Mar 31, 2012

Saturday SHINE.....


Good morning, sweet SHINE girls! It's Saturday, so no weekend reading. Take some time to catch up on your reading if you are behind.

Today, I have a sweet surprise for all of you. I have asked Ashley Brown to guest blog. 

A little something about Ashley: We met about 3 years ago in Madison, and I have never quite known anyone like her. She is absolutely the sweetest, most loyal, most generous friend in the world. The funny thing is, when I tell her how wonderful she is, she blushes and tells me that I am crazy. :)

Ashley would never, ever toot her own horn, so I will gladly do it for her. When I asked her to guest blog, the first thing she said was, "I have nothing great to say!". 

I knew she would say that! She absolutely has a lot to say though. I have told Ashley before that she is the definition of the Proverbs 31 woman. She works so hard in everything that she does, and she is always concerned about others. Ashley grows her beautiful dark hair out every year and then cuts it to give away to make wigs for cancer patients. She has done this 3 or 4 times! See, she is incredible!

I admire her more than she will ever know. Be blessed by her story. 


 Ashley's Journey:

When Jill asked me to be today’s guest blogger, my first thought was, what in the world would I talk about?  I don’t have anything “special” in my life to teach anyone.  This is completely out of my comfort zone!  I thought about it, and decided it is time for me to step out!
            
My husband, Jason and I started dating when I was 15 and he was 17.  We were the typical high school sweethearts.  We got married after college in 2001.  Our first son, Noah, was born 4 days after out 1st anniversary!  I quit my teaching job to stay at home and be a mama.  We had a son, Colby, 2 years later.  When my boys were 18 months and 3 ½, my husband decided to open up his own Civil Engineering business with a friend.  We then moved to our new town.  We had a wonderful new home, living in a beautiful small town, and business was great!
           
  Jason and I had talked about trying to have a 3rd child.  He was ready, I wasn’t sure if I was.  I didn’t feel our marriage was in a place to bring a 3rd baby into. Jason is a very devoted father.  He would do anything and everything for our kids.  He wanted to spend every waking moment while he wasn’t working with our kids.  But, that was the problem.  Our kids were his life.  They were #1 in his life, and I was #2.  He felt that as long as we were raising kids, they were to be the priority, and our relationship was put on the back burner, I guess until they were graduated and gone.  Then it would be our time to have a relationship.  I felt that if I had to wait until then, I probably wouldn’t be here waiting.  I come from a divorced home.  I never wanted to ever put my kids through that.  My biggest fear in my marriage is not that my husband would cheat on me or ever leave me, but that I would fall out of love with him.
           
   I HAD to find a way to have a relationship with my husband!  I began to pray for Jason and me to become closer and closer each day.  We would have good months and months where I felt completely disconnected.  I mean, we didn’t ever fight or anything, we just didn’t have much of a relationship outside of our children.
           
  Meanwhile, our 3rd child, EmmaClaire, was born.  Then the economy crashed.  Not good for a new engineering business!  We were trying to figure out how to survive on my husband’s income.  I worked in his office a few mornings a week as a secretary, started  keeping other children in my home, sewing baby clothes for people, anything I could find to help out.  When EmmaClaire was 2 I took a part-time job teaching Pre-K at a preschool, still keeping kids in the afternoon. 
          
  In April of last year, we came home from a beach trip to a kitchen with a leaking refrigerator, floors buckling up.  We ended up finding mold under the cabinets, and completely tore our kitchen out and remodeled the whole room.  This sounds great to get a whole new kitchen, and in the end it was, but it was a lot of work since we did most of it ourselves with help from family and friends.  Once we were able to move back into the kitchen, after having our entire kitchen (refrigerator, stove, washing machine, dryer, table and chairs) in our den for a couple of months, the washing machine leaked and had to be replaced.  Oh, and we had already replaced a broken dish washer, air conditioner/heat unit that went out, and our ceiling in our garage collapsed all within 2 months.  Man, it seemed like everything was going wrong for us.  My husband’s job was still very slow and wasn’t sure if it was even going to make it. 
           
  While all of this was going on, Jason came home early one day with what he thought was a stomach virus.  He could not stop throwing up and had severe pain.  So off we went to the emergency room.  We were now thinking he had an appendicitis.  After lots of tests and CT-Scan, the Dr. came in at 4 AM to tell us he had kidney stones and was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease.  We looked at each other in shock.  DISEASE??  We went to numerous Dr. visits to find out more information and get second opinions.  Both of Jason’s kidneys and liver have cysts on them.  There is no treatment or cure for this disease.  It may never affect him, or he may end up on dialysis or have kidney transplants since the cysts growth end up causing kidney failure.  This hit me hard!  I had to stay strong for him, especially since Jason has what they call “White Coat Syndrome.”  His blood pressure rises even for regular check-ups at a Dr. office because of anxiety.  I kept it together in front of him, but I couldn’t help letting my thoughts go to the worst.  What if I lost my husband at an early age?  What about my kids?  They have a 50% chance of having this same disease.  Should we get them tested now or wait until they are older?  There were lots of things going through my head. 
          
  I will never forget, while all of these things were going on in our life, my husband held me and said, “It is strange, with everything we have been going through, I feel closer to you than I ever have.”  All of a sudden a light bulb went off!  For 3 years I had been praying for our marriage to get stronger and for us to get closer.  It took a slow job, a house falling apart, and one of us being diagnosed with a chronic disease to see my prayer being answered.  Through all of this, the verse I lived by was, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  John 16:33
           
  I feel so at peace with my life right now.  My walk with God is getting stronger and stronger. I still find myself thinking of what if Jason’s disease progresses or if one or all of my kids have it since we haven’t had them tested yet.  But, as soon as these thoughts hit my mind, I feel a peace.  I feel God taking those worries away and letting me know that everything is going to be ok.  I am learning to give it all to Jesus!  Jason and I are closer than ever. 

