Monday, May 22, 2017

On Break

Going on break indefinitely.

I appreciate those who read this blog.  I have realized that I need to spend more time with my family and with the Lord and need to eliminate much of the virtual noise in my life.

So, join me around the throne of Jesus in prayer.  If you would like to read something worthwhile, spend more time in the Word of God.  Have fun with your husband and children.  Seek wisdom in real-life conversations with those you respect and love - that is what I plan on doing.

I may be back in the future.  However the Lord leads.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Teens Who Love Church & Ministry



From the time my children were four weeks old, they've been in church (I stayed home the first month to rest & recuperate).  Our church does not have Sunday evening service, but we would go Sunday morning and Wednesday night, as well as any special services.  Admittedly, there were several times when I wondered why I bothered even going as I often spent services in the nursery with a crying baby.  Wednesday nights were tough - long days with babies and toddlers then get everyone ready and go to church, where I may or may not hear a sermon preached.

However, it wasn't about me.  My husband and I wanted church-going to be a natural part of life for our children, like it was for us.  We wanted them to know that it was not optional, but a privilege and, yes, even fun to attend the house of God to worship the One who gave so much for us.

Our church did not have a nursery or a Sunday school when our older ones were little.  They learned to sit in church.  When they were babies, we would take them out if they cried.  When they got to be about a year or so, we sat them in our laps or next to us and they learned that they were expected to be quiet.  They often fell asleep on our laps.  Knowing that twice a week was not consistent enough to really train such a young one, we would sit on the couch at home during the weeknights and sing or listen to Daddy read the Bible.  In this way, sitting still became common and they would not despise church as being the only place where they had to be quiet.  My husband and I found books, crayons, etc. to be extremely distracting to us and to those around us, so we never made those available to our kids in church.  If they were bored due to their being too young to understand, they fell asleep.

Don't get me wrong....our children were not perfect.  Our children are not just naturally quiet or well-behaved.  Some of them have more wiggles than others.  Yet, we expected the same stillness from each one.  Trust me, I often wondered why I was even bothering.  I will say I am grateful that my husband was with me so we could tag-team.  Not sure I could have done it without him.

By the time our children were two/two and a half years old, they could sit calmly in church.  They may have needed the occasional reminder to be still or quiet, but, for the most part, they were little trouble.  Which was good, because usually by that time it was time to train another little one to sit quietly.

We did not want to teach our children that only church was important, but serving God and living for Him were essential.

Church without ministry is ritual. 

Sitting in a building listening to a preacher for a couple of hours a week is religion.  Living for and serving Jesus is Christianity and that is how we wanted to nurture our children.  Therefore, from the time they were young we involved the children in any ministry we could.  Our church would go on the streets of downtown to sing and pass out tracts on various occasions.  Usually, my husband would have to work, but I would pack up the stroller and children and we would go.  My oldest would walk ahead or beside me, two little girls would hold on to either side of the stroller while the youngest rode.  They each would have a handful of tracts and give their sweetest smiles while they offered them to passerby.  Very few could refuse those precious faces. Once our fifth child came and my oldest was just 6 years old, it was a bit more difficult to do this on my own.  So, I did take a step back for a short time for safety reasons as trying to keep an eye on five little ones in a crowd of people is very difficult - no matter how well behaved the children.

When our oldest was 8 or 9, he had learned that serving the Lord was fun and he had a desire to pass out tracts in Buffalo when a group would go weekly during the summer.  A couple of men agreed to keep an eye on him and he was able to minister even though my husband and I had to stay back with the younger ones.  Because he had been trained to listen, pay attention to where the adults were and do what he was told, it was safe to send him along.

Let me say here that my husband and I have never had the mentality that our children need to be with us at all times.  There are many others we trust and have never wanted to hinder our children when it comes to ministry opportunities just because we can't go.  Every parent has to make these decisions for themselves, but that is where we stand.  There are many good people that make up the body of Christ who are willing and able to help our children to grow beyond what just he and I can do.

By the time our youngest was 2 years old, our church had begun CHOICE, an after school ministry in the city.  I was able to pack up the seven kids (and other kids as time went on) every Monday afternoon and we were able to minister together in a place where my children had their eyes opened to a different culture and different way of living.  It was at CHOICE where my children really came face to face with the fact that not all kids come from two-parent homes where there is love, safety, and money.  It was at CHOICE where most of my children learned to share the gospel and led their first soul to the Lord.  Yes, it was at CHOICE where my children heard their first swear words - but while I was there and that only opened up the conversations of what is right and wrong and how important it is for us to know that and to share it with others.  For 6-7 years, my children and I ministered side by side.  There were times we wanted to quit, weeks when it would have been easier to stay at home than go, and times when we were just miserable when we were walking out the door to get in the van.  Yet, the Lord always rewarded us and we never regretted a week because we never regretted making a child's day a little brighter by shining the love of God in their life.

