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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Presents or Presence?

I must have been 10 or 11. And I had one thing on my mind- the Magnavox jambox that was at the top of my Christmas wish list. I had to have it. Not only was it equipped with a double cassette player for dubbing tapes, it had a CD player. And every soon to be middle schooler needed a CD player.

A few days shy of Christmas, my mom traipsed off to the store, leaving me alone with a tree full of presents. Let's just say self-control was not a virtue I possessed as a kid. I frantically began shaking each package that remotely resembled a jambox, listening carefully to ensure I didn't choose the wrong one. After all, time was of the essence, and I didn't want to get busted!

I made my selection and gingerly pulled the tape off one side. I loosened the paper and scanned the brown cardboard box for evidence of its contents. And then I saw the only word I needed to see- Magnavox. I was elated! The jambox would soon be playing in my hot little hands. I re-wrapped the opened box in a flash and placed it perfectly under the Christmas tree.

I must say this story makes me giggle. But when I stop and reflect on a deeper level, it begs me to question whether I'm still anything like that 10 year-old girl. As a child, I'd sit for hours with Christmas sale flyers strewn around me, making my list and checking it twice.

My focus was always on the gifts and never on the Giver.

It saddens me to think how many Christmases I've squandered because of unfulfilled expectations, longing deeply for perfect gifts to make me happy. My husband thinks appliances qualify, and let's just say I'm not the vacuum cleaner type. I've shed many a disappointed tear on Christmas morning because the gifts I got never quite measured up. I admit I'm too often fixated on presents rather than His Presence.

How about you? Do you gravitate toward gifts or the Giver? Are you focused on presents or His presence?

This Christmas, let's rest in the presence of Jesus Christ. Let's rejoice that we've already received the perfect gift from our Heavenly Father. And let's remember it is only Jesus who will ever fulfill our expectations and satisfy our deepest longings. He was and is and will always be our only perfect gift.

As Oswald Chambers says, "Nothing can satisfy the need [in us] but that which created the need. This is the meaning of Redemption- it creates and it satisfies."

Thank you Lord Jesus for creating in us a void that only you can fulfill, and help us never to be satisfied with any present other than your presence.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! Acts 17:26-28 The Message

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immanuel- God With Us

Do you secretly harbor what I call life's greatest fear? You know, the fear you dread more than anything? You've mulled it over in your mind and tried to solve it every which way, hoping it'll never come to fruition because the outcome might be disastrous. Well, Sunday night me and my biggest fear had a head-on collision.

As my husband drove our family home from our church's Christmas production, he began to stare straight ahead. A sinking feeling entered the pit of my stomach. "Mark, are you okay?" I asked. No answer.

Immediately I knew. Mark was having a seizure. While driving.

Although he was unresponsive to my requests to stop the van, I was thankful he was able to follow the road as it wound uphill through our neighborhood. But as he turned into our cove, I knew I had a decision to make. Since he couldn't stop the van on his own, I knew I would have to do it or it would be stopped by the telephone pole or one of the houses at the end of our cul-de-sac.

I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this feat, but I knew the One who did. And so I cried out to Jesus. And I asked Him to help me do what I could not do alone.

By this time fear overcame my three children, and they exclaimed that they couldn't watch anymore. As the distance between our van and the telephone pole shortened, I reached across my husband's lap and yanked the lever that controlled his seat, pushing it backwards. I then got on my hands and knees and reached under the dash, hitting the brake with the palm of my right hand. I threw the van in park, praising God for His divine protection.

God allowed my fear to suffer a blow Sunday night instead of my family. And then He reminded me of the reason why He came over two thousand years ago. He is Immanuel- God with us (Matthew 1:23). He goes before me and is with me; He will never leave me or forsake me. He commands me not be afraid or discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).
 
What fear in your life are you facing this Christmas season that needs to be replaced with faith? I'm praying that you'll allow God to minister truth to your soul as He did to mine, and that your greatest fear will suffer a fatal blow once and for all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Enter His Courts with Thanksgiving

This time of year stirs a sense of nostalgia in me. I fondly remember Thanksgivings spent with my ever-increasing family (we're 95 and counting) around white banquet tables glistening with crystal and fine china. The smell of turkey, pork roast, and honey-glazed ham lingered in the air intermingled with the familiar scents of rice dressing, sweet potato casserole, homemade mac-n-cheese, stuffed potatoes, green bean casserole, cheesy asparagus, and shrimp and broccoli rice casserole.

As a little girl, my favorite part of Thanksgiving was the food, but as I've gotten older, my favorite part has become our tradition of standing to share what we're thankful for. Not only has my favorite part of Thanksgiving changed, but what I'm most thankful for has changed as well.

I used to be most thankful for tangible things like my family, my health, and my possessions. But this year I've spent some time reflecting on the intangible: God's love for me, His amazing grace, and His perfect purpose for my life.

Stop and ponder the incredible reality that God doesn’t call you His servant—He calls you His friend (John 15:15). God loves you so much that He stooped down from heaven, rescued you from sin, and wrapped you in the cloak of His grace.

He offers you an immense revelation because He created you to impact the world, and the magnitude of your destiny can’t be fully understood this side of heaven. You’re on assignment from God, chosen to go and love others and offer them the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

God has a magnificent plan for your life. He has appointed you with a purpose no one else on this Earth can fulfill. “You are the only you this world will ever know. And something about your life is meant to make something about God known in a way that no else can.” (Dan Allender)

So rejoice with me today that we serve a God that not only redeems us but refines us to be used for His glory. Let's "enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:4-5

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Waiting on the Harvest- Part 2

Do you ever sense God is weaving a theme throughout your life? I always know when God is trying to teach me a lesson because He repeats His message in sermons I hear, songs I sing, or scriptures I read. Sometimes I think He might as well write it in the sky.

If God hopped on a jet plane today and decided to skywrite me a message, I'm sure the puffy white clouds would spell W-A-I-T.

Now I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like to wait. I wouldn't say I wait well. I can be impatient and irritable while I'm waiting, especially if it's something I'm passionate about. So it shouldn't surprise me that since I wrestle with waiting, God has decided it's time to sow the fruit of patience in my life.

