Monday, December 23, 2013

How to Not Be A Zombie at Christmas

(yep, those are my nieces in the background pretending to be zombies chasing after us)


Monday, December 16, 2013

Released: 30 Days to Stand for Freedom 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!
*************************
Y'all know I get all kinds of proud of my friends, right?  And I really like to give gifts.  And I'm also passionate about freedom, especially when it comes to sisters and any kind of sexual bondage.  And by now, I am sure you are wondering what the possible link between these three things are.  Well, just keep reading the words below from my friend, Julie...
In this season of comfort and joy, it’s easy to turn off unpleasant tidings that accost our ears. After all, who wants to spoil the most wonderful time of the year? But the reality is an estimated 29.8 million people in various forms of bondage today, including forms of human trafficking, forced labor, child marriage, and slavery by inheritance. 

Around the world, captives long for comfort and joy.

Does such an ugly issue really belong in the holidays, when we’re decking the halls? In truth, a fresh look at modern captivity stirs new gratitude in our hearts for the coming of the God-man to the lowly manger. If not for his coming, we would still be in bondage.

The birth of Jesus is really all about setting captives free. When the babe grew to manhood, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” (Luke 4:18).

That’s where Christmas comes in; the prophecies, the decree, the star, the manger, the shepherds … it’s all about setting captives free. For those of us who know what it is to be the rescued, what other response is fitting but to long for and provide for the release of others?  Do you know what it is to beg for redemption? After the shepherds saw the baby-Messiah who would bring peace on earth, they had the only fitting response for the event. “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20)

Christmas is still about setting captives free. 24 writers from around the world came together because they have encountered the Christ who brings peace. The result is a devotional about God’s heart for freedom. We invite you to receive this free tool about human trafficking and modern slavery. You will be informed and inspired by a variety of facts, relevant scripture, and guided prayers representing eleven different countries. The 30 days format will take you right up to the National Day of Prayer for Human Trafficking on January 11. You can begin to stand for freedom just by reading, learning and praying. Would you join us?

Click to download your free copy of  Released 30 Days to Stand for Freedom. We invite you to share it widely, so many people will be informed and inspired.

Christmas is all about God’s heart for freedom and the sacrifice He made to buy back His beloved ones from the ultimate Slave Maker. When you see the baby in the manger on Christmas cards, movies or nativities this season, remember God’s longing for people to be Released.


Find more information about Released here.

**********************************
SDG will be on break from December 23rd and 30th.  Please plan to link up your SDG post on January 6th (the beginning of Epiphany and my hubby's birthday!)
**********************************
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.
**********************************
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!
**********************************

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Blessing of a Tight Hamstring 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!
*************************
We did it! (Jen, Kelli, Tammy)
I live in central Texas, which means I am, by nature, a cold wimp.  So, please, don't judge me when I tell you I was absolutely freezing all during the race on Sunday, a half-marathon that started at 30 degrees and ended at 32 degrees, complete with intermittent misting and ice on bridges (over which we were running).  At the finish line, men literally had frost and tiny ice particles in their facial hair.

Prior to the race, my running partner and I thought it would be a good idea to run 16 miles the Tuesday before race day so we could continue our marathon training plan.  Said 16 mile run was done a bit too fast on a bit too much concrete on a bit too many hills.  As a result, I had a knot in my glute (I'm sure you wanted to know that), which resulted in a very tight hamstring.  While I did what I could to ease it before the race, I knew it might be an issue come race start.

All was fine until mile 7ish, when the cold would not abate and I was going up a small hill.  I felt my hamstring tighten up and I knew that if it continued, I would not be able to complete the race the way I wanted to (with a smashing PR, of course).  So, I did the only thing I could do:

I prayed.

It was a simple prayer: God, please release my hamstring.  And I felt it get warm (a miracle in itself) and unkink.

Until mile 8.

And so, I prayed again.  God, please release my hamstring.  

Again, I felt it get warm and release.  This time, though, after I said "thank you," I thought about my running partners, too.  My hamstring reminded me that both of them had some issues that might keep them from having a great race.  And so I began to pray for them.

Please help Tammy and Kelli breath deeply.
Please keep them safe on the ice.
Please let Tammy's ankle hold up.
Please let Kelli's achilles be okay.

I kept my same pace during the run, but found myself praying every quarter to half a mile for my hamstring from miles 9-13.  Which meant I continued to pray for my friends every quarter to half a mile from miles 9-13, too.

At the end of the race, we meet up and Tammy tells me that while she ran, she felt her lungs open up, allowing her to take deep breaths.  And neither one of them fell on the icy bridge.