Today, all of our children love going to church, including our teenagers.  We don't have to prod or threaten them.  It's something they look forward to. In fact, one of our teens loves to find a church that holds Sunday evening services, hops in the car and heads for a Sunday night of worship.  Our oldest now attends a different church where he attends faithfully and has begun to minister on his own in various capacities there.  We have also encouraged our son that if there are any extra meetings or activities to take part in them - no matter what we may have scheduled as a family (with the exception of graduations and weddings).  To this day, it is important to my husband and I that church, no matter where it is, is like family to our children.

The rule in our house is that as long as you live here you go to church.  But, that doesn't seem to be a point of contention as going to church and ministry is about as natural as breathing because that is how we have tried to raise our children since their first breaths.

I write all of this for God's glory.  Any good that comes in our children is due to His grace and His mercy.  He gave us many wonderful examples of older Christian parents from whom we learned much.  I just write these things in hopes of passing on the blessing.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy is the man (and woman) that hath his quiver full of them...

stock photo

I gave birth to seven children in less than ten years.  My closest age span is 14 months and largest is 21 months.  For years I had toddlers, children in diapers, children who could not dress themselves, little ones who needed naps, needed help blowing their noses, siblings who fought, kids who broke things out of carelessness.  While all of my children slept through the night by three months old, I still had countless nights of interrupted sleep due to illnesses and some bad dreams.  We waited outside of bedrooms to make sure children stayed in bed during nap times and bedtimes.  We made little ones sit at the table until they finished meals. We brushed teeth, gave baths, read stories, cleaned up spills.  Laundry piled out of hampers in the laundry room and it never seemed like I saw the end.

No, it wasn't all bad.  We had some pretty good times and made some happy memories.  But, it wasn't easy.  It was often exhausting and I shed many tears.  I messed up a lot.  But, my husband and I also prayed a lot.  We read our Bibles individually and with our children.  We taught them to read their own Bibles.  We taught them the Bible stories and they acted them out.  We sang the hymns together.  We took them to church and to various ministries.  In short, we did our best to point our children to Christ.  And that was often exhausting, as well.

The other day in my reading, I came across a chapter of Scripture I have often read and heard preached.  Still, it jumped out at me.

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:
except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,
to eat the bread of sorrows:
for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
they shall not be ashamed,
but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
-Psalm 127

My husband and I labored.  I had sat up late and got up early.  We wondered if our quiver was too full at times.  We wondered if we were doing the right thing by having this many children in such a short time.

But now, though we still have young children and many years to go, we do have five teenagers...three which have finished their home education and are taking the beginning steps into adulthood.  At  this time - today - I can truly say that we are happy.  At least two of our children are not ashamed and have been able to tell others about their faith in Jesus.  One was able to quote John 3:16 in her secular college class last week.  Each of our teenagers continue to talk with us about their fears, hopes and dreams.  They feel comfortable enough to tell us things they know may not make us happy and are willing to listen to what we have to say.  Today, all of our children continue to attend church.  Each of them works hard.  Those who have jobs outside the home are making their bosses happy and are excelling in their workplaces.  

I do not say these things to brag on my kids or to pat myself on the back.  I say these things to prove that God is faithful and that His Word is true.  Our quiver is full - not too full, but just right.  Our children have truly become our reward and we are happy with them.  They are not perfect.  I still shed tears.  I still pull late nights and early mornings.  They don't always do things to make us happy, but still we are happy with our full quiver and with our arrows.  They are  currently flying straight, though there may be a wobble here and there.  With a bit more sharpening, I have faith they will fly straight and far.

Young mom, I know it's hard.  I know the mundane daily tasks are exhausting.  I know you may wonder if it's really worth disciplining, teaching, etc.  I know you often feel overwhelmed and inexperienced.  But, let me tell you that God's Word is true.  Keep training your children the way God tells you and pointing them to Jesus and one day you will feel something more than exhaustion.  You will experience happiness.  

Join me in the next few posts for some practical help in getting through these tough years of little ones and on to happy (though sometimes emotionally challenging) teen years.  It is my hope and prayer that you will experience the happiness that God promises parents who follow His ways.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday Morning Coffee: April 22, 2017


Ah, Saturday!  Slow mornings, scones, coffee, cleaning, fun errands...a day to just enjoy being alive!
It's cloudy here today, but the temps are doable and are no longer getting anywhere near the freezing point.  Even in the rain this week, the bright yellow daffodils on the side of the road made me smile.  My children aren't making me smile at the moment, but that is probably my problem more than theirs.  (just keeping it real, friends!)



As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
-Psalm 127:4-5

If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?  But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
-Psalm 130:3-4

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest though this?
-John 11:26






I was perusing Pinterest last night - along with several of you, I am sure - when I came upon this article at More Radiance.  I have never heard of this blog before, but this post was spot on.  I have a few young ladies who read this blog...I beg you to read this post.  If you are a mom of a teen girl, please share this post with her.  Our girls are torn between the world and Christ - it's a lifelong struggle.  These are some encouraging words for them to pursue God with all of their hearts.  



This book was written back in the 1970s, but it is a timely true story of a Muslim woman converting to Christianity in Pakistan.  She had everything the world could offer and she was willing to give it all up in order for the one true God to be her Father.  This is a compelling story of her close walk with God and how He directed her steps as she followed Him.