I should have seen this season coming two months ago when my pastor lost my manuscript. Yes, you read that right. That manuscript contained hours worth of revisions splattered in red ink. I hadn't made a copy for myself before I gave it to him, and in an instant, all my hard work vanished.

Five days later, my pastor called me to tell me there was still no sign of my manuscript. I chuckled and told him I thought God was teaching me how to wait. Seconds later, his secretary walked through his office door holding my manuscript in her hand. Astonished, he said, "you'll never guess what Pat just handed me!" As soon as I surrendered, God showed up.

In that moment, God reminded me of an important truth.

There's always a divine purpose unfolding while we wait. God often brings us through a season of waiting to reveal to us something about ourselves that He already knows but that we desperately need to see.

If my manuscript hadn't been lost, I would've turned it in early. But I was forced to re-revise my writing while I waited, and I found mistakes I hadn't noticed the first time around. The Lord also showed me I needed to add an entire layer to my manuscript that strengthened it substantially.

So when I received an email last week from the editor I've been working with, I knew God was weaving His message in my life once again. She informed me that her pre-pub board meeting ran long and told me my proposal's review got moved to after Thanksgiving.

And instead of turmoil or angst, I felt complete and utter peace.

We often desire instant gratification. Immediate answers. Instantaneous results.

But that's rarely how God works. The heroes of the faith all had one thing in common- they waited for God to make the impossible possible.

What about you? Is there something you're waiting for today? Something that seems hopelessly impossible because you feel like you've been waiting forver?

Then let these words from Habakkuk 2:3 soothe your soul - "The vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come. It will not delay."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Waiting on the Harvest

It's been a whirlwind of a week ... filled with a whirlwind of emotions. After a fun day of shopping last Friday with my mother-in-law, Lorraine, and my daughter, Grace, we traipsed through the door at 8:00 p.m. exhausted.

As I sat down at my computer to check my email, butterflies flittered in my stomach. It was a little over four weeks since I had heard from the editor regarding my book proposal, and I knew she said she needed up to four weeks to give me a response. I hurriedly scanned my Inbox, but as the bold black letters of her name crystallized before my eyes, my heart skipped a beat.

This was it- acceptance or rejection.

I breathed in deeply and opened her email. I don't think I've ever read one so quickly. My black desk chair almost toppled over from the force of my body as I leapt from my seat. I screamed "PRAISE THE LORD" at the top of my lungs and literally danced around my yellow kitchen. You should have seen my Praise Jesus dance!! I could've given David a run for his money (2 Samuel 6:14). My mother-in-law quickly joined in, and we were both jumping for joy. Grace looked at us with a crooked smile as if we had both lost our minds. But once I explained to her that her mommy's Bible study was going to be presented to a publishing board, she rose from her seat and began dancing too!

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the emotional high of Friday night to be replaced by an emotional low. Fear replaced confidence. Doubt replaced belief. And before I knew it, I was completely overwhelmed.

What if my proposal actually got accepted? How would I juggle writing a book with mothering three children seven and under and homeschooling two of them? What if I didn't have the endurance to pen an entire curriculum? What if I let the publisher down? I was plagued with what ifs. No one in the publishing world ever told me that success was just as scary as failure.

But then I remembered that God is not the Father of fear. That title belongs to the Devil. God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I don't have to be afraid because God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called.

One of my devotions this week in Jesus Calling summed it up superbly.

Walk peacefully through this day. You are wondering how you will cope with all that is expected of you. You must traverse this day like any other: one step at a time. Instead of mentally rehearsing how you will do this or that, keep your mind on My Presence and on taking the next step. The more demanding your day, the more help you can expect from me. This is a training opportunity, since I designed you for deep dependence on your Shepherd-King.

Walk peacefully.

Don't wonder- trust.

Take one step at a time.

Keep my mind filled with the perfect presence of Christ.

Expect more help when the days are demanding.

Realize I'm traversing God's training ground.

So I've vowed to walk peacefully and wait expectantly on the harvest. And even if I have to run to the horizon seven times before God answers (1 Kings 18:44), my prayer is that I'll run believing He is able.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The S Word

This summer, my husband Mark and I cruised to Cozumel to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. We had an incredible time and were thrilled beyond belief when an email survey landed in our inbox a few days after we returned home. Now I'm not usually a survey girl, but this was no ordinary survey. Upon completion of our customer satisfaction survey, we would be entered for a chance to win a FREE cruise!

So you can imagine how ecstatic I was a few weeks later when I received a call from Cruise and Land Promotions announcing that we won! I hurriedly scratched the trip details on a scrap piece of paper and hung up with the customer service agent. My fingers danced over the keypad of my cell phone as I dialed my husband's work number.

Our conversation went something like this.

Me: MARK!!!!! We won! We won the cruise! You know, from when we completed the survey!

Mark: Are you sure, Stephanie? It's free? Nothing in this world is free. Are you sure it's not a scam?

Me: Mark, this is a blessing. Why are you so negative all the time? It's free, except for the government taxes. You know the company can't wave taxes!

Mark: Stephanie, we'll talk about this when I get home.

Me: {Huff} Ok, but we have to call the company back by 6 p.m.

When Mark strolled through the door at 5:45, I was on the phone with the cruise company. After all, we only had 15 more minutes to make a decision! His skeptical look warned me I was in for a battle.

I covered the mouthpiece of the phone and asked Mark to hand me the credit card. He said, "Stephanie, I don't have a good feeling about this. I still think it's a scam!" I shoved the phone at Mark so the customer service rep could convince him that the deal was legit.

After a few minutes, Mark handed me the phone. "Book it," he said.

I did, of course, and was overjoyed until later that evening when Mark approached me with a sullen look on his face. He had just Googled the cruise company and discovered that his hunch was right after all. There was entry upon entry on the internet from people who had been taken for a "free" ride.

Suddenly the sting of conviction pierced my soul. If only I had been willing to submit.

According to Strong's concordance, submit means to be subject or accountable to another. It involves a voluntary attitude of giving in.

Subjection.

