Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We've Moved!

Feel free to poke around here, but for the most up-to-date information and to participate in our community, we'd love you to come over to our new home.  Can't wait for you to join us!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Until we meet again and the {last} Soli Deo Gloria Party

I completed my sign! (Not sure what this is about? Click here.)

I'm not sure what exact words I can say that could possibly express what I feel right now. Do you know how many Soli Deo Gloria parties we've had? This is number 178.

178 weeks of being together in this space.  178 weeks of sharing our hearts, of encouraging each other.  178 weeks of walking each other through devastating news and crazy miracles.  178 weeks of getting to know each other.  178 weeks of allowing God to use these relationships so we do not feel so alone in our triumphs and our tribulations.

178 weeks of forging friendships.

It's hard to let go of something I've had for 178 weeks.  And I would be incredibly sad if I didn't know God's promises to continue this group healthy, whole, and vibrant.  (Our new site is, but it's not ready yet.)  Last week, I asked y'all's opinion on tag lines for our group (because it is our group, not my group).  The majority of people chose "Come as you are," but those who chose "No make-up required" had some amazing reasons for loving that one.  And so, I emailed the wonderful person, Katie Radke, who is designing our logo, header, and such and asked her if we could have both.  The tag line on the header will be "Come as you are" and the footer will have "No make-up required."  While I understand the rules of branding are to pick one and stick with it, I don't really care. I think God will use both to speak to women who enter our new site.  I just want to thank you for participating in this community -- I was amazed by the number of Facebook posts, emails, and texts I got regarding this.  I love your participation, your investment, and your encouragement.  Thank you.

I don't know when I'll have everything ready for our new page, but I will announce through our Facebook page, Twitter, and our email group, so stay tuned!


Just a few more updates:

Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A couple's journey to freedom from pornography:  Craig and I have 2 more chapters to edit before we are finished!  Hooray!  And the big news? God really used Beth Moore's book, Praying God's Word, to help me pray Craig through his recovery.  One of the things that brought me so much comfort was her recognizing that porn addiction is real, a problem, and something we can use prayer to overcome. In addition, she issued a bit of a wake-up call to the church to begin to bring this problem into the light.  God started talking to me about asking her to write the forward to our book, to which I promptly replied, "No."  Risk that rejection?  Ask a prominent Christian writer to be a part of something started by little us?  Ridiculous.  But, He wouldn't let me drop it.  So I wrote a letter, asked my editor about it, and she sent the letter with a copy of our book on Friday.  This is beyond craziness to me.  I would love your prayers for this process.  I just want God's will.


3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat: Retreat registration is live!  Go here to get more details and a link to the registration form.

What's a going away party {for Finding Heaven, not the SDG Sisterhood} without a parting gift?  Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter to win one of our SDG necklaces! (If you'd like to order one if you don't win, just email me at

Comes with chain
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Okay...time to link up your heart and let us know what's happening in your world. Make sure to leave your neighboring sister a word of encouragement!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time for a little FUN!: Without a wing to hide under

There are some people for whom play and FUN! come naturally and others who need some specific direction on how to infuse these elements into life. Whether you are more in need of direct instruction or  not, I am SURE you will glean something from this post to help you incorporate even more FUN! into your lives.
My husband is the fun one of the two of us. There isn't much he will not try; other than trying new foods. His first time on an airplane he sky dived out of it. Who does that? Kids adore him because he will gladly get on the floor and play with them. Once they find out he’s a soldier they simply admire this fun hero of mine.

I'd love to say I'm his wingman but it’s more like I fly under his wing. I leave the fun stuff to him.

I'm a watcher more than a doer. I will come watch the fun any day. Someone needs to capture the fun being had so I typically choose to hide behind the camera.

Then my husband goes off for a year. He had no choice. The Army called. They took my fun guy away. I no longer have a wing to hide under. To be honest, there are days when mustering up a smile is way too much to ask of me.

But God (those two words are always followed by good news) decided my One Word for the year would be joy. I'm discovering a lot about this word. Most importantly, God reminds me over and over again how joy can be found no matter our circumstances. Joy can be found because our joy is found in Him.

I often find myself humming the children’s hymn,

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay”

I stop to consider when I'm humming the words. Maybe fun for me looks different than it does for my husband.