Facebook page: Love & Rewards

Yes, I am shamelessly promoting the Love & Rewards Facebook page.  Sometimes, it is difficult posting a comment on Blogger.  Often, I don't see it right away and I haven't figured out how to have Blogger notify my commenter on their reply.  With the goal of keeping the conversation going, I have established a Facebook page.  I will update it with each new blog post, as well as post encouraging words, quotes or just ask a question to which I hope you will respond.  I want this to be more than a blog, more than a one-sided conversation.  I want to be able to build a community of those who love their families and their God, but sometimes struggle with their own short-comings.  I want to encourage young women, moms, and wives to seek the wisdom of older women, moms and wives.  I want us to share stories, laugh, and pray for one another.  Will you consider joining?  If you do, feel free to invite your other friends.


Instagram: loveandrewards

You guessed it, Love & Rewards is also on Instagram.  Especially if you are not on Facebook, please join me there.  My purpose on Instagram is the same as on Facebook.  



These cookies are a staple at our house.  Made with just a few ingredients, and most of them healthy, they are easy to whip up and 99% guilt-free to eat.  I have made them with regular peanut butter and honey, but I prefer to make them with raw honey and organic, natural peanut butter - only because it makes me feel healthier.  I have been tempted to leave out the m&ms and use carob chips, but let's not get crazy.  What's life without a little bit of chocolate and food dye?
I may or may not be known for eating 4 of these at one time. 

Ingredients:

1 1/4 C old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
1/4 C honey
1/3 C mini m&ms
1/3 C mini chocolate chips

1.  Dump all ingredients into a medium sized bowl.
2.  Stir well for a few minutes until everything is combined.
3.  Roll mixture into small balls (about 1 - 1.5 inches in size) carefully. Dampen hands occasionally to prevent mixture from sticking too much.
4. Place bites on a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.
5. Allow to set in the fridge until solid.
6. Store in fridge in an airtight container or ziplock bag


So, go read, peruse Facebook & Instagram (and join some really great pages) and eat some healthy cookies.  Meet with me for coffee on Monday!






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Praying for Our Church Family


Every so often, our church will have prayer meeting during most of our mid-week service.  Last night was one of those meetings.  It seems the crowd is often lighter on these nights, but the spirit is intensely present.  The theme or topic for each prayer meeting varies - i.e. missionaries, government, upcoming events, etc.  Last night's meeting topic was "family."

Rather than splitting the groups male and female, our pastor broke us up into families.  Biological families praying with and for church families.  We prayed especially for those within our prayer circle in which we sat.

I must say that last night's meeting was one of the best times of group prayer I have ever participated in.  In my circle were people I have known for many years while some I have known for a much shorter period of time.  There were singles, young married, young families, families whose children are growing up and moving on and one couple who have been married over forty years whose children now have families of their own.  Each of us in that circle has faced very difficult situations, yet God's grace brought us through and we remain.

One young man prayed that our church would be united.  While praying, he quoted, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  I realized that spending time praying for those around us, remembering the good times, contemplating the many times they have held us up in the difficult times will go far in keeping our church family (& our biological families) united.  Often, we see so narrowly in the present forgetting to look back at the past or look toward the future.  We see what makes us unhappy now.  We complain about what so-and-so isn't doing (or is doing) now.  We see the teen beginning to rebel now - and we forget the teens who have struggled (including ourselves) and have made it through.  We forget to look towards the future and the grace and restoration God continues to hold even there.

Last night caused me to reflect and rekindle my love for my dear church family.  I recall the way many of them welcomed our little family of three when we first began to attend and welcomed, with joy, each of the six children who joined us throughout the next nine years.  I remember the young ladies - now women with children of their own - who came to our home week after week to help care for our crew, iron clothes, cook meals, clean house, and babysit so my husband and I could sneak out.   I remember sitting in the ER countless times and an unexpected familiar face would peek in the doorway and just give us a few moments of fellowship and cheer.  How can I forget the support and love that just flowed when our son, and then our daughter, had surgery and those who actually relieved me to stay the night in the hospital with them so I could get some sleep in my own bed?  For weeks, we were the recipients of meals, help, visits, prayers, and extra love when our sixth child was born premature.  I also truly believe that my husband survived his farm accident largely due to the immediate prayers of these dear people.

Some have gone.  Some became bitter.  Some moved away.  Some have joined our Savior Heaven.  I love the memories we had with these people.  I thank God for those who once were a part of our family and will always have a place in our heart and family tree.

However, those who sit among us now...those who have rejoiced in the good times and endured the bad times, those who have been hurt and have forgiven, those who have suffered their own personal and physical trials...those who remain are the ones for which my love has grown deeper.  Just 45 minutes of prayer last night has made me so much more grateful for my church family.  Today, I plan to reflect even more on what they have meant to us and what we can do for the individuals that make up this diverse unit (a juxtaposition that only comes from God).  Today, I plan to spend more time in prayer for the precious souls that make up my church family.