Accountability.

Giving In.

I don't know about you, but those aren't things I do naturally.

The beautiful thing is, I don't have to! The Holy Spirit is at work in me to lead me into all truth. And since He doesn't ever speak one word on His own authority, I'm guessing He knows a thing or two about submission!

John 16:12-14 (NKJV) says, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

These words comfort me as I continue to cultivate a heart of submission towards my husband. I know that it'll be a lifelong process, but I praise God that He's given me a perfect picture within the Trinity of what submission looks like. And just as the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus through submission, I hope that through submission to my husband I'll bring Him glory as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Decorating 101

Are you already dreaming of a white Christmas, or do you savor this time of year and relish the beauty it brings? In my last post Plugged in Yet Disconnected, I wrote about my memorable trip to the attic to find my orange tote of fall decorations. Now I’d like to unpack that box for you and show you how to become a “fall” decorating diva! Using just a few essential items, you can add a splash of color to your home this harvest season.

First, we’ll add some ambience to your fireplace mantel.

Grab a string of 50 clear lights, a garland of brightly colored leaves, two small pie pumpkins, two pinecones, and a large fall flower arrangement.
  • Wind the string of clear lights around the garland.
  • Put the flower arrangement in the center of the mantel. I got this one for $5.00 at Wal-Mart at the end of the season last year!
  • Place the pumpkins on either side of the flowers. Mine are from our trip to the Fiddlin’ Rooster Farm’s pumpkin patch!
  • The pinecones are next- put them next to the pumpkins on the side near the flowers.
  • Then weave the lighted garland throughout the decorations. I went behind the pumpkins and in front of the flowers, leaving a little garland hanging off each side of the mantle.
Voila! This arrangement looks stunning at night!



Next, we’ll tackle the coffee table. You’ll need two topiaries, a rustic looking bowl or basket, various gourds, and a small scarecrow.
  • Fill the bowl or basket with fun gourds of varying colors and shapes.
  • Position the scarecrow sitting on the back edge of the bowl, and don’t forget to cross his legs!
  • Place the two topiaries equal distances from the bowl. I bought these for $2.50 each last year at Wal-Mart’s end of the season sale!
And there you have it- a simple, stylish tablescape even the kids will love!



Now that we’ve added a touch of color to the living room, let’s liven up the dining room!

To create a simple yet elegant centerpiece for your dining room table, use a festive fall wreath and a simple glass hurricane.
  • Set a warm-colored candle in the hurricane.
  • Place the hurricane in the center of the wreath.
This is a centerpiece that could double in Decorating for Dummies. You can easily copy this beautiful arrangement regardless of your decorating expertise!




If you have a buffet in your dining room, create a beautiful tablescape using candles and flowers.

You’ll need a formal flower arrangement with deep, vibrant colors; a gold charger; pillar candles; and candle holders.
  • Place the flowers in the center of the buffet. A gold charger placed behind the flowers makes the colors in the arrangement pop.
  • Put candles on either side of the arrangement. I bought these leaf-embossed candles last year at the Dollar Tree.
So stylish and simple!



Last but not least, splash pockets of color around your home using straw pumpkins, leaves, and gourds. Place pumpkins and gourds of varying sizes on top of leaves to go from plain to pizzazz!


I hope you’ve enjoyed a sneak peek into my home and that you’ll try some of these doable decorating ideas!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Plugged in Yet Disconnected

Ahhh... it's one of my favorite times of year. The cool winds are beginning to blow in the deep south, and I can hear leaves crunching under my children's feet as they romp in the back yard.  We're welcoming fall at our house, and with that comes a necessary trip into the attic to pull out orange straw pumpkins, vibrant leaves, and gourds galore!
My mother-in-law and I formulated a decorating plan last Friday, and we took my three kids and excitedly entered the attic to hunt for the bright orange box full of fall decorations. Everything was going well until darkness enveloped us. My boys were horsing around, and I figured one of them broke the utility lamp hanging from the rafters.
I checked the extension cord to see if it was still plugged into the outlet. It was. 

Then I changed the light bulb.

But darkness remained.

So I did what any good Southern girl would do- I called a man!

My father-in-law walked through my kitchen door with his own utility lamp five minutes later, and as soon as my mother-in-law placed the new lamp in my hand, light illuminated my attic. My son Joey had diagnosed the problem. Even though the extension cord was plugged into the outlet, the lamp was not plugged into the extension cord.

All that time it had been plugged in yet disconnected.
By this point, I was frustrated by the wasted time and my father-in-law's wasted trip. But the Lord used this illustration to show me that I can be just like my utility lamp. I can be plugged into Jesus. I can know Him as my Lord and Savior. But if I'm not careful, I can easily become disconnected. My light can be snuffed out when my eyes aren't fixated on Him. I need to constantly peer through the magnifying glass of God's Word and look for disconnections in my life.

Jesus came to give us abundant life in Him. He never desired that we plug into the source and then decide for ourselves how to live. He wants us to remain fully connected to Him so that He can transform our lives.

In her book Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, "We are not to be molded by the culture, as so many believers are today, but be so filled with the Spirit and the Word of God that our lives will penetrate and convict the culture around us." We need to be "transformers," not "conformers."

When we're conformers, we become disconnected and don't shed light. In fact, we blend right into the darkness. But when we're transformers, our lights blaze so brightly that we penetrate the darkness around us.

Let's sparkle together today as transformers! May we keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus- the author, perfector, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Seeking His Love

Today I have the amazing privilege of interviewing my dear friend Carrie Turansky ... a woman who has poured her life into mine in the past and continues to do so in the present!

Carrie just released her new novel Seeking His Love last week and stopped by today to give us a glimpse into her world as a wife, a mom, a writer, and most importantly, a daughter of the King. If you'd like to win a copy of this amazing book courtesy of Carrie, be sure to leave a comment below!

Carrie lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott.They have been married for over thirty years and have five young adult children and three grandchildren.

Carrie leads women’s ministry at her church, teaches Bible studies, and enjoys mentoring younger women. When she is not writing or spending time with her family, she enjoys reading, gardening, trying out new recipes, and walking around the lake near their home.

