Jan 30, 2013

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Leviticus 4:1-6:7

Happy Worship Wednesday, SHINE girls! Get your groove on today! Turn up the radio, or pop in a Chris Tomlin CD and worship your King!

Hang on, though! Before you get your worship on, please finish reading this little post. :)

My friend, Kelly Mcleod, is posting today. She has an urgent prayer request and need that she wanted to share with all of you.

Kelly shared her personal story recently on SHINE. I'm blown away at how God had used that great, gaping hurt to help her to minister to others who are hurting.

God has brought purpose from the terrible pain that Kelly and her husband Chad suffered through the loss of their baby girl. Kelly has a burning desire to help families going through the same arduous journey.

Grab your coffee, a blanket, and read a message from sweet Kelly today.

Wednesday SHINE
by: Kelly McLeod

Chad and I have been searching for a church home for most of our eight years of marriage.  I’ll be honest and say we haven’t been comfortable any place we’ve tried, but I don’t know how hard we’ve actually tried.  I’ve been making excuses for us – there’s ALWAYS a reason we didn’t make it back to one church or another each Sunday.  Well, this past Saturday Chad got on his little iPad and looked up the service times for FBC Covington – he said he’d heard GREAT things about it!  I can’t tell you how it warms my heart to hear my husband say, “We are going to church in Covington tomorrow – let’s get to bed early and set the clock, no excuses”.  What can I say, I love my decisive man!  Ok, back on track Kelly – so we dropped Ian off at children’s church and made our way to the fellowship hall for the “contemporary” service.  My sweet Chad would love nothing more than to sing hum Amazing Grace and Old Rugged Cross EACH and EVERY Sunday, so I braced myself for him to HATE the service.  To our surprise, it was a mild take on contemporary, so there’s one check in the Pro column for our new church.  The pastor was out of town yesterday so we did not get to hear him preach, but we received a message none the less.

The message was based in James chapter 2, verses 14-26
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-16

The preacher went on to discuss the two other kinds of Faith, but my head and my heart were stuck in the first description – DEAD faith.  It’s the faith that listens to a sad story and upon hearing it is moved, but not motivated to do anything about it.  It’s what I’ve been experiencing for a while now.  I’m sitting in the pew contemplating this idea –is my faith a DEAD faith or a DYNAMIC faith? 

Our faith should bear fruit!  This is what James is telling me – Genuine faith prompts action, yet what am I doing?  I need to take a really long, hard look in the mirror.  I have some big ideas with our II First Foundation.  I’m even making progress getting it going.  I have lofty ambitions, but girls I am intimidated.  I have such anxiety that my weaknesses will be laid out for the world to see, that I am going to be an epic failure and no lives will be touched by what we seek to accomplish.  Now I recognize this is the enemy, but it can be so powerful. 

The bible study my group of girls is reading is called “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow.  Isn’t it AWESOME how the Lord puts the perfect scripture before you?  I don’t believe in coincidence…Philippians 4: 6-9
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

So the scripture in James is telling me faith and actions work together.  Philippians is telling me when I am anxious about putting my faith into action, to pray and the Peace of Christ will be mine!  So today, I am taking action on behalf of someone in need. 

 This need is one that speaks directly to a cause so near and dear to my heart.  A few weeks back I shared the story of our twins, born at 23 weeks.  Ian is a healthy, happy 2 year-old with no developmental delays to speak of.  Isabella is our angel in heaven.  It’s prompted us to start a ministry to help families in similar situations.  To lighten the financial burden that accompanies months in the hospital.     

Please see the message below.  It is from Josie, a baby in the NICU in Nashville, TN that several of you have been praying for.  Josie was born this past November at 24 weeks gestation.  She shares a birthday with my son Ian.  She still needs your prayers but her family wants you to know of the needs of another sweet family.  Baby Neela is a very sick little girl and she needs our help. 

Dear Friends,
I pray this message finds you all healthy and warm!! I am all snuggled up in my big girl bed. Mama came by today and I got to try and nurse and took my bottle like a big girl!! Daddy is on his way to see me now (daddy is my favorite!) Jesus has been taking such good care of me and mama and daddy are so grateful that you all go to Him on my behalf, please know He hears each and every one of you.

As you all know my best friend is Neela Nilsson. Neela is very very sick right now. I know you have all been praying for her and I would ask you to keep praying!! As you can imagine, just like mama and daddy, her mama and daddy are very stressed and very worried. In addition to stress, this journey puts quite a financial burden on families. Neela's mama and daddy are from Clarkesville where Mr. Chad, Neela's daddy is stationed in our military. Mr. Chad will be deployed out of the country soon. The drive alone from the base where he works to the hospital costs Mr. Chad a lot of money because he is driving 110 miles a day. As a result they are having some major financial difficulties they are unable to pay their rent. In addition Mr. Chad will be moving back to a 5 days a week work schedule next week and these burdens will make it difficult for him to come see his baby girl every day.

Mama and daddy were blessed beyond words about a month ago by some of you who sent gift cards and money to help with Christmas and every day expenses of the back and forth to see me. And we thought that maybe some of you would want to help Neela and her family. They need gift cards for gas and groceries as well as money for rent. Please keep in mind that any little bit helps. There are no words for what gifts like this mean to a family that is walking this road. Seeing the light of Jesus in people, especially people who love you and haven't met you, brings hope in a hospital room when things seem hopeless.

Thank you all for loving both Neela and I. Thank you for caring about our parents, for helping ease their burden and for storming heaven on our behalf. One day, not long from now, mama says I will be home and you all will have been part of the greatest miracle she has ever seen.

Love and blessings,
Josie Hope

If you would like to contribute to Neela's Family please send any donations to:
Neela Nilsson / Care of Melanie Hall
116 Golden Meadow Lane
Franklin TN 37067
Make checks payable to: Chad Nilsson

Shine Girls, this is just the first of many examples of the kinds of families our II First Foundation wants to help.  I read these words this morning and my heart was moved.  I am MOTIVATED to action.  I am putting together a gift basket for Neela.  If you’d like to make a donation for it, I will happily accept anything you can give!  Gift cards for food, gas, Bibles, “Jesus Calling” devotionals, journals, anything will encourage this family.     

