Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Thanksgiving was so much fun with all of the cooking and baking and eating and family time…

I found the recipes for each of these desserts at Elana's Pantry. I pretty much followed them as she directs, except I used maple syrup in place of the agave. They were really wonderful tasting, easy to make and good to make ahead and keep in the refrigerator because the flavors had more time to really meld together. For the carrot cake cupcakes, I used a maple cashew cream frosting...slightly tart but much lighter than a traditional cream cheese and super yummy with the carrot cake. The chocolate cake was made with coconut flour. It was really rich and decadent, yet much lighter than a typical chocolate cake.

Now we enter the season of advent…the season of waiting…waiting with hope and expectancy for many things. I remember how exciting this time of year was to me as a child. My brother and I would anxiously anticipate what gifts might be hidden in the house for us and we would set about to find them…searching through closets, under beds, in drawers. Then, when the presents were wrapped and under the tree we would shake them and peer as hard as we could trying to see through the paper and sometimes, yes, we even peeled back the paper in an attempt to see what might be written on the box. We were hopeful and forced to wait until Christmas Day to receive the gifts, but we were not always peaceful and patient in the wait.

Hope: the desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.

The things I hope for now are not like the Cabbage Patch Kids, bikes, and doll houses I hoped for as a child. The things I hope for cannot be bought on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The things I hope for cannot be found at the mall. Yet, there are good things I desire and greatly expect to obtain. There are presents figuratively wrapped under a tree, but I cannot shake them, peel back the paper or strain my eyes to see what they might be. And honestly, I don’t want to know until the day when the One who wrapped them up tells me I can open them. One thing I learned as a child too impatient to wait for Christmas Day is that some of the thrill is lost when you already know what’s inside. There is an excitement in the unknowing, in the unveiling, in the peeling back of the paper and lifting the lid of the box and removing the tissue paper and finally seeing what has been so carefully selected and tenderly wrapped especially for you.

"Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting--that is, of hopefully doing without--will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I wait for things long hoped for, I know my ultimate hope is in Jesus, the One who makes Christmas. Without His coming we would have no true Christmas. This year, I am creating a Jesse Tree to keep focus on the main thing. I will be lighting a candle each night, reading a passage of scripture and hanging an ornament on a Jesse Tree as a reminder of what it is I truly await. On Christmas Day I will celebrate the end of waiting and the beginning of the flooding light and proclaim:

All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ ascends to God for His glory. - 2 Corinthians 1:20

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The Thanksgiving menu is planned, the groceries are bought, the turkey is thawing and I’m ready to start cooking! Last year was the first year for my mom and me to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal. Everything turned out better than we could have even hoped, so we are pretty excited to try our hand at it again this year.

As important as a good meal is, I’m taking a little time out to reflect on some of the things for which I’ve been thankful this year. Afterall, what is a good meal without first giving thanks?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

He took the bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "take, eat..." - 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

From the silly to serious and everything in between, here are some of my thanks offerings...


Playing games with my nephew

Birthday cards

Little birds tucked under little arms

Chocolate mustaches

Green grass

Sunlight early in the morning until late in the evening

Mutual encouragement

My Holy Counselor

The sustaining, comforting, strengthening power of God’s word.

The clack, clack, clack of my niece’s princess shoes on the tile floor



Heart that pumps blood, lungs that breathe air, legs that carry me

Floral prints

My niece singing “Jesus Loves Me” during a pancake breakfast and again while playing on the beach


Chocolate chip cookies

Sword clouds in the sky

Wet dogs on the back porch

Testimony of others

Clean kitchen before bedtime

Lara bars

Endless questions


The Cross

God’s love, mercy, forgiveness

Sunsets on the beach

It’ll be ok…just be nice

Clean dogs

Awakening to a new day of God’s plans

My nephew reading “Mad Maddie Maxwell” to me

Cows grazing in green pasture


Missing others and being missed by others

Surrender and acceptance


Farmers Market


Walking in the rain



Swimming in the deep

Basketball in the pool

Fresh paint

Learning to enjoy the journey

Laundry…stacks getting smaller

Sorting through old stuff

Rainbow after the storm

Movies on the beach

Friends in unexpected places

Old photo albums

Cobwebs in high places

He knows

Little brown bunnies waiting in the grass

Hens pecking in the neighbor’s yard

Lizard houses

Facing truth, letting go, tear-filled nights

The One who collects my tears

Beauty rising from the ashes of refining fires


Running the race

5 year-olds birthdays

Monkey cards with monkey sounds

Eyes to see needs, opportunities to be hands and feet

Hot tea

Life-giving words

It was really difficult to pick highlights from the ever-growing list of things for which to be thankful. I am blessed beyond measure and my cup truly overflows.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow. – Romans 15:13

Monday, November 14, 2011

Half Marathon: More than Running

Running is something I’ve enjoyed for years. It is therapeutic and relaxing and an opportunity to really think without distractions. Running a half marathon is something I’ve wanted to do for years. After going through the discouragement and confusion and fiery health trials of the last six years, I now felt strong and healthy and ready to run with endurance the Pensacola Half Marathon. In the weeks leading up to the run I began to see this as a marker of sorts in my life, a date on a timeline to mark the overcoming and putting behind of the past and the beginning of something new.

I awoke unexpectedly at 2:00 a.m., fully awake I decided to get up and prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for the task of running 13.1 miles. I asked the Lord to strengthen every bone, joint, tendon, ligament, organ, nerve, tissue and cell of my body; to give me a mind staid on Him so that I would not become discouraged by mountainous hills (yes, as I found out yesterday, Pensacola has some hills that appear as mountains or walls when you are on foot); and to let this day be a reminder of the healing and restoration He has given me.