Carrie and her family spent a year in Kenya, giving them a love for what God is doing around the world. Carrie has authored several novellas for Barbour and two novels for Steeple Hill.

Carrie, you play multiple characters in your own story: wife, mother of five, mother-in-law to two, grandma of three, pastor’s wife, church planter, and, last but not least, writer! How do you manage all these responsibilities and still find time to pen great stories?

My husband Scott and I often joke that life is never boring around our house. When I started writing twelve years ago I was homeschooling all five children, so I was even busier then than I am now. I learned some important skills during those years like how to focus my attention for writing and time management.

These days I feel like I have plenty of time to write, be involved with my husband in ministry, and stay connected to my young adult children and grandchildren. I am busy, but I enjoy each of these areas of my life. I try to set realistic deadlines with the help of my agent, and I use weekly word count goals so I know I will finish my books on time. I’ve never missed a deadline yet. That gives me freedom to do other things and still stay on track with my books.

On your website, you give the credit for your inspiration and story ideas to a vibrant and growing relationship with Christ. Tell us a little bit about how your relationship with God influences your writing life.

My relationship with Christ is central to all I do. Spending time in His word and in ministry gives me a wonderful well to draw from when I write my stories. My husband and I have done quite a bit of counseling and personal ministry with people. That gives me compassion and insight into God’s answers for the problems and conflicts my characters face. Sitting under good Bible teachers deepens my faith, and I believe that gives me wisdom for the themes and truths I want to include in my books. Hearing back from readers and knowing that my stories have encouraged them and helped them is one of the biggest blessings I’ve received as an author.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

My biggest challenge is choosing which optional activities I’ll say yes to. I love spending time with friends and serving at my church, but I’m learning to wait a day or two before I say yes to an invitation or new activity. That gives me time to pray, check with Scott, and think through how much time will be required before I make a decision.

As part of my quiet time each morning I create a list for the day, plan my schedule, and think through what is most important. Praying about this helps me be sensitive to the Spirits leading. Then when interruptions come, as they usually do, I trust that God is behind those, and I feel less frustrated.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I think my experiences in life and my years in ministry have shaped me and given me a deep love for the Lord and for people. I believe those come through in my storytelling. My themes are often a reflection of lessons I have learned, sermons I’ve heard, Bible studies I’ve been involved with, or people I’ve counseled or mentored. And my gift of encouragement is often a motivating force behind my storytelling voice.

Where else can readers find you or your writing online?

Please stop by my website at http://www.carrieturansky.com/. I have some great recipes from my books, photos, articles, and information for writers and readers. I'd love for you to read the first chapter of Seeking His Love here. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you, Carrie, for spending time with us at Sparkling to Reflect His Glory. May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His face shine upon you and bring you peace as you continue to point others to Him.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Obedience Isn't Optional

Have you ever seen a child clap his hands over his ears when he doesn’t want to listen? Joey, my five-year old son, often tries this trick. He’s convinced that if he covers his ears tightly enough he won’t have to obey the command he’s missing. Sometimes he even hums loudly to make sure he’s drowning me out.

When this happens, I bend down, peer into Joey’s eyes, and pry his tiny hands off his ears. I remind him that obedience isn’t optional. I reinforce my expectations. And then I help him follow through.

If I’m not careful, I can mimic my five-year old. I can easily cover my ears when the Holy Spirit whispers to my soul. But He nudges me with the same truth I teach Joey: obedience isn’t optional.

It was the last morning of the She Speaks conference, and as you know from my previous posts Brokenhearted- Part 2, Seemingly Insignificant, Friends are Friends Forever, On Holy Ground, and Carving a New Niche, it had been quite a weekend. As the keyboard echoed a beautiful melody and Cheri Keaggy’s voice reverberated through the conference ballroom in a hymn of praise, the Lord stirred my spirit.

“Kneel down, put your face to the ground, and worship Me,” He said. My flesh groaned and I thought, “Lord, there are 600 women in this room. They’re all gonna think I’m weird.” But I knew what I had heard. So I got down on my face before God and humbled my prideful flesh.

In the stillness of surrender, the Lord spoke again. “When you return to Oxford, you’re going to tell Eric what I’ve done in your life this weekend. Then you need to ask his permission to testify about how I’ve miraculously moved and tell him you feel led to corporately repent in front of the entire congregation.”

Corporately repent? In front of 1000 people?

With my face low to the ground, I thought I might vomit as I wrestled with the magnitude of God’s request. Yet I knew I had to obey, and I made a vow to the Lord that if Pastor Eric allowed me to speak I would do exactly what He’d asked of me.

As our time of worship drew to a close, the She Speaks staff invited us to come and lay our prayer requests at the foot of one of the two wooden crosses stationed at each end of the ballroom and pick up a promise from God’s Word from the hundreds waiting for us there.

When I laid my request down at the foot of the cross and picked up my promise, hot tears began streaming down my face. The verse read, “If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever.” John 14:15-16, Amplified Version

Immediately I knew what the Lord had spoken over my life moments earlier would indeed come to pass.That’s because love is tied to obedience, and you can’t love God and refuse to obey Him.

As I sat in the hotel lobby a few hours later waiting to catch my shuttle to the airport, the Lord arranged an appointment with Linda Hicks, another conference attendee. Linda was on the speaker’s track, and when she said she had a passion for teaching women the importance of obedience, I knew the Lord was about to divinely deliver another message.

“My husband had given me biblical grounds for divorce,” Linda began. “Every Saturday we met for counseling with our pastor and then had breakfast together. But this particular Saturday was different. During breakfast, the Lord said to me, ‘Linda, it’s time to take him home.’ And I thought, ‘No Lord! I can’t take him home. I’m not ready! I haven’t gotten over this.’ And the Lord said again, ‘Linda, today is the day. You must take him home!’ ” So Linda obeyed.

Linda continued, “That night, after some wonderful horizontal fellowship, I lay in my husband’s arms, my head resting against his sweaty chest as I listened to his heart pounding. He looked at me intently and said, ‘Linda, thank you. I love you so much.’ And those were the last words he ever spoke to me. He had a massive heart attack and died.”