You don’t have to go through us to help this family though.  You may donate directly to the address above.  I want to encourage you, if you are able to reach out to this family.  Pray for them.  DAILY.  God is showing us He is still in the MIRACLE business!  What a blessing to share in the miracle of baby Josie and baby Neela.

Love in Christ!

Jan 29, 2013

Tuesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Leviticus 2-3

Happy Tuesday, SHINE girls!

I have a little something to share. I have a very hard time controlling my mouth when it comes to things relating to God and His Awesome-ness. {is that a word?} So, I must share with you, my closest girlfriends.

Come close, and listen up....:)

Last week I was at Wal-Mart. My weekly trip.

I was browsing the greeting card isle and stumbled upon THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STATIONARY I had ever seen. Yes, in Wal-Mart. {i love writing notes, sending notes, receiving notes. all things stationary-ish}

I gasped aloud, I'm sure of it.

Slowly, I picked up the stationary, drooled a little, and turned it over to see the price.

Yikes. It was a little more than I could spend that day.

I had a budget, and I knew I needed to stick to it. Even if I went over slightly, I knew in my heart {from past experiences} that it wasn't worth it.

Although, if I'm honest, I had to really fight the desire of my flesh to put those pretty little papers in my squeaky wheeled buggy and deal with the consequence of over-spending later.

It felt like 30 minutes that I sat there contemplating. I even talked to the Lord about it. Yep, I did.

It went something like this: "God, you know I will put this stationary to good use! I will send notes to people, encourage them, and spread some sunshine to others! It must be okay if I get them, right?"

The answer went something like this: "You know you have a budget. You know the right thing to do, Jill. Obedience is far better than the temporary satisfaction you will get if you purchase these."


Okay, y'all. I know what you are thinking. "Seriously, what's the big deal? Going a few dollars over budget is not that big of a deal."

Oh, but it is!

I have tiptoed across that line more times than I can count. So many times I have squeaked past the line, just a tiny bit, and then had to come face to face with the consequence. I'm not just talking about money either. I'm talking about disobedience in any given area.

So, I knew the right thing to do. Put the stationary back down.

I did.


Here's the God part: I had an early birthday celebration with a few girlfriends Sunday night. We ate, laughed, and I opened a few beautiful gifts from my sweet friends.

The last gift was under the table, so I almost didn't see it to open it.

I picked up the pretty little gift from my friend Kelly, and opened it.

I pulled out the tissue paper and gasped.

There before my very eyes was that very same stationary!!!!!! THE exact box!!!

She must have thought that I was crazy because my eyes welled up with tears as I pulled them out.

Y'all, that was not only a gift from my beautiful friend Kelly, it was a gift from God Himself.

It was His way of blessing me for taking that one little seemingly small step of obedience.

"If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.
 But if you are dishonest in little things, 
you won't be honest with greater responsibilities."
Luke 16:10

He's in the smallest of details, girls. When no one is looking and it's just you and He, He sees you. He is in every detail of your day.

Talk to Him.

About everything.

And anything.

He desires that intimacy with you.

Let Him rock your world today. He will.

still in awe,


a picture from that night--
from left: Zora, Angela, Me, Kelly, Collette, and Mary

Jan 28, 2013

Monday SHINE....

Reading Plan for Week of 1/28-2/3:

  • Monday 1/28: Leviticus 1
  • Tuesday 1/29: Leviticus 2-3
  • Wednesday 1/30: Leviticus 4:1-6:7
  • Thursday 1/31: Leviticus 6:8-7:38
  • Friday 2/1: Leviticus 8
  • Saturday 2/2: Leviticus 9-10
  • Sunday 2/3:  Leviticus 11

{click here for the entire 3 month plan.}

Happy Monday, SHINE girls!

Are you ready for a new week in His Word? Promise me this: Whatever happened last week, leave it behind. Look ahead to today. This moment.

Sometimes, I have a tendency to "hold on" to things. I have a hard time letting conversations go, or letting things that happened yesterday go. I want to replay them over and over thinking of how I could have made things differently.

Girls, let's be done with that kind of thinking. God's Word through Paul tells us:

 "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13-14

From my own life I have learned that the enemy has a HUGE hold on on us when we stay stuck in the past. When we cannot seem to forget the wrong choices we made, or even the wrong choices made against us. 

God cannot work in our little hearts when they are stuck. HE needs our hearts to be open an ready to move forward to what each day will bring. A heart sensitive to His leading. 

Not only is it not good for us, but we will not live or walk in peace. Peace cannot reside in a heart that is preoccupied with the past. It simply cannot.

Oh, but how Peace rolls in like a river when we release. Releasing those thoughts, those memories, those regrets, the people that have hurt us. Release them. 

I urge you all today to walk in the here and the now with your Savior. No looking back over your shoulder, while biting your lip. Look beside you, to Your Father, who is holding your pretty little hand. Look up into His big knowing eyes and trust Him to lead you today. No more looking back.

Our memory verse for this week is:

click on this pic to download, print, or copy  :)

Forget the past, girls. Embrace the new thing He has in store for you! It's a beautiful thing. I can assure you.

no looking back,


Jan 25, 2013

SHINE Girl Winner.....

We have our SHINE Girls Give-away Winner!!!

My sweet and precious little son drew the name this time.

He's been at home sick with a high fever all day. :(

So, I wanted to brighten his day a bit and let him in on the SHINE girl drawing! :-)

He was thrilled to be a part!

{Anything beats lying around in your p.j's all day listening to your momma ask you "how are you feeling" all day long}

Our blessed little winner is.......

Kelly S.!!!

