Thankful for the small things…

Psalm 107 1

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving was already nearly two weeks ago.  As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am thankful for – Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my children, extended family, friends, and health. Sometimes, though, we only think of the “big” things we are thankful for, like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly “small” things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

  •  I’m thankful for water. According to an article titled World Water Day: A Billion People Worldwide Lack Safe Drinking Water “More than a billion people—almost one-fifth of the world’s population—lack access to safe drinking water.” How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought?water
  • I’m thankful I can breathe.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “Approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetime.” My husband and youngest daughter are included in those statistics. How many times do we take it for granted that we can take that a breath?
  • I’m thankful for the ability to read. While doing research for 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, I discovered that “by age 17, only 1 in 17 seventeen-year-olds can read and gain information from specialized text” according to the National Institute for Literacy. Taking this statistic into account, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things everyday and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.
  • I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. I read The Voice of the Martyrs and my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make everyday to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.
  • I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. It has been a challenge to find things to eat.  Yet, so many people in the U.S. and in the world have no food to eat – AT ALL. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods  – if they still had food to eat. dinner
  • I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. A few years ago, we suffered severe exterior damage to our home and vehicles during a bad hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden was ruined, the new siding on our house destroyed, and our SUV totaled.

A few days after the hail storm, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by a deadly tornado in the southern part of the country. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humbleness that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

  • I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you heard me right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.
  • I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other believers. While my husband was going through is open heart surgery and later his dangerous staph infection, our church body stood with us in prayer and support. What a huge blessing!
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  • I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my kiddos are in the living room playing a game with their dad. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their giggles! I’m thankful for sight too – the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky are such a testament to His Creation. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him! mountain 2

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for?

 

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7 ways to make a difference in November

It’s hard to believe that it’s already November! So what are some ways to make a difference this month in the lives of others? Here are seven suggestions:

Combine chocolate with cheer. When our church announced it was looking for volunteers to serve in the hot chocolate ministry last year, our family immediately volunteered. What is a hot chocolate ministry? It’s a stand where we handed out free hot chocolate (with a spoonful of mini-marshmallows) to those who attended our town’s annual outdoor Christmas event that happens each year on the day after Thanksgiving. What a fun way to spread Christmas cheer!

hot chocolate

Remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Engage Magazine offers a way to write to persecuted Christians in North Korea to encourage them.  According to the website, in this unique ministry, letters will be delivered one of two ways: “hand-delivered to several Christians who have escaped North Korea” or “with broadcasters in South Korea who will periodically read letters, or passages of letters, to Christians across the 38th parallel.” All of the details can be found at Engage Magazine’s website.

Also included are tips on things to say to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also the super-easy form on which to write your letter and submit online.

 

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Make a terminally ill boy’s wish come true. Little Jacob Thompson is battling cancer and will be celebrating Christmas early this year. His one request? To receive as many Christmas cards as possible. He especially loves homemade cards. Have your kids decorate homemade cards and include a little tidbit about Christmas, their home state (Jacob lives in Maine), and a thoughtful Bible verse or prayer for he and his family. The full details, including Jacob’s address, can be found here.

christmas card

Ring the bell. It’s that time of year again…time when the Salvation Army bell ringers will be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and collecting funds to help poor families during the holiday season. Why not partner with your spouse, child, or a friend and volunteer your time as a bell ringer this year? Check out the details at the Salvation Army website.

Share with those who have no one. Sometimes while we are enjoying our Thanksgiving dinners, we forget something very important…the fact that many people don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Is there a widow in your church that will spend her first year alone? An elderly couple with no family nearby? A neighbor who lives alone? Why not make a difference in their lives and invite them to your home to share in your family’s festivities.

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Learn CPR/First Aid. As part of my daughters’ curriculum for homeschool, they recently joined me to take a CPR and First Aid class. It was my fourth time taking CPR and First Aid, but things have changed a bit, even since the last time I took it. What better way to make a difference than to have the knowledge to have a role in possibly saving someone’s life? For more details on how to find a CPR/First Aid course near you, check out The American Heart Association’s website.