And I begin to think how my pain eventually prompted my prayer for those other than myself.  And I wonder, as we move through this holy season with our own pain and worries, kinks and uncertainties, perhaps they can prompt us to pray for others who just might be in the same boat?  

As we pray for release for ourselves, might we also kneel before the throne for another sister in need?

This race was living proof to me this works.  And I wasn't the only one who realized it.  Tammy also just said, I knew someone must have been praying each time I felt my lungs release and open.

What if our holiday season was revolutionized because of what God does through these sisterhood relationships and the power of prayer?  Might we run this race even better than we ever imagined?  Might we all finish strong?

Last week, I asked you to lay down a worry and pray for the person who commented before you.  We had many ladies honestly share their hearts and it was such a beautiful thing.  This week, I'm asking you to leave a comment of ONE WORD that best describes how you need help finishing this "race" of the holiday season.  After you leave your comment (or sometimes later this week), will you come back and write down the names of the ladies whose comment might be similar to your own struggle?  And then, through the New Year, will you commit to praying for her/them?  Just a simple, one sentence prayer that you say when you begin to seek God on your own behalf?

I was able to help my sisters cross the finish line of the half-marathon and would love to do the same for you.  

It's a different race, but the same concept.  And the same awesome power of God.

**********************************
SDG will be on break from December 23rd and 30th.  Please plan to link up your SDG post on January 6th (the beginning of Epiphany and my hubby's birthday!)
**********************************
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.
**********************************
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!
**********************************

Friday, December 6, 2013

FMF: Reflect

photo credit
What looks back at you?

What looks back at you when you catch a glimpse as you pass the mirror, the store-front window, the shiny red ornament hanging from the Christmas tree branch?

There you are, your physical form, etched with time.  The lines on around your mouth, reflections of days you've laughed.  The wisps of lines around your eyes, snapshots of the days you cried.  Maybe the gray hairs that have crept in, evidence not just of age, but of the hardness of this life.  The fears, the pain, the anxiety.

We are human, and as such, time tells its story through us, through our shape and our lines and our coloring.  Flushed cheeks of rose from excitement, pale pallor from depression, or baked by the sun of inexperience or forgetfulness.

What looks back at you when you catch a glimpse as you pass the mirror, the store-front window, the shiny red ornament hanging from the Christmas tree branch?

There you are, your spiritual form, etched with time.  The heartache, the joy, all of it, has left you marked, some like cute freckles and others like deep stab wounds you don't know how you survived.

But as you see, as you reflect on these shapes before you, there is One greater than how life has defined you.  One greater that came in the form of a child, wrapped in make-shift blankets in a make-shift bed.  One greater who had a mother who was caught unaware of the plans God had for her.

...I write this after my little girl's dairy allergy got the best of her tonight, after throwing a once-white, but then heavily soiled blanket into the laundry.  Deeply stained.  But as I pull it out of the washing machine, shaking the folds loose, I see the stains have gone and all that reflects back to me is a glorious white.  Not a stain in sight.  Completely recovered and restored.  Not one mark.

And this is what the baby boy in that make-shift bed with the make-shift blanket and the make-shift parents (because aren't we all, on some level?) does with our marks and stains and lines that time has told.  With Him, we are completely recovered.  Restored.

Not one mark.

(Full disclosure: I got a little caught up in the post and lost track of time.  Oops!)

******************************
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, December 4, 2013

Good Grief

I wasn't sure why my mind was suddenly flooded with memories of Christmas with my Grannie so many years ago on the drive to church on Sunday.  Yes, Christmas decorations were up (but we've been seeing these since October).  Yes, Christmas music played on the radio.  Yes, it was the first day of Advent.  But today, I realized the true catalyst:

My Grannie did an amazing job of taking care of me.  And I suppose that right now, I could use a little TLC, especially some from her.

When Hannah was born in 2005, Abby was only 18 months old.  Grannie came to stay with me for a whole month, which included the Christmas holidays.  She originally thought she'd spend most of her time sitting with the baby, but then Hannah turned out to only want me 99% of the time, so Grannie was continually chasing after a toddler...with a smile.

On the Sunday drive to church, I remembered all the little ways she cared for me that month.  You'd think it'd all be a blur with the holidays and two babies and little sleeping, but these memories stuck and they stuck hard:

  • We'd fix lunch together after the girls had been feed and went down for their naps (she always told me I made the best sandwiches).  And she'd encourage me to just sit and read the paper.  There was no pressure to entertain her and she knew those few moments of silence and "me time" were precious.
  • The girls had matching Christmas outfits that came with the same-size headband.  Grannie sewed Hannah's to make it smaller and didn't say a word about it at church when I left it at home accidentally.
  • At night when the girls were down and Grannie had had a full day of doting on the girls, she still let me put my head in her lap and she'd stroke my hair.  Somehow, I figured I was just never too old for this.
  • On Christmas Eve, I still couldn't fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes. I was near tears about the fact I was wearing a maternity shirt to church.  And she just looked at me and whispered, "You look just beautiful, darlin'."  And somehow, that was enough.
I know she cooked and cleaned and played and for those things, I am grateful.  But it's these little things that were just for me that I hold in the deepest places in my heart.  In the remembering of these things, I get teary-eyed.  My mouth down-turns.  And I weep.  

