Fighters of Joy

Joy 3 26 15 Fighters of JoyHave you ever watched two people go through the same set of really hard circumstances, but end up in completely different places? While both people are experiencing the exact same thing, one ends up thriving while the other is barely surviving. What could be causing this difference? Is it because one person is just stronger than the other? Is it because one person tends to see the glass half-full rather than half-empty? And while those things can certainly play a part, I think the answer boils down to one person has chosen to fight for joy while the other person has chosen to surrender it.

My Bible study group just began a new study entitled, Fighting Back with Joy, by Margaret Feinberg. The title instantly intrigued me because it didn’t encourage us to find or discover joy, but rather to fight for it. While joy is something only God can give us, it does require an action on our part.

But how do we fight for joy? How can we somehow possess joy while living in a broken world where bad things happen?

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed about a week ago and came across a YouTube video (Click here to watch it) that someone had posted about a woman named Kara Tippetts. I watched spellbound as tears streamed down my face. This woman was fighting back with joy even as her earthly body was dying before my eyes.

Kara didn’t try to make light of her situation or hide how she was feeling. In fact, she started off by sharing that she felt like a little girl at a party whose dad has told her it is time to go home and she is just throwing a fit. She said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to go.”

Kara (38) was a wife and mother to four beautiful children and had been battling an aggressive form of breast cancer for the past 2 ½ years. She and her husband had moved to Colorado Springs about that same time to start a new church plant. In the span of just a few months, she had broken her nose, had evacuated their home due to the Waldo Canyon Fire (their home was not destroyed), and then was diagnosed with cancer.

She explained that the world says she should be angry and shaking her fists at God, but, “suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness because He’s present in pain.” That He was teaching her to serve Him out of her weakness and not out of her strength.

I saw a woman who knew her time on this earth was coming to an end and was wrestling with not wanting to leave her husband and children, but I also witnessed that same woman despite her ugly situation, radiating the beautiful and unmistakable essence of joy.

“I was just the one there experiencing walking towards my last breath and looking for God’s grace in the midst of it.” Kara Tippets

Kara passed away Sunday, March 22nd. While many, if faced with her set of circumstances, would have every reason to become bitter and angry, Kara chose to fight back with joy.  As one woman beautifully said about Kara, “She doesn’t look for the absence of hard, but for the beauty of Jesus to shine in her suffering.” And shine He did.

To find joy we must be willing to fight for it. We must stop equating being happy with the absence of hard in our lives. If joy can only be claimed in the absence of brokenness, than few of us will ever get to experience it’s life changing power, but; if joy is something we can chose to fight for than no set of circumstances can ever wrench it away from us.

So how can we fight for joy in our lives?

1) Ask for it. In Fighting Back with Joy, Margaret asks the question, “When was the last time you prayed for God to give you more joy?” As I thought about that question, I realized I had never prayed for joy directly. My prayer for joy had always been something I hoped would happen when God answered my prayer request. That I would experience joy if God healed my friend, if my kids made good choices, if God would just open that one door. But joy was never meant to be tied to our circumstances, but rather anchored in the perfect love of our heavenly Father.

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

2) Focus on God’s attributes. In the second video session of our study, Margaret tells us to, “Remain suspicious that God is up to something good.” As I thought about what it could possibly mean to be suspicious that God was up to something good, I tried to imagine myself as a detective. If I was trying to solve a crime and had a suspect, I would be looking for clues to prove they had done it.

If we remain suspicious that God is doing something good in our lives, we will be looking for clues in His Word that prove to us He is doing just that. It is really hard to be constantly focusing on the negative in our lives if we are actively looking for God’s goodness.

Though he slay me, still will I trust in Him. Job 13:15

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1

3) Live in His Presence. Joy is not found sitting in a pew. It cannot be bought. You cannot borrow it from someone else. Joy weaves its way into the fabric of our lives when we are living in His presence. When we willingly lay down our lives—our dreams—our own way, we gain that joy that never can be taken away from us. It’s why the Christians being burned alive in Nero’s gardens could sing praises. It’s why Kara Tippetts could say even while dying, “In this today, I get to live well.” It’s why we can find purpose no matter what we are facing. Joy! Joy! Joy!

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Luke 16:24

In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

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My Compass is Broken…Now What?

Compass 150x150 My Compass is Broken...Now What?A trend began this year as we were all ushered—ready or not—into 2015. The trend encouraged that instead of making New Year’s resolutions (which we almost always don’t follow through with) to rather come up with a theme “word” that would characterize our lives in this upcoming year.

I’ve read a lot of good ones like courage, hope, thankfulness, focus, perseverance.  I didn’t plan on making any resolutions or coming up with a theme word, but I think I just stumbled onto mine.

I have to be honest; I have no idea where I am headed in my life right now. God stirred up my heart and I followed and I ended up in some foreign terrain with a broken compass. Now what?

This morning in my devotions, a verse caught my attention.

“By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8

In Genesis 12, Abraham is told by God to leave his home and to follow God to a place that God would bring him to. Talk about a skimpy itinerary…Abraham had no clue where he was going. And yet, as we just read in that verse in Hebrews, Abraham went anyway.

As Kelly Minter says in her study, No Other Gods; “We’ve all gone through times when we did what the Lord asked us to do and then felt dropped off at the farthest bus stop in the middle of nowhere.” It is easy to be tempted to go back to managing life on our own terms because we get a false sense of security when we think we’re in control.

But I think that is the point.

God is trying to teach us we don’t need a working compass only a working faith. If we are following Him than we will end up where He intends us to be. We may have a skimpy itinerary, but we’re being guided by the One who holds the plans to our lives. We may not have any of the specifics, but we can trust that God is working in our lives even when our journey seems to feel more like we ended up as a contestant on the show Survivor.

