Friday, August 30, 2013

5 FMF: Worship


When I think of worship, I think of words like clean, holy, white.  Like laundry drying in the warm sun.

I picture God in Heaven, angels around Him, my hands lifted.  Sometimes, I think of His hands cupping my face, joy on His face, picturesque peace.  Sometimes worship is boisterous and loud, sometimes soothing and quiet.

But sometimes, worship is messy.

It's not pristine, I don't feel holy.  I'm not white, but cluttered with a week's worth of worry piled high on my heart. I'm mired in complaint.  I'm frantic with my plans.

So many roadblocks to worship.

I feel like I'm caught in deep, thick, red movie theatre curtains. I'm wading through the sea of fabric trying to find Him. I am exhausted, weary, and dirty.

And when I finally get out of the maze, I sometimes feel anything but worthy, or even able to find words, to worship the Most High God.

But in my messiness, craziness, dirtiness, He comes down from Heaven.  (Perhaps I had put Him in the wrong location to begin with?)  I don't have to say a thing.  He wipes my grimy tears, His presence is close.

I can feel His breath slow mine.

And despite my unkempt heart and my weary soul, He makes me clean, holy, and white.

And this is what makes me worthy to worship.

 photo credit: t. magnum via photopin cc


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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:




1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One Minute: Reflections on Time Guest Post


Welcome to our new guest post series about "time."  
How do we use it? Misuse it?  Many of us spend so much time complaining we don't have enough of it, but how often are we grateful for what we actually have?  It is a gift we receive every day...a fresh allotment.  But how will we spend it?  And what values shape how we use it?  As we reflect, may there be space to consider how and where we spend our precious seconds of this gift.


When I think about time, my thoughts turn to two of my favorite Bible verses:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV).

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14b, ESV)

Yet I often wonder how I am spending my time. Am I using it wisely or am I wasting it? Am I living in the moment, dwelling in the past, or focusing too much on the future?  Do I have a proper perspective of time?

A few weeks ago, I stood at my kitchen window, admiring the beautiful red-gold hues of a morning sunrise. Although I have taken dozens of sunrise photos—many of them from my own front yard—I’m still waiting to capture that one special shot.  Sensing this might be the moment; I ran into the bedroom to grab my camera from the closet and rushed outside.

In the span of a minute, the colors had begun to fade. Though still lovely, the brilliant reddish gold had faded to a paler pink. Because I wasn’t prepared, a moment was lost forever.

Time is a precious gift. However, I think that too often, we take time for granted. Scripture tells us that God ordained all our days “before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV). Yet no one knows how long we have on this earth, therefore we need to be good stewards of the time we have.
Often, our perspective of time depends upon our circumstances. For someone awaiting the results of a medical test, one minute can seem like an eternity.

My husband and I experienced this in 1993.  A year prior, doctors diagnosed him with cancer. We thought the months of chemo had been successful, but on a Friday afternoon, we learned that blood work revealed an increase in his tumor markers. We had to wait until Monday before we knew the extent and location of the cancer.  Without a doubt, that weekend was the longest one of our lives. Each minute seemed to last a lifetime.

 Yet for the family of a child diagnosed with a terminal illness, one minute passes in a flash. Time becomes precious to them and they treasure every minute they have together.

It is sad that it often takes devastating news or a tragedy for us to appreciate life and to evaluate our priorities. I’m learning to cherish the moments—even when it seems a minute isn’t long enough. Even when it seems a minute lasts for an eternity.

Most of us live such busy lives and we never seem to have enough time. That is why it is a good idea to evaluate how we spend it. We need to prioritize. As wives, are we spending quality time with our husbands? For those of you who are mothers, are you investing time with your children? As employees, are we using our time on the job wisely? Most importantly, as Christians, are we spending daily time with the Savior—seeking Him and reading His word?

One minute is sixty seconds—no more, no less. Several years ago, I saw a video of the Beatles’ song, When I’m Sixty-four.  Toward the end, words flashed on the screen giving the number of minutes in sixty-four years and stating that one minute could be a very long time. The video then counted down the last sixty seconds of the song. I was amazed at how much the artist fit into one minute.

One minute, spent in silence, makes a difference when we take time to consider our words rather than retaliating in anger.

One minute can brighten a person’s day when we pause long enough to give someone an encouraging word.

One minute is more than enough time to tell someone you love them.              
                 
One minute spent in prayer can change our attitudes and set the course of our day. (I believe that we should spend longer than a minute praying, but it takes only thirty seconds to pray the Lord’s prayer and around forty-five seconds to recite Psalm 23.) Imagine then, what spending twenty, thirty, or sixty minutes in prayer and Bible study will do for our Spiritual growth.

