the importance of voting

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As we embark on yet another election, I’m reminded of why it’s not only important, but critical to vote.

This year is even more crucial than years in the past as the two presidential candidates share diametrically opposing viewpoints. This year, more than ever, we vote for our country’s future. This year, more than ever, we vote for our children’s future.

Why is voting important?

  • Voting is a right not every country has. We are blessed to have a say in who governs us. It is our chance to have a voice in the topics that matter most to us.
  • Voting is our duty to our country. We thank those who died for our freedom to vote by utilizing that freedom.
  • Voting is a privilege. A right. A benefit of living in this wonderful country where men and women have given their lives for this right. I have an old saying that I say each year: “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome.”

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Fellow Christians, it is especially imperative that we head to the voting booth and cast our votes. Yes, God is in control of the outcome. Whomever He chooses will be the next president of the United States. However, He does not expect us to sit idly by, but to exercise our vote – and to vote for the things that matter to Him. He has blessed us with this great nation. As crazy as these most recent months have been, He has chosen us to live during this precise time in history.

This election year, take into consideration being a voice for and protecting the unborn, protecting our religious liberties, retaining the Second Amendment, standing with Israel, and ensuring that our country remains free and doesn’t fall into the trap of socialism.

My grandfather, step-father-in-law, cousin, and uncle fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in this nation. May their sacrifice not be in vain.

Pray for God’s guidance and then get out there and let your voice be heard!

surviving shingles – part 1

surviving shingles pt1

The most unexpected thing happened to me recently.

Totally unforeseen, unanticipated, and totally not on my radar.

As a matter of fact, I thought the soreness I felt a day before the onset was due to overdoing it while lifting weights or spending too much time at the gun range with my husband.

My diagnosis begged an answer to  the question: aren’t I too young for shingles?

Apparently not.

If you’ve ever had shingles, you know that it can be some of the worst pain you will ever experience. It’s a burning, searing, stabbing and unrelenting pain that gets a grip on you and doesn’t let go.

For those of you who have had shingles or are perhaps going through them right now, I hope this blog post offers you some comfort.

2 Corinthians 1 3-4

I am not a health care provider or a medical professional; the following items are merely things that have worked for me as I continue down this trek of surviving the shingles virus. Please check with your doctor before trying any of the following suggestions to be sure they are right for you.

Cling to God.

My first night with shingles was a nightmare. I still wasn’t sure of my diagnosis, only that instead of sleep, a pain like I’d never known invaded the left and back sides of my neck and my collar bone. Tears streamed down my face in the middle of the night, as I sought peace while calling upon comforting Scripture verses. I prayed that God would help me with whatever was going on, as my sweet husband clutched my hand and prayed over me. I’m not sure how people make it without the Lord during times of trial.

Get diagnosed.

My oldest daughter and I Googled rashes (by Friday morning, I had four blisters) and came to the conclusion I had shingles. My chiropractor confirmed it when I headed to his office for an adjustment in hopes of helping the unrelenting pain. By Friday afternoon, my blisters had multiplied from my left upper chest up around my neck, my jawline, my upper arm, and around the back of my neck and into my hairline. The fatigue and flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat, ear pain, and fever, added to my discomfort.

A few hours later, I was in my primary care doctor’s office with a prescription for Valtrex. While I am one who tends more toward natural therapies, taking the Valtrex soon after being diagnosed was a very wise decision. I have also been taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen for the pain.

Realize shingles affect everyone differently.

Some I have spoken to have said their shingles weren’t too severe, but for the majority I have talked with, their shingles were a horrific nightmare they don’t soon want to remember. And no, it doesn’t just attack the elderly. Three people I know shared with me that they had succumbed to the shingles virus while in their 20s.

Get rest.

There is no way around this one. You have to rest when you have shingles. Even if you have a mild case, get lots of rest and take time to heal so there are no complications. It’s said that this virus can last 3-5 weeks, and for some people even longer.

