Not Needed, Blessed.

My five year old, Rosie, got a kid’s pottery wheel for Christmas. One of the reasons she wanted this toy (aside from the fact that there was a tv commercial for it) is that I, her momma, am an artist and sculptor and she loves to “be like me.”

The day after Christmas we pulled it out of the box and put it together. Rosie couldn’t reach the sink, so I filled the water bottle. She couldn’t open the foil sealed packs of clay, but I easily pulled one open. She didn’t have the hand strength to shape the sheet of clay into a workable ball, but that was simple as pie for me. I showed her what each tool did, and she pushed the button to start the wheel.

Rosie decided to make the “Turtle Shaped Jewelry Box” as seen in the directions. I portioned out the clay, giving her just enough for the shell. There was some pouting when the clay kept skidding off to one side of the slimy, wet plastic wheel. Rosie doesn’t yet have the skill to put equal amounts of pressure on all sides of the clay to keep it centered on the spinning wheel. I sprayed the clay down as her little fingers worked out the bumps and lines, but she said, “Hey! I want to do that!” Now she was alternating between the squirt bottle and her fumbling attempts to “sculpt.”

I tried to hold back.

Better moms would have.

The joy is in the journey right?

But I couldn’t help myself. I kept insisting she let me guide her (otherwise the clay would’ve dried out before we had it halfway done and the outcome definitely wasn’t going to look like any kind of turtle!). When we had a “shell,” I rolled a ball for the head and showed her where to stick it. I rolled the feet and made little prick marks on our turtle so she’d space them with some semblance of physical realism. To make the turtley lines on the shell, I scraped the tool around the shell in concentric circles and then showed Rosie how to sketch the connecting lines. She slumped in her seat overwhelmed by my instruction. My involvement was starting to irritate her at this point. She sort of gave up on imitating my shell lines and let me finish them.

“Here honey, use these little tools to make the face,” I coaxed. Ready to be done with the long, laborious art project (it took less than ten minutes) she made some pokes and sat back satisfied.

A day later, our clay turtle was dry enough to paint. Rosie proclaimed that the painting part was her favorite part. She picked the colors—bright metallic green for the shell and neon pink for the head and feet. She danced around the kitchen waiting for the paint to dry and as soon as it was touchable, she hurried to show her daddy.

“Look what I made all by myself!” she flaunted her turtle with pride.

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This proud momma smiled from the kitchen, happy for Rosie’s “achievement.”

Later, in prayer, this proud momma had a startling realization.

I often feel needed. Desperately needed. Heartbroken friends, needy children, a husband who has forgotten how to make a sandwich, sisters, Sunday School, church responsibilities, my cake job, even friends who aren’t “going through something” desire time with me. All of that starts to build up on me sometimes. All the people, all the needs, all the prayer I should be praying gets me feeling a little smooshed.

“So and so needs us,” I say to my husband and we pick a night to have them over for dinner. That young couple who is struggling needs our years of experience. That friend who is hurting needs my prayers. That co-worker isn’t saved so I need to hurry in to the shop with a good attitude because, “Who else will tell him?”

With burdened shoulders, I lifted my eyes to the Maker of Heaven and Earth and the Lord humbled this proud momma. His big hand pressed me low, and I blinked open my eyes to reality.

He gave me a picture of Him, the Master Sculptor working the clay of people’s lives.

He and I are just like me and Rosie. I don’t know even a smidge of what He knows. He knows the past and future. He sovereignly shapes the clay of people’s lives with the uttermost skill. I am deluded if I think He needs me. He lets me hold the tools sometimes. The tools give lines and ruffled edges to the pottery that he has already created. And if His strong, Fatherly hands didn’t hold my feeble hands still and teach my fingers just the right amount of pressure, I’d ruin the pottery for sure.

Momma isn’t needed. Momma is blessed to study under the tutelage of the Lord.

What a distinction!

I’m blessed to be an apprentice under the most creative Creator of all time.

Blessed to watch the Master work.

All these people I minister to are being ministered to by Him. And I, with much less skill, am learning from my Father as I “help.” If for one minute I start thinking “This won’t happen without me” I am dangerously out of whack in my role as apprentice.

It’s why He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

When the Lord opened my eyes to my self-absorbed, prideful error, I felt the burden lift. Tears in my eyes, I praised Him for being so patient with His little girl. Being in my right place is relaxing!

I occasionally teach adults my craft. When I’m at work and I’m training someone to sculpt, they usually watch me work with awe. I’ve been sculpting and painting for many years now. I often hear my co-workers say, “I’ll never be that good.” Or, “You make it look so easy.” Unlike my little Rosie, when I teach adults how to sculpt, adults have the maturity to recognize that I am the teacher and they are the student. When the piece is finished, they say, “I couldn’t have done it without your help.”

One important side note, if you sit back too far, you are just watching not apprenticing. Are your hands in the messy clay of people’s lives? If your apron is white and unspotted by the flying flecks of clay that spray off of the Potter’s wheel, you aren’t taking up your cross. There is a balance. Involved, but not in control. Invested, but only because of what has been invested in you. Burdened, but only by the light burden of the One who wants you to learn how He sculpts. Apprenticing isn’t a hands off study.

 
Oh Lord, you’ve lifted my burden yet again. You are constantly setting me free from myself. Help me to remember that what people “need” from me is my heart and eyes fixed solely on You and the work that You are doing. Make me mature and complete. Let me always remember as I minister that I am your humble apprentice. You are the Healer. You are the Fixer. You are the Master Potter. And Lord, just as Rosie gave me the turtle to hold my precious rings, may the “work” I do with you and for you produce glittery crowns that I can lay at your feet.

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;” Psalm 86:11

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Author Interview and Excerpts: Elizabeth Forkey

Today I am interviewing Elizabeth Forkey, author of the YA Christian thriller novel, Immaculate, second book and of the Infectious series. ◊  ◊  ◊ DJ: Hey Elizabeth! Thanks for stopping by to do th…

Source: Author Interview and Excerpts: Elizabeth Forkey

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I Didn’t Deserve That!

God has been gracious to me these last two months. He led our Sunday School teacher to study the book of James while simultaneously leading me through an object lesson that hurt while it taught. It has been one of the most powerful, heart-changing lessons I’ve participated in in awhile. When your daily life mirrors the admonishment of God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit pricks your ears to hear and obey, you can be assured that your Father truly loves you.

As the Apostle James delineated the sins that were prevalent in the early church, I found all of them alive and well in my own heart. While fighting anger at someone else, I found myself in desperate need of repentance and God’s healing grace. The last month and a half have been ripe with the nitty-gritty of “working out my salvation.” Working out what I really believe and allowing that belief to determine my actions.

The lessons were personal, but common to all of us as we walk alongside other irritating sinners such as ourselves, so I’m sharing them with you in hopes that you need just this word at just this time. I’ll highlight some of the key verses that lept off the pages at me each week in Sunday School and what God was showing me through them.

WEEK ONE:
James 1:2-5 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

The trial I faced last month knocked the wind out of me. It also, God be praised, knocked me to my knees. Because of God’s great grace at work in my heart, when offense and anger struck a tender blow, I sought the Lord. I went to His word, over and over, several times a day for many days.

And oh, how He answered.

Each Psalm, each Proverb, each apostolic letter, and even each email devotional I opened, they were like hand-written love notes from the Lord. Daily, there were timely, much needed words from my Father about exactly what I was going through.

Encouragement to love when wronged.
Exhortation to be patient and not seek my own vindication.
The Holy Spirit’s call to humble myself and search out my own sins.
God gently asking if I was willing (oh, this was the most painful) to see only my own faults and take all the blame and leave none for the person who offended me.

At the end of the trial, I was so full. Full of the assurance of God’s love. Full of trust in the One who allowed this trial to come for my much needed refinement. Full of new wisdom because I had asked for it and He, like He promised, gave it GENEROUSLY. If the trial hadn’t come, I’d have missed out on all of that; and, I can say honestly, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I was able to “Count it all joy” that I had been in pain. Because the pain drew me to the throne, and my Father met me there.

When something external gives you the opportunity to hear God’s loving whispers—clear as day—inside your heart, could you really pass that up? To hear God speaking directly to you is worth the storm that brings His still, small voice. He doesn’t speak to me nearly as much on easy carefree days.