Once again hot tears stung my eyes as I sat speechless in the oversized lounge chair next to Linda. God chose to use her in my life to make sure I didn’t wonder if I’d heard Him clearly that morning.

Needless to say, I obeyed God. And even though I thought I might be sick to my stomach as I approached the pulpit the following Sunday, I boldly proclaimed the truth God had so clearly spoken over my life.

Precious sister, is God asking for obedience in a particular area of your life? If so, I pray that you’ll fall on your face in sweet surrender to the One who can help you walk in obedience despite all of your fears and insecurities.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your Voice was Heard!

First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for your tremendous response to this survey. I submitted my proposal and manuscript to two prospective publishers today, and I was able to include feedback from 86 of you!

I'm excited to announce Shelli as the winner of Lysa's fabulous book, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith. Thank you Shelli!

The survey revealed some staggering trends in women's Bible study. While I realize some of you are huge fans of weekly Bible study, I had a hunch there were many of you out there that felt they needed something different. We are all in varying seasons of life, and some of us cannot commit to attending a Bible study every week on top of our many responsibilities.

I'm an avid fan of weekly Bible study and am currently teaching one, but most times I walk away from weekly studies excited yet overwhelmed. I often wish I’d had more time to linger a little longer in order to really apply the principles learned. I’m only usually able to apply about 50% of the material presented in a weekly Bible study because new concepts are introduced before the former ones have taken root in my soul.

Many of your responses echoed this reality.

Out of 86 women from across the U.S. surveyed on Survey Monkey:

86% feel that a once per month Bible study is needed.

90% would attend a once per month study.

57% believe the time required to attend a weekly Bible study is overwhelming.

66% believe the time required to complete daily homework assignments in a weekly Bible study is overwhelming.

70% have been tempted to stay home from weekly Bible study because they did not complete their homework.

69% would prefer a Bible study with homework that could be completed in one day.

• When asked what percent of the daily homework in a weekly Bible study they complete:

  •  10% complete 25% of their homework
  •  20% complete 50% of their homework
  •  45% complete 75% of their homework
  •  25% complete 100% of their homework
Therefore, 75% of women do not complete their daily homework in a weekly Bible study.

75% of women feel most Bible studies lack creative practical application methods such as crafts, letter writing, questionnaires, and role-play.

• When asked what percent of the information in a weekly Bible study they were able to apply to their lives before the study ends:
  • 25% said they apply 25% of the information
  • 58% said they apply 50% of the information
  • 15% said they apply 75% of the information
  • 2% said they apply 100% of the information
Therefore, the majority of women surveyed are only able to apply half of the information in a weekly Bible before the study ends.

My vision is to offer women an alternative to weekly Bible study that meets their unique needs and correlates with their season of life. Grafted into Godliness, the first of five Bible studies in the GEMS curriculum, accomplishes this goal in an innovative three-fold fashion.

Because women are busy, they need a Bible study that deeply refreshes their souls but doesn't require them to be away from their families for extended periods of time. Grafted into Godliness only requires a three-hour monthly time commitment outside the home.

Women are also burnt out and often begin a weekly Bible study looking for life change but quit before the final session. This is frequently due to their inability to complete daily homework assignments. Rather than risk embarrassment, they stop attending altogether. Grafted into Godliness provides manageable weekly homework lessons that can easily be completed in one day. This allows women freedom to finish their homework in a timely fashion and then read their Bibles the rest of the week. Suggested scripture readings that correspond with the teaching are provided to give women direction in their individual study time.

Also, some women are tired of the ho-hum flow of traditional Bible studies. They are searching for a revolutionary Bible study that applies directly to their season of life. If they invest time attending Bible study, they want to be able to practically use the biblical principles they learn day in and day out. Grafted into Godliness meets this need by providing an entire hour of hands-on application in each session. This hands-on component occurs after the lesson is presented and provides women with the opportunity to apply what they learn to their lives using creative methods such as questionnaires, crafts, letter writing, role-play, and discussion.Women leave empowered with a plan of action to pursue in the upcoming month. 

It is my prayer that Grafted into Godliness reaches millions of women willing to be polished into beautiful GEMS who glorify the Lord with their lives, encourage one another through accountability, mentor and be mentored, and serve their husbands, children, and churches sacrificially.

Thanks again for your honesty and transparency! Much love to you all!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Opinions Please!

Calling all women with an opinion! I'm taking a brief survey to identify current trends in women's Bible study. This survey is anonymous. Please provide honest feeback.

Click here to take survey

As a thank you for your time, I am giving away an autographed copy of Lysa TerKeurst's book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. If you'd like to be eligible to win this amazing book, please comment on this post and leave your name so I can enter it in the drawing. Make sure to check back next Wednesday to see if you won!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carving a New Niche

For the past several weeks, I’ve been recounting the incredible ways God moved in my life at the She Speaks conference this year. If you’re a new reader, can I just say how thrilled I am that you’ve chosen to follow the GEMS Ministry blog? And if you’re a behind the scenes beauty who secretly stops by, can I ask you to hit the grey follow button on the right hand side of the screen and let me see your pretty face?

Here’s why. If you’re reading this blog, you matter to me. I’d love to hear your heart, to interact with you, to get to know you. And you just may be a part of history in the making.

History in the making? Yes, you read that right. Because a part of what was so incredibly amazing at the conference this year was that both publishers I met with requested my proposal for Grafted into Godliness, the first of five Bible studies in the GEMS curriculum. In fact, when I went to leave my last publisher interview, the editor said, “You sit down!” She then ran to her briefcase, whipped out her company’s submission guidelines, and scratched her email at the bottom of one of the pages. She looked at me with intensity and said, “Don’t follow any of the directions on this sheet. If you do, your manuscript will end up in a pile on a desk somewhere and I’ll never see it. I want you to send everything you have to my personal email address. I need to look at this immediately. There’s nothing like this out there!” And then she leaned forward, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “And just so you know, this never happens.”

