Real Hope for America

I hear a lot of negativity about our nation and our president and the upcoming election.  A loss of hope.  Yes, things are going in the horribly wrong direction, but don’t give up!!  Don’t lose hope!!  Please continue to pray for a good Godly president and Godly leaders.  Also, we should be praying for our current president too.  It kills me when people wish for his death or wish harm to his family!  Come on people.  President Obama has a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters.  Shame on us (me included) for saying such harmful things.

Please help me to continue to pray for this nation.  This nation was founded on God.  There is still so much good!  It seems like it is easier to dwell on the negative than the positive in all aspects of life.  I beg of you all to help me to keep hope for America.  If we all lose hope, she will die.  We live in such an amazing place and are so privileged and spoiled to the easiness of life we have.  Most of us have never wanted for water, something that is not available for many around the world.  This is still a great nation and I’m not giving up on her!  We have what it takes to make this nation great again.  Prayer.

This is a spiritual battle and we need to stand up and fight!  Countless men and women have given their lives for the freedom we enjoy.  We are engaging in another battle for that freedom.  This one will only be won with prayer.  Please don’t stand idle just watching America slip away wondering what in the world is happening.  Please join me in fighting this spiritual battle.  Let’s call down angels over this nation.  Let’s pray for our local, state and federal leaders by name.  Let’s sound the alarm far and wide that we refuse to give up on her and refuse to speak negatively about her and that no matter what anyone says or how bleak the situation may seem that we will keep hope.  With God ALL things are possible!

I don’t even know why I’m writing this really.  I guess I’m just tired of all the negative things being said about America and the hateful gestures toward our current president who though we may totally disagree with, should still be lifting up in prayer if nothing more than praying that he causes no more harm.  Will you fight with me?  Will you pray with me that God will once again place His hand on American.  God knows the plans He has.  His timing is perfect and whatever happens we can know that we did our best and fought our hardest and didn’t just lay back and say what will be will be.

So the next time you fill up your gas tank and want to complain about the high prices instead say a prayer for America.  Let those things that remind you of how bad this nation is getting remind you to pray for her.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21

I’ll get off my soap box now. God bless you all and God bless America the land that I love!

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Love Like There’s No Tomorrow

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.  We have no idea what tomorrow holds.  It may sound a bit morbid, but love everyone like they are going to die tomorrow.  Don’t end up living with regret.  If your friend or family member were to die, whatever argument you had would not seem so important then would it.  Be quick to forgive.  Be slow to hate.  It takes time and effort, but they would be well spent.  Be sure to take the time to give your kids and spouse a hug and kiss and tell them you love them before they walk out the door.  Call your friend or send them an email just to let them know you are thinking of them.  Witness and love on that lost soul before it is too late.  Even love on your pets a little bit more.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  To my friends and family who read this I love you all and am grateful to have you all in my life.

Happily Home – Fasting

First I wanted to say a thank you to everyone for all the love and support you’ve given me the past few days over the loss of my beagle baby.  Your prayers and love are helping me heal.

Now, Happily Home is a blog written by a very good friend of mine and she wrote a post today that I really enjoyed.  It was on fasting.  The Bible says in Matthew 6 – when you pray, when you give, and when you fast.  Now most people don’t have a problem with the first one, the second is a little harder for some people, but the last one I think is typically ignored.  I have to admit that fasting is hard for me too.  Instead of talking about it I would like for you to read Angie’s blog on how she recently completed a 40 day fast!

I Just Completed a 40 Day Fast!

And I feel AMAZING!
Fist of all, before I get into telling you about this amazing journey, I want to preface a couple of things.

