Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Holiday Photos

Sara-Christmas morning
Heather-The first one up on Christmas morning
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Timmy and Daddy-Christmas Eve
Bradley enjoying the view from the mountain
Joshua and Daniel making their Specialty Pizza
Timmy, Kerry and Dad working on Pizza
Bradley and Timothy

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas from Phoenix

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Cogburn Family. This photo was taken in the middle of the desert. We sat on rocks and sand with the camera propped on a cactus. Enjoy more photos of our first Christmas in the Valley of the Sun!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Yesterday, I wrote about the shepherds and how they were simply minding their own business as they tended to their flocks. I wonder what some of them were thinking about as they stood in the fields? Maybe some of them were burdened and worried about various struggles in their lives. There could have been some who were concerned about providing for their families. I am sure sheepherders probably did not make a large income.

Some of the guys were probably thinking about the Lord, about problems, and other's minds were wandering toward things not of the Lord. Needless to say,it was just a normal, routine evening of the mundane. Then without warning, Hands of Heaven split the sky and Glory came down. It was a moment of the suddenly.

"Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them." Luke 2:9

I think God loves to surprise us with the "suddenly moments". I know that is the case with us lately. And you know when those suddenly seasons come you are caught off guard and you are terrified. Either you are scared silly or you are swept off your feet and overwhelmed with the unexpected arrival of an answer to prayer.

Our move to Arizona 3 months ago was a sudden movement. It was terrifying. One day it was life as normal.John was unemployed for the eighth month and we had no money.Then the day came when the sky split and the Lord came down said something. He said, "Phoenix!" After that, a call came for an interview offered to John in the Phoenix area. We were in shock, a daze of sorts, "Like, what God? No. Surely not. Phoenix? Arizona? No. Now? Surely You are not calling us to move to the other side of the USA!"

Then wham. The job offer came on the spot.The day of the interview. Three weeks later, the Lord picks us up and moves us to the other side of the country. We drive over 1800 miles in an old 15 passenger van filled with kids of all ages and we made it in 2 and a half days.

With such a large family, God has continually tested us in our confidence and trust in Him to provide financially for our family. It is so amazing how jealous He is. That He designs the perfect ways to keep us dependent on Him alone. There have been times when we felt the Lord took His hand off of us.At times it has been difficult to believe that the Lord would make up for losses or deliver provision when there was seemingly no hope.

For example, a few weeks ago we found out that John's company was going to cut his paycheck to pay for the taxes owed on our move out here. It was totally unexpected. We were not done shopping for the holidays. We had bills due, car work needing to be done, and a list of other needs. It was difficult not to worry. It seemed like the same old song.

However, all we could do was keep living life. Continue to move forward and do the daily things we always do. Caring for our family, our little flock. Being sheepherders for the sake of the sheep.

Then suddenly, in the very place of loss and concern, God's glory shines down. Breakthrough arrives. Today, John sent me a text sharing that he received a bonus. It was a huge bonus and he has only been with the company for 3 months. And here I go again! "God surely...what? That much? John's only been with the company 3 months! Is that you God?"

Needless to say, this morning has held another suddenly for our family at a time when we really needed it. This post is not to boast in anything other than a Father who really is trustworthy. Even when we are tempted to become suspicious of God and thoughts of mistrust invade our minds, He still invades the norm and blows our minds in that He is always faithful.

So here is my boast, just as the angels proclaimed, "Glory to God in the Highest!"
No matter where your struggle lies, be comforted and filled with peace in knowing that He has come. He is trustworthy. He is alive and active in your life. Check back soon because I have a lot more to share about these ordinary sheepherders and how we are so much like them. Enjoy your sheep and field today. Merry Christmas.

Morning Bagel- God was not attracted to you and did not choose you because you were big and important-the fact is, there is almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise HE made to your ancestors.God stepped in and mightily brought you back out of the world of slavery, freed you from the iron grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know this. God your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps His covenant of loyal love with those who love Him and observe His commandments for a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:7-9 The Message Bible

Daily Hug: Father, I thank you that you are always trustworthy. Even on the days when it feels like my prayers are not heard, You can be depended upon. Help me to stay focused on the reality that You sent Jesus and You gave me eternal life. Since you gave those wonderful gifts, how much more can I depend on You and trust You for everything else in my life. Forgive me Lord for being suspicious and questioning Your goodness at times. Thank you for being so patient and understanding of my fragile heart. Most all, thank you for the gift of your presence. For invading my life and showing up just at the right time. The HERO OF HEROES! You are glorious. May my life be an offering of worship unto You today. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweet Announcement

One of my most vivid childhood memories was Christmas Eve. My Daddy, Momma, brother and I would go to my Grandparents house for a traditional gathering. My grandmother always served her wonderful tuna dip and chips. She also had an assortment of other goodies awaiting as we arrived. Christmas tunes would be playing on their top of the line turn-top stereo.

We would just stand around, eat, talk and laugh. Then later, my granddaddy would sit everyone down in the living room and read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 of the Kings James version of the Bible. After the reading, we would exchange gifts. It was always the same,but it was always special.

Maybe the fact that it was always the same every year was what made it so special. There was something comforting, warm and a bit magical about walking into a familiar place at the same time every year with the same people eating the same traditional foods. It was a time and place of gathering together as a reminder of the most important things in life-faith and family.

Today, John and I read the Christmas story to our children on Christmas Eve. We have no fancy traditions. And instead of my grandmomma's famous tuna dip, we make homemade pizza's in our bread machine and drink sparkling cider. The kids love getting their hands all doughy and drinking the cider out of wine glasses.

This year, however, I did decide to do something a bit different that I would like to share with you. Instead of reading the Christmas Story from the King James Version, I am reading it from the Message Bible.

If you read Luke 2, verses 8 through 20 you will notice there is a lot written about the shepherds. In the Message Bible they are called "sheepherders." For some reason my attention is drawn to these practical, humble, simple individuals who were doing nothing more than minding their own business and carrying our their mundane responsibilities.

These down to earth guys were simply camping in their neighborhood. They were working the night shift. Suddenly, there was suddenly some "sweet sound coming down from the night shift" (old Commodores song). However, the sound probably would not be defined by the shepherds as "sweet". For God's angel suddenly stood among them and God's glory blazed all around the shepherds. They were terrified. Luke 2:8-9

The angel first told them not to be afraid. So maybe his voice and appearance were thunderous. However, the news the angel shared was really "sweet" ! He proclaimed,


Then there were some more "sweet sounds coming down" from an entire angelic choir. They were singing God's praises.


After the angel choir delivered the most extraordinary declaration, they withdrew into heaven. Then something very profound happened . I will share that part with you in the next blog so you can savor the wonderful announcement that Emanuel is here today with you and with me. He is not a God who is disconnected...sitting on a throne far away and looking down upon you in a disregarding way. He is with you..fully partaking in your life. He wants to be a part of every detail of your life no matter how simple of mundane they seem. This is what you should look for because this is what He wants you to know and see! Now savor that sweet announcement!

Morning Bagel: I am here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody-worldwide! A Savior has just been born in David's town, A Savior who is Messiah and Master. Luke 2:10-11 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: We are always on the look out it seems. That is because God created us to be looking ...to be seeking. That place in you that is looking for something is looking for the One who is with you anyway. He is Emanuel-God with us. It does not mean He is just floating around you. He is with you all the way. You know what I mean? When you cry , He feels your hurt and He weeps with you. When you are excited and joyful, He laughs and jumps up and down with you in your happiness! When you do not even understand your own feelings, He does. And He tends to your heart and cares for it when you are dismayed. He covers you and takes care of you when you do not even realize it. That is why He is called the Good Shepherd. He does not merely tend to your physical being, but He gathers you. All of you. And He feels everything you are experiencing. Now that is what I call some "Sweet Announcement"! That is what I call some "dog gone" good news. Pardon my grammar but I must exclaim my joy in the Truth!

