach her at home (following the teacher’s lesson plan) the other two mornings each week. The biggest challenge for us is that our personalities (mine and Lydia’s) are so different. I am a focus, get-it-done kind of person. I want to check each thing off my To Do list so I can get on with the rest of my day. Lydia tends to be more spontaneous and less focused. Unlike me, she is not driven by a need to accomplish! We clash sometimes when I feel she is moving at a snail’s pace and she feels I am steamrolling over her as I try to plow ahead. The most rewarding times come when we really connect and enjoy the process of learning together. On those occasions when I am able to plug in to her preferred learning style with a particular activity or lesson, the difference is amazing. I have no trouble keeping her on task because she has so much fun.

Nancy has graciously agreed to provide a copy of From Clutter to Clarity (her last copy from the publisher, no less!) for one of you!
Just leave a comment, either telling us about a way that you have found to live simply, or telling us why you feel the need to live more simply. I will draw a winner on Saturday, September 13.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rejuvenation at A Spa for the Soul

I just wanted to report that the Women's Retreat was a great success! We had 74 women at the retreat, of diverse ages (from teenagers through nonagenarians). How often do any of us take the time to sit and meditate? We may take time out to pamper our physical bodies, but we just don't do that for our spirits. We remedied that this weekend!

At registration, we donated toiletry or spa-related items for our local domestic abuse shelter.

Suzy Speas created opportunities for reflection and meditation and prayer within the general sessions held in the sanctuary, where the lights were dimmed and a fountain trickled serenely in the background. (I am sorry that I did not get good pictures of the general sessions; it was too dark).Her presentations were based on the idea of a cup, one that holds our lives with both their positives and negatives. We must make the decision to hold our cups, in a sense accepting ourselves. Then we must be willing to lift our glasses and share our lives with others. Finally, we must be willing to drink our cups, as Jesus drank the cup the Father gave him.

Lest you think these sessions were too heavy, just imagine a group of women--from teenagers to young single women to mothers with young children to empty-nesters whose children have just flown to college to grandmothers, and even a great-grandmother or two--dancing in the aisles to a variety of music! There was also a lot of fun in the drawing of pampering doorprizes!

Our times of fellowship were truly special. On Friday night we enjoyed sub sandwiches and discussed light-hearted, spa-related topics at our tables, such as what we do when a bad hair day strikes. Bernice Blackwell, a 96-year-old charter member of St. Luke, confessed that her favorite nail polish shade would be the coral OPI shade "Where's the Party?"!

This is Miss Bernice with her daughter, Molly Williams.

Saturday's lunch over boxed meals from Saffron Catering (huge portions of delicious pasta, grilled chicken salad, fresh fruit and the best focaccia bread) provided the opportunity to bond with other women. A Walk 'n' Talk then allowed us to walk off that wonderful lunch and address some deeper topics; it was amazing to see how God had opened our hearts to one another!

Participants had preselected "preferred spa appointments" (breakout sessions) on topics such as Facials (how our attitudes shape our expressions)by Merri Scarborough, Face (Faith) Lifts by Trish Lunn, Weight Management (casting our cares on the Lord)by Joanne Merck, Manicures (making our hands beautiful for the Lord's work) by Alison Evans, and Pedicures (what makes for beautiful feet--Romans 10:15) by yours truly (You can see a basket of the goodies for our feet I put together below).

I heartily recommend a day or two at the spiritual spa! And now, back to the reality of everyday life; we need to figure out to take our spa with us!
Be sure to check back tomorrow for an interview with Nancy Twigg and a giveaway!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Here is my menu for the week:


Green Beans




Fellowship Supper at church


Glazed Carrots


Extra-Easy Lasagna


Extra-Easy Lasagne

1 lb. lean ground beef

4 cups pasta sauce (We like Classico 4-Cheese)

6 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup hot water

Cook beef in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Stir in pasta sauce.

Spread 1/3 of meat sauce in a lightly greased 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish; layer with 3 noodles and half each of ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. Repeat procedure; spread remaining 1/3 of meat sauce over mozzarella cheese. Slowly pour 1/4 cup hot water around inside edge of dish. Tightly cover baking dish with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Spa for the Soul

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10
Who wouldn't love a day at the spa? It had been a long time for me, but a group of childhood friends met at a new spa here in our hometown to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of our friends. We had our choice of spa treatments, and I chose a manicure. Experiencing a hand massage, having my nails shaped and laquered--the pampering did me good!
Just as sometimes we need a physical spa treatment, we also occasionally need a spiritual spa treatment. When we indulge in pampering our bodies, the result is relaxation, renewal, and refreshment. Doesn’t our soul deserve the same treatment?