She's been gone three and a half years, but the way my heart clenches sometimes, it feels like yesterday.

And that's okay.

I write this because I'm an external processor, because I love my Grannie, because the more I write down the memories, the more I'll remember them through the years.

But I write it for you, too, if you are grieving this holiday season.  Because sometimes, we need to be reminded that grief is a long process and that it's okay to cry about things society says we should "be over by now."

I think William Shakespeare sums it all up well in these words:
"Everyone can master grief but he who has it."
So, sweet friend, we can grieve and remember together.  I would love to hear some memories of your loved ones today.  Share them with me?

Linking with EmilyMichele and Women to Women today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Stealing Your Joy? 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!
********************************
We’re driving back from Houston, our tummies full of turkey and our hearts filled with memories of another year of Thanksgiving with Craig’s family.

Life feels good and we chat in the car about how to fit in the purchase of this year’s Christmas tree, the LSU-Arkansas game, and getting all the Christmas gear out of the attic.  Oh, and we have to pick up the dog, get lunch, and aren’t we out of orange juice, too?  We discuss the next day’s plans of a birthday party and our appointment with our friend, a professional photographer, who has also offered to do some family pictures, too.

We keep driving and I think about the Christmas cards to address, for whom I still need to buy presents, and the dwindling amount left in the Christmas budget envelope.  I look at the calendar and wonder how I’m going to fit in the book editing and prep for next semester’s class.  And then I start to feel selfish – this is all I have to worry about? What about the troops overseas, the sick, the dying, the homeless? 

Apparently, I can make even stress a competition.

All of the sudden life doesn’t feel as good anymore.  I’ve been sucked in by the tactic of darkness  called worry.  But upon this realization, I’m able to stop her in her seductive tracks and go on the offensive.  I pull out my P.A.A.T.S. shield (want a copy? email me.)

God, I PRAISE You, for You know how I am made.  You know my struggles.  You know the things that break my heart.  And You are bigger than my biggest fears and You love me in spite of all my imperfections.

God, I ACKNOWLEDGE that worry has a hold on me, that many of these thoughts swimming through my head are not of You.

God, I APPLY the scriptures to my specific situation that tell me that You do not want me to be anxious, that you desire for me to give my anxiety and worry to You, through prayer and petition.  And so, I present my requests to You and wait for Your peace to give me Your understanding and guidance for my situation.

God, I THANK You for a fun trip to Houston and for the relationships you continue to build, especially those between my daughters and their cousins.  I thank You for all I have and for the specific ways You show Your love to me.

And God, I SHARE with my Soli Deo Gloria Sisters my worries.  Because as You have taught me, darkness thrives with more darkness, but Your Light dispels it.  And I don’t want any one of us to hide in the darkness when we could be dancing in Your Light.

I bet you, sweet sister, have a worry or a fear or an anxiety that might be gnawing at you.  As I was cataloguing and analyzing and planning through my own, God reminded me that we might all be in the same boat – trying to manage our regular lives with all that the holiday season brings.  Because to be honest, although this season brings much joy, it can also bring much stress.

Do you want to go on the offensive with me?  Do you want to confront the tactic of darkness that always seems to worm its way into your heart so that the enemy CANNOT steal your joy?

In the comments, will you SHARE with us your worry?  A big one ore a little one – but a real one.  Because when we share, we allow light in.  When we share, we let others know they are not alone.  When we share, we invite the power of prayer into our lives.  How?  Because I will be praying for you.  And so will your sisters.

Before you leave, will you pray for the commenter before you, specifically lifting her up out of her worry and anxiety (or whatever tactic she shares) so that we might live in a space of peace and understanding?  And know, the next commenter will be doing the same for you.

Everyone who leaves a comment with their worry, will be entered to win a John Journible that you can use as we study John here on Mondays (we will restart sometime in January).  I’ll pick using a random number generator.  Do you know a sister who could use some prayer?  Share this place with her?  A place, especially this week, dedicated to prayer for each other.









**********************************
SDG will be on break from December 23rd and 30th.  Please plan to link up your SDG post on January 6th (the beginning of Epiphany and my hubby's birthday!)
**********************************
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.
**********************************
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!
**********************************