Father, I simply love you. It is only because you loved me first that I can even love you a little. Thank you for being the greatest gift mankind could ever receive. Not only did You travel here to this earth in Your own divine way to be my Hero, but Your presence, being Emanuel-God with us,is the most wonderful incredible fact the Universe could ever fathom. Emanuel, You are grand! The Grandest of All! I will cradle that truth in my heart all day. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This morning I thought of a Christmas poem I wrote exactly 3 years ago. As I read it, I could not help but think of all that has changed over the past few years. It is amazing how God brings transition into our lives to teach us many things. I must admit that letting go has been an ongoing theme for me. Since this last blog entry was written back in 2006, we lost our house, my husband lost his job, we lost two babies, and moved all the way across the country to Arizona. The changes have been painful, but the Lord wants us to know that He is the One who is consistent.He is the One who does not change. There is no job, career, gift, house, or relationship that will sustain us apart from the One who loves us with an everlasting love.

How much joy and sorrow must have been mixed together when the Lord of light knew that He would send his only son to this earth to live and to die. I wonder if God still thinks on the pain of that reality at times? He has to. He is the God who does not forget anything other that our sin. The angels declared that Emanuel would soon be here. Emanuel is the God who is with you. Totally engaged with you and me. This means His attention is on your heart, mind and entire being.

The heart of God was expressed within the inner chambers of Mary's heart. May you feel His heart beating as you read this blog from 2006.

"I feel a tear rolling down my cheek as I think about the Father and the first Christmas when He sent his beloved Son, Jesus, to enter this earth. How He must have wept tears of joy for the time had finally arrived when He would release the Savior for all mankind into the world. But how He must have cried with sorrow at the same time for He was letting go of His own precious child, dropping Him into a cold and fallen world. How bittersweet as the heart of God ached, yet rejoiced, in this inexplicable exit from glory and awesome arrival into the beginning of life's true redemption story.

As I think about the joys and pains of my own parenting and the process of having to let my children go little by little, I also contemplate this connection to the Father's heart and what He must have suffered but yet gained. As a mother carries a baby in her womb, the child is a part of her; not separate, but wholly connected within her being. Then, after a seemingly long nine months, the child is born and his body is separated from the warmth of his mother's womb.

Subsequently, there is the ongoing process of sitting up, crawling, standing, and walking. Then shortly after, there is kindergarten, grade school, graduation, college, etc....On and on it goes. The progression of separation. How can something so joyous be so painful at the same time?

Even though my oldest child is only fifteen, and I have not fully experienced this process, I feel a small ache within, knowing that it will not be long before he is gone out into the world to walk out the destiny God has laid before him. Then, we will repeat the same process many more times after, with our other children.

Next, my thoughts travel to Mary and how she probably had to battle her own human desire to hold on to this perfect, precious Son, and to never let let Him go. Yet, within her heart, she carried the joyful, but painful truth that this child was born to go forth and to redeem the nations of this world.

How protective she must have been over this dear One knowing she was nurturing the Son of God, yet how piercing to her very soul as she had to release her hold upon this holy child God had entrusted to her care. The gracious, accepting, and loving God, chose to include us in this process of parenting whether we have natural children, spiritual children, or both. For in parenting the ones He has entrusted into our care, we join Him in the bittersweet joys of a parent's pure love for a child.

Great is our God who would let go of His very heart, His Son, that He would manifest His unfailing love for all of His children as He gave up that which He loved the most. For God so loved this world, He so loved His children, that He sent the apple of His eye, the joy of His heart, His precious holy child, that we might someday return to HIm.

As we enjoy this Christmas season, may we simply revel in the simplicity of this first Gift, the Love of a Parent, pure and unblemished. The Father of Glory stooped as a natural father may stoop to have eye contact with his child and relate to that child. The Father knelt down as a father kneels to gather his hurting, crying child, and as a father bends to sit and lay on the floor to roll and play with his son.

Our holy, majestic Father, came down to wrap and swaddle us in His eternal love; to look into our eyes, and to talk with us and to embrace us. He did it through Jesus, and He shares His love moment by moment if we would unite our hearts with His to receive it in its entirety.

May we, likewise, stoop in the same way to love our own children, spiritual or natural, and bow down to enjoy them all through the seasons in which we get to hold them; knowing deep down we are releasing them little by little.

As we look into their eyes, may we see the ocean of the Father's love reflected there. For this is where He is. He waits in the eyes of children that we may grab hold of Him, the ONE we will never have to let go of ! Merry Christmas!


Contently she smiled as she bundled Him up,

Cradling while kissing his face,

Tenderly she whispered the name of her Lord,

As she soothed this bundle of grace.

"Jesus, Jesus." she murmured.

Her heart oozing intense adoration,

Tears of emotion dripped from her face,

As she soaked intricacies of divine creation.

Like any newborn baby,

No hint of Shikinah glory to see,

Ten fingers and toes; soft downy hair,

"Lord , how could all of this be?"

She held in her arms,

the Hope of the Nations,

Anointed Savior of All,

Wonder of Wonders

Humbly born,

In a filthy , cold cattle stall.

She pressed the baby tightly,

against flowing affections,

Breathing in the scent of pure Love.

"Help me Lord, to be his mother,

To keep watch over Heaven's Dove."

Holding on as she swaddled Him,

Knowing what words cannot express.

The time of letting go,

Would come soon enough,

"Will I pass this painful test?'

But for now she would simply treasure,

The Father's first gift of His heart.

Peace and stillness flooded her soul,

Realizing they'd never really be apart.

Holding on, yet letting go,

For now she would simply treasure,

The fullness of the ALL in ALL,

Which separation could never measure.

Gazing into the eyes like a dove's,

An ocean of Heaven within,

Savoring the moment in her heart,

As she pressed God against her again."

Morning Bagel: I am the Lord, I do not change. Malachi 3:6

Daily Hug: Father, this is such a special time of the year. The time when we can ponder the things of Your heart. You do not change. How comforting that simple truth is. The changes of this life can be so unsettling at times. However, I can always run into Your arms. You are always with me. You are Emanuel. What a wonderful thought to know that you are a Father who is engaged with Your children. You are present and You are in tune to the concerns of my heart. You are the gift Lord. You are my Christmas present. I am rich and blessed simply because You are in my life and You have given me life. I love you and I thank you for Christmas...the Season of Hope and Joy! In Jesus Name. Amen

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Panoramas

The other day I was reading an excerpt from the "Streams in the Desert" devotional. I would like to share a story that watered my soul.

"There was once a mother who brought a crippled boy with a hunched back into her home as a companion to her own son.She warned her son to be very careful not to refer to the other boy's deformity, since this was a sensitive matter to him. And she encouraged him to play with his new friend as if he were a normal child. But after listening to her son play with him for a few minutes, she heard him ask his companion, "Do you know what that is on your back?" The crippled boy was embarrassed, hesitated a moment, but before he could respond,his friend answered the question for him by saying, "It is the box that holds your wings, and someday God is going to break it open, and you will fly away to be an angel."

This story is an excellent and inspiring example of how our perspectives can either enrich our lives or harden out hearts. We all have some type of disfigurement in our lives. What is your deformity? It may not be a visible hump on your back. However, it could be something more hidden from the view of others. It could be a disappointment you have just encountered or a worry you are carrying around concerning your future. Maybe you are struggling this holiday season with depression and you feel no hope. Whatever it may be, consider a panorama.

A panorama is an unbroken view.When you stand on top of a mountain, there is nothing to block the scene before you. Here in Arizona, I can walk out of my back door and see a clear panorama of endless sky. Be encouraged that whatever your defect, do not let it blind you to the vista before you. Your very weakness is probably the hunch of your heart getting ready to break open into a field of blessing. Keep watching the panorama, the view beyond your present trouble.