The next time you don’t think you have enough hours in the day, slow down, cherish the moment, and remember—one minute can make a difference.


Joan Hall’s writing has appeared in a variety of on-line publications and in the book, Life Lessons From Teachers (available through Amazon). She has two devotions accepted for publication in the upcoming winter issue of The Secret Place. She is also a regular contributor to Splickety Magazine’s Lightning Blog.

An avid fiction enthusiast, Joan’s desire is to write stories that cause people to reflect upon living a simple life, strong family bonds, and faith in Christ.
Joan is married to John—a twenty year cancer survivor. They live in Texas and are active members of their church. They enjoy outdoor walks and bird watching, which enables Joan to pursue her love of nature photography. Connect with Joan at:



Linking with EmilyMichele and Jenifer today.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When You Resonate with a Turtle and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.  Before you leave, take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
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*Note: This week and next week, we're giving each other a snapshot of our summers, thinking about how God has used this season (winter, for those of you in the southern hemisphere) to bring release, renewal, and/or refreshment.  We'd love to read about your season!
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Here is the honest truth: I don't particularly feel like this summer was refreshing or renewing.  This is not inherently a bad thing.  I had incredible experiences, poignant and fun moments.  God moved. I breathed.  Life happened.  Good life happened.

And I sit here in the pew of my church while my husband and the rest of the worship team practice before the service starts and I ask God, What does my summer snapshot look like?  And in a moment, an image of a baby sea turtle making his way from the nest by the sand dunes all the way to the outstretched ocean fills my mind.

Our family got to witness this journey when we were at the beach in July.  Normally, the eggs hatch in early morning and they begin their trek to the waves in the cool sand.

This one was a little late to the party.  It was afternoon when we spotted this little guy.
I noticed a small commotion by the shore as I sat under the umbrella.  A man and his daughter moved northward in the shallow waves, continually pointing and exclaiming "Look! There he is!" My children were just a few feet away and their curiosity piqued.  They quickly joined up with the family, as did my husband and I.

In the crystal clear water, we gently started following this baby sea turtle as he made his way to the deep.  The waves would come and he would paddle.  Sometimes they would come hard and he'd be temporarily set back, having to make up for lost ground.  And sometimes, he'd be positioned just right and he'd soar over the crest and keep moving forward.

Such a little creature against such a powerful force.

Right now, my life feels a bit like this. I feel little and life feels so big. I am squeezed, hard-pressed on every side.  And there are days, the wave comes, knocks me back, and it takes everything I have to decide it is worth it to keep pressing forward.  Taking that pressure and using it to propel me into the very heart of Jesus, pressing into Him instead of the ways of this world.
The ocean is this sea turtle's home.  It's where he belongs.  Even so, it is not a place of safety.  There are waves that try to push him out.  There are predators from the deep and the sky who hunt for his very being.

We face unsafe surroundings.  We are surrounded by circumstances and people who try to steal our joy.  There are days we feel robbed, tired of paddling against the current, washed up, and afraid that we will be plucked out of this life.

Mourning turns to songs of praise.  Our God saves, our God saves.

The voices fill the words of the song.  The Holy Spirit interrupts my writing and I am enraptured by living hope.

We will rise with You, lifted on Your wings.  Our God saves.

Sometimes holding onto these simple words brings refreshment, renewal, release.  Trusting in Him, we know that, eventually, we will get to wherever He wants us to be in this grand ocean of life. Sometimes, we'll soar on the crest of the wave.  Sometimes, we'll feel dragged under by the undertow, or caught up in the riptides that will us in the opposite direction of where we want to go.

But no matter what we feel, the truth is our God is in charge of it all.  And sometimes, our job is just to keep paddling.
(Right now, "paddling" equates to finishing this book.  This week, I have to edit all my footnotes, write the appendixes, re-read the whole thing, and brainstorm more titles.  I could use some prayer warriors to carry me through.  I am so thankful that I have not made this journey without you.)
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Are you new here? Welcome! We'd love to shower you with some love and encouragement, so if this is your first time linking up, will you put "I'm New!" as your caption under your linky picture? Want more info on what this sisterhood is all about? Click here.
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Want to show a sister some love? Tweet her post using the Twitter handle #sdgsisters. Make sure you check the # later for some great posts to read!
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Did you see?  SDG Retreat Registration is LIVE!  Click here for more info & the link to register.
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photo credit: szeke via photopin cc (words, NLT)

Friday, August 23, 2013

5 Minute Friday: Last

There can always be a last, even when you don't know it's coming.