 We don’t have a “perfect” marriage by any means (who does?), but we are in a good place.  We recently celebrated our 10th anniversary!  I find myself looking at him and thinking, man, I love this man!  I truly believe God is working in this household. 

 I am involved in a Bible study with Jill and some great women.  Jason is in a Bible study with Lem and some great men.  My other prayer has been for my husband and kids to become closer to the Lord.  I can see this in Jason, and my 2 boys, now 9and 7, have recently let me know they are saved and have accepted Jesus in their hearts!  Praise the Lord!  God has lots of plans for this Brown family, and I am ready and willing to do whatever he has in store for us!

Jason and I on our wedding day 

The Brown Family--
Jason, Ashley, Noah, Colby,  and EmmaClaire

Fun times!

EmmaClaire and Me

Mar 30, 2012

Friday SHINE Winner.....

Our SHINE weekday give-away prize!
Generously provided by Rags Clothing.
You should check out their stuff. Oh my.
Cute, cute stuff.


Ready for our SHINE weekday-give-away winner?


The kids had a lot of fun with this drawing. We went to Chic-fil-a after school and wrote all of your little names on napkins. Yep, napkins.


Here's the visual:

Presley shakes the bag with all of the names...
while eating her ice cream.
multi-tasking little dumpling.

Joseph draws the lucky winner....
Kimberlee Blazina!
Yippee!

Stay tuned, girls. We may have another drawing next week!
You have some generous fellow SHINE girls!
I love you girls!
Happy Weekend-ing! 


Friday SHINE....

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 18

Happy Friday, SHINE girls! Are y'all excited about the weekend?

Me too!

Two things for you today. Ready?

First, our Friday Challenge! For all of you brand-spankin'-new SHINE girls--we have a little challenge that we try to do every single Friday. It's something different every week.

So, here's what I want you to do today. Go, get your calendar--if you have one. Or if your calendar is on your smart phone, get your phone. (warning--don't get side-tracked with Facebook or checking your email while doing this) *smile*

Okay, got it? If you don't have any kind of calendar, well, I personally want to meet you so that you can tell me how in the world you remember anything. Seriously, that's impressive. If you are one of those awesomely cool non-calendar girls...you can still pray this prayer over the rest of us bound-to-our-calendar girls.

Now, with your calendar in hand, let's pray.

 Ready?

Dear Lord, 


I ask that you guide me through this day. Let anything that I have planned take second place to Your will for me. Let every minute be directed by you. If there is anything on my schedule that is not something that You do not want me to do, please make this very clear to me. 


Father, I ask that my focus be on You and You alone as I submit my day to you. You gave me this day. You have a purpose for me today. You have a purpose for me every day. 


Lord, let not one minute go by that is not ordained by you today. Direct and order my steps from this moment forward. 


I trust You. I believe you. I love you. 


I give my schedule to you, Lord.


Thank you for being Lord of my time. Thank you for being in every detail of my day. 


In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


I've just started doing this girls. Submitting my calendar to Him. Like really submitting it to Him every morning.

It's made a big difference. Huge.

The first day that I did it, I noticed that my day seemed longer. I kept looking up at the clock going--wow, time seems like it is moving slower. Seriously.

Normally, I am running to keep up with the clock.

Okay, so the second thing is this: Weekday Give-away Drawing will be this afternoon! Stay tuned in later today to see who the winner is! Yay! You still have some time to enter....go here to enter!

Keep SHINE-ing girls! You are just glowing with His love!

It's such a beautiful sight!


"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."
 Proverbs 19:21



handing over my calendar,

jill

a little Friday funny.
this is totally how i feel most days.
 exactly why I need God to guide my days! :-)






Mar 29, 2012

Thursday SHINE EXTRA....

Okay, girls. I have a picture of our Weekday Give-away Prize! Are you ready?

First of all, I want to say a HUGE thank you to fellow SHINE girl, Michelle Chapman. She was going to donate this prize, however the sweet girl that made the necklace for Michelle, offered to donate it to SHINE girls!

So, thank you Kerry Wood with Rags Clothing and Michelle Chapman for your awesome generosity!

The drawing will be held tomorrow, but I wanted you girls to have a sneak peak at the prize! You must comment under the weekday give away post first, found here.  Got it? 

The challenge was to tell someone about the 1000 blessings challenge that we are doing here on SHINE!

Shout it to your facebook peeps, twitter it, tell someone, text someone...whatever you want to do! Just spread the word and encourage someone else to notice their blessings daily! :-)

Here's the gorgeous hand-made necklace the lucky winner will receive in tomorrow's drawing:

Isn't it beautiful?
Go and check out her amazing website and" like" her fb page:
http://www.facebook.com/ragsclothing
So many awesome things!





Okay, there's the prize, now go and comment!


Thursday SHINE.....


Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 17

Good morning, SHINE! 

It is my pleasure to introduce to you a fellow SHINE girl, Kelly McLeod, as our guest blogger. Kelly and I have been friends for, oh gosh, maybe 5 or 6 years?

Anyway, Kelly is one of my very closest and dearest friends. We have gone through a whole lot together in our friendship. I have watched my sweet Kelly grow in so many ways over these past 2 years especially.

I asked her to guest blog this week, not having any idea what she would post about. Let me just say, that after reading her post I am challenged! This post was meant for me to read and I hope you feel the same way.

Be blessed and inspired, precious SHINE girls!