Jesus is the bread of life, yet He was broken. He arose from death so that we too can arise from the dust of our broken and bruised hearts. In the devotion from "Streams in the Desert, there is a very profound statement. "Suffering is a wonderful fertilizer for the roots of character, for character is the only thing we carry with us into eternity.And gaining as much of the highest character possible is the purpose of our trials." Austin Phelps

Morning Bagel: It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory. Hebrews 2:10 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug:It is amazing at times we can get so caught up in worldly wisdom. We tend to think we are blessed because things are going well. And then we sometimes look at a sister or brother in Christ who is struggling and wonder, "What are they doing wrong?" When we look at the true Pioneer of Salvation, Jesus Christ, we can see the opposite. We gain a totally different view or perspective. Jesus suffered many things such as rejection, misunderstanding, betrayal, shame, loneliness, grief, disappointment, ridicule, shame, mocking, and much more. His suffering was a blessing in which we as God's children reap the benefits. No matter what you are going through, take time to gaze upon the panorama of God's truth and the beauty of Christ's birth. Take hold of the view and know that the benefits are the by product of hardship suffered for you.

"The mountain of vision is won by no other road than the one covered by thorns." Streams in the Desert

Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to walk the road covered with thorns. Even His birth was in a filthy uncomfortable setting. Yet Glory was birthed in that most unpleasant place. Help me to not despise the places of struggle in my life and may Christmas be even more special to me this year as you clear my vision of what You are all about. I thank you for the hunches, knots and deformities of my life. I can be confident in knowing that beauty will come from the toughest of places. I trust you Father . In Jesus Name. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ribbons of Riches

This rainbow photo was taken by our 14 year old son Kerry the day before Thanksgiving. Just that morning I had been relishing the rain as it was the first one I had seen since we moved out to Arizona back in September. I was overwhelmed by the breathtaking sight. Kerry could not capture the entire rainbow as the expanse of it was enormous. I remember the children excitedly pulled me out onto the back patio so we could delight in this "free present" together. I had such a great time jumping up and down with the little ones as we applauded God's art work! The rainbow was complete and stretched across the entire sky within our view. The colors were of the most vivid I had ever seen.

AS I have been thinking about the precious gift of the rainbow, I have been thinking about God's promises. The rainbow was simply God's sign of His promise to never flood the whole earth again. His word is packed with promises for His children. Why is it that we have such a difficult time believing and claiming the promises of God? Just as little children receiving the gift of the rainbow with squeals of excitement, we should heed their example and simply believe that what God says HE will do.

This is a very difficult time to believe God's promises if we focus on the world around us. Just a few days ago, I read that just in the Phoenix area alone 18,000 people recently lost their jobs. I also read somewhere yesterday about a young lady who has been looking for work for over 5 months. This time last year, my husband John lost his job. It took over 8 months for him to find a new one. We are very thankful that he has work now.

Furthermore, there is a part of God's heart that I am really seeing that makes the trials and setbacks worth it. God's desire to give us good things is great and deep. Many times we think that the Lord has betrayed us or wants to withhold good things from us. However, that is a lie. Many times He allows these trials so that we can truly understand His heart for us. If I desire so much to give to my own children, how much stronger is His passion to give good things to us.

This year I feel the Lord wants us all to focus more on the eternal gifts He has given to us. Those are things that rust and moths cannot destroy. Genuine joy comes in finding pleasure in people and precious moments we can share with them. Our children will not remember too much about IPODS and Xboxes. But they will remember the time you take with them in the simplest matters.

Last night I told my four year old that she is about too big to be held at night while she drinks her cup of milk. I scolded myself for that comment. As long as she wants to snuggle with me I should capture those moments as priceless and valuable. And had I chosen to put an end to our little routine, I would have missed a special moment last night when she asked me what God looks like. And all the sweet inquiries about how to talk to God. I would have lost out on the comment she made about how thankful she is for Mommy, Daddy and her whole family.

This is what Christmas is all about. It is about resting and finding joy in the little things-the ordinary and mundane. Let's put a bow on the things that really matter. Just as God put the beautiful rainbow over us the day before Thanksgiving, let us see the ribbons of riches in the things that really matter-moments with the ones we love.

Ribbons of Riches

There are moments waiting in human packages
Presents not tucked in boxes covered with shiny wrap.
But within the frames of living souls
And hearts beating by Divine timing.
Let us not waste in worry
The treasures without price
But find joy in gifts eternal.

The world will offer you things that won't last.
And joy will be stolen with pain from your past.
Lay the hurt and the world aside
When opportunities arise.
Ribbons of riches adorn,
Gifts of small moments
A hug.
A smile.
Or a walk in the rain.
A giggle.
A snuggle
Or a kiss on the cheek.
Ribbons of Riches
Cannot be replaced
By replicas in the world.
But are discovered in the simplest
Of moments waiting
To be unfurled.

Morning Bagel:If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead?If he asks for a fish will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hard hearted sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won't your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them? Matthew 7:9-11 ( The Living Bible)

Daily Hug: Lord, I am so thankful that You want to share your heart with your children. You desire for me to understand your heartbeat for others. I appreciate all the life lessons you teach through hardship. True blessing comes in packages we often do not see or appreciate when things are always good. How would we even see the good things if we never experience the bad? You Lord are always redeeming the negative moments in my life to make my heart softer toward you and others.

Help me to capture moments this day that are priceless. Open my eyes and ears that I may experience the things that are on Your heart and the things that are most important to You. You have chosen to merge Your heart with mine that I may experience what true love is. Give me grace in this season to focus on the eternal blessings and to unwrap every moment as a gift from you. I choose to take my eyes off of the world and the worries in my own life and to place them upon You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waves of Gratitude

We have lived in Phoenix for over two months now and we have not seen one raindrop. Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining about the weather. Everyday has been gorgeous-sunny, warm, and no humidity. However, this morning I awoke to cloudy skies and a cool breeze caressing the palm trees in my back yard. Now I sit and am looking out admiring a stunning down pour of playful rain. I stepped out onto the back patio and the scent was unlike any I have ever smelled. It has such a fresh and clean scent as though I could just get a bar of soap and shower in it. A wave of gratitude washed over me as I stood and soaked in the beauty of the moment. Now it is thundering. What an amazing sound ! Majestic roars!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day. I have to admit the week has been a bit hectic and my home has been a bit choppy-like an active ocean. The children have been rowdy as the holidays are approaching. I have been trying to get to the store to buy the food for our family feast, plus we have had sickness in the house. But now at this moment I am caught up in a wave of gratitude and I want to stay upon it and ride it out.

The holidays can be such a time of unrest. It is so easy to get caught up in my list of things to do that I have no peripheral vision to see others that are hurting and in need. Isn't it amazing how easily this can happen? We get so focused on our problems and they become like giants in our line of vision when in fact they are really minuscule compared to what others are going through.

Just this past week, several of my close friends have just received troubling news or are going through a time of distress. One of my dear friends has been having health problems herself and just found out her brother is ill with stage four cancer. Another dear friend just found out she has a tumor and another precious woman in my life lost her baby to miscarriage. My heart has been occupied by these other's trials. I know what it is like to suffer pain during the holidays and it is excruciating. This year I have decided to find waves of gratitude and to look outside of my own little circle to encourage and think of others. It is a difficult season to really give of ourselves with the present state of the economy. The nature of the human soul is to just close up within ourselves and to protect our own. However, we must reflect upon a time when a man lived on this earth for a short 33 years. When threats surrounded Him, He gave. When death knocked on His heart's door He gave. And when He released His last breath, He poured out everything He had that we may gain hope and life.

For this reason, may we press forward and follow His example. Ride the waves of gratitude and find a way to give. Your heart will swell with joy and you will find life that you have never lived.

The photos in this post were taken here in the Phoenix area. Some dear friends came from Atlanta to visit and she took these photos. This is how the terrain of this area looks-rough yet lovely. There are rocks galore,rugged mountains,and hard ground. The plant life is mostly cactus and various sorts of low trees and shrubs. However, the rough beauty carries a message. When the ground is dry, a unique charm still springs forth. You're caught breathless and you draw strength from a place within you that you may have forgotten. Whatever you are facing at this moment and whatever desert you find yourself in, take courage and know that life expresses itself in the most vulnerable of places. You are not without hope. Ride the waves of gratitude and travel to the heart of another this Thanksgiving and share your hidden blooms. Happy Thanksgiving!