I'm sitting on the couch with my sweet 9 year old because she happened to flip on the television, sleep still in her eyes, and see that One Direction was about to play live on the Today Show.

And I think, what if this is their last big year?  Fame is fleeting, yes?  And people come and go out of our lives, and we switch churches and schools.  We get injured, sometimes permanently, we move far distances.  Seasons end.

There is always last.

But if I only mourn the last, I miss the beginning of something new.

Yesterday, I had some rare one-on-one time with my girl before the school year starts.  As I looked into her eyes, I kept thinking last...all the things that had the potential to die away, but that I wish she would always cling.  I don't want to see her innocence wane.  I don't want her to lose the desire to hold my hand.  I don't want her to not want to sleep with her teddy bear any more.

But even if these are true lasts, there are new beginnings.  A new season.  A place for God to do new work in her.  Growing her big and tall, redeeming, blooming.

Whatever it is, there may be a last.  But it's kind of a "last, but..."

He makes all things new again.

(After the One Direction was over, she switched over to Disney Junior.  Even 9 year olds need their fill of Mickey Mouse, I suppose.)


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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:




1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reflections on Time: A New Series

Welcome to our new guest post series about "time."  
How do we use it? Misuse it?  Many of us spend so much time complaining we don't have enough of it, but how often are we grateful for what we actually have?  It is a gift we receive every day...a fresh allotment.  But how will we spend it?  And what values shape how we use it?  As we reflect, may there be space to consider how and where we spend our precious seconds of this gift.
The pocket watch I used in this picture belonged to my grandfather.  If you ask me, he ran out of time too early.  I never got ask him about how he liked the Marine Corps or how he met my Grannie.  I couldn't ask him about growing up in the Lawty house in Florida, what his mom was like, or how he felt when my dad broke his bed because he had been jumping on it (again).

He left my sweet grandmother a widow far too early.  My dad was just nine and his brother just two.  How do children comprehend such things?

He's been gone so long, missed so fiercely, talked about much, but what would he say about how he spent his time?  How would he evaluate it and would he make the same choices had he known his time was shorter than the average life?

It's no use pondering how much time we have left on this earth and in many ways, it is out of our control.  But perhaps there is value in reflecting on how closely our time spent matches our value system.  Do our daily, practical decisions match the tenets we have chosen to lay down for the foundation of our lives?  Are there contradictions, and if so, what are they?  It's hard to have a peaceful spirit when things are out of alignment.

As I've reflected on how I use {and misuse} time, here are some of the contradictions I have found in my life:

Contradiction {1}
I pray for God to direct my steps, but then I get anxious when the plans I have made go awry or I am unable to accomplish things on my to-do list.  Do I really mean it when I ask Him to be Lord over my day? Am I willing to surrender to whatever it is He has for me?

Contradiction {2}
I say that I live for God alone - for His glory and purpose - but often I'll spend more time engaging with social media to keep my stats up than sitting and learning with Him.  It is difficult to live for God alone when I'm out there saying "look at me!" Do I check my spirit before I spend time on social media?  What is the heart behind why I am on there at that moment?

Contradiction {3}
I believe there is nothing He can't redeem and mistakes are a part of life, but often if things are not stacking up to being completed/clean/on-time, I am overcome by an impulse to rush to make it so.  This simply causes me to be impatient with my family and with myself.  My grace towards others (and myself) quickly vacates the premises and I hurt those whom I declare I love the most.  Can I entertain the notion that perhaps my desire to rush is actually God's prompting to slow...and reorient my trust in Him rather than myself and my own abilities?

What about you? As you reflect on how you spend your time and compare this to your foundational beliefs, do you find harmony or discord?  Or, a little of both?

(If you would like to guest post your thoughts about time, please let me know.)

Linking with EmilyMichele and Jenifer today.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What happens when your post gets lost and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.  Before you leave, take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
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I had what I thought was a great post all about choosing to wear positive things such as love, compassion, grace, etc. instead of reaching for my sometimes-go-tos such as resentment, high expectations, judgement, and bitterness.

And then Blogger lost my post.

After frantically hitting "back" on my Internet browser, I sat back and chuckled.  Somebody might want to know if I actually, truly internalized what God was trying to teach me about choosing to wear His righteousness instead of my own fleshy nature.

I closed the laptop and made myself lunch.  And as I layered the spinach and mustard and other wrap-fixings, I thought back to the very heart of the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.  Simply, it's a place where we don't have to be measured by the quality of our words.  It's about writing our authentic hearts, sharing our journey with other ladies, and being just who we are on any given day.

