Monday, January 28, 2013

Will You Join the Challenge?

It's Monday. Again.

Today was dark, cloudy, gloomy, full of rain. It reminded me of another wet & wild Monday.

But every cloud has a silver lining, right?

This morning I sent out my typical Manic Monday Challenge tweet encouraging folks to find the good and positive things to focus on throughout the day. As always, I challenged them to tweet, blog, or share their good thing on Facebook. Most of the time this challenge seems to go unread or unanswered, but today was different. Several of my friends joined me in the challenge & tweeted about the good things they focused on today.

Kristyn tweeted that she was being encouraged through the #JustOne2013 online conference and was looking forward to hanging out with the refresHER ladies this evening.

Jes tweeted that she was looking forward to spending time with her parents and husband in Florida this week. (I'm a wee bit jealous she's going to be in sunny FL for a whole week without me!)

Kelly tweeted that her good thing for the day is Hope Clinic, a free medical clinic that meets the medical needs of low-income folks in our community.

Those tweets absolutely made my day!

Another thing that made my day was the anticipation of what's to come this week. In response to another friends tweet this morning, I realized that it's the little things that sometimes really do make my day. This week it's the joy of receiving a second chance, of engaging with my online writing community, and of getting my car back from the shop.

In the midst of the struggles, the hardships, the hopelessness and despair, there are so many good things that can easily be overlooked or missed entirely. But by slowing down and intentionally reflecting on our lives, or even one short 24 hours, the good things become clearer. 

Every single Monday I purposely seek out the good things in life for the sole purpose of reminding myself that life is good. That despite the crap that is happening in my life, God puts little blessings in my life. Blogging about my "manic Monday" is simply a way to log those blesses so that one day I can look back and remind myself of the good. It also helps keep me accountable, and forces me to slow down and reflect.

Will you, like my friends did today, considering joining me in the Manic Monday Challenge? It's simple. If you're a blogger, grab the Manic Monday badge in the side bar on the right and start posting on Mondays about those good things in your life. If you don't blog but are on Facebook or Twitter, update your status or send out a tweet using the hashtag #ManicMondayChallenge.

So tell me, what good thing did you focus on today?

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Day to Dream

Yep, it's Monday. It's been a crazy, manic day.

But today's not just another Monday.

It's a day to show love and extend grace.

It's a day to hope, to dream.

Today we celebrate and remember the man whose iconic speech inspired change in a nation. We also celebrate a man whose election to the position as President of the United States has changed the face of a nation.

On this Monday, we look forward with hopeful anticipation of what is to come.

What is yet to come?

I have no idea.

But I hope it's better and brighter than today.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., on this manic Monday and all that will surely come, "Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."

I have a dream...

...that the hungry will be fed.

...that the thirsty will be given drink.

...that the naked will be clothed.

...that the orphaned will find a forever family.

...that the prisoner will find true freedom.

...that the slaves will be set free.

...that the sick will be healed.

...that the hopeless will find hope.

...that the lost will be found. 

What are your dreams?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Empty Promises by Pete Wilson: A Book Review

We all long for more of something in our lives. In our endless pursuit to feel worth and acceptance we find ourselves sacrificing everything for the promise to be a little more beautiful, a little richer, a little more powerful and successful, a little more loved.

How do we break free from these empty pursuits and start chasing the only Promise that will ever satisfy? How do we uncover the hidden idols that are driving us and turn our devotion toward the one true God?

Join Pastor and best-selling author Pete Wilson in discovering the joy and freedom that comes with seeking after God with your whole life. Learn how to replace, and not just relinquish, life's empty promises by turning your focus and worship toward Him. It is the only thing that will set you absolutely free from the endless pursuit of everything else.


Empty Promises by Pete Wilson tackles the tough subject of modern day idolatry in the lives of Christians today. From money to power to religion, there are numerous idols that sit on the throne of our hearts. But these idols are oh-so-deceptive. At times, they come to us as wolves clothes in sheep's clothing. Idols are deceptively good. Thus, idolatry in our own lives is easily overlooked, unseen, or shrugged off as we fool ourselves into thinking that nothing is more important to us than God.

Pete takes the traditional definition of an idol and replaces it with his own, "idolatry is when I look to something that does not have God's power to give me what only God has the power and authority to do." With this definition, when we take good things - marriage, career, dreams - and pursue them with the hope that they'll make us happy, content, or even fulfilled - things only God  can truly do - then we have fallen into the trap of idolatry.