WEEK TWO:
James 1:19-22 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

These instructions were full of conviction. Much of why I was in the trial had to do with being quick to speak and quick to become angry. And James is right, human anger—even at someone or something that wasn’t fair or right—doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires.

When I’m angry, the fruit that is produced is self-righteous (I don’t deserve this!) self-absorbed (poor me!) and self-consuming (practicing the wrong that was done to me over and over and over ad nausea) None of those are the fruit of the spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Next time you are “rightly angry” at someone, check your fruit. Is it producing love in you for that person? Is it producing gentleness and acts of kindness? If not, the Bible is clear that our anger is just more sin. And James says we’re supposed to get rid of that “moral filth and the evil that is so common in us.” God says in James, if we read these words and don’t do them, we are double-minded, fickle, adulterous, and deceived. I don’t want that! Do you?

WEEK THREE:
James 2:8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

My Bible notes say “the royal law” is the law of our Great King Jesus Christ who said, “Love each other as I have loved you.”

And how did He love us? I know you know. It was by DYING for us, while we were still enemies. In that song by Sidewalk Prophets called “You Love Me Anyway”, I always cry when he sings this part near the end:
See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with the smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life.
BUT YOU LOVE ME ANYWAY

If God loved me this way and called me to follow His royal law, what will that look like for my enemies? Or my husband who is acting a little selfish, or my teenager who is struggling with hormones and attitudes, or my boss who doesn’t appreciate me or my friend who turned her back on me? None of them cried out for my blood, and I’m called to love them all the way to that point. And love is patient, love is kind, love keeps no record of wrong….

WEEK FOUR:
James 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Didn’t it? Didn’t Christ’s great mercy triumph over the judgement I deserved? In church this morning as I prepared my heart to worship, I said in my heart, “Lord, I really am wicked. Impatient with my family, easily irritated, quick to judge, full of pride, I really do deserve hell.” And it was almost a new revelation to me. I don’t think I think about that nearly enough. I usually operate under the false assumption that I don’t deserve hell. How much humbling I still need.

WEEK FIVE:
James 3:9-12 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Wow. This one really stung. Where’s the exception verse? Where is the verse that says, “Except when you’re talking to your husband, your mom, your sister, and your best friend. Go ahead and talk bad about someone in private to them….” That verse isn’t there, and I did that. In confusion and anger and a deep down need to hear someone say, “You were right and that other person was wrong” I spoke poorly of someone who was made in God’s image. Sometimes we Christians think this verse is tough enough to follow if we only apply it to other Christians. But James says here “we curse MEN, who have been made in God’s image.” That covers all the humans.

Colossians 3:12-13 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

There are lots of verses where God tells us to “clothe” ourselves, or “put on” His nature. It’s because these qualities only come to us when we get up and DRESS OURSELVES in His Word every day. If we don’t, we walk around “naked” all day long and we can be sure that what flows out of us won’t look like His clothes. If you find yourself often angry, often hurt, often irritated, I beg you to prioritize “dressing” yourself in the morning. The irritations of life will never stop coming. You’re only recourse is to be “dressed” in His righteousness.

WEEK SIX:
James 4:11-12 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Finally, today we started into James chapter four. You’d think weeks later I’d be done learning lessons about last months trials, but there was another amazing “lightbulb” moment for me this morning.

One of the guys in our class said, “God gave the Ten Commandments ‘Thou shalt not..’ and spoke directly to each of us. He didn’t say, ‘Watch over your wife or sister or neighbor…’ Each command was given personally to each of us as though no one but God and me were a part of this holy conversation. Through James, God paints a legal picture. When I judge someone for their words or their behavior, I’ve sat myself down in The Judge’s seat where only God may sit!

In deciding someone isn’t “acting like a Christian” I say in my heart—whether I realize it or not—I have the right to judge the law.

Ooooh. Do you? Do I have the right to sit in judgement of GOD’S law? I surely don’t. Next time my sinful heart wants to decide how my brother or sister “should” behave, may I remember—Dear God, help me remember!—to stand back up from that chair that I have no business sitting in.

James 4:7-10 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Are you low? Beat up by life? Exhausted with the fellow sinners who share your home and workplace? God has laid out steps for you that will lead to HIM LIFTING YOU UP.

  1.  Submit to Him. He chose your trials, your mate, your kids, your job, your circumstances. Submit to the One who promised to “work all things together for your good.”
  2. Resist Satan. Resist the whispers that say, “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better. This is unfair. If I don’t stand up for myself, no one will.” Those are lies. God promises that if you resist the lies, Satan will run away from the light of the Holy Spirit in your heart.
  3. Wash your hands and purify your hearts. Resolve now to not be “stained by the world” (James 1:27) If tv, books, food, hobbies, clothes, make-up, vacations, house decorating, kids, husband, or friendships are all getting the lion’s share of your time and leaving little time for “clothing yourself in God’s word”, perhaps you have some repenting and prioritizing to do. We are called to be set apart. Be irritated with me if you want, but if you look and act like the rest of the world, something is wrong. Double-minded people think, “I can love the world and love God.”
  4. Grieve, mourn and wail. Have you lately? Mourned your sinful heart before God? Recognized the depth of your depravity? One thing I have always noticed about godly people is they humbly admit they are the “worst sinners.” I’ve always been like, “Puh-lease. You are obviously a godly person and that is just false modesty.” But, as I’ve dug deeper with Jesus this year, I’ve found a bumper crop of sin in my own heart that I never realized was there (or never had the humility to call SIN) But there it is. Lots more junk to clean. Lot’s more trash to toss into the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns in the altar of my heart.

After all of this necessary humbling, God will be faithful to lift you up. But you’ll probably want to keep kneeling before Him, because His love is unfathomable and His grace is incomprehensible.

Our class still has a chapter and a half left of James. I’m looking forward to next week’s lesson even though it will mean looking hard at more of the crap I have that needs to be laid on that altar. Because I’m learning to count these trials joy. If I’m learning, then God is speaking and moving. What a privilege!

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I’m Tired of My Job

What do a teenage girl and a 37 year old man have in common? Very very little. These two people I live with speak different languages. Ron speaks the language of hard work and logic, and gives love like a dad who wants to see his girl succeed. Chloe speaks drama and future obsession, someday hopes and becomings. She cries about things and cares about things that us grownups now know mean very little. But right now, they mean everything to her.

In a recent “discussion” about online homeschooling with Liberty Acadamy, Chloe’s biggest concerns were prom, a class ring, and a letterman jacket. To her, that’s the not so distant future; but to us, those trivial things happened so many years ago and have turned out to mean squat. That jacket sits in the closet. That prom dance wasn’t memorable. Those pictures are embarrassing.

In every “discussion” lately, I’ve found an appointed role: Mediator.image

I have more in common with Chloe than Ron does, so I can stand with her on girly matters of the heart and dreamer personality priorities. I have more in common with Ron than Chloe does, so I can hear his parent’s heart even when he doesn’t seem patient enough or soft enough to her easily bruised feelings.

I translate, “Ron, when Chloe flipped out and started crying it was because she thought thus and such and she was afraid it would turn out like this and that’s her biggest fear….”

And then I translate back, “Chloe, daddy and I care about you so, so much! We are making sacrifices and stressing out to give you the best life possible! We see your incredible potential and we wish we hadn’t wasted our high school years. We think this is what’s best for you and we’ve lived longer and experienced more than you have….”

In the end, I feel like I’m the only one who walks away from the table understanding both sides.

Ron can’t think like a 9th grade girl who is growing up 20 years later than he did. Chloe doesn’t have a husband/daddy/provider bone in her body. They both know that the other one loves them, but many issues go unresolved in their hearts.

Sometimes, I get really tired of being the mediator.

Chloe said once after learning about emulsifiers in science class, “Mom, you’re the egg. Oil and water don’t mix, won’t mix. But if you add an emulsifier, an egg, they’ll finally come together. Your the egg, mom.”

Sick and tired of being the egg, I looked up and whined about it.

“Mediator?” He asked. “Oh yes. That’s a tough job. I know.”