Kelly, you just won your cute little self a 

As I told y'all, one of my favorite things to do is to have coffee with my friends. So, I wanted one of YOU to be able to the same with a friend! :)

Enjoy your coffee date, Kelly!

Happy Week-ending,


Friday SHINE.....

Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 2

Happy Fun Friday, SHINE girls!

I have a very cool Fun Friday Challenge for you today.

The idea comes from an email I received this week from a precious SHINE girl college student.

She asked for prayer about some things going on in her life. As I read the email, I remembered back to my college days. I was in a completely different spiritual place than this sweet girl. Like, way different.

She's on the right path and passionate to pursue Him even more. My heart melted at her fervor and  excitement to serve Him!

Today, as I prayed for her, I thought back to our reading from Titus Chapter 2. God's word tells us to train the younger women in our lives. To set an example and teach them in the way they should go.

No matter your age, there is someone in your life younger than you. Someone who, more than likely, is looking for someone to follow. Some sweet younger girl is just waiting to be taught how to live as a godly woman.

She may not even realize how much she needs your encouragement, love, and support until you show it to her.

I can tell you right now with 100 percent certainty, that the older women in my life that have reached out to me have been paramount in my walk with Christ. They have showed me "how to". Not just told me, but showed me. Oh, and they are still showing me. Daily.

Your Fun Friday Challenge:

Find that sweet little wide-eyed girl that needs some encouragement. Some loving on. Some kindness.

Show her what a godly woman looks like.

Reach out to her.

Love on her and pray for her.

I am so thankful for the women that the Lord sent my way. My walk would be way different if it were not for their encouragement in my life.

Pray for God to show you who to reach out to today. He will!

"Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another 
and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11

cherishing my female sisters in Christ--of all ages,


Jan 24, 2013

Thursday SHINE....

Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 1

Happy Thursday, SHINE sisters! Didn't you just love the book of Titus? Oh.My.Goodness.

We could talk about that little 3 chapter book for days. Weeks. Possibly months. :)

I hope you are ready to move on to 2 Timothy today. So much to learn girls. SO much.

Don't you just love being taught by the Master Teacher, God Himself? Teaching us through His living, breathing, active Word.

Wow. What a gift!

Speaking of gifts, my friend Lisa Inlow is posting today. She is definitely a gift in my life. 

Be blessed by her wisdom and teaching today, sweet friends. Soak it up.

Thursday SHINE
by: Lisa Inlow

Hey y"all.  When Jill asked me to post, I honestly could not think of what to share.  After trying to come up with something deep and riveting, ha ha :-), the Lord told me to share a real life thing I experienced, just today.  In fact, Jill text me about an hour after I'd been in the weeds about this situation.

I have a 7 year old boy, who I promise, in the last 6-8 mos, hears the Charlie Brown teacher, "whah whah whah whah" when I instruct him on his attitude or behavior that is not up to par.

I am exhausted with this and have been.  But I keep at it...

I volunteered at the school today, and ended my time eating lunch with him.  I saw the same things that I've been harping on and I became so discouraged.  Now these are not earth shattering issues.  He's a good boy, but his attitude can kinda stink, with me especially, in a split-second.  And of course before I left, his teacher raved about him.  Ha, motherhood!  :-)

Okay, enter, God's Word, Truth...

I have also noticed or at least assumed, that when I read some Proverbs, Psalms or stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible, that my boy ends up thinking about Legos, Transformers, or a snack.  Totally serious.  This is not to underestimate the power of God's Word, but today, the Lord prompted me to take it a step further, and meet my 1st grader, right where he's at.

May 2012, our son gave his heart to Jesus.  What an amazing thing to be part of!!  (I just got chills).

Here's the deal.  It's time for me to till the soil of Max's heart, and drop seeds of Truth down deep.  Then water those seeds with more Truth and instruction from me and his Daddy.

So I headed to my nearest Christian bookstore before I went home.  I knew I wanted a devotional or study where he would have to read some verses then a summary, THEN, answer some questions.  The questions pertaining to his life, today, in 1st grade.  This is the book I pictured in my head, and I found it!

A devotional book for boys ages 6-8 written in a way for them to read it, and write in the answers on their own.  I am very encouraged and excited for us to sit with him each evening and go through this.

When his Daddy got home, he said, "look at this great book Mommy got me!"

Y'all this is where my life is, today.  The Lord clearly told me that it's time to start digging in my boys heart, getting him actively (reading and writing) involved in the learning of Truth.

The tools are out there to help us teach our kids.  Y'all join me in digging down deep in the hearts of our kids, planting seeds of Truth and wisdom.   Is there anything more important we can do for them?

Psalm 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 37:31  They have made God's law their own, so they will never slip from his path.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above th
e earth.

Jan 23, 2013

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Titus 3

Happy Worship Wednesday, you sweet SHINE girls!

Whew. Yesterday was a doozie. I am ready to worship today! Ready to shake these chains and dance with my Savior!

How about you?

Join me? :)

Today, I worship Him with gratitude. With a thankful heart. With a heart overflowing with joy.

Today, I thank Him for my weaknesses.


Because they draw me closer to Him.

As I was in my lowest low yesterday, I clearly heard the Lord speak this to me:

"Thank me for this, Jill. It draws you close to Me. If you were perfect and the way that you wished you were, you would have no need for Me."

I stopped dead in my tracks, and thanked Him through tears.

The self-condemnation crap that I was feeding myself was clearly a tool from the enemy.

God never intended me to "have it all together."

When I am weak, He is strong.

Now, you say it with me: When I am weak, He is strong.

Instead of fighting our weaknesses and hating ourselves for them, let's use them as an opportunity to draw close to our Father.

Lean into Him. Or, like me yesterday, fall into Him.

As I was falling into His arms yesterday, I kept hearing our Memory Verse from last week in my head.

"....to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

Over and over I heard it, almost like a tape player going through my little blonde head.

Suddenly, the light bulb went off.

He was telling me to apply that to the way I think about myself. 