Suffice it to say, I'm not going to rewrite that post.  Instead, I'm just going to choose to count my loss a blessing because I lived out choosing righteousness (I didn't let it ruin my hour, my day, etc.  I didn't go into panic thinking about other things I still have to write and how I'm wasting time rewriting something I already did.) and I'm reflecting upon why God started this group in the first place.

And my heart beats full.

As someone who consistently feels the need to be perfect and to achieve and have everything be okay, I need to have a place where I can go to get out of that mindset.  And I want that place to be here.  I want to write what's on my heart and know that you'll love  me even if you don't leave with some nugget of wisdom or a challenge or a feel-good feeling.  Because life just doesn't always work that way.  And I want to write the way life works.  And I want you to have space to do that, too.  Not alone, but together, where we can encourage each other in our realness.  No judging, no assumptions, just an empathetic ear.

Last year as summer waned and fall ushered in new routines, we did a themed link-up for two weeks, just so we could get a snapshot of where everyone was and what everyone had been doing.  I'd like to bring back our "Summer Snapshot" and focus on one (or all) of these things: Renewal, Refreshment, and Release.
What about the summer brought about a release of things ready to be let go, or a vacation that evoked a sense of renewal, or how do you long to be refreshed as the summer winds down and fall begins? Choose one or many to write about during the next few weeks so we can get a glimpse of what God is doing in your life.
It could be you don't feel renewed or refreshed (ahem, I'm not mentioning any names, but ME) and so you want to write about your longings for this.  It could be you released your college freshman, but you didn't really want to do that because, well, letting go is HARD.  And it could be that yes, you are in the process of being renewed, but as the layers are stripped off, you don't feel so great at this moment.  Not yet, at least.

Or everything could be fabulous.  We want to rejoice with you, too.

I invite you on August 26th (my kids' first day of school!!) and/or September 2nd (my kids's first holiday from school!!) to write your heart and share it with us.

And please remember, your authenticity is valued.  Your words, imperfect or perfect, are valued.  You, my sweet friend, are valued.

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Are you new here? Welcome! We'd love to shower you with some love and encouragement, so if this is your first time linking up, will you put "I'm New!" as your caption under your linky picture? Want more info on what this sisterhood is all about? Click here.

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Want to show a sister some love? Tweet her post using the Twitter handle #sdgsisters. Make sure you check the # later for some great posts to read!

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Did you see?  SDG Retreat Registration is LIVE!  Click here for more info & the link to register.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

If Your Child's Ensnared


So, now you've heard the stats.  You have some strategies if that first glance (unintended or not) happens, you can teach your children what to do if they see pornography again.  But what if they've seen it again and again and again because, well, they want to?

Here are some ideas:

1.  Don't freak out.  Chances are good your child knows on some level what he/she's doing is not healthy behavior.  There might be a lot of shame associated with engaging with porn, especially when discussing it with you.  Losing your cool and heaping more guilt or shame is not going to help the process.  Rather, it might more fully push the issue into a dark closet, which is not where you want that issue to go.

2.  Have a frank discussion about when he/she first saw porn.

3.  Ask him/her to identify possible triggers (other than the hormonal teenager thing).  Is he/she feeling inadequate, inferior, curious, lacking, stressed, anxious?  Are there certain circumstances surrounding the time he/she chooses to engage?

Need more strategies?  Click here to continue reading the full 10 strategies of how to cope if your child is ensnared by pornography.

(Comments closed here so we can converse over at The Whatever Girls)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Have a Tween? Have grace? Can you have both? and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.  Before you leave, take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
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I cannot believe I actually have one of them...my darling little daughter has morphed grown into a beautiful...tween.

And with larger shoes sizes, a yearning to wear make-up, and referring to her playdates as "hanging out," there has also come a certain je ne sais quois.

Yes, I do.  Larger opinions, a sharper tone, but also a heart thirsting, longing to know Jesus.

Who knew so many conflicting emotions and ideas could exist in one little body?

I think we all do on some level, but there is someone who actually wrote a book that helps tweens and their moms navigate some of these choppy tween waters and cultivate hearts of grace.

Sounds good, right?  Like there is an oasis on the horizon?  An answer to your SOS?

I don't know about you, but there are some days I think I have it figured out, and others, well, others where I post Facebook status updates like this:

I've decided my children don't listen to me because I talk too much. I hearby declare silence for the next 18 days until school starts. Who's with me?? Anyone?

In an effort to seize upon the goodness of her wanting to spend time with me and get to know God in a more personal way, we have begun Becoming a Girl of Grace.  It's a joint bible study for us to do together.  Each week, we study a girl of grace characteristic such as: love, faith, wisdom, humility, courage, witnessing, leadership, and accountability.