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.      1 Timothy 2:1-6

This job of mediator that I have, is meant to point me somewhere. It’s meant to remind me:

1.  God and I have no common ground without the Mediator Jesus Christ.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Colossians 1:21)
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)

2.  Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus lives forever and has accepted the trying job of interceding for me.

3.  Jesus became a man for this very purpose. So that I would have a Mediator. One who had been tempted in all the ways I have been yet remained sinless. (Hebrews 4:15) He took on my flesh and made Himself like me, so we could relate. Before that, God was unapproachable. Before Christ came, few men had friendship with God, and those few only because they had faith. But now, there is Someone to stand between simple me, young me, foolish me and Almighty Invisible God only wise and translate.

He whispers, “The Father took this from you because it wasn’t good for you. He loves you. He knows what’s best. He only gives His children good gifts. He’s seen the end, you can trust Him! This is the way, walk in it and trust.”

So I trust. I trust Him to report back to His Father, “This is my girl. I bought her. She’s good. Yes, I know she’s crying over trivial things right now, but she’s young. Give her time. She’ll get there. I’ll help her get there.”

Being a mediator between two who are often at odds is Christlike. If you are a mediator, you are standing in the gap, mimicking Christ. Learn from Him while you are there. Living in between two fighters—two wonderful, beautiful, strong headed people—is your chance to develop an appreciation for what Christ has done and is doing for you every day.

As Ron and I wade through the mire of parenting with love and try to persuade our girl about her great potential and how this new opportunity could be amazing, she’s hung up on a class ring. A trinket. It isn’t even a part of the conversation.

Next time you go to your Mediator with something you desperately need, something you can’t live without (a raise, a family vacation, a friend at work) consider this, what if it’s a trinket? What if your Father has different plans, plans that will do the great work of making you more like Him, plans to maximize your potential in His kingdom, but you can’t see the future goodness because you’re stuck on that class ring?

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More Buried Treasure

I stood waiting in this little run down house. The heater was trying to overcome the cold and I still wore my coat. I glanced back and forth between the window and the book shelves that wrapped around the hodgepodge space and waited nervously for students to arrive. This little fixer-upper that Compass Prep Academy bought was to be my “studio” for teaching 14 students how to paint. They were late.

It was just one book clumped in next to a thousand donated books. It jumped out at me; and, on a whim, I pulled it from the shelf.

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Who knew a treasure lay hidden there? Who knew I would leave an hour later with something that would change my life? I surely didn’t know it, even as I stuffed that paperback book in my painting bag and corralled teenagers out to the van.

“Strong-Willed Child or Dreamer?”

Why did the normal white spine of that paperback book sing, “Pick me up! Pick me up!” I obeyed and read the back cover.

“Your child may be a dreamer if….
*He forgets to follow instructions, no matter how clear and simple you make them
*She craves praise and attention, yet refuses to conform to what’s expected.
*He complains often about feeling misunderstood, pick on, or persecuted.
*She tells more than her share of fibs and tall tales.

Your child’s behavior may actually indicate that he or she is a creative-sensitive child, a dreamer: principle-oriented rather than rule-oriented, highly creative, sensitive to the point of taking offense where none is intended, and frustrated at a world that fails to live up to the ideal.”

My daughter Chloe to a T! In chapter two there was a check list of thirty choices to diagnose your child. It said if your child scored 24 or more, she was more than likely a dreamer…… Chloe was 30 out of 30!

This book is summing my daughter up in an amazing way that I can understand, despite our cognitive differences. Things that drive me bananas crazy about her are becoming endearing the more I read. She’s unique and precious! As I devour this book, I’m learning for the first time in her fourteen years how to enjoy her. How to discipline her. How to relate to her fantastical wandering mind. I keep wiping tears from my eyes because every page is Chloe. I’ve dog-eared almost every page I’ve read to go back to it later.

There’s that weird thing she did when she was little… Oh! It makes sense now. There’s that frustrating thing she does when she’s wrong… Oh! It’s because she can’t stand to lose my approval!

Page by page I’m falling in love with my Chloe all over again.

I even joked yesterday that I might scratch out the title on the front and write “Chloe Bible” in sharpie instead!

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Goodness knows the last time I finished a non-fiction book was, well, I can’t even remember. Ron said it was probably when I read the “Created to be His Help-meet” book. He might be right. And the funny thing is, both books are about learning to love these weird people in my life. I was lost before “Created to be His Help-meet.” I had no idea how to be a good wife to Ron. I read that book voraciously too, excited to have author Debi Pearl unlock the keys to a happy husband. I applied those principals and they changed our marriage and our life. Apparently the best motivation for me to “read to learn” is when I’m learning how to love someone dear to me.

Not everyone would want to read “Strong-Willed Child or Dreamer?” If you don’t have a Chloe, what would be the point? But then the parallel, the connection, clicked on in my mind like a lightbulb!

The Bible.

Not the “Chloe Bible” or the “Ron Bible,” but the real true Holy Bible.

What is it if not a book to read to learn how to love Someone dear to us? Has it become boring and dusty to you? Could it be you aren’t investing in the relationship? Could it be that your love has grown cold and you’ve become distracted? The more we get to know Jesus, the more we’re drawn to His Word. It’s a privilege to get to know Him. It’s exciting to read those stories about how He worked in the past, about how He loved His disciples, about how He disciplines those He loves.

What if we didn’t have the Bible?

In the fourteen years of being Chloe’s mom, no one ever gave me a book like this book  that I picked up yesterday by accident. My eyes keep tearing up as I read it because it is revealing new insights I could never have gained on my own. No amount of living in a house with Chloe was teaching me these secret things about how her personality works.

If the Bible was gone and we had only the broken world around us to relate to the One who created it all perfectly in the beginning, would we have any clue what kind of Savior created us?

The grace of Golgotha would be lost to us.

Eden where The Fall and The Promise happened, gone.

The promise that nothing we go through here can even come close to comparing to the amazing things God has promised for those who love Him? No. We wouldn’t know that on our own. Here everything is dying. Here things only decline. How could we imagine Heaven without the Book?

Like my new Chloe guide, the Bible sums up God for us in ways we can understand despite our huge cognitive differences. Things that seem strange or confusing become endearing as we read. It’s the guide to understanding His multifaceted, strange yet perfect, strong but gentle, glorious while humble, always working and teaching rest, simultaneous Judge/Advocate Personality. He is Unique. He is Precious.

Pick up your “How to” book again. It’s full to the brim with lessons and wisdom and comfort and hugs. It’s love letters and praise songs and history lessons and hope for the future! Prioritize the Book and the relationship will grow! None of us are done learning. There is always more growth, more lessons, and more character to be gained. Pray for new vigor in your time with Him and enjoy learning about the One you love!

PS. The overflow? I can’t stop reading pages of this book out loud to Ron. We’ve both been long in the dark to the mysteries of Chloe’s creative mind. He needs this knowledge as badly as I do, because we both have to raise Chloe. Your friends, your family, they need your passionate love for God’s Word. As you love more and learn more, you will naturally share it more. It was a natural overflow last night. Ron couldn’t keep me quiet! “One more thing! Wait, one more thing!” I read to him (and yes he started to get tired of it) 🙂 But did that sway me? No! I offered that dude a foot rub AND a back rub in exchange for listening to me read an entire chapter. He happily accepted and learned alongside me. And that’s the gist of it isn’t it? Lovingly meet people’s needs and share the Word with them. They can’t help but listen and learn 🙂

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Holiness Through PMS

I believe in God’s goodness. I believe that nothing comes to me except that it passes through God’s loving hands first. Therefore, I believe PMS is mysteriously God’s best for me for at least 7 days each month. But PMS always makes me more prone to sin. I rarely walk through those days with grace or mercy. And I can’t help but wonder, “Why on earth did you allow PMS, God? What godly purpose is served by my hormones taking over and deciding that everyone in my family should be punished?” I mean, it’s already hard enough to be like Christ. It’s already a constant battle. But then I get even more thrown off my game by estrogen levels that I can’t control and aren’t my fault. That stinks.