Not to be applied to just those around me, but to act justly (towards myself and my weaknesses) , love mercy (have some mercy on myself!), and of course to walk humbly with our God.

If I am walking humbly, am I caught up with all my flaws and weaknesses? No, because then I am self-focused. Which clearly, is not humble.

So, let's celebrate and worship Him today, girls. He's created us exactly the way He intended.

Flaws and all,


But he said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

**Girls, don't forget to comment under our SHINE give away post! Drawing is this week! :)

Jan 21, 2013

Monday SHINE

Reading Plan for week of 1/14-1/20:
  • Monday 1/21:  Titus 1
  • Tuesday 1/22:  Titus 2
  • Wednesday 1/23: Titus 3
  • Thursday 1/24:  2 Timothy 1
  • Friday 1/25:  2 Timothy 2
  • Saturday 1/26:  2 Timothy 3
  • Sunday 1/27: 2 Timothy 4

Happy Monday to you, Sweet Shine Sisters.  

We've met before, I am Mary Balicki bringing you the reading plan and memory verse today as Jill is soaking up her last morsel of scenic views and family time in the mountains.

Let's begin our week by noticing the goodness of our Heavenly Father -- reflect on all of God's rich blessings in our lives.  Really.  

His love alone has saved us and His subsequent blessings are abundant.

There is a beautiful worship song that is taken from Scripture about God and His goodness.  I love it...the words are so refreshing.  

It makes total sense - His Word is like that for us, the Bread of Life.

As we continue to walk on our 'kindness journey' let's put our faith into practice with another memory verse (the words from that worship song) about His amazing goodness.

Our pastor said yesterday that years ago it was popular to wear the bracelets and to ask the question WWJD.  What Would Jesus Do? 
He said that they had the right idea but missed the mark as we should live our lives as if Jesus himself is living through us - so not a "would" but an "IS".  He IS living through me, therefore I choose kindness because He is gracious and compassionate.  

Father, make us slow to anger and rich in love, teach us to live as though you are living through us and not a heavenly figure that we may or may not seek in our circumstances.  

We don't want to ask what you would do but rather what are you doing as you live through us. 

Please come into our hearts and minds in a fresh, new way and teach us to interact and behave with your patient manner - slow to anger and rich in love.  In Jesus name we ask.

Jan 19, 2013

Saturday SHINE....

Good morning, SHINE sisters!!

I'm sitting here looking out the window at the North Georgia Mountains.

You are all on my heart!

I'm praying for you. I love your hearts for the Lord.

Y'all are my GIRLS!

I want to bless you.

So, here's a Super Saturday SHINE girl give away!

It's the least I can do to show my love and JOY for your sweet little hearts.

I've got a cool little prize for one of you precious little darlings. ;-)

Just leave a comment telling us a little something about your sweet self. Anything!

We want to get to know our SHINE sisters!

For example: Jill Hill--I love coffee dates with my friends!

See, easy! Make sure to leave your name so that I can contact you if your name is drawn. Yay!

I'll draw a name next week. ;)

If you have trouble commenting: email me at shinegirlsshine@gmail.com and I'll post it for you. :)

You are all so very special! Not just to me, but in the eyes of our Father! Whew, how He LOVES you!!

Happy weekend, pretty girls!

Ready to give something away,


Jan 18, 2013

Friday SHINE.....

Today's Reading:  1 Timothy 4:6-16
Saturday 1/19:  1 Timothy 5:1-6:2
Sunday 1/20:  1 Timothy 6:3-21

Hey, sweet SHINE girls! I have asked my precious friend, Rebekah, to post today. My day was very full yesterday, so on a whim I asked if she could post. 

Of course, as always, she happily agreed. (yay!)

I am so glad she did! Be blessed, friends!

"Why, Thank you!"
 by Rebekah Vepraskas
HAPPY FUN FRIDAY, SHINE girls! :) I love our readings this week. Paul's letter to Timothy in 1st Timothy is a good "how-to" of the Christian faith. Timothy was a new, very young preacher and Paul took a great opportunity to encourage him. Which is really precious.

Ok, so I have a story for you. It's good! During the holidays, a dear friend of mine- and a fellow SHINE girl, Lori Gabrielson, lost her precious mother.

I know.

It was horrible...

But, it was kind of beautiful at the same time. You see, Lori's mom left us with a "how-to" of encouragement of her own. :)

Very simply, Lori's mom had been fighting a terrible disease for many years and all of the sudden, in a very rapid decline, Penny Polley was gone.
Penny was a nurse, very well respected in her field and in her church and women's Bible study. She was a wonderful wife and mother.

Isn't it funny how someone like Penny can make you feel like a real grump? She always had a smile on her face, she always LOVED people and they loved her right back, meanwhile, she probably almost never felt good in the last 3 years of her life. Pancreatic cancer certainly took its toll. Yet, she always made sure to love and encourage.

During her memorial service, I was really struck by one thing as Lori
courageously took the stage to talk about her mom.

In Penny's final hospital stay, Lori explained that her mother told everyone who helped her, "Thank you for taking such good care of me... God bless you!" 

Wow! I thought to my (analytical) self, "now... Penny was a nurse, she probably didn't always think she was being taken care of very well, did she? She might have even done it better herself?" But, it wasn't about her feelings, it was about encouraging others. Penny loved and invested in people and how they felt, then she brought up Jesus.

When I left the memorial service, I hit the Chick-fil-A drive thru. :) I thought of Penny, I was totally inspired and challenged and curious to see how people would respond to her words.

I started that afternoon, echoing Penny. You know what, PEOPLE LOVE TO HEAR, "Thank you for taking such good care of me."
Strangers light right up! Then, just like Penny, I say, "God bless you!"

Ok, this is your FUN FRIDAY challenge and your every day challenge. Make the day of a stranger who checks you out, helps you find the Velcro at Target (true story) or the man who loads your heavy bags. You will be amazed what light Penny's words bring to their eyes. :) The words somehow spread Jesus in a really refreshing and life giving way. I love to do this, y'all. I really love it!