For me, fun is whatever makes my heart sing.

~ Meet me for a cup of coffee and my heart dances with joy from our time of fellowship.

~ A long walk with the sun shining down on me...oh what joy!

~ Whether on a Sunday morning in church, with my small group, or in my car, I love lifting up my arms to worship Him. Yes, even in my car.

~ If my entire family is together, which is too infrequent for this mom, it does not matter what we are doing. I rejoice and praise God for the moment.

However, I believe God wants to draw me out of my comfort zone. He knows I let my insecurities get in the way of joining in for some fun. My fears of failing or rejection hold me back.

The half-way mark of my husband’s deployment was approaching and I desperately needed a night of fun. I needed a ladies night out. As I scrolled through the newsfeed on Facebook I came across an update shared by a friend saying she had plans to attend a ‘Canvas and Cocktails’ event through our park district. Out of desperation for some fun, and a nudge from God, I replied, Can I come too?

I do not paint but it sounded like fun. Without a wing to hide under I ventured out a few weeks later to join two friends, and a few others I did not know, for an evening of painting and a glass of wine.

As I stared at the blank canvas and paint palette before me, I feared having the worst painting in the room and being laughed at. To belong there my painting must be perfect. A beautiful painting would make them like me more. I feared rejection. At the same time I could not wait to begin.  

Once my paint brush touched the blank canvas I could not stop.

I did not know blending colors and spreading paint on a canvas could be so much fun.

We all watched the same instructor but each created our own unique masterpiece. As we oohed and aahed over each other’s piece of art, I quickly realized no one cared how good or how bad I painted. We were all there for the same reason . . . for fun.

It became clear to me as our evening came to an end that I’ve let my need for approval from others hold me back from having fun long enough. As Jennifer Dukes Lee writes over and over again in her book Love Idol, I’ve already be pre-approved by God.

I may have arrived at the event that night seeking approval from others but I left saying, Good-bye, insecurity.

I went to the event for an evening of fun but I left with my identity rooted a little deeper in the place where our identity should truly be found – in Christ.

I left with this . . .

And more “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

That wing I like to hide under . . . when he returns home I will choose to stand beside him as his proud wife instead of hiding. I think we shall venture off for some fun together too.
About Beth...

Beth Stiff is Simply Beth, at least that’s what her blog is called. A wife to her Army Reserve husband and a mom of two boys, with her oldest son serving in the Navy, and a mother-in-law too. She a Jesus lover, a family gal who loves her friends, and reading with a hot cup of coffee. Her life is changed, even after 20 years of marriage with a love that grows stronger. But the bottom line, is in the heart. Beth loves the heart things and to speak about the Love that changed her and keeps changing her. She’s an encourager who thrives on being in our corner. You can also find her over here, bloggingTwitteringFacebooking, and posting pictures to the Pinterest world.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The SDG Train, Party, and Giveaway!

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.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  SDG is about relationships.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?

This week, I'm doing a 7 day cleanse.  One is supposed to give up both caffeine and alcohol in order to get the maximum benefit, but I'm keeping my coffee, especially on Monday morning.

At the same time I'm trying to clean out my physical system, I am also flushing my mental and spiritual systems.  I don't have any discipleship meetings this week.  I'm staying home and going inward a bit.  I'm listening a lot to Jesus.  And I'm remembering that His voice does much more to sustain me than a glass (or two) of wine at the end of the day.  (So in theory, I'm sure His voice could be even more invigorating than coffee, but I'm not trying that experiment yet.)

