home stephanies story GEMS ministry stephanie speaks contact testimonials

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Tribute to my Husband

You may be wondering where I've been. We've been in party mode at our house, with my husband Mark's birthday, my son Noah's birthday, and my mother-in-law Lorraine's birthday all in October. I especially enjoyed throwing Mark a surprise party for his 40th birthday two weeks ago.

But now that all the excitement is finally dying down, this monumental milestone in my husband's life has inspired some reflection on my part. FORTY. Wow. It seems like just yesterday he was a hunky 29 year-old who made me look twice the first time I laid eyes on him. Yet in just ten short years, my husband has probably taught me more than any other person in my life ever will.

That's because Mark is not a regular run of the mill guy. He’s the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it. Really. He is a servant in the truest sense.

I’ll never forget the snowy Saturday morning when I was four months pregnant with my daughter Grace. Mark and I had a pre-baby tradition of going out for bagels every Saturday, and this particular morning I was having especially strong cravings. Mark told me he was going outside to shovel snow and that we would leave when he was done.

Ten minutes passed…then fifteen.

Now mind you, my pregnancy hormones were raging, so you can imagine that I was not too happy when I glanced out the window to find that he had finished shoveling our driveway and was busily shoveling the three elderly ladies' driveways next to us. He thought they may need to go somewhere. You see, my husband just does nice things for people without being asked. I on the other hand was bellowing for a bagel and really couldn't understand where three old ladies might possibly be going at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Mark is also a conqueror. He has taught me much about perseverance, resolve, and utter dependence on God as I have watched him battle Diabetes, Epilepsy, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Three chronic illnesses…all before age 37.

I honestly cannot imagine what it would be like to willingly allow someone to drive me everywhere because of a seizure disorder. Or go from a 185 pound athlete to a 139 pound patient in a wheelchair. To not know if I would ever walk again. To wonder whether I would ever run another triathlon or ride bikes with my children. I mean, I can complain like no tomorrow if I’ve had a rough day with the kids. And woe is me if I happen to get a sinus infection or the flu. I’ll gladly take a week in bed, thank you very much!

But not Mark. In the midst of adversity, my husband is silent. I have never once heard him complain about the fact that he still needs a cane to walk, that he tires easily, or that he takes more medicines and injections than an elderly person. He lives out loud Philippians 2:14-15, which exhorts believers to do everything without complaining or arguing so that they may become blameless and pure, without fault, in a crooked and perverse generation... in order to shine brightly in this dark and often dismal world. He radiates resolve in the midst of suffering and in doing so reflects the character of Christ. I know I would not be the woman I am today without my better half.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the treasure you have unearthed in my husband.

So what about you? Do you have a tribute to your husband that you’d like to share? Let’s rejoice together that God in his infinite goodness saw fit to bless us with the covenant of marriage.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"How to" Series: The 10 T's of Time Management

Time. No one ever seems to have enough of it. Sometimes the days of our lives fly by so fast we can't even remember what we did three hours ago much less what we did last week. But how we choose to spend our time is important because it reflects what we value in our lives. As believers, our heart's desire is to steward our time on Earth wisely so that our Father in heaven is glorified. The 10 T's of Time Management are tried and true time-saving tips that will help you find more time for what is truly important!

1) Trust each and every minute of your life is in God’s hand. Psalm 31:15 (KJV)

Notice God only needs one hand to hold all our times. We are tempted to think God somehow needs our help to figure out what we should do next. The God of the universe is perfectly able to direct every minute of our lives by His mighty power!

2) Tithe a portion of your time each day to the Lord. Psalm 34:1, Ephesians 6:18, Psalm 119:10-20 (The Message)

The average person is awake 15-16 hours per day yet spends less than 10 minutes per day with the creator of time. (Watch 40 million minutes here.)

Can you imagine what would happen if believers became intentional about tithing a portion of their time each day to the Lord?

I don't think we can fathom the global impact that would occur if millions of Christians worldwide began investing 1 1/2 hours of their time each day to deepening their relationships with Christ. The reality is, we become like the people we hang around with. I don't know about you, but there is no person I'd rather be like than Jesus.

3) Take captive extra minutes. Ephesians 5:15-16

Taking captive extra minutes requires discipline! If you find there is never enough time in your day to get everything accomplished, wake up earlier. It is amazing how much you can accomplish if you get up before your kids.