Lori and her sweet Mother,
Penny Polley

"Thank you for taking such good care of me... God bless you!"

Encouraged and inspired, thank you Penny!


Jan 17, 2013

Thursday SHINE....

Happy Thursday, girls! Yes, this is a mid-day post. :)

I just have something to share really quick. Y'all are all like hundreds of my BEST girl friends. So, of course, I have to share this with you. Right now! ;)

Okay, so I was driving home this afternoon. It was rainy. It was dreary. It was yucky.

If you know me, you know that I do not do well with rainy days. I live for sunshine. I live for blue skies. It's just how I am.

Back to the story...

I was feeling a little blue. I was talking to the Lord. Spilling my heart about some stuff. Ya know, that kind of talkin'. :)

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see a big bright thing in the sky!

It has been so long since I have seen the sun, I hardly recognized it's beautiful glow!

I looked to my left and there was an opening in the clouds. The sun was glaring through and a remnant of the most blue sky that I have ever witnessed was peeking through.

I choked on my tears. I could not believe that the Lord was showing me His Love...right then and right there. On the Interstate. Heading home.

Words cannot express how I felt.

If that were not enough, I then saw a big fat colorful rainbow in the sky.

It was God, again.

He really wanted to get my attention. Oh, and He got it.

I grabbed my camera and took a quick picture. I never wanted to forget that moment.

I never will.

He's always with us, girls. Even on the dreariest of days. He's just waiting to be found.

Are we looking?

i love you,


Jan 16, 2013

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Happy Worship Wednesday, SHINE girls! In all you do today, worship your King! Sing, dance, shout.....show Him your adoration today!

Some days we wake up and we just want to crawl back under the covers. Especially when it's cold and rainy. And dreary. And dark.

Let's fight through that feeling today. Let's wake up with anticipation of a new day to worship, to pray, to serve, to love, and to read His Word!

Spend some time acknowledging the King of Kings and Lord of Lords today, girls.

Right now. Right here.

Soak up His Presence as He surrounds you with His Peace and His Tranquility.

"You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind  is stayed on You, be. cause he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You."
Isaiah 26: 3

Allow yourself to rest in His Presence. 

No pretense, no "structured" prayer time. 

Just you and God. 

He's your Heavenly Father, no need to be formal with Him. 

He loves you. 

Just the way you are.

in pursuit of His peace,


Jan 14, 2013

Monday SHINE.....

Reading Plan for week of 1/14-1/20:
  • Monday 1/14:  1 Timothy 1
  • Tuesday 1/15:  1 Timothy 2
  • Wednesday 1/16: 1 Timothy 3:1-13
  • Thursday 1/17:  1 Timothy 3:14-4:5
  • Friday 1/18:  1 Timothy 4:6-16
  • Saturday 1/19:  1 Timothy 5:1-6:2
  • Sunday 1/20:  1 Timothy 6:3-21

Happy Monday, sweet SHINE girls! We are starting the book of 1 Timothy this week. This short little 6 chapter book is filled with some treasures. Just wait and see! So much goodness.

Our Memory Verse comes from our reading from last week. Not sure if you caught this incredible verse, but it stood out like a shining bright light to me. 

Partly, because this scripture is in a very famous on-the-radio Christian song. However, not just because of that reason. 

This scripture just sums it up for me. It speaks clearly. It is very black and white. No messy gray area.

"And what does the Lord require of you? 
To act justly, and to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8

Perhaps it stood out so much to me because it goes hand in pretty little hand with our Kindness Journey. Doesn't it?

If we hold everything we do up to the light of this scripture, can we get the answers we need each day? YES!

Aren't there so many times when we are torn in what to do in certain situations? We want to do the "right" thing, however our flesh gets all tied into our responses. Sometimes it is very hard to separate our flesh with God's Truth.

When we have learned behavior of any kind, we think it is just a part of "who we are". We think it is something we cannot change. We think our learned behavior is the right response. Don't we?

Oh, on the contrary....

God wants us to learn His behavior. He wants us to be trained in the ways of walking justly, in mercy, and most of all.....humbly with our God.

Girls, our flesh is the exact opposite of all of the above. Humbleness does not exist in the flesh. Nope, not one ounce. 

As we go throughout this week, let's evaluate our behavior. Let's hold it up to the light of this incredible Word from our God. 

Let's ask ourselves this question: Am I acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God?

The more we practice this, the more we will shine for Him. Oh, and how brightly we will shine!

practice makes perfect,


Jan 11, 2013

Friday SHINE.....

Today's Reading:  Micah 4:8-5:15
Saturday 1/12:  Micah 6:1-7:6
Sunday 1/13: Micah 7:7-20

Happy Fun Friday, SHINE girls! Don't you just love Friday? Me too!

I want us to continue on with our kindness journey. This is not for the faint of heart, is it? It's the real deal. 

Showing kindness when there is no good reason to show it. Now THAT can only be the Power of God working through us. Over and over again.

It really doesn't get easier, but it does get easier to submit to Him in this area. The more we submit, the more our flesh dies off just a little bit more. And more. And more.

Okay, so if you are anything like me you think of Kindness as a global thing. Like, for example...being kind to your cashier, your waiter/waitress, your boss, your co-workers, the homeless in your community, etc.

Have we stopped to think about how we are showing kindness to our very closest peeps?

Like, our husbands. Our children. Our parents. Our in-laws.  Our siblings. Our next door neighbors. 

You know, the people that are in our face day in and day out?

Somehow, we seem to overlook them in the kindness area. Not always, but we do a lot.

Showing kindness to complete strangers is sometimes easier than showing kindness to someone close to us that rubs us in all the wrong places. Or, showing kindness to someone that has hurt us...over and over and over again.