I don't know about you, but I could sure use some brushing up on some of these things.  You?

We've just started this bible study journey together, but I've already been amazed by my girl.  In the first chapter, author Catherine Bird tells us that we were created out of love for love.  Abby and I discuss one of the questions concerning creation:  Why do you think God chose to make Eve from one of Adam's ribs instead of  making her from dust as He made all the other creatures of the world?

And my wise one says this:  Because God wanted them to be from the same body and be the same heart.

After spending the last year writing a book about marriage, I think she just might have the right idea.  Two shall become one.  And I think about how my heart breaks when Craig's does and how he weeps with me when I am broken, too.  The same heart in so many ways.

This is foundational.  This is scriptural truth and real-life application.  This is me and my girl.  And it is good.

And so now, you totally want a copy.  Even if you don't want a copy, you want to give a copy to a mother/daughter team that could really use a book like this.  And right now, you're thinking If only there was a giveaway or something!

You are in luck, my friends!  Not only is Catherine giving away a copy of her bible study, but she's also including two sweet oilcloth bags.  A large one for mom.  A small one for daughter.  Great for make-up, pens, whatever!  They are just super cute, as you can see here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Full disclosure here: Catherine is my sweet SIL.  But I would still write the very same thing even if I didn't know her at all!)
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Are you new here? Welcome! We'd love to shower you with some love and encouragement, so if this is your first time linking up, will you put "I'm New!" as your caption under your linky picture? Want more info on what this sisterhood is all about? Click here.

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Want to show a sister some love? Tweet her post using the Twitter handle #sdgsisters. Make sure you check the # later for some great posts to read!

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Did you see?  SDG Retreat Registration is LIVE!  Click here for more info & the link to register.
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Linking today with Laura for Playdates, Jen for Unite, and Michelle for Hear It, Use It
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Monday, August 5, 2013

Unearthed Treasures, ATKT, and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome back!  Soli Deo Gloria recently took a 3 week hiatus in this space, but we are starting off things right with Across the Kitchen Table.  The first Monday of every month, we pretend as though we can sit around each others' kitchen tables and chat about what is on our hearts.  Don't have a vlog to post today? Don't worry, we still love reading your hearts, too.
Before you leave, will you make sure to visit the person who linked up before you?  And maybe if you have some encouragement reserves left, you could bless another sister as well?
To read some FAQs about ATKT, please click here.
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Today for ATKT, we are talking about this:

Ready to hear about what resides in us?
email subscribers, please click here to see the video

What treasures do you think God wants to unearth in you?  What treasures have you already found?
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Linking this also with Jen for Unite and Laura for Playdates.
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Are you new here? Welcome! We'd love to shower you with some love and encouragement, so if this is your first time linking up, will you put "I'm New!" as your caption under your linky picture? Want more info on what this sisterhood is all about? Click here.
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Want to show a sister some love? Tweet her post using the Twitter handle #sdgsisters. Make sure you check the # later for some great posts to read!
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Did you see?  SDG Retreat Registration is LIVE!  Click here for more info & the link to register.

Friday, August 2, 2013

5 Minute Friday: Story

So glad I get to share a story with this man.
I wasn't going return to the telling of my story in blog land until Monday (I've been on a blogging break).  But you see, it's 12:30a.m. and I cannot sleep and I happened to notice the prompt for tomorrow's (today's!) 5 Minute Friday post.  And so, in the dark corner of my living room, I'm compelled to write because today (yesterday!), my husband and I finished telling our story.

In a mere 51,437 (or something like that) words.

It's our story about a man who was addicted to porn and a woman who was addicted to control.  And it has a happy ending, but boy, there were days that I doubted that happy ending would come to fruition.

As I typed the last word today (yesterday!), I was overcome.  Overcome by the accomplishment of telling our story in tandem, back-and-forth chapters.  Overcome by the sheer amount of pain endured while we lived and wrote our story.  Overcome by the enormity of God's grace that brought us to this point in our journey.  Overcome by the number of people who encouraged us to not give up, who stood on the sidelines and cheered, who got in the trenches and prayed.  Thank God for these people.

Above all, thank God for our safe arrival to this place of hope.  Not just for ourselves, but for other couples that face the tenacious claws of the porn industry, and ultimately, of the abuse of the incredible gift God has given to us in our bodies and in intimacy with our spouse.

In the telling of our stories, there is such freedom.  Freedom awaits. For you.  For me.  For us.


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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:




1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..