Grandson Photo Fun Plus July Blogging Break

*Don’t miss a special giveaway going on over on my Mother of the Bride Blog. You don’t have to be a mother of the bride to win!

When the month of July rolls around each year, that means it’s time for some Summer Photo Fun here on the blog. And what better kind of photo fun to feature this year than Grandson Photo Fun, right? How can I not share this kind of sweetness with you!

For those of you who don’t already know, God has blessed us with TWO sets of twin grandsons! Isaiah and James are pictured above on the left (James on left, Isaiah on right) and belong to our daughter Kristin and her husband Shawn. Samuel and Silas are on the right (Silas on left, Samuel on right) and belong to our daughter Kelli and her husband Jake. Isaiah and James are now 2 ½ years old and Samuel and Silas will be 11 months old in a few days. We love these little guys beyond words. And yes, they keep us hopping!

Life is so busy for me right now—and July is always extra busy when my husband is on vacation for a few weeks—so I’m going to take a blogging  break and leave these photos of our sweet boys up here on the blog for the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy seeing these little sweethearts—and I will be back with regular weekly blog posts in a few weeks. Have a great July!

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

Sweet Samuel

Busy Silas

*I have some family events and travel scheduled for July. Will you be doing anything special this month?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 cash (summer mad money!) and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

Casting a Shadow

Shadows. They can be scary, can’t they? They hold the unknown. They sometimes even hold danger.

In life, we encounter shadows of a figurative kind. The menacing ones seem gigantic. Things like cancer, terrorism, financial problems, loss of loved ones, and divorce. Shadows like that can nearly suffocate us.

But not all shadows in life are negative. This time of year—in the heat of summer—shadows provide shade and welcome relief. We don’t run away from them. Instead we run to them. Some we welcome with open arms.

Loved ones cast a comforting shadow when we’re hurting. Mentors provide the shade of experience and encouragement as we try to grow. Friends offer the shelter of companionship when we’re lonely or needing some fun. And the Word of God stands ever-ready to give us whatever kind of refuge we need. No, not all shadows are negative.

The question we need to consider is what kind of shadow are we casting today in the lives of those who know us? What would they say about our influence or our impact on them if given the opportunity?

Do we bring others (or maybe just certain people) down by our negative or critical attitudes and words? Do we add a dark cloud of worry wherever we go? Or instead, do we lift people’s spirits with our happy dispositions and words of encouragement? Do we cast a ray of sunshine instead of an unwelcome shadow?

If you’re like me, it may be a mixture of both. Sometimes our families get an up-close and personal taste of the negative side of our personalities. Hopefully, those are balanced out by all the positive influences we bring into their lives.

Let’s make sure our shadows—whether with family or with the world in general—are the kind people run to, the kind that provide shade and welcome relief.

Let’s cast shadows that people welcome with open arms.

“O LORD, you are my God . . . You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:1a, 4a

*Who has cast a positive shadow in your life?

*My photo

Let’s Give Ourselves a Time Out—For Gratitude!

Too often we wait until November, the month of thanks—or even the very end of the year—to focus on things we’re grateful for, but let’s take a time out to do it today.

After all, we should have thankful hearts all year long, right? Sometimes we let life blaze past us, forgetting to truly appreciate and express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. So let’s do our best from now on to continually cultivate thankful hearts—and we can start by being intentional about it today.

Since we’ve almost reached the midpoint of 2017, let’s each give some thought to the top ten things we’re most grateful for so far this year. Limiting it to this year will help us focus our thoughts on the most recent events in our lives rather than thinking of the general things that always come to mind when giving thanks.