Setting the Pace
by Kelly McLeod

So I got word yesterday that Chad and I got in the Peachtree Road Race…we officially have a number!  Am I excited?  No, not really.  If I’m honest, when I signed us up for the lottery I never dreamed we’d get in.  As a matter of fact, I ONLY registered us thinking it would win me favor with my husband.  Chad has wanted me to run the Peachtree with him for years but I have resisted, as the thought of getting up early on July 4th to run in the sweltering heat 6.2 miles…particularly on a day that I could be chilling out on the dock at our lake house, just didn’t inspire any excitement for me.  I’m not much of a runner.   

As a kid, I participated in summer track.  I tried several events, distance running, sprinting, hurdles, and long jump before I discovered where my true talent lied.  Years of gymnastics training created flexibility and strength, I was a natural born high-jumper.  By the time I was 12, I made it to Nationals and placed 5th…not too shabby.  It came very easy for me and I employed strategies to avoid putting in much effort while still coming out a winner. 

I’m very good at doing the things that make me look good, with as little effort as possible.  It’s true that I can be charitable, but usually when it benefits me in some way.  And my spiritual walk was more of the same… sure I showed up for church at Easter, Christmas, a time or two in between.  I attended weekly Bible studies, a prayer before dinner, (led by Chad) prayers when life was particularly difficult.  No real, meaningful time spent in the word.  No real emphasis placed on developing my relationship with Christ.  The pace of my walk with the Lord was just a slow, leisurely stroll.  This is the antithesis of Faith in action. 

FAITH IN ACTION…

God has blessed me with a sister, Jessica.  She understands me in a way that no one else can or ever will.  We share a love of good books, movies, and games…usually involving cards.  We have a lot in common, but in some ways we are very different.  I was always very outspoken, the center of attention if you will.  Popularity was extremely important to me.  I often changed who I was to fit in with whichever group deemed cool at the moment.  I tried to set the curve…I made good grades, was involved in school and youth group, and sports.  All the things that look really good on a college application…I worked my way through college at UGA, made the Dean’s list, graduated and got a good job.  I bought a house, married the love of my life and saved for our dream house.  Success by worldly standards…and I craved the accolades and acceptance that accompany success in the eyes of man!

In contrast, Jessica was quiet and avoided the limelight at all cost.  She was well liked, but she valued true friendship and maintained relationships with a select few life-long friends.  I would describe Jessica as an introvert.  She was extremely smart and loved to read and write.  I remember she used to cut out pictures of the people in her magazines and she’d use them as the characters in her stories.  I always thought that she was clever.  She was a swimmer and although she was very talented, she wasn’t an aggressive competitor.  Jessica was always very good, soft-spoken, and gentle-natured…pure of heart, never concerned with gaining “worldly” approval, but rather seeking to grow in her faith.

I found a post from my sister a few weeks back that really summarizes who she is really is; a daughter of Christ…

 “To live is Christ.  To die is gain.”  To me, it means that my whole life is about Christ. I am dead to self. Selfish pursuits must end. I am no longer a slave to worldly standards of worth and wealth. It means that all I have and all I am is Christ's. It means I can be obedient until death.  It means that I can love unconditionally both friend and foe because no matter how I’m hurt or punished I still have hope, peace and joy in Christ.  It means no matter my circumstances I can be content and no matter the danger, I can be bold.  It means I can run this race for the prize set before me, knowing that my future is secure and I have nothing to fear.

My sister and I are very close.  She may be seven years younger, but she is wise beyond her years and so mature in her spiritual walk.  It’s hard to admit that I aspire to be more like her in this regard.  She is well versed in the scriptures.  She lives her faith out loud.  In a few short weeks, she and her family will walk out in faith.  They will move to North Carolina for the summer to work at a youth ministry.  This is something she and her husband have had on their hearts to do since their wedding.  Only married a few months, they learned they were expecting a baby boy…talk about a game-changer.  Fast-forward 5 years and 2 girls later and God is providing the opportunity for them to fulfill their desire to minister the youth and share their walk with Jesus.  I imagine the idea of picking up everything, moving to a new place with 3 children, 4 and under would be a daunting task for most people.  It may even be for them, but they aren’t letting fear keep them from serving the Lord.  This, for me, is such a great display of faith in action.   

FAITH IN TRAINING

The past few years, I have seen my fair share of tragedy…to be discussed in another blog, but the point is God started moving in my heart.  He was using my circumstances to draw me closer to him.  I have had to lean on my faith more over the past 3 years than I had the combined first 30!  And God is blessing me through it all.  He’s also filled my life with so many godly women that INSPIRE me.  Jill is one of those women in my life.  So is my sister.  I find myself being envious of their spiritual maturity.  I seek their counsel.  They are the type of Christian I aspire to be.  I have so much respect for the way they use their gifts to glorify and honor the Lord.  The things they are doing in their own walk right now makes me take a closer look at my own lack of action…   
    
After years of making excuses, Chad and I finally visited a new church last week.  It was an interesting message about changing the world…hmmm.  Now, here is what I’ve established in this blog so far.  I am pretty lazy, usually only doing the minimum to get by while still looking good and here is this preacher talking to me about getting on board to help finish what Christ started…I can barely make the time to read a chapter of my Bible each day, I haven’t been to church regularly in years and now I’m supposed to change the world?  Forget a 10k, I feel like he just asked me to compete in the Iron Man!  I don’t have the training, I’m not prepared. 

Well, I’ll at least hear the man out…reading the scripture of John 21:5, “Be Humble” he tells me.  So I want to know what this really means…I look up the meaning of the word humble online at Urban Dictionary.com
“If you were to meet a humble person, he wouldn't be the kind of person who thinks lower of himself than others think he should. Instead, he would not think of himself at all! A humble person isn't interested in saying "I suck" or "I'm not that great". These statements come from a person who thinks he should be better than he is. A truly humble person isn't concerned with who he is or who he should be. He isn't concerned with himself at all, but instead he's concerned with other people.”

