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Archive | Women’s issues

Friends Don’t Divide, They Multiply!

We are moving this week. In fact, the movers are scheduled to arrive this morning. If things go according to plan, there will be two days of packing and loading here in Houston, then we will unload at our new home just north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area on Wednesday.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that carries a lot of implications. New utilities. New doctors. New church. And even some new friends.

What’s wonderful about the friendship thing is that even while you get new local friends, you can keep the ones you move away from. Physical distance does not have to divide friends. Instead a new place means additional friends. Friends don’t divide, they multiply!

 

friends

We have moved seven times during 34 years of marriage. We have made new friends each time. Although we don’t regularly stay in touch with all of them, we still count them as friends. We can easily reconnect. In fact, this has happened multiple times. We may go years without speaking to an old friend, then life brings us together again and we discover the bonds of friendship remain.

friends

And then there are others. Friends we have “carried” with us from one place to the next. Both of us have made the effort needed to stay in regular communication. To work out face-to-face visits. These relationships have actually grown, deepened, over time.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9, NLT

friends

All these friendships reveal God’s great grace and sweet love to us. He knows we need connections to others. He knows we need others in our lives to encourage, strengthen, exhort, and comfort us. And He knows they in turn need us. He designed us that way. As relational beings. And He created friendship to meet those needs.

friends

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friendProverbs 27:17, NLT

Although it is bittersweet to move away from local friends, I can anticipate the new relationships God has in store for us in our new town. And I pray I may be the friend they need.

How you experienced friendship that survives time and distance? In what ways do you foster these relationships?

 

 

 

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In the Midst of Change, the Best Remains the Same

I feel as though my life is all boxed up, but change is coming…

Literally, our life is in boxes. My husband’s retirement in December started it all. He had planned to work another two years, but when his company offered an early retirement opportunity, we knew it was time. We decided to move our plan forward – to sell our home in Houston and move to the Dallas area where our daughters and their families live.

After the holidays we began working to get the house in top shape. Power wash the driveway. Weed the flower beds. Paint some walls. Then came all the staging work – pack away the family photos, take the animal heads off the walls, and pack up the “extra” decor.

The house officially hit the market April 20th. We really expected it to take a few weeks at least. But we received three offers in the first three days. The biggest problem was we had no where to go. So, we took a quick trip north to find a new home.

We closed on the new place last Wednesday and minor renovations began the next day! The movers come to help us make the actual move next week! All our stuff should be inside the new place by mid-June!

In the meantime, I’m packing. And packing. Selling a few extra things and donating some others. Everything else has been put on the back burner. That includes blogging! But I wanted to work this one in to give you all an update.

Oh, and in the middle of it all, I received a contract from my publisher for a new book! That project is at the top of my list – right under “unpack boxes!” (Watch for more about this later!)

I’m in the midst of a lot of change right now – husband’s retirement, moving away from a church family that I love, selling one home and buying another, changing cities, and moving my elderly parents from Louisiana to Tennessee to be near my brother (that’s a whole other story!) But the best of it all remains the same. My husband has been consistently at my side for almost 34 years. Our family still loves and supports one another.

And, most importantly, my God is the same faithful, all-powerful, gracious Father I’ve always known. He is the same God in Dallas that He is in Houston. Or New York. Or Mozambique. We will find a place among His people in our new home. And He will have work for us to do there. I can’t wait!

 

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Family Devotional Guide for Your Summer Vacation

family devotional guideWhen our kids were young we did a lot of cross-country driving. Combine little money for airfare with living far away from grandparents and you’ve got at least two long days in the car – one way.

It’s not easy to keep 3 kids under 10 restrained in the back seat for hours on end. I did everything I could think of to keep the kiddos occupied. Lots of snacks – healthy and not so healthy. Games like I Spy and 20 Questions. Books and toys.

While vacations offer adventure, rest, and relationship, they can also be opportunities to teach our children more about God. Travel time, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, provides a captive audience! But we must be prepared.

While you’re packing the swimsuits, sunscreen, and car snacks, grab this 7-day family devotional guide to use during your family vacation. You can use it in the car, on the beach, or around the campfire.

Each Scripture reading is about a biblical journey. Questions are provided each day to get your family talking together about the truth presented in each story. Family Vacation Devotional Guide Print it off and pack it. It won’t take up much space!

Would love to hear from you! What do you do to keep your kids occupied during long car trips?

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Cupcakes, Perfection, and Connection

This guest post by Christen Price includes excerpts from her new book “Invited: Live a Life of Connection, not Perfection.” Used with permission.  