Throughout Empty Promises, Pete takes a systematic look at several common modern idols Christians struggle with today. He uses stories from his own life and of others to show the pitfalls of each idol. He also uses biblical examples to share how this constant struggle with idolatry has been with us since the beginning of time. But he doesn't stop there. Not only does he reveal what idols Christians struggling with, but he helps us identify specific idols in our own heart. Then he offers specific spiritual disciplines to aid us in removing the idol from our heart and replacing it with the One who belongs there.


Truth be told, before reading this book, I honestly thought that idolatry was something other folks struggled with, not me. If you would have asked me who/what was most important in my life, I would have quickly assured you that my relationship with God is top priority. After reading Empty Promises, my heart has absolutely been convicted and now realize that there are several different idols that battle daily for the throne of my heart.

At the top of that list is the need for approval. My heart desperately longs to be known, to be fully understood, and to be loved. As an introvert, it's difficult for me to make friends. I'm generally a quiet, shy person, and making the first move towards developing any type of friendship unnerves me. So I wait, longing for people to approach me, to want to be my friend. When that doesn't happen, the questions begin rattling around in my mind: am I not good enough? Am I not smart enough? Pretty enough? Thankfully I have family and friends who ground me and bring me back to reality, reminding me that I am good enough, smart enough, and pretty enough. That I am known and loved by them, and ultimately by the One who matters the most.

Next in line on the list is the desire for more money. My husband and I are not wealthy. We live in a single-wide trailer, with no cable nor internet, and we depend on the generosity of our families when emergencies arise (such as our heater going out last year) since finances are tight. Money, or lack thereof, is a constant source of stress in my life. In the book, Pete tells a story about a lady who asks him to pray she would win the lottery so she could be more generous. Pete's response cut right to my heart as he asked her if she was generous with what money she already had. OUCH. I wish with all of my heart I could say I was generous with the money I have now, but the truth is, I could give more. I could stop drinking so much Mt Dew every day so that I could give that money to someone else who truly needed it. There is always something I could do without right now so that someone else wouldn't have to go without.

Last, but not least, is chasing after the lies of religion. Religion lies to the heart and tells us we're not doing enough, serving enough, giving enough. It tells us that we can try all we want, but God will never be pleased with us. Pete shares the story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, found in Luke 10. Jesus comes to visit the sisters one day. Martha is a do-er, constantly distracted by what needs to be done. Mary, on the other, sat at Jesus' feet all day, listening to Him. Martha gets upset and confronts Jesus, asking Him to make Mary help her with all the work she is doing. But Jesus tells her, "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Jesus is clear - relationship with Him takes priority over working for Him. There is nothing, nothing that I can do that will make Him love me more (or less). Simply sitting at His feet and being in a relationship is enough for Him.


If you find yourself constantly pursuing after the next big thing, the (hopefully) love of your life, a big fat paycheck, or whatever the thing is that you think is going to make you happy, stop. Pick up a copy of Empty Promises and start the process of evaluating your heart so that you can identify the idols in your life. It won't be pretty, but it will make a difference in your life if you allow it.

Do you struggle with allowing certain idols to sit on the throne of your heart?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One Thing That Never Fails

Ask most folks what they're afraid of and you'll hear a variety of answers.



Public Speaking.




By far, one of the most common fears people have is failure.

The fear of failure keeps people from trying new things, chasing their dreams, or making new relationships. They're afraid of failing more than they are excited at the possibility of succeeding. The questions of "what if" hold them back rather than allowing them to move forward.

There's this saying that says, "failure is not an option." The truth is, failure is always an option. Quitting your job to following your dream might lead to failure. (Let's face it - if you can't sing but you dream of being the next American Idol, you might not want to quit your job!)

On the other hand, success is also an option! God has given each and every one of us gifts, passions, and dreams. It's up to us whether or not we're going to pursue those dreams and put forth the hard work and determination it will take to succeed at our dreams.

At the end of the day, life gives us two options - failure or success. It is up to us what the result will be. The good news is, in the midst of it all, even if life fails us - or we fail ourselves - there is one thing that never fails.


Love. never. ever. ever. fails.

There's a song with these lyrics that never cease to amaze me: "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me."

Despite my ups and down, my fears and failures, God's love never fails. He never gives up on me, even when I've given up on myself. God never leaves, never runs out, even when everyone else is long gone.

You see, God is bigger than our fear of failure. He's even bigger than our actual failures.

Failed career? Failed dream? Failed relationship or marriage?

God is bigger than all of it.

God's love never fails.

When has the fear of failure held you back from something?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why Focus on the Good?

It's Monday.

And I have a massive headache that just won't go away.

But that's OK.

Today, as with every Monday, I choose to focus on the good things and blog about it. 