Oh boy, have I got an area for improvement!  The only time I thought of myself as being “humble” is when I’m being self-deprecating.  Turns out that isn’t the definition.  Being humble is not just an antonym for being boastful, prideful or arrogant…it’s more of a condition of the heart.  So how exactly do I humble myself?  How do I “die to self” and simply love others?  I think the answers are tied in with the pastor’s second point… 

Continuing on in John 21:9-13, “Be Hungry”…well, surely I’ve got this one wrapped up!  After all, I’ve been on a diet since December…hunger is part of the deal…What? That’s not the kind of hunger he meant?  

Ok, so I’m using humor to deflect the real issue.  Be Hungry…when I am hungry, I scour the pantry for anything that will satisfy my craving…I usually fill up on a lot of junk and never feel satiated.  It has only been recent that I have worked to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been a life-long journey for me.  My spiritual life has been much the same…when I allow the distractions of “life” get in the way of my relationship with Christ, I’m left feeling empty…I often try to fill the void with entertainment or work…but nothing satiates me like being in the word, sharing with Him the events of my day, offering thanks for all He’s given.  I believe when we are Hungry for a relationship with Christ, it affords us the opportunity to get to know Him.  To know Him is to love Him and to love Him is to want to emulate Him.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with self but loving others.  So maybe the way I humble myself is by first cultivating a relationship with Christ.  

The pastor finished with “Be His” John 21:15,
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?” Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

“Feed my lambs”…how can I do that?  This is the revolution the pastor is referring to…He wants us to change the world, by loving others, by getting involved in what Christ started…I’m feeling inspired now.  But I’m uncomfortable.  After the service, we visit with a few friends, pick up Ian from the nursery and make our way to Yesterday’s café, where we are regulars.  On the way, I confess to Chad that the sermon made me think, really think about how uncomfortable I was with the idea of what the pastor was proposing…I just want to focus on me, on my walk.  I’m still figuring all this out.  I’m not prepared; I’ve not been properly trained.  I feel the same way about my Peachtree road race.  The thought of running 6.2 hilly miles makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t really want to do it because I know it will challenge me and I’m not sure I’m ready to be challenged in that way.  At the same time, I’m intrigued.  I feel God stirring in my heart again.  It’s not the same as those dark days over the past three years.  I don’t just NEED Him to get through the day, but I DESIRE Him to walk along with me on the journey.  I’m ready for some one-on-one personal trainer time!  I know that I love Jesus and because I love Him, I want to be a part of finishing what he started! 

I posted on Facebook Monday night about getting in the Peachtree, making a self-deprecating remark about “running” the race when in all reality my pace is more of a jog/walk…immediately I received comments encouraging me that it doesn’t matter what my pace is as long as I continue to move forward.  Interesting…perhaps God is revealing some things to me.  Continuing to move forward…I feel like my spiritual walk has been a lot of two steps forward, two steps back...wait, isn’t that essentially just standing in place?  That isn’t the race I want to run!  Nope, I’ve never been much of a runner, but I will keep moving forward and with God’s training, my pace is bound to improve… 

Is God stirring your heart too?  Let’s stop making excuses for why we can’t and commence with the training already!  We won’t finish a race we never start…

Chad & Kelly McLeod
      


Mar 28, 2012

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 16

Good morning, SHINE!

 It's Wednesday! Worship Wednesday! Yay!

How's the reading going? It's getting really good, isn't it?

Yesterday morning, Lem and I were reading 2 Samuel together and the chapter ended.  He looked over at me and said, "Can we read the next chapter? I want to see what happens!"

I giggled.

Girls, you have NO idea, but to hear my husband say that he cannot wait to read the  next chapter of the BIBLE is HUGE! Seriously, it is.

No offense to my sweet Lem, but he's not much of a reader, and certainly has never been much of a Bible reader. (love you, darlin'!)

Lem and Me
(for us visual learners)
I remember when we first got married, I got him this really awesome Bible, with TABS, so that he would enjoy reading the Bible more. (and he could easily flip to the right chapter!)

The Bible sat on the shelf, and sat on the shelf, and sat on the shelf. I dusted it quite often. He never opened it.

Finally, I gave up on my subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints for him to read the Bible. He wasn't changing. Ever. So, I had to move on.

As soon as I let go of my persuasions for him to get right with God, the Lord started working on my walk. Oh boy.

God was so busy pruning me and fine tuning this off-key little heart of mine, that I kind of forgot about Lem. I had so much work to do with myself!

I was a mess. One big, fat, blonde mess.

Then something happened.

About a year and a half ago, my friend Erin's husband (Chuck), was starting a men's bible study at their house. I begged Lem to go.

He said, and I quote, "Absolutely, NO WAY. I don't do bible studies."

Alrighty then. That was that.

Well, the night of the Bible study came and I asked (begged) him one more time to please go to the bible study. (I may have used some gentle threats....my memory is fuzzy.)

His famous last words when he decided to walk out the door and go to the bible study were: "I'll go this ONE time, but I will never go again."

(I honestly think he only went so that he could get away from me....i was relentless that night. relentless.)

Almost 3, yes THREE, hours later, he finally came home.

He walked in with a big smile on his face. After scolding him for being gone so long (relentless, I tell ya), I asked him how it went.

"Not bad. Not bad," is all he said. (Yes, he's a man of few words--sometimes.)

He now meets these guys every Friday morning for breakfast to talk about the Lord--and lots of other stuff I'm sure. (like relentless wives, and stuff like that.)

Really, Lord? Is my husband really going to a bible study? And liking it?

After all of these years of trying so hard to make him want a closer walk with You, when I finally let it go, he is suddenly desiring You?

Oh, girls. God never ceases to amaze me. You could knock me over with a feather most days. I live in awe of Him. Truly, I do.