Morning Bagel:What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks:to sing an anthem to You, The High God!To announce Your love each daybreak,sing Your faithful presence all through the night. Psalm 92:1-2(The Message Bible)

Thanksgiving Hope: Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness,everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It is wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving once again. Most of us are looking forward to time with family and friends, sharing in feasts and the lives of our loved ones. There are many unknowns which face us in the times we live. However, we can have peace and joy in the midst of an unstable world. Many have lost their jobs. Some are ill. Some are in distress for many reasons. What about you? Maybe you are facing a tremendous disappointment and you are finding it difficult to give thanks. It is okay.You are not alone. Maybe you are not struggling with anything major but just feel the weight and exhaustion that the holidays sometime bring. Regardless where you are, take some moments this Thanksgiving to occupy your heart with all that God has given you. Claim Philippians 4 as your strength for the season.

Lord, I bring my heart to you. You know exactly all that is within me. I lay my worries before you as an offering because there is nothing I can hide from You. You see my stress. You feel my worries. You are so close that every breath I inhale is your very exhale. You have given me life through all You have given. As I spend time with loved ones this holiday and as I fill my belly with wonderful food, fill my heart with You. Displace any worry in my life with Your presence Lord and spread your peace through my life to others this holiday season. In Jesus Name. Amen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Praying Mantis in the Broccoli Tree Part 2

My heart continues to visit the moment I shared with my nine year old son last week. I was busy writing my last blog and he came inside requesting that I come out to look at a "grass hopper thing" he found in the tree. I stopped what I was doing and followed him into the back yard. It was a praying mantis. We shared some special time together just observing the strange little creature. If I had chosen to stay to my task, I would have missed a precious moment of love, sharing, and truth with my child. However, the most important treasure he would have missed is acceptance.

In Andy Stanley's book, "Choosing to Cheat", he shares that there is something your family wants from you more than anything else. What do you think it is? You probably would answer, "love". Yes that is true, but there is a deeper element that we often do not consider. Your family wants to feel accepted. According to Stanley's book, "They want to feel like they are your priority".

Did you know that your spouse and your children can know that you love them, but they may "feel" like they are not your priority? They may be your priority, but that is not the issue. They want to "feel' like your priority. "They must feel like it"

I would like to share another quote from Stanley's book:

" I will never forget discussing this point with a very busy corporate vice
president. He kept assuring me how much he loved his wife and kids. Finally
I interrupted him and said, "The problem is, you love your family in your
heart, but you don't love them in your schedule. And they can't see your

The key here is that our love must be visible. You love your family deeply in your heart, but you should ask yourself this question, "Is my love out there for my spouse and my children to see it?" Is it visible?

As the holiday season is approaching and we are thinking about gift giving. Let us go a bit deeper and think of ways we can make our love visible. It is not so much in material gifts, but is in creating ways to show them our loyalty to them and that they are accepted.

Here are some suggestions for creating visible love so we can battle daily the temptation to cheat our loved ones out of the acceptance they are longing for.

First, practice making more deposits than withdrawals. Deposit words of love and affection. Touch your family members with hugs, loving touches, back scratches, tickles or even wrestling. Stop what you are doing and throw ball in the back yard with your son. Play barbies with your daughter. Take your teenager to lunch. Be creative!

Secondly, find open windows to mine the hearts of your loved ones. Stanley has some great suggestions in his book. Once or twice a week with the kids,ask them these questions,

"Is everything okay in your heart?
"Did anyone hurt your feelings today?"
"Are you mad at anyone?"
"Did anyone break a promise to you?"
"Is there anything I can do for you?"

Taking time to listen deeply to our loved ones sends the message, "You are more important to me than anything in this world. You are accepted by me and I will do anything to show you how much I love you."

Thirdly, take time to receive the truth of God's acceptance of you. Read His love letters to you in the Bible. He did not give you words so that you can have "head smarts." He sent you words of affection that you may experience and know that He accepts you just as you are. If you do not feel accepted and approved of by the Lord, it will be difficult for you to show the same to your family. In turn you will cheat on your family by choosing tasks and accomplishments to make you feel accepted and worthy.

Our heavenly Father is the best model for showing acceptance. He sent the most precious gift He possessed-His only Son. He never cheats on His children and always chooses to give us His best.By His grace and strength, we too can shower our loved ones with acceptance and approval.May you feel the smile and delight of the Lord today.

Morning Bagel: I look up at Your macro-skies,dark and enormous, Your handmade sky jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look? Psalm 8:3-4 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: It is unfathomable to just sit and think about the enormity of the Father's love for us. When I look into the night sky, I can ponder the fact that He is the One who holds the stars in place. He put them there that you and I may see how strong and mighty He really is. This is the truth. How lovely it is to know that the God of the universe accepts you and is tenderly holding your heart in place.

Lord, Your love is amazing. I cannot get over You and all the qualities that make You who you are. I am strengthened and comforted in the truth that you accept and approve of me not because of my performance, but because of Your love which is enormous. Show me where I am not loving fully. Help me to not only love my family, but to have wisdom in how to help them feel and experience my acceptance of them.I want to stop and just enjoy small moments with my family as well as long stretches of time with them. Enable me to listen deeply just as You are always listening deeply to my heart even when I do not speak. You take a second look at me Lord, and a third, fourth and fifth. Thank you. May this very gift of "giving notice" be imparted to my family so that they may also know they are accepted by me and mostly by You. In Jesus Name. Amen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Praying Mantis on the Broccoli Tree. Part 1

This morning I awoke with a mental list of all the things needing to be done today. I chose to mull over my endless list before slowly swinging my legs over the side of my bed.
unfortunately as I was lifting myself up,the list became my god for the day instead of choosing God as the Lord of my day. In return I felt like I was carrying a heavy bag before the day even began.

I am not proud to share this. However,I am a blessed mother of many children with many demands that await me daily. It would be unfortunate for me to pretend that I had it all together and to share about all the wonderful things I do right. In fact, my heart is for others to see that I have many moments of weakness and my share of failures.

How about you? Can you relate here? Don't we connect and bond with others when we share real life of struggles and frailties along with the victories and successes? There is freedom in admitting to ourselves and others that we cannot do it all. This brings me to one of the most influential books I read this year,"Choosing to Cheat", by Andy Stanley. Today, I thought of the book and the straightforward truth that this writing offers to real people living in a world with high demands and worldly pressures.

As the holidays are approaching we usually find ourselves busier. Not only do we have our normal responsibilities, we have the extra load of list making, meal planning, gift shopping, card mailing as well as company parties, decorating, hostessing, and on and on it goes. I thought that the title, "Choosing to Cheat" is a great motto for the holiday season. What this means is that somewhere and somehow, you are cheating. Either I am cheating on my "to do" list by spending time with my family, or I am cheating on people who need me by striving to complete duties. May we choose to cheat on the right things.

If I consider the number of hours in a day, there is no possible way I can fold all of the laundry, clean the toilets, mop the floors, return all the phone calls, wash all the dishes, exercise, trim my toenails, pluck my eyebrows,put on my makeup, shave my legs,cook 5 course meals,and spend adequate time with my family. If I find myself trying to fit all the things into a day that I think should be done, someone is going to get cheated. Even as I am writing this, my 9 year old son came up to me and said, "Mom, you gotta come outside and see this grass hopper thing!" I knew I did not want to miss a special moment with my child. So I stopped writing and ventured outside barefoot to see his new found discovery. It was a praying mantis propped up on a tree that the children call the "broccoli tree". We had a great time observing the strange little creature. And it was a great opportunity to show my child the messages God gives us in nature.

In reality when you consider the limited amount of time in a day, there is no way you can reach your full potential in all those areas. There is just not enough time. And the wonderful thing about it is that God never intended it to be that way. So you know what? You are free!