Here are some simple answers I’ve come up with:

1. Eve screwed us big time.

2. It’s an important part of the baby making process, and I do love my babies.

3. God wants me to rely even more heavily on Him during those 7 (fine, it’s 10) very dark days.

4. God wants to punish my husband for something (just kidding).

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Well, my easy answers still don’t satisfy my longing to understand why God would inflict me with something that usually makes me more sinful. So I search. I search the scriptures. I search what other great women of God say about it. If I have a problem that doesn’t line up with what I think I know about Jesus, I better get it figured out!

All my searching yields me one tough answer. Reliance. I have been created to rely.

There are days when a follower of Christ can wade through the daily grind with the power she’s gained from the Sunday service three days ago. And I think we girls are such multi-tasking mavens that we sometimes take on the world, skip our morning devotions, and still pull off a day of work, family, dinner, dishes, laundry, and even some homemade dessert, all with a smile. But when the hormones start doing their voodoo rain dance in my head, I NEED JESUS. I need his help to not strangle people. I need his help to be patient with a fourteen year old daughter. I need his help to be gentle and kind with unsaved colleagues. If I don’t beg Him to fill me and censor me all day long, I let lose the woman I’m not proud of. Every month, there are certain days when my own strength absolutely will not cut it.

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I believe there’s an interesting upside to our condition though. If you have sore, PMS boobs, then you belong to the sex with a larger percent of people who call themselves Christians.

According to ABC News:

Been to church this week? If you’re an older woman in the South, chances are you have.
Not counting weddings and funerals, 38 percent of Americans say they go to religious services at least once a week. But there are big differences across demographic groups, with self-reported attendance peaking among older people, women, Southerners and Baptists, among others.
There are other factors. Nearly half of Southerners attend services weekly, substantially more than elsewhere. Forty-four percent of women go weekly, compared to 32 percent of men. It follows that, among Southern women age 45 and up, weekly church attendance soars to 68 percent.  http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=90372&page=1

Just by being a woman, statistics prove that you are more likely to hunger after the Bread of Life. That alone is enough for me to accept my lot, but here are two more very good reasons.

Reason Number One: People Who Live In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones
Sisters, we chickas can be so quick to judge others. Have you ever seen a fellow believer behaving a certain way and thought to yourself, “What is wrong with her? Doesn’t she know that Jesus can _____? I wonder if she is really that close to God at all?” I have. I have judged my sisters in Christ. And then I’ve gone home and bit my own family’s heads off over some dirty laundry on the floor or a spill on the counter. I think one reason God lovingly gave us these hormones from hell is that He knew how easily we would succumb to judgement if we weren’t constantly reminded of our own sin and desperate need for Him.

If I didn’t get seized by the devil every so often, I might go around thinking I have it all together.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that women are usually more sacrificial than men. In our family setting, I’d rather everyone else be happy. I’m genuinely happy doing what everyone else wants to do as long as they are all happy. In those times, I sometimes privately marvel at how selfish the rest of them are. I’m just admitting some dirt to you here. Sometimes I think too highly of myself. Sometimes I think I’m “better” than the rest of my family. (Go ahead and take a moment to judge me. Don’t you worry, I get what I deserve.)

Then I step overconfidently (and somehow always unaware) into THE WEEK BEFORE MY PERIOD. (Duhn duhn dahhhhhhhhh *scary music playing*)

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Ha! Me, Christ-like? Ha ha ha! That godly chick goes on vaca and leaves me cranky, negative, selfishly slothful, quick to anger, quick to dole out punishments, impatient, and incapable of enjoying the “music of my children’s voices” (and I mean INCAPABLE).

But I still believe that God’s design for my body is only ever for my good. It is those same feminine hormones that make us gals soft to the Holy Spirit. It’s our femininity that lends itself towards submissive hearts. Because God made women to be helpmeets, submission was part of our design and make up. I can’t speak for men, but I know that my submissive heart LONGS for Jesus. I do want, with all of my heart, to look more like Him. If hormones have anything at all to do with that, I wouldn’t trade my soft heart for a reprieve from cramps. I need Jesus. If being a girl with girly, passionate needs (and the innate desire for a Prince on a white horse) has given me even just a little edge over my male counterpart in chasing after said Prince, then I’ll keep my swollen ankles.

Reason Number Two: A Thorn In Our Flesh
Just as Eve was quick to rebellion, so are we, her daughters. Each of us know, in our hearts, that we are sinful, and that given the opportunity to be the “First Woman on Earth” we each would’ve picked the forbidden fruit and bit. I believe it is because of that “original sin” that we must bear the burden of PMS.

The blessing in it is that we need that constant reminder that we would’ve picked and bit.

We are blessed that even though the Bible was written by men, one of our greatest teachers had a problem similar to ours. The apostle Paul wrote to us in 2 Corinthians 12 about how he dealt with his oppressive physical problem, and I think it is great advice for us in dealing with our impossible mood swings and bloating.

6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Here’s 2 Cor. 12:6-10 in the EBUV (my unauthorized version of what Paul is saying here):

I’m close to the Lord and He has done amazing things through me. I could probably brag about all the cool stuff God has done in me and through me. It wouldn’t be wrong of me to tell you all about the awesome stuff that has happened. But, I don’t brag about it because I don’t want anyone to think too much of me. Really all the cool stuff is God, but if I tell you about it, you might think it’s because I’m great… which I’m not. Still, I get tempted to think I’m great sometimes. God, in His mercy, didn’t want me to lose this closeness with Him that has produced extraordinary blessings; so, he gave me something I hate. He repressed me in a way that makes me feel like Satan is riding on my back all the time, so that I would be humble. I begged God three times to take it away from me. But God said, “My grace is more than enough for you, My greatness is best displayed in your weakest moments.” So, I’ve decided to brag about my weaknesses instead. Because I want God’s greatness. I want the power of Christ to shine brilliantly through me. I want it so badly, that I am cool with weakness, people despising me, life being super hard (PMS), being looked down on and hurt by people, and big tragedies. I almost look forward to that crap because it is in those moments that Christ looks most amazing through me.

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Dear sister, I encourage you to not just enjoy these truths for a moment, but to plant them. Sometimes we read something and enjoy it and relate to it; but if we don’t meditate on it, it blows away with the next breeze and doesn’t help us when the hormones come a raging. Pick some part of Paul’s testimony here and plant it in your heart. If you memorize God’s word, it will come as a whisper when you most need it! If you and I will focus on the fact that God has allowed each season of temptation for the purpose of refining us, then we can fight that anger and sorrow and depression with joy and the peace that passes understanding. And we will do it for our family’s sake, our own heart’s sake and for God’s glory.

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Did You Marry Your Soul Mate?

According to http://www.higherperspectives.com (a completely non-christian website) there are 20 signs that you’ve “found your soul mate”.

Their secular view of someone who lives up to “soul mate” status is:

1. Your soul mate is endlessly loyal to you.
2. Your soul mate is always supportive of you.
3. Your soul mate has a similar guiding compass.
4. Your soul mate sparks an intense passion in you.
5. You can communicate comfortably with your soul mate.
6. Your soul mate makes you feel special.
7. Your soul mate transcends spiritual boundaries with you.
8. Your soul mate appreciates your affection.
9. Your soul mate thinks you’re just irresistible.
10. Your soul mate helps you feel safe.
11. You feel like you can completely trust your soul mate.
12. You don’t just experience their endless love, you feel it.
13. You’re spiritually connected more so to your soul mate than anyone else.
14. You can spend time sitting in silence but know what your soul mate is thinking.
15. Even in times of tragedy, you find strength in your soul mate.
16. Your soul mate turns to you with all their secrets, hopes and dreams.
17. Your soul mate has the same ideas about raising children as you.
18. Your soul mate always includes you in major and minor life decisions.
19. Your soul mate pushes you to be better.
20. As people, in terms of being happy and successful, you and your soul mate thrive together.
(http://higherperspectives.com/soul-mate/)

Does your spouse live up to this incredible list? Does he continue, year after year, day after day, fart after fart, to spark intense passion in you? Does your husband read your mind, especially in the moments you need him to the most? Do you feel flawlessly supported and admired by your dearest love? Obviously, this kind of love doesn’t let you down or leave you feeling alone or frustrated—EVER.

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So, I’m still looking for my soul mate. I’m married, every bit the epitome of happily married, but I’m frequently not fulfilled or completely satisfied by this guy I yoked myself to. Ergo, I must have missed my soul mate, and he is still out there somewhere looking for me. It’s a real shame, because, as a Christian, I don’t believe in divorce.