Share the love of reading with others. Our family recently boxed up several Christian adult fiction books in excellent condition that we no longer needed or read. I called a local assisted living center and asked if they would be interested in some books for their residents. They were ecstatic! Remember to always call first before making any donations.

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Speaking of books, for more ideas of year-round difference makers, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

What are some ways you and your family are planning to make a difference in the month of November?

 

 

 

the one prayer policy

As I do each morning, I spend quiet time with the Lord praying and reading the Bible before embarking on my day. Sometimes the prayer lists are extensive, especially when the Lord brings to mind those people I need to pray for due to health issues, financial struggles, relationship issues, natural disasters, comfort due to a loss in their lives, or for the salvation of an unsaved loved one.

praying girl

“Oh, and Lord, could you please help…”

“Oh, and please come alongside…”

“Oh, and also, can you give peace and comfort to…”

“Oh, and…”

The list goes on and on. As an avid prayer warrior, I have found that there is no shortage of prayers needed for those around us. Whether it be those we know and love or those we have never met.

I am so grateful that the Lord doesn’t say, “Now, Penny. You’re prayer limit has been reached. Please reserve the remaining prayers for another day.”

Or…

“Sorry, Penny. Your one prayer is all you are allotted for the day. Pick which prayer that will be, pray it, then return tomorrow with another prayer.”

No, instead, God tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to be “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Psalm 17 6In Ephesians 6:18, He tells us, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.Psalm 145 18aJeremiah 29:12 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” It doesn’t say, pray only once or twice and reach the prayer quota, then be done.

No, the Lord welcomes our prayers. Prayers throughout the day. Prayers on any topic or for anyone.

No limits.

No maximum.

No one-prayer policy.

On that note, I think it’s time for a prayer of gratitude!

 

 

 

 

6 Ways to Encourage Other Moms

mom13Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love ~Mildred B. Vermont

Motherhood has been said to be the best, yet sometimes hardest job in the world. And I agree. So how can we come alongside other moms and encourage them in this job?

Here are six ways to make a difference in your mom-friend’s life:

Schedule mom time. Whether one-on-one or in a group, plan some mom-time. It can be as simple as meeting at the playground, taking the kids for ice cream while the moms chat, or spending some time at the public pool. What a nice break to chat with and catch up on all the happenings (we moms benefit from playdates too!) Here are some great ideas for arranging a girl’s night out for a group of your mom friends.

Offer to babysit. Date nights can be few and far between, especially when children are babies and toddlers. Present a coupon to your friend offering to babysit her kiddos while she and her husband re-connect. What an awesome gift for your mom-friend and her marriage!

coupon

Be a listening ear. Recently, through tears, I spoke to a fellow mom about something close to my heart. I was grateful for the time she gave me and the down-to-earth suggestions she offered to me with unparalleled grace. Ask a mom-friend how things are going, take the time to listen – really listen without judgment – and to be her sounding board. Sometimes we moms carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. To have a trusted friend with whom to share those burdens is priceless.

Offer to pray. What a powerful thing prayer is! Ask your mom-friend what her specific prayer needs are and then dedicate to praying for those needs. Sometimes telling someone we’ll pray for them can sound so cliche and can often be forgotten in the midst of our busy days. Remedy this by not only truly praying for your friend each day, but also praying with her whenever you’re chatting on the phone.

Accept her as she is. For some reason, it seems as though mothers often receive the brunt of the criticism and are held to higher judgment. Why do we moms judge each other so harshly? I’ve seen moms judge other moms regarding choices and number of activities (or lack thereof) of another mom’s children; judgment about the way other moms are raising their children; the differences in priorities in families and what they choose to allow or not allow their children to participate in; or even how many sugary snacks fellow moms allow their children to eat in a week.

Moms, this should not be so! Instead, we need to come alongside fellow moms and accept each other the way God made us. Not to say we can’t offer suggestions when warranted (or asked for!) but unsolicited and unkind advice is never appreciated.

