Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

Fall is, by far, my favorite season of the year. The cooler weather, breezes blowing through the trees, bon fires, the changing of the leaves…bright yellows, magnificent oranges, and fiery reds…what an amazing array of colors that warm my heart in a way that no other season can.

fall pic
Despite my love for this time of year, there have been many things that have happened throughout the years that have threatened my joy during this wonderful season. But God (which is an amazing statement alone) has taught me to “Choose Joy Now”, no matter what may be happening around me. One way I have learned to do that is to find things to be grateful for, even during the toughest of times. Often these are obscure things that are hard to notice without careful attention, other times God displays them proudly, right in front of me.

It’s almost as if He knows I need to see His Hand at work. I know He understands fully my need to trust Him even deeper than yesterday. Trust…it has become my word for the last few years, it has been a long journey, but one that has not quite come to an end just yet. And in all honesty, I can say I am glad that He is not yet content with my trust in Him.

IMG_5676

Recently my friend’s husband left home for a one year deployment to protect our country’s freedom. My heart has been heavily burdened for them as they waited for the day of his departure to arrive. I have been praying, but God was pressing me to do more, so as I left for work this morning I asked the Lord to show me a different Bible verse each week that I could pray for my precious friend and her family. As I was praying, I jokingly mentioned that God would need to be creative in how He showed me a verse this week, as I have not been the most diligent each day to read His Word. I finished praying and began singing praises to God as I continued my drive.

When I walked into work I began coughing, so as I was digging through my purse looking for a sinus pill, I came across a small yellow paper that was crumpled and a bit worn.

IMG_6583

On the paper was,

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

As soon as I read it I began to smile…I knew this was the verse that God intended me to pray for my friend and her family this next week. It took me a while to take all this in, because, as you see, I had written this Scripture on the torn half sheet of yellow paper back in March of this year (2013), when I was struggling to trust God with a difficult situation that was happening. That verse came to me as a welcomed relief back in March when I heard it and I quickly jotted it down on the scrap piece of paper. I was reminded back then how much God must love me to give me that verse at that exact moment when I so desperately needed to know that He was holding me…did I mention that was SEVEN months ago…??? This morning when I found this paper in my purse, I had this overwhelming sense of peace of God’s love for me and for my friend as I wondered how exactly God had gotten that piece of paper into my purse after all of these months…?? I clean out my purse at least once a month. I KNOW I had taken this paper out, but for such a time as this, God saw fit to get it back into my purse so I would find it this morning. He knew that on the way to work I was going to ask for Him to show me a verse to pray. I just shook my head as I took all of this in this morning…and by the way, my coughing, which is why I got into my purse to begin with, has stopped by this time…

 

So I quickly shot my sweet friend an email to explain to her how much God loved her (explaining the story to her quickly. Imagine, if you can, how encouraged my faith was when she sent the following text and then email to me…
“Isaiah 41:10 is the verse we are “claiming” as a family for this deployment. The boys’ necklaces say “FEAR NOT” and [my husband] wrote out that verse for them right after we found out about his deployment. We both came across Isaiah 41:10 as a verse we should use separately. God reminded me when you sent me this verse that He knows me. He is good.”

 
The following came in an email…”I don’t feel like my text adequately explained what a gift this was. Instant tears came to my eyes as soon as I saw the verse…not out of sadness, but out of humility that all mighty God cares for me that much. I shared it with the boys this morning. I want them to know God is here and at work, and that He loves us. If in the end they have a better knowledge of Him and His faithfulness, then all of this is worth it. Thanks for praying and asking God for guidance. Oh, what a difference it makes. Love you much. “

 
Honestly, there are not adequate words to color for you the joy, faith, comfort, peace and love that flooded my heart when I stepped back and took all this in. There were so many cool things that God brought together in these precious moments this morning. I was even able to go back and thank God in a different and deeper way for the trial that we went through back in March, for if we hadn’t walked through it, I wouldn’t have been desperate for that verse and I wouldn’t have written it down. God just set me at awe this morning. I never cease to be amazed at Him.

 

As I sat there taking all this in, God brought a song to my heart that I began to sing. It is a song that God used to encourage my heart after my dad died. Click on the following words to hear the song:

 
“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone”

 
I smiled as I considered that God loves my friends so much that He is demonstrating His love for them as they begin this journey.

A journey that will be long and hard.

A journey that will require much faith and tenacity.

A journey that will test them in ways they’ve never been tested before.

A journey that will grow them in ways that nothing else can.

A journey that only God can walk them through and bring them out better on the other side.