But what if this intense longing we have for a soul mate is something else entirely? In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

There it is. Everything here—everything we experience here on Earth—points to there, to Heaven and to what we will be when this life is over. Your life is one big object lesson, one long parable, one incredible power-point presentation. From beginning to end, your life is your training ground. You began as a child; and, therefore, you may come to understand what it means to be a child of God. You grew and grew and became an adult, which was supposed to show you that a healthy life grows, that your new life in Christ should be characterized by growth. You fell in love and married, which according to the Song of Solomon, should point you towards the love that Christ feels for you and should inspire you to fall in love with the Lover of your soul.

At least that’s how it’s all designed to work. But sin is always screwing us up. Satan has spun this great lie that another human being can be my soul mate. And most of the world has bought that lie— hook, line and sinker. Divorce statistics go higher and higher every year—even among Christians. We get married and realize, belatedly, that we have married a real sinner. Something inside tells us that we deserve better than this schmuck. I promise you, no one is getting divorced because they realize that they married someone way too good for them.

My husband is wonderful and he loves me fiercely, but he still lets me down on occasion. We’ve made it through 15 years of marriage and we’ve grown into something really cool. (Through God’s amazing grace. God gets all the credit for keeping this sinful dynamic duo together!) My husband adores me, except when we’re fighting. He holds me up and is always there for me, except when he’s busy, or distracted, or a project at work suddenly consumes all of his time. He prioritizes our marriage, but he stinks at planning and executing dates. And he doesn’t always chase after Jesus the way I wish that he would.

My husband is amazing and I am truly, deeply in love with him. He isn’t ever going to be perfect, but I’m learning to enjoy our imperfect journey. It can still be tempting to give in to discouragement when my husband doesn’t love me the way I want him too, but look at what C.S. Lewis says about my husband’s shortcomings: “If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy [my desires], that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.”

If my husband can’t be perfect, then perhaps he was never supposed to be my soul mate. Perhaps he is meant only to arouse a desire for Someone who completes me, adores me, never ever fails me, heals me, restores me, transforms me into something glorious. And if that is the case, Lewis says, I must be careful “never to despise or to be unthankful for the earthly blessing” that is my husband.

I’m blessed to be married to a man who belongs to my soul mate.

My husband is my soul mate’s soul mate.

I’ve been entrusted with the fragile, human heart of someone who Jesus dearly loves and died for. I must not mistake my husband for “the something else of which [he] is only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.” I must not expect my husband to be perfect or to be what Jesus promises to be to me. That would be very unfair of me. This man I’m married to isn’t perfect. And that is the best thing about him. He is only a blurry copy of my soul mate. He is what awoke in me the desire for an absolutely perfect, all consuming kind of love. If I hadn’t married a man who fails me on occasion, I’d have no deep desire for a love that never fails.

I’m still waiting for my soul mate. The Bible says He’s coming soon! I’m waiting eagerly for him because my dear husband has wet my appetite for the kind of love I can’t find here on this Earth. I’m going to give you that list of “soul mate” qualities again, and I want you to keep in mind that this was not composed by Christians. It was composed by humans. Humans who have a desire to find these qualities in someone else who will complete them. Humans who know that their hearts lack, and that lack can only be filled by something outside of themselves.

1. Your soul mate is endlessly loyal to you.
Deuteronomy 31:8 “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

2. Your soul mate is always supportive of you.
Romans 8:31-32 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

3. Your soul mate has a similar guiding compass.
Psalm 32:8 “The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

4. Your soul mate sparks an intense passion in you.
Psalm 42:1 “…As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”

5. You can communicate comfortably with your soul mate.
Ephesians 3:12 “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”

6. Your soul mate makes you feel special.
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

7. Your soulmate transcends spiritual boundaries with you.
John 14:2-3 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

8. Your soul mate appreciates your affection.
Psalm 103:1-2 “Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise His holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me.”

9. Your soul mate thinks you’re just irresistible.
Song of Solomon 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”

10. Your soul mate helps you feel safe.
Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

11. You feel like you can completely trust your soul mate.
Psalm 125:1-2 “Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever.”

12. You don’t just experience their endless love, you feel it.
1 John 4:9 “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”

13. You’re spiritually connected more so to your soul mate than anyone else.
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”

14. You can spend time sitting in silence but know what your soul mate is thinking.
Psalm 131:1-3 “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”

15. Even in times of tragedy, you find strength in your soul mate.
Psalm 121:1 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? 2My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

16. Your soul mate turns to you with all their secrets, hopes and dreams.
Psalm 98:2 “The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”

17. Your soul mate has the same ideas about raising children as you.
Proverbs 22:5-6 “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards himself will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

18. Your soul mate always includes you in major and minor life decisions.
Luke 10:22-24 “”I am the Agent of my Father in everything; and no one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then, turning to the twelve disciples, he said quietly, “How privileged you are to see what you have seen. 24 Many a prophet and king of old has longed for these days, to see and hear what you have seen and heard!’”

19. Your soul mate pushes you to be better.
James 4:8 “Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

20. As people, in terms of being happy and successful, you and your soul mate thrive together.
John 17:23 “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

What an amazing privilege it is to serve and be loved by such a Soul Mate!!!

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Remember

Memories breathe life into the ghosts of our past. Recall a time when you were humiliated and the memory of that time will bring the shame of the past right into your here and now. Remember a loss, a death, and you feel the hurt again—sometimes as raw and sharp as when you stood by the graveside.

I got to thinking about this on my way to work today. If I—in my humanity—can feel a memory as though it were happening to me all over again, how much more does God see, hear, and feel the past?

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever—omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was, and who is to come. The Almighty.”

gotquestions.org says:
Though we cannot possibly comprehend this idea of eternity or the timelessness of God, we in our finite minds try to confine an infinite God to our time schedule. Those who foolishly demand that God operate according to their time frame ignore the fact that He is the “High and Lofty One . . . who lives forever” (Isaiah 57:15). This description of God is far removed from man’s condition: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Again, because of our finite minds, we can only grasp the concept of God’s timeless existence in part. And in so doing, we describe Him as a God without a beginning or end, eternal, infinite, everlasting, etc. Psalm 90:2 declares, “From everlasting to everlasting You are God” (see also Psalm 93:2). He always was and always will be.

So, God, who remembers EVERYTHING chooses not to remember my sin.

Romans 8:1 says:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Pay attention to verse 34.

Romans 8:31-34 says:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

So, in order not to remember my sin, Christ must remember his death instead. Since I sin a lot, (And you sin a lot. And all the sins of the world add up to A LOT of sin. Constant sin every moment of every day in a torrential tsunami of sinfulness.) Jesus must relive the cross constantly. I don’t think I’ve ever thought that through all the way.

When I’ve read the crucifixion and ached with each lash of the whip and each hammer fall to the spike, I think I’ve comforted myself in saying, “But He’s God. It was awful, but He endured it for me.”

And then it was over, right?
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He endured it and overcame. Jesus conquered sin and death and lives in victory. But is it that simple?

If He must remember His sacrifice and he lives to “intercede” for me, does my Lord live for eternity remembering the pain, shame, humilation, and agony of the cross every moment for the rest of time for my sake? And if he does, then he’s been “remembering” it from before time began, too. He endured the cross from creation onward. Before he formed the world, he endured the cross. I can’t grasp that.

I can’t understand or imagine that kind of Love.

To be GOD and to choose to live with the scars of crucifixion throughout eternity because of what— His great love for us? That’s bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

He could’ve lived a painless eternity; but, instead, He made us and decided that was worth a painful eternity. Why? How? What a mystery!

Who can understand a love like this? How do we even comprehend it? As a mother, the only experience I have that comes close in comparison is childbirth. Pregnancy was full of discomfort and pain and then it culminated in gut-wrenching labor. But then they handed me my baby. And it was all so worth it. The pain was “forgotten.” My girls were so worth 9 months of puking and two painful c-sections. If I were given the choice to have them or not have them, I would choose to go through my neardeath labor again. Is that how His love is? Is that why he calls us dear, beloved children?