Sadly, there also seems to be so much rivalry between moms. Case in point: stay at home moms vs. work-outside-the-home-moms; homeschool moms vs. those who send their children to public school; moms who feed their kids organic health foods vs. the macaroni and cheese moms; sports-minded moms vs. the musical moms; jeans and t-shirts moms vs. business attire moms, married moms vs. single moms; and the list goes on. Put a group of women in a room and this becomes a sad reality as we size each other up in ways we should never do.

Commit to accepting your mom-friend as she is. Be her biggest fan and her most trusted confidante.

moms

Send an encouraging note. What about mailing a thoughtful note to your mom-friend telling her she’s doing a great job and how much you value her friendship? Such a gesture is sure to make her day.

Never more in our lives will we need close friends than as we journey through motherhood. And moms are some of the most awesome and important friendships God will ever bless us with.

How do you encourage your mom-friends?

 

 

12 songs to get you through the tough times

We all go through hard times and struggles. This life is not easy.

In no particular order are 12 songs to get you through those difficult times life throws your way.  A perfect addition to any playlist, these songs speak of God’s love. His faithfulness. His tender care for His children. The fact that we are never alone.

A click on the song title will take you to the Youtube lyric video.

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I Will Lift My Eyes – Bebo Norman

Look a Little Higher – JJ Weeks Band

Even If – MercyMe

Hills and Valleys – Tauren Wells

Oh My Soul – Casting Crowns

I Will – Citizen Way

Worn – Tenth Avenue North

You are My Rescue – Royal Tailor

Rescue me – Selah

Found – Seventh Day Slumber

Just Say Jesus – 7eventh Time Down

Let the Waters Rise – Mikeschair (I couldn’t find an official video with the song by Mikeschair, so I linked this to the Amazon sample).

 

We all go through difficult times. But we are reminded of the promise in Hebrews 13:5:

Hebrews 13 5

how to become an undercover prayer warrior

After Christian historical romance, Christian suspense is my favorite genre. Especially when characters go undercover and the tension builds as covert operations are planned to catch the bad guys.

detective

It may be that I have read one too many of these novels. Or that I have watched Sue Thomas F.B. Eye too many times to count. Or that my grandfather was a retired police officer for the San Diego Police Department.

I’ve recently felt God prompting me into my own incognito activities.

I’ve become an undercover prayer warrior.

Moms buisness card

Don’t get me wrong, I still (and always will first and foremost) intercede for family and friends numerous times a day. There is not a time during the day when I’m not in constant contact with the Lord.

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However, now I’ve added strangers to the list. People who don’t even know I’m praying for them.

Want to join me in this venture? Here’s how to become an undercover prayer warrior:

1. Keep your eyes open. There’s a woman I see each time I’m utilizing the elliptical machine at my local gym. A salt-and-pepper pixie haircut and a somber expression line her face. I’ve never seen her smile. Not once. Not when the machine she wanted was available, and certainly not to return a smile. This woman became my mission. Each time I see her, I pray earnestly for her. I pray for whatever struggles she is facing. I pray for joy and peace in her life. And I pray that if she doesn’t know the Lord, she would someday come to know Him.

Had I not been keeping my eyes open, I may not have noticed this woman and had the privilege to pray for her.

2. Keep your ears open. Ambulance sirens? Emergency helicopter? Both denote that someone is injured, or may even be possibly fighting for his or her life. Whenever our family hears either of those sounds, we stop what we’re doing and immediately pray for those who are being transported. We pray also that the Lord would provide wisdom and guide the doctor’s hands, as any necessary medical procedures are done.

ambulance

3. Keep your heart open. Whenever I pass by the hospital or local cancer center, I pray for those who are receiving treatment. I pray for God’s healing, and that He would make Himself known to those who don’t yet know Him. It’s beyond difficult to struggle with an illness, especially one that’s terminal. Prayer support is the most important thing we can offer someone.