To say I floated out of that interview would be a grave understatement. Although the Lord had given me such clarity during my interview, I couldn’t form a coherent sentence while speaking with my husband a few minutes later. My hand quivered as I held my phone to my mouth, and my words tumbled out in a jumbled mess as I screamed into the phone.

You see, the editor I met with was right on the money. There’s no other Bible study currently on the market that even remotely resembles GEMS. So I’m basically carving a new niche. And I’ll admit sometimes it’s a little scary. I’m like the Little Engine That Could going straight uphill saying, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” I’m an unknown girl in this industry but known in my innermost being by my Heavenly Father. My name is inscribed upon the palm of His hand. I’ve got a God-sized vision for women that only He can bring to fruition.

So I’m asking- will you pick up your chisel and carve this niche with me? Will you come along on this journey that will likely expose every one of my fears and perhaps a few failures along the way? I hope you’ll come. Cause I’d never want to do it without a single one of you!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Big Mouth Mama

“Big mouth Mama!” The thought seared my subconscious as horror set in. “This must be some kinda joke.” With lightening speed I shot an email to Lexie, the girl in charge. She needed to be informed- PRONTO! After all, my head wasn’t supposed to be cut off, right?


My first piece of published writing was featured Saturday on Mary DeMuth’s website in her Thin Place feature. Much to my chagrin, it wasn’t quite like I imagined it would be. When I excitedly clicked on the link to my post early Saturday morning, the picture above illuminated my computer screen.

And truly, I was horrified. But the horror quickly turned humorous as I chuckled to myself. I knew there must be some spiritual lesson the Lord wanted to teach me and you.

With beams of sunlight dancing off the lake and wind whipping through my hair, I opened my Bible a few hours later. My husband and I weren’t spotting any boaters with our high speed binoculars, so I decided to sneak in a couple of chapters in Isaiah. (Mark and I get paid to spy on people and record whether they’re wearing life jackets!)

As I soaked in the words of Isaiah 58, verse 13 leapt off the page as if it were shouting at me. The latter half of it read, “…honor the Lord in everything you do, and don’t follow your desires or talk idly.”

Talk idly? Idly means nonchalantly, carelessly, or absentmindedly. It denotes speaking casually without thinking first. An idle word isn’t profitable to others; it’s barren and useless.

I don’t know about you, but I’m often guilty of idle chatter. I love to talk and will bend the ear of anyone who’ll listen. I’m not always the woman with the quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4).

But in that moment, the Lord reminded me of an important truth found in Matthew 12:36-37. One day, I’ll give an account of every idle word I speak. And so, sweet sister, will you.

Now I know why my mouth was emblazoned across my computer screen Saturday morning. God saw fit to send me a friendly reminder about the kind of mouthpiece He desires me to be. So in the magnificent words of Colossians 3:17, may everything I do and everything I say be an accurate representation of my precious Jesus. I pray this will be your heart’s cry as well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Holy Ground

It was 11:00 p.m. Friday night. As I rode the elevator back up to my hotel room at the She Speaks conference, my eyes threatened to close. But sleep wouldn't come anytime soon. Images of book proposals and publisher interviews danced in my head as I slid the slender hotel key card into the door. The green light flickered, and I tumbled into the living room of my suite, exhausted.

Before me sat my two beautiful roommates, Hester Christensen and Shelby Howard.


They looked up at me with smiling eyes. Instantly my heart skipped a beat. These women were prayer warriors.

I dropped my red leather bag on the floor and plopped down on the couch next to them. I asked them to lay their hands on me and pray for strength. There was so much to do before tomorrow. And tomorrow was only 8 hours away.

Together we passionately petitioned our Savior, and as we exited the throne room of God, peace enveloped my soul like a river. I swung my red leather bag back over my shoulder and headed down to the lobby to write. I needed to make finishing touches on my book proposal for my publisher interviews the following day.

As I turned the corner in the lobby, I heard the still, small voice of God. "Go the prayer room, Stephanie." For a brief second my flesh argued, "Lord, I don't have time. It's almost midnight. There's still so much to do before morning!" Again the Holy Spirit beckoned me with His quiet voice. Without hesitation I obeyed.

On the way, I passed Luann Prater, my speaker evaluation leader for the weekend and the She Speaks team member overseeing the prayer room.
 
She smiled warmly and asked where I was headed. "To the prayer room," I answered. She nodded knowingly. She and her team had prayed believing that when each of the 608 conference attendees entered that room they'd be standing on holy ground.

And holy ground it was. Soothing music echoed off the walls intermingled with the soft sniffles of women's cries. Beautifully decorated tables displayed the names of God. Upon each name of God rested the names of several conference women, with every name prayed over before being carefully placed.

I excitedly searched the table for my name. I scarcely believed my eyes when I found it. My name lay on El, the name of God meaning "the Strong One." Underneath I found this simple definition. "He is more powerful than any false god. God will overcome all obstacles. I can depend on God."

Hot tears stung the back of my eyes as I marveled at God's sovereignty. Jesus wooed me to the prayer room to confirm He had heard the cries of His girls in Room 609 just moments earlier. To remind me that He could overcome any obstacle. To encourage my dependence on Him and Him alone.

I left the prayer room energized. No longer was I weary. As I opened my laptop to polish my proposal, I imagined Jesus sitting right beside me. He was smiling. Steadied. Strong.

It only took an hour to finish my work. God's power truly was made perfect in my weakness. His grace was sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Maybe today you  feel weary. Beaten down. Broken.

Run to God's throne room and find rest for your soul. Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Won't you trade in your burden for His?

Friday, August 27, 2010

And the Winner is...

Meet Jennifer Johnson, the winner of my blog contest. She's a 20-something lover of Jesus. A wife to Todd. And Mom to Kaitlyn and a baby boy due in January. Jennifer is a SAHM committed to God's calling on her family's life.