#1. I am not telling you this story for any sort of glory for myself. If you only knew (and if you read this blog, you probably already do) what a lazy, undisciplined slacker I can be, you’d know I could NEVER do anything like this on my own…NEVER! I give God ALL the glory! I believe Satan has twisted the scriptures when Jesus talks about what hypocrites the Pharisees were for fasting and then bragging about it. We’re so afraid of “losing our reward,” that it is not even discussed among Christian circles, let alone actually practiced. As a matter of fact, if you do talk to your Christian brothers and sisters about fasting, a terror filled concern for you comes over them and they think you’re crazy and they try to talk you out of it! So, we should look at Matthew 6:16 with some wisdom and not condemnation for the person who is earnestly humbling him/herself before the Lord in fasting and prayer and support them, not condemn them, judge them or for heaven’s sake, not try to talk them out of it! If we never talk about it, or ever see anyone who did it and came out perfectly fine on the other side, then how will we ever encourage the Church to practice this most powerful and humbling discipline?
#2. DO NOT attempt a long fast, like a 40 day or 21 day, etc. without prayer and without lots of research on how to go about it and how to come off of it. The pastor of my church in Knoxville (Knoxville Christian Center) for 12 years, Dr. Barry Culberson, did his doctoral thesis study on prayer and fasting and taught on it often. He personally fasts anywhere from 90 to 100 days a year, so I learned A LOT of truth on the subject and saw the power of God work in so many people through fasting and prayer. So, I used great wisdom when attempting to do a long fast and am using great wisdom in coming off of it. It can be dangerous going right back to burgers and pizza right after a fast. Your digestive system has essentially been asleep for 6 weeks and needs to be awakened gradually with light soups and fruits, etc. In rare cases, people have even died breaking their fast with a heavy piece of meat like a steak! So, be VERY careful!
There are lots of good articles online that are very educational and scriptural. This is a good one. And this one. There’s also a great book by the expert on fasting and prayer, Dr. Bob Rodgers of Louisville, KY, called, The 21 Day Fast (read more here). If you have medical problems, talk to your doctor about fasting.
Now, here’s my story…..
I have been feeling a call from God…a little nudge or a sort of “tug” at my spirit to specifically fast for 40 days for so long I can’t remember when I first felt it…it’s been over a year for sure. But I was never really sure it was Him. I would say, “Ok, I’ll do it.” Then I would start one day and quit the next. My last attempt at the beginning of this year, I lasted 3 days and quit again. I just knew He was saying 40 days, but I just knew I could never do that. Not eat for 40 days? Nearly 6 weeks? An overweight, lazy, quitter, food addict like me? Not eat for 40 whole days? How could God call me to do that? I think I would have been more willing to do missions in the tropical rain forest than to do a 40 day fast! But my willingness, my intense and burning desire to obey God was taking over me. All through the month of January and into February, I just didn’t want to eat. Food didn’t appeal to me, nor did it even taste good. But even in the midst of that, there was still a 2 week period where I binged day and night on sweets and junk food. I was trying to fill that longing to please the Lord with food…and I wasn’t even enjoying it.
By the middle of February, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I had to have an answer. Was this just in my head or was it really God, calling me to something uncommon and extraordinary? So one night, while out in my (wonderful) hot tub alone, I cried out to Him and asked just that! I said, “God, I CANNOT do this if I don’t know it’s you. You HAVE to give me a sign and show me that it’s not just something in my head. Because if this is just me Lord, I won’t have the strength to do it and I’ll just quit!” So I asked God for a sign. It was a beautiful, clear, starry night. The heavens were amazing that night! I decided to ask God to show me a shooting star. I said, “Lord, if you want me to do a 40 day fast, please show me a shooting star. And not just one of those streaky ones that you think, ‘maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.’ No, Lord. Show me one right in my line of vision that I know is just for me! Make it unmistakable.” I searched the sky looking for that star and didn’t see one. I stayed out there for a while longer, a song with the words, “Lord, I need You today” playing over and over in my mind. I looked up at the sky and right there, in my line of vision, right next to Orion’s belt, a beautiful, yellow and orange star, slowly streamed across the night sky. God made sure I saw it, and I KNEW it was for me! I gasped and raised my hands to praise Him as I began to cry. He heard me! HE saw me! And He answered my prayer. Then a quick wave of dread washed over me. “Well, here we go.” I thought. “I’ve gotta do it now.” Which was replaced by joy again, just as quickly. I mean, when God gives you a sign like that, it gives your spirit a mighty powerful boost! I mean, the God of all creation is backing me…how can I fail?
I told my husband about the sign and what my plans were. He smiled and said, “That’s good honey.” But he had heard this from me a million times and I never followed through, or quit just days (or hours) in. But a few days later, with a willing and humble heart, on February 8th, I began a 40 day, juice and water only fast. I was and still am unaware of why God called me to a fast. But one thing I’m trying to practice more is not always asking God, “Why?” That’s not the important question. The important question is, “How can I serve You Lord?” It doesn’t matter why. You just obey. So, I began with no clue as to why He was calling me. Even now that it’s done, while I have a few ideas, I still don’t know why He called me. And I don’t even care.
Day one was great! I wasn’t hungry, I drank my juice and my water and felt great….energized and on fire! Day two and day three were the most miserable of the whole 40 days! My body was craving the constant sugar and caffeine I was dumping into it everyday and I suffered with the worst headache of my life for two days straight. It was so bad that I stayed in bed for those two days! But the good news is, I expected that. One thing you can ALWAYS expect with a fast are headaches within the first 3 days. And just as I knew they would come, I knew they would pass. And they did. By day 3, the headaches were gone and now I was hungry. But I knew that would pass as well. In fact, I was only ever truly hungry 3 or 4 times during the entire 40 days. And I just remembered something I read a long time ago, that when you’re hungry and you skip a meal, just imagine your body taking a meal from your gut or your hips. That’s how our genius God created us! When we don’t eat, we use our stored up fat deposits for energy. And I have plenty of that, so I wasn’t worried about energy (I lost 36 pounds overall). I had enough to do the things I needed to do each day. I would feel a little light headed bending over, or standing too quickly from being seated, or from standing too long, but I never once felt faint or weak.
By and large friends, I can say with all sincerity that this fast was pretty easy. Well, as easy as fasting can be, I guess. Now don’t get me wrong, fasting, in and of itself is difficult, or it wouldn’t be such a humbling discipline. You have to completely rely on God almost every minute of the day. If for anything, to calm down your mind, because the greatest battle is there! Your mind and your flesh tell you that you should be eating. Your habits remind you that it’s breakfast time, snack time, lunch time, dinner time and that you should be eating. Your favorite late night show…the one you always eat a big bowl of ice cream in front of tempts you to got to the fridge! Food is everywhere and it’s wonderful! You remember the taste or the texture. You smell the smells and see it all around. And I’m a wife and mother. I still had to prepare food for my family! I was even invited to dinner several times and actually sat there, perfectly content, sipping my water while the others enjoyed their delicious looking and smelling entrees. It looked and smelled great, but I didn’t want it, nor did I resent them for being able to eat when I