Do an assessment.

As I mentioned previously, shingles were not on my radar. How on earth could a healthy girl like myself get it?

Well…apparently stress can contribute. So I decided to do an assessment. Besides the many hats I wear: wife, mom, homeschool mom, author, volunteer, group fitness instructor, blogger, etc., I had also had some pretty serious stress in the past six months. In mid-January, my oldest daughter and I came down with the worst flu we’d ever experienced that lasted a month with lingering fatigue continuing an additional two weeks. Job furloughs and unemployment, a dental procedure that included an allergic reaction, a huge door swinging shut on me for a book project I had poured my heart into, and my youngest being rushed to the ER for what appeared to be a stroke added to my list of stressors. (Turns out she was having a horrific complex migraine – her first ever – and hopefully her last).

So do an assessment of where you’re at with stress. Covid-19 and all the upheavals currently taking place in our world are enough to cause anyone a sleepless night.

Be healthy.

In an effort to fight this virus, I adopted and continued with a list of healthy things I would be doing in the coming weeks. Some that have helped me are the following:

Supplements. Multi, C, E, D, zinc, B complex, and a good probiotic can be super helpful. For Optimal Daily Amounts, my personal go-to book is The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning.

Foods. Vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, red/black grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, avocados etc. are all good choices. Avoid anything inflammatory, such as junk food, refined foods, and sugar.

Water. Stay well-hydrated.

Time with God. Spending time in His Word and a vibrant prayer life is a must for me. I am so dependent on His mercy and grace.

Prayers. I put myself on my church’s prayer chain and collected those prayers along with the faithful prayers of my immediate and extended family. Prayer works.

Sunshine. Plan on getting 10-15 minutes a day, preferably surrounded by nature.

Exercise. Gentle stretches and a short walk are a good start to building up to where you were before shingles.

Hugs. Studies have shown that hugs boost the immune system. My family is awesome about helping me fill my hug “quota” for the day.

Chiropractic care. It’s a good way to strengthen the immune system, and if you are fortunate to have a good chiropractor, he/she can be a wealth of information.

Just say no to stress. That includes taking a break from social media and the toxic news that currently surrounds us.

Sleep. A full night’s rest can be a challenge with the pain, so be sure to give yourself permission to take naps as necessary.

Don’t get discouraged.

I will humbly tell you that discouragement has knocked on my door a couple of times during this trial. As an active person not accustomed to not being busy, it has been difficult to not have the energy to do anything. And the pain? There is something called neuralgia that can stick with you long after the shingles are over. The thought scares me to death since my own sweet mom has severe chronic pain and is wheelchair-bound.

All this to say, discouragement will find you if you allow it. The second you take your eyes off Jesus, despair is there ready to accompany you through the day. Don’t let it.

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Return your focus on our Lord and His promises. Remember Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus that day during the storm? He sank. We sink when we take our focus from the One who loves us so much He gave His Son for us.

To be continued…

I am officially on Day 13 of my shingles journey. I wish I could say I am completely healed. That I have no more neck, shoulder, and ear pain. No more fatigue.

But that’s not the case. While it has relented somewhat and I continue to get stronger everyday, I still have a ways to go. The pain and fatigue are ever present. But I’m hanging in there and am relying on God’s faithfulness to see me through this ordeal.

So all this to say that if you are going through shingles right now, hang in there. We will get through this!

 

 

 

 

are you showing the difference?

showing the difference

My teenage daughters and I were recently discussing how it seems to be getting more difficult to differentiate between a believer and an unbeliever. Sure, we as followers of Christ make mistakes, and by God’s merciful grace, are forgiven.

We pray for His guidance and direction and that we will learn from that mistake and grow in Him. We struggle from day-to-day to live for Him. To love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds, to love our neighbors, pray for our enemies, make good choices, and reach a lost world for Jesus Christ.

No one, not even a longtime Christian, is even close to being perfect. We will never achieve perfection in this world.