Also, plan and organize each evening.1 Implementing a nighttime routine saves you headaches when morning rolls around. Take baths at night, lay clothes out before bed, make lunches a day in advance, and meal plan so you do not waste time wondering what to cook for dinner. Sorting laundry in the evening and throwing the first load in the washer prepares you for a calm start to your day.

4) Tune out distractions. Colossians 3:2

Ok. This one is simple. The reason we have such difficulty doing what God has asked us to do in our homes is because we are too busy doing other things. So let's get honest. How much time do you spend watching TV, talking or texting, surfing the Internet, or using social networking sites?

If you want to be more productive, carve out a window of time during your day to return phone calls, check e-mail, or use the Internet.2 If it's not time to do those things, don’t do them! You'll be amazed at how much time you save.

5) Test yourself. 1 Corinthians 9:24

If you have a hard time getting motivated (don't we all?), see how fast you can complete tasks by setting a timer.3 This is crucial because if you don't set a timer, you will continue a project inevitably especially if you struggle with perfectionism!

Parkinson’s Law says,“Work expands to fill the time allowed for completion.” So don't let household chores rob you of precious minutes! Set a timer and then move on to the next task when it dings. I promise you, your toilet will still be waiting for you next week.

6) Trade places, not spaces. Matthew 6:19-20

If something doesn't have a home pitch it! In other words, avoid moving an object from one space to another in your home. If you cannot find a place to store it, it's time to get rid of it. So often we forget less is more. When you throw or give away things you don't need, you'll find your home more orderly and peaceful.

7) Tell people no. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Now are ya'll ready? We are going to practice this one together. Out loud say the word "No!" Let me hear you. With a little force. Good job!

For many women, this is the hardest two-letter word in their vocabulary. So many of us feel obligated to do what any and everybody asks of us. After all, we are the caretakers, the nurturers, and often, the crux of the church.

But let me tell you a freeing truth. You are only obligated to do what God has called you to do. And when you choose to do what God hasn't asked of you, you might just end up stealing someone else’s blessing.

8) Track your progress. Proverbs 21:5 (The Message)

Many of us tend to buck structure in our lives. We do what we want to do when we want to do it. The problem with this philosophy is that structure is crucial to getting tasks accomplished.

We often forget God is a God of order and not of chaos. With order comes peace and eventually joy, which is what we need to focus on when a job seems insurmountable.

One way to track your progress is to set realistic goals and make reasonable lists. Notice I used the words realistic and reasonable! Next divide your lists categorically before you prioritize. This will prevent you from trying to prioritize a mile-long laundry list. One way to do this is to divide tasks room-by-room or by various life-areas such as home, job, ministry, etc.

Realize that aspirations and responsibilities are NOT THE SAME! Goals are something you desire to accomplish; responsibilities are what you must accomplish. There is a difference! Sometimes I get so focused on achieving my goals that I forfeit my responsibilities all together. I need to always remind myself that when I steward well over the responsibilities God has entrusted me with, He will expand my territory in His time, not mine.

9) Tackle the toughest jobs first.4 Job 7:1

The reality is we procrastinate when tasks are disliked or difficult. Doing the most difficult job first will give you momentum to do the easier ones because you feel a sense of accomplishment.

10) Tame the desires of your flesh. Matthew 26:41

We may be tempted to swing to one of two extremes: idleness or perfection. Either we don't want to do anything or we must do it perfectly. Or better yet, if we can't do it perfectly, we won't do it at all.

When we begin to venture toward either extreme, we need to run to the feet of Jesus and confess our sin! Neither one of these extremes is healthy ... one is rooted in slothfulness and the other in pride. And both will rob us blind of precious minutes we desperately need in our day.

All in all, our lives are but a vapor. Let's live on purpose!

I'd love for you to leave a comment and share your favorite time management tip so that we might all glean from one another.

“Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." James 4:13-14 (NKJV)

1. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 181, 184.
2. Landers, Robert L. and James A. Hawkins. Mosby's Nursing Leadership and Management Online. (St. Louis: Mosby, 2006), 190-191.
3. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 183.
4. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 183.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Word is our Weapon

video
I believe one of the most exciting things about God’s Word is that we can use it! Our Bibles need not take up residence on the floorboards of our car from one Sunday to the next. God’s Word is powerful, everlasting, and limitless, and He instructs us to study the Word so we can be thoroughly equipped to handle any situation that comes our way. Jesus is the most powerful example in Scripture of someone actively using the Word of God. We see His strategic use of Scripture in Luke 4:1-14.