How about you?  The best way to love is through gratefulness.  Will you praise God for your church family today?  If you are struggling with one or many members, refocusing your vision and talking to the Lord about them just may rekindle your love for the family He has placed you in.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Best Present


I remember back when my brothers and I were kids and we would ask our mom what she wanted for her birthday or for Christmas or Mother's Day.  The answer seemed to always be the same.

"I don't want anything.  I just want you to be good."

Really?  How very boring.  Wouldn't candy, flowers, a new outfit, a book...anything...be more exciting than our just being good?

Most kids have heard that answer from their parents and none of them understand it...until they become parents themselves.

Last week was my birthday.  My kids didn't ask me what I wanted.  They didn't have to as I had already told them.  In fact, I showed them.  It was exactly what I had gotten for my mom's birthday, which is a week before mine.

No, it wasn't good behavior.

It was a book lover's journal - a great journal where you can record the title & author of the books you've read, the characters & plot, date you read it, who you loaned it to, etc.  I got it for my mom as she loves books, just like I love books.  I figured it would be a good strategy to show it to the kids before I wrapped it up and gave it to her. It was exactly what I had been looking for the last few years.  I told my kids where I bought the book and for how much.  I gave them other on-line options where I am sure they could buy it, as well.

I have no shame.

My birthday came.  My birthday went.   I didn't get the book.  

You know what I got?

Good behavior.

The week of my birthday, I watched and listened to one of my daughters participate in an incredible piano/violin trio in church.  She, along with her friends, played flawlessly and with a smile on her face all for the glory of God.

I watched another daughter help with the organization of a bake auction we had during our missions conference.  She was collecting numbers, straightening things up and working with a constant smile on her face.  She was in her element helping others and serving the Lord.

I watched yet another daughter handle a difficult situation involving a peer with more grace than I could ever have dreamed to possess at that age.  When others would have cried or become angry in the same situation (which, to be honest, I felt like doing just watching it), she chose to be like Jesus and look beyond her own feelings into the needs of another.

I listened as my oldest son opened up about something on his heart.  Instead of clamming up like so many 19 year olds, he let me into his life.  We talked.  I listened to him and he listened to me.  We hugged.

My 13 year old was sick and needed to stay home from church.  He left a note for his little brother knowing he would be asleep when the younger one got home.  That little brother and my youngest daughter bid on items in an auction earlier that night where all the money went to missions.  What fun they had and how happy they were to be able to have even a small part in helping missionaries spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Last week, I received the very best birthday present.  I received a present more valuable than any book, journal, or piece of jewelry.  I received a present I did not deserve.  I received a present that I will cherish always.

Each one of my children did good.

And I didn't even have to ask.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Morning Coffee: April 8, 2017

This week was Mission's Conference at our church.  Three nights of great preaching, introductions to mission fields and missionaries, bake sale auctions, food, fellowship and late nights.  Very late nights.  I missed last night as I had a migraine, which has left me feeling pretty wiped out.  So, any one else getting a late and slow start this beautiful Saturday morning?  Finally getting my cup of coffee at 1:00 pm!!!! No matter.  This is what Saturdays are supposed to be.


Back in January, I claimed the following verses for the year.  These are my New Year's resolutions.  I love reading them again every month...

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:23-27








I do not remember where I saw this book recommended, but it was in one of those lists of "must reads" on a blog somewhere.  Kind of like you are reading now.  I put in an order for several books at thriftbook.com and this was one of them.  Modern day women who are taking risks and giving all for the furthering of the gospel of Christ.  As an American Christian woman, I often forget that there are so many places in this world where women are beaten, forced to marry, disowned from their families and often killed - just for becoming a Christian.  The easy American Christianity in not the cross-bearing Christianity of the Bible which is so very real in most of the world.  These women are true heroes....and will accumulate so many more crowns in heaven than I can ever hope to receive.

Music: Soldier On

While attending a Christian high school, I sang in an all-girls group called the Sweet 16s.  We still have not idea why it was called that as we were not all 16 and there never were just 16 members.  Nonetheless, it was a group that was in existence for years and we ministered mostly in retirement homes and the like, as well as to our own home church.  During my junior and senior years, I sang next to Abigail.  She was always the quiet and graceful person I wanted to be.  As she was quiet and the fact that she stood on the side of my partially deaf ear, all I knew about her singing was that she could hit the high notes quite well.  A few years later when I was back in church visiting from college, Abby was singing with another group and she had a solo part.  I vividly remembering looking at my future mother-in-law who was sitting next to me in shock and asking her when she got that voice!   Ever since, Abby has been one of my favorite singers.  Through the years, she married another friend of mine, had 10 children (now expecting #11), and continued to write songs and sing to bless others.  She has several cds you may purchase at abigailmiller.com but her latest is "Soldier On."  As many of her children have wonderful voices, they are also a large part of this project.  The music will inspire you, encourage you, and bless your very soul.  You may purchase a cd or download the album right to your computer (which is what I did).  


Podcast:  Set Apart Girl

At one time I recommended the on-line magazine Set Apart Girl  This week, I found their fairly new podcast hosted by founder of Set Apart Girl, Leslie Ludy.  These 15-30 minute episodes are full of encouragement for women of all ages to live for Christ and to inspire others to live for Him, as well.  Check it out and let me know what you think.



