Saturday, December 31, 2011

The year may be over, but God's still using it to move my heart!

During this time of year we all sit back and reflect upon the year that for some has seemed like a lifetime and for others didn't last long enough. I have been touched by great blessings this year with having my grandchildren being born and celebrating a lot of firsts. My husband has been working now for close to eight months after being laid off for three years. God has shown Himself alive and well in our lives. He has shown me that no matter what happens He is here and He isn't going anywhere.

I too have learned some hard lessons. For this slow learner, sometimes those hard lessons can be of the most value. Why do we wait until the end of the year to evaluate our lives? We make resolutions only to give them up three months down the road. Change is hard at times. Especially when it's change we don't want and not expecting. But change is good. When we remain focused on God change brings us closer to Him. It brings us a little closer to that person God has created us to be.

I can honestly look back over the last year and see myself closer to the Lord in many ways. I want to soak up His Word like never before. I want to bask in His awesome love and I want to love like He does. That's a hard one. He loves without conditions. He loves without expecting something in return. How many of us can really say we love like that? That is one area in my life that He is working on.

Another is to simply stay focused on Him. Stop worrying about what others think and say. I can get so focused on what others think of me, well, I lose all focus of my relationship with Christ. No longer am I worried about making people happy, but pleasing my Savior. Yes, I am that people pleaser. That fix it girl. God is moving in that area of my life too. He is teaching me to just let others be and make my business His business. I want to serve in areas that He is calling me to. I want to touch my community in ways like never before. I want to walk without fear. Remember, God's love casts out ALL fear!

He is teaching me to be comfortable in my own skin. Yes, I too am that girl with a huge self image. I see beauty in others, but find it hard to see in myself. I want to be more honest than ever before. I want to be the best, Robin Prater, that I can be. Not for myself, not for others, but to praise God with the life that He has given me.

I want a life void of drama. Can it be done? Sure it can! It's easy. Drama comes in many ways, but mostly by just trying to know the business of those around you and trying to fix the lives of those around you. That's not my job. That job is way too big for me. That is the job of a God who sees far beyond my vision.

God is teaching me many lessons and part of those lessons are to simply let go of some things. We could throw fear in there, along with some friendships that aren't really real and He too is teaching me that I don't have to be perfect. I'm a work in progress and as long as I am where He is calling me to be than I am doing good.

What do I want from this year? I want to change that and ask, "What does this new year want from me?" I want to serve my God and do so with a heart full of His grace and love. I want to change areas in my life that I have grown comfortable in and have the courage to do so. I want my feet to walk in the steps He has for me. I want to worship with a new heart. A heart less of me and more of Him.

I pray this year that I never expect from others what I myself am not willing to give. I want to talk more and text less. I want to share more and hide less. I simply just want to be real. Most importantly I want to surround myself with people who love me. People who accept me for me and those who encourage and inspire me.

As you bring in this new year I pray that the Lord is your focus. I pray you can see past the hurts and set aside the fears of today and put your faith and trust in a God who loves you more than you could even imagine. Friends, we serve a mighty God. May you find 2012 to be filled with blessing after blessing. May you be able to see beyond those trials and see each one as an opportunity for God to shine through your life.

We are not closing a year, but reflecting on all He has been to us and opening up a new year to experience all He has for us!

Happy New Year, my friends!!

"We  cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."
Chuck Swindoll

"Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory."
Warren Wiersbe

"From morning to night keep Jesus in thy heart, long for nothing, desire nothing, hope for nothing but to have all that is within thee changed into the spirit and temper of the holy Jesus."
William Law


Cindy Woodsmall is such a talented writer. She has that ability to share a story and allow your heart to feel the emotions that each character is going through at the time. This is such a sweet, tender story of love, trust and honesty. The story just flows and the characters are believable.

This is a great book to cuddle up with this season and count your blessings one by one. Love can be lost, yes, but great love finds a way back to your heart.

Something I really love about the story is how restoration comes. Although you see broken hearts, we see that God has a way of always repairing that brokenness and setting us above the heartache to find joy. Most of the time that joy is found in places we least expect them.

We too cannot replace what we are missing with something else just to sooth our heart. God is our love story. He and only He can complete us. We clearly see throughout this story that when we wait upon the Lord, He shows us what is clear and true.

I love the character, Gideon. He is so in love with Mattie that he feels in some way he must protect her as he  goes through a trial. A trial he doesn't want to touch, Mattie. He truly feels he must keep it a secret, but the Lord makes way for his truth to be known and shows him that honesty is always the best blessing. Through his trial, God grows him and makes Maddie's heart ready to hear the truth. 

A sweet, sweet romance that you yourself will fall in love with. 

This book was a gift from WaterBrook Press for it's review.  

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She is the author of six novels, two novellas and Plain Wisdom, a work of non-fiction co-authored with her dearest Old Order Amish friend. Cindy lives in Georgia with her family.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Spk2Me in the Rollin' Convoy

Written By


As I set off on my commute to work this morning, I couldn't help but notice the message on the Causeway's jumbotrons.

"Fog on bridge. Rolling convoy in progress. Headlights on. No lane changes."

All I could think was,

"Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy...

Cuz we got a little convoy rockin' thru the night

Yeah we got a little convoy ain't she a beautiful sight

Come on and join our convoy ain't nothin' gonna get in our way

We gonna roll this truckin' convoy across the USA Pontchartrain

Okay, so I really wasn't that excited, nor was the convoy much of a beautiful sight. But as my New Jersey friends say, "It is what it is. What are you gonna do?"

Into the dense fog I proceeded, along with countless other commuters suspended over a 24 mile expanse of water on just a couple of southbound lanes of concrete. As I was leisurely putting along at an average of 30 miles per hour, I became wrapped up in my thoughts about the day and weekend ahead. Then, my thoughts quieted---amazing, I know. Suddenly I noticed the license plate of a car in the lane next to me.