This is what our Women's Retreat this weekend at my church is all about. Our keystone verse for A Spa for the Soul is Psalm 51:10. This event will exfoliate the rough patches in our souls, moisturize us with Living Water, and create beautiful hands and feet to do the work of Christ in our world.
I'll be sharing more on the retreat next week. In the meantime, share the Scripture that has spoken to you this week. Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Falling into Autumn

Although I seem to be jumping the gun here in South Carolina, I've been inspired by Melissa over at the Inspired Room. She is hosting a Fall Nesting celebration where we can post pictures of our autumn decorating. This has been such fun, and, now that I actually have furniture back in my house, I've had such fun cozying it up.

I began falling into autumn decorating when Kimba posted this on her blog A Soft Place to Land. You'll see in the pictures below that it was my main inspiration for fall decor. Here is the centerpiece I made for the dining-room table. I pulled out my Southern Living at Home plate and found some fall ribbon on an old basket and threaded it through the spaces. I turned over a wine glass and two of my grandmother's cordial glasses, putting them over silk autumn leaves and faux berries. I added a pumpkin but felt like it needed a little more and pulled out some doo-dads from a bowl of potpourri I had in the living room. I placed the centerpiece on a fall kitchen towel and folded it square (No, I didn't bother to iron it! In the Nester's words, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!). Here's the arrangement I made on the sideboard in the dining room, using the same idea but mixing in a crystal bowl and some crystal candlesticks.
I arranged the sideboard late last night (when the kids were asleep), and when I came downstairs this morning, it struck me as a little cluttered. We'll see if I leave it like this or not (Who am I kidding? When will I find the time to do this again?). Although I know that it is a deocorating no-no, I much prefer decorating with symmetry, so this arrangment is different for me. The other day at Wal-Mart I saw two really pretty hurricanes on top of bronze bases; I would have loved to have filled them up with small pumpkins, gourds, and berries. I figured, though, I should just work with what I have this year; maybe I can find them on clearance at the end of the season!

Moving from the dining room on into the kitchen, here is my centerpiece for the breakfast-room table. We got this pewter bowl and tray as wedding gifts. I thought the fruit motif played into the harvest theme. I plunked a wine glass over a silk leaf, placed three small pumpkins around the glass and added a sprig of faux berries in between each pumpkin.

Here's how I decorated the china cabinet housing my Liberty Blue china (sorry for the picture quality. How do I avoid glare from windows?). Please ignore that horrible wallpaper; I am really hoping to paint soon!

I just stuck little pumpkins, gourds, and leaves in the nooks and crannies and added small votive candles in makeshift candleholders (the one on the left is actually for tapers, and the one on the right is really a vase).

And finally, here is the mantelpiece in the den. I replaced a Christmas cactus and mother-in-law's tongue with these flowerpots filled with pumpkins.

I haven't done much outside yet; I think my neighbors would be a little perplexed if I started with autumn wreaths when it's still 90 degrees outside! I am already overhauling a wreath for the back door, though. I'll be back with more autumn decor later in the season. By the way, I am looking for two wrought iron stands that would hold ferns (or pumpkins) for my front porch. Does anyone know where I could find them (for a reasonable price)?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Spa for the Soul

This weekend my church is hosting its first Women's Retreat in many years. The title of the retreat is "A Spa for the Soul," and the keynote addresses and breakout sessions carry out this theme.

In fact, I have expanded upon this post and will be leading a breakout session entitled "A Spiritual Pedicure." I haven't spoken to a large group (of adults) since I quit teaching over five years ago.

I would covet your prayers for this weekend, specifically, that I am able to conquer any nervousness or anxiety that I may feel and that I humble myself to be a conduit for the Holy Spirit. I would also ask you to pray that the weekend is a time of renewal and rejuvenation for the women of St. Luke, that hearts would be touched, and that the event is the impetus for closer friendships among the women and closer relationships with God.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I will take pictures and post on the retreat next week. Also, stay tuned for an interview with Nancy Twigg and a giveaway!