I have discovered over the years, that life can be challenging. God desires to sustain us as we look for "splashes of His grace" every day. My desire is that through posts, or book reviews, you may find something that points you to the grace of God, and that He ultimately will make a difference in your life.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

An Opportunity to Be a Blessing!

This is my friend, Beth, with two pastor's wives she met in Haiti. Beth is a follower of Jesus. She is a woman who loves like Jesus loves. She is courageous, tender-hearted, funny, a gifted writer, and much more. She is someone I want to be like when I grow up!!

She became involved in a ministry in Haiti over the last couple of years called Disciples Village (formerly called Alex's House) which began as an orphange but has now expanded into a ministry that reaches into villages to not only care for orphans, but also to do those things that may help prevent the epidemic of fatherless and motherless children.

When Beth went to Haiti this past June and met with some of the pastor's wives associated with Disciples Village, she felt a burden from the Lord to do something to help them. She felt the Lord ask her to put together a Pastor's Wives Conference for them. 

Read about it in Beth's own words:

"As I listened to these women and began to get a glimpse of the lives they lead, I felt incredibly burdened. These dear pastor's wives are living in the ministry trenches with very little in the way of resources or support. They have no access to Bible studies, books, resources or networks designed to equip and encourage those in ministry. Yet they are ministry leaders in their churches, the called-on counselor for countless villagers, and the one others seek out for help with food, medical emergencies, housing needs and every crisis that occurs. All this while trying to scrape out an existence themselves and supporting the difficult work of their husbands.

Needless to say, I knew I needed to help these Sisters in Christ with the enormous calling they are trying to fulfill. My mama didn't raise me to look the other way. And the numerous women (like you!) who have poured into me, and joined arms with me, over the years taught me how to leverage what God has given for the good of others.

So, friend, in October (the 17th - 20th) I'm going back to Haiti to lead a conference for Ministry Wives! It's the first of it's kind for the Disciples' Village organization. I'm excited, and nervous, and 100% convinced I can't pull this off on my own. That's where you come in.

I need women who will help me in two very specific ways:
  1. I need prayer partners. This is an enormous undertaking and not one thing will come of it if it's not bathed in prayer. I'm begging for women who will pray for details from big to small, and in so doing be a part of ministering to Haitian ministry wives.
  2. I need women who will sponsor a Haitian Pastor's Wife. As a part of the conference we will offer a meal each day, give them the gift of a Bible (A coveted item! Many Pastor's Wives don't own their own copy of the Scriptures) and treat them to a small luxury like a bottle of lotion.
The cost of sponsoring a Haitian Pastor's Wife is $50 and will cover them for the entire four day conference. If a full sponsorship isn't possible for you, a partial sponsorship is just as appreciated!  And of course, the only cost to partnering with me and my team through prayer is your time."

As I have traveled abroad, I too have witnessed firsthand the difficulties pastor's wives encounter as they serve the Lord, meeting needs not only for their own family, but also the needs of the people in their villages and communities, many times sacrificially.

Would you be willing to help Beth by sponsoring one of these precious Pastor's Wives? We may never really know the full impact that an event like this may have on these women, their families, and ultimately the Kingdom of God.

I hope that you will at the very least (which in essence is the very most) commit to pray for this conference. If you would be willing to help out financially by sponsoring a Haitian Pastor's Wife (for $50 or even just paritially), you can do so by contacting me via private message on Facebook or in the comments below, and I will share Beth's address with you where you can send a check made out to Disciple's Village. Or you can donate through PayPal using her email address that I can also send to you.

God can take our "little" and make much of it. Pray for Beth and a few other ladies who will be going with her as they lead out in this Conference. I know they will be a blessing to them if we take this opportunity to be a blessing to them!

Thanks in advance for helping!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sweet Songs of Love

Last week I spent four days watching my youngest grandson in Lubbock while my daughter, Sarah, led worship at a conference about an hour away. I enjoyed my time with James as we cuddled and played, and laughed together through the day.  I even enjoyed a 2:00 a.m. time of worship as I sang a variety of hymns to him as we rocked and swayed during a fretful night. Sarah is still nursing him, and that night he REALLY missed his mamma!  Though I couldn't help him in that way, I snuggled him tightly and sang him songs about Jesus and God's grace and love. What started out as something to soothe James, turned into a true time of worship for me. James eventually quieted and fell asleep, but I couldn't help singing just a little bit longer -- partly to make sure he was really sleeping soundly, and partly because the words to the songs I was singing were ministering to me. Jesus not only loved James, He loved me. And I was reminded about that through the songs I sang.

In my mind I know God loves me and is with me, but sometimes I also need confirmation from people around me -- that they notice me, love me, and that I really matter. A funny thing happened on my way home that made me ponder that! Feeling a little sad after kissing Sarah and James goodbye (and shedding a few tears), I entered the airport, went through security without any problem, and began my hour wait for my flight to leave. I had planned to pass the time and cheer myself up by treating myself to a Chai Latte at Starbucks (something I seldom do) and then settle in to wait for my flight. The Starbucks was even right across from my gate!! BUT IT WAS CLOSED!  Really? It was just 6:00 p.m., but it was Sunday --- so I settled in my seat and thought it was a good time to finish up my "homework" for the "Breathe" Bible Study I was doing. (Even if I didn't have my chai.)

Shortly after I had settled in, I got a text notification that my flight was going to be delayed.  I called my husband to let him know he didn't have to rush to the airport. No answer.  So I left him a message. Usually he's good about returning my call.  He didn't.  So, about 45 minutes later I called again. I knew he would be about to leave for the airport if he didn't get my message.  Still no answer.  I didn't leave a second message, but about 10 minutes later I sent him a text that ended with "text me back if you are alive!" (It had been icy and snowing there and in my mind I had already had him lying in a ditch on the side of the road -- Yeah, my mind goes there that fast!)  Still no response.

I thought I'd check Facebook while I waited -- my phone wouldn't load it. That silly little circle just kept, well, circling! So much for seeing what's going on in the lives of others, or posting my "woes" to the world!

Sarah lives about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Lubbock and I figured by now she would be about 15 minutes from home. I decided to pass some time by calling her and seeing how her trip home was going.  No answer -- sent to voicemail.  So I left a message and began to wonder if she too was in a ditch on the side of the road.  

I waited a few minutes and thought I'd call my daughter, Rachel, to see how things were going for her. You guessed it -- No answer -- another voicemail left and this time I added something to the effect, "I can't reach your Dad, or Sarah, and now you.  I'm beginning to think I'm not really here.  I may be in a bad dream.  Oh well.  Talk to you later." 

Ok -- one last person to try - my son, Daniel. I dialed his number and after ringing a few times I heard, "Sorry I missed your call.  If you want, leave a message and I will try to get back to you!" Once again, I left a "dejected" message -- "You were my last hope.  My whole family is gone. No one is answering their phone. I'm beginning to think I don't even exist. Talk to you later......Maybe....." with my voice trailing off.

I hung up and began to wonder if something might be wrong with my phone. I couldn't reach anyone, Facebook, wasn't working. Yeah, it must be my phone (or maybe I really didn't exist!)

I made one more call to my mother-in-law, whose house I had just left about 2 hours ago. The phone rang and rang and just as I was about to hang up, SHE ANSWERED!!  I know she probably thought I was crazy, but I told her I just needed to know I was really alive and shared with her my inability to reach my family members. I was thankful I was finally able to talk to someone.

I hung up and they announced it was about time to board. As I was getting my stuff together, my phone rang.  It was Rachel. While I was talking to her I heard  I was getting another call, so I cut her short, thinking it may be Stephen.  It was Sarah. She explained her situation, and I told her I was finally about to board. As soon as I hung up, Stephen called. He apologized and said his phone was on silent but he assured me he'd be at the airport waiting for me.  As I was in line to board the plane my phone rang once more.  It was Daniel. So, before I boarded the plane I heard from every member of my family, and was relived to know all was well, and that I really did exist!

When I consider those couple of hours I was frantically trying to reach my loved ones, I was kind of like my little grandson, James, on his fretful night.  I needed someone to calm me, hold me, and assure me that everything was going to be all right. I should have just settled into the arms of Jesus and let Him sing sweetly to my heart. I think He often holds me, just a little bit longer, to make sure I am truly resting in Him, and I'm so glad He sings sweet songs of love over me.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing"
Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

You've seen the commercial for Life Alert. It's a simple device worn around the neck that enables a person to summon help in case of an emergency, with a simple push of a button. Their commercial features a woman lying on the floor crying out, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"  When I was younger, I used to laugh when I saw it. I may have even mocked her as I repeated, "I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!" (in my most dramatic voice, of course!) Ok -- Admit it! -- You've done it too! Who hasn't??  With each passing year, I laugh a little less about it because I realize it won't be too long before I might really need one!

But as I watched that commercial again recently, that phrase struck a different chord within me. When I took a closer look at that woman lying on the floor, I realized I've been that woman. There have been times in my life when spiritually or emotionally I had crashed to the floor and could have (and should have) voiced the same thing that this woman was uttering. I had fallen -- and I simply couldn't get up!! Have you ever been there?