It said, "SPK2ME."

I kind of brushed it off for a bit, but due to this convoy the license plate just kept staying in my line of vision. Why?

Finally I said, "Okay, Lord, I get it. I am here. I hear you loud & clear." Then I proceeded to remind Him (& myself) of Who He is and to thank Him for Who He is in my life and for all of the blessings He bestows on me.

As I was speaking to him, I noticed a pelican in the fog off to my right. This pelican intrigued me, as they always do. It was flying through the fog as if this dense mist put no damper whatsoever on its flight path. This pelican was assured of where it was flying and appeared calm and graceful as it flew. I, too, was calm and unafraid as I was driving across this bridge through thick clouds of fog.

How can that be?

Well, the pelican and I share something in common (other than being Louisiana residents)...we both know this territory well due to daily travel throughout it. Even through the fog, I know what lies ahead on this bridge. I know that at Mile Marker Sixteen I will be on top of the one and only draw-bridge portion of the Causeway. I know that every three and a half miles there is an emergency crossover / turnaround if needed. And, I know that this is a straight bridge with no curves to the right nor left.

I imagine the pelican knows similar details about its flight path and resting points. It definitely knows where the fish are, as evidenced by the sharp sudden dives beak-first into the water!

You see, the pelican and I both know that this is the same bridge, sky, and water in the fog as it is in the clear. No matter what we can or cannot see, the secure and constant surfaces and forces that hold us up are still there and are as firm and dependable now as ever. Our sight, or lack thereof, does not change their presence nor stability.

Another thing that keeps me at peace when I can barely distinguish the sky from the water from the edge of the roadway is knowing that the pace-setting vehicle leading the convoy is guiding us through and keeping us safe. Though I cannot always see the flashing lights of the guiding vehicle, I know it is there ahead of us and I trust its driver to guide us through the dense fog to safety at the other end of the bridge.

You can draw your own conclusions, but for me this morning was definitely a time of my faithful God reminding me of His constant presence, reliability, guidance, protection and provision for me.

  • He reminded me of my preparation for these times of fog in life.
  • He reminded me that He has always protected me and even grown me through these times.
  • Even when I did not trust Him in past fogs, I am still able to look back and see that I was safe the entire time---safe because He was leading me---safe because He was protecting me.

Are you in a foggy time of life right now?

Do you know and trust the Pace-setter and Guide?

He not only knows these misty paths you are on---He created them.

He has walked though tougher times than these

and made it through victoriously

so that we can have victory and peace as well.

How will you remind God (and yourself) of Who He is today

and Who He has proven Himself to be in your life?


Haelie is a follower of Christ, wife, mother of a six-year-old son, and a full-time Nurse Informaticist by profession. Her personal blog is To Not Decide...Is To Decide and you can also find her on Twitter. Her life mission is to be a voice, both written and audible, that unapologetically points to Christ and His sovereignly redemptive love and forgiveness.

Haelie, thank you so much for blessing me and my readers today with such an awesome post. Don't you love how God speaks to us? He can grab our attention anywhere at anytime. There have been so many times I couldn't see through the fog and thought it impossible to move forward, but God made a way. He showed me to trust Him. Praise Jesus! Blessings to you sweet friend. It is my hope that you will visit us again and share all that God is doing in your life!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today I'm a guest at Jen Slattery's blog! Come visit and share with us!

Good morning sweet friends. I am always encouraged by those of you who take the time to share with me. Your words truly inspire me and I am so grateful. I want to encourage you today by sending you over to my sweet friend, Jennifer Slattery's blog. Jennifer is an inspiration to me and one of those women who stand out for Jesus. She is a gifted writer and her words have blessed me each and every time I visit her blog.

Each year Jen shares her, "Top 20", and again this year I am honored and humbled to be part of her favorites for the year. She is sharing a post I have written, entitled, "Sometimes We Can’t See the Writing in the Sand".

I would love to hear from you today. Please, share your thoughts with me and take a few minutes to check out the other nineteen blog posts Jennifer is sharing with you. Oh, and remember to leave a comment on those that bless you. It is a contest!! Wow! These blogs are blessings indeed. God knows exactly what you need today. I love how He always places in front of me just what I need at the moment to get me through. Many times, it's what He knows I will need tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. I promise, friends, you will be blessed by Jen's blog!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Before you toss it out see what God can do with it

A few weeks ago I opened my closet doors, all my drawers and looked in amazement at all I had collected over the past year. As I pulled things out of my closet there were pieces that I thought, "What were you thinking?" Some were old favorites and some were just plain old. So I began making  piles. You know those piles. The keeper pile, the toss pile and the maybe pile. Three piles and do you know which pile was the highest? The maybe pile.

It's that pile that you wonder, "Okay, this is cute and I might be able to wear it with something", or "I might just keep this. You never know when it will come back in style". Well, some things were probably never in style to begin with. lol

So I began thinking, "What does God do with those piles of ours? He too knows them well. He gives and as soon as He does we toss it out, use it wisely or we set it aside for a maybe at some point in life. He gives us things to use for His glory and instead of thinking about it, we say, "Oh, I will never be able to use that", and it gets tossed. There are some things in our pile that we think we can't use, but someone else can. Isn't that like just like us? He graciously gives and we tend to think, "I can't use that". Well, goodness, God gave it to you, use it up, girl!

We toss things aside way to easily. Maybe it doesn't fit right so we set it aside. Just maybe God is giving that gift to us to grow into. He can do a whole lot more with that maybe pile than we give Him credit for, friends. After all, He is the Giver of Goodness. All things pass through His hands before they ever enter into our lives. Nothing is there by chance. Even as the thought, "What was I thinking?", crosses our mind, God is saying, "Hey, it was Me doing the thinking here, just hold on and see what I do with that!"