1 John 3:1
3 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

Let’s remember again how ridiculously blessed we are to have Him for our God!

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To My Prince

Yup. That’s the title I gave the poem I wrote back in 2000 (might have been 1999). I was only 19 or 20, and I wrote it for Ron when we were engaged. I framed it in a cheap wooden frame and puff painted glittery flowers all over the frame. My presentation was hideous, but this is still one of my favorite things the Lord has ever inspired me to write. It was my interpretation of the Love Chapter:image

Reading my poem again all these years later, I’m kindof gobsmacked. It’s almost prophetic how much we were going to need these qualities of true Love. It’s almost eerie/awesome that God was preparing us then for a bumpy road that would need a lot of grace and patience and kindess and well, you know, all the qualities of the Love Chapter. Here’s what flowed from my hopeless romantic, very naive heart:

To My Prince

My Father hath told me of the patience of pure love,
A virtue that is sought by very few.
The Spirit’s gift to each who persevere to rise above,
My dearest, I have found this gift in you.

Kindness is a prince that downward reaches
To the aid of hurting slave girl at his knee.
He lifts gently from the ashes and he teaches
The heart to sing for joy for it is free.

There is no envy found in one so blessedly content,
Looking only to his own, no trace of greed.
Filled to overflowing by the One the Father sent,
Abundantly supplied by God Who meets each need.

Not just in thy actions true, but also what you speak;
Boasting not, but always humble in thy word.
For, this kingdom’s lost to strength but tis given to the meek;
It is written, If I boast, I’ll boast only in the Lord.

The pride of life by all the world is highly sought;
By those who glory in the wisdom of the day.
But thou knowest humbleness and wisdom can’t be bought;
All earthly knowledge, by the Lord, is burnt as hay.

Thou art my sweet example of politeness,
To others never rude and always giving.
From thy childhood I see you’ve learned and kept this,
And our own dear babes will learn it from thy living.

Seeking not thy own, so often looking to my best,
Swift to lend thy aid in the sharing of thy life.
I praise the Lord for you, and I am sweetly blessed;
Such longing fills my heart as I can’t wait to be your wife.

There are times when in my humanness I falter,
And I come to you with burdens I’ve committed.
You so gently place my faults upon the alter,
Slow to anger, dear forgiveness, all’s omitted.

In truth we have secured a strong contentment;
Built on the Rock and not on impure things.
Delighting not in evil, but instead a pure commitment,
You give a precious comfort in the promise of this ring.

Through trials and deep valleys He hath brought us;
We’ve born all things for by Him we overcome.
Tis because He first o’ercame for us on His cross;
Though twas hard, I praise Him now for what He’s done.

If all on earth should doubt thy steadfast surety,
I shall stand by thee as thou hast stood by me.
To the end I shalt defend thy blessed purity,
For love believes all things, and all completely.

Though our hope is in the Lord and Him alone,
I believe that He is true and He is able
To keep thy foot from stumbling on the stones
That would hinder us and render us unstable.

Only in the crucible is found the worth of gold;
True silver’s always tested in the fire.
We must endure all things if we are to take hold;
Greatness only comes when we burn away the mire.

Oh my dearest, just as you so freely give
All your love to me, I pray that you will find
Through good and bad, as we together live,
Never failing thee, my love is that same kind.

Love,
Elizabeth

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Rags To Riches: Getting Out of Marital Bankruptcy

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Because of our own humble (let’s be honest, horrible) beginnings, Ron and I often find ourselves counseling married friends who are hurting. People feel free to share their failures with us because we’ve been transparent about our failures—and our success.

I honestly believe that there is a huge pocket of non-Christians out there operating in healthier, happier marriages than many Christians due to the simple fact that they respect and admire each other. That is hard for me to admit. I think many Christians believe (as I did) that we should automatically hold the corner on the market for marriage because we serve the Creator of marriage. Just being “equally yoked” ought be the most important thing in a healthy marriage, right? I’m loath to admit that I no longer think that.

In my constant encouragement that wives honor and revere their husbands to build their self-esteem, the feedback I most often get is: “If I treat him like he’s valuable to me, I’d be lying. You’re asking me to be fake if you want me to honor a man that has no honor. God doesn’t want me to be fake does He?”

In an online article, Debbi Pearl writes:

God designed us, so he knows what our husbands need in order to function properly in their roles as men who cherish the woman in their life. By nature, men need honor (this includes not questioning their decisions). They need respect (treated as if they are wise). They need reverence (daily admired as a man who is accomplishing great things). They need to be accepted for who and what they are, just like they are. Men need to feel they are in command and doing a good job.
A man cannot cherish a strong woman who has expressed her displeasure with him and is holding out until he fulfills her ideal. You say he should have Christ’s love. Is that what you want? Do you want your husband to have to seek supernatural power just to find a way to love you? What most men cherish in their wives is the memory when love was fun and free, with no demands—the time when she smiled at him with a sweet, girlish, “I think you are wonderful” look. She was so feminine then, so much the woman. It was a time when he wanted to hold her just because she was his, a time when he wanted to give her everything. A vague memory keeps him hoping. He is as disappointed in love as you are, maybe more. He is just as lonely. He just fills up his loneliness doing things that will distract him from the reality of the emptiness he knows is there but does not know how to fix. His helpmeet is not pleased with him. He is a loser. —http://nogreaterjoy.org/articles/the-jezebel-profile/

Debi Pearl wrote the book “Created To Be His Help-meet.” It is old-fashioned, counter-culture, widely disputed, frequently bashed, polarizing (either praised or despised!) and this book saved my marriage and gave me my dream husband. Hate it or love it—you will surely choose one or the other—but there is no denying that it worked miracles in my life. When something works time and time again (there are thousands of women who give testimony to the fact that this book is a life changer) isn’t it worth considering? One of the most important things I learned from Debi is that good self-esteem is the key to healthy love, healthy disagreements, growth of character, better parenting, openness to the Holy Spirit’s internal work, and even great sex.

Many wives find it too hard to honor and admire a husband who has lost all honor and virtue in their eyes. How do we fix this? If a healthy, mutually adoring marriage is what we desire, but we find ourselves bankrupt, is it still achievable? Should we just give up?

On the back cover of Michael and Debi Pearl’s book “Marriage God’s Way,” they write:

A good marriage is 50/50. A perfect marriage is 100/100. It is a man and a woman each giving 100% to the other. What if he or she won’t give 100%? Then you can match his 10% with your 10% and continue in an unfulfilling relationship, or, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can give 100% of your talents and abilities to your man for his sake and his blessing and watch his 10% grow into 100%. Someone has to start the process. Holding out will never do. Only by giving do you receive. Love and honor make more love and honor. — From the back cover of Michael and Debi Pearl’s book “Marriage God’s Way”

When I read that, I hear financial principles tucked into marital advice.

I’m in no way saying that our faith isn’t important; and, at the end of this article, I hope you’ll agree with me that the Holy Spirit is definitely our most important ally and THE main ingredient in a marriage that honors the Creator of marriage.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I’m going to go a bit secular on you.

I propose we consider putting secular financial principles to work in our marriages.

What if we approached marriage the way we approach money. The Bible says we’re just as good at loving and cherishing money as we are at loving people (often times we’re better at money). If I made it my goal to become a millionaire, would you look at my small paycheck and call it impossible? Would you say I was lying to myself if I thought being wealthy was possible. We know that’s not true. Countless people have wild success stories of humble beginnings that grew into empires. Look up “millionaires and billionaires who started from nothing” and you’ll get enough google results to read for days.

And we love those stories.

When we read these success stories, we wish that the same thing could happen to us. The “rags to riches” premise fuels movies and novels. It’s the American dream and it’s universally desired. Well, I’ve had my own “rags to riches” experience in my marriage. I started out hating the honor-less jerk I married; and, today, I absolutely adore and deeply appreciate that same man. I’m going to use financial principles to convey to you just how I “earned” this millionaire marriage.

Don’t balk at me earning it. I did. You can’t take that away from me. I know we can’t earn salvation and we can’t earn Christ’s grace, but a healthy marriage is no different than a million dollars. It is something that MUST be earned. Through diligence, hard-work, and self-denial—the same disciplines that go into earning money.

This morning I googled “What are the habits of rich people?”