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4. Keep your mind open. Some of the hardest people to pray for are those who are unkind. I experienced some unkindness recently from a woman in desperate need of prayer. I didn’t necessarily want to pray for this meanie, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I had to keep an open mind and pray for this person. (Matthew 5:43-47)

So become God’s undercover prayer warrior. Slip into detective mode and…

  • Pray for that exhausted mom in front of you at the grocery store with the seven children.
  • Pray for the clerk at the department store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant.
  • Pray for the man in front of you at the doctor’s office who has just been told to go to the E.R. because he may be having a heart attack.
  • Scan the newspaper and pray for comfort for the families of those who have recently passed away.
  • Pray for those in jails and prisons.
  • Pray for those in drug treatment facilities attempting to overcome addictions.

And the list goes on.

God always hears each and every prayer we pray.

Why not bless someone today with your prayers?

Top 50 Christian Workout Songs

weightsThere’s nothing quite like a good beat with uplifting words to accelerate your heart rate. Whether out for a run, mountainbiking, or in the gym on the elliptical, these songs guarantee a workout like none other. And with these upbeat tunes, time will fly by and you’ll scarcely notice you’ve been working your heart and muscles for the past hour.

Some from the past and some from the present, in no particular order, here are the top 50 Christian workout songs:

1. Greater – Mercy Me (and really, you must watch this video – it’s hilarious!)

2. Do Life Big – Jamie Grace

3. Made New – Lincoln Brewster

4. Me Without You – TobyMac

5. Big House – Audio Adrenaline (so this song is very old, but it’s still a goodie! And check out the video. We’ve come a long way with technology).

6. Restart- The Newsboys

7. This is the Time – Superchick

8. Words – Hawk Nelson

9. Overcomer – Mandisa

10. Do Everything – Steven Curtis Chapman

11. Turn Around – Matt Maher

12. You Save Me – Kutless

13. Lay Me Down – Rush of Fools

14. Take My Life – Jeremy Camp

15. All the Time – Whosoever South

16. Hurricane – Natalie Grant (Moms, can you identify with this song?)

17. I Am Free – Newsboys (another oldie but goodie)

18. This is Who I Am – Third Day

19. Drifting – Plumb

20. God’s Great Dance Floor – Chris Tomlin

21. Make Believe – Seventh Day Slumber

22. Everything About You – Sanctus Real

23. Right Beside You – Building 429

24. On My Own – Ashes Remain

25. Jesus Freak – DC Talk (take a trip to the past and check out Toby Mac and Michael Tate in this video).

26. Every Good Thing – Afters

27. I Thank You – Rebecca St. James

28. Come to the River – Rhett Walker Band

29. I Believe – ZoeGirl

30. Shake – Mercy Me

31. The Only Name (Yours Will Be) – Big Daddy Weave

32. The King is Coming – Newsboys

33. Hello My Name is – Matthew West

34. Finding Who We Are – Kutless

35. Alive – Hillsong Young and Free (check out this video for some dance-move inspiration!)

36. Song of  Hope (Heaven Come Down) – Robbie Seay Band

37. Risen Today – Aaron Shust

38. You Lift Me Up – Rachel Lampa

39. Reckless – Jeremy Camp

40. Promises – Sanctus Real

41. Tonight – TobyMac

42. More Love More Power – Jeff Deyo

43. Reaching for  You – Lincoln Brewster

44. O Praise Him (All this for a King) – David Crowder Band

45. Incredible – Building 429

46. This is Love – Kutless

47.  Matchless – Aaron Shust

48. There’s Gotta Be More – Stacie Orrico

49. Fix My Eyes – for King & Country

50. I Refuse – Josh Wilson

And, as a bonus, here are five awesome “cooldown and stretch” songs:

1. Remain – Royal Tailor

2. We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

3. More of You – Colton Dixon

4. That’s What Love Looks Like – Among the Thirsty

5. Beauty of the Cross – Johnny Diaz

What are some of your favorite Christian workout songs?

 

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