So, as you sort through your life today and you begin making piles. Choose your keepers, tosses and maybes with the thought that God can use anything and most of the time, it's those things we think we can't use that He surprises us with the most. Because after all, everything is possible as long as Christ is in it. If Christ gives you a gift, wear it, show it off and tell others just where it came from. They just might want to check out His collection of gifts themselves. A the end of our journey as we come face to face with the Lord, may we be able to say to Him we used up everything He gave. I promise, they are all keepers.  

"Listen to My instruction and be wise; do not disregard it."
Proverbs 8:33

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sometimes we can't see the writing in the sand until we are washed ashore

Is is really all about us? How many times have you woke up bright and bushy tailed only to have someone walk through the kitchen with a poor attitude? Then all of a sudden your smile parishes and now your attitude is like thick mud?

We often think more of ourselves then those around us. How do we know? It shows in our attitude. It shows in our actions. The sad accompaniment to our actions is that they rub off on those around us.

Look at Jonah. Yes, Jonah, the Prophet, the one called by God, who did what when called? He ran. He didn't want anything to do with Nineveh. Those people who lived in Nineveh meant nothing to him. But those people meant something to God. He wanted them to repent. He wanted to see them worship Him instead of their gods. But Mr. Selfish himself said no to God. In his one action of saying, "No, God", made the earth around him tremble.

When Jonah said no to God, he ran aboard a ship, filled with men. Men who needed God, but what did they see? A man running from God. Jonah's actions touched these men before him. As God caused the waters to roar, these sea faring men were in fear of their life. Okay, these men lived on the sea. They had seen storms before. For them to be in fear, this one must have been a monster.

Here they are calling upon their gods to save them and where is Jonah? Sleeping down below. Not a care in the world. He isn't thinking of his God, the men aboard the ship, nor the people of Nineveh today. How could he sleep in such peace? I have to ask myself the same question. At times there is so much going on around me and instead of being in prayer or reaching out to those around me, I high tail myself into my own little world and say, "Who cares. Let someone else take care of that." This is exactly what Jonah was doing.

But what catches my eye so greatly is the fact that after these men find Jonah and cast lots, Jonah, tells them to throw him off ship. They don't! Instead they try to row their way back to shore. These men, these unsaved men, heathens as Jonah would have called them, had more regard for Jonah, than this man of God, had for a whole city of people dying. How many of us have been aboard that same ship?

The storm isn't calming so the men throw Jonah off the ship and now the waters smooth and all is as it was before they ever saw the likes of Jonah. But everything was changing for Jonah now. He is in the belly of a big fish. Now, something that I find fascinating is the fact that the people of Nineveh worshipped a fish goddess called Nanshe and a fish god that was half man and half fish called, Dagon. The people of Nineveh were in for a big surprise as they realized there is a God bigger than the gods they are worshipping.

As Jonah is spit out of the big fish he had been in for three days, he would have a story to share with the folks of Nineveh. They would understand a fish story since they had been worshipping these gods. But still yet, as Jonah shares with these people, they repent. They see that there is a God and what does Jonah do? He gets angry with God for not punishing them?

The very grace that God showed to Jonah was just great, but the grace He was showing to the people of Nineveh was unjustified for Jonah. Did he really think he deserved God's grace more than they did? Did he really think his sin wasn't as big? How often to we judge those around us and find our sins to be small in comparison? Oh, I don't have enough time to count the accusations I have made, the judgements and claims of, "Well, maybe they deserve to sit in their shame for a while". How can we be so full of ourselves?

What I gain today is the fact that I need to see those very people around me, not through my eyes, but through God's eyes. I need to love those around me with His kind of love. When God calls me to speak, I need to speak. When He calls me to move I need to move on His behalf. There is always someone watching and waiting to say, "Hey, she isn't a Christian. Look at her actions." You know, to a point they are right. I am in no way perfect. I am a work in progress, just like Jonah. I fail and I fall hard. But I believe in a God who chooses to love me for me. I have faith in a God who washes me in His grace and covers me in forgiveness when I choose to walk a different way. He calls me back to Him just as He did Jonah.

Sometimes we can be slow learners. It took a ship, a storm, a big fish, a country of people, a plant and God's sovereign love to show Jonah that life wasn't about him, but all about God and His will for our lives.

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in time of honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men."
Romans 12:9-17

Lord, as You wash me with Your forgiving grace daily, help me to do the same to those around me. Guide me in the right path and set before me, Your will. Give me the wisdom I need to serve You in every way and the understanding when I cannot see the end in sight. May I love those around me with Your love. I want to be so focused on You that when You call I hear and I will answer according to Your will for my life. Help me to be a witness those around me and may my walk with You shine before all men bringing honor and glory to Your holy name.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

THE LEADHER CHALLENGE (365 Devotions to Encourage and Inspire Women in Their calling From God) by THE LEADHER TEAM

I have the opportunity to review many devotionals and there are times I shout out, "This one is my favorite!" Well friends, I have a new favorite! The LeadHer Challenge is one devotional like no other.

This devotional isn't divided into days, but in sections. FEAR, COMMUNITY, TRUST, ANOINTING, EXPECTATION, RELEASE, DREAMS, SCRIPTURE, VISION, WORSHIP, CAPABILITY, LIFE, FORGIVENESS and many, many more! There is literally something for everyone within these pages. For everyday. Those situations that occur when we aren't looking, those trips in the car that drive us to Insane Lane, those times when are heart hurts, and those times we simply don't understand. Are you having that disappointing day? You will find inspiration! This is a great addition to your daily Bible reading. I promise, you will not be disappointed! It's just that good! 

One of the reasons I LOVE this devotional is because it is written by real women who struggle. Women sharing stories from their own lives and adding scripture. I am a visual learner, so this is AWESOME for me. Most of the devotionals build upon an object, a lesson, or  a personal story to share.  