On the first page of results, I found an article by Forbes Magazine entitled “9 Financial Habits That Can Make You Wealthy.” Since Forbes is a trusted source for the financially minded, I decided to transpose this list of 9 Habits into equally valuable advice for a “rich” marriage.

Habit #1: Reverse Your Thinking

Forbes quotes Nancy Butler, a Certified Financial Planner, “Most people spend some money, pay their bills and save what’s left,” says Butler. “And that’s backwards: You should be saving for your financial goals first, paying your bills and and then consider spending the money you have leftover.”

I agree that a reversal is needed. Our culture says that it’s ok to dwell on our needs. That what I need should fuel my conversations with my spouse—my needs and boundaries should be protected first and foremost, and THEN I can be a healthy individual in a healthy marriage. No. Self-sacrifice—putting my spouse and his needs first—will profit me much more than my own self-protection. In constantly denying myself and putting my spouse first, I make sound deposits into his bank. Building his self-esteem and giving him the collateral he needs to stop scrounging and desperately protecting himself which frees him up to love me. If I meet his needs first, he can relax in knowing that I will continue to put him first and he can in turn relax and put me first. I pay his bills and he pays mine in a sense.

Habit #2: Look Where You Want To Go

Forbes says, “Just as performance athletes imagine themselves making the shot over and over again, knowing what you want your money to do for you gives your goals a better chance of being reached. To get going on saving for the future, financial experts often suggest having a five-year plan, where you create specific money goals you’d like to achieve in five years and what you need to achieve those goals.”

If you live like someone who wants to own a home, even though you haven’t bought the house yet, you aren’t lying to yourself, you’re investing in the future. Honoring and admiring your husband even when he doesn’t seem worthy of it is INVESTING. You are investing in him what you look forward to him becoming. He won’t become a loving, cherishing husband without this investment.

When I began the tough job of honoring young, selfish, unsuccessful Ron, I saw a noticeable return on that investment within the first two weeks. I began mentally choosing to always put him first. I rubbed his feet at then end of a long day (a long day where I worked a lot and he worked a little and I was the one more deserving of said foot rub). I cooked his favorite foods and tried to spend as little money as possible (we weren’t just maritally broke back then, we were plain old broke!) to show him I was on his team. I listened to what was important to him and tried to make it important to me.

I know how against our modern “equality” driven society that sounds, but it worked. IT WORKED!!!! Today, Ron cherishes me. He looks at me every day as though I were the most beautiful amazing thing he’s ever seen. Every day. He thanks me for every meal I cook, and he praises the way I love our children. He thinks I’m funny, and he loves being with me. He would choose me over any other friend. Any day, any time.

Ron’s workplace has a free keg that the employees can stay and enjoy after work hours any night of the week. Ron actually enjoys the occasional beer. Do you know he hasn’t stayed after work for a beer with friends more than once or twice in two years? He hurries home to me. He can’t wait to see my smile. I earned this by painful self-sacrifice in the early years when Ron stared at the tv all day and bit my head off when I bought the “too expensive brand of aluminum foil!”

I believed Ron could become the man Debi Pearl said he would be if I treated him the way God intended a wife to be to her man. I wasn’t lying to Ron when I said he was amazing back then, I was investing.

Habit #3: Adopt Your Own Private Mind Tricks

Forbes calls them “‘heuristics,’ these rule-of-thumb strategies we create for ourselves—such as not spending more than $15 on an item of baby clothing, or more than $50 on a pair of shoes—can help simplify the many choices we make in a day. Behavioral economists believe that adopting good heuristics can help one develop good money habits.”

This definition of heuristics implies a level of personal adaptivity. In other words, everyone has their own problem areas and needs their own personal fixes. Most of the things Debi Pearl teaches are biblical and therefore universal, but I’m sure that some godly marriages employ them differently than Ron and I did.

Some of our heuristics:

1. Ron gets the final say on any disagreement because he’s the head of our home.
2. Open, respectful communication is of utmost importance. If you keep things behind the dam, it’s not going to be pretty when the dam breaks.
3. Ron takes care of our finances. I know a lot of women have the sole responsibility of the finances. I highly recommend either turning it over to your husband; or, at the very least, making it a team effort. If your husband doesn’t know what’s going on financially, he can’t lead the family. If he isn’t leading, you are. If you’re leading, everything else gets undermined—especially your husbands self-esteem.
4. Time alone together is super duper important. Time to talk about the day, plan for the future, and love on each other is crucial. Even if it’s just time on the couch after the kids are in bed, prioritize time together every day.

These are some of ours. Make your own heuristics, but make sure they follow God’s biblical plan. He made you, He made your husband, He made marriage. His instruction manual is definitely still valid and can be counted on.

Habit #4: Live Like A “Secret” Rich Person

“Las Vegas–based David Sapper, who owns a successful used car business, and his real-estate broker wife make a combined income of $500,000 per year. Yet they live like “secret” rich people, only spending $2,500 per month on all bills and extracurricular expenses like eating out, unlike many of their peers. By putting 90% of his income into savings and investments, Sapper says he’ll be able to retire early.

His advice? “Find the point that you get what you need and you’re happy and comfortable, and just stay there,” says Sapper. “I had an ‘aha!’ moment when I was watching MTV, and LL Cool J was saying, ‘I lease a Honda Accord for $399 a month,’ while other rappers are going broke.”

What kind of “over-spending” has Christian marriages going broke? I believe our over-productive American culture is killing happy marriages. We are splurging our time. We are involved in everything. Our kids have 3 places to go every day and we’re involved at church and we’re signing up for charities and 5ks and we have to work out and we have to have girl’s night at Starbucks and we have to…. but we’re draining the love bank in the process.

I like the quote above about LL Cool J. He’s a famous rapper driving a Honda Accord because he has good enough self-esteem (and wisdom) that he doesn’t need to flaunt his wealth. I believe some of our over involvement is a desperate desire to keep up with everyone else and make sure we look good. And in so doing, we’re deciding to sacrifice a healthy loving marriage. Wisdom says that what I invest the most in is what I will see the most return on. If my marriage gets pennies thrown at it while I’m pouring my wealth of time into my kids and my image, the results are obvious. Why are we surprised?

Habit #5: Tackle Retirement Now

Forbes says, “If you’re in your twenties or thirties, retirement can seem eons away—and saving for it might not seem like a priority. It’s easy to understand: In between paying to attend weddings (which average something like $600 per guest), saving for a down payment on a home, and using anything leftover to put toward “necessities” like vacation, how are you supposed to save anything for retirement? Unfortunately the later you start saving, the more you’ll have to save. But the sooner you sock money away, the more time it has to compound and grow.”

Do you know the statistics for divorce after the kids are grown? In an online article entitled “Empty nest divorce: the kids are gone and so is the magic,” Communities Digital News says:

SAN DIEGO, May 10, 2014 – Just as family law attorneys and divorce professionals have grown used to seeing “gray divorces” among people age 50 and over, there is a new twist in divorce trends. Call it the “empty nest divorce.”

In my own family law practice, more clients than ever are seeking a divorce after a long-term marriage of 20, 30, or even 40 years. This isn’t an isolated situation. Gray divorces have doubled in the last 20 years, defined as divorces among people age 50 and over, even while divorce rates have declined slightly overall.

There is now a specific subset of this group, and the cause for the divorce is clear: the kids have left home for college or their first adult job and living arrangements. Mom and Dad are breathing a sigh of relief that they actually managed to get human beings to adulthood in one piece. Everything should be looking rosy, right?

But now that the kids are gone, so is the magic in the marriage. Couples who have been busy supervising their child’s education, extracurricular activities, social events while teaching them to be honest, moral, and happy finally have time to reconnect their lives. After 20 or 25 years, they realize they don’t have much left in common, and little to say to each other.

Life expectancy is increasing, and someone in his or her 40s or 50s can easily live another 20, 30, even 40 years. People decide they don’t want to continue in an unfulfilling marriage for several decades.

Infidelity, infidelity, or problems with the kids aren’t usually a contributing factor to empty next divorces as they can be in other types of divorce cases. This happens to a couple who have through no fault of their own become strangers to each other outside the roles of Mom and Dad. This is the “we’ve grown apart” divorce.
Read more at http://www.commdiginews.com/life/empty-nest-divorce-the-kids-are-gone-and-so-is-the-magic-17260/#SCYuMxWg6s36CBBD.99

Investing in our marriage is essential if we want to find ourselves still in love when our children are grown.