The time requirements are endless, so the pressure is off of you. In Stanley's book, "Choosing to Cheat", he says this. "Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization,. Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is there is not enough time to get everything done that you are convinced-or others have convinced you-needs to get done."

As a result of this there is someone or something that will not get what they want from you. You just cannot be all things to all things and people. You are going to have to cheat somewhere.

It is in this realization that you can find peace and contentment. A weight is lifted and we know we can be free to cheat on the things that really are not as important. Yes, I would love to be 20 pounds lighter, but what time would I miss with my children by focusing too much on my weight? I would enjoy having a spotless house, but one day I will regret moments with my kids when they wanted a hug, or a snuggle, or even some time in the yard checking out praying mantises in broccoli trees.

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. So let us join together and cheat a little so we can relish all the blessings we have. In addition, choose to be content even if everything does not get done. If we could accomplish everything we would not need the Lord! The message is for me as much as for anyone else. I want to enjoy God's best for my life each day. And my heart for you is that you too will reap the joys and benefits of God's abundance for you. Let us all aim to align our priorities with God's priorities this upcoming season.

As I am finishing this blog, it is 10 p.m. There is a basket of unfolded clothes in the laundry room. There are several dirty glasses by the sink and few toys were left on the floor. But I am going to leave them all right where they are and cheat on my household chores. Now I am going to sit with my teenagers and husband and enjoy the rest of my evening. The day did not start off great. But it is ending sweetly! It is well with my soul.

Morning Bagel: Jesus said, " Love the Lord your God with all your your passion and prayer and intelligence" This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set along side it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commandments are pegs:everything in God's Law and the prophets hangs from them. Matthew 22:37-40 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: My hug to you today and from your God is that His grace is sufficient in all things. Personally, I failed today. I gave my life to the God of lists and busyness instead of the one true God of life and peace-. But He understands and knows that it is difficult for us in this world of pressures and unrealistic expectations. May His mercy and patience and understanding bind us together in the reality that without Him we are lost. And that without His strength, our own strength will not accomplish very much for too long.

Lord, Thank you for understanding the struggles and pressures I face each day as woman and as a mother. Help me not to allow tasks in the work place or in my home to steal a part of me that belongs somewhere else with someone else. I choose to guard my heart against preoccupation with the less important duties and to be engaged in the places and with the people who are the most precious. I cannot do this in my own strength Lord. But I can do all things through Christ who so graciously enables me to this. You are faithful and I believe You will help me this holiday season to stay off the fast track and to rest in Your presence.Thank you Father. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Grateful Gate

As I reminisce about being a child and what I was taught in school about the pilgrim's first Thanksgiving I recall simple images. My knowledge of the event was a celebration with abundant food,smiling people in strange black attire along with scantily clad Indians as their guests. I am sure I was given more information than this, but it seemed to be what I remember seeing in all of the pictures. Little did I know that Thanksgiving represented so much more than food, Indians and Pilgrims. It symbolized hardship and bitterness, broken pride and humility, perplexity and revelation,loss and life as well as new found hope. There was a mixing of the good and the bad. However, the good prevailed.

As my thoughts continue to travel back to the Pilgrim's very first Thanksgiving, I am reminded they had to go through so many inconsistencies, trials and sickness, as well as losing loved ones to death on their journey over to America. Even after they arrived, it was too close to the winter season to plant crops. Therefore, food was scarce and there was nothing fresh available. Even their water was unclean. Sickness and death continued to visit them after they set up their new homes.

I wonder how they must have felt? They came here to find freedom-freedom to worship God without living under so much oppression and control. They must have had high hopes when they set sail for an unknown land. I can almost hear the young mother with sick children on her knees questioning through her tears, "Lord, we thought this was what You were leading us to do? And this is what we get?" How about the father standing out in the cold late at night looking into the stars asking, "How will I feed my family tomorrow God? Will you provide for us?"

A wave of emotion almost unsettles me as I ponder on how much of our own lives relate to the internal and external conflicts of these first settlers of America. We are all Pilgrims in our own journeys in life. Have you been through any hardship lately? How about a major transition? Maybe you have had internal stirrings and questions about your life and purpose. You are a pilgrim and so am I.

If the new citizens had not gone through such intense difficulty would they have really been grateful? Would there have even been a first Thanksgiving? Probably not. The gate to gratefulness is the on the sea of hardship and the road of life's bumps and ruts. It is in the toughness of winter seasons that we truly learn that we are not in control but there is a loving God who steers our ships to the best destination in the end. We then can truly enter the "grateful gate" and deeply appreciate the things in life that really matter-life, family, faith and friendship.

As I reflect upon the last year of my own life, I realize that God has bought our own family through a stormy sea to a new land- much like the first Pilgrims. Last year John lost his job right before Christmas. I had just had a miscarriage over Thanksgiving weekend. And we had very little income for 9 months. However, looking back I can see the hand of God caring for us, providing and comforting our family.

Now we are in a new and unfamiliar land of Arizona. There are still days of perplexity and wondering why we are here. However, I am thankful that I do not always have to understand but a few simple things. God loves his kids and He is a good God. For that I am grateful. I have walked through the grateful gate and look forward to the journey ahead. My encouragement to you today is to prepare your heart for this season of appreciation. Make a list of all your blessings. Remember how the Lord brought you through tough times. And if you are going through a painful time now, He will bring you through it. Happy Happy Thanksgiving Friends.

Morning Bagel:O my soul bless God. From head to toe, I 'll bless His holy name. Oh my soul bless God, and don't forget a single blessing. Psalm 103:1-2 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: Thanksgiving is so much more than a bountiful meal. It is a time of reflection of all God has done for us. He gave everything He had just so we could have life and be expressions of His love in a dark world. He turned Himself inside out just because He loves us so. What more is there to be more grateful for? If we have that, we have everything.

Lord, You forgive, You heal broken bodies and shattered hearts. You crown me with loving kindness and tender mercies. You love me the same every moment. There is nothing good I can do to make you love me more, There is nothing bad I can do to make You love me less. You wrap me in Your goodness. You clothe me in dignity. You make all things come out right in the end. You know me inside and out and You still delight in me. The greatest benefit I have is Your love. You love me and I will treasure that benefit all the day. In Jesus Name. Amen

( You can go to www.biblegateway.com to read Psalm 103. I would encourage you to read it in The Message version. It is a beautiful love note from God to you and you can read it back to Him as you walk through the "grateful gate" this day.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daily Elections

As our minds and our hearts have been pondering upon the outcome of this week's election, let us think of how inwardly each day is election day . An election is the right, power and privilege to make a choice. In considering the meaning of the word, I am drawn to the word privilege. The ability to choose how we think, how we act and how we live daily is a gift. Now that the elections are behind us, may we move forward in making moment by moment choices to touch the lives of others. May we think the best of others and speak life into the hearts of discouraged ones as we go along our way.

With the holidays upon us, you have probably "elected" to think about the "others" in your life and how you may bless them. It is the time of the year to focus more on what we have rather than what we do not have. Being thankful and thinking of ways to express thankfulness is what we can elect these up coming weeks. If you have not started making your gift list for the holidays, pull out a notepad and start jotting down the names of all the people in your life that you are thankful for. Place the list on your refrigerator, your kitchen window, your laundry room or any place in your home where you spend a lot of time. Begin to thank God each day for each individual and ask Him to bless them. Then ask The Lord to give you a creative idea for letting the special individuals in your life know you appreciate them. As the ideas come to you jot them down beside each name. Add them to your holiday planning folder.

Last weekend I went to the Dollar Tree and found some very special gift ideas. I gathered a few items and put a gift basket together for a special person in my life. (photo above). The cost was only ten dollars and I named the basket, "Thoughts of You." I plan to wrap it in clear cellophane wrap and complete it with a pretty bow. We must remind ourselves that the holiday season is about giving our love to others. It does not matter how much money you spend. Overspending and putting undo pressure upon yourself to give expensive gifts will do nothing but drain the joy and delight of the season right out of you as well as empty your purse. Plan a holiday budget now. Do not charge your gifts. Pay cash and keep it simple. Be creative. Your loved ones will appreciate your thoughts more than the price tag. Elect to use wisdom in keeping the season simple.