When I think back to those times that I was figuratively sprawled out on the floor, it would have been nice to have a fancy button hanging around my neck that I could have pressed to summon help. The sad thing is, that even if I did, I would have been too proud to push it. Deep in my heart I knew for sure I had fallen and I couldn't get up on my own, but I didn't want anyone else to know it.  Me, admit I needed help? How would that look?  That wasn't happening!! So instead, I struggled on my own, trying to pull myself up and back together, all the while hoping no one saw me doing it in the process. When asked how I was, I responded "fine" and plastered a smile on my face, when in reality, I was a mess and didn't know how I would make it through another day.

For me, falling emotionally is even worse that falling physically.  It's so much easier for me to share my physical needs than my spiritual or emotional needs. They seem so much more "personal" -- especially when you're a pastor's wife and are expected by some to have it all together! I am thankful for my Life Group at church who allow me to be myself -- blemishes and all.  But there are still some things that are too personal to even share with them.
So what should we do when we find ourselves helplessly lying on the floor? Do we have a "Life Alert" device for these spiritual and emotional situations?  Though we don't have an actual button to push, we do have immediate access to someone that hears our cry for help. Unlike the person at the call center,  He doesn't have to assess the situation and then determine who to send to meet your need.  He KNOWS your situation even before you call, and He comes Himself to your aid.

Psalm 40:1-2 comes to mind.

"I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 
 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along."  (NLT)

Our first and best course of action is to call out to the Lord for His help. Oh how I wish His help fixed everything immediately!!  Sometimes God's work of healing and restoration takes time. Verse 1 states "I waited patiently for the LORD to help me."  We have to wait patiently for Him. We call out for help, knowing and trusting that He will be there to answer. He hears us immediately, and then goes to work by acting on our behalf, but His complete work sometimes takes time. Take a look what He does for us.  Verse 2 says "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire." It's the mire that often gets me.  When I looked up it's Webster's definition it said mire was "spongy earth (as of a bog or marsh); heavy often deep mud or slush; a troublesome or intractable situation." Mud and mire are slippery substances that you can get stuck in. After struggling on my own for some time before I even cry out to God, it's not hard to visualize me frustrated and covered in mud even as I continue to struggle against God's help. The more I resist His help, the deeper I sink, and the more difficult it is for me to get out of that pit! I am thankful that His love is deep and His arm is strong.
When I finally give up and relinquish control, then God can pull me out of the pit. When He does, there I am, exhausted and covered in mud, but I'm thankful He doesn't just leave me there to fend for myself. I imagine Him carefully washing off that dirt, drying my tears, changing my clothes, and then as verse two goes on to say, He sets "my feet on solid ground" and steadies me as I walk along.  After spending time in a pit of despair, without a good foothold, He sets my feet on solid ground, and then walks beside me to catch me if I start to stumble. He stays with me until my legs regain their strength. That's a good God!
How long does that take? I think it depends how deep the pit was and how long you were in there! We need God to get us out of the pit and steady us as we learn to walk again, but sometimes it's beneficial to also talk about your struggles with a trusted friend or counselor and have them to join you on your journey to wholeness again.  But know your HOPE is in the LORD.

Psalm 40:3 goes on to say:

"He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD."
Sometimes it takes a little while to learn that new song. I'm still trying to learn verses 2 and 3 in a certain situation, but I have hope that I will sing them soon. So if you have fallen and can't get up, call out to God for His help. Put your trust in the LORD and begin to walk on solid ground again. Then sing!! Many will see what He has done and will put their trust in the LORD!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pug Love

My son loves pugs.  He and his wife recently adopted one from Austin Pug Rescue in Austin, TX where they live.  They named him Samwise (my son loves Lord of the Rings too!) -- but they call him Sam for short.
Sam (photo by Ashley Lowrie)
Sam is 5 years old and a loveable little guy.  Most of the dogs at this rescue center are adult pugs and pug mixes.  Occasionally they have puppies to adopt (they actually do have some at the moment), but most of the rescue dogs are adults. Some of the dogs there have been abused, and others were simply abandoned.  The desire of this agency is to find loving families to adopt these dogs.  This group also tries to find foster families for dogs waiting to be adopted.
A couple months after Sam became “family",  they decided to try their hand at fostering too.  When they found out a temporary foster family was needed for a couple of weeks, Gene came to visit. 
Meet Gene (photo by Daniel Lowrie)
Gene was not your typical looking Pug.  He had a slight irregularity that made him different than most Pugs.  He had a LONG tongue .  It was so long that he couldn’t put all the way in his mouth.  It just kind of hung there ---- on the side of his face ---- in an endearing kind of way!  It’s a genetic thing.  He was born that way and people stare, giggle, and perhaps sometimes even wonder what’s wrong with the little guy.  When I first saw a picture of him, my initial response was “Oh, bless his little heart”.  (For those of you who do not live in the south, the phrase “bless your (his/her) heart” usually involves an unpleasant situation that you’re trying to soften. It’s a way of empathizing while being thankful that it's them and not you!)
That got me thinking.  When I look at myself, I want to think I look like Sam (in the human sort of way).  You know, "normal", cute, fun, loveable, someone people look and at and think, "she's got it all together."  In reality though, I often feel like Gene looks -- a little "different", pathetic, and needy.  It's genetic!  We humans were all born looking this way.  We ARE pathetic (we are born with a sin nature).  We ARE needy.  We NEED love and acceptance. 
I am thankful that when God looks at me and sees "Gene",  He loves me anyway!  I didn't have to get my act together and look or act a certain way before God adopted me. He decided to do that long before I was even born! Though my tongue still hangs out the side of my mouth regularly, He shows me mercy and meets my needs anyway.  He calls me His daughter and loves me just the same. Though I still feel like I look like Gene most of the time, He loves me in spite of that -- and maybe even BECAUSE of that!  And I am grateful!
For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted
through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,
to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:4-6
After spending three weeks with Gene, my son had to give him back to his foster family.  It was hard for him to say good-bye.  He came to love that "odd" little guy and hopes that one day he will find a family that will adopt him and love him forever.  I do too!

Sam and Gene (photo by Daniel Lowrie)

P.S. I just checked the website and he is still available on pg. 2 under the adopt tab/available pugs if you want to give him a loving home!

Friday, September 26, 2014

A New Journey

I have a hard time distinguishing between "self-care" and "selfishness" in my life.  To me there has always been a fine line drawn between the two.  How do you take care of "self" without being "selfish"?  
As a middle child and a people pleaser, often what I wanted, and at times what I needed, was overshadowed by the needs of others around me. Maybe it was my own fault.  I didn't want to make a scene.  I didn't want to "appear" selfish.  Sometimes it really didn't matter enough to make a big deal out of it.  But little by little, self, and what I needed took the back seat, and now I'm at a point in my life where I struggle with knowing how to do those things that I need to do -- FOR ME.
Now, don't misunderstand me -- I fully understand that when "SELF" takes over -- when "SELF" becomes the primary focus -- TROUBLE is waiting to happen!  Nothing good comes from pride and selfishness.  We are instructed in Scripture to "not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4)  The Bible also says "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling." (Proverbs 16:18)  I'm not talking about becoming self-absorbed, self-sufficient, or neglecting those around me to do those things that please me.  (If I could even figure out what those things are!)  I'm talking about taking the time to do those things I need to do to take care of myself so I can be the person God created me to be. 
Being a minister's wife for 31 years, and a mother of three children (who are now grown), provided plenty of opportunities for me to put "self" on the back burner.  Any mother with small children knows that even taking time for a shower, or having a conversation with another adult without constant interruption can sometimes seem  impossible.  The needs and wants of children can be overwhelming.  During those years, I rarely took time for myself.  I didn't know that I could, actually!  (I did shower though -- most days, anyway!)  So I say to young mothers -- take a little time for "you" to refresh yourself so you can be the mom you need to be for your little ones!  But even as I write that, I feel a twinge of the old "guilt" -- a little voice saying, "Now, don't be selfish.  Don't take TOO much time for yourself!"  (I may need to see a counselor!)
Being in the ministry can also take its toll. Guilt often accompanies "self-care" when you talk about it in relationship to working in a church setting.  Some members wonder why ministers even need a day off during the week-- hey, everyone knows the preacher only works on Sunday!  But there are a variety of things during the week and on weekends that  arise and drain the energy of pastors (and their families).  If you don't take time to care for "yourself" you end up burning out and becoming resentful.  My husband  and I were thankful to be able to learn some important lessons a few years ago about self-care at a minister's retreat called  SonScape.  They taught us some valuable lessons that we need to remind ourselves of when ministry gets busy.   

I remember a time, in the early years of ministry, when we were about to go on vacation.  I was so proud of myself for getting everything ready on time. (I was usually still packing at 2:00 am for our 6:00 am departure) This time it was different.  I was so looking forward to getting away from all the stress, that I made it a point to do things early.  I not only was packed, but everything was LOADED IN THE CAR!  We were completely ready to leave bright and early in the morning. I couldn't believe it!  And then it happened!  The phone rang.....a church member had passed away.  My mind began to race.  What did that mean?  I didn't handle things well at the time.  I still remember my husband taking me by the shoulders, looking me straight in the eye and saying very slowly -- "SOMEONE DIED -- We are still going on vacation, but it will just be a couple of days from now."  I'm embarrassed to say that at that exact moment I didn't really care that "SOMEONE DIED".  What about me???  What about my plans that JUST DIED.  I've matured a little since then, but in a way, in my mind I began to associate thinking about my needs as being "unspiritual".  After all, Jesus put the needs of others  first.  Thinking about "me" is wrong.  Putting my needs aside is the "spiritual" thing to do.  "Others first, me second, third, last -- or maybe not even at all".  
I've realized lately that yes, meeting the needs of others is important.  Thinking of self less is necessary to live in harmony with those around you.  But there are times when I have to be bold and realize I have to express a need.  There are times when I need help. ( I have to let someone know.)  Times I need to be refreshed.  (I need to take time away from the stressors)  I have to acknowledge my needs are important too.  I need to exercise (instead of deeming it less important than getting the laundry done).  I need to eat right (not so others won't judge me for the way I look but because I want to be healthy).  I need to find something I enjoy doing (so I won't become a grumpy old woman).  But that last one is one of the toughest obstacles in my life right now.  I don't even know what  I enjoy doing anymore.
So now, as my "baby" has gotten married and my nest has officially become empty, I'm thinking it's time to get to know "me" again.  It's a scary proposition.  I don't want to do it.  I feel "guilty" doing it.  But I really need to.  And if anyone else has experienced these feelings and have made it to the other side, please let me know how YOU did it. I need to discover what God has for me in this next phase of life.  I NEED all the help I can get!  Let the "journey" begin!

(Oh..... and I had a good laugh just now!!  As I'm writing this, I glanced at the clock and thought -- I really should be making dinner INSTEAD of writing this!  Where is that counselor when you need one!!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Whatever You Grow Up to Be ~~ by Karen Kingsbury

Whatever You Grow Up to Be, written by Karen Kingsbury and illustrated by Valeria Docampo, is a delightful little book that tells the journey of a mother and her boy from the time he is a little baby until he is married with a baby of his own.

A mother's love is like no other. When a tiny baby comes into her life, a Mom has no idea how this little guy will change her life. But as Karen Kingsbury writes, "Ten little toes right from the start, make footprints on your mommy's heart!"

In this book, as the boy grows, a variety of possible future occupations are seen, all of which are viewed by the mother's watchful eye. She has no way of knowing how the story of his life will actually play, but her love will support him in whatever he grows up to be.

The book cycles around through his life and ends with him getting married and having a baby boy of his own. Once again, the mother discovers that those "Ten little toes, right from the start make footprints on his grandma's heart."

The illustrations are bright and colorful and would be attractive to a child's eyes. Children can identify with the occupations this little boy is "trying out".  Each two-page spread also includes a verse of Scripture. The only slight downside to this book is that the verses are very small and in
a light print. I almost missed them!

Since my "baby boy" is getting married in July, I read through this book with tears in my eyes. Time goes by so quickly and I found myself reminiscing as I saw my own little boy in many of situations. I was pleased to see a mother portrayed as a loving and supportive person throughout her child's life. I would recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion

Have you heard of Paula's Choice Skincare Products? I hadn't until I had the opportunity to try the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion (for all skin types).  I have been using it for a little over a week now, and I can say that my skin definitely feels smoother already. The salicylic acid gently exfoliates your skin to reveal a more even-toned skin with smaller pores. The clear liquid, which is fragrance free, is applied with a cotton ball or cosmetic square. Even though I thoroughly wash my face before using this product, the cotton ball still picked up additional make-up residue. You can use this exfoliant once or twice a day. I have been using it twice a day without any drying or problems.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfection Lotion can be purchased online on the Paula Choice's Website.  It normally cost $23.00 for a 3.3 oz. bottle, but now through April 1st you can buy it at a 20% discount for only $18.00!

Paula's Choice Skincare Products can also be found at Dermstore.com, SkinStore.com, Beauty.com and Birchbox.com, as well as at select Pharmacy stores.

Give it a try and see the results for yourself! 

I participated as a BzzAgent and received this free product as part of the campaign.  I am sharing my own honest opinion.