Each devotional begins with scripture and ends with the Lead Out Loud Challenge and Prayer Points. The devotions are just the right length, so you can read one to begin your morning or like me sit down for a while and just enjoy. It really is one of those devotionals you can just dive into.

Just who is this LeadHer Team. A group of ladies that stand out for the Lord. I have had the privilege of interviewing some of these ladies and they are exceptional at what they do. They are mothers, sisters, wives and friends. They lead ministry teams and go out and live the Great Commission through their daily lives. Lyn Smith, Melissa Mashburn, Chelsea Eubank, Leslie Lamb, Jill Hart, Christie Love, Sarah Schieber, Susan Lawrence, Susan Tolleson, and Lori Mosteller, have put together a devotional for every woman to rise above that daily struggle of the flesh and walk stronger and with more confidence!

I will use this devotional over and over again in my daily reading and as an aid in a teaching tool. I have been blessed by these pages. They all seem to stand out and if your struggling in a specific area, all you must do is go to that section and there before you is encouragement and inspiration to lead the way!

This book was a gift from Christie Love and the LeadHer Team for it's review.

You can find the LeadHer Team at

Christmas is in the Heart

My Christmas morning didn't always begin with, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" We all have memories of some kind at Christmas. Many have sang, "Happy Birthday, Jesus", since they can remember. For some of us, Jesus wasn't the, "Reason for the Season." It was a time of joy, but a different joy than what my heart holds today.

Growing up I remember running to the tree on Christmas morning. I was singing, "Jingle Bells", and "Frosty the Snowman". I can see the decorations my mom placed throughout the house with tender care. I can even remember sitting out cookies and milk for Santa, but nothing for Jesus. It was all about the presents and snow and yes, the parades on television. I LOVED watching them as my mom was busy in the kitchen.

I do have to say, by Christmas morning most of our presents were already opened. My dad and I opened ours most years way before Christmas morn. He loved this time of year. I think he loved unwrapping gifts just as much as me. He would say, "Rob, if you wanna open a gift you can." He knew that always followed with, "Sure dad, you can too!" All the while my mom was shaking her head.

I remember that last Christmas with my dad. I had worked really hard. It was actually my first year of styling hair and he was so very proud of that. I saved and saved and purchased him a gold watch. That year he too did his own Christmas shopping and I received a gold heart pendant necklace from him. One of the best Christmas memories I hold dear.

I can look back today and I could ponder the thought that Jesus was absent from our Christmas celebration, but was He really? Jesus is love and my home with my parents was filled with love. Although I didn't hear the Christmas story of Christ's birth, His love was still very alive and present. He is in ALL goodness! It is that very goodness that lead me straight to Him.

Although those years hold very special memories for me, the best Christmas ever was the Christmas I realized it was all about Jesus. After meeting my now husband, every Christmas we have shared together has been about our Savior. Sure, we have our tree up and presents under the tree, but Santa wasn't present in our home, except for cartoons the children enjoyed. Our children knew it wasn't about gifts under the tree at all, but about the birth of our Savior. God's precious gift to us. We wanted our children to experience the real joys of Christmas. 

It was as though once I was filled with this Christmas joy, well, Christmas was never the same. It was better. It now held perfect meaning. No matter if there was a gift under the tree with my name on it or if there were ten, I held a new joy in my heart. Every gift was now given in celebration of Him. Every card was sent to share His message of love.

We celebrated Christmas yesterday with our children. It has been a long time since most of our family has been together for Christmas. It is so wonderful to have a grandchild in the home for Christmas. Our home was filled with laughter. Delicious foods covered our table as my husband readied to pray. After all our children left and went about their day my hubs and I went for a drive. We were actually going to care for a friends pet as they were off with family. We saw eight deer on the drive home. We enjoyed sweet conversation. That evening we enjoyed a few scoops of ice cream to end our perfect day.

Our Christmas mornings are a bit different now as the years have passed. No more children running to the tree to rip and tear, shouts of joy and laughter before the sun rises. Those years have passed and although I miss them, they are held in a special place within my heart to look back on with great joy. Now they are a little quieter. We wake a little later and sip our coffee together as the news plays before us. Our children are all grown and gather with family and friends as they try to make room to visit everyone. This year my husband had to leave on Christmas morning to head for Pennsylvania. Someone has to make sure that mail arrives for those loved ones waiting patiently. So our son and I will make today a special day together. We may even take in a movie this afternoon. Whatever we do today it will be special.  

See, it really doesn't matter what day you celebrate Christmas. Christmas is alive and well in your heart. The Spirit of Christmas is here with us always. Christ the Savior. As I woke this morning, He was my first thought. My first quiet words were, "Happy Birthday, Jesus, Happy Birthday to You." As each of us woke, it was then, "Good Morning, Merry Christmas!"

Most of us have holes in our hearts as we miss those who are no longer with us. But there are bright glimmers of hope that shine through as we look back with memories of love and laughter. Our mornings are a little different than they were twenty years ago with little ones running everywhere. Today as you celebrate Jesus, those people we love are not so far away. They are only one thought away. One prayer away. I can close my eyes and go back home, sitting before the tree with my parents. I can go back in time, looking at pictures that captured the glow in our children's eyes on Christmas morn. Pick up that phone and give those a call you haven't talked to in years. Make today a day to remember always. No matter what you do or where you are, you can celebrate today with the love of Christ.

Merry Christmas, friends! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


written by
Julie Miller Gorman

My long brown piggy-tails swung back and forth across my shoulders as I quietly snuck behind our Christmas tree, picking up the small, plastic mold of baby Jesus and cried, “Jesus, I’m so sorry I didn’t get you a present. Today is your birthday and I didn’t get you anything.” Tears flowed strongly, as my tender little heart yearned to do something special for Him. I know what I can do. I thought. And, without hesitation I began to softly sing…Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday dear Jesus…Happy Birthday to you.

