Vital Behind-the-Scenes Forces We Need

“. . . your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

Work. Labor. Endurance. What images do these words bring to mind? We’re not talking marshmallows and kittens here. We’re talking rolled-up sleeves, sweat, and long-distance runs. We’re talking effort and strength.

Tasks and qualities like these that take strength and determination won’t happen by accident, will they? Behind-the-scenes forces such as planning, preparation, and prayer all play a role in carrying out our tasks, achieving our goals, or running the race life has placed before us.

In considering the scripture above, let’s look at the Thessalonian believers to whom the apostle Paul was writing. In spite of the severe suffering they faced (1 Thes. 1:6), they were at work serving God.

Notice the behind-the-scenes activity that Paul mentioned was present in their lives. How was their work produced? By faith. What prompted their labor? Love. What inspired their endurance? Hope. Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s consider for a moment the behind-the-scenes forces present in our own lives. Among the many influences at work in us personally, is faith playing a key role in the work we do—whether our day-to-day work or our service to God? Is love the motive, the impetus behind our labor? Is hope spurring us on, helping us to endure so we can finish strong?

Let’s learn from the Thessalonian believers and make certain that faith, love, and hope are playing vital behind-the-scenes roles in our work and in our lives. Remember, it won’t happen by accident.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 NIV

*What can we do to strengthen one or more of these behind-the-scene forces in our lives?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. 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.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Matt Trostle, Creative Commons License

Worthy of Our Pursuit

“. . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV

When you hear the word “pursue” what comes to mind? I think of going after something or someone—striving to capture or attain a deeply desired object, person, quality, or state of being. When we have to pursue something, it doesn’t just fall into our laps or happen naturally. “Pursue” speaks of action, involvement, effort.

From our earliest days, the world around us teaches us to pursue certain things. Money, education, good jobs, status, relationships, possessions, health, beauty, success—in other words, the American dream.

None of these things are wrong and can, in fact, be used for great good. But if we’re focused on what the world holds up as worthy of pursuit, chances are we’ll neglect things far more important.

In the scripture above, look at what Paul instructs Timothy to pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. In using the word pursue, Paul must have known that these things would not come automatically to Timothy. He knew Timothy would have to go after them. He knew he would have to take action, that he would have to make an effort.

Take a closer look at Paul’s list. It’s filled with some biggies, isn’t it? And if these qualities are not easily manifested in my life, it shouldn’t surprise me—they take effort. I have to go after them. (Personally, I struggle with gentleness in certain situations so I’m encouraged to know that it does indeed take work. And isn’t it interesting that gentleness is keeping company with major spiritual pursuits like godliness and love? Wow.)

So what are we pursuing in our lives right now? Do we need to make some adjustments or additions to our lists? Let’s not reach the end of our days and discover we’ve spent all our efforts going after things that won’t matter in eternity. May all of our pursuits be worthy. May they all be guided by God.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV

*What are you planning to pursue this year?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks 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. Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.) p.s. If you sign up after Jan. 27th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

2022 Theme Words: Guard and Gift

Yes, you read that title right—I’ve selected two theme words for 2022! Two theme words is a first for me. It’s always good to branch out and try new things so I guess I’m starting the year off right, huh?

Do you start the New Year by selecting a theme word for the year? Some people refer to it as an anchor word and others even choose an anchor verse from the Bible. I jumped on the theme word bandwagon back in 2012 (over ten years ago now!), and I’m so glad I did.

I love how a theme word keeps me focused on a particular quality or action throughout the year. I won’t think of my chosen theme word every day, but I will think of it periodically. It will help keep me on track or give me guidance.

The words I’ve chosen for 2022 are guard and gift. I usually start thinking and praying about what my word for the upcoming year should be sometime in November or December.

This year, before even praying about it, I immediately thought of the word gift because I’d recently read my friend Edie Frink Winters’  book Giftitude. I loved the perspective she shared of seeing problems and challenges large and small as gifts—something we can learn from by asking “Where is the gift in this for me?” I knew I wanted to start applying this to my life, and selecting gift as my new theme word for the year seemed like the perfect way to do that.

When I began to pray and seek God’s guidance about my theme word, though, right away he pointed me to the word guard several times. I didn’t really want to settle on that because I’d already used it as my theme word several years ago, but when God kept bringing it to my attention, I knew I needed to listen and obey. After all, I’d been thinking about how I need to guard my tongue right now because of a personal ongoing situation that can cause a lot of frustration and upset feelings. It’s all too easy to say the wrong thing. So once again, guard will indeed be my theme word for the year.

I still had the strong desire to focus on gift though too, and as I prayed about it, God was so good to confirm to me that it is indeed okay to have two theme words with gift being one of them as well. So here I am with two theme words this year! Hopefully, I will see growth in both areas, and I probably won’t know the full impact of these particular theme words until the year is out. The Lord knows about it all right now, though, and I’m thankful he’s preparing me for whatever may come as the year unfolds.

