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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.



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.