 
Todd and Jennifer moved to Oxford, MS in August 2009 to join staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Todd is the Director of Ole Miss FCA as well as the baseball and basketball chaplain on campus. Jennifer also works part-time from home as Administrative Assistant for Ole Miss FCA.The FCA's mission is to minister to athletes and coaches at Ole Miss. Todd and Jennifer hope to see those coaches and athletes in their sphere of influence impacted for Jesus Christ. Their ministry on campus includes but is not limited to:
  • Weekly Huddle meetings
  • Student leadership training
  • Small group Bible studies
  • Coaches Bible studies
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Team chapels
  • Accountability groups
  • Fellowship events
  • Camps/retreats
  • Game day rallies
Please help Todd and Jennifer impact the Ole Miss campus by:


Praying - They need committed prayer warriors praying for their staff, administration, coaches, and athletes on a regular basis.

Giving - They are fully funded by donations and this ministry would not be possible without the help and collaboration of their supporters!

For more information about their amazing ministry, please visit them at http://www.olemissfca.org/ or contact Todd Johnson at toddjohnson@fca.org.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friends are Friends Forever

To update all my new followers, I am in the process of chronicling my amazing weekend at She Speaks 2010. To catch up on how God emptied me of ME before the conference, check out my post Brokenhearted. Then read my two entries Brokenhearted-Part 2 and Seemingly Insignificant.

Done backtracking? Now fast forward to Friday.

After one of the breakout sessions, God blessed me with a new girlfriend named Lisa to encourage my heart.

 She is a Methodist girl; I am a Baptist girl. But both of us are Jesus girls, which raises a few eyebrows at the southern churches we attend.

We openly shared our struggles, our hurts, and our disappointments. We talked about how difficult it was to feel like foreigners within our own church walls.

As our conversation drew to a close, I told Lisa how God had been stirring my heart and showing me that I needed to repent. That maybe I somehow caused the women at my church to treat me differently because my heart had become hardened. I was afraid of rejection. I feared man and not God. And in the process I had built an airtight wall around my heart that few women in my church could penetrate. I had failed to love and in the process appeared self-righteous and judgmental.

Together Lisa and I covenanted to pray for the women at our churches. To reach out to them in love. I shared with Lisa how a group of ladies in New Jersey had poured their lives into me when I was a baby Christian. They didn’t judge me for wearing slinky camisoles and teeny-tiny shorts to church, although I’m sure they wanted to put blindfolds over their husbands' eyes. 

They loved me to the feet of Jesus.

After Lisa and I parted, I headed to the elevator. As I rounded the corner, there stood one of the women I had been telling Lisa about. Robin Downs.

She was smiling from ear to ear, just like I remembered her. I hadn’t seen her in seven years since I moved from New Jersey to Mississippi. She along with my former pastor’s wife, Carrie Turansky, and another friend, Maria Reyes, had flown in for the conference. I had no idea they would be there. But God did.

In that moment God whispered once again, “Stephanie, I am a God of details. I have every detail of this weekend perfectly orchestrated.” I quickly grabbed my little pink notepad out of my bag and showed it to Robin. As tears of joy streamed down my face, I told her of the mighty ways God had moved in less than twenty-four hours.

Little did I know, God wasn't finished moving. He had only just begun.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's a Blog Party- Win a Fabulous Prize Pack

To celebrate the spectacular time I had at the She Speaks conference, I decided to throw a blog party. I've lit some candles on top of a delicious strawberry Emileigh's cake courtesy of my Ruby leaders, and the GEMS and I had a marvelous time recounting the miracles God performed at the conference.


We would love for you to be a part of our celebration!

At the beginning of next week, I will be giving away a fantastic prize pack to one of my awesome followers.

Not a follower? No need to worry! Click on the "Follow" button to the right. Go on. I'll wait for you!

That just earned you 3 points!

This amazing prize package includes:

1) My favorite CD- A personalized autographed copy of Cheri Keaggy's newest release- Because He First Loved Us (Thanks Cheri!!)

2) My favorite book- Radical-Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

3) A replica of the notepad that changed my life.

4) My favorite movie- Fireproof

5) My favorite candy and yours...now that we're friends! (Don't forget to leave your favorite candy in the comments.)

NOW....increase your chances of winning by doing the following:

  • Tell your friends about my giveaway! If they follow and then comment and mention your name, you receive 10 points!
  • Link to this contest from your blog- 5 points
  • New Followers- 3 points
  • Tweet it- 2 points
  • Facebook it- 2 points
OK! Tally up your points and leave them in the comment section with your favorite candy and I'll give you one more point just for following directions!

Hopefully you'll score all 23 points which gives you 23 chances of having your name drawn from my random number generator!

On your mark, get set, GO!!!

XOXOXO,

Stephanie


Contest closes next Monday, August 23rd and winner will be announced Friday, August 27th.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seemingly Insignificant

An ornately decorated pink notepad. Seemingly insignificant. Ordinary.

Yet as Karen True stated simply at the She Speaks 2010 conference, God often chooses to do extraordinary things with ordinary objects like Moses’ staff, David’s five stones, and Samson’s long hair.

And that is exactly what He did with my little pink notepad. Extraordinary things.

You see, Diana, my partner in ministry and sweet sister in Christ, gave me this notepad last year as part of a care package for She Speaks 2009.


It sat unused during last year’s conference and all throughout this year. Forgotten.

But God had big plans for my forgotten notepad. After arriving at the hotel Thursday for the 2010 conference, the group of ladies I rode with from the airport all decided to have lunch together. We were earthly strangers but heavenly sisters. As we sat at the round table sharing our hearts, Jeri Lynn mentioned a particular Bible she thought I’d enjoy. The Key Word Study Bible.

As I pulled out my tiny tablet to write down the reference, Jeri Lynn said, “Let me see that notepad. I have one just like it!” And then Elisa, who was sitting next to me, said “I have one of those too!” Three of the four of us had the exact same notepad. We marveled at the sovereignty of God. But the story gets better.

When I took out that notepad to write down the room numbers of my new girlfriends, we marveled once again at God’s power.

605, 609, 614, 615.

Out of 608 women from 48 states, God saw it fit to put us all on the same hallway at the Embassy Suites. According to Renee Swope, who commented below (thanks Renee!), even the Proverbs 31 speaker team doesn't get to be on the same floor!