I really don't think Jesus had exceptions when He gave us the Fruits of the Spirit. I think He's pretty black and white about showing kindness.

Wonder what would happen if we really, truly, allowed Him to work in our hearts (and on our stinkin' flesh) with this kindness thing?

Can you imagine the fruit of this act of obedience in our homes, families, and neighborhoods?

 Forget global kindness today. Think about home-town kindness. 

Starting within your four walls.

So, your Fun Friday Challenge is:

Show kindness to those right around you. Pray and ask the Lord to put those faces in your heart. Pray for them, and be kind to them. It's that simple, yet that Powerful.

"Love is patient, love is kind..."
1 Corinthians 13:4

sloughing off this flesh one layer at a time with kindness,


Jan 9, 2013

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Micah 1 & 2

Happy Worship Wednesday, SHINE girls! 

I have a very special story for you.No, beyond very special. Out of this world, change-your- life-special story to share with you on this worship Wednesday!

Today is the perfect day for this post because I am worshiping our King for the miracles that He gave my friend, Kelly McLeod.

Kelly is one of my very best friends. She is one of those girls that you just want in your life forever! Words cannot express how much I adore this girl. She is truly my one in a million friend. 

Kelly's story has touched hundreds of lives. We lived this with her as it was taking place. Her unshakable faith and perseverance inspires so many of us.

Grab your coffee, a warm blanket, some tissues, and be blessed by her story today.  

My Story
by: Kelly McLeod

The last weekend in October 2010, Chad and I started getting the house organized.  It was the first time in my pregnancy that I actually felt good and I knew it was only a matter of time before I wouldn't be able to help much.  I was really beginning to show I was pregnant with twins!  We got a lot accomplished over the weekend and we felt really good about our progress.  On Monday morning I had a feeling that something wasn't quite right but I had an appointment with Dr. Allen on Wednesday so I just chalked it up to first pregnancy jitters and went on with my day.  Tuesday morning I had some very light bleeding so I called Miss Paula at Women's Healthcare Associates.  She discussed with Dr. Allen and asked for me to come on in.  So I did. 

Upon examination, it was decided I would need to get straight over to the hospital so Miss Amy drove me.  I was terrified, completely panicked and couldn't reach Chad on the phone.  I was admitted right away.  Amy stayed by my side until mom could get to the hospital.  I'll never forget her kindness during such a scary time.  Mom had to call the Potts Company and ask them to track Chad down.  Later I found out when Chad left work, he called the Lt. Governor for a police escort into Athens.   

We were told I'd be staying in the hospital until I delivered.  We hoped that would be weeks to months.  I was diagnosed with incompetent cervix.  The amniotic sac was bulging through the cervix, so they had me lay in the trendelenburg position, where my hips were higher than my head.  The hope was that between the positioning and medication, the bag would slide back towards the uterus so that a cerclage procedure could be performed.  If we could get a cerclage in, it would close my cervix and possibly enable me to carry the babies to term, or closer to it.  We just had to wait and see what happened over the next 24 hours. 

There were some potential problems with performing a cerclage.  I was already 22 weeks and 1 day pregnant and that procedure is typically done well before that stage of pregnancy.  Also, the "bag" blocked the view of the cervix so there was no way to really know if there was much left to sow back together.  There was also the risk of the procedure rupturing the bag.  If that happened, nothing could be done to prevent labor and hospital policy dictated that prior to 23 weeks, no measures of resuscitation could be made. 
Ultimately we opted to forgo the cerclage...too many risks.  Instead, I laid in the bed, upside down counting down the days, hours and minutes.  I was prepared to be there for the long haul, I so wanted to make it to 37 weeks!  I had a physical therapist come in and show me some exercises I could do to keep from being so sore.  The staff was so good to me and I had so many friends and family come show their support.  But I was scared.  I had never even felt them move, but loved these babies so much.  I felt utterly helpless...I had just done a Bible study about the Frazzled female and boy did I feel just that! 

The first few days were long, but nothing compared to Sunday, November 7th.  The family gathered, knowing we had to make it one more day for the babies to have a chance at survival.  The time changed Saturday night which gave us an extra hour of agony waiting.  My dad frantically tore the clock off the wall to spring ahead an extra hour.  Dr. Faase, the neonatologist came to speak with us.  She explained hospital policy and offered to sit with the family and answer their questions.  We held our breath most of the day.  They continually monitored my blood work for any sign of infection.  The doctor’s first priority was me, but my only thoughts were for the lives of these two babies.  In the afternoon the doctor decided it was time for me to sit up.  I was so fearful that the moment I did, I'd immediately go into labor.  Instead I got very sick.  Even that didn't make my contractions any worse. 

Chad and I sat in the room together and decided that no matter what happened the rest of that day, our children needed a name.  We had the book of 100,000 names but one name stood out for us.  Chad’s Uncle Rick had mentioned the name Ian a couple of times.  We looked up the meaning and decided right then and there, it was meant to the name of our son.  Ian is a Gaelic name meaning "God is gracious". 

From there we began looking at names for our daughter, starting with the I's.  We stumbled upon Isabella, a name I always loved.  It means: "Consecrated to God". 

Yes it was meant to be. 

With the names selected all we could do was wait...

9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30....we counted every minute from 11:30 to midnight.  We could hear the cheer from the family in the waiting room as the clock struck 12:00.  You had a fighting chance. 

We finally tried to get some rest.  Around 3 am my latest CBC results prompted Dr. Allen to get ready for delivery.  I had hoped there would be a little more time.  We weren't able to get the steroids to help the development of the lungs and brain.  But waiting any longer would increase the odds that we'd develop a life-threatening infection.

They really cranked up the heat in the delivery suite...it needed to be very warm for the babies.  I remember thinking I wish I had gone to birthing classes.  I hadn't thought to ask anyone how in the world I was supposed to breathe or push.  Chad was so strong and gave me so much comfort.  I had the best care team you could imagine.  Our nurse stayed with us after her shift ended so she could be a part of the delivery.  Linda May was the absolute BEST!    They were all wonderful, but Linda was special.  I felt honored to have her be there with us. 