And the cool thing is that they will never walk alone throughout the whole journey, even though they are apart from each other! God is good, just as my friend said.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last fall my sweet husband asked me to marry him again…on one knee at the end of church in front of the whole congregation. I didn’t realize then that he intended for us to have a celebration and renew our wedding vows, but this (pictured below) is exactly what he had in mind when he picked out my new ring and made me blush greatly that Sunday.

anniversary pics 107

We were young and I was pregnant with our first child when we married that beautiful morning on May 7th, 1988. Freddo and I had both been raised in church, but sadly we thought nothing of rebelling against God at that time.

I used to be so ashamed of our sin, but through the years, I have learned that God wastes nothing, and can use even our bad choices and their consequences, to change us into who He desires us to be. I have also learned that most people in life are not looking for others that have done life perfectly, but instead for friends that are transparent enough to be honest about their own sin. Not so they can excuse their sin, but so that they can see that God is faithful to forgive when we ask and love us anyway. God has given me the courage to be real with others, to take off the mask and live life in a transparent way that is encouraging to others and hopefully helps point them to Christ.

Freddo and I knew nothing about marriage or parenting when we embarked on this journey back in 1988, but God (I love that phrase “But God”)…He knew all and has taught us so much and has allowed us to share our story with so many others. God didn’t approve of our sin, but He turned our messed up lives into a story He could use to bring glory to Himself. The choices we both made even in the years before we met each other, muddied the water of marriage for us even more, but God has helped us move beyond all of that and live our lives now in ways that glorify Him despite our sinful past. One thing we agreed on at the very beginning of our plans to marry was this, “No matter what would come into our lives, we would never discuss divorce”. I know we didn’t realize then how life would test that deep level of commitment, but God has been ever so faithful to help us stand strong against Satan, who is out to destroy families.

That was then…wedding photo

This is now…

anniversary pics 066

We have had really great times in our marriage. There have also been times when we were just trying to stay afloat, even times when we wondered if we were even going to make it. It seems that no matter which season of life we found ourselves, in the back of our mind was buried that conversation we had in Freddo’s truck in the driveway of his parent’s house late one night… that no matter what happened, divorce would never be an option.

I say this so that everyone reading this blog about our 25th anniversary would understand that these years have not all been rosy. We have had times that we have taken each other for granted and even neglected one another. I would have to say that those times were the most dangerous for us, and they are the most dangerous times for any marriage. We have been listening to Andy Stanley’s series on marriage, and he said that in this day and age it’s never been easier to “fall in love” and never been harder to “stay in love”. So please let this post serve as a reminder to all of you to do the hard work of staying in love, we have found it to be worth it all.

For our marriage to stand the test of time both Freddo and I have had to give more than we’ve taken, forgive, forgive, forgive and forgive again, love God more than each other, and both of us have had to be willing to fight for our marriage. We have had to take time to study each other, pray, pray, pray and trust God at all times, especially during the darkest of seasons. We have done so much wrong, but God (there’s that phrase again) has been so faithful, and only by his grace have we made it to this point.

??????

This spring when Freddo told me that he desired for us to have an actual ceremony where we could renew our vows to each other, I really struggled…what about the money this would cost, what if people thought we were just showing off or they thought this was a dumb thing to do, what if no one comes, my list of worries went on. The more we talked and prayed, the more I came to realize, as Freddo already had, that staying married for 25 years these days is a HUGE deal, and it is something to be celebrated no matter what anyone else might think or what might go wrong. So we forged ahead and really enjoyed planning this celebration. In hind sight, after talking with people that attended and helped in some way, I was quite encouraged at the different ways God used our “silly little ceremony” to serve as an encouragement to others…in ways we had never even expected.

Freddo chose the date and scheduled the church before he even told me of his plans.

Interestingly he did not have any idea that May 4th was the day that my grandparents were married. Recently my aunt gave me a necklace that my grandfather had made for my grandma that had May 4th, 1939 engraved on it. In their honor I incorporated that necklace in my bouquet.

So we began to make plans to have a simple (cost effective and not too labor intensive) and romantic event so our friends and family could attend to celebrate with us. We did some research about how to do a vow renewal vs. a wedding. There was not much to be found on this topic, so I wanted to share our experience so perhaps others might be able to learn from what we did that worked well and what we wish we had done differently for their own celebration.

I had some great friends and family help pull this off. I wish I had a picture like this of each one of them with me!

IMG_5254

I am so blessed with such thoughtful friends, many that were there that day, and many that couldn’t be there! But here are some shots of some of them helping get things ready. We had so much fun decorating Friday night…we even tried out one of the plain cheesecakes….yum!

20130503_205943

20130503_201727Robin, Blane’s girlfriend, and her friend Elizabeth were a great help when we were decorating on Friday night.

20130503_213348 - Copy

We used mason jars, mosaic beads, water, candles, pictures of us (that I had made to hang on our wall last year, click here for directions), scrapbook paper, our Blessings Unlimited plates, bottles and blue mason jars that my dad had collected many years ago, white tablecloths our church had, burlap, ribbon and pedestal cake stands. IMG_5175  IMG_5172 - Copy

IMG_5173 - Copy

IMG_5177

We displayed our wedding album and an album I had made for Freddo a few years ago, that was filled with the things about him that I love.