But what about those who profess to be a Christian, but aren’t living for Him and really have no desire to do so? What about the very real possibility that we, as those who profess belief in Christ, are looking oddly similar to the world – the very world we are to be set apart from?

Consider these commonly seen actions in our world today:

Climbing the ladder/selfish ambition. Do anything to get to the top, no matter who is stepped on or shoved aside in the process

Backbiting/backstabbing. If someone dislikes us, disagrees with us, has a difference of opinion, then it is perfectly acceptable to backbite, backstab, accuse, and do what you can to destroy their reputation.

The “importance” of sharing information. Why not share what you know about people – or what you think you know – even if it’s not true?

Wealth. He or she who has the most money should for sure be the most popular. After all, the poorer person can’t donate money to your cause like the wealthy one can. An added bonus? They can buy you things. Befriend those who profit you the most.

Looks are critical. Because our world values youth, thinness, and nice clothes, those who are a little plump, a little wrinkled, a little old, or a little bit ugly really aren’t as important.

Focus on self. Really, when it all comes down to it, is there any room left in the mirror for anyone but ourselves?

Popularity. He or she who is most popular wins. Why side with an “underdog” if it doesn’t further our own agenda?

Christianity is a crutch. Really, who needs to believe in an old book with old verses and stories in it when we can believe what our modern writers/philosophers say?

Lie to get what you want. Honesty is so overrated.

Win at all costs. If you need to pick a fight, go ahead. Prove you’re right.

Never forgive. What they did was wrong and they will pay!

Sadly, the above traits are not limited to some secular people. And by some, I mean that I have many unbelieving friends who are kind, loving, compassionate, and generous  who don’t subscribe to the above list. Far too often, unbelievers who don’t know the hope found in Jesus Christ behave better than Christians.

However, I also know some believers who are manipulative, hateful, critical gossipers.

Friends, this should not be so.

Contrast the following to the above:

Taking the low rung on the  ladder and be happy for others when they succeed.

Letting our words build others up, rather than tearing them down (Ephesians 4:29).

Avoiding gossip as it is the surest way to hurt someone.

Remembering we can’t serve two masters. We will either love God or money. (Matthew 6:24).

Focusing on what is on the inside. In First Samuel 16:7b, we learn that while man looks at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16 7 (2)

Putting others as more important than ourselves.

Rooting for the underdog. In the Bible, there are several underdogs God uses including David, Gideon, and Moses.

Christianity is not a crutch. It is the Truth.

God values honesty.

Strife and discord are among the things the Lord hates.

Jesus forgave us for all of the times we sin (which are many!)

Revenge is God’s, not ours.

Quite the difference when we compare list to list. Yet, as I write this, many Christians are struggling with being hurt by fellow believers. Other believers may be struggling with they themselves making poor choices that hurt others.

Let’s give unbelievers a reason to want to know Christ. Let’s not blend in with the world and be like them, but let’s rather be set apart for Him. Let there be a difference between us and our unbelieving neighbor.

We must show – and be- the difference to a dying world.

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3 things to do this month

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Looking for a way to make a difference this month? Check out these great ideas!

Ministry Opportunity #1: Sharing God’s Word around the world:

Do you have any extra Bibles (new or used), Christian magazines, tracts, non-fiction Christian books, or Sunday school supplies? Looking for a way to make sure they are donated to somewhere that is making a difference?

Love Packages is “a ministry aimed at putting Christian literature and Bibles into the hands of people around the world…We send them to ministries in many poor countries to distribute freely to people hungry for the Word of God”.

Not only does Love Packages accept donations of the above-referenced items, but they are also in need of monetary donations to enable them to ship the materials. According to their website, the average cost to ship one container is $4,200. They are also always in need of volunteers to assist in packing the materials.

For more information on Love Packages, please visit their website.