  • There's already enough negative stuff out there in the world. Why fill my mind & heart with more negativity?
  • Blogging about choosing the good on Mondays keeps me accountable to myself. It reminds me that even in the midst of the negative, the crazy, the mania, there is always something good, or beautiful, out there. I just have to look for it.
So, today, I'm focusing on the good - a quiet night at home with my husband & "kids," watching The Biggest Loser, and celebrating two wins today (I was the first place winner over at Marla Taviano's blog! And my friend Nikki won my giveaway today, and I'm happy for her.)

Tell me, what good thing are you focusing on today?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Got {Reading} Goals?

photo by ginnerobot
All around the blog-o-sphere, twitter-verse, and Facebook-land, folks are posting their New Year's resolutions and goals for the year. Not me. I've chosen one word to keep me going through 2013.

There are some folks, however, who have piqued my interest. These folks are the ones who have been discussing their reading goals for this next year. People like Katie Aexlson who read close to 52 books last year and aims to read 50 books this year. People like Joe Bunting who plans to read and review 100 books. People like Lore Ferguson who has already scheduled an entire year's worth of reading for 2013 and has created spreadsheets and everything. (Now that's some serious planning!)

So here's my goal - read (on average) one book a week. That's 52 books. For a reader like myself, that seems pretty reasonable. I may, or may not, choose to review all 52 books. I'll leave that decision for another day. And I will also update my blog quarterly (March, June, September, December) with a list of books that I've read thus far.

Sound good?

Today is the end of week 2 of 2013, and I'm already ahead of schedule. I've read three books this year :)

Identity by Ted Dekker
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Beyond Ordinary by Justin & Trisha Davis (check out my review here)

Do you have reading goals for 2013?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Beyond Ordinary by Justin & Trisha Davis: A Book Review

Justin & Trisha Davis know all too well the dangers of settling for an ordinary marriage. Their own failure to recognize the warning signs almost resulted in the end of their marriage, their family, and their ministry. Now, with disarming transparency, the give readers a rare glimpse into the slow fade that eventually led to the near destruction of everything they held dear.

Using a compelling "he said, she said" approach, Justin & Trisha share two sides of the same story, exposing the seemingly insignificant comments and decisions couples make every day that can dramatically alter the course of a marriage. They also share the invaluable lessons they learned that helped them restore their relationship and transform their ordinary marriage into an extraordinary one!

It's your marriage. Why would you settle for anything less?

Beyond Ordinary by Justin & Trisha Davis (founders of RefineUs Ministries, Inc.) is supposedly not an ordinary book on marriage. Having never read a book on marriage prior to this one, I have no idea whether or not that's true. What I do know, however, is that this book is funny, engaging, challenging, and extremely convicting!

From the simple introduction to the very last page, the Davis's bare their heart and soul to the reader. They share their story with such openness and honesty, allowing the pain and raw emotion to leak onto the pages. Justin & Trisha take their time telling the story, not rushing through to the "bad stuff," but show the reader the ins and outs of their daily interactions with one another, the little things that led up to the near destruction of their marriage.

The simple style of the book takes a "he said, she said" approach. Both Justin & Trisha take turns sharing their side of the story. In marriage (and life), there are always two sides of every story, so it was good to hear both perspectives. Also incorporated into the book were occasional journal entries from Trisha, which gives the reader a genuine glimpse of her heart and emotions at the time. 

The message of Beyond Ordinary is profound. Justin & Trisha don't simply try to give the reader steps to a better marriage. This book does not give a list of rules and regulations, do's and don'ts, or say whatever a typical marriage book would say. Instead, the Davis's focus on telling their story of redemption and what it takes to go from an ordinary marriage to an extraordinary one. What it takes might surprise you as having an extraordinary marriage is not a result of doing more or less of this or that for your spouse. It's what you do with your heart that matters.

Whether you have a happy marriage, an ordinary marriage, or a down-right difficult marriage, I recommend you read Beyond Ordinary

Click here to watch the official book trailer for Beyond Ordinary.

Here's the honest truth - my husband & I struggle BIG TIME in our marriage. We've been married a little over 5 years now and it's never really been easy. My husband and I are as different as night and day. There are things that both of us do constantly that grate on each other's nerves, we fight like cats and dogs, and spending time together typically means a few minutes here and there throughout the day. And the "d" word has been thrown around from time to time in our short married life.

The good news is, we both love each other more than the other could possibly imagine. Both of us desire to have a marriage that is not just surviving, but thriving. That helps considerably when the "d" comes up. 

The bad news is, this book has revolutionized my thoughts on marriage. You can ask my husband how many times I've told him, "I don't want to change you, I just want to change your behavior." One of the first things Justin & Trisha tackle in Beyond Ordinary is this very issue. Here's what they say:

"We work really, really hard to improve our marriages by improving our behavior, and while these changes might last for a few weeks or a few months, we end up right back in the same rut. Even worse, we try really, really hard to improve our marriages by forcing our spouses to improve their behavior, and we end up frustrated and exhausted; and our spouses feel like they never do anything right.

Those in ordinary marriages believe behavior modification will solve their problems, that spouses can behave their way to an improved marriage. But you can't behave your way to an extraordinary marriage.

God doesn't want to improve your marriage; he wants to transform it. God doesn't want to modify your behavior; he wants to change your heart. Extraordinary comes when you, as a husband and wife, invite God to change you."


To say that this book stepped on my toes just a little bit would be true. Do I still want my husband's behavior to change? Absolutely. But the truth is, my heart really isn't in the right place. My heart needs A LOT of work. And I'm not sure I'm ready yet to make the changes. Sounds ridiculous, right? Who wouldn't want God to change their heart?! God's way of changing hearts often comes through brokenness as that is what brings about true healing. Yet my mind screams, "why can't this be easy?!" I want life to have an easy button. 

So that's where I am right now, caught in this tango of wanting things to be easy yet wanting God to break me and change my heart.
Here's the deal, I loved this book so much that I want to give one of my lucky readers a FREE Kindle edition! On Monday, January 14th at 8 PM, I will randomly select a winner. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below. Good luck!

Are you married? If so, what makes your marriage extraordinary?

I was given a free copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's the Little Things

Today is the first Monday of 2013.

I had high hopes that the first Monday of the new year would be a good, calm day. There was no reason why it shouldn't have been. Except it's Monday. And Monday is almost always crazy.

If you've been around this blog long enough, you know that I chose back in June to do something about sucky Mondays. I challenged myself to not allow Mondays to define the rest of my week. Instead, I chose to find the positive things throughout the day to focus on and blog about them.

Since June, I've found that blogging on Mondays has really kept me accountable in focusing on the positive things in life. And not just on Mondays either. It's becoming easier to find good things, little things, beautiful things to concentrate on each and every day.

Today was no different. It was a crazy, manic Monday. But I was blessed today by something little - a sale on a bottle of detergent AND a coupon for $1.00 off said detergent left behind by a kind stranger. It really is the little things that make my day.  :)

You know what else would make my day? If you would join me in the Manic Monday challenge this year! It's simple. All you have to do is find one positive thing about your Monday and write about it on your blog. Don't have a blog? That's OK! Come back here every Monday and tell me your positive thing in the comments. Or, you can tweet/update your Facebook status every Monday with your positive thing. It's that simple. And it would really make my Monday! ;)

So tell me, what little thing made your day today?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Forget New Year's Resolutions

Button courtesy of Melanie at Only A Breath

Welcome 2013! It's the second day of the new year and, for many, resolutions have been made and broken. Not me. I've long since given up on making and breaking resolutions at the beginning of each new year. The list was always the same - lose weight, work out more, read my Bible more, pray more - and, though my intentions were good, the results never changed. Ultimately, every resolution I ever made was broken.

A few years ago I was introduced to the One Word challenge. The idea is simple: One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.

Though I liked the thought of focusing on one word throughout the year, I never stepped up to the challenge. Picking one word seemed too difficult, too risky. How do you pick just one word? What if I picked the wrong one? What if the word actually took shape in my life and changed me? 

Despite all the fears and doubts chasing each other in my head, this year I'm accepting the challenge. For several days I thought about different words - expect, believe, trust, justice - and even looked a few of them up in the dictionary for greater clarity. I prayed, asking God to shed some light on which of these words He would have me focus on this year.

Surprisingly, God chose a different word for me: return.

"Return" seems like an odd word. At first glance, it doesn't necessarily sum up who I want to be or how I want to live. Nor does it seem like a word to focus on day-in and day-out. 

What does return even mean? Return to what?

"Return" means to come or go back to, and it has undertones of restoration and redemption. At second glance, it's a perfect word for me. While I have little idea how this word is going to play a part in my life this coming year, I'm sure of two things:

God wants me to return to my first love - Him.

God wants to return to me what the enemy has try to steal, kill, and destroy.

There is little doubt that God has spoken this word - return - to me. My heart longs for those quiet, intimate moments with Him that are more often than not hurried and short. My spirit thirsts for His words, alive and breathing life into me. My soul longs for vindication from the Lord, for the return of peace, joy, and health to me and my family. For all the things that have been taken to be restored.

"Come, let us return to the Lord. He will heal us, He will bandage our wounds."

Did you make any New Year's resolutions or did you choose one word to focus on through the year?