Sometimes the Lord just wants us to focus on Him. We can pray for others around us, but we cannot force them to desire the Lord. Ya know what I mean?

I was so busy focusing on Lem's walk with God that I had completely neglected my own walk.

Good grief. Talk about an Ah-Ha moment.

How was I ever going to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me, when I was so busy determining what I thought the Holy Spirit was telling others??

Oh, man, the Lord had some serious work to do on my heart.

Here's what He is showing me:

The best way to influence Lem and others around me is to keep straight on my path. If I keep looking around and veering off of the path, I am helping no one. Only delaying the process.

Hello, who knew?

Keep soaking yourselves in His Word, girls. He will show you things that will blow your mind!

 " Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

Also, pay attention to all of your blessings surrounding you moment by moment. They are God's little love letters to you. He gives us these to keep us from getting side-tracked. We just have to notice them though!
  • chirping birds outside of my window
  • leaves blowing gently in the wind
  • my dogs lying side by side on the back porch (with the cat napping close by)
  • my daughter's purple toenails
  • my son's raspy little voice
  • Lem's bible on the end table, with notes inside! (wow!)
here's those purple little 7 year old toe nails
i have a thing with toes.
 i cannot help myself.
How's your little list going?
Are you close to 1000?
Me either.
(i confess...this picture is not of me.)
 i wish my hands were that pretty, and skinny.


eyes on Him,

jill

**Drawing THIS Friday girls!! Go, comment under the weekday give-away post! Awesome, awesome prize! Don't say I didn't warn you! :)

Mar 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Angela......

Did you think you were getting off that easy, Angela?

NO WAY!!

Happy 40th Birthday, to the GREATEST sister in the whole wide world!

Angela Joy Crowe!!

Angela and Me celebrating her birthday today!

Here's a little list of some of Angela's amazing attributes: (like my alliteration? heehee)
  • beautiful
  • funny
  • belly laugh funny
  • witty
  • godly
  • wise
  • awesome momma
  • loyal
  • artistic
  • talented
  • did i mention she was funny?
  • loved
  • loving
  • generous
  • truthful
  • honest

I could go on and on and on....

If you have a minute, please wish my sister, Angela, the happiest birthday of all!!

THIS is her year!! God has big plans for my sister!! You wait and see, Angela!!

His favor is all over you, sweet sister!


"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised'  Proverbs 31:30




Pictures from Angela's birthday lunch:

Angela and Lisa SHINE!




Rebekah and her boys celebrate Angela!

Angela and Leslie share a smile and the same beautiful blonde hair!

Stacey, Lynn, and Angela celebrate and SHINE!

Julie and Shannon SHINE! 


Angela and Jill SHINE bright!

Chocolate on Chocolate birthday cake...by Hilda. Oh, yes.


Leslie, Missy, and Mom SHINE!
Lisa and her sweet Jenna SHINE at lunch!

Tuesday SHINE.....


Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 15

Happy Tuesday, SHINE girls! 

Before we get started, I want to say a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my awesome Sister, Angela!!! I could do an entire blog about Angela. She inspires me and encourages me daily. I've always looked up to and admired my Sister, and always will! If you see her today, give her a big birthday hug!! I love you, Angela!!

Okay, if you are new to the blog, Tuesday's are SHINE Girl Spotlight Day!

Each week, we have a SHINE girl that tells a bit of her story and her faith journey. She then picks the SHINE Girl Spotlight for the next week!

Fun, huh? 

Girls, do not forget to go to the Weekday Give-away Post and comment! A really great prize will be given away this week in the drawing! You do NOT want to miss out!

Now, girls, grab your coffee and your tissues for this one. Sabrina tells her precious story for all of us to be encouraged and inspired.

Be blessed!


Ashleigh's introduction of this week's SHINE girl spotlight:

This week it is my privilege to introduce a precious follower of Jesus to you, Sabrina. She is a sweet sister of the faith with a caring and giving heart. Sabrina and I met about a year and a half ago at church. She has a beautiful family and has allowed God to use the ups and downs of life to shape her into the woman of God she is today.  



Sabrina's Story:


I'm not a professional writer by no means. This is something that the Lord put on my heart the other day while cleaning (He seems to always bring things to my attention when I'm cleaning)! I'm usually a person who keeps to myself, an area He is working on in me lately. He kept telling me I need to share this. My view on sharing is telling a close friend...again didn't I say it was a area he was working on? Right! Hence the fact that I am now sharing on Shine girls spot light for many to see. Wow. Oh isn't it funny how God works?!!
 
As a child I looked to my Daddy as a hero. There was nothing he couldn't do, nothing he couldn't fix, nothing he couldn't over come. He could do no wrong in my eyes. I had a "child like Faith" in him. Even as I grew older and realized that he was in fact "less than perfect" I still had the same opinion and child like Faith in him. Which I know annoyed my Mom! She saw and lived first hand his faults, but I looked past them. How is that???....(I'm sure she wondered).
 
So, why should my Faith in my Heavenly Father be any different? There is NOTHING my Heavenly Father can't do, NOTHING He can't fix, and NOTHING He can't over come. The stories in the Bible prove that time and time again. Why is it then that He's not always the first person I cry out to or turn to in any circumstance? After all He actually is perfect in every way.
 
I longed to please my Daddy and make him proud in every aspect of my life. I'll never forget the look of disappointment on his face when I failed to fulfill a request of his. It was heartbreaking. So heartbreaking that I cried. Devastated that I disobeyed him. I was ready to do whatever it took to gain his trust back.
 
Shouldn't I have that same longing to please my Heavenly Father? Yet, it is all too frequent that I disappoint him. It should be the kind of heartbreak that brings me to my knees in prayer of repentance with tears.
 