If you haven’t done so yet, why not choose a theme word for 2022? I can guarantee it will help give you direction and help you grow throughout the year. Who would want to miss out on a deal like that? May God guide you and bless you in your choice!

“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

*Do you have a theme word or anchor verse for 2022? I’d love to hear about it!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks 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.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

Use Vision Boards to Bring Weddings to Life

Mother of the Bride, when it comes to preparing for a wedding, it’s too easy for you and your daughter to overthink the details. Even if you have the invitations, ceremony details, menu, and attire nailed down, it’s still tough to feel 100% confident in every decision when you can’t visualize everything all together.

Why not suggest the following vision board ideas and plan to her? As she creates it, she can share it with you so you can know exactly what she has in mind. But first, share this post with her!

For the Bride:

To sort through your thoughts and focus on the most important elements of planning a wedding, vision boards are lifesavers. Designing a wedding vision board helps you slow down and lay out every idea—and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re a fan of cork boards or streamlined digital formats, vision boards are effective because you’re dedicating time to bring the mental images you’ve been envisioning to fruition.

So, what’s the best way to start a vision board? Let’s narrow down the process to the three stages below.

Stage 1: Figure out your goals and inspiration

If all of your ideas are saved on Pinterest or folders on your Desktop, a digital vision board is probably the way to go. There’s a lot less manual work involved in these, and most future brides and grooms will appreciate how easy it is to move things around.

However, if most of your ideas are cutouts from magazines or printed out, a traditional format like a corkboard or foam poster board might be best.

If you feel really stuck, sometimes it helps to draw inspiration from your favorite leaders, authors, poets, etc. The free printable quote cards below can be fun and meaningful reminders you can add to a vision board (or just use to inspire yourself when you’re feeling stuck.) You can download these quotables right here.

Stage 2: Prep your physical and mental space

To make your vision board creation process as enjoyable as possible, clear the space around it. No one wants to be envisioning one of the most beautiful, meaningful days of their lives when they’re in a cluttered space. The preparation has to be mental, too. With new restrictions and mandates due to the pandemic, it’s easy to let stress get the best of you (even though micro weddings can be just as magical as a huge extravaganza.) Relax and clear your mind before diving into a vision board project so you can view prospective plans with a positive mindset.

Stage 3: Organize materials and start creating

Whether you need to gather all of your saved image files, Pinterest boards, or magazine clippings, it’s helpful to gather and organize all of your vision board assets in one place. Then, the fun can begin and you can start creating.

One of the best ways to keep yourself on track with your wedding planning goals when using Pinterest is by having a checklist. This checklist below is perfect—and you can download it for free right here.

If there are certain parts of your wedding you’re still struggling to nail down (like a family tradition you don’t know how to incorporate), play around with different ways to include it on your board. When you have all of the components of your ideal wedding laid out before you, either physically or digitally, you have the power to make the decisions that are best for you.

Do you wish you had a digital vision board template to get you started? Check out the free template below. You can access it right here.

Vision boards are lifesavers for couples who want to plan out all the details but need some structure for all their ideas. Plus, if you have budget constraints or challenging restrictions due to the pandemic, vision boards allow you to be more creative with your problem-solving strategy. You can seamlessly collaborate and bring your ideal wedding to life when you’re using a vision board as a tool.

Organizing a wedding is an exciting, detail-oriented endeavor and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page as your partner and your wedding planner/coordinators. Like any wedding planning tool or tactic, there are dozens of ways to go about using vision boards. I hope these vision board ideas have been inspiring. Happy planning!

*Thanks to Zola and their original post  as well as Siege Media for providing me with content for this helpful post!

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out today. It’s not too late to receive it. 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.)

Theme Word 2021: Serve

Yes, Virginia, I still select an annual theme word. I know I’m a little late posting it this year, but instead of kicking off the year earlier in January with my theme word post, I decided to share a blessing post. I thought that was more appropriate given the fact we as a nation—and a world—have never been so glad to see a new year arrive. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll take a minute to give it a quick read. I think it will indeed bless you!

But yes, for me, starting a new year means it’s time to focus on a new theme word. This is the 10th year I’ve chosen a special word for the year. I’ve never been big into New Year’s resolutions but instead I decide on a theme word to help guide me through the year. It’s a practice I highly recommend. I can honestly say it has benefited me time and again.

Serve was the word the Lord kept bringing to my attention near the end of last year so serve it is for 2021. I never know what all the Lord has in mind when guiding me to a new word, but I do think he wants me to continue to serve and bless others through the written word. Also I’m filling a new role this year as I serve as the chaplain for my writers group. I wonder what else God has in store? I guess I’ll find out as the year unfolds!

If you haven’t done so yet, why not choose a theme word for 2021? I can guarantee that having an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—to focus on will help give you direction and help you grow throughout the year. And that is always a good thing, isn’t it?

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24 NIV

*Do you have a theme word or anchor verse for 2021? Please share!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks 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.) p.s. If you sign up after Jan. 29th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash