God Loves a Do-Over

God Loves a Do-Over

Right now, I’m experiencing the post Easter hangover that so many of us, with less than perfect families, are experiencing.

• I spent way too much money on Easter baskets no one in my family really liked. (I was tempted to ask them for the candy back, but I resisted.)
• The NINE DOLLARS worth of strawberries I bought on Thursday were rotted when I went to cut them on Sunday.
• When we texted our second oldest “Where are you?” to find out where he was for our 1:00 lunch, his response? “For what?”
Sigh.

Maybe you had some of your own crazy going on:
• Your kids didn’t say thank you for the toys your in-laws brought over.
• You cooked all day Saturday and half of Sunday, and someone had the nerve to ask you why there wasn’t any artichoke dip.
• Your brother got drunk and obnoxious. At EASTER.

If your Easter didn’t go according to plan, let me just remind you of this:
New life isn’t just about eternity. It’s about Mondays too.
Luke 1:78 “A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.” GWT
We don’t have to leave the new life in God until next Easter. We get to celebrate each and every new day, each and every day.
God loves a do-over.
Go into today with new hope for what God can do.
Go into today forgetting the perfect Easter that every other family had (and by the way, stick with the friends who share about their kids saying a “grown-up word” when there was nothing in their little orange plastic egg. Those are the friends you need for a lifetime.)
Go into today knowing what we celebrated yesterday: a Christ that cherishes you enough to give you everything he had so he could be in relationship with you forever.

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections  (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Once upon a time I thought if I could make enough spreadsheets, post enough lists, or structure my planner enough, then I could build the scaffolding for smooth, meaningful days. I imagined days where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control could just spill right out of my heart.

Turns out “fruit” doesn’t grow on spreadsheets. Nothing against lists, mind you. But through God’s gentle teaching over the past several years, I’ve embraced the natural rhythm of days and grace in the midst of busyness.

It’s a beautifully confounding idea that the miraculous is often present in the mundane. A moment setting aside a scrambling schedule in order to kneel down, look a little one in the eye, and just listen to what is on their heart, is worth all the crossed-off lists in the world.

In short, I’m learning that the “small” can be momentous. That the moments make the days. And that it’s the humblest things that make life the richest.

How a jar can unify your family

Take for example the idea of a simple jar and a few pebbles. What if these everyday things could help unify your family throughout the day? What if it weaved hearts together? Here’s what I propose:

1) Find a jar, bowl or vase.

2) Obtain a group of pebbles, glass gems (as you might use in a fish tank or for the game Mancala), or other memento—one style or color for each person in the family. Even just a slip of paper with each person’s name written on it would do the trick.grow deep family connections
3) Each morning every person takes a pebble of another person’s chosen color. Slip it into a pocket, lunch box, brief case, purse, pencil box or backpack. Gather before parting ways for the day to talk about prayer requests for the day.

4) Throughout the day, whenever that person comes across the pebble, it’s a prompt to say a quick prayer for the person it represents, and whatever they might be facing in their day.

5) At the end of the day, take a moment to go around and debrief about the day. Each person asks the person whose pebble they drew how their day was. Then let them know how or when they were prayed for.

6) Finally, deposit each of those traveling gems into your chosen jar. Over time, the intermingled pebbles (or other items) serve as a visual reminder of how cherished each person has been in thought and prayer.

grow deep family connections 

A message in a bottle

In my research for the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, I’ve come across some incredible stories of objects and messages in simple vessels. This is just one way to make a living message of your own and create a beautiful tradition.

grow deep family connections

For a chance to win one of five copies of that book, tell us in the comments: What is one simple but important message you would love your family to carry in their hearts each day?


grow deep family connectionsAmanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of Truth, and spinner of hope-filled tales. She spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family, who love a good blanket fort and a stack of read-alouds. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale, a contributing author to the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, and enjoys connecting with her readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Episode #242: The Kindness Challenge with Shaunti Feldhahn

Episode #242: The Kindness Challenge with Shaunti Feldhahn

ListenNow

Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship, joins us on the podcast this week to talk about how nice we think we are. We think of ourselves as being kind, but when we learn what is involved in kindness, we realize we have work to do. Plus, their is a HUGE difference between kindness and being nice.

Kathi and Shaunti apply the concept of being clutter free in every area of our lives, to the condition of our hearts. We get exasperated with our family, we get irritated with people that don’t think like we do, we think it’s all them, not us. The Kindness Challenge helps us uncover the things about ourselves that we can change to make the world a kinder place. At the very least, there is one relationship we can improve upon.

Listen in and gather some key tools to use to build that relationship, find out how kind you are and start changing the world one relationship at a time.

You Are Invited, plus a Giveaway!

We’d love to have you participate in the 30-Day Kindness Challenge and let us know what you learned!

Shaunti is giving away two free books.  To enter, leave the name of the person God is bringing to mind that you will be kind to.   Two random winners will be selected. Plus check out the online assessment and all the tools available at www.jointhekindnesschallenge.com.

One Simple Way to Help a Friend Who’s Overwhelmed

One Simple Way to Help a Friend Who’s Overwhelmed

When I was pregnant with my third child, my doctor put me on bed rest for eleven weeks because I went into preterm labor. I was overwhelmed—to say the least. I was allowed once daily trips down and up the stairs, and a shower every other day.

Everything I did happened in bed—except sleep! Because who can sleep after lying around all day? Oh, and the medicine they give you to prevent labor is actually a stimulant, which doesn’t help. (C’mon people, this is modern America, can’t we do better?)

Overwhelmed became my middle name

That time was scary and frustrating, and I needed LOTS of help taking care of my then four and two-year-old babies, and my poor overwhelmed hubby, who could barely keep his head above water, despite the help we received.

What I learned during those weeks, and subsequently, as I endured four back surgeries in six years, is that when a person is facing overwhelm like never before, there is one thing they crave: normalcy.

During the last few weeks before my due date, my doctor released me to go on one outing a day. So one Wednesday, I chose to go to swimming lessons with my kids.

Previous to my forced bed rest, I dreaded those hectic afternoons—hurried, sweating bullets in the tropical temps of the indoor pool, trying to get unruly toddlers to comply. Sadly when I was fully healthy and able, I often wished those afternoons away.

But when I couldn’t do my regular chaotic life, oh, how I wished for normal.

My mother-in-law (a godsend) stepped in for swim lesson day. She wrangled my littles into car seats, wrestled them into swimsuits, drenched herself during the post-swimming shower routine, and somehow managed to get their sticky, wet limbs stuck back into dry clothes.

For any woman who does this on a regular basis, you know this is a heroic feat!

And all this was done for one purpose: so that I could have a dose of normalcy in the midst of my overwhelmed life. So I could watch my tiny people do their big kid kicks, get splashed, and sit in a wobbly, uncomfortable, plastic chair at the side of the pool.

But really, so I could have small dash of normal in the midst of my overwhelmed life.

A few hours of normalcy is one of the biggest blessings I received in those bed rest and back surgery days. If you want to be a friend who loves well in times of hardship, consider giving the gift of normal.

How to help a friend who’s overwhelmed

Here’s a few ways to help create normalcy:

• Take them to Target or the mall (even if they need the wheelchair)
• Go to the movies (recliner seat theaters are perfect for infirm friends)
• Go out to coffee
• Offer to accompany them to their kids’ events (you do all the “heavy lifting” if needed)
• Help with their household tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning so they can focus their energy on time with family.

One Small Win: Call a friend who’s experiencing a hard time (illness, stress, loss of a loved one, cancer, infertility, divorce, etc.) and offer to do one of these “normal” things with her!


For more practical ways to support those you care about in the rough patches of life, you can pick up a copy of Sarah Beckman’s, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which releases February 14, 2017.

Sarah Beckman is an author and speaker, living in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband, Craig, of 24 years. They have three delightful children ages 15, 17, and 20. Her experience on both sides of the “bed”—both being helped and helping others—provide her authentic viewpoint for her book, Alongside. When she’s not writing or speaking, you might find her in the kitchen creating something to share with a “neighbor” in need.

Her passion for loving her neighbor has fueled her life and ministry for over 10 years, giving her the opportunity to address audiences across the country. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also works as a communications coach and corporate trainer.

Romance: It’s Not Just for Us Girls

Romance: It’s Not Just for Us Girls

romance not just for girls

If there’s one thing I know about us girls, it’s that we like romance! We love romance novels, romance comedies, romance tragedies, and romance, romance, romance. Most gals would much rather take in a romantic movie than an action film. And what woman doesn’t dream about her husband romancing her the way he did when they were dating? But guess what, that man of yours longs for romance too.

One night Steve and I were planning a romantic evening at home alone. We borrowed a movie from our friends, Gene and Sheri. A Vow to Remember promised to be a real tearjerker. The couple on the DVD case appeared lost in each other as their arms intertwined in a lovers’ embrace. The back cover boasted, “Capture your mind, your heart and your soul … Paints a compelling picture of forever love.”

The lights were dim, the candles were lit, and the mood was set. However, when Steve placed the movie in the DVD player, we were not greeted with strains of a melodious theme song or misty-eyed romance. Oh no. It was Arnold Schwarzenegger with machine gun at the ready! Our romantic evening was rudely interrupted by Terminator. Gene had placed the wrong movie in the case!

Perhaps romance in your marriage has a greater resemblance to Terminator than A Vow to Remember. If so, there’s hope! You can be the one to make the first move!

Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,” (Matthew 7:12). We call that the Golden Rule. Isn’t it interesting that a wedding ring is often called a band of gold? Whether a wedding ring is gold, platinum, silver, or bronze, the Golden Rule certainly applies in a marriage relationship.

One Small Win: The Golden Rule for romance could be: Express your love to your husband in the same way you want him to express his love to you. Sticky notes of love on his bathroom mirror, romantic texts in the middle of the day, and declarations of how proud you are of him are actually showing him ways to love you in return.

Here are a few simple ways to romance that man of yours:

• Put a chocolate kiss in his briefcase, lunch bag, or on the dashboard of his car, with a note that says, “I love you!”
• Write “I love you” on his bathroom mirror with soap or lipstick.
• Send him a romantic card to his workplace via snail mail.
• Kiss him passionately before he leaves in the morning and tell him you’re going to miss him. Kiss him passionately when he comes home in the evening and tell him you’re glad he’s home.
• Draw a bath, light candles, and invite him to join you. Lather him up with soap and draw a big heart on his chest. Lie in each other’s arms and soak in the love.

romance not just for girls

Leave a comment and tell one thing that attracted you to your husband when you were dating. We’ll randomly pick one response and give away a FREE copy of Sharon’s new book, A 14-Day Romance Challenge: Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage. (US and Canada only).

romance not just for girls

Click here to watch a fun video!


Sharon Jaynes is a conference speaker, author of 21 books, and devotion writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries and Girlfriends in God. Her latest book, A 14-Day Romance Challenge: Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage, includes over 250 ways to romance your man. She’s been romancing her husband, Steve, for 37 years. They call NC home.

Three Ways to Encourage A Couple Struggling With Infertility

Three Ways to Encourage A Couple Struggling With Infertility

infertility

My husband and I were married nine years before we had a successful pregnancy. Before that, we suffered infertility, miscarriages, embarrassing questions, physical exams, and lots of heartache.

We spent a great deal of time in prayer beseeching God to grant us children and endured lots of “suggestions” (also embarrassing) from well-meaning people in our church.

I attended WAY too many baby showers, smiling my way through each of them while dying on the inside. I was so excited for the mother-to-be, but I was truly sad for me. I read every book I could get my hands on, and we tried various medical (both traditional and non-traditional) methods. My faith was strong enough to move mountains at the beginning of each cycle, but would be reduced to rubble when my period started.

While all this was happening, my husband and I were on staff at wonderful churches. They were filled with amazing people who we had the pleasure of serving and doing life alongside. We knew how to minister to people (or so we thought), but no Bible college degree  prepared us for the heartache and emptiness that infertility and loss creates.

Statistics around infertility

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, my husband and I were not alone:

– Number of women aged 15-44 with impaired fecundity (impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term) number 7.5 million.
– Percentage of women aged 15-44 with impaired fecundity is 12.3%.
– Number of married women aged 15-44 that are infertile (unable to get pregnant after at least 12 consecutive months of unprotected sex with husband) number 1.0 million.
– Percentage of married women aged 15-44 that are infertile is 6.1%.

That being said, although we were able to finally have two healthy children, one of the most fruitful lessons from that time in our lives was on HOW best to love on those who are going through a similar desert experience.

Ways to encourage a couple experiencing infertility

God proved Himself faithful and we came out the other side wiser and with some helpful tools for helping others cope. For those of you with someone in your life who is experiencing infertility, some ways to encourage them include:

1. Pray. Pray for those in your life who are struggling with infertility. Infertility involves all parts of the couple: their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional lives. They need prayer support.
2. Be a friend. Just be their friend. Come alongside them. Ask how you can help; not everyone grieves and processes the same. Don’t be surprised if they need help with a meal or around the house. Don’t pity them, just love them. I just wanted someone to hold my hand and encourage my husband. I loved random cards and phone calls.
3. Think before posting or speaking. Avoid “meme-ing” them. Do not feel that trite Christian encouragement is the answer. Do not send well-meaning Facebook or Instagram memes without spending quality time with them. In fact, as someone who loves the Bible, I found that sometimes the most hurtful things people said were Scriptures not aptly timed. Romans 8:28 is an incredible wealth of truth, but right after a miscarriage, it felt like a dagger in my heart.

You are there for a reason

Infertility is a tough time in the life of a couple. It can often feel like a time of emotional and spiritual infertility as well. If you have someone in your life who is going through this, please know that God has placed you in their lives for a reason.

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One Small Win: Love them and know that they will be forever thankful for your generosity of prayer, time, and encouragement.


Amberly Neeseinfertility is a national speaker, author, and humorist with a passion for pointing others to the joy found in Christ. She has won hearts (and funny bones) of people all over the country at hundreds of conventions, camps, seminars, retreats, and chapels. She also serves as the program director at UCYC and an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. Amberly received her Master’s degree from Biola University.

Amberly has been married to Scott Neese since 1992. They have two kids, Judah and Josiah. They live in beautiful Prescott, AZ and love the Food Network and all things Star Wars. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.