Habit #6: Know What’s Coming In, and What’s Going Out

“Most of us have good intentions when it comes to saving money. But if you don’t know what’s coming into your bank account and what’s going out, chances are you don’t know how much you can devote to your goals. And most people generally don’t track their income and spending, says Blaylock. ‘It really is shocking to me that clients I work with don’t always review their pay stub,’ he says.”

Our Sunday school teacher first introduced Ron and I to the concept of the Love Tank. We all have a one. Every day Ron and I make withdrawals and deposits into each other’s tanks. When Ron is short or snippy with me, it drains half of my tank. When he says thank you for dinner, it puts one cup back in the 20 gallon tank. That’s just the truth of how we humans operate. If a store gives us good service we walk away satisfied and probably don’t mention it to anyone. After all, that’s the store’s job. But if we get bad service? Look out. We’ll tell ten people how poorly the bag boy did at the grocery store when we get home and find our smooshed bread. That’s the law of the tank. Good behavior puts a little in, bad behavior (or even the lack of good behavior) takes a lot out.

And Forbes makes a point: “Most people don’t track their income and spending.” Do you and your husband share your feelings openly with respect? If not, you probably have no idea how close to empty his tank is. You may have some humiliation coming your way in the form of angry words in public or your husband putting you down in front of friends. (The equivalent of having your credit card denied when you’re standing at the register with a long line of people behind you!)

Habit #7: Getting Out Of Debt

Forbes says, “Everyone has debt at some point in their life. But if you have bad debt—not student loans and mortgages, but credit card debt, where you’re paying high monthly interest rates—nixing it and getting out of the habit of being a debtor—should be priority number one. “I want somebody to develop a plan to have them out of that debt in 36 months or less,” says Blaylock. “It’s hindering you from making progress on your other goals.”

Once upon a time, I had a very big debt. My infidelity and adultery completely emptied Ron’s tank and then some. I was “in the red” big time. Most marriages end at that point. Those deal breaker moments kill an already wounded marriage. By God’s great grace, my husband chose to forgive and keep me despite my having been unfaithful two different times. I was deeply indebted to him. I had a choice. I could bale out and save myself the long trek back to marital health—file divorce and marital bankruptcy—or I could work overtime and weekends to pay my debt.

God’s grace again getting all the credit, I dug in and did the work. There were new boundaries to respect. I was constantly being checked up on and kept accountable. I had to humbly accept the fact that I had proven myself untrustworthy. It was humiliating and painful. I rejected friend requests from harmless male friends on Facebook. I wasn’t allowed to get a job outside of our home. I reported regularly on my comings and goings. I apologized a lot.

It sucked.

But, time and love really do heal wounds. Today, barely a trace remains of the original stringent rules that I had to follow to get out of debt. I’m still careful and I still exercise wisdom in my dealings with the opposite sex, but I can say for certain that I have earned back my husband’s heart and trust and then some. He admires me. He considers me virtuous. He feels safe and content in my love. He feels admired by me. He knows that I hold him far above all other men and would rather die than lose or hurt him. It’s been quite an exciting rebound!

Filing bankruptcy (divorce) kills your credit and has long-standing repercussions. It is so worth it to dig in and sacrifice to get yourself out of debt.

Habit #8: Increasing Your Earnings

“One suggestion: Diversify your income streams by working a second, part-time job doing something you love. As far as earning more, there are a few things one can do. ‘For those who cannot cut their expenses enough, I love the idea of working part-time,’ says Blaylock. Another idea: Look for investment opportunities—perhaps with the help of a financial planner—or other ways to get income to come to you. ‘I think retirement income should come from multiple sources such as rental income, part-time income and retirement assets,’ says Blaylock.”

I promised you I’d bring God back into center focus before we were through. It’s time. Though I know that there are tons of happily married non-Christians and tons of unhappily married Christians, I believe that the happily married Christians trump all. Because we have Him. Our earnings count double when we are investing in a Christ-focused marriage. He takes our offerings and doubles them because He is that good. He makes a lot of promises to his followers.

We have the promise of “All things working to our good if we love God and are called according to His purpose.” The promise of “In this world you will have many trials, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” The promise of “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” And, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”

Those promises are ours in Christ. They promise strength and peace when the world falls apart. When employment is scarce, when someone gets fired, when children are sick, when houses burn down, we rest secure in the promise that our God is faithful, our God is on our side, and he is constantly seeking our best interest. Those are promises we can cling to and rest secure in when a marriage with any other foundation would fail.

Habit #9: Consider Consulting An Expert

Can you believe this is a list of financial advice from Forbes? It’s like it was secretly made for marriage! We need experts! Not just in situations where counseling is necessary. Not just when we’re at the end of our rope and can’t move forward without a mediator (or medication). We need experts because experts know best. I’m no expert, unless you count surviving the hundreds of sinful choices and mistakes we made and becoming a heavenly marriage by God’s great grace to us. I always tell people that Ron and I have “fool’s wisdom.” Wisdom learns from others and avoids making grievous mistakes. Ron and I have “ill-gotten wisdom” from learning everything the hard way!

I went to Debi Pearl the Christian marriage expert when I desperately needed help. The Pearls have been married since 1971. They have five happily married children and eighteen grandchildren. They have been counseling married couples through their ministry “No Greater Joy” for many years and have written several books. I trust their heart for marriage, and I’ve proved their wisdom in my own.

The most valuable Expert is God Himself. Committing ourselves to the study of His Word and prayer is one of the main investments in a godly marriage. Through deepening my walk with Him, in diligence, I have seen improvement in my marriage little by little, day by day for fifteen years. The other godly marriages—that I’ve had the privilege of spying on—have admitted that God’s Word is their secret; that prayer and diligence in becoming more like Christ is the reason for their firm foundation.

If you are currently going bankrupt, I can practically hear your thoughts right now. You’re thinking, “I’ve already done too much wrong. I’m not “godly” like so-and-so.”

Would you consider my horrible example? Ron and I had no proper pre-marital counseling, he came from a very rough, unsaved background, we had sex before marriage, we hated each other within two weeks of marrying after five years of dating, we were broke with no college education in the beginning, and I cheated on him twice. That was our resume. I highly doubt your’s could be much worse. I dare you to believe that you could be a marriage millionaire like Ron and I. I dare you to go for your own “rags to riches.” Those are the best stories. Rich people who make rich children aren’t nearly as inspiring as someone from the ghetto becoming the next Bill Gates.

One more gold nugget from Debi Pearl:

God’s reward is without measure. Men are like clay in the hands of a woman whom they can trust with their hearts. A man, lost or saved, responds to a woman who honors him. When a woman looks to her husband with a face that is full of laughter and delight, he will look forward to being with her. If her voice speaks words of thanksgiving and joyful appreciation of him, he will want to listen to her. If her actions are full of service and creativity, and if she has goodwill towards him, he will be drawn to her as a bee is to honey. This kind of lady is altogether feminine. She is what God created and gave to Adam.
Deep in our heart we all want the same thing. We all want to be loved and cherished. We all cry out with our utmost being to be treasured in the heart of our husbands. It is the greatest honor on earth to know your husband is thrilled that you are his woman. It passes all of earth’s blessings to feel his gaze upon you and know that you are his greatest gift, his most prized possession, his best friend, his favorite pastime, his only chum, and his delight as a lover. It is a great joy to know that he is actually proud you are his. It is not remembering birthdays, opening the door of a car, or other silly customs that we crave, it is the knowledge that he is totally taken with us. We want him to want us. We simply want to be loved. It is God’s perfect will for our husbands to love us. It is God’s perfect will for us to honor, obey and reverence our husbands. God’s way works. If what you are doing this year has not worked, why not go God’s way? —http://nogreaterjoy.org/articles/the-jezebel-profile/ by Debi Pearl

1 Thessalonians 5:24 English Standard Version (ESV)
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

To view the Article on Forbes that I adapted:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2014/05/13/9-financial-habits-that-can-make-you-wealthy/3/

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