couldn’t! But friends, that’s just God. I was so content and happy being so close to Him that I wouldn’t have broken my fast for even the most delicious Paula Deen dessert! God gave me such strength and such grace. I remember one day, around day 16 or so, sitting in my bathroom and I was struggling inside. I was so hungry and my mind was all over the place. I was desiring to just eat. I had my head down in my hands asking God if this was really what I should be doing. And in my mind’s eye, I saw that shooting star again. He was reminding me that He was with me and that He saw me, even in my struggle and that He would get me through it. And He did. I immediately thanked Him and again felt invigorated and pressed on with renewed strength!
During my prayer times and Bible study times God showed me so many wonderful revelations! I even saw a miracle or two during my fast. My husband, who was, for all intents and purposes supposed to lose his job, did not! And God assured me (with another sign no doubt) that He was going to take care of us and that I did not have to worry about a thing! He spoke to me daily through His word and through TV preachers (my two favorites are Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar…meaty stuff!), who encouraged me daily. That’s one of the great blessings of fasting, the closeness you feel with God. There is nothing like it in the world. I almost didn’t want to come off the fast for fear I’d lose that closeness. I have begged God to help me continue to obey Him and to stay with me. And I know He will!
One other amazing blessing is the coming off of your fast. Your first swallow of food is so glorious! You’re aware in a way you may have never been before (if you’ve never been hungry…and let’s face it, most of us haven’t) what a gift from God food really is! What a pleasure He gave to us! And how we abuse it so. It’s not to be abused, but to be savored and enjoyed. I thank God for food. Not because it was once my friend and comforted me when I was sad, kept me company when I was lonely, entertained me when I was bored or because it was a mindless way to pass the time. I thank God for showing me that food can NEVER be a replacement for Him. And friends, He tastes so much better! I now KNOW that I KNOW what He means when He says, “…taste and see that the Lord is good!”
I broke my fast (as my pastor always preached) with chicken noodle soup. It was warm, a bit salty and just yummy! After weeks and weeks of water, juice and watered down juice, that soup was every bit as good as a big slice of prime rib! But even better were the two or three white cheddar flavored Cheez-Its! Oh my gosh! What a taste explosion! I savored every single one! And since, I’ve eaten some soft, canned pears, some macaroni tossed with salad dressing, more crackers and more soup. I feel so full even though I’ve eaten very little! And this is the plan I’m going to follow from now on (God also told me to do this years ago, but I never listened!). To only eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. Now that I know how very little food my body actually needs, I KNOW I can continue to eat this way. The good news is, NOTHING, even the most fattening foods and sweets are not off limits, only allowed if you’re hungry. And with the new level of self-control I’ve gained, I know I won’t binge on those things again. I can eat a candy bar and actually stop half-way through and put the rest away! What freedom! And one thing I’m determined to do is NOT pick up my old soda habit. I was a Coke addict of the worst kind, sometimes finishing off a two liter by myself in one day! I haven’t had a soda since February 8th and like a smoker who can’t pick up another cig, or an alcoholic who can’t ever take another drink, I know I can’t have even one again, or I’ll be right back on it! In fact, I took a sip of my daughter’s Sprite and it nearly burned my mouth up! So, no more soda for me!
God has shown me that I’m NOT a loser and a quitter and that if I line up with His will and obey Him and lean into Him, He will give me the strength to do ANYTHING! I can’t do anything on my own ya’ll. It’s all Him!
Me and G on St. Patrick’s Day (day 39 of my fast)
getting ready to go to the parade downtown.
I even found a four-leaf clover….ON FLIPPIN ST. PATRICK’S DAY! WOW!