The blessing of friends was a great way to start the race. At 6:30 myself and three friends along with about 1,400 other runners set out to accomplish goals, prove something to ourselves or others, qualify for greater challenges (some ran a full marathon in hopes of qualifying for the Boston marathon), or mark time with a reminder of overcoming illness or achieving a personal fitness goal. During the run, my eyes were opened to or shown afresh some interesting and important lessons that I found applicable to more than just running and beneficial for life.

Lesson 1: Encourage others to do their best.
About 2 miles into the run, my friends encouraged me to do my best and said they’d see me at the finish. At that point, I began to run a little faster falling into a challenging yet manageable pace to persevere until the end.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lesson 2: Find your natural pace.
Once I settled into my natural pace, I did not become concerned with who or how many people sped passed me or stayed behind me. In order to accomplish the distance set before me, I couldn’t be concerned with or let anyone else’s pace cause me to become anxious and speed up or complacent and slow down or defeated and give up. I joyfully continued on.

Let us run with endurance the race set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

Lesson 3: Speak God’s Word.
I had an arsenal of scriptures memorized to encourage me throughout the run. No hills, wind, physical ache or mental discouragement could contend with the Word of God.

So will my word be which goes forth from my mouth, it will not return to me empty, without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it, without accomplishing that which I desire. – Isaiah 55:11

Lesson 4: Hills can look like mountains and walls, but you just have to take it one step at a time and you’ll reach the top.
There were three main hills that seemed like mountains upon first look. The first one, I thought I had surely reached the top, but quickly realized that it had just leveled a little and was still inclining. The second one looked like a wall. It was so steep and seemed almost impossible as I approached from a distance. The third one was steep and long and I wondered how many miles of straight uphill I would have run by the time I finished it. I chose to praise the Lord for each hill, taking each one a step at the time.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, His holy mountain. – Psalm 48:1

Lesson 5: Surround others with love, support and encouragement…even if you don’t have a close personal relationship, speak life-giving words when given the opportunity.
I was greatly encouraged by the neighbors who rose early and came out of their homes to cheer on all of the runners. Shouting: “Good Job!”, “Way to go!”, “You can do it!”

I was even more encouraged when someone I didn’t know was cheering and as I ran passed they called me by name (our names were printed on our bibs).

The best feeling was when someone I knew, a familiar face, called me by name and cheered me on. Oh the importance of speaking words of encouragement and support to those we know…our friends and family…the relationships we should cherish, yet so often take for granted. Cheer them on….whatever the race they are running…speak words that build up. Life is too short to not speak kind words, encouraging words, life-giving words. Just a few words to let someone know you see them, you think of them, they are important in your life can mean so very much…they can halt fears, promote faith, restore confidence. It is not enough to assume our friends and loved ones know how we feel, we should speak those words to them and let them know they have a cheering section in their lives.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders… - Hebrews 12:1

As I entered the final mile of the run, I could hear the roar of the crowd at the finish line as each person ahead of me finished their race. A little further and I could see the letters forming the word: FINISH. Then, I was down to the last tenth of a mile and I was able to sprint through it. I had been encouraged all along the way by speaking out the word of God and by others speaking out words of affirmation and encouragement to me. I finished the race in 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 44 seconds, not exhausted and worn out, but exhilarated and excited and with a sense of a job well done.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Epitome of Fall

Pumpkin chocolate chip bars and hot tea….plus an arrangement of fresh roses. This was the morning after an evening of fellowship with some beautiful sisters in Christ as we wrapped up a 10 week study on the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

As I enjoyed my fall treats the next morning, I thought back over the last several weeks of the study and how blessed I am to have been invited into this group for a time of studying God’s Word and developing friendships. God calls us to live a “one another” life, meaning that we aren’t to go it alone, but we are to connect with others in many ways:

Accept one another: Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. – Romans 15:7

Admonish one another: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. - Colossians 3:16

Bear one another’s burdens: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

Care for one another: so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. – 1 Corinthians 12:25

Comfort one another: Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:18

Confess our faults to one another: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

Encourage one another : Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Greet one another: Greet one another with a holy kiss – Romans 16:16

Be honest with one another: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices – Colossians 3:9

Honor one another: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:10

Be hospitable to one another: Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9

Be kind to one another: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Love one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Pray for one another: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

Be of one mind with one another: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6

Serve one another: serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13

Spur one another on: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds – Hebrews 10:24

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:25

As I was relishing our time together in this study and thinking about the upcoming holiday season, my thoughts turned to Thanksgiving and I was reminded of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. This book has made a tremendous impact on me this year. In it, Ann reminds us to be thankful in all things. Even those things we think are setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances and tedious annoyances. She reminds us to see them for what they really are: the will of God. We tend to curse the things we don’t understand because our spiritual senses are impaired and we must tune our senses to the grace of Christ.

The amazing thing here for me is that I prayed for God to send me godly girl friends who I could really trust and connect with, but it was through an injury of sorts that the blessing of this wonderful group of women came into my life. I was quite annoyed with the fact that I was having some issues that led me to the chiropractor. I thought, “what a hassle, I have to go week after week and get these adjustments”, and honestly, it got a little worse, before it got better. But, God had a plan in place for me to meet a wonderful new friend who invited me into this Bible study and through what I considered a setback, He brought tremendous blessing.

As Ann says in her book, “we must change not what we see, but how we see” and “the discipline or the practice of giving thanks is the way to joy, the way we enter into God, the way we practice the presence of God”.

Sometimes the Lord has to break us down at the strongest part of our self-life before He can have His own way of blessing with us. Wrestle to see the blessing and all faces become the face of God. (see Genesis 33:10)

The secret to joy: keep seeking God where we doubt He is. – Ann Voskamp