My Daddy was forgiving because he loved me. I'm sure he looked at himself from time to time and knew he was in no position to judge. He was my teacher in this class called life. Much like him my Heavenly Father forgives me because He loves me. He is the ultimate judge of sin. I should look to Him as my teacher in life for He is perfect and I should long to be more like Christ.
 
I put all my hopes, dreams, & faith into my Daddy as any "Daddy's little girl" would, but people and things of this world don't last. Eventually our bodies fail us and things break. Instead we need to cast all our cares and put our faith into our Heavenly Father who will never fail us.
 
I was shaken to my core when I learned that my Daddy had been diagnosed with lung cancer and there was no surgery or cure that could help. WAIT....WHAT??? See, this is that same hero of mine I spoke of earlier...the one that could do anything, fix anything, & OVER COME ANYTHING!!!! Just shy of 2 yrs after diagnoses he passed away at home with my mom, me & my husband by his side. While my 7 month old son at the time slept in the other room.
 
Numb...just going through the motions. I tried telling myself "You knew this was coming". Or "You know he is in a better place". Then a voice deep inside speaks up "But wasn't that place here with me?"...How selfish of me. I started to focus on everything I could in my life to distract me from the constant reminder of the emptiness I felt without him here. Oh, I told myself that my Faith & trust in God holds me together & keeps me going. I thought that was true until I realized I was just going through the motions with God too. Going to church, praying, Bible study, reading etc. But it wasn't until just over a year since my Daddy had been gone that I got that burning...longing for God. Almost like He was tired of being on the back burner and was making Himself know deep inside of me. Words & sentences out of Christian books that I was reading started to jump off the page & slap me in the face. As if waking me up from my lukewarm walk with God.
 
A good friend of mine suggested that I read a certain book. Having seen this book around I never paid much mind to it, but she kept insisting and since I trust her as such a dear friend I tried it out. What a uplifting read! I've believed in Christ for years, been saved & Baptized, but this book brought life back to the hope & desire of my heart. "Heaven is for real" is a great book. Along with "A woman after God's own heart" which I'm also currently reading. Both will make you reevaluate your Faith & relationship with God. You may think it is strong, but is it strong enough? Whether it is a book, a person or a good ole verse from the Bible that God's sends your way as a sign...take it as a wake up call from God. Turn up the heat of the burning fire inside you that longs for Christ.
 
I was blessed that God gave me such a wonderful Father here on Earth who I was able to enjoy for 27 yrs. I pray that I can be the role model to my children as he always was to me, but more than that I pray that my children will see Christ through me.
 
Another note before I close that God has been laying on my heart lately...Obedience. He calls us to be obedient. Make sure we are being obedient when he calls us to something. We need to be obedient in our prayer time. Make time for him it is important! He shouldn't get our left overs. As women He has called us to be women of the home. Wives, mothers...this is our assignment from God. Let's make sure we are being obedient in fulfilling these roles to meet His standards. This means being obedient to our husbands who is just a step down from God on the list of our priorities. WOW!! Us being obedient is pleasing to God. Even the smallest obedience of kicking a bad habit is smiled upon.
 
I am so thankful for what my Savior has done for you and for me. Let's shine for Him in everything that we do shall we!!! Thank you for taking the time to read what has been on my heart and I pray that it helped you today in some way.

 
Jeremiah and Sabrina


Harrison, our son

 
Daddy and Me on my wedding day

 

Mar 26, 2012

Monday SHINE....

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 14

Happy Monday, sweet SHINE girls!

Our reading these last few weeks has been better than any novel or soap opera I've ever come across.

It's full of ups and downs and turns and twists. Eerily similar to our lives, is it not?

Okay, maybe our lives are not quite as dramatic as David's, but we can sure relate to David's sin struggle.

Let's just name a few things that David has struggled with and is still struggling with just to make this clear:
  • Pride
  • Denial
  • Lust
  • Adultery
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Lying
  • Anger
  • Covering up sin-- his and his son's. (Amnon's raping of Tamar)
Let's break the story down real quick:

David can't sleep one night. He wakes up and takes a walk on his terrace and sees a beautiful woman, named Bathsheba, bathing. He then summons her to his room. He then sleeps with her.

 Umm, I kind of think she was raped. I mean do you think she had a choice? He was, in fact, King David.

The Bible does not say clearly state that it was rape, but really, it pretty much was. Bathsheba was married to Uriah. David had no business with her. None. Zero.

David could have access to any woman in the whole kingdom--and he chose a forbidden fruit.  Sound a little familiar? (eve and the apple in the garden of Eden?)

David feels guilty but he has Uriah killed to make sure his little indiscretion is covered. Okay, wait a minute, what happened to the David from 1 Samuel? The brave, courageous warrior that killed the big, ugly giant?

Hello? Where did HE go?

Nathan then warns David that his blood line will pay for his sins. Uh-oh.

Now we have come to the part where that warning is unfolding. David's oldest son, Amnon, lusts after his very own sister, Tamar. (gross.)

He burns so badly with lust that he pretends like he is sick and has her summoned alone to his bedside.

He then rapes her. She was a virgin.

(do you see the resemblance in his behavior to his father, David's??)

She is horrified and humiliated. She offers him the chance to make it right by marrying her. He refuses.

Tamar is basically a desolate woman for the rest of her life. Yes, Amnon is a major jerk.

Absalom, Tamar's brother, is furious with what Amnon did to Tamar. So, he has Amnon killed.

Uh-oh, more trouble on the home front for David. Absalom flees to the hills because he doesn't want to face punishment.

David is left mourning for the next 3 years over the loss of his 2 oldest sons.

Are you seeing the punishment unfolding for David's sins? 

Today, we read of a well-concocted plan on behalf of Joab to get Absalom back into the kingdom. It worked. Kind of. 

So, are we all caught up? Are you wondering how in the world David could have a heart like God's? How  could a man with all of this baggage and sin be referred to as having a heart like our Lord's?