I am in a cupcake war. A battle for perfection.

Standing in the kitchen, covered in confectioner’s sugar, I had been attacked by my strawberry cupcakes. I’d volunteered to bring cupcakes to a baby shower the next day, but my recipe had turned into one big blob of pink mess.  These cupcakes just would not do.

Insecure, I allowed the frustration of failure to mess with my head, causing me to spiral into doubt. All confidence vanished. I heard a soft whisper that I am like these cupcakes…not good enough.

Instead of letting good be good enough, I want to be, have, and give the best of myself to every aspect of my life. That’s why I thought I could make these cupcakes, and that’s why I’m ended up being overly critical of myself.

Do you ever allow the pressure of perfection to cause you to melt down, especially before a celebration?

Just like me, many women desperately chase perfection. Then when we don’t capture it, our emotions take over. The passion of pursuing perfection sometimes causes us to act in ways that make us later feel shame and unworthiness, like we will never quite measure up.

Is there a better way than “perfection?”

God calls us to celebrate, be in community, and believe that connection is far better than perfection. We can spend our whole lives trying to practice hospitality perfectly, but God simply wants us to accept His invitation and extend His love to the people we cherish most. God invites us to release our perfection-induced anxieties, receive others in love, and rejoice in the moment.

Invited by Christen Price

I won the cupcake war.

The next day, I woke up and called a local bakery to order two dozen strawberry cupcakes. Arriving at the baby shower with boxed cupcakes in hand, I arranged the cupcakes on a white tiered cake stand on the dining room buffet. They were delicious, beautiful, and store-bought, but it didn’t make my contribution to the party any less.

That night, instead of feeling not good enough because I couldn’t bake cupcakes as beautiful as these store-bought cupcakes, I was able to connect with friends and watch the mother-to-be open her presents without the pressure of perfection.

Let’s stop letting perfection make us feel not good enough, especially on insignificant matters like store-bought or homemade cupcakes. God is perfect so we don’t have to be. He invites us to live free from the stress of planning, preparing, and performing perfectly and to just be in Him.  Hospitality isn’t about perfection; it’s about connection.

Now, go eat a cupcake!

InvitedIn her new book, Invited: Live a Life of Connection, Not Perfection, Bible teacher Christen Price tackles a problem that plagues many women – the unrealistic striving for perfection. She shares personal stories of her own perfection battle and gives practical advice and helps for finding a beautiful balance that embraces both hospitality and community.

Christen Price is a writer for The M.O.M. Initiative and founder of Undivided Women, an online Bible study community. With the heart of a hostess, she writes devotionals, designs party printables, and creates inspirational art in her Studio that invites women to celebrate their people, place, and purpose. Christen is married to her best friend, Raleigh, and their crew of three little ones, two dogs, and four chickens call the countryside of lower Alabama home. Connect with her at christenprice.com.

 

 

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A Century Old Bible and a Legacy of Faith

BibleFor the last few months, my brother and I have been working to move my parents from Louisiana to Tennessee. Mom and Dad’s health took a nosedive last summer and they need to be closer to one of their children. I’ve been making regular trips from Houston to Shreveport to check on them on begin to go through the family home in preparation for the move.

Since our parents have been in the same house for almost 50 years, there is quite a bit of “accumulation.” Though much of it is regular household stuff like gift-wrapping supplies, long-lost Tupperware lids, and manuals for appliances they no longer have, we have also discovered a few treasures that reveal a family legacy of faith.

For instance, back in September, I shared a letter I found from my great-great grandmother to my great-grandfather. She wrote how she prayed daily for him and his family.

BibleI discovered another treasure this past weekend – a crumbling Bible given to that same great-grandfather, Howell Adam Shouse from that same great-great-grandmother Mary Dozier Cash. The inscription is dated March 7, 1910, more than 100 years ago.

Over the last few months, I have discovered several letters, Bibles, and other items that reveal the consistent and persistent faith of Mary Dozier. I’m not sure what Howell Adam did with her legacy, but I know that her name sake and my maternal grandmother, Mary Dozier Shouse Addington, shared her love for Christ.

My grandmother, Mary Addington, shared her grandmother’s name and her faith. And like her grandmother, she constantly talked about Jesus with her grandchildren. That legacy of faith continues with me – Mary Kathryn. I share my grandmother’s name and her faith. I pray I will continue that legacy of faith with my grandchildren.