Keep checking back because I am going to share simple gift ideas, crafts, and recipes as the holidays approach. Most of all, plan ahead and have fun!

Morning Bagel:Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth-Serve the Lord! Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15

Daily Hug: This time of the year can be a season of stressing or a season of blessing. You must "elect" now that this year will be a time of joy, rest, blessing, and enjoyment! This is what our Father wants for you. He is the giver of good gifts and I believe that He desires that you reap the fullness of what the holidays represent. For all of you reading this, my prayer for you is that you will find simplicity, you will enjoy the time with your family, that you will give of your love more than your material gifts and that Christ will shine through every smile, every embrace and every gift of your time and resources. Plan ahead, do something different, get others involved, and love as you have never loved before.

Lord, thank You that you are the greatest Giver! You love to give! I elect this day to give to those around me. I am free in You Lord knowing that the holidays mean so much more than spending my money. They are about serving You. When I see my loved ones and strangers, may I see Your face. When I give of what I have, may I remember that not only am I giving to another, but I am also giving to You. I choose to serve You this holiday season Lord, by planning wisely, spending wisely, and depending upon You to be creative. Thank you for the privilege and freedom of choice that I may select Your ways this day and this upcoming season of celebrating the life of Your son . In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Giving is a Lifestyle

Just a couple of days ago, someone rang our doorbell. It was a family down the street who had come to welcome us to the neighborhood.They were so kind and friendly. The wife had crocheted a pretty little hand towel as a welcome gift. My heart was touched at the small gesture of thoughtfulness. The same day, this family gave our son a ride home from school as he has been walking home everyday. We also received a surprise gift in the mail last week from my parents with a beautiful wine rack and plaque that was handmade. It was exciting to receive mail that day as I had been feeling down and lonely since we are so far from our friends and family.

Just yesterday I received a call from a sweet lady who is an expert coupon clipper and user. She saves so much a month using them at stores that have double and triple coupon savings. She called me yesterday and is going to pick me up and help me get started saving money on our groceries. How amazing it is that she would share her strengths and abilities to help others? These precious people are examples of givers, loving and helping others with their time and resources. And their ways of reaching out did not cost much if any money. It just cost a little of their time.

These were seemingly small acts of kindness and love, but the impact they made upon us were tremendous. We should never underestimate the ministry we can bring to others even through small gifts and acts of love.Giving should be a lifestyle and not something we do on special occasions.Some of the most precious gifts are free.
For example, when you sit and read a book to your child, you are giving. When you offer a prayer for a friend going through a difficult time, you are giving. Even sharing a sincere compliment with your husband or child , you are giving. When you give in these ways, you are imparting life and bringing hope to others. Most importantly you are following the example of Christ who came to give of His very self that we may have life.

As the holidays are approaching, you have probably started thinking about ideas for gifts. It is amazing how stressful the season can be when it should be a time of peace,enjoyment and reflection. We pile up our schedules and spend too much money. Then we find it difficult to relax and embrace all that the holidays stand for.

I would like to help in some small way to begin getting organized for the holiday shopping and gift giving. We can make the upcoming season fun, simple and stress free. Do you think it is possible? Together we will try.

1. If you have not already made your list, now is the time. Start a small folder with pockets to put your list,sale ads, coupons, receipts and other things related to your shopping. Use a blank piece of paper to put in the front of your folder. Make 5 columns on the paper.

2. Label each column across the top.
a.column one-Names (these will be names of all those you would like to either buy a gift, send a card, or both.)
b.column two-Budget (this is the amount you can spend on each person.)
c.Column three-Items (this would be children's wish list or ideas for those on your list.
d.Column four-Cards (you will place a check by every name you would like to give cards to.)
e.column five-baked gifts (this is optional but will help keep up with amounts of baked items you would like to give.)

3. Now you are ready to write down names and to place a check within appropriate columns for those you are giving a gift, a card or both. As you purchase an item put a line through it or use some other symbol to remind you where you are in your shopping. Also, as you do your Christmas cards you can mark off names as you go.

4. Now begin to shop. Look online, in catalogues, sales brochures in the paper and other places. Place sticky notes on the add with person's name and place in your folder. You can also bookmark sites where you find a gift you may consider ordering.

5.Make a goal to shop for at least an hour a week to begin purchasing your gifts. Take your folder with you so you will have your list and ads available. This will save you stress of last minute rushing and will help you stay organized and within your budget.

6. Most of all, this is only a suggestion or idea. This works well for me as we have many children to shop for. Therefore waiting until the last minute would be disastrous for our family.

Over the next weeks, I will be sharing ideas for inexpensive gift ideas under 10 dollars and five dollars. organizing your gift wrap center, recipes, and other simple ideas to help you keep your holidays stress free.

Remember to keep things simple so you can relax and enjoy the people you love.

Morning Bagel: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Daily Hug: The words from John 3:16 should never grow stale in our hearts. Maybe you have heard the verse over and over. I know I have. I have heard it in numerous sermon and songs. I have read it in the Bible, in other books and articles. I have seen it in the sports stadiums on television. I am reminded as I am writing this that God so loves us that He gave. He simply gave the best He had. The price He paid was more costly than any price we will ever have to pay. Sometimes I find myself complaining about having to do this or that for someone else. Our precious Lord knew He would have to give His most precious treasure for our sake, but He never complained. Every time we give or are asked for help, we should be reminded of what He gave-His very heart...His most valuable treasure-Jesus.

Lord, Thank you for all You did for me when You sent Your son to walk this earth and then to suffer for my sake. You gave so willingly without reserve and without complaint. It brought You joy to give Your very best which was the life of Your life.

Thank you also for the precious people you have put in my path this week who gave of their time, their gifts and encouragement.. There is not one kind gesture that is insignificant to You. Help me to keep this in mind as the holidays are approaching. Show me creative ways to give to others. It is the least I can do after what You did for me. In Jesus Name. Amen

(Please feel free to post a comment with your ideas and suggestions for making the holidays more enjoyable and simple. click on "leave a comment" below.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

To Love or Not to Love

Everyday we choose to love or not to love. This statement came from a parenting course John and I studied a couple of years ago called,"Growing Kids God's Way." As women we are wives and mothers in the home. We also are mothers in our communities and our churches whether we have natural children or not. This statement is the backdrop of the course of generations to follow. Our choice to love each day is the greatest opportunity for success we will ever have.

We should never discount the value of everything we touch in our homes. Creating a warm and loving haven for our families is vital as well as finding special ways to s how our family how much we love them. It does not take much money-just a bit of time and creativity.

A few weeks ago, I shared that starting in the Master bedroom is important because your relationship with your spouse is the most important in the family. Making this room the most elegant in your home shows your husband that you honor and respect him. Our second most important relationships are with our children. Their rooms are a reflection of them and should be a pleasant place for them to rest, read,and play.

Since we just moved here, I have not purchased many new things for the home. Therefore I have been praying and asking the Lord to help my creative juices flow so I can create a beautiful home for my family on a shoestring budget. Here is a project I did last week with my preteen daughter, Sara. She wanted to give all of her "pink stuff" to her little sister and make her own room look a bit more like a room for a teenager.

The photo on the top right is a mural we created together of photos that are special to her. This is great for a preteen room. You can make as many of these as you would like and even hang them as a grouping on the wall.

1. Find a large frame around the house you are not using. It could be from an old print or large photo frame with a matting for various photos. Remove the matting or print. You can even paint the frame if you would like the frame to tie into the color scheme of the room.