At 5:45, Ian entered the world.  He cried out and it caught me so off-guard that my eyes filled with tears and my heart ached with worry.  The NICU staff went to work getting him incubated and tubed.  They were absolutely amazing.  We wanted to give them a little time to get Ian stable (as stable as a 23 weeker gets) before they broke my water with Isabella.  It felt like an eternity, but about 45 minutes later she was born.  They were both tiny...a little over a pound and less than a foot long!  That is where the miracle journey REALLY began...

The babies were constantly monitored those first couple of days.  Everything about that time is a blur for me.  They threw so much information at us, it was a hard to take it all in.  Ian was much more stable than his sister.  She faced a lot of problems.  They told us it is common for "Baby B", or the second twin to have a more difficult journey.  They suffer more trauma from delivery.  Chad and I spent the majority of those first few days in prayer.  We prayed without ceasing the twins would survive, that they would thrive, that they would have a chance at a "normal" life.  We prayed the Lord would fight for them.  I repeated Isaiah 41:10 over and over.  "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

On November 10th, the Lord held Isabella in His righteous right hand and welcomed her to heaven.  Her fight ended while Ian’s waged on.  We were scared, we had doubts, but we held firm to our faith.  Every time the devil tried to rob our joy, we looked at Ian and praised God for his life.  Each day was a challenge, but the Lord carried us.  He spoke to us through His word, through song, through strangers and loved ones alike.  I never experienced a walk with the Lord as I had during those 3 months in the NICU.  For all the Lord gave us during those dark days and for all the support we received from our medical staff, family and friends, we want to give back.  We want to honor Isabella’s memory and pay tribute to Ian’s miraculous journey.    

 Our Mission
I first want to let you know The Second First Foundation is still in the “pre-production” phase.  Trying to maneuver through all the applications is proving to be a challenge that makes my head spin, however I believe the Lord is leading us to serve the NICU community and as such will make a way for us.  I was so excited when Jill asked me to blog about II First – if I’m honest, I’ve been dragging my heels with getting this foundation established!  I’m intimidated by all the hoops you have to jump through to establish a 501c3 (charitable) corporation!  The idea for the foundation was born shortly after Ian arrived home from the hospital.  In the beginning, all of our focus and energy was on Ian and his development.  Then we needed time to grieve the loss of Isabella.  Now that Ian has started pre-school a couple of days a week – it’s the perfect opportunity to get the ball rolling!  I’m excited to share our vision for II First and I hope to receive feedback from many of you!  It may be that one of you has a skill set that can aid our progress!  I believe so strongly in the power of prayer and in working together with the body of Christ!    

Today, Ian is just like any other 2 year old child. To look at him now, you would never imagine the challenges he faced – a miracle I can only attribute to God’s goodness and mercy.  As difficult as that time in our lives may have been, I believe with all my heart the Lord used these babies to draw me to Him.  I thought I knew what it meant to walk with Jesus, but before Ian and Isabella I didn’t understand RELATIONSHIP with Christ.  I thank the Lord each and every day for the trials and triumphs that helped me trust and love Him more.  I have such a desire to serve him through our II First ministry.

The twins were born in a community hospital.  We received excellent care and never dreamed of delivering any place else.  But they were born severely premature, 17 weeks early!  The hospital we delivered at had a pretty advanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), especially considering it was a smaller hospital.  Still with all the equipment they had, the one piece Ian needed was only on their wish list.  In the end, it became necessary to transfer to a larger facility that was better equipped to meet his needs.  A piece of equipment valued at approximately $30,000 is what separated us from being able to stay within our community while Ian was nursed to health.  

We had spent a month building relationships with the staff.  The staff spent a month getting to know our son and all of his little habits.  They taught us the lingo, made sure we were involved in every aspect of his care.  They really empowered us to be Ian’s advocate.  In addition to the emotional set back, transferring from our local hospital to the “more advanced” NICU in the city posed many physical risks for our son.  Hitting a simple pothole could have caused a brain bleed that could have impaired Ian’s development.  

As it was, the transferring nurse had to bag him the entire way to the hospital because Ian didn’t like the ventilator on the rig!  What if they hit traffic?  Would she have had the physical endurance to continue?  Probably so, but when I think of all the “could have beens” my mind goes to a pretty dark place.  We did not want to leave the place we now thought of as home.  Every day was scary but there was comfort in the familiar surroundings and routine we created in Athens.
It took a little time to adjust to the bigger hospital.  It was farther away and had a much larger staff, but we were empowered to be Ian’s advocates and we jumped in with both feet.  We cultivated relationships with their staff.  We LOVE these men and women for how they helped our son but I’d be lying if I said it was anything short of difficult. 

God had His hand in every detail of Ian’s journey.  When he was born, we were in a blessed situation – I work for family so I was able to conduct my job at Ian’s bedside.  Although the distance between our home and the hospital was 45 miles each way, my fuel costs were donated by my work.  We weren’t home much except to sleep and shower, so the yard suffered, but we didn’t have other children to care for.  Because of our favorable circumstances we were pretty easily able to make Ian the priority.  I didn’t have to juggle going to work with being at the hospital.  I didn’t need to have someone pick up our other kids from school because Ian was all we had.  We just didn’t find ourselves in as difficult of a situation as many parents do.  I say this, not to diminish what we experienced but to emphasize how much more difficult it could have been for us and how much more difficult the reality is for so many families!  Many friends and family members offered to help us, but at the time, I didn’t know what to ask for.  I wasn’t sure what I even needed.  Hindsight really is 20/20 because looking back on it I can tell you with great confidence what we would have found helpful!    

We were told over and over how important our presence would be to Ian’s development.  Being at the hospital was the most important thing we could do for Ian.  Still, with everything we had in our favor, making the journey back and forth to Atlanta every day was a challenge, physically, financially and emotionally.  It had been much easier at the local hospital.  Our family and friends were close by and the commute to the hospital was manageable. 