I began making these cupcakes a couple of months ago and they have become a family favorite.  I baked these for our baked goods auction at our Mission's Conference last night and I believe they sold for $100.  So, rather than keep this secret to myself, I thought I would share so more people could share the joy.

The sisters suggest using your favorite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcake.  I use "my" double chocolate cake recipe - found on the Devil's Food Cake box from Aldi.  You probably know the one - it calls for a package of pudding mix and sour cream.  I add in chocolate chips.  It's the most moist chocolate cake recipe I have ever found.  

For the frosting:
(NOTE:  I add a bit more peanut butter than recommended in the recipe.  Add according to taste)

Well, I need to try to get something done today.  And so do you.  Loved sitting with you for a little bit, though.  I'll be back here on Monday and I hope you will join me!  Have a wonderful and blessed weekend.



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Monday, April 3, 2017

Being a Listener/Counselor: When the Counselor Needs Counsel



Often, the counselors are perceived to be the strong ones, the wise ones, the ones who have it all figured out.  All too often, we counselors begin to believe that.   We tend to try to fight our battles on our own.  After all, we are the listeners of problems...what will happen if people find out that we do not, indeed, have all the answers?  To open up about our own struggles, we reveal the chink in our armor.  We reveal that we are human.

We are vessels made of flesh only used of God.  In our pride, we forget this fact.  Then, when our flesh rears its head or when the trials of life begin to impact our own lives, instead of opening up to someone as we encourage others to do, we hold it all in.  While we show compassion to so many, we tell ourselves that we are not worthy of that compassion.  While we spend hours listening to others, we hesitate to require the valuable time of another wise person.  While we will drop everything to help a friend, we refuse to ask for help for ourselves.

Then we feel alone.  We continue to struggle alone, cry alone, fail alone.  We put on a smile in front of people and exhaust ourselves trying to convince everyone that we still have it all together while inside we are falling apart.  What will they think of us if they knew we were weak?

Truthfully, many people take for granted that those who are the listener/counselors do, indeed, have it all together.  It is natural and wise for people to seek counsel from those whose lives are in order.  It is rare for a person to ask us how we are doing because it is assumed that all is well all the time.  To be fair, a hurting person struggles to see beyond their own  hurt to anyone else's hurt.  They are not necessarily a selfish person...it's just natural.  

However, it is nothing but our pride that keeps us from seeking counsel.  We are prideful enough to believe that no one can show us the compassion, understanding, or mercy we show to others.  Only by our pride would we believe that it would be a burden for someone to spend time with us while we find it a blessing to spend time with another.  Pridefully, we think we have enough strength and answers to deal with things alone.  

Pride comes before a fall.  We fall under the pressure of the battle.  We fall on our faces in tears.  We fall in a pit of despair and grief.  It is then that we finally reach for help.

I've been there.  For many years I fought battles alone.  To be honest, I  did ok with that.  Or so I thought.  Then, there came a battle that I tried to fight and I was being defeated.  It was a battle that I believed would have devastating consequences if I told anyone about it, but God knew it would destroy me if I didn't.  I never planned to open up to anyone but my husband.  Then, one day, a wise woman - a listener herself - asked me, "How are you doing?  How can I pray for you?"  Before I knew what was happening, the words flowed out.  For months this woman listened to me, talked with me, advised me, prayed with me, spent time with me, showed me great compassion and understanding.  This woman was a gift from God.

It was incredibly difficult for me to be the one needing counseling.  It was humbling, but it was life-saving.  There were times when my pride got in the way and I refused to reach out when the struggle became difficult.  I again tried to fight alone.  But, somehow, God never let that happen.  He would always tell my friend to pray for me and to ask me how I was.  Then I would talk and she would listen.  

I wish I could say I learned my lesson and that now I ask for help the instant I know I need it.  But, I don't. Maybe you struggle with that, too.  We need to always remember that our pride will destroy us.  A wise person will seek counsel.  If we refuse to seek counsel for ourselves, we really have no business counseling others.   

I believe, that while we shouldn't air our struggles to the world, it is good for others to see that we are weak.  When they ask how we are doing, it's ok to let them know if we are having a difficult time.  We don't need to get into specifics with everyone, but when they see that we are real, that we live in the same flesh they live in, that we are weak at times, they know that our counsel comes from personal experience.  In some odd, God-ordained way, our weakness gives us credibility.  If others know that we have walked the valley, they will be confident that we can truly help them as they walk through it. 

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:" -Romans 5:3-4

No one is immune to trials.  We become weak so that God can reveal Himself to us - through others.  Only He is always strong.  Only He has all the answers.  We need to humble ourselves to seek godly counsel and be patient with the time it takes for us to heal and/or receive victory.  The experience of being the counseled is invaluable as we later can give hope to those who sit across the table from us seeking help.





Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Morning Coffee: April 1, 2017


What a week!  Got my blog going again with a new look and have enjoyed discussing the ministry of listening/counseling with you all.  We will continue the conversation next week.  But, for now, let's relax and be encouraged with some lighter, uplifting things!


Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.
-Psalm 66:20

Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name...my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
-Psalm 63:4-5

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
-Colossians 3:14












Elisabeth Elliot has always been one of my heroes.  I used to listen to her on the radio and she always spoke with such grace and wisdom sprinkled with humor.  I have just discovered this gem and in it, Elisabeth makes clear the calling of womanhood.  While discussing marriage, singleness, career, education, husbands, etc., she keeps central the idea that we are to live according to God's Word and His calling on our lives.  A compilation of notes written to her daughter Valerie upon her engagement, the chapters are short and concise dealing with one issue at a time, but full of wisdom and profound thought. Wonderful for women of all ages and all stages of life.




We are inundated with "health" and fitness apps, blogs, instagram posts.  Every where we go we read or hear about what to eat and what not to eat.  Embrace your body; change your body.  The messages are mixed and overwhelming.  I am not trying to add another voice to the deafening crowd, but maybe this voice will stand out because it is different.  Sarah Berneche is a nutritionist who teaches intuitive eating.  Diets don't work.  All foods are acceptable.  Your body was made to give you hunger and full signals along with whatever else it needs.  We were designed to listen to those signals, but culture has desensitized us to them.  I've been greatly helped and encouraged through this blog.
(Not a Christian blog.)


photo courtesy of stuckonsweet.com

Recipe: Vanilla Scones
adapted from Stuck on Sweet

I recently ventured into the scary arena of scone making.  I'm not sure why I was so afraid of making scones because they really are not that difficult.  You just need to be sure not to over-bake - and have the perfect recipe.  And that perfect recipe is this recipe right here!

Vanilla Scones (makes 8)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed (I've used salted and it's fine)

Vanilla Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp water (may need more)
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 425-degrees and line a bakings sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
2.  In a mixer, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and granulated sugar.  Add cold cubed butter and mix on low-speed until course crumbs form* - careful not to over-mix.
3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla then add it to the mixer and mix until dough comes together.  It will be crumbly.**
4.  If you want to add blueberries or chocolate chips, stir them in now.
5.  Flour a clean surface and kneed dough just a bit until it comes together.  Form it into a circle about one inch in thickness.  Use a knife, pizza cutter, or pastry cutter to cut scones into 8 wedges.  Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired (I don't).
6.  Bake for 10-14 minutes or until edges are slightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool.
7.  While scones are cooling, add all the glaze ingredients into a bowl and whisk - glaze will be slightly thick but should drizzle off a spoon.  Drizzle and/or spread onto scones and let stand a few minutes until glaze is set (if you can wait that long).

*I accidentally did not add the butter until after I added and mixed the wet ingredients with the dry.  I then added the butter and mixed.  It turned out fine...almost better.
**When you add butter last, the dough is not crumbly.

These take very little time to make and your family will adore you.  Truly.  And everyone needs a little adoration in their lives.  It goes well with scones.


I do hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  Keep drinking warm drinks, eat pastries, read a good book, laugh with your family, and enjoy some wonderful fellowship in church on Sunday.  I'll see you back here again Monday morning!


Friday, March 31, 2017

Being a Listener/Counselor: The Counsel of a Husband


I was just waking up and laying in bed thinking of all the things I needed to do that day.  In an hour, I needed to leave to take my girls to the orthodontist.  Then, I needed to come home and pack as I was flying out the next morning to celebrate my "sister's" 40th birthday.  I wanted to be sure the house was in order and spend some time with my kids before leaving for four days.  Then, the phone rang.
"Vicki.  Can you come?"
It was my friend who had been seriously struggling for months.  She had taken some time to think about an hour away.  Suddenly, she was on the phone, in tears, barely able to speak, and asking me to meet with her - NOW.  I weakly and sorrowfully told her all that was going on.  I just couldn't.
"That's ok."  
She hung up.  I felt my breath leave me.  I immediately called my husband.
"Did I do the wrong thing?"
"Maybe," he said.  "Go."
I asked him about the appointment.
"I'll take the girls to their appointment."  
What about the fact that I was now not going to be spending time with our children before my trip???
"We'll be ok.  She needs you."

It was before I was married that God started making it clear to me that He had given me the gift of listening/counseling.  Because He had chosen to give me this gift, He chose for me a man who is supportive in the time I spend with others.  He helps me decide when I should go and when I should back off.   I went that day.  It was dark when I got home that night - after driving in a snowstorm.  I got to see my kids for a little bit and quickly packed.  I was exhausted physically and emotionally.  Yet, when I was sitting in the Detroit airport the next day and heard my friend's happy and hopeful voice on the other side of the phone, it was all worth it.  My husband had made the right decision for me and for my friend.

Our husbands are our protectors.  We women, though strengthened by God, are not meant to carry heavy burdens alone.  Yes, God can help us...but He has also given us our husbands.  While Eric does share advice at times, other times he's just a patient sounding board for me after I have been someone else's sounding board.  He literally helps me carry the burden.  When he is aware of what I have heard and how many times I have met with someone, he is then able to advise me when to step away if need be.  If he feels that I am being hurt more than they are being helped or if someone is gossiping more than seeking counsel, he is able to protect me by putting up boundaries.