2.Search your home for unused fabric. Some ideas would be a table cloth you have not used in years, colorful sheets, cloth napkins, or material from an unused curtain. You will be amazed at the amount of unused fabric you have stored away. Since my daughter Sara wanted her color scheme to be mostly red and brown, we used a set of deep red cloth napkins for the background of her collage. (See photo)

3.Using the cardboard backing of the frame, glue the material pulling tightly. You may want to trim down the fabric. The mural we constructed used two cloth napkins.

4.Allow the material to dry. We used Elmer's glue. Gather photos and arrange them on the background. Either tape or glue the pictures. You may even use various items to accentuate the photos such as ribbons, stickers, etc. We used artificial leaves for a fall theme. We did not glue these as they can be removed and other accessories can be used later for different seasons.

5.Carefully place into the frame with the glass. Hang on the wall or prop the collage against a night table or dresser.

This project was free to create. The only thing it cost was about an hour of our time. It was something we did together to create something "cool" for a teen room. Most importantly we made a special memory. With the holidays just around the corner, this would be a great and inexpensive gift idea for any age person.

I did spend a small amount of money on a few room accessories as Sara wanted to change the entire decor. So we went to Walmart and bought a few simple accessories to decorate. The red pillow on her bed was only 6 dollars. The brown bed spread was only 14.99 at Walmart.

For the window treatment. We used the remainder of the red cloth napkins as well as some white cloth napkins I do not use. We folded them once into triangles and alternated them across the top of the window to create a valance. We used small pin nails to hold the napkins.

As a creative "earthy" backdrop behind her bed, we used 4 woven placemats and created an "Indian" style mural that looks like miniature rugs.(See photo)

We have more ideas to create for the room. However, I mainly wanted to share the fun and the simplicity of bringing warmth into your home without spending a lot of money. The best part of it all was spending time together and creating beauty with my daughter.

If you have any "shoe string budget" ideas for creating kid's rooms, please email me at angecogburn@cox.net. I would love to read about your ideas and even post them here to share with others.

Remember that investing in our families is the most important deposit we will ever make. It does not need to be costly in money, but it will cost your time. Isn't that the way to spell love: T-I-M-E?

Morning Bagel-Love one another.In the same way I loved you,love one another. This is how everyone will recognize you are my disciples-when they see the love you have have for one another. John 13:34-35 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug- We can be assured that we hold within our very being the God given capacity to love. 1 John 4:7-8 commands us to love one another for love is of God. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Obviously love is very important to God. He created us in His image.(Genesis 1:26-27) Therefore we have been given by God the capacity to receive and give love. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 that others will know we are His people by the love we demonstrate toward one another. The only way we can be filled with the unconditional love of God is to know Him and walk with Him daily. When your child is receives God's love through you, he or she will be confident in your love and will learn to love others through your actions and example.

Lord, thank you for the opportunity You have given to me this day to give my family my love, but most importantly Your love. This day I choose to give love. However, I cannot do this without You filling me with Yourself.

Come and fill me Lord with You
May Your love flow
In all I say and do.
May the touch I give
To my family today
Bring a splash of Your presence
I earnestly pray.

You poured into me
Now help me be
A fresh breeze bringing blessings
To precious others with need
Make me a message
That my family can read
So they may know
And they will believe.

May my smile be as a gift
And my hugs a cozy cape
And the time I give my family
Be a letter of Your grace
May all I create
And even the mundane tasks I do
Be an eternal stamp
Exclaiming, "I LOVE YOU!"

In Jesus Name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Playtime!!!! A Visual Message!!

Jesus said He came to do something. Remember what HE said? He came to give life, not religion. He came that we may enjoy our lives, our relationships, and each day that He gives us. We may stare into the face of suffering in seasons of our lives. We may feel that all hope is lost at certain times of difficulty. However, His joy is a gift we carry with us at all times. We may not always feel it. We may not always experience it. However, we can choose to walk in the joy of the Lord and seek the goodness of God in all situations. Remember to live life to the fullest today. This is the choice I have made. Send an encouraging email to someone who needs strength. Smile at a stranger. Walk in the woods. Roll around on the floor with your kids. Laugh ! Laugh! Laugh!

Morning Bagel: The thief does not come except to kill, steal and destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Daily Hug: There is a winning side and there is the opponent. If we have Christ in us, we are on the winning side. Even though you are winning, you have an enemy who wants to steal daily from you any ounce of joy or blessing that God has planned for you. John 10:9 says that Jesus is the door. If we enter through that door (Jesus Christ) we will be saved and we will find pasture. This means that we can choose what door to walk through each morning, each moment, and each day. Ask Him to fill you with His spirit. Yield your all to Him this moment and you will find the inner rest your soul longs for. You will find your pasture of rest and nourishment, your provision for an abundant day. It is only found in Him.

Lord, You are the way to an abundant life. I choose to walk through the door of Your truth this day. Help me not to put more pressure on myself than You intended. I choose you this day and refuse to allow the enemy to steal joy and rest and peace from me. May this day be filled with your fullness. Thank you for the life you have given in everyday life. I can enjoy all you have given me in family, in my home. I appreciate the simple mundane tasks of washing dishes, making beds, dressing my children, doing laundry and cooking meals. I offer them all as worship unto You this day Lord. Thank you for giving me the ability to accomplish only that which you have planned for me this day. Make my home a temple. Make me a blessing, especially to you Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Precious Neighbors

I hope you all had a great weekend spending time with and investing in the lives of the people you love. This past Saturday we took our family to the Phoenix zoo. Some of our younger children have never been to a zoo so they were very excited about going. I am reminded more and more the importance of creating memories and doing simple activities with my family.

When our eighth child was a baby, I began to be concerned that I was too busy at home and was not being a good neighbor. I began to feel guilty that I was not baking for the neighbors and reaching out to get to know them. A wise pastor from Taiwan was visiting our home one day during the holidays. I shared with him my concern about not being a "good neighbor". He pointed to all the children, smiled and replied, "These are your neighbors."

Even in the church and as believers, we sometimes can get bogged down by what we "think" we should do to be witnesses for Christ. If we are being faithful with our families by investing in them with our time and resources, God will be faithful to open the door for us to reach out into our neighborhood and community without striving and guilt. As you serve your closest neighbors, your husband and children, God will bring increase. His faith and love will be imparted to them. Do not be surprised that someone just might knock on your door.

For example, one morning I was homeschooling the children. My phone rang and it was the young mother who lived across the street. I had only spoken with her a couple of times and had given her my phone number. She called me in tears and asked if I could pray for her. My oldest was in high school so I could leave him with the children. I walked across the street and just sat with this discouraged young mother for about half an hour. The Lord gave me an opportunity to sit with her and just listen. That particular morning I was tending my own field and God brought a divine interruption. Over the years I am learning that being a light in this world is just about that. "Being". It is not so much about what I do but it is about being who God made me to be. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves by asking God what He wants us to "do" rather than asking Him to make us who He wants us to "be".

This week I hope to share with you some simple things we are doing here in the home to create memories and to enjoy the preciousness of what He has given in family. Since we moved across the country we have not made many new friends, so it has been a wonderful opportunity to grow closer in friendship with God and family. May you enjoy the week with the precious treasures God has entrusted to you.

Morning Bagel: This is the very day God acted-let's celebrate and be festive. Salvation now, Salvation now! Oh yes God, a free and full life! Psalm 118:28-29 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: Lord, You made this day! How great You are! Thank you! It is Monday and it is a new beginning of a new week. What great opportunities You have placed before me. I am excited and I am grateful . I rejoice for You are good and so thoughtful . You know the very things that bless my heart. Thank you for the precious lives you have placed around me. I rejoice in You. Lord, are my closest and most precious neighbor. You live in me and walk beside me. You chose to dwell within my imperfect heart. What an honor and privilege it is that you would reside with me. Cleanse me and give me a clean heart. Make me a vessel of your glory and love this day to those who live with me. Bless my husband and children. Cover them in a quilt of Your grace. Give me strength, joy, peace and let a gentle countenance be upon me so that those with me may see You. I am glad! I will rejoice! You have provided all I need. In Jesus Name. Amen

Friday, October 17, 2008

Heavenly Collections Part 2

I am standing here looking at the sliding glass door which leads to our backyard. It is filled with fingerprints and smudges from all the children going in and out throughout the week. As I gaze at the mess, I see treasures. They are a precious reminders tracing to eternal collections- people. I could stress over the mess. That would be my natural way. However, I am admiring this unique collection knowing that one day I may no longer have darling fingerprints on my doors and windows.
As I ponder on these sweet impressions, I think about the fingerprints we as women leave upon others. This brings us to the importance of what we invest in-people. If you have ever had to be fingerprinted for any reason, you are told not to press too hard or you will leave a smudge. Then your identity is unrecognizable. You are instructed to press lightly so the fingerprint will be clean and identifiable.

