Serving Unexpectedly

Years ago at a large Christian music festival in a local park, many who attended brought their own food to munch on while enjoying the wide variety of bands onstage throughout the day. When lunchtime arrived, my mom and I removed our ice chest filled with the prepared lunch for the six members in our family.

I’ve never quite met anyone like my mom. One of her favorite sayings is, “it’s all in the presentation”. Indeed. My mom prepared a table of delicacies that included scrumptious oversized homemade cookies, bowls of neatly cut watermelon and cantaloupe, and mouth-watering sandwiches. To the onlooker, it appeared to be something out of a magazine or found on a Pinterest board.

We were just about to pray and savor this tasty meal when the most unexpected thing happened.

Several individuals—strangers—arrived at our table, plates in hand, smiles on their faces. “This looks delicious,” we heard one of them say. “Thank you so much,” another said.

At first, my mom and I exchanged glances. Who were these people? Did they know this was a private meal?

But seconds later, we shrugged in tandem and encouraged them to help themselves to whatever they’d like. Our bounty was more than sufficient for our little family. You would have thought we offered them a million dollars.

Because it’s a park in the middle of a fair-sized city, there is a sizeable homeless population that migrates through the area on any given day. We didn’t know the situations of our “guests” or what was going on in their lives. But we did know one thing…that something so simple blessed them.

These days, my mom can no longer prepare lavish feasts or create beautiful crafts without assistance due to a life-altering accident and severe chronic pain. However, that day in the park all those years ago reminded me of the importance of serving unexpectedly.

Sometimes we have no idea how the things we do can bless someone. Sometimes, even when we don’t set out to serve someone or enrich their lives, our actions have the biggest impact.


Before you go, check out these other posts:

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are you an encourager or a discourager?

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10 reminders of God’s enduring love

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blog post archives

are you an encourager or a discourager?

On the online thesaurus, there are over 50 synonyms for “encourage”. Words such as support, inspire, enliven, revitalize, and strengthen are just a few on the lengthy list. It seems a simple thing to, yet why is it often easier for us to discourage someone rather than encourage them?

Make no mistake, our words are powerful. But just how powerful?

There’s a quote that states “Words are powerful. Use them wisely.” They can either build someone up or tear them down.

Below are eight ways we can be encouragers:

Encourage each other in everyday life. Life isn’t easy, especially in our current culture. What we can do is come alongside others, be there for them, and allow them to depend on us.

Celebrate the victories of others with them.

Rally around each other during times of disappointment.

Listen. Really listen.

See the possibilities. Besides being a wife, mom, and author, I’m also a fitness instructor. In addition to other classes, I teach a small-group fitness class for beginners. Much of what I do for this class is one-on-one. Many, if not most of my participants, are struggling with health and/or weight issues, are exercising for the first time, or are returning after a long stint away from the gym. The best thing I can do for them is to be an encourager. Their cheerleader. The one who reminds them that they can achieve their goals and that I am there to help them do so.

Be authentic and sincere.

Be honest and constructive when giving advice. And on that note, give advice only when asked for. Not many people like unsolicited advice.

Find the best in others.

I love what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:29.

May we prayerfully consider how our words affect others, and with God’s help, be encouragers rather than discouragers.


Before you go, check out these other posts:

10 reminders of God’s enduring love

5 ways to make your child feel loved

10 ways to encourage others

9 ways to jumpstart your homeschool year

lessons from the garden

13 verses to comfort the fearful heart

31 awesome movies for your must-watch list

He is Risen!

Today we celebrate Easter…the day that Jesus Christ rose from the grave and gave us hope. Hope for eternal life spent with our Lord forever.

After Jesus was crucified, thankfully, He did not stay dead. He rose again and is alive!

This world is but a pit stop, a blink of an eye, as we journey through on our way to an eternity spent with Him.

As I contemplate what He did for me—the sacrifice He made, my sins He took upon Himself, I am beyond humbled. Thank You, Jesus, for what You did for me. While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). May I humbly remember Your sacrifice every day of the year, not just the one day marked on the calendar.

Do you know Jesus and the hope His death and resurrection brings?

From our family to yours, Happy Resurrection Sunday!