Ahhhh, if only I could have the innocence of being six years old again.

As I reflect on that endearing Christmas memory, I think how precious I must have appeared to God. So many years have passed since that Christmas morning and unfortunately my passion often wanes by my needs, wants, and wishes. I often find myself asking, interceding, and longing for God to intervene on my behalf and forget to sing Him a simple melody of praise.

Yet, as Christmas Day approaches, somewhere inside me, lays the same tender heart of that six year old little girl who longs to honor God and offer Him a song….a song of thanks, a song of surrender, a song of dedication, a song of humility.

How about you? What are you preoccupied with?

Friend, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior…the day Jesus, “Immanuel, God with us” came in the flesh, let’s not miss our chance to offer God thanks. Let’s replace our worries, our what if’s, and our endless list of needs with a simple song of thanks.

“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.”
Psalm 43:1-3
God longs for our affection. He longs to hear our song of love. So, will you join me? Let’s take a moment to GIVE THANKS for the wonderful hope He’s given us in Jesus.

Julie is the Executive Director of Women Inspired. She writes, produces, and hosts a weekly National Blog-Talk Radio Broadcast with CWA, one of the fastest growing women's networks on-line. Her transparent story-telling is sought after both nationally and internationally, inspiring women across the
world to "Discover, Develop, and Do Their God-given Purpose". Julie graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Bible. She is the author of What I Wish My Mother had Told Me about Marriage and has written articles for Proverbs 31 Magazine, Max Lucado's On-line Community Faithful Feet, Evangel, Light and Life, and several others. Julie's the founder and CEO of His Love Extended Ministries. Learn more about Julie, at:

Julie, thank you so much, dear friend. Your words bless my heart as I know they do my readers. It is always a gift to have you join me at my Nest. What precious memories and what beautiful words for us to tuck inside our hearts this time of year. May we keep our focus upon Him. Blessings to you.

HEART OF ICE (A Triple Threat Novel) by LIS WIEHL with APRIL HENRY

Okay friends, I just may have found my new favorite suspense writer, Lis Wiehl! Who knew? I had never even heard of her before. Wow, where have I been and what have I have been missing! If you have read her books I would love to hear your thoughts. I am going back for more!! I want to read everything she has written. This book was that good! Triple threat indeed when you have three women, all friends, not only fighting for justice, but looking out for one another. These are the kind of girls you want watching out for your back.

I couldn't put it down. It had me at the first sentence and I was glued from there on throughout the entire book! This book has just about everything in it. Yes, it is a book of faith, but it doesn't overtake the book. I love the characters and the villain was so captivating. I kept trying to figure this girl out and simply couldn't figure her out! The villain is just one of those people you really like. I mean she could very well be your friend, that is until you do her wrong. Yikes, this girl is evil!

This book is fast paced and one that brings you to ask yourself, "Who do I have surrounding me?" Almost makes you look at people twice before you invite them into your life. I cannot say enough about this book. I am a fan now and cannot wait to read more from this author!

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for it's review.

Lis Wiehl is a New York Times best-selling author, Harvard Law School graduate, and former federal prosecutor. A popular legal analyst and commentator for the Fox News Channel, Wiehl appears on The O’Reilly Factor and was co-host with Bill O’Reilly on the radio for seven years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The test of friendship

Some find it easy to make friends while others struggle their whole life. Trust is hard. It's difficult to open up and then when you do, well, some find their heart broken, because that other friend was just willing to walk away without giving another thought. But here you are putting your whole heart into the friendship. Sound familiar?

I have been on both sides of this situation. I have been that friend who has been hurt by those who choose to walk away and I too have been that friend who has thrown my hands up in the air and said, "Enough!"

The thing is, friendship takes work. Relationships take work. Everything of value takes work. It's not just something you say, it's something you do. We love with everything we have or else it simply isn't love. Relationships just don't happen. They not only take work, but patience and grace. They take two people willing to work together and who want to be together.

We must realize we are not always going to see eye to eye on every issue. This is what makes us different. I don't want a friend who simply fits my mold and is perfect in every way. I want a friend who is true and true to who they are. When we have a difference of opinion we need to be honest and most importantly agree in love to disagree. After all, aren't we all a work in progress? I can never expect from an other person what I myself am not willing to give to a friendship. The thing is, when we are confident and secure in our own self we can then see that same confidence and security in others.

Who is my best friend? Well Jesus Christ of course. My husband is there at the top of my list, but there are times where I have shared that my little pup Daisy is one of my best friends here on earth. Why? She loves me no matter what. She might get a little tiffed at me if I don't give her a treat, but she forgives quickly. When I walk through the door she is so excited to see me. It doesn't matter if I have been gone five hours or five minutes, it's all the same to her. She loves me on my good days and on those days where I am a crab. If we open our eyes we could learn a great deal from those pets who depend on us so. Shouldn't we be able to depend on our friends? Shouldn't we have unconditional love? Sure we should.

Friendship is a gift. It is something to value and treasure. Sure, there is a time when we need to walk away from some relationships when they are hazardous to our health and state of mind. But before we walk away why not pray over our friendship? Have we given it our all? We should be able to go to our friend and say, "I'm not comfortable with how you are treating me", or "You have really hurt my feelings", but many times we are way to quick to jump to a defense, when in reality we are the very friend who should be the one to apologize for our behavior.

We are always quick to assume. Too many times there is miscommunication and instead of confronting our friend, we go to someone else. Here is a great reminder that my pastor has always shared. "If your not part of the problem or the solution stay out of it." Meaning go to that friend person to person. Not in a text or a letter. Oh, how I have learned that the hard way. Face to face is always the best way. Honesty counts for so much in friendship. You can't have friendship without it.