It's hard to articulate all that He's been saying to me in a fluid way, but I want you to know, so I'm going to the whole bullet point system.  SDG isn't about eloquence.  It's about authenticity.
  • Last week, I didn't tell you all the different ideas God had put in my head about the future site of SDG, but at least two of them y'all confirmed in your comments.  The one I'm  most excited about? We are going to have contributors on different (yes, you can be one!) topics.  We will then catalogue all of these posts on a page on the site for sisters to come and use as a resource.  For example, we might have several people who have struggled with overcoming sexual abuse.  Those will be under one heading so someone can come and hear multiple stories and have multiple resources as she goes about her journey.
  • God has been insistent that this is His project.  My theme verse for this new season is Matthew 11:28-30.  When website construction gets hairy, He's quick to tell me to step away from the computer and come back later.  This time, He said, "Don't touch it until Tuesday."  He reminds me: 1) There is no rush.  2) This is not about self-reliance and pushing through. 3) When the burden feels heavy, it's not God's burden He designed for me to carry.
  • In related news, I have a new mantra: Beach Mama Mentality.  It reminds me to slow, to rest, to trust that I don't have to be in charge of everything all the time.  To help me remember this theme, I'm planning a FUN! adventure to Hobby Lobby to make myself some sort of sign.  If you see on FB or something that I have LOST my Beach Mama Mentality, feel free to tell me to go back and read my sign.  And if you don't see my sign up here next week for our last SDG link-up, you can post in the comments: "Where is your sign???"  Seriously, people. I need accountability for things like this.
  • I have been overwhelmed by the graciousness of this community. Y'all are just stellar.  You're true friends. I have had so many offers of help and it just confirms this: I do not drive the SDG train.  God does.  We are all beautiful cars carrying loads of gifts, connected to each other in amazing ways.  The train doesn't look the same without you and I am really glad you're on this journey with me.  An authentic journey that has stood the test of time. 
Onto the gifts!  I was given 3 children's board books written by Callie Grant from Shelton Interactive free of charge so I could review them.  My kiddos are too old for these precious books, so I am happy to give away the set of 3 to anyone who has kids in her life that might benefit from these:

My favorite one is called Knowing My God: Jesus Saves Me.  (Why? I don't know if it is because the sermon on Sunday was about Jesus being our Shepherd or because I am in a space in my life where I am hearing Him speak to me in abundance).  The book teaches kids that Jesus watches over them, that He is good, and that we can know Him intimately, and that we can know His voice.  I love that my kids know Jesus can and does speak to them -- it has helped them already make some really hard decisions in their lives.

Truthfully, as adults, we could stand to visit some basic principles of our faith, to be reminded of who God is and how He works powerfully in our lives.  In the second book, Close as Breath, she draws a parallel between air and God.  Neither one are we capable of seeing or holding, but this doesn't mean He isn't right here with us.  We just have to be open to Him revealing Himself to us in a myriad of ways.  How many times have I doubted because I couldn't see?  How many times have you?

The publisher, Graham Blanchard, also has support and additional resources to help parents teach their kids about God.  I didn't spend tons of time on the site, but did read their statement of faith.  Pretty right on.  Do you have a special child you'd love to share these books with? If so, use the rafflecopter widget below to enter!
I received these books free of charged and was not asked to give a positive review. These opinions are my own.
Now, time to link up your heart and share with us.  Please lift up another sister next to you and bring her some encouragement today after you link up!  And, if you have any other thoughts/ideas about SDG, I'd love to hear them!

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Polka Dots {A Guest Post}

There are some people for whom play and FUN! come naturally and others who need some specific direction on how to infuse these elements into life. Whether you are more in need of direct instruction or  not, I am SURE you will glean something from this post to help you incorporate even more FUN! into your lives.
I’ve been having a tough month medically (crazy bizarre symptoms that I’ll spare you the details of) and was really starting to feel down about it all. 

Enter my One Word of 2014: Play (which is very FUN!).  It was definitely time for some playing.  But to really do my idea, I thought would cost over $100.  I had a VERY limited budget of less that $20 to pull off my fun idea.  I thought of a few ways to do it, and ended up just cutting out dots and temporarily putting them on the car for this round.  Maybe later I’ll get actual magnets of different colors and do it for real. 

My boys shook their heads at my idea.  I didn’t even TELL my husband.  I KNEW he would shake his head too.  This was the face J made when I finished my project. 

But I HAD FUN and I was not even working!  It is possible. 

Andrea is a wife, mom with a 4th grader still at home, two grown sons, and two really cute grandkids.  She lives in the country, but works at a full time corporate gig in the city.  She loves to organize, garden, cook, find frugal ways to do everything and blog about all of that.  She does not clean house well, because something has to give.  Andrea currently blogs as ASCancerFree, as she undergoes treatment.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Birthday Month {Giveaway!}, Playing Pick-up Sticks, and the SDG 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.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  SDG is about relationships.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
My first zucchini!
I don't really like to read directions most of the time.  As such, sometimes my projects tend to go awry or completely fail.  This year, I was determined to try my hand at growing zucchini again, even though the last two springs saw zero veggies.