It’s Friday, but Sunday is Coming

Usually writing comes fairly easily to me. But on this Good Friday, I’m struggling to find the words that can adequately express my gratitude to my Savior. A Savior who was severely beaten and brutally killed for my sins and the sins of all mankind.

I’ve always been a moral person and, in the eyes of the world, a “good person”, but I’ve not always walked with the Lord, and I for sure haven’t always lived for Him. But at the end of the day, being a moral citizen isn’t something that will last for eternity. Being a “good person” will not get me into heaven.

That will come only by surrendering my life to and putting my full faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

On this day when we reflect on Jesus’ enormous sacrifice on our behalf, would you join me in thanking Him for this sacrifice? That He didn’t stay dead in the tomb, but rose again on that third day? For what He went through for us, with all the sins of everyone who has ever lived, past, present, and future, loaded upon His back. For not leaving us where we were—dead in our sins, hopeless individuals with no eternal future. For the second, third, fourth, and ten billionth chances. For His forgiveness, mercy, and grace, especially since we don’t deserve it.

May we dedicate our lives to living for Him and sharing the Good News of the Gospel—for sharing the hope that is within us that we will someday reside with Him for eternity. May we surrender fully to Him every detail of our lives, details small, large, and all those in between. May we reach out to those who need to know this life-changing message—the only message that matters in a world full of continual messages. May we strive, with His help, to become more like Him everyday and to mourn for those things that grieve Him. To make a difference in this short time we are given, not a difference for ourselves, but a difference in the lives of others for eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Have a blessed Good Friday!

putting minor inconveniences into perspective

Our power was recently out in our home for several hours. As my daughters and I ate our cold lunches that were meant to be served hot, I found myself wanting to grumble about the inconveniences of a life without electricity.

But then I remembered that, within an hour or two, our power would be restored and all would be well. Two glaring realizations hit me. The first, that we are extremely reliant on electricity and all of the wonderful benefits it provides. The second, that this was a minor and inconsequential matter in the scope of eternity. Likely by next week, I will have forgotten about it.

Some things are not so inconsequential, and I was convicted that, in the end, there are only two things that matter. That I have surrendered my life to Christ and will spend eternity with Him, and that I have shared the hope of Jesus Christ with others.

This put things into perspective. Losing our power was an inconvenience, just as many things in life are. But some things are dangerously labeled as “inconveniences”.

It is often that we allow minor inconveniences to stop us from sharing the hope we have in Him. Minor inconveniences, such as not wanting to tell people about Him because we are embarrassed, are afraid of what they might think, or are concerned about their reaction or worried about losing a friendship.

Minor inconveniences often stop us from sharing about Jesus Christ.

When Jesus gave His life for us, it was a horrible, gruesome death. To carry the sin of every single person in this entire world, those already born and those someday to be born, is a burden only a Savior could shoulder. 

We need to put aside these “minor inconveniences” and boldly proclaim the truth for the One who unwaveringly gave His life for us. Let us not let fear social repercussion or any other “minor” inconvenience that may hold us back from sharing the Good News.

*This post was originally published on Patti’s Porch.

10 reminders of God’s enduring love

In a world of uncertainty, fickleness, and chaos, there is one thing we can always rely on…God’s enduring love. It is everlasting, true, and unending. Others may walk away, betray us, let us down when we need them most, but our Lord’s love will remain ever steadfast.

Below are 10 reminders of God’s enduring love.

Before you go, check out these other posts:

13 verses to comfort the fearful heart

8 things I want my daughters to know

10 ways to encourage others

13 verses to comfort the weary soul

31 songs to encourage you during difficult times

31 awesome movies for your must-watch list

thankful for the small things

fantabulous pumpkin muffins recipe

you might be a homeschool mom if…(15 clues)

Happy Release Day!

Movie Monday: Sabina

This week’s Movie Monday movie is Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi Years. It is the story of Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand, co-founders of the Voice of the Martyrs.

The movie opens in the 1930s with an inside look at Sabina’s life. She’s spunky, silly, and worldly. She’s also an atheist, as is Richard, the man she marries. Little matters in their lives except selfish pursuits and having fun.

But God has a way of changing hearts for His glory, and Sabina’s and Richard’s hearts are no exception.

Both are from a Jewish background, and both became two of the most amazing examples of Christian love.