I want to be surrounded by friends who will tell me the truth, good or bad. We not only need to be encouraged, we need a friend who will help to sharpen us and sometimes that might mean a little rubbing. But when we do it in love and for the right reason, God will always give us the words to say and show us the right actions.

Look at the pearl. It takes work for that pearl that started out just a tiny grain of sand. It took rubbing and perfecting over time,  until at last, beauty to the eye of the one who holds it. Patience brings forth beauty.

Our greatest example of a friend is Jesus Christ. He was willing to give all. He doesn't just throw us aside like we never existed. He takes His time. He shows us grace and washes us with mercy. We can lean on Him in our times of trouble and He is the first one cheering us on in our journey. He sees past our faults and knows that those very faults will change over time into areas in our life that will bring Him glory and honor. When we are tempted He is there to guide us in the right path. The most important loving gift is that He is always there. He is never too busy and always has our best interest at heart.

"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need."
Proverbs 17:17

"There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense."
Proverbs 27:9

"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."
Proverbs 27:17

We have seasons of friendship. Real friendships always find the way back to the joy they once began with and if we are truly blessed they will be better than ever as we each grow in the Lord. The best thing we can do for a friend is to always be there. Sure, we all get busy. Life is busy, but we are busy with what we want to be busy with. Don't take those friendships for granted. Give your time, whether all you have is a few minutes to send a hello or a few hours for lunch. Grab those precious moments and run with them! 

"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me."
John 15:13-15

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12

Dear Lord, help me to be the kind of friend who loves without doubt and gives all. Help me to forgive quickly and never assume. Give me the kind of heart that is honest and pure. May I always be uplifting and encouraging to those around me. Help me to reach out and listen with a heart of patience and always without malice love wholeheartedly. Amen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Here is what Zondervan says about, "Falling To Pieces".

In this first book of a three-book series, author Vannetta Chapman brings a fresh twist to the popular Amish fiction genre. She blends the familiar components consumers love in Amish books—faith, community, simplicity, family—with an innovative who-done-it plot that keeps readers guessing right up to the last stitch in the quilt. When two women—one Amish, one English—each with different motives, join forces to organize a successful on-line quilt auction, neither expects nor wants a friendship. As different as night and day, Deborah and Callie are uneasy partners who simply want to make the best of a temporary situation. But a murder, a surprising prime suspect, a stubborn detective, and the town's reaction throw the two women together, and they form an unlikely alliance to solve a mystery and catch a killer. Set in the well-known Amish community of Shipshewana, Falling to Pieces will attract both devoted fans of the rapidly-growing Amish fiction genre, as well as those who are captivated by the Amish way of life.

What are my thoughts? 

Friendship, business and murder come to life in these pages. It's funny, we learn about real friends and acquaintances and the differences between the two. Vannetta shows us how to count on one another when life seems to be falling to pieces. We see that before we can become friends we must first open our hearts. For some, that's the very part that is most difficult as we find out as we see these characters before us come alive. In many ways this is a story about letting go and finding trust in others.  

This was really unlike any Amish book I have ever read before. Usually you don't see suspense and Amish combined. I enjoyed this story. The characters were real. This book showed people really struggling and how everyday life is. Is sure isn't perfect. People are not perfect. We are a work in progress, just as we find out through these characters. We can often put people in a category and think this is how they are to be. Vannetta shows us here that we couldn't be any more wrong in doing so. 

This book was a gift from Zondervan for it's review.

Vannetta Chapman holds a BA and MA degree in English and has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She published an Amish novel with Abingdon Press called A Simple Amish Christmas.

Author Website:

It's when we let the stress and guilt go that we find the real joy

In all the hustle and bustle, we forget what Christmas is really about. As I was shopping for Christmas cards for our children, it was hard to find a Christmas card that was about Christmas. I was shocked. Well, not really. I think many just make Christmas out to be any old holiday. A reason to get together and well, have a party.

Christmas should be a season of joy. It should be celebrated with a humble heart and really, it should be alive in our hearts daily. After all, we are celebrating the One who came. The precious birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

This year I have shopped for cake ingredients. Yes, this year we are making a birthday cake for the King of kings. December holds my 45th birthday and as I am eager to celebrate my birthday, why should His birthday be any less? If anything it should be much grandeur and more special.

Now, gift giving is a wonderful time. To give of our heart to another just makes the heart glow with love. But, gift giving can also be strenuous and exhausting. People feel guilty when they can't spend a large amount. It's like people have an expectation and when they open the gift they want to see them wide eyed and in awe. Not everyone can purchase a gift for every family member and every friend. No one should be made to feel badly because they cannot spend large amounts this time of year.

But lets think about why we feel guilty? You have those who love to brag about how much shopping and wrapping they are doing. We love to add up our amounts from our receipts and we then say, "Wow, this is a great Christmas." Really? Because you were able to spend a lot? I have heard people for years say, "Well, we haven't been able to have a good Christmas for a while, but this year, it's going to be great." I wonder how Jesus feels about all that commercialism. Somewhere along the way we lose focus on Him and we settle it on which home is decorated the fanciest and which tree is more original. We buy the bows and paper and fill our fridge with mounds of food. Where is our time spent with Jesus? Where is our focus?

We take a whole month, sometimes people begin much earlier to ready for the big day. Within a few minutes the presents are all unwrapped, the living room is scattered with trash and after a week or two gifts are forgotten and presents are returned. The tree goes back in the box and the lights come down. It's kind of sad really. I mean, when we really think about it, shouldn't Christmas be celebrated every day?

Why not slow down? Why not live each day with the same joy as we have when we open up that gift from under the tree? Look at us. We make out lists for all we want. What about what Jesus wants? We tend to want everything on our list, but when Jesus wants something, we tend to say, "Oh, I am so busy, isn't there someone else?" This is a time of year where we can celebrate His birth by loving those unloved, those unaccepted, those who are hurting, those in need, those who have no where to go and those who feel so alone.  We can spread the love of Christ by simply loving those who need Him so.