IMG_5205

My mom made my dress, which turned out beautifully, I might say! And one of the things I knew early on was that I wanted to wear a pair of shoes from Toms’ Wedding collection. Yes, I even had Erika take a shot of my happy feet!

IMG_5261

IMG_5232

Robin really caught me off guard when she came up the stairs and saw me in my dress for the first time. Her excitement was such a joy to my heart.IMG_5217

IMG_5220

My friend, Erika let me wear her diamond tennis bracelet that her husband had purchased for her. It was such a sweet gesture and was a beautiful finish to my outfit.IMG_5222

Freddo contacted Gary Thomas, who married us 25 years ago. Gratefully he was more than willing to do our ceremony.

IMG_0026 - Copy

anniversary pics 088

It was great to see him again and listen to him challenge us and others in our marriages…even if he made a bad joke about God taking the rib out of Adam to make the first loud speaker. Here you can see my initial reaction to the joke, and then we actually really laughed. He always has been this ornery, so glad to see that some things never change.

IMG_5266

In keeping with some traditions of our wedding, we exchanged rings. In the Bible silver symbolizes the price of redemption. Since we are so grateful for God’s redemption in our lives and regarding our marriage, Freddo and I selected silver rings with this significance in mind.

IMG_5312

IMG_5315

IMG_5335

We had some great friends take pictures of our day. They captured so many great shots, including a video of us saying our vows we had written to each other. What a wonderful treasure to us now.IMG_5300

IMG_5306

video

After much searching and some prayer we decided on two songs. Our friends sang a song that we had at our wedding, “Household of Faith”.  Sweetly, they sang this song to each other at their own wedding.

anniversary pics 101

A special man in our life sang “I Will Be Here”.  In this day and age, Freddo and I chose the second song, because of our commitment to weather any storm that may come.

Freddo talked about the passing of my dad during that song…one of the worst storms we have endured so far, thusly the tears here. Both songs were a blessing to us and to those that attended.IMG_5337

For the reception opted out of wedding cake, and chose cheesecakes instead. This was a very cost effective way to feed everyone. My friend, Dena Cox, made 7 different types of cheesecakes: pumpkin, oreo, chocolate chip, chocolate malt, pistachio, orange/pineapple, and plain. She made these in one evening…one very long evening. They turned out great. The Oreo cookie was the most popular, but there were compliments on every flavor we had. I’m glad she suggested we make cheese cakes when we were talking through what type of dessert to have.

anniversary pics 087

Another friend, Chris Nelson made her own recipe of Raspberry Lemonade with frozen blackberries floating. It was delicious!

anniversary pics 113

My mom and mother-in-law provided some finger foods, we had cucumber sandwiches, Mexican roll ups, cheese, deer sausage and cackers, cucumbers and dip. And these hands made it all beautiful on the serving tables. IMG_0003

anniversary pics 090

In the hardest season of our marriage Freddo and I wrote notes to each other every day and continued in the years following. Gratefully we kept them. These notes journaled a bit of our journey and testified of how God brought us through, loving each other in a deeper way. For this reason it was important to use them at our reception. My friends worked really hard to find a good way to incorporate them into the decorations.

IMG_5191

anniversary pics 109

It was such a fun day, seeing people that were there at our wedding in 1988 and friends that we have made since then. Frankly, it was so hard to limit the number of people we invited, but we just had to. There were so many more that we would have loved to invite.anniversary pics 112

IMG_0018 - Copy

anniversary pics 111 - Copy

anniversary pics 082

anniversary pics 115There were some things we wish we hadn’t forgotten or done differently, so in an effort to help others that might desire to plan something, I list them below:

Sadly we didn’t even think about a guest book, but my mom took the time to write everyone down that she remembered.

Additionally it would have been better to make sure we had certain photos taken, but we just didn’t think about this ahead of time.

It would have been great if I had checked to see if the candles we bought would work AFTER they were lit. Honestly, everything happened so fast, it really didn’t matter, but the candles only stayed lit for about 5-10 minutes before water seeped over the edge and went out.

Although my great friends did amazing stepping in and making this work, I should have asked them ahead of time to plan the lunch for those of us that were there before the ceremony instead of attempting to do it.

In addition, it would have been great if we had more time to take pictures of us before the ceremony, we just didn’t plan this very well. However, we still ended up with some wonderful shots!

edited 2

Freddo and I had talked about taking some time to share with everyone at the reception some memories from our wedding day and introduce the maid of honor and best man and some lessons we have learned in our years together, but the time so quickly slipped past and there were so many people we wanted to visit with that we missed this opportunity. We did get a picture of our Best Man and Maid of Honor.

anniversary pics 110

Even though we have these minor regrets, the day turned out beautifully and we had a great time!