Here’s my Top Ten Gratitude List thus far for 2017:

  1. I’m thankful for being able to trust God for the outcome of a big personal prayer concern as well as some work-related concerns. So grateful for the peace and rest I find in trusting him.
  2. I’m thankful for the times we’ve spent with our daughters, sons-in-law, and two sets of twin grandsons. So thankful for sweet baby smiles and little boy laughter, for snuggly cuddles and precious hugs. Thankful for trips to the zoo and for seeing baby milestones achieved.
  3. I’m thankful my dad, my sister Carolyn, and I got to go meet the newest member of our extended family—Jaxon, my niece Joanna’s baby and my sister Janice’s first grandbaby.
  4. I’m thankful for God’s Word and how he has used it to guide me and to strengthen and encourage me and how he’s allowed me to share it with others through my writing.
  5. I’m thankful to have reached one of my main author marketing goals for the year—participating in bridal fairs.  This has been a challenge because of high vendor fees, but God has led me to two so far on the lower end of the expense spectrum.
  6. I’m thankful for safe travel in all my trips to see our grandkids and also travel associated with my writing. For example, on one trip to Little Rock, I had three close calls on the interstate. I don’t take safe travel for granted.
  7. I’m thankful for the beautiful job Stephanie Wheatley of Wheatley Design did on the Wedding Inspiration cards I developed. Also very thankful for God’s leading in this project as well as my daughter Kristin’s help with various aspects of it.
  8. I’m thankful for good health for Don and me through cold and flu season. Also very thankful that God kept our grandbabies protected from the flu.
  9. I’m thankful for a quick getaway to Branson with Don in May. It had been over five years since we had been there. It was so good to enjoy Silver Dollar City once again—a place where my entire family has many great memories together.
  10. And finally, I’m thankful Don is carrying a lighter teaching load in summer school this summer. Since his Microbiology class is filled beyond capacity, he could never have kept up with all the extra work that causes plus teach Anatomy & Physiology the way he normally does as well.

So there’s my top ten—how about yours? I think you’ll find that when you get started, it will be hard to stop at ten!

“Come and see what God has done, the amazing things he has done for people.” Psalm 66:5 NCV

*What are you grateful for so far in 2017?

*Flickr photo by RnD.de.Portraits, Creative Commons License

15 Ways to Plant the Word of God in Our Lives

As believers, we need the Word of God firmly planted in our lives.

Scripture teaches that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our paths (Psalm 119:105) and that it is a vital part of our spiritual armor in the fight against our enemy Satan and his forces of evil (Ephesians 6:17.) The Word is God-breathed and is useful in many ways, equipping us for good works (2 Timothy 3:16.) It is living and active and judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12.) No doubt about it, we need to be rooted and established in the Word of God.

Weaving the Word of God into the fabric of our lives may seem like a daunting task—after all, it IS a big book—but when we take things a step at a time and use a variety of methods, it is indeed possible. And remember, God will bless our efforts as we seek to grow closer to him and honor him with our lives.

Here are 15 ways to plant God’s Word in our hearts and minds:

  1. Read a passage of scripture every day, asking God to bless the reading of his Word.
  2. Be part of a Bible study group/small group on an ongoing basis. Study the Word.
  3. As you read the Word, underline words, phrases, and entire verses that really speak to you.
  4. Memorize scripture using a systematic plan for memorizing and reviewing. Use whatever plan and method works for you in your current stage of life.
  5. Find a translation you enjoy reading that has study notes/footnotes included.
  6. Incorporate scripture into your prayers. It’s a powerful way to pray and also reinforces the scripture in your mind.
  7. Sing the Word—either songs you create as you worship or praise songs you already know.
  8. Read books, magazines, and online content that include scripture.
  9. Listen to teaching from the Word.
  10. Read passages from the Word multiple times, emphasizing different words each time.
  11. Share what you’re learning from the Word with others in ordinary conversations,  Bible study groups, and blogs. Share scripture via social media.
  12. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring the Word to mind as you need it.
  13. Use the Word to battle Satan when he attacks or whispers lies to you.
  14. Apply what you’re learning from the Word to your life. Live the principles and wisdom you’re discovering.
  15. Become a teacher of the Word yourself in a Sunday School class or Bible study or through a writing or speaking ministry.

I hope we’ve each found something helpful here today as we seek to firmly plant God’s Word in our hearts and minds. I know God will honor our efforts and use his Word powerfully in our lives. May we bring him glory, honor, and praise!

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:47 NIV

*Which of these methods is most helpful to you in planting the Word in your life? What other ways come to mind?

*Flickr photo by Lel4nd, Creative Commons License

Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License