Major themes throughout this well-produced and well-acted movie (Raluca Botez, who plays Sabina, is an especially gifted actress), include forgiveness, selflessness, and reliance on God. Even after coming face-to-face with the German who killed Sabina’s family, she still reaches out to him with the love of Christ, along with risking her life to save him and other German soldiers.

Why would someone do such a thing? Especially in light of the horrific murders her family members endured at the hands of the Nazi soldiers during WWII?

In the movie, Sabina mentions that she couldn’t even fathom such a thing were it not for Christ’s strength within her.

Throughout the movie, we see how God changes hearts. He places people in our lives at just the right moment, and He continues to grow us in our faith, many times through challenges and struggles. We see an example of a strong and godly marriage, founded on faith.

Sabina is a touching and well-done movie. It’s convicting on many levels, and has a strong redemption theme. Indeed, no one, not even a Nazi soldier who places no value on human life, is beyond that redemption. It is a powerful movie about the impact of the Gospel.

Rated PG-13, this movie is not for children. It contains some frightening moments, although never includes gratuitous violence. And while I would not recommend this movie for anyone under 13, it does provide an excellent family discussion, so I encourage parents to watch this with their older teens.

Sabina is a captivating movie and one that I highly recommend. It’s one that is well worth the time to watch, and is a potent reminder to pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to be persecuted for their faith.

I give this movie my highest rating of five out of five stars and is a must-see. More information about it can be found at sabinamovie.com.

Below is the trailer:

Before you go, check out these other posts:

Movie Monday: Play the Flute

Movie Monday: Fearless Faith

Movie Monday: Little Women

Mom-Approved Movie Listing

Reading Suggestions for Kids of All Ages

What is Love?

The Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021

10 Ways to Encourage Others

5 ways to make your child feel loved

We tell our children we love them often—and our words are important. But how can we put action to those words and show them we love them? Here are five easy steps.

1. Pray with them. We pray corporately several times daily as a family—in our family Bible studies, before meals, etc. However, one of the things I have found especially important is to pray separately with each of my children as well. In those quiet times we prepare to spend with the Lord, I ask each child what specific prayer requests they have for others, for themselves—are they struggling with a subject in school? Having difficulties with a friendship? Dealing with an illness?

2. Spend time with them one-on-one. These moments are some of the most precious. My oldest daughter and I both love to write. We brainstorm ideas together, have “inside jokes” about a writer’s life, and discuss “problem characters.” My youngest daughter and I ran a 5k to raise money for breast cancer last year. It can be, but doesn’t have to be big events. Sometimes the littlest most ordinary times together make the best memories.

3. Listen. Really listen. So many things compete for our attention. Work duties, household chores, other children, etc. When we look our child in the eye and really hear what they are saying, we are showing we love them. I have personally found that the car is one of the best places to strike up conversations. No ear buds, no smart phones, no TVs. Just great conversations (unless, of course, we are all joining in singing with our favorite Christian artist on the radio!)

mom and son.jpg

4. Find out what’s important to them. Recently my youngest daughter told me that she really appreciates when I plan out the day ahead with her. She enjoys knowing exactly what we’ll be doing that day and helps her to prepare.

5. Discuss the easy and the hard topics. We, as parents, should be the first line of information for our kids. We’ve always had an open-conversation-policy in our house where our daughters can discuss whatever topic they’d like, as long as they do so respectfully. We’ve had some fantastic talks about fun topics, but also some great discussions about the hard things: drugs, eating disorders, politics, abortion, etc. Be sure that your discussion topics are always age-appropriate.

In James 1:17, we are told that every good gift is from above. Children are such a gift and a blessing that the Lord has given us. May we, as parents, be worthy.

James 1 17

Before you go, check out these other posts:

10 ways to encourage others

9 ways to jumpstart your homeschool year

how to become an undercover prayer warrior

the video camera is always on, part 1

5 things moms need

what is love?

what is love

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—the day when love is celebrated. But what is love?

The world’s definition of love:

Love is a loosely-used term in today’s culture. It is fleeting, and based on feelings and emotions. It is conditional, must always be romantic, is often selfish in nature, and self-centered. It can come and go at any time, and does not think in terms of longevity, but lives for the moment.

So what is love really?