I'm scratching my head too.

This is what I kind of think: God knows the condition of David's heart. He knows what we cannot see. 

In turn, God knows the condition of our hearts. We may think we have everyone else fooled, but we aren't fooling God. Not even for a second. Sobering thought, isn't it?

 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10


As always, I have a story that relates to this very thing. God always likes to remind me as I am typing. :-)

Something happened this past weekend and my flesh got really pricked. Like, really, really pricked. I was just about to open my mouth and say something  (which wasn't nice--at all) and then my heart and the Holy Spirit stopped me.

(My heart doesn't always win though. My mouth conquers my little heart a lot of the time. This time, thankfully, it didn't.)

Oh, girls. My flesh was burning! It was ready to let loose and suffer the consequences.

However, not only did I close my mouth, but I prayed right then and there for forgiveness for even thinking those ugly thoughts. Yep, sure did. I asked God to cleanse my thoughts, and to help me replace that ugliness with pure thoughts.

He did. Immediately.

Listen closely, sweet girls.  Not one person would have ever known what I was thinking because I kept my mouth shut. But, keeping my mouth shut was just part of the discipline, girls. The second part was cleansing those thoughts with repentance to the Father and then praying for forgiveness for even letting my mind go there.

THIS, sweet girls, is how we get our hearts in the right condition.

God knows our hearts better than we do. He knows every single careless thought. He knows it all, girls.

What's going on in that pretty little heart of yours? Are we living a pretty good life on the outside, yet our hearts are full of filth and sin? If God opened up your heart this very second, what would He find?

It is a struggle, girls. Keeping ourselves pure from the inside out is hard. 

 However, the good news is that we have a heart-purifier. His name is Jesus Christ. He's ready to give that heart of yours a good spring cleaning. 


 

Will you let Him? Tell Him you are ready. Repent, and move on. He's got great plans for you, friend. You cannot even begin to imagine.

handing God the Brillo pad,

jill

 "Create in me a pure heart, O God,  and renew a steadfast spirit within me. " Psalm 51:10









Mar 25, 2012

Reading Plan Week of 3/26-3/30.......

Weekly Reading Plan for week of 3/26-3/30:


  • Monday 3/26: 2 Samuel 14
  • Tuesday 3/27: 2 Samuel 15
  • Wednesday 3/28: 2 Samuel 16
  • Thursday 3/29: 2 Samuel 17
  • Friday 3/30: 2 Samuel 18
Hey, SHINE! Another awesome week of reading ahead! 

Are you seeing that David's life is a lot like ours? A whole lot of ups and downs? He is whole-heartedly pure and praising God in one breath and the very next breath he messes up again.

Oh, my. I can relate. A little too much.

Mountain top to the valley.

 

Isn't that pretty much the same as our little lives?

So many nuggets of wisdom in the life of our David. It just gets better and better.

Enjoy your nourishment this week, girls. 

It's good stuff.


"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty."  Jeremiah 15:16



Mar 24, 2012

Saturday SHINE.....

Happy Saturday, SHINE girls!

 Remember, no weekend reading so use this time to catch up if you can.

Also make sure to see Friday's Surprise Post about telling someone about our 1000 blessings journey! It's kind of like when you have a great new lip gloss and you want to tell the world about it!

Okay, so a little background  on today's SHINE post. A fellow SHINE girl sent this to me a while back. I read it and prayed that God would tell me the right time to use her story.

Today is that day. It coincides perfectly with our study this week. He kind of nudged me yesterday and reminded me of this story and that it was time to post it.

So, here you go, girls.

Grab your coffee and be blessed by this SHINE girls faithfulness, obedience and HOPE.

My Story:
by: your fellow SHINE girl


When you don’t think God can, when you don’t think God will, when you know God forgot you…

You know me; I am your sister, your friend. You know my name.  I write this because it’s one of those things you have to write down… to believe it’s actually true.

I was raised in the church, loved the Lord and then turned away in college.  I didn’t go “hog wild,” but I did what I wanted to and left my faith at home. I dated the wrong guy and then the 2nd wrong guy. I married the 2nd wrong guy and wondered why “happily ever after” wasn’t so happy??

 My husband drank.  He was 24 when we married, so no big deal. Every 24 year old drinks, right? I loved him and he was handsome and smart, everything would be just fine, right?  But, my man drank to excess every single time he drank, every day. Quickly, I could tell that it was becoming problematic and he was like a stretched rubber band and I couldn’t protect him from stretching himself past the limit and breaking.  He didn’t listen to me; he didn’t understand my need for him to settle down.  WE CLASHED.  He was out of control.  Now, when he was sober, he melted my heart and we were friends, but those moments dwindled into an abyss of drinking, spending, partying and lies. 
This went on for years and years, SEVEN YEARS to be exact, and I questioned God.

  I was furious that God wouldn’t change this man, and I was hopeless, desperate and searching, knowing that my husband would NEVER give up this crutch that he loved so much, alcohol.  He loved it way more than me.  The sound of a beer can opening literally made my heart race and nausea ensued.   I wanted to control him, be his momma and make it better.  I counted his beers, I would ask to leave parties early in hopes that we could exit before he acted out.  He was the life of the party until he went overboard and WE WERE MISERABLE.

Absolutely beyond hope.

We went to church through the first seven years of marriage (we had dated 5 years prior to the marriage.)  He only went to church to pacify me and he would often ask for forgiveness for the antics of the night before on the way to church. 

BARF!  I was so sick to death of the cycle and SO OVER HIM!!!!  One Sunday morning, Andy Stanley was preaching and he told us that we could ask for forgiveness for life mistakes we had made.  He said, “even if your mistake was your marriage, even if you were outside of God’s will when you chose your mate, you can confess that to the Father and ask for His blessing now. Admit you blew it, start over with God now.”