Like Jesus, we must be ready and willing to use God’s Word in every area of our lives but especially in combating the lies of the enemy. Jesus knew the Word in context and was able to spoil the Devil’s scheme to replace truth with deception. Notice three interesting concepts in this passage: the timing of temptation, the techniques of temptation, and the tools used to triumph over temptation.

The timing of Jesus’ temptation was crucial. Satan tempted Jesus when He was most vulnerable, waiting until He was weak from hunger. Satan attacked Jesus when the desires of His flesh had the opportunity to overcome the desires of His Spirit! While His hunger made Him vulnerable to Satan’s attack, it also made Him powerful. During this period of fasting He was free from the distraction of food and could focus completely on combating the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. What Satan intended for evil, God used for good!

The techniques of temptation used by Satan should make us sit up and take notice. Satan tempted Jesus by taking God’s Word out of context. The enemy knows Scripture and is able to twist the Word in a complex way. This is why it is vital that we study and understand the whole of Scripture in context rather than just memorizing our favorite verses now and then. Satan used Scripture to appeal to Jesus’ fleshly desires: His desire for food (Luke 4:3), His desire for power (Luke 4:6-7), and His desire to prove Himself (Luke 4:9). Satan’s tactics have not changed in over 2000 years, and he appeals to our flesh as well when he tempts us.

The tools Jesus utilized to overcome temptation included speaking God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus did not speak the truth of Scripture to the Devil only one time. Jesus rebuked the enemy three times before he left Him. We should not think we will immediately overcome temptation either.

I love Beth Moore’s notion that God puts us through spiritual battles so He can teach us to fight.1 Spiritual warfare is a divine process that strengthens our resolve and our faith. In order to prepare for the battle, we need to be feasting on the Word so we are armed with holy ammunition!

The first and last verse of this passage demonstrates the importance of a Spirit-filled life. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and after Satan departed He returned to Galilee still full of the Holy Spirit’s power. We must always rely on the power of the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, even when He escorts us into battle with the fiercest enemy we will ever encounter. Rejoice with me today that the Word of God is an unlimited reserve of everlasting truth and yields powerful results when applied to our lives.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Do I stand strong or fall into temptation when the enemy appeals to my fleshly desires?
  • Did I study God’s Word today to equip myself with holy ammunition?
  • Am I proclaiming the truth of Scripture to the enemy when he lies to me?
1. Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press, 2008), 188.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

12 Amazing Attributes

One of my greatest passions in life is mining the treasures of Scripture. I love the Word because I never walk away from it unchanged. Even if I have read a verse or a passage before, it always has something fresh to speak to my heart because of its living power. I have come to understand that when I run to the Word instead of to the world I will find truth. Jesus is referred to as the Word in John 1:1 and then calls himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life in John 14:6.

Just because I love God's Word doesn't mean I never struggle with discouragement and doubt. Honestly, I can be the queen of pity parties, and I don't necessarily need anyone in attendance to throw one! {wink} When I find myself in a spiritual rut, I try to carefully evaluate my focus, and what I often find is that it has somehow shifted from God above to self below. It is unbelievable to me how self-focused I can be.

During these times, what I need most is to dwell on the amazing attributes of the Word. To reflect on the totality of Scripture. To know that tucked within its pages is everything I will ever need for life and godliness. Only then can the Lord perform much needed heart surgery, ridding me of fleshly desires that war for control and replacing the lies the enemy whispers in my ears and attempts to weave throughout my mind with Truth.

Rejoice with me today that God's Word is:

1) PERFECT- “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul…” Psalm 19:7 a

2) POWERFUL- "Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17

3) TRUSTWORTHY- “The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7 b

4) TRUE- “The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.” Psalm 19:9 b

5) RIGHT- “The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart.” Psalm 19:8 a

6) PURE- “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Psalm 19:8 b

7) HOPEFUL- “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.” Psalm 119:114

8) DESIRABLE- “They (the laws of the Lord) are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.” Psalm 19:10

9) EVERLASTING- “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

10) JOY-BRINGING- “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143

11) LIFE-GIVING- “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” James 1:18

12) LIMITLESS- “Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.” Psalm 119:96