Love is…

Loving someone even though they are flawed. I hear of single people stating they are waiting for the “perfect person” to come along. There are no perfect people. We are all flawed, all human, all broken. Someone will always have little idiosyncrasies that drive us crazy. Habits that are irritating, and mannerisms that are more than an annoyance. But love sees through that. It sees the heart of the person, flaws and all.

Loving someone through the hard times. If you ask people who have been married for a long time, they will tell you that marriage is not all roses and fun times. Illnesses, injuries, job loss, loss of loved ones, money problems— these can crop up at any time. Love stands beside someone through the surgeries, through the job losses, through the grief of loss. It doesn’t give up on someone, but remains steadfast.

committment

Making sacrifices. If you truly love someone, you will make sacrifices that are in your spouse’s best interests—even if it’s difficult.

Not dependent on feelings. Feelings are fickle at best. They come and go, are ever-changing, and can’t be trusted. Deep, abiding love realizes that feelings are undependable, and instead looks to commitment.

Not dependent on what you can get out of it. The Bible tells us to put the needs of others first and to put them above ourselves in Philippians 2:3. Love puts “self” aside and looks to what benefits the other person.

Forgiving. We all make mistakes. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven, even when it’s difficult. Love does not hold onto grudges.

1 Peter 4 8

Primarily evident in actions rather than words. Examples include supporting someone during a difficult time, listening without interruption when they are telling you something that’s weighing on their heart, encouraging their hobby or a dream, etc.

Loving as the Bible commands. Many verses in the Bible teach us how to love others. First John 4:19 says that we are able to love because God first loved us. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” First Corinthians 13:4-5 says Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13 4a.png

Sure, these are all nice verses, but how can we love like we are commanded? Only with the Lord’s help. People (including ourselves!) are not always easy to love. Only through dedicated and regular prayer can we love those whom we are called to love. Only as He grows us in grace and tenderness can we love like He does.

Thankfully, He does love us. More than we can fathom. More than we ever know this side of Heaven. And thankfully, God’s love for us isn’t based on feelings. His love is evident through His Son Jesus, today and everyday.

11 ways to be kinder in 2022

It’s hard to believe how fast this year is going. It wasn’t that long ago that we welcomed in a new year. And when a new year arrives, we make resolutions. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat healthier. Stick to a budget. Declutter.

These are all excellent resolutions, but what if this year, we resolved to be kinder? More giving? More gracious? Less impatient? Not so quick-on-the-draw to find fault in someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with us? Less inclined to make others feel they have to align with our standards if we’re going to like them.

It doesn’t mean compromising our faith and values, but rather to respectfully disagree.

These days, it seems people are angrier and less inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt. Less likely to show grace. Quicker to assume the worst of someone. Abruptly forgetting that it’s all right to agree to disagree, especially on trivial matters.

Having our own opinions isn’t wrong, as a matter of fact, it’s a good thing and a testament to the creativity of our Creator. He made us each different with different longings, different ideas, and different ways of seeing things. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all had the same thoughts on every topic? If we all had the same hopes and dreams?

What if this year we made it a goal to be kinder? Here are 11 ways to do just that.

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Offer a genuine smile. Smiling not only benefits others, but also, according to Benefits Bridge, benefits you by improving your mood, enhancing your immune system, and reducing blood pressure.
  • Offer ample appreciation and encouragement.
  • See a need and fill it.
  • Dedicate yourself to praying for others often, even your enemies. (Matthew 5:44).
  • Be generous with forgiveness. (Matthew 18:21-22)
  • Offer grace, especially when it’s undeserved.
  • Be humble and put others first.
  • Agree to disagree, and do so with respect.
  • Be honest.
  • And most importantly, tell someone about Jesus and make an eternal impact in their lives.

We don’t have to align ourselves with a culture that is harsh, angry, and divided. We can choose to be kind and gracious, even to those with whom we strongly disagree.

May this year’s resolution be one of kindness.


Other posts on this blog you may enjoy:

13 verses to comfort the weary soul

6 ways to stick with homeschooling when you want to give up

6 ways to encourage other moms

20 upbeat songs to encourage you

58 fun activities for kids of all ages

5 ways to be happier

5 ways to start your day off right

Movie Monday: Hailey Dean 3-film collection

what to stock up on this winter