So, I just wanted to write this to thank God first and foremost for helping me in an area where I never thought I’d have victory. He has been so good to me and I love Him more now than ever!
And I wanted to encourage you, that whatever you may be hearing from the Lord that you may be hesitant or down right resistant to doing, to just trust Him and talk to Him about it. He knew how you’d react before he ever even called you, so He’s not surprised!He has something glorious for you on the other side, if not just the deeper more intimate relationship with Him. If no other miracles happen because of this fast, I’m satisfied with Him and Him alone. His presence in my life is EVERYTHING to me.
I love you Lord!

A Tribute to Tiffany

Last night we found our sweet Tiffany dead in her kennel.  Tiffany has been a part of our famliy since she was 6 weeks old.  She was born December 19, 2003, so was 8 years old.  We were shocked by her death as we had no indication that there was even anything wrong.  I am actually grateful for that though.  I always prayed that when it was our doggies time to go that we would not have to make the decision to put them down or see them suffer for a long time.  My husband suspects a seizure, we don’t know for sure.  She will be greatly missed.  We adopted her and her brother BJ and sister Brittany to keep them together and they have never been apart.  Now our trio is down to two.

I have dreaded this day for a long time but with pets you know it is coming.  I am grateful for the 8 years that I got to spend with our beautiful beagle baby.  We loved you Tiffany and I hope you knew that.  The children are handling it well.  Better than I am.  These dogs were my first babies.

God is gracious though.  We live in a condo so could not have buried her here.  My brother-in-law Josh came over yesterday to pick something up and ended up staying late so was here and was able to take her body back to the country and bury it for us.  Lenard left to go out of town this morning so I don’t know what I would have done if Josh had not been here to help.  Thank you Josh.  It means a lot to our family.  The kids were already in bed so they did not have to go through the trauma either.  Lenard was able to tell them one-on-one this morning.  The pieces just all fell together.  I know God was there with us and is taking care of us even through our sadness.  Say a prayer for us if you would.

Wow What a Fight!

I want to start by saying that I love my husband from the bottom of my heart.  He is my best friend in the whole world and I am in no means trying to harm his reputation or make him look bad in any way.  I have his permission to write this post.  That being said Lenard and I got into a huge fight a few days ago!  Why am I telling you this?  To let you know that even us “perfect couples” have our differences and sometimes get into disagreements.

I don’t think in a marriage that you should go blabbing about when you fight and what you fight about to friends and family.  I think that is one of the problems with many marriages today and your personal stuff should be kept just that.  Therefore I will not go into the specifics of the fight.  Something I said in frustration was taken out of context by him and something he said to me was taken the wrong way as well and it ended in me storming out the front door crying and him storming out the back door angry and frustrated.  Once again my complex emotional woman brain and his simple logical male brain didn’t see things the same way.  Imagine that!  After cooling down a bit and explaining our points of view with each other we of course resolved things and made up.

We both hurt each other very bad but during the whole thing we never stopped loving each other.  We didn’t like each other very much at the moment though!  I can honestly say and he would say the same thing that even in the most heated of arguments we have had, divorce has never crossed our minds.  I am not saying this to put myself up on a pedestal or anything, but it just baffles my mind how so many people are “falling out of love” with each other.  I know that some hurts are deeper than others, but I truly believe that my God is a God who can heal even the deepest of wounds.  Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and those who are bruised and crushed by life. (Luke 4:18)  God is also a God of resurrection and He can bring back to life the deadest of marriages.  I have heard many testimonies where God has done this.  Please don’t think I am trying to condemn anyone who has gotten a divorce or who is going through a divorce.  God will meet you where you are and He is also a God of restoration.  He can put together broken pieces and form them into something beautiful.  Instead of a beautiful vase maybe you have a beautiful mosaic!

Lenard has been my best friend since we were 16.  We have been married since we were 18 and will celebrate 12 years of marriage this year.  Our souls are truly knit together and I do believe he is my soul mate from God.  We are still 2 different people with different ideas about some things and different views about how some things should be.  God gave everyone their own uniqueness.  What a boring world it would be if He hadn’t.  We should strive to look past our own points of view and try to see things from the other persons point of view as well.  You still might not agree on the subject, but at least you know where they are coming from and that’s ok!

To be honest, Lenard and I rarely fight, but when we do we can duke it out as good as the next guy.  We are not perfect.  Only Jesus is perfect.  We make mistakes and when we do we just forgive each other, make up (which is the funnest part of a fight if you know what I mean!), and move on.  What else can you do?  God honors the covenant you made on your wedding day if you will let Him.  When couples are struggling I like to point them to 1 Peter 3.  God designed marriage for a reason and if you honor Him in your marriage, He will bless you.  Marriage is so absolutely wonderful!  I cannot imagine my life without Lenard.

Here is my advice for a lasting marriage:

Keep God first.  God is the glue that holds a marriage together and no marriage is complete without Him.

Pray together out loud!  A family that prays together stays together is true.  Statistics have shown that there are very few divorces in a family that prays together out loud.  If you seek God you will find Him.