I did all more normal prep work. Adding soil and compost.  Weeding.  And then I read the planting directions..."Plant each zucchini plant 36" apart."

I realized I had  planted my zucchini in previous years in the same bed with six other tomato plants.  They didn't have enough space to grow.  There were too many other things competing for the same nutrients.  

The squash was squashed. {So sorry, I couldn't resist.}

God has been talking to me a lot about the future of the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and how all the different aspects of it have been a bit draining.  The nutrients have been going so many different places that perhaps there hasn't been space and nourishment for the fruit God wants to develop and grow.

He's been speaking little words here and there, but truthfully, I hadn't really been willing to fully focus on what He was saying.  And then, last Friday, I was in critical danger of losing my domain name for this blog {a very long story I will not rehash}. I began to think worst-case scenario: What would happen if I lost my blog?  

I had a 10 mile run to do with my running partner, so I started processing it all with her. God had my attention, I was listening, and I was open for Him to do a new thing. It's amazing what can happen when I am no longer tied to things I once claimed deemed of utmost importance.

I feel like God has asked me to play a game of Pick Up Sticks. Every aspect of SDG was laid out on the floor, but there were only certain things He wanted me to pick back up.

As such, this morning, I asked God what He wanted for SDG at its very core.  We collaborated and came up with this:

The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood is:
  • Accessible
  • Authentic
  • A praying community
  • A place for connections
The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood is not:
  • Contrived
  • Numbers-driven
  • A heavy burden 
Perhaps our new mission statement would be something like this: The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood is an accessible, actively praying, authentic community of women who desire to deepen their connections with Jesus and each other.  

I would love to know your thoughts and ideas on the new mission statement (I'm open to tweaks and changes!) and if you'd like to be a part of a core leadership team for this community.  

There were so many things I was doing with SDG out of my own brute strength instead of being powered by the breath of the Holy Spirit.  As such, here is where I see God pruning and sowing for the month of May:

1.  Disbanding the SDG small groups.  {The leaders are tired and in need of a break.}

2.  Ending the weekly SDG link-up. {May 19th will be the last week. I have some fun giveaways stretching the next 2 weeks after this one.}

1. Getting to know each other in an active settings through our FB page and our SDG email group.  God has specifically placed on my heart for us to really come together both in FUN! and prayer.

2.  Creating a new blog called The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood where we can focus on connecting with each other in real and fruitful ways.  {I'd like to move to Wordpress and have zero dollars to paying someone to set up a site for me. My husband can help some, but if you are a Wordpress wiz and would like to assist, I'm grateful for help.}

3.  Creating a leadership team that will commit to praying weekly for the prayer requests and helping me facilitate meaningful interactions between sisters online.  {If you are interested, please pray and reach out to me at or in the comments.}

So, that's all I have for now.  I'd love for you to continue to be a part of SDG as we grow deeper and I cherish your thoughts and ideas about how to help SDG fulfill its new mission.

NOW, time for a FUN! Giveaway! It's May, which is my birthday month, so I'd love to shower you with some neat gifts!  My sweet friends from high school, Erin and Candace, have started a new online auction business with some amazing clothes and accessories.  You can win this cute shirt by using the Rafflecopter widget below!  (Shirt comes in Small, Medium, or Large) a Rafflecopter giveaway
Time to link up one post that shares your heart. Please make sure to visit your neighbor {and any other SDG sister} and leave an encouraging word for her!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


"Some people have a hard time finding their strength.  Others have a hard time finding the ability to soften."

Immediately, I know which category I fall in as my yoga teacher's words hit my heart.  Looking back, I think I've used sheer brute force to achieve goals and manage my life more often than I would care to admit.  Even in ministry, when I've been tired and broken, I've thought the best thing to do was the quintessential pulling up of boot straps.

Keep working.  Bare down.

We've been building towards the elephant trunk's pose.  We've been inhaling and exhaling, stretching and priming, gently willing our muscles to bend and lengthen.  But when she shows us the culminating pose of all our hard work, all of this has gone out the window for me.  Instead, I find myself strong-arming my way into it.  My old habits of forcing myself to do what I view as required have overtaken my body.