How can we be purposeful in passing our faith to the generations that follow?

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4 Parenting Don’ts from the Life of Herodias

Herodias parentingA couple of years ago I was part of a team of writers for a Bible study parenting blog series on biblical mothers. I got Herodias. Seriously?! Scripture doesn’t show us anything positive about Herodias – especially her parenting! (See below for a synopsis of Herodias’ story.)

Then I realized God had something to teach me in this story of a self-absorbed mother who used her child as a means to an end. While none of us likely come close to rivaling this totally self-centered user, we can study Herodias as an example of what NOT to do.

Herodias probably used all the people in her life to get what she wanted. She used men to get power. And she used her daughter to get revenge on her enemy. Unfortunately, even the best and most godly mothers can fall into the role of “self-centered user” from time to time.

4 Parenting Don’ts

Herodias’ parenting certainly did more harm than good. But at least she can serve as a warning for all of us. Things like fleshly desires, ambition, and even old hurts rise up and before we know it, we find ourselves selfishly using our children. Here are four possible scenarios we must guard ourselves against:

  1. Using our kids as a trophy – We encourage, push, and maybe even scold our children in hopes they’ll be the star football player or class valedictorian. And why? Is it for their good? Maybe partly. But often it’s to feed our own egos. So we can say, “Well, my son did this… or my daughter succeeded at that…”
  2. Using our kids as a substitute – We all have unfulfilled ambitions from our childhood. That’s not a failing, that’s just life. However, sometimes we parents think we can live out that dream through our children. So we push them to achieve what we didn’t.
  3. Using our kids as a tool – Sometimes parents use their kids to do their “dirty work.” For instance, if I don’t want to talk to the person on the phone I may get my son to tell them I’m not home. Whether out of laziness, guilt, or avoidance, we’ve all been guilty of using our kids to do something we don’t want to do – or even shouldn’t do – ourselves.
  4. Using our kids as a weapon – Have you ever used your child as a “go between” when you were angry at your spouse? Some divorces get so difficult that one spouse will even withhold the children from the other as a way to cause pain. From little hurts to big, any of us could fall to the temptation to use our children as a weapon.

Today’s matriarch, Herodias, was the ultimate self-centered user. She used her daughter as both a tool and a weapon to further her own agenda. Herodias’ story in the Bible is brief, but it packs a killer punch.

Herodias’ Story

Although pieces of Herodias’ story is found in several Gospel accounts Mark 6:14-29, Matthew 14:1-12, Luke 9:7-9), here’s the synopsis:

The trouble began when John the Baptist rebuked Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed rule of Galilee, for stealing away and marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. John boldly and repeatedly pointed out Herod’s sin with Herodias. Herodias wanted John silenced – permanently. Herod imprisoned John trying to pacify her, but knowing John was a righteous man of God, Herod refused to have him executed.

So Herodias watched and waited. She knew her opportunity would come and when it did she would get what she wanted. Herodias was a master manipulator and she would use whatever means necessary. Including her daughter.

Soon the “opportune time” arrived. Herod threw himself a big birthday party. This shindig was guys only, more like a rowdy stag party than a simple birthday dinner. Young Salome, Herodias’ daughter by Herod’s brother, danced for Herod and his party guests. When Salome’s dancing pleased Herod, he boastfully promised something he didn’t even have the power to give – “up to half my kingdom!”

This was the moment Herodias had been waiting for and she pounced on it. She used her daughter and even her husband Herod to accomplish what Herod had prevented – the death of John the Baptist.

Salome knew to take Herod’s offer straight to her mother. With her desire finally realized, she sent Salome back, prompted by her mother’s selfish wishes. “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Sadly, Herod saw no way of escape. He had made a reckless promise in front of important people. To withdraw his offer would mean personal humiliation. And Herodias knew that too. That was part of her plan. The self-centered user got exactly what she wanted.

What can we learn from Herodias?

 I’m sure none of us have used our child as a murder weapon. But we have all used our children to one degree or another. Maybe we pushed them in the direction we wanted them to go. Maybe we asked them to stretch the truth for our convenience. But we all sometimes act selfishly and our children get caught up in the consequences. Our actions, attitudes, and motives will affect our kids. Our character and behavior will at least partly shape their character and behavior. The results of what we do will also land on them.

3 Proactive Parenting Steps

  1. Remember that your child is individually valued by God. God has specific plans and purposes for your child that are different from the ones He has for you. Help your child discover his unique purpose!
  2. Ask God to make you sensitive to any behavior that is selfishly motivated. Then repent immediately!
  3. Purposefully model Christ-like character and godly behavior for your children.