Eric does not expect me to tell him everything people share with me, nor does he want me to.  He understands the confidentiality to which I must sometimes hold.  However, unless someone directly asks me not to share something with my husband, I will often talk to him about the things that come up.  Usually, I give him the general topic discussed.  Other times, I need his perspective or reasoning capabilities, so I share more details. Eric is much more logical than I and can ground me when I am emotionally overwhelmed.  He also has the male perspective that is necessary when I am praying about advice for a woman who is having marriage trouble or even questions in handling her son.  For the most part, those I speak with don't ask me to keep things from my husband and I rarely promise that I will as it is my desire to not put up that wall between my best friend and myself.

Because I do share things with my husband frequently, he is completely understanding and respectful of the times when I am not at liberty to say anything.  Trust is a necessity in marriage.  Openness builds trust while secrets inhibit it.  Sharing some information keeps him trusting and understanding. (Again, I am not saying it is necessary to tell him every detail.)  It also helps him make the critical decisions of whether I should go or whether I should stay.  He knew some of what my friend was dealing with that morning as I had shared bits and pieces along the way.  He knew she needed someone at that moment.  If I had kept him in the dark throughout the months leading up to this point, he would undoubtedly have not understood her need and she would have faced some serious things alone.  I shudder to think of the possible results.  At the same time, I did not share with Eric most of what my friend confided in me that cold February day.

Your husband is still your leader and protector even if you are a listener/counselor.  It is tempting for us to think that we are in control of the situation and we begin to make crucial decisions about our time, what we listen to, and how much we deal with alone.  We begin to move away from the umbrella of authority and protection of our husbands.  This is a dangerous place to be.  God gave you this gift, but He did not give you license to go against His design of marriage.  He intends for wives and husbands to be united.  Can not our God be all powerful to give us a ministry and not have it interfere with our marriage?  If it does interfere, the ministry - or that particular aspect or situation - is not of Him.

With counseling much wisdom is required.  Some of that wisdom is knowing when to talk over the issues with your husband and when to keep them quiet.  It's knowing when to allow him to take your burden.  Wisdom is needed in knowing when to ask him when to go and when to put up boundaries. Wisdom is following his advice.  All of our wisdom is found in God.  He gave us this ministry and gift.  He surely has given us the right man to accommodate that gift.  Seek Him.

Then, grab two cups of coffee, sit down with that other precious gift from God - your husband - and have a heart to heart chat.  He'll love that you make time for him, too.

*Note:  I write to the informal, non-professional "counselor" - the one who listens to her friends and acquaintances.  I do not write for professionals.  Professional counselors must keep confidentiality.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Being a Listener/Counsellor - Don't Block the Pain




Maybe you are the one to whom friends go for a listening ear, a compassionate heart, for words of wisdom. There's a good possibility, like me, you've never asked for this responsibility, but God placed it, ever so gently, into your lap. You are entrusted with fears, secrets, fragile emotions.  People come to you, make themselves vulnerable and place their very hearts in your hands.

All at once, this gift that God has given us is

    frightening
             humbling
                      burdensome
                                honorable
                                                lonely.

If you are regularly the counselor, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  While we are honored and blessed that women would trust us so very much, we also know we must handle these precious hearts with great care, for they are fragile.  Hearing some of the stories, experiencing the on-going pain and turmoil in some cases can often weigh down our hearts.  And, to whom do we go when we need a listening ear?  After all, aren't we the strong ones?  Aren't we the ones with all the answers?

I want to take a couple of days to encourage you who are the counsellors, the ones whose hearts keep the secrets of many.

I started listening/counseling, involuntarily, in high school.

(Can you really call a high school teen a counsellor?)

I remember working for our vice principal one class period of each day.  I think it was during her lunch break and I was there to man the phones or sit with the students who awaited a stern lecture upon her return.  In all honesty, I don't remember what my purpose was.  I do remember having several conversations with fellow-classmates, some with whom I rarely talked ordinarily.  They would ask me my thoughts on various topics, some came to talk about struggles with friends and with boyfriends.  And, it didn't stop in school.  When I worked at the grocery store, complete strangers would tell me their life stories.  At that point, I just thought it was odd that people would open up to me.  

Since then, I've realized it to be a gift from God.  You who are in it know that it sometimes doesn't feel like a gift. The burden is often great.  We weep with those that weep...and then we weep with them again.  We feel the hurt when the one we are listening to can no longer hurt for herself.  We have given hours, days, months, sometimes years to a person....only to end up losing them as a friend.  We have heard stories that leave our souls shocked and our mouths gaping.  There are evenings when we drag ourselves home feeling exhausted and praying we gave just a little hope...but doubting we did.

We who listen to the burdens, the struggles, the heartaches, the confusion...we get to a point where we tend to build a wall around our heart so we don't feel the pain.  We still want to help.  We still want to give.  We still want to love.  We still want to listen.  We just don't want to hurt anymore.