Edited pic

Read Full Post »

As I was doing my Bible study this morning, I studied James 4:1-17. This day in the study comes at an interesting time for me, since I am in the process of trying to get a new business off the ground.

Luke 12:15 really put things into perspective for me. It says, “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’”   This is such an interesting verse to me, considering for the last 20 plus years, we have lived on one income. All through this time I have struggled like a yo-yo, between I want this or that and seeking to be content with what we have.

I have always known that “stuff”, consumerism isn’t for me. Why? Well, I am so easily distracted from the plan God has for me, that I simply must be alert to where my focus is and where it should be. I truly enjoy ‘things’, but my real love is people and relationships. I would rather spend an hour with you then have you give me some monetary gift. I guess my love language is ‘Time’.

Knowing this and more about myself, makes it incredibly funny that God would lead me to a job of selling stuff, especially because my friend nominated me, Sheila A. Bias, to be the “president of WASP” (Women Against Stupid Parties).  lol

Truly I have never really liked parties. Oh, they are fun, and the fellowship is great, but I always came home from them feeling discontent with what I had, wishing we had more. Being on one income was tough when so many of my friends were working. But I must say that that they never once put any pressure on me to buy things; instead they have blessed me greatly, even going so far as to share things with me that blessed my heart so much. But despite their kindness, I decided in my heart that I couldn’t go to the parties, because honestly, it created discontentment in my heart.

And then last week, God opens this door for me to become a consultant with Blessings Unlimited?? I was overwhelmed the day that God brought that opportunity to me; I just could not believe it. But I laughed as I thought of me, the “president of WASP”, selling products. lol  God really does have a way of humbling us, doesn’t He?

Well, back to my Bible study from this morning and what God showed me about how I should be running my business. From the beginning of this short journey to begin this business, I have struggled with asking others to spend money so that I could have money. Honestly, I truly understand the value of a dollar and I sure didn’t want to put anyone in a difficult spot. So I asked God to reconcile in my heart the tug of war that was going on within me.

Yesterday, as I was listening to a corporate training call, the first 5-7 minutes were spent talking about our ‘ministry in the marketplace’ and then praying about the opportunities God has given us to minister to women. During this time I realized that my business will only succeed if I put God first in it.

After reading the verse in Luke 12:15, God gave me the following statement that I wrote out, as a motto of a sort: I desire my journey in Blessings Unlimited to be more about ministry to others rather than gaining money from others.  Well, “That is a nice little motto, but it sure isn’t going to make you very much money, Sheila”, you might say.  Well, God and I, we had that talk as I stood by the stove, warming myself this morning. I told Him that if I was to make a go of this business, He was going to have to lead. He was going to have to be the one to bring the money in, because I could not allow that to be my focus on this journey. No, the women that He brings into my life, they will be my focus. Encouraging their hearts, that will be my drive. Helping them encourage others, will be my purpose. Yes, if they desire to decorate their own homes with some of these products, I will help them with that too, but I would always remind them to think of another before they think of themselves. I am absolutely aware that this is not a normal approach to business, but if you know me at all, you will know that I don’t really approach much of life in a normal way.

My main prayer for myself at this point is that I remain so focused on encouraging the hearts of others in the Lord, that I will not become greedy or distracted by stuff. So pray with me will you? That I will remain true to the calling of ministering to others in the marketplace, putting their needs before mine. Trusting the Lord to take care of my needs, as He always has been so faithful to do. So when you look at the products on the Blessings Unlimited website, be thinking of what person in your life God is asking you to share a bit of love and encouragement with, not just what might fit nicely into your own home.
Today’s list of gifts in my day that I am thanking God for:

~liquid vitamins

~totally organized closet

~being reminded in my Bible study that God allows all things that He does in my life so I will seek Him

~Freddo’s wisdom that said, “Perhaps you should stay home tonight and rest”

~finding a planning calendar in my box of papers

~opening one of my Blessings Unlimited boxes today…excited to get even more done from my list tomorrow so I can open the other box…incentives, they keep me focused, grateful for the products that I have seen so far

~warm quilt just out of the dryer to cuddle up with

~encouraging conversations with a few people today

~more Bomb Pops, sure help the sore throat

 

{Joy Dare} a gift shared, saved and surrendered:

~shared: my thoughts on how God is working in my heart, encouragement and Scripture a friend sent back to me

~saved: a musical and lighted birthday card from my parents at the last birthday party my dad had for me before he passed away in June. I found it today as I was cleaning out a box of stuff. Dad was excited all that day to have a birthday party for his little girl. That was when, in his mind, he thought I was still a child…so many memories that I pray never fade from my mind.

~surrendered: my “ministry in the marketplace” for His glory

Read Full Post »