Ministry Opportunity #2 Showing the love of Christ to the least of these:

Gather your family and go shopping this Christmas (a bit early!). Operation Christmas Child provides boxes of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to underprivileged children in other countries. Not only that, but through these boxes, precious children have an opportunity to know the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ.

You can even build a shoebox online if you’re crunched for time.

All of the information for this amazing ministry can be found here. Please take special note of the items allowed (and not allowed!) in the shoeboxes.

Hurry! Collection of the shoeboxes takes place November 12-19. Drop off locations are available at the website.

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Ministry Opportunity #3: Putting together a foster care kit.

According to the most recent data, there are over 400,000 children in foster care (source: The AFCARS Report) in the U.S.

Many people will be able to foster a child. Some will be able to adopt a child from foster care. And several will be able to help provide clothing and toys to children in foster care.

A friend of mine who works with foster children and their foster parents told me today that some children arrive in their foster homes with nothing. Some have no clothing, not even underwear or pajamas.

Put together a foster care kit for children placed in emergency foster care by providing the following: new or gently used clothing, a new toy (stuffed animal, coloring books and crayons, etc.), and a book. Deliver the kit to your local family services agency.

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For more ideas, check out 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

What ways do you and your family make a difference?

13 ways to help someone going through a difficult time

Wen my husband had open heart surgery a year-and-a-half ago, we found out quickly who are true friends were. Our immediate and extended family stood by our side, even through the numerous complications my husband faced (and continues to face). Friends, some whom we didn’t even know very well, were the first to “step up to the plate” when a need arose.

So many people blessed us during that time that we will be forever grateful.

How can you help someone going through a difficult time?

  1. Pray. And not only praying for the person in need, but also praying with them. Take a moment and lift up that person and their needs to the Lord. Several people did this for us, whether in person or by telephone, and it meant a lot.praying-3
  2. Make contact. I was surprised when I heard from a few people long after the surgery that they didn’t want to “bother us” while we were going through our difficult time. The worst thing you can do for someone going through a difficult time is to avoid contact. This is when they need you the most.
  3. Investigate. How can you help? Do they need meals? Grocery delivery? Kids taken to an extra-curricular activity? The car filled up with gas for their next doctor’s appointment?groceries
  4. Be specific. Instead of saying, “let me know if you need anything,” which leaves the person in need an easy-way-out of not asking, say, “what can I do to help?” Or “I’m going grocery shopping later today. What can I pick up for you?”
  5. Check in often. One of our dearest friends checked in a couple times a week just to let us know she was thinking about us and continuing to pray. A quick text or phone call means a lot, as does a traditionally-mailed card.telephone-call
  6. Don’t make it about you. This isn’t the time to place the guilt on the person in need because they aren’t able to have lunch with you as often as you’d like.
  7. Don’t stop caring. How many times do we stop helping someone going through a lengthy crisis long before they stop needing our help? Be there for the long haul.
  8. Think of the little things. We hear a lot about the mowing of yards or the shoveling of driveways. But what about the little things? Picking up their mail or newspaper while they are out of town overnight at the hospital, for instance. A friend of ours offered to water our newly-planted trees. That gesture was such a blessing to us.mail
  9. Be mindful of those with chronic illness. Three family members of mine suffer from chronic illness. It’s a day-to-day never-ending struggle with intense pain for each of them. Be there for them, even if they just need to talk.
  10. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Or pressure them into a supposed “cure-all” for their circumstance or illness. I.e., “If you would only take these special supplements, you would be cured of your heart issue.”
  11. Offer some respite. Know a newly-divorced mom? Offer to babysit her children while she tends to important matters. Know an exhausted caregiver? Offer to assist where needed.
  12. Be a listening ear through the grief. Know someone who has recently lost a loved one? Be a listening ear through the sadness and the memories.SONY DSC
  13. Help monetarily. If you know the person in need has accumulated numerous medical bills or is off work for any length of time, a small donation is always welcome.

What ways have you extended help to someone in need? Have you ever been on the receiving end of extraordinary kindness while going through a difficult time?