As such, I collapse in a giant heap.

She shows us again and reminds us to scoot our bottoms back before we try to lift up.  I do this and find I have much easier access to the lift, but the pose is still sustainable only for a short while.  Pretty soon my arms start shaking and again, I collapse, not so gracefully.

As she sees me straining she reminds me that brute force is not the only way to manage this pose. In fact, there is another viable resource I have completely forgotten.


She shows us again, inhaling and exhaling at every part of the move.

Your breath can help you.  Your breath gives you power so you don't have to work as hard.  The breath works for you.

And all I can think is Yahweh.  YHWY, the Hebrew word for God, when spoken, sounds like our very own breath.  It sounds like life inside us.  And without it, we will cease to live.

I know God is why I live. I know He sustains me.  I've learned to call on Him when my strength is depleted. But not before.

What would life look like if I allowed Him to flow through every moment, every movement, all that is mundane and miraculous?

She tells us to try again, this time breathing, inhaling and exhaling through each part, "trying to find grace and agility when you feel heavy, like an elephant," she says.

Lord, have I felt heavy.

And so I breathe.  And I am astounded.  Though I still am unable to complete the pinnacle pose in fullness, I somehow release the brute strength, embrace the breath, and everything seems so much easier.  So much more sustainable.
photo source

This is the power of breath, the power of Yahweh.  This is God, in His infinite love and grace, who cares enough to show up at my yoga class, to teach me that I could choose to live my whole life like this...

Not on brute strength, but on His breath.  Instead of muscling and forcing, I can make room for the miraculous.  I can find grace and agility when I feel heavy like an elephant.

Life can feel so heavy.

I leave yoga, but God's voice still speaks, and He's talking to me about my book and the launch that has me filled with anxiety.

Do it with my breath, not the world's muscle, not on your own brute strength. Let me show you, for my burden is easy.  My burden is light.

I don't know how a book launch can feel light, but I drive to my next meeting, a friend whose marriage was almost destroyed by porn, much like mine.  We meet for three hours and she tells me she wants to prayerfully consider helping me launch my book.  She knows nothing about launching books, but she knows how porn wrecks.  And she knows Jesus saves.

The world would tell me this is a risk, two girls knowing nothing about taking a book and offering it to the world.  But when some conventional tools don't seem to fit the job, when I haven't gotten peace about any of the other things I've thought of on my own strength, it's time to pay attention to the breath.

And let it help.  Even if it doesn't seem possible.

Even if it initially feels like an elephant trying to float.

Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstorySharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, Laura for Quitting Thursday, and Amy for #RiskRejection.

 photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc (text added by Jen)

Monday, April 28, 2014

When you have no words 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.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  SDG is about relationships.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
(Last week was incredibly rough for me and I cannot find the words that might be roaming inside me to post for SDG tonight. {And please forgive me to not getting around to last week's beautiful medley of ladies.} Even if I could locate them, I am not sure I have the energy to make them coherent.  And I cannot manufacture something because that would be inauthentic and contrary to God's design for this community. Instead, I found an old post that pretty much encapsulates some of the thoughts I've had the past week. Though I feel strong in my faith, I think we all have moments where we are desperate to see God be big and dwarf all the sorrows and heartache this messy world brings.  Love you each of you, sisters.  Soli Deo Gloria.)

The  morning began with excitement, curiosity, and a dose of nervousness.  But we were doing good.  We were moving along.  It's the first day of school and Hannah was ready for kindergarten.

And then...

Putting on our backpacks, heading out the door, I hear her say softly:

I wish Grannie was here to see me go to Kindergarten.

And I wonder, did I let something slip?  Or does she just intrinsically feel my grief?  Or is she really just that bonded to the great-grandmother that held her close at every chance she had?

And we go to school and there are no tears, just a hand clasped tightly to her daddy's.  She puts on a brave face, finds her cubby, and sits down in her chair, ready to color the happy frog laid out on her desk.

I make it home, go for a run. I absorb the silence of the empty house upon my return, but I'm not as happy as I thought I would be.  There's a hole, an emptiness that I'm not yet certain how to fill.  I'm locked into this place of unknown identity and I find myself grasping at all things tangible just so I can hold it together.