Whether we realize it or not, we have a choice each day to leave a nice, gentle print on those we love. It is never too late to begin practicing new ways of investing in others. This should start within our own families. As we invest in our husband and children, we will be like a fountain splashing onto the lives of others outside of the home. We will leave recognizable prints for generations to come.

Soak in this prayer of Mother Teresa."Dearest Lord....Though you hide yourself in the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting,the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say, "Jesus, my patient,how sweet it is to serve You."

Mother Teresa had no husband and she did not birth any natural children. She cared for the lost and dying. She cleaned the wounds of people who slept in ditches with worms in their wounds. She fed them, cleaned them, and provided rest for them in their last days of life. She left beautiful fingerprints of grace and love on the hearts of others. She was an authentic mother. She saw every life as an investment for eternity.....a heavenly collection.

We may never go to the streets to save the dying.However, no deed is small in the sight of our Lord. Here are some simple ideas that can leave imprints forever in the lives of those we encounter each day.

1. Smile. It is free and it is powerful. A smile is like a drink of cold water to a discouraged heart. It is like a welcome sign to those who feel alone.

2.During your rest times, pray and ask God to show you one person you can encourage that week or day. Keep a box or basket of note cards by your chair. Write a note of encouragement. People still love to receive mail in this busy culture. It is a way to share a quiet moment of rest with a burdened or wearied heart. A small edifying word can make a profound difference in some one's life. Remember, it may be your own husband or child who would be lifted up by a card or note from you.

3.Give. Give . Give. You may not have the funds to buy gifts, but there are creative ways to give. Find things in your home that you think would bless someone. Choose one item out of your home each month to give away. Give your daughter your favorite earrings. Make your husband his favorite dessert. You will reap a blessing of joy.

4.Take a picnic lunch in a basket to a young mother who cannot get out often. Serve her and her children a simple lunch. Stay and watch the children so the mother can take a nap, have a bubble bath or read.

5.When guests come to your home, turn off the TV so that they will know you value them.

6. If your children are older, keep a basket or box of toys in an area of your house to welcome families with young children. Have a high chair on hand for meals. If a nursing mother is in your home, have a private area with a chair she can go to feed the baby.

7.Keep simple breads or cookies in the freezer to take to a new family in your neighborhood or your church.

These are just a few ideas. The list is endless. Pray and ask the Lord to show you creative ways to invest in others as the opportunities arise. Remember, people are not projects to complete, but are precious in God's eyes. As you pour into others you are pouring into our almighty and loving God.

Morning Bagel-Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30
Daily Hug- Father, Your love is amazing and incredible. In my own limited strength, I know I cannot love with the depth of your ability. But with You, I can do all things. The God of glory dwells in me. The Lord of love inhabits my being. Love through me Lord. Help me to love as You love. I ask that your beauty would be cultivated in me in my times of rest and refreshment with You. Speak to me and give me ideas of how I can bless others. You have placed me in my home, my neighborhood, my work place and my community for such a time as this. I depend on You to love through me even when I am down and feeling all alone. In the valley let me love. On the mountains let me love. Through my tears, my fears, my laughter and pain, let me love as if it were my last chance. In Jesus Name. Amen

Heavenly Collections Part 1

The weekend is upon us and most of us have already made plans with our families and friends. Some of you may be working or planning to catch up on cleaning. Tomorrow our family is taking a day away from the house and we are heading to the Phoenix zoo. I have wanted to take our family to the zoo for a long time. However we have been so busy and bogged down with responsibilities that we have not made the time to go. For a season, we had become very out of balance by collecting responsibilities rather than collecting memories and eternal treasures.

God is obviously speaking to us about rest and focusing on the more important aspects of life. What are we really collecting and accumulating? Look around your home. What kind of collections are there? I am not suggesting you go through and discard all of your collectibles. I collect willow wood angels and books. But I have to examine my heart periodically to see if I am making my earthly treasures more important than my heavenly treasures.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, "Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or -worse-stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven where it is safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious isn't it? The place where your treasure is is the place where you most want to be, and end up being. (The Message Bible)

As women of God, we need to continually be reminded of the importance of collecting the right things. If I store my treasures in heaven, then I am investing in something that will never break, be destroyed, or stolen. My earthly trinkets will fade away but my eternal ones will not.

I would like to share some ideas on investing most of our time in the eternal treasures-God and people. These are the only two things that last forever. Isaiah 40:8 shares that "the grass withers an the wildflowers fade, but our God's Word stands firm and forever. (The Message Bible) Also, Revelation 22:5 speaks of people in the City of God reigning forever and ever.

How can we invest in God and people? By filling our hearts daily with God's spirit during our times of rest, and then making ourselves available to show His love to others. It is as simple as that.

If you are just starting on learning to invest in God's word, start small. Begin with snacks of His truth. I used to get discouraged when my oldest children were babies. I would hear women speak of their wonderful hour long times with God each morning. If I tried to have quiet time early in the morning during that season of my life, I would fall asleep after being up with a small baby during the night. One evening before I went to bed, I shared my frustration with the Lord. He gave me this idea-start with a little. So I began each evening before bed with one scripture. I read it and thought about it. Then as I was going to sleep I would think about God and say a short prayer. God is not so much concerned about your method in your time with Him, He is looking at your heart. If my heart is not invested first then all of my time is futile. Everything starts in the heart. Below is a list of ways to invest in eternal things.

1. Make a scripture collection. Buy a small photo album at the dollar store along with index cards. Write down one scripture a week and place it in the album. (you can do 2 or 3 and keep one in each room where you spend the most time or keep one in your purse.) When are cooking dinner, meditate on those words. Memorize them.

2.If you are a busy mother with small children, keep a bible in your bathroom. This is a great opportunity to invest in God. Write in your bible. Highlight scriptures and jot down prayers in the margin. This is an investment in God and in your children and grandchildren who will know you spent time with God.

3.Use your work as symbols of worship. "Thank you Lord for my helpers-my washer and dryer, the stove, and my crock-pot. Thank you for the things you have blessed me with that I may have more time with my family. As you are making your bed pray, "Lord, cover my family today in your love and protection. Give us your peace, rest, and harmony in our attitudes toward one another. Be creative. As you invest in God you will be investing in others.

Tomorrow I will share practical and simple ways to invest in people. You are storing up riches in places that matter and that last forever. Remember to rest and enjoy your loved ones this weekend. Live, laugh, love. Play with your children. Give your neighbor a hug. Most of all, retreat to a quiet place, if only for a few moments, and tell God that you love and appreciate Him.

Morning Bagel-Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and he will. (Psalms 37:4-5) The Living Bible

Daily Hug-Lord, this is the day You made. I appreciate the life You have given to me. If not for You, I would not have been able to get up out of the bed this morning. If not for You, I could not take the breath I am breathing right now. If not for You , I could not kiss my husband this morning or embrace my children. Thank you for investing in me Lord. You created me. You invested in me. You bless me with love, joy,peace and life. You invest in me continually. You sent your beloved child to die for me. You invested in me. You have given everything for my benefit. Help me to never take your eternal gifts for granted. I simply say thank you Lord. I am grateful. I am appreciative. Show me how to collect the things You collect and not to be distracted by things that fade away. I choose to make You and people my priority today. In Jesus Name. Amen