What actions, words, or attitudes in your life negatively affects your children? What can you do now to help shape your children to be more like Jesus?

Note: This post originally appeared on TheMomInitiative.com

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My Top Ten – Plus One – Chocolate Favorites

Chocolate FavoritesChocolate is my love language and I speak it fluently. In honor of the Chocolate Holiday (aka “Valentine’s Day), I’d like to share some of my chocolate favorites with you.

I do have a few “chocolate quirks.” For instance, I LOVE chocolate and I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t particularly care for chocolate ice cream. I like nuts covered in chocolate, but not nuts in my chocolate. And yes, there is a difference. Same goes with chocolate and fruit. Fruit dipped in chocolate is great, but don’t put fruit in my chocolate. In fact, there is something just wrong about chocolate covered cherries.

Top Ten Chocolate Favorites (Plus One)

Without further ado, here are my chocolate go-tos. (In no particular order)

  1. Dairy Milk chocolate bar – quite possible the creamiest chocolate bar ever!
  2. Hershey’s Best Brownies (recipe below!) – I’ve been making these brownies for probably 25 years!
  3. M&Ms – a truly classic fav!
  4. Cadbury Mini-Eggs – only available around Easter. Ya’ll, I can’t stop eating these. So I try NOT to buy them. If you have more discipline than I do, try them out. You can order on Amazon and get them tomorrow with Prime!
  5. Cadbury Mini-Eggs Christmas version! – Oh yes!
  6. Lindt Milk Chocolate Lindor Balls – These may be my #1.
  7. Mocha Truffles – The perfect combination of chocolate, cream cheese, and chocolate. I traditionally make these at Christmas. Here’s the recipe! 
  8. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake – ate it every night on our last Carnival Cruise. They actually gave me the recipe, but when I tried to recreate it, it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it’s because I messed up converting the recipe from 200 servings to 12! I found this recipe online. Not sure if it’s legit, but it’s probably worth trying. And it only makes 6 servings!
  9. Hershey’s Peppermint Bark Bells – If you like mixing peppermint with your chocolate, check these out next Christmas!
  10. Fudge Richey – from “Susie’s South Forty” in Midland, Texas (Ladies, it’s chocolate-covered fudge!) And you can order online. And although their Pecan Toffee doesn’t have chocolate, it is fabulous!
  11. Rolo Pretzel Delights – I was finished with my top ten when I remembered this brand new favorite, so you get a bonus. A friend brought these to a ladies’ lunch in December and I could not get enough. I had to go home and make some. Super easy, but super addictive, so watch out. Here’s the recipe! 

I’d love to hear about your chocolate favorites and any quirky chocolate rules!

Hershey’s Best Brownies

I got this recipe off the back of a canister of Hershey’s cocoa many years ago. However, the chocolate chips are my addition!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add cocoa, beat. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat well. Mix half the chocolate chips into the batter and spread into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake 30 minutes only!

 

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Are You Content with Your Stuff?

contentOur family calls it the flood of 2003. One Saturday morning I stepped into ankle-deep water in the hallway outside our bedroom. I could hear water gushing somewhere close by and hurried to find the source. In the guest bathroom, water from the toilet supply line was shooting across the room. I turned off the water and began to survey the damage.

Carpets and other flooring upstairs were ruined. But the bigger mess was downstairs. The ceiling directly under the bathroom had fallen and paint slid down the walls. Water saturated everything in that half of the bottom floor of our house. We spent the rest of the summer repairing, replacing, and renovating.

The accident and the resulting damage to our home hit me hard. The physical challenge of the cleanup overwhelmed me, but I also grieved the loss of our stuff. Later on – when I was ready to hear it – God showed me my reaction to this material loss revealed much about what I treasured most.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed this very issue (Matthew 6:19-21). He knows we humans tend to value the wrong things. We seek satisfaction, joy, and security in the fleeting things of this world. But jobs, possessions, money, and people cannot meet our deepest needs. They may temporarily mask our real need, but eventually discontentment rises to the surface again.

Stuffing lots of stuff isn’t the answer

We’ve been taught by the world that “stuff” is the answer. So we stuff all we can into the empty hole, but it never fills up. Only God can fully and permanently satisfy our spiritual need. When He becomes what we value most, then we will find true contentment.