As I sit outside with my bowl of cereal, my phone begins to ring and in the span of 30 minutes, my world is crashed by new waves of grief.  My friend's husband, who was a mere 49 years old, has died of a massive heart attack.  And, my other friend calls.  Her grandmother has just slipped into a coma and she knows the end is near.

It's almost so much that my heart swells with the enormity of their grief and of my own and I compile it with the state of our nation, the dryness of our land, and I cannot even cry because I'm just too
overwhelmed by it all.

Where are You?

I go to the bathroom in which I am about to start cleaning and there is the bracelet that I received only a week or so ago.  It's the bracelet that reads, "God is Big Enough."

And in that flesh, broken-down moment, I whisper,

Are You?

And I feel so guilty for questioning, but the reality of my thoughts just escaped.  And I suppose He would know them anyway, had I not said it out loud.  And it's just one of those things that in the moment, my fears and my heartache seem so big that I let them dwarf my faith.  I let them dwarf my God.

And I whisper, I'm sorry, but in the same breath, like a little child, I whisper...

Will You show me just how big You are?  I need desperately to see You, to feel You, because I am weak and You, yes You, are strong.

And my brokenness is all I have to offer today, my friends.  But it is a brokenness with hope that, yes, God is big enough.

Let's get real: Have you asked God to show Himself to you before? What happened? (Sharing our stories of faith can be so encouraging!)

photo credit: Sebasti├ín-Dario via photopin cc (texted added by me)

Time to share your heart, whatever it may hold, and to visit the heart of another sister, too.

Friday, April 25, 2014

FMF: Friends

Throughout my school-aged years, I thought friends were meant to be held onto because it sure was lonely not to have any.  Friends brought me happiness, something to do on Friday nights, and a security that I wouldn't face the dreaded lunch table by myself.

Now, I realize friends are just meant to be held.

Held in pain, in joy, when they are full of sorrow, remorse, trouble, failure.  Held in success, euphoria, quiet excitement, and loud jubilee.

We never know how our friends might need us to hold them on any given day, but they know we have arms and we understand the power of using them.

Ever since Soli Deo Gloria began, God has taught me numerous things about community and about friendship.  And He has showed me the power of love that enables us to lay down our lives for each other, how we simply black out the to-do list and the selfish thoughts when our friends come running to us in need...

when cancer strikes.
when darkness closes in.
when the air conditioner breaks, it's 100 degrees outside, and she has no money to fix it.
when sickness overtakes her children.
when she finds out she can't have children.
when she can't make it to the grocery store.
when she can't speak, only cry.
when her husband steps out on her.
when her parents die.
when her children rebel.

Friendship is hard and messy and sometimes the troubled waters are in the relationship itself.  But when we figure out how to love this selfless love, Jesus is in the midst.  Because the only way we can love like that is be cause He loved us like that first.

Here's to love.  Here's to friendship.  

Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory)

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..
photo credit: FotoRita [Allstar maniac] via photopin cc

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Challenge completed!

My friend called me the day of the race telling me she wasn't sure she was sure she was going to do it.  Her main reason?

Because I just can't imagine "Jen Ferguson" and "running a race just for fun" in the same sentence.

She was afraid she'd be the last in our small group of friends and she didn't believe I wouldn't leave her.

Through 2014 and especially through reading Love Idol, I've learned that paces, times, and awards aren't all they are cracked up to be.

But friends are.  And so, I reassured her: I am not going to leave you.  This really is just for FUN!

And when you have an opportunity to get out somewhere just for FUN!, it's time to seize the moment.  It's time to dress up in a tutu and not care if people think you look stupid.
It's time to surround yourself with people who don purple balloons and pretend to be a grape and could care less if people think they are a little out there. 

It's time to take pictures of people's wit that they put on the back of their shirts.

It's time to walk a course so you can have a good conversation with a friend who lives a few doors down, but who you don't get to spend a lot of time with very often.

Sometimes finishing strong means finishing with a friend.