I did exactly what Andy said, as quickly as I could.  In that same heart change and in desperation, I told the Lord to CHANGE ME.

Now mind you friends---- I was NOT wrong.  He was.  I had returned to the God of my youth and my husband was falling into a black hole with no way out. I was attending Bible study. Me and the Lord were A-OK.

Even still, fixing my husband was impossible and he bucked every suggestion I made, anyhow.  So, my prayer began (quietly and with hardly any faith at all, totally and completely hopeless) Lord, change me.

Lord, change me.
Lord, change me.
Lord, change me.

If he could just not drink anymore, but how?  That would never happen.

So…I began to take a “hands off” approach to managing his problem for him. I didn’t talk to him about his drinking (as much), I tried to ignore it. I tried to love him anyway as his weight ballooned and his problem worsened.  Oh man, and I almost lost all hope.  People began to notice that he often smelled of alcohol, asking me what I was going to do… “Lord, change me.”
In the middle of mayhem, we started a family.  Yeah, I know.  Insanity.

I began to entertain these thoughts:
Everyone is happy, except for us. “Look at that couple, they’re happy.”  I compared us all the time.
I could just move on;   --find someone that I don’t have to “fix.”
He is gross; I CANNOT STAND to look at him.
It’s over, dead, done. Why am I here?
I don’t deserve a happy marriage.
I should have NEVER married him.  Why, did I do this?!

These were all lies from the prince of liars (satan) but, you couldn’t have told me that then.  I only believed that I was in a dead, hopeless marriage.

We fought. Outrageous, horrible fights. It was awful. I couldn’t hide my misery.  I could never fully explain how hopeless and how bad it was.   He was often wasted, so he didn’t remember our fight or know how bad it was!  I was so alone.

Then, the kicker came. Things got worse. I found that his spending had spiraled out of control. I confronted him and he lied, I asked, then begged him to be honest. “Whatever it is, we will get through it” I promised.  He said, “I am a cocaine addict on top of my alcoholism.” THUD.
MY HEART SANK---
WHAT???  I HAD NO HOPE.

I was this “goody two shoes” married to a “coke head?”  Really?  I had NEVER experimented with drugs. Never seen cocaine.  I was so naïve.  I had no idea.  Let me also mention that I had 2 little babies.  I kept on hearing my promise to my husband, “Whatever it is, we will get through it.” I couldn’t back out now.  I had to keep my word. He was entitled to a chance to make it right.  But was he?  Almost everybody tried to convince me to leave.  I just knew he couldn’t get better.  I knew he couldn’t be well. I had no hope.  Well, maybe a little, tiny bit of hope… I had also promised, “in sickness and in health I would love and honor him.”

He promised it would get better, but he had made that promise so many times before.  I said, “this is your first and last chance to get sober. No drinking. No drugs. Period. ”  He agreed. 
I said, “I have no hope.” My husband said, “I have hope and I know that I can make this right.  I don’t want ‘this’ life anymore.”  He started his journey of recovery later that night as he went to his first “meeting.”

That was almost 4 years ago. 

It’s is hard, as I write this, to explain what the Lord has done.  Goodness gracious.
My husband never drank another sip of alcohol. The Lord took away his desire for drugs.
He worked through his problem in a forum called NA and went to 90 meetings in 90 days and countless meetings beyond that.

Over time he became the professional that he had always dreamed of being, respected in his career and field of work.

He became the husband I had always hoped to have: A growing Christian, my friend, my protector, my lover, a wonderful father to our children.  A diamond of a man.
He loves the Lord and wants to honor Him.  Putting the Lord first in our family, raising our children in the saving knowledge of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
And so, those 2 babies are now 3 babies.

{Oh!  And, little ole’ me?  The Lord did change me. I began to learn to submit myself to my husband in our marriage as God designed.  I gave him the support that God requires as a wife and helper.  I began to give him the trust he was earning with his actions. I began to forgive him, girls, it took years.  The Lord gave me a love for this man, my husband, like never before.}

Miraculous.

And what satan meant for EVIL, the Lord turned to good.

Genesis 50:20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

{Or the saving of many marriages…}

Is the Lord planting seeds of hope in your life? Is he just waiting on your obedience?  He was waiting on mine.  He still is!! Every day the Lord is hoping we wake up and become obedient to Him so that he can bless us and work through us.

Just to be clear, satan wants your marriage to fail.  Don’t you know… He wants your divorce to be the model your children also follow.  He wants to wreck your life, for generations to come, with you as a willing participant.

A good friend said to me recently, “The Lord did not call us to be happy, it is nowhere in the Bible. NO. He called us to be HOLY and seek Him in everything we do.” 
So, what if aren’t looking for the happiness the world gives, but looking for JOY in our faith in Jesus Christ? Instead choosing to be filled with His JOY, Divine JOY… He can work.  He will work. He will use it ALL for good.

You may decide to start by asking the Lord, “forgive me for walking outside Your will, Lord. Bless my mistake, turn it to good.” Ask Him for the desires of your heart and then ask Him,  “Lord, CHANGE ME.”  Forget the wrongs of your husband, sister, mom, mother-in-law, friend, daughter-in-law, son, step son, step daughter, boss, coworker.  Lord, change ME.  And, mean it. Even if it’s just a little bit of your heart.  God can work with that.

You know what, He’s ALL OVER IT.  He’s been there all along.  Be honest and tell Him where you are and then let Him guide you back into His will.  The Lord’s “nook” beats the very nasty nest I created.  I still fail every day and I dearly want all God has for me, but my discipline in following Him is lacking, greatly. But, I am always looking to get back into the nook. Right up under His covering so that His will can be released in my life.  <3

Your SHINE sister