Families get all excited and then let down when they don't get to see all of their family. We have Christmas parties without Christ. People look at their charge cards in horror when that January bill comes rolling in. So, my thoughts are why? Why do it all and be stressed out? Maybe we could try totally giving in secret. I think there is real joy behind that kind of giving. Instead of asking each other, "What did you get for Christmas?", what if we asked instead, "How did you celebrate the birth of Jesus this year?" 

Those gifts that come from your heart will mean more than anything you could ever purchase. It's hard to purchase a gift for someone you really don't know at all. So, what do we do? We throw gift cards at everyone. Where is the meaning? We lose the joy of giving when we must make out a list of all the names. You know how it is. Have you ever said, "Ugh, we are having a Christmas party and I picked Patty's name. I really don't like her, so what am I going to get her?" Somewhere we lose it all. I am not so sure if Christmas is about Christ or it's about us as we make ourselves out to look good purchasing gifts for everyone we know. This is where the guilt comes in for those families that feel as if they must compete.

I can be honest and share with you the best Christmas's we have been blessed to celebrate were those where my husband was laid off from work. There weren't gifts under the tree for everyone. You learn to be creative and you have time to ponder it all. It was a time we totally focused on our blessings and saw the great gifts before us that came from Christ our Savior as He provided for us and blessed us like never before. It's those humble moments in my life where I remove the focus from me and totally see Him for ALL He is and Christmas isn't about what I want or what I can give. It's ALL about Him.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. But friends, we must learn to let go of the guilt and stress. This is a difficult time for most people in our country today. I think when we can all learn that it's not about gifts that we can purchase or how many we receive, that's when we will realize the real meaning of Christmas and it's then that it will be more special than ever. It's not what we can give. It's all about what He gave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE SNOW ANGEL by GLENN BECK with Nicole Baart

If you are searching for that perfect Christmas read, this is it, my friends! This is the first book I have read by, Glenn Beck and it surely will not be the last. He brings us a story of hope and redemption. He brings to light the issue of abuse in a real way as a wife is not only trying to find her way, but protect the daughter she loves from the same abuse she has faced for years.

He brings fear to the forefront and shows that there is another way. Love. Love always casts out fear. We see how life comes full circle as God brings healing to those hurting hearts. Hurt people really do hurt people. There is so much sweetness to the story of, "The Snow Angel". It holds lessons of value and gives us a perfect picture of friendship and love. There is a time to step out and speak for those who are living in fear. I can share with you that this story really touched my heart.

I enjoyed this book so very much. I plan to pass it on to friends to enjoy throughout this season. Nicole Baart is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. Both of these talented people together bring a story that goes straight to your heart. Touching and poignant.

This book is published by Simon & Schuster

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Women, Drama, and Friendships

Know any women who would rather be surrounded by a group of men than a group of women?  Like you I can understand why they feel this way. I think we are are honest we have all felt this way. Women can be downright mean. We don't always make it easy, do we? 

Men can gather for a fishing trip, a trip of any kind and laugh uncontrollably. They have a great time. It doesn't matter who doesn't really get who or who doesn't really know the other. If a man doesn't know another man, they just jump in there and say, "Hey, how ya doin'? I'm Kenny." You never hear men say, "Oh my gosh! I am not sitting by John!" Men do not get so angry over a misunderstanding. Men, however, if they do have a problem, they go straight to the source. Women? Well now, that's a whole other story.

Women like to pretend they forget things, but we don't. It's like we have a memory the size of an elephant. We keep score. We get mad and believe it or not, remain mad, until that other person comes to us begging for forgiveness. We take misunderstandings to a whole new level! We get mad and rather than talk about it and be honest, well, we just walk away from the whole friendship.

Men can be in a whole group and you never hear a man say, "Hey, I want to sit by Joe. I didn't get to sit by him at dinner." Are you kidding me? Women live in cliques! It's like part of our DNA. We find out information and immediately we are in action. We don't sit on anything we hear. We are off to start a prayer chain. Yep, you know those prayer chains, right? We say, "Well, you know Susan? She needs us to pray for her." Now, it would be okay if we stopped there, but we don't. We add our own two cents in, if it's worth that much. We don't just pass on prayer, we need to gather the whole truth and nothing but the truth before we begin to pray. Ever feel like everyone around you knows more about you than you know about yourself?

Are we just born jealous of other women? Oh my, she's skinnier than me. She's friends with everyone. She has everything I've ever wanted. Her home is so pretty. She just got a new car. She's so put together. She makes more money than me. She stays at home with her kids. What does she know about hard work? The list can go on forever.

We love to point fingers at other women, trying to figure it all out as to why they are different from us. We look at other women with such envy. We see all the perfect things about them. We have a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing our own beauty. We too can point out every fault in other women while we rarely accept our own faults.

Women should be able to gather as a group and pray. We should be able to love one another even if we, "Don't see eye to eye", and we too should be able to overlook those quirky things about each other that make us so different from others. Women should be able to just be themselves and enjoy the very people that are around them. We get so caught in the fact that our friend had lunch with another friend and didn't invite us! Seriously, what example are we giving to our daughters?

Do you know what most women think when they see a group of women standing together? They are wondering why they are not part of that group. They are asking themselves, "Why don't they talk to me? Is there something wrong with me?" This is where women get the idea that some turn their noses up at them. We can simply be walking and our mind is filled with all that is going on in our lives, not paying attention to anything, but what our child is going through or what we must prepare for dinner. Then there before us is another woman, by the way we don't notice, because we simply aren't thinking, and before you know it, it's around that you are a snob and you don't even speak to people in your path!