At the beginning of the year, I asked y'all for some ideas of what to do for FUN! And y'all sure did respond (if you need ideas, too, just go here).  One of those ideas was to do a just for FUN! race.  And so, Easter eve, we did the Wicked Wine Run through the Spicewood Vineyards.  Literally, we ran through rows of grapevines and despite the dust, it was FUN!
More proof this was just for FUN! -- I stopped to take pictures!
(I'm always looking for guest posts about FUN! If you're interested, just contact me at

Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstorySharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, and Laura for Quitting Thursday.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Love Idol {Book Giveaway} 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.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  SDG is about relationships.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
Paul continues to write after the verse above, "It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide."

I've read 1 Corinthians many times, but this verse hadn't jumped out at me before.  Perhaps I couldn't fathom before that I could ever be free of the need for worldly approval.  Perhaps I thought it was something to be attained by the likes of Paul, but just a pipe dream for someone like me.

But I think about Paul and the man he was before encountering Christ. I think about his pharisaical attitudes and his self-righteousness and his need for power and authority.  To go from that to this, I can see how anything is possible.  Christ brings lasting and significant change to those most damaged, most broken.  And I am grateful because there are days I feel I fall into those categories.

It's this wicked cycle that has no clear beginning.  I can be down and brought up by worldly recognition or high praise. I can be up and then brought down by criticism or abandonment (unsubscribes can feel this way, can't they?).  And at any point, I feel the guilt of allowing my soul to be swayed by what the world says.  Because I know that is not the opinion that is supposed to count.  That is not the opinion that is to sway my soul.  That is not the opinion in charge of my moods, my guilt, my worth.

A few years ago, I spoke at a retreat.  Although many women were fed by the words God had given me to say, there were a few that did not like me or the words that came out of my mouth.  Even today, I can feel the pit in my stomach when I was made aware of these opinions.  Even today, I have to tell myself this:

I can only say the things He gives me to say.  To say anything else is to step out of what He has for me and for those in front of me listening.

I do not want to misstep, even if it means I have to sacrifice approval.

On Good Friday during my quiet time, I asked God to show me what this Love Idol of mine looks like.  I wanted a tangible visualization of it on the cross with Jesus.  Because with Jesus, I want this Love Idol to die.  And I want to walk out of the tomb clean.

In my mind I see Jesus on the cross holding 3 bricks.  Why 3? I'm not certain, but I think about the weight the load.  It's heavy enough to cause pain and damage over time as I lug them around for years.  But maybe 3 would also be the weight I'd get used to, eventually assuming this is the load I should carry if I was to get where I wanted to go.

And what could I build with 3 bricks?  Not much.  They are useless for any thing constructive...much like my Love Idol.

Worldly approval is useless.  It's always fading, always fleeting, never fully filling.

This Easter as we read the Gospel lesson, I wanted to weep, weep with joy at the miracle that Jesus is alive and because He is, there is an abundance of grace for me.  I shut the world out, it's me and Jesus and I am at His feet, marveling at the wonder, at the extent of His love.  The Lenten season flashes before me and I am humbled by the amount of grace I need to live this life.  And I believe it is testament to these past 40 days where I daily committed to rooting out critical thoughts, that I can see my intense need for grace and just be glad that He died to meet that need.

How often have I realized my need for grace and instead of turning full face to this incredible gift, available to me daily, and instead lambasted myself for needing it in the first place?

But this Easter morning, I show up with my sin, but all I can see is Him.

I see myself next to Jesus in the dark tomb.  He takes my hand and we walk out into the light.  Alive. Reborn.  Renewed.

And think, I could do this every single day.

You could do this every single day.

We sing as our closing song Easter morning, "And all the people say 'Amen!'" and I think, "Amen to life. Amen to grace.  Amen to the death of our Love Idols."

I've traded my bricks for something new, a different burden that is light and easy, the one Jesus asked me to carry and one that I can do with joy.  No shoulds required.  No looking over my shoulder to see if the world tells me I'm doing it right.  It's just me and Jesus and the cross that forever reminds me of grace.  A grace I am designed to need.

Let's Get Real: If you had to tangibly visualize your Love Idol, what do you think it would look like?

To celebrate Jesus and all the growth He has done in us during Lent, I am so excited to be able to offer you a free copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee's book, Love Idol.  Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Time to share what's on YOUR heart. After you link up, please visit your neighbor and leave and encouraging word for her.