Trust each other!  If you can’t trust your spouse, who can you trust.  You cannot have a healthy relationship with secrets.

Have a good sex life!  What an amazing gift from God!  What a fun way to be intimate with your spouse.  Listen women.  Your husband NEEDS this.  If your husband is satisfied at home he will have no reason to be tempted to look elsewhere.  If you struggle with this, pray about it!  It’s ok to talk to God about sex.  I promise He won’t blush.

Husbands, your wife needs to be and feel loved.  Find out what makes her feel loved and do it.

Just be friends.  Talk with each other.  Share with each other.  Tease each other.  Do fun things with each other.

If you strive to do these things you will be on track for a wonderful and satisfying marriage.  This is still a cursed world.  Conflict WILL happen.  When you fall, just brush off the dirt, get up and keep going.

My Strong-Willed Child

I have a strong-willed child.  His name is Nathanael and he is 2 1/2 years old.  He is so sweet and smart and funny and he drives me bonkers!  For the most part he is compliant and loves to help especially when it comes to cooking, but if it is something he doesn’t want to do he will just say ‘no’ and move on.  Getting in an argument with him is pointless because he is as stubborn as a mule and will do everything in his power, even endure numerous swats on the butt, to get his way.  If someone does something to him that he doesn’t like or takes something from him he will just hit them or push them over and take it back.  Thankfully I think he does this mainly to his siblings, mostly his younger sister, and not his friends, but it can be so frustrating.  We’ve tried spanking, time-outs, reasoning, but he still just does his own thing.

Last year I read an excellent book about dealing with a strong-willed child by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias called “You Can’t Make Me” [But I can be persuaded].  This book gave an excellent look into the mind of a strong-willed person.  Instead of getting into ‘you do this because I said so’ battles she gives practical advice on how to phrase things so that your strong-willed child does not feel like you are trying to force him to do something against his will.  It has been challenging because as a parent you want your child to obey you because you said so.  Let me give you an example of how we are putting this advice into practice.  Last night at the dinner table we told Nathanael that he would have to eat his broccoli if he wanted dessert.  He said “no”.  Instead of getting into the vegetables are good for you and you need to eat them to be healthy fight, Lenard held a piece of broccoli in front of his mouth and said, “now don’t you bite my finger!”  Nathanael excitedly chomped the broccoli while Lenard made a big deal about him almost biting his finger off and he laughed and laughed and ate all his broccoli with no problem!

I think one of the biggest things that strong-willed children need, and Cynthia said this too, is unconditional love.  We try our best to shower this little guy with hugs and kisses all the time no matter how ornery he has been.  And give him praise and affirmation when he makes the right choices.  I have always tried to let my children make their own choices about things when possible and within reason, so giving Nathanael choices instead of orders was not that hard to do.  The hardest part for me is keeping my cool when Gabriel or Hannah comes up to me for the umpteenth time that day informing me that he is pummeling Sarah (who is 1) with the toy she tried to take from him.  It’s kind of tough to love him at that moment and not scream at him “why are you doing this, don’t you understand that this is not ok!”  He doesn’t talk yet except for a few words.  I know he understands what I am saying to him.  I’m hoping that once he does start talking that he can help me to see his side of things and maybe smooth things out a little.

To tell you the truth though, I am awfully fond of this little guy.  He is so special and I really like his strong will.  I know I’m crazy.  He is very independent, very determined, doesn’t give up easily when he can’t do something that he thinks he should be able to do.  These are all qualities that will serve him well later in life if he uses them properly.  I joke that he is single-handedly going to knock down the gates of hell because he won’t take no for an answer.  He won’t wait around for someone to give him a hand-out, he will just take matters into his own hands and go do something about it.  I know God has amazing plans for him and I can’t wait to see the young man he becomes.  Until then I will just do my best to train him to use his strong will for good and not for harm.  I know that we will butt heads, but I’m prepared to take him on.  I love my strong-willed little guy!