During short-term mission trips, I’ve seen firsthand that Christians can be joyful and content without all the stuff we have in America. Believers in mud huts with dirt floors and thatched roofs ooze the joy of Christ. Brothers and sisters living in tiny Soviet block apartments experience the full life Christ gives.

Only Jesus can make us truly content

In fact, I believe our material “abundance” can foster discontent. Since we are used to having so much, we have convinced ourselves we need it all. We trade in perfectly good cars on ones that are newer, brighter, or faster and we up-size our homes even when we can’t afford it.

The apostle Paul learned contentment in material need or plenty because he did not base his attitude on his physical circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul looked to Christ for strength in every situation, including physical need. The only thing Paul could not do without was Christ.

I wonder, can we say the same?

If we are completely honest with ourselves, what would be on our list of things we can not do without?

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3 Reasons for Thanksgiving Even When You Don’t Feel Blessed

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is just 3 days away. Are you dreading it? It may not be the cooking and the cleaning and a house full of people. Perhaps you are dreading the thought of trying to be thankful when you don’t feel blessed.

What if you’re in the midst of some trial or difficulty or heartache right now? Can you still join in the Thanksgiving celebration with joy or will you just be going through the motions?

The writer of Psalm 118 knew trouble. His life had not been easy. He had been betrayed and attacked. And he had felt caught in a hopeless and dangerous situation with no way out.

3 Reasons for Thanksgiving in Times of Trouble

But in the middle of those trials, he also experienced God’s personal intervention on his behalf. In Psalm 118:8-14, the psalmist testifies to God’s deliverance and expresses his gratitude. In this passage, we find 3 reasons to thank God when we face times of trouble:

  1. God is our refuge – When storms are raging all around us, we can always find safety in God’s presence. He is our shelter from the storm. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Other people may not be fully trustworthy, but God can always be trusted. Other people may not always be dependable, but we can depend on God in any and every situation. Like the psalmist, when we’re in the midst of trouble, let’s thank God that He is our refuge. When we hide ourselves in Him, He will be our shelter!
  2. God is our protector – When people and circumstances fight against us, we do not have to wonder or worry about victory. God Himself goes with His people and fights for them (Deuteronomy 30:3-4). When the psalmist was surrounded and swarmed by his enemies, victory came through the name of the LORD. Do you ever feel “swarmed by enemies?” Call on the name of the LORD. Thank Him that He is your protector!
  3. God is our strength – “The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14). God saves! He will deliver us through trouble with the strength of His might. He is our reason to sing, so let us lift a song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who is our strength!

God is our refuge, our protector, and our strength! If you can name no other blessings in your life today, you can thank God for these. Let’s thank Him today, especially in the midst of trouble.

How else can you thank God today? Express your gratitude in the comment section.

 

 

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Today’s My Birthday. Am I “Old” Now?

BirthdayToday is my birthday. I am 55 years old. Some days I feel old. Some days I feel like I’m just getting started good.

But this specific number –  “55” – comes with an “old age” stigma. I keep thinking about this group they had at church when I was growing up. They called it the “Double Nickle” club. It was for the “old people” at church and they met once a week for lunch and games. Probably Bridge. That strikes me as a game for old people because my grandmother played Bridge every week with a group of friends. But I digress…

So, one day not long ago, I was thinking about turning 55 and it hit me – the “Double Nickle” club was for people 55 and over. I am now old enough for the “Double Nickle” club.  And for the senior menu at iHop.

I must look it too. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. He dropped me off to buy the tickets while he parked. The young man at the ticket booth quoted me a price less than I expected for two tickets. When I questioned him, he told me that included the “senior discount.” Turns out the “senior discount” is for those 62 and above. The young theater employee just assumed I qualified.

But I really don’t feel “old” – most days anyway. But, ask me again some morning after I worked in the yard for hours the day before. Funny, my Bridge-playing granny told me something about aging when I was little that I still remember. She said, “Your body ages, but your soul never does.” I didn’t really understand her statement then, but now I think I do.

God created us for eternity. Oh, yes, we have a temporal, physical “tent” that breaks down and falls apart. But God’s purposes for His children are eternal. And He wants to keep using us here on earth as long as He allows us to remain.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:12-15

Here’s my conclusion. I am not necessarily “old,” but I am “older.” And until God is finished with me here on earth, I am certainly not “done.”

So no “retirement” for me. Nope. As long as I’m able, I want to serve the Lord and His people. On that day when God calls me home, I want to be able to declare with the Apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

And discounted movie tickets and cheap pancakes are just an added bonus!

 

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