Do you think the disciples acted like that around Jesus? Do you think they were petty and jealous about who got to sit where and who got to spend time with Him over dinner? I think most women are so insecure about themselves, they are always questioning why someone doesn't like them or why someone isn't speaking to them. You would think women would be totally in support of one another. You would think we would encourage those women around us, but we are so caught up in what we need ourselves, it's hard to give that much to others.

Sure, we give support and encouragement to those in our inner circle, but what about those other women? You know them. They keep quiet. They are standoffish. They are not really trusting. All they want is to be accepted for who they are. Not what they have or what they can give, cause lets face it, there are all kinds of ways to use a person and many feel that if they cannot offer something, well, they just won't be accepted into the group.

What if we stopped looking at one another as enemies and gathered together as the sisters in Christ that we are? What if we reached out and were simply honest with one another? Think of the possibilities if we just walked as Christ calls us to. With women, we make one wrong move and it's, "Your out!" We don't even do the three strikes and your out thing. Why give a woman more than one chance? We need to make ourselves inviting. We need to remain honest and stop pretending our life is perfect and everyone else is messed up. If women see us walk in our struggles. I mean everything we struggle with, do you all realize how many women would open up and share? It would allow women to know they aren't alone. We keep our faults and temptations in a hush, but we are wide open to bringing those of others to the table.

Ladies, we gotta change our attitudes. First, we must begin with our own hearts. We must stop looking to others and they must be perfect and give them room to make mistakes. We too must stop judging other women for things we have no clue about. And the biggest thing, how about we just stop being fake. We need to stop judging one another on motherhood, being a wife and raising children. Just maybe our own kitchen floor needs a good sweeping before we attempt to sweep an other's floor.

No one said we have to like everyone around us. In fact, there are going to be people you just don't click with. That's okay! Really it is, but lets show love. You never know, reaching out to that woman you think you have nothing in common with, well, she just might bless you in ways you never expected.

It too is okay to have that inner circle of friends that you are so very close to. Jesus had His inner circle of the twelve. Nothing at all wrong with that, unless you aren't allowing others to join you or if you are making others feel like they are outsiders.

We must remember, it's not always about us. In fact, it isn't about us at all. It's about Christ. We can be His vessels. Is there more of a humbling gift than to be used by God? Lets open our hearts. Lets make room for those ladies around us. Reach out and make some new friends. Lord knows, we can all use a friend and there is always someone looking for a friend.

Friendship is a powerful thing if used right. If we disregard compassion, forgiveness and love, well then, that friendship is doomed to end. We gotta stop expecting from others what we ourselves are not willing to give.

The only reason we feel threatened by another woman is because of our own insecurities. There are friends I miss dearly. There too are friends who have hurt me by just walking away and never giving our friendship a second thought. It leaves you guessing, "What did I do?" Sometimes it's like high school all over again and ladies, lets be honest. We all tire of the whole thing, so why not change it? We can begin the change.

There is that wise quote that a woman should be so close to Christ that her husband should have to seek God first to find her. The same can be said about friendships. If we concentrate on our walk with Christ, well, God has a way of taking care of the rest.

Lets not be so quick to judge, to gossip and to leave a friendship high and dry. After all, Jesus is the greatest example of a Friend that we have, so lets follow in His steps and leave all the rest behind.

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”
Proverbs 27:9

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
~ Walter Winchell ~


More Than Potpourri
written by
Patty Wysong 

My teenage son walked in the door and asked what smelled so good. Knowing this child of mine, I told him his sister had made a birthday cake, thinking that would make him lick his chops, but his response surprised me. “Oh. I thought I smelled something fruity, maybe peachy.” He was less then happy when I told him that was just the liquid potpourri and there were no peaches in the house, let alone in the oven.

I rather smugly thought to myself, “Yes! Mission accomplished. It no longer smells like a closed up house with a hint of his smelly socks.” When I glanced at his face I saw a different message, it said, “All smell and no substance stinks!”

Sometimes I get so caught up in the smell good part that I don't even think about substance. But that's the most important part of the equation. I want to be more than just a pleasing aroma—more than just potpourri. I want to make sure I have a pie sitting on the counter ready to serve to my family and friends—anyone that comes to my door and into my life.

Life is about more than just knowing the right words to say, doing the right things at the right time, wearing the right clothing for the occasion. It's about walking the talk. Living out what I say I believe. It's about having more than a smoke screen to hold on to when the going gets rough, and more than just meaningless platitudes when my friends need a lifeline.

How can I do that?

*By spending time in, and meditating on God's Word.

*By being in constant communion with Christ—time in prayer, talking with Him, but also listening for His voice.

*By abiding in Jesus.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:4-5

Lord, help me to bear fruit for You and not be just a fruity potpourri that smells good but has no substance to it.

Patty Wysong, a home executive with over 20 years of experience, homeschools three of her five children, but don't let that fool you. She spends much of her time working on what God has placed in her hand: her keyboard. From the corner of her living room she writes inspirational fiction, devotionals, blog posts, and teaches online blogging workshops. You'll also find her drinking kool aid from her china cup, preparing for the ladies Bible study she leads, and helping at their church. Patty learned about blogs and blogging the hard way and now delights in teaching and helping others, sparing them that frustration so they can focus on what God has called them to do. Through her writing, Patty has found the extraordinary God in her ordinary life. You can find her at her blog:

Patty, thank you for this wonderful post! It has been a treasure having you guest write for my Nest. Yes, may we be filled with more, and with that filling, may we use every bit up for the Lord! I love all you have shared here today and I would be honored for you to return. I just know your words will be a blessing to all. Friends, I know, Patty, would love to hear your thoughts. Share with her just how this post has blessed you today and please hop over to her blog at Ordinary Lives and see all that she is doing.  You too, can find, Patty, at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and The Book Loft.


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