Yet, only by hurting can we empathize.

Only by feeling our heart break can we help our friend pick up the pieces of her heart.

Only by feeling the hopelessness of our own selves do we cry out to the Counsellor and Friend who can use us to dispense His hope to others.

Are you building a wall around your heart?  Are you covering your ears as your soul screams to God, "NO MORE, GOD!  I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE!"?

I have done this.  I often find myself rebuilding the wall of protection.  It's self preservation to build the wall, but God calls us to be a living sacrifice.  Therefore, I must tear it down.

The burden gets heavy.  What if we are so laden down that we cannot be the wives, mothers, ministers, employees that we need to be?  Our homes, our jobs are truly our first priority and we still need to live our lives and fulfill our daily responsibilities.

Take time to step away.  Not a permanent retirement.  Just a rest.  Jesus did.  He got away to the garden to pray.  He took walks on the water by himself.  He napped in the boat.  He refreshed Himself.

Jesus promised that His burden would be light.  He lays the burden of counseling on us, but He does not want us to fall underneath it.  His desire is for us to cast it right back on Him.  Sometimes, that means taking time to rest with Him.

I have asked Him for a break from time to time and He has granted it to me.  When I seek Him, spend time with Him and allow myself to be filled back up, I know I am again ready to help someone or just be a friend to someone who needs one.  I tell the Lord that I am ready and He quickly puts me back to work.

If people keep handing over their hearts to you, you have received a most precious gift.  You have received it because your heart is soft and open.  Don't harden it and close it off.  Step away for a time.  Get alone with the Lord.  Spend time laughing with your children or your friends.  Turn off the phone for a couple of days.  Cast your burden on the Lord and renew your mind.  Find rest for your soul.

Then you will once again be ready to listen, to help carry someone's load, to feel the pain.

You will once again be ready to be like Jesus.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ministry Monday: Coffee Shop Counsel



Welcome back!

In recent months, I've been preoccupied with holidays, a missions trip a few of my family members took, working through some personal struggles and just keeping home and school running.

Before coming back, I have thought about and prayed about the direction of this blog.  I've come to think of this blog as a ministry in itself and any ministry that lasts for a few years is in need of refocus of purpose and sometimes a bit of change.  Praying about it and thinking about it, I couldn't get coffee off my mind.

Let me explain...and with this explanation comes my Ministry Monday topic.

Throughout the years, I have often found myself in a coffee shop sitting across various sisters in Christ pour their hearts out as we sip on lattes.  Our conversations don't end until long after the cups are empty and several other patrons have come and gone.  Am I some great guru who can solve the problems of the masses?  No.  I realize that is God's job.  All I am is a listening ear, a compassionate heart, a pair of hugging arms, a praying friend, and, sometimes, I am a vessel through which God can speak words of wisdom, advice and love.

Sometimes, I have been the one pouring out her heart and the woman across the table is the one being used of God to disperse love, wisdom, advice, and rebuke.  Are my problems solved when we get up from the table?  No.  But I am encouraged and I drive home with a bit of hope glimmering in my heart where there was none when I entered the coffee shop a few hours earlier.

I have recently realized that there is a great ministry in meeting a friend for coffee.  We are able to meet on neutral ground - away from the busy-ness of home, the listening ears of little ones, the beckoning chores - often in a relaxed atmosphere.  We enjoy a treat that soothes our physical bodies and a cozy space that feels safe.  Whether I am the counsellor or the counseled, I always leave blessed.  So, this is a ministry that ministers to others as well as to my own soul.

Not knowing when the phone will buzz or ring for a needed coffee date, I am challenged to stay in the Word so that I am filled whenever God wants to pour Himself through me to others.  For, if I am empty, what have I to give? To be honest, there are many days I am empty...and God keeps my phone quiet.  He knows when He can use me and when He can't.

My prayer when I am driving to the coffee shop of the day is always that God would speak through me, that I would not speak when I am to be silent, that I would be an encouragement, and that the friend would feel loved.  When I am to be counseled, I ask God that my heart would be open and my spirit obedient.

I know I am not unique in this ministry.  I know many of you have found yourselves holding something warm and listening to a dear friend as she seeks help, understanding, love.  Know that you are not wasting your time.  Know that you are not slacking off from your duties.  If you are walking with the Lord, you can know that you are doing His work - even in a trendy coffee house.

Which brings me back to this blog.  I had thought of renaming it - something to do with coffee and friendship - but I am a bit attached to the title I have had for almost a decade.  Not to mention, much of my  counseling has to do with marriage (Love) and children (Rewards).  But, I want us to feel we are chatting over cups of coffee.  I want us to laugh, to think, to edify, and sometimes cry.  I want to share with you what God has shown me in His Word, tell you of some of my struggles He has brought me through just to encourage you.  On our Saturday meetings, I still just want to share some verses, some quotes, some great books, blogs, and yummy recipes.

So, much of this blog will remain the same.  I just want to be focused on encouraging YOU in Christ.  I want you to feel loved.

Grab some coffee.  Or, reheat that cup you've been trying to get to all day long.  Let's chat.