And then I heard Him whisper, “Stephanie. I concern myself with every detail of your life. I am a God of details. No matter what happens this weekend, your times are in my HAND. Don’t ever forget it!”

Maybe today you feel forgotten. Unnoticed. Insignificant.

Always remember that you are God's masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do the work He predestined for you before He spoke the foundations of the world into existence. (Ephesians 2:10)

He has a magnificent plan for your life. And he loves you deeply.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Brokenhearted- Part 2

Let me just begin by saying I didn't know this would be a two-part post. But God did. He ordained my fingers to fly over my computer keyboard two weeks ago in preparation for what He was going to do in my heart this year at the She Speaks Conference.

You see, I have been in the process of revival for a while. A year to be exact. Unlike physical CPR, spiritual CPR doesn't revive us instantly. Because revival requires repentance.

Uuuggghhh. Repentance?

You mean, admitting I AM WRONG? That I don't know everything? That I must be willing to turn and walk the other way?

Repentance is repugnant to most of us if we're honest. It makes us want to vomit. We would rather do anything than confess our sins before God or one another.

But this weekend, God brought me to a place of COMPLETE repentance that I've never known before. And the most miraculous thing happened....He turned my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

Through a series of events sprinkled with the fingerprints of God, He reminded me that He is a God of details. He concerns himself with every aspect of my life. He charts the path ahead of me and tells me where to stop and rest.

EVERY MOMENT HE KNOWS WHERE I AM. (Psalm 139)

I hope you'll join me over the next few weeks as I share with you what God has done and continues to do in my life. Along the way, you'll meet some of my new girlfriends from She Speaks.

As my ornately decorated notepad with its sparkling pink GEM on the cover says..."I will praise you, O Lord, with ALL my heart; I will tell of all your wonders."

By the way, this little notepad has a big God story attached to it! More on that next time...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brokenhearted

As I sit here in the solitutude of this place, tears threaten to well up in my eyes once again. I have so much I want to say yet no idea how to possibly articulate every word.

For months now I have sensed God's spirit blowing revival into my life. Now don't get me wrong, I am crazy in love with Jesus and have been for many years. I've been described as a girl who oozes Jesus. Who is passionate about the things of God. But so often in my pursuit of the Living God, I have shifted my focus off of Him and back onto myself.

A few days ago during my prayer time I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, and His message was so utterly clear. And instantly I knew...

"I have made an idol out of me."

ME.

As much as I desire to bring glory and honor to God, I confess that so often my world spins around my wants, my needs, and my desires. I can easily become my own idol.

In that moment, I experienced an epiphany of sorts and realized the depth of my selfish sin nature in a way I never had before.

And I was truly brokenhearted.

I think so often as Christians we spend a lot of time talking about how we need to get serious about our sin. We set up checklists of do's and don'ts in an effort to please God. We forget that sin is simply broken fellowship with God and every time we choose to disconnect from our Maker we invite sin to take up residence in our lives and establish a foothold. But God does not just ask us to take our sin seriously, He asks us to be brokenhearted over it.

Have you ever really considered what it means that our sin grieves the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 4:30 says "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

Grieve comes from the Greek word lypeŇć meaning to distress, to be sad, to cause grief, to be in heaviness, to make sorry.

Can you imagine God's utter remorse, His distress, His heaviness of Spirit when we willingly choose our sin over His righteousness? When we choose to reject the completed work of Jesus' death on the cross and refuse to walk in the promises of His Word that proclaim that sin has no power in our lives (Romans 6:6-8)?

Today my prayer is that as a body of believers we would become brokenhearted over our sin. That we would plug back into our only source of power and surrender our lives to Christ moment by moment. May the Spirit of God's conviction fall so heavily on our hearts that we will be distressed enough to leave our old man behind once and for all and walk victoriously in the newness of Christ.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Speak Lord, I'm Listening

Do you ever have "one of those days"? You know, the one where chaos reigns no matter how much you desire order and stability? As the school year draws to an end, I find myself having "one of those days" more frequently than I'd like to admit. It seems that this time of year often breeds burnout in my life... as I hurriedly attempt to finish all I have committed to start.

Yet God in His everlasting love and unfailing mercy never fails to meet me where I am. And even in the midst of the noise, He speaks. All I have to do is listen. God desires to teach me at every given moment by the power of the Holy Spirit. When I feel like a failure, He ministers truth. When I am tempted to give up, He brings encouragement for the future. He reminds me through His Word that my biggest weakness is His greatest strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). His power is truly made perfect through my imperfections.

The next time you feel discouraged cry out to the Lord. Ask Him to speak to you in the midst of your circumstances. And then listen as He whispers truth to your heart and lavishes His love upon you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Disconnect

Brace yourself. This post will not be light and fluffy.

Let's just say it's been a long month, filled with joys and sweet memories of the holidays. But in many ways it has been a season of testing, of reflection, and of self-examination. I don't know about you, but when the Lord takes out His magnifying glass and the Spirit begins to move in my heart, it is not always peachy.

Growth often requires pain as the Lord cuts away anything that is not of Him in our lives.

One thing I have been pondering is something I call the "disconnect." That is, the tendency believers have to know a lot about God, to worship Him faithfully each Sunday, and then to "disconnect" what they know from their everyday living. The truth is our fleshly tendency is to be like the man in James 1, who looks in the mirror and upon leaving immediately forgets what he looks like.

What I am convinced of is that we serve a holy God. A perfect God. A God who cares about the daily life decisions we choose to make. There is no way to separate our actions and our choices from His presence. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is a reality to every believer.

Whether we like it or not, Jesus is always right beside us.

He is concerned with how we speak to our husbands, how we parent our children, what clothes we wear, what areas of ministry we serve in, what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio, what books and magazines we peruse, and how we treat the clerk at the check out counter.

He has called us to holiness, not mediocrity. Through His shed blood on the cross, He has made the way for us to live abundantly.

So the question is, does that excite you? And more importantly, do your choices excite Jesus, or grieve Him?

I don't know about you, but I want 2010 to be different. I want to live as an heir to the throne because I am a daughter of the King. I want to be free of the sin in my life that so easily entangles me. And you know what, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can be. And so can you.