I feel certain that Ian thrived because Chad and I provided a constant presence at his bedside.  We were so very blessed I was able to be with Ian each and every day he was in the hospital.  Faced with the same situation, many families would not have been so fortunate.    

Through this experience, we recognized the needs of the parents of Micro Preemies.  It also fostered in us a desire to serve.  How could we be so blessed and not give back?!? There are so many opportunities to serve this community of families.  Micro Preemies, babies born before 26 weeks, weighing less than 800 grams (1 pound, 12 ounces) are by no means the common population of NICU patients – they are more the exception than the rule, however the needs of these families are great. 

 It is our goal to minister to these families through The Second First Foundation, to ease the financial and emotional burden associated with an extended stay in the hospital.  We seek to raise funds to provide gas cards and gift certificates to local restaurants for these families.  The financial burden of eating out most meals or filling up at the gas station takes its’ toll over the course of the 2-4 months micro preemies spend in the hospital.  During Ian’s time in Atlanta, it snowed three times, which meant we had to stay in a hotel.  We hope, through the foundation to be able to provide assistance to families in these types of situations. 

We also want to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of NICU families.  A very close friend of mine gave me a devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It changed my prayer life.  I read from it each and every day.  Today, I read the children’s version to Ian.  This is another goal of our foundation – to provide devotional materials and Bibles for the families of Micro Preemies. 

During Ian’s time in the hospital, I was able to utilize the Caring Bridge website to blog about Ian’s journey in the NICU.  It was a way for me to share the events of each day with all the family, friends and prayer warriors that followed Ian.  It was a love letter to my precious baby boy.  I am currently working to have the blog posts published in hopes of sharing it with families facing similar situations, to encourage them.

There are so many ways we can come together to meet the mission of The Second First Foundation.  Here is one example that I am so honored to share with you. 

I have an aunt, retired 7th grade school teacher, but no names here.  She’d probably not want the credit – but I am proud to feature her service to Isabella’s memory. 
An infant has an incredible sense of smell.  It is the most developed sense they are born with.  I was told by a lactation specialist that a baby can smell their mother up to seven football fields away – now don’t quote me on that because I didn’t look that factoid up on snopes or anything, but the bottom line here is that a baby recognizes it’s mother by smell.  The NICU staff at Athens Regional gave me this tiny crocheted blanket (affectionately referred to as a “boobie” blanket) and asked me to put it in my bra for the day – it basically soaked up the “mommy” smell.  So as not to be gender biased, Chad did this with a blanket too – “daddy” smell works too!  When we left for the night, they placed the blanket in the incubator with Ian to comfort him.  It promoted relaxation for him.  I found that to be just an incredible concept!  So, back to my aunt, who as you’ve probably guessed by now, does beautiful crochet work.  Since the time I was in the hospital she has donated probably hundreds of these little blankets in Isabella’s memory.  I was not even aware of this fact until over a year after we’d come home from the hospital.  There is no telling how many families have used these blankets just as we did with Ian.  It may seem like a small thing, but it is a powerful ministry and it is just one small way we seek to serve through our foundation.

Those months in the hospital, Ian continued to grow and develop but we missed getting him dressed up for his 1st Thanksgiving, 1st Christmas, and 1st New Years!  As thankful as we were to have him alive and growing, getting better each day, a small part of hearts longed for a way to have those “first” moments again.  He may never have another 1st Christmas, but we were inspired to create for our family a Second First!  Last Thanksgiving, I had a friend create a onesie & bib for Ian to wear as we celebrated my favorite holiday. 

 I think it turned out so cute!  We hope producing similar items and selling them will be one of many opportunities to help raise funds for our foundation. 

Our logo is currently a work in progress, however I have mocked up a version of what I envision.  The Roman Numeral II is what I’d like to use to represent “Second” – it looks like 2 I’s, put together - for Ian and Isabella!  Now obviously, the final product will be prettier than this version, but hopefully you get what we’re going for…

 I wanted to share the logo to help you visualize another area we seek to minister.  The Beads of Courage program was initially created to help pediatric cancer patients chronicle their battle with the disease.  Artisans across the country hand-craft these beautiful beads and donate them for the program.  The idea is that each bead signifies a procedure or milestone in the journey.  It gives families a physical representation of what each child goes through.  Gwinnett Medical Center was the first NICU in the country to pilot this program and they kicked off shortly after we arrived.  Ian was somewhat of an ambassador of the program.  He was one of the more critical patients at the time and as such, we had a LOT of beads!  We were interviewed by the local newspaper and I can remember telling the reporter when the day comes that Ian tells us he can’t do something, we will just pull out the beads, a gentle reminder that “CAN’T” isn’t in our vocabulary!

Chad and I wearing our beads

The beads are an incredible testimony of each child’s journey.  I cannot begin to tell you what they mean for our family.  They represent the challenges, the triumphs and the hope that exists.  We would like to create a bead with our II First logo to donate to the Beads of Courage organization for babies that are in the NICU during a holiday. 

We plan to focus our initial efforts at the two facilities that nursed Ian to health, Athens-Regional Medical Center and Gwinnett Medical Center.  We will work together with the NICU to identify families that would be in need of our assistance.  What we envision is providing a gift basket for the family, complete with gas cards, restaurant gift certificates, a devotional, a Bible, a crocheted blanket and a II First Bead.    

So that is the vision and the inspiration for our ministry.  We hope we can count on your prayers to see this to fruition.  If you have experience setting up a 501c3 and could lend your expertise, or have experience setting up a website, can knit a blanket, donate a gift card or a Bible, if you’d like to join me in serving in any capacity, it will take many hands and feet to serve this community and we would be honored by your generosity.

Thank you for allowing me to share our story and our hearts with you today.  God Bless each and every SHINE girl!  Much love to you!


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