Isaiah 42:16 says, “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight, these things I will do for them, and not forsake them.”

God is going to bring us down a path we have not gone down before. We may not know where we are headed, but God will pierce our darkness with His light. He will straighten out the parts of our lives we have jumbled and He will not forsake us.

So my theme “word” for this year is going to be FOLLOW. I’m asking God to help me lay down my broken compass and learn to just follow Him.

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Christmas Blessing Giveaway 2014

2014 Christmas Blessing Giveaway Christmas Blessing Giveaway 2014

I have once again teamed up with Women to Women Ministries and several other fabulous bloggers for the 2014 Christmas Blessing Giveaway. This year we are giving away $410.00 in Paypal cash as we know what a blessing some extra money can be especially during the holidays. All the instructions on how to enter the giveaway are at the end of this post. The contest will end at midnight on December 14th and the winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.

I was once the recipient of a Christmas blessing. Seventeen years later, it still brings tears to my eyes. We’d just moved into our first apartment as a married couple. We’d been living with my husband’s grandparents for several months so this was our very first place. Glen worked as a waiter at a local restaurant and money was tight…really tight.

A week after we moved in, the flimsy piece of wood in the kitchen cabinet broke and my new twenty dollar set of Walmart dishes broke into a million pieces all over the stained linoleum floor.

I sobbed…and it wasn’t just because of my broken dishes, which by the way I couldn’t afford to replace.

Living in a rundown apartment complex with barely enough money to scrape by wasn’t how I envisioned starting off my marriage. Our apartment was located on the second floor and I still can remember how difficult it was carrying our dirty laundry down all those stairs with a nine month daughter in tow. To top it off, we only had one car so every morning at 5:30 a.m. I would dress our daughter and drive my husband to work.

To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. I wondered if somehow this was God’s way of punishing me for all those bad choices I’d made in my past. We had no couch, no TV, and from where I was looking no way out.

About a week after Thanksgiving, there was a knock on my apartment door. As I mentioned we weren’t exactly living in the best of neighborhoods so I cautiously looked through the small peep hole to see who was at my doorstep.

There were Christmas Elves on my porch…

I slowly opened the door and a short girl standing in the front said, “Someone in your community has nominated you for a Christmas blessing. May we come in?” As I shook my head yes, unable to speak, fourteen Christmas elves filled my apartment with all kinds of groceries and goodies. A turkey, fresh produce, and various other kitchen staples littered the floor of my small apartment. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

That “someone” who nominated us to receive this unexpected bounty met more than just our physical needs. Those Christmas elves were the heart and hands of Jesus to me that day.  The gifts they brought reminded me that the God of the universe cared for me enough to send me a special reminder of His love. It didn’t matter where I lived, God was there. He would always be there.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules: No purchase necessary. Must be 18 to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Open to US & Canada residents only. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated by Facebook. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release Facebook, Woman to Woman Ministries and all participating bloggers of all liability. Contest ends at 12:01am EST on December 15, 2014. Winner is randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and will be emailed.

Please stop by and visit our participating bloggers!

Woman to Woman Ministries

Jenifer Metzger – Sweet Blessings

Shari A Miller – Living A Legacy

Melissa Baker – Live ~ Laugh ~Love

Our Goodwin Journey

Becoming A Strong Woman of God

Write the Vision

Coupons and Freebies Mom

Joy Dare Blog

All Our Days

Mama’s Coffee Shop

Beauty in the Mess

Homeschool Encouragement

Kayse Pratt

The Pocket Occupational Therapist

C Family of 6

The Focused Homemaker

Faith & Good Works

Kara Chupp

Hearts for Home

You Don’t Have to Let a Hindrance be a Hindrance…

Geese 225x300 You Dont Have to Let a Hindrance be a Hindrance...Last week I spent a lot of time looking at hindrances and how they can become detrimental to our lives. Yesterday morning as I was heading out the door to drive to my Bible study meeting, a family of geese conducting a reunion in my driveway hindered me from getting out. The irony was not lost on me. Even when I was honking like a mad woman, those silly geese just slowly meandered away as if I was the one hindering them!

I don’t know about you, but if someone is going to share something with me, whether it be about how to work through grief or how to let go of bitterness, I want to know that they themselves have experienced whatever it is they are professing to know so much about. In other words, I want to know they blazed the trail before I trust them to be my guide.

No one I can think of is more qualified to talk about hindrances than the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul tells us about a few of his roadblocks and they aren’t just insignificant speed bumps. This poor man was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked three times, spent a day and night floating in the ocean, and those are just some of the things Paul went through. I would have to turn this into two posts if I listed them all!

I’m telling you what, I might have been able to deal with a shipwreck or two, but the first time I was stoned, especially by the very people I was trying to help, I probably would have called it a day and quit. But Paul allowed God to use these hindrances to give him even more boldness to reach others with the gospel. (Acts 28:30-31)

Paul didn’t allow his hindrances to become hindrances.

You know what I allowed to be a hindrance in my life for way too long? My past. The ugly parts of my past kept me silent for Jesus Christ. Those painful memories kept me silent in the pews week after week. Most devastating of all though, is I allowed my past to keep me from seeking a deeper relationship with my God.

However, when God used my brain surgery to help me deal with this hindrance in my life, chains were broken and nothing would ever be the same. God knew it was my past that would become the catalyst He would use to reach other broken woman. When I speak at a conference, in my first session I share what I hoped no one would ever know. It is never easy, but I say it anyway.

“The two moths I spent living on the streets, I watched teenage guys beat one another up in gang initiations, I witnessed drug deals go down, I narrowly escaped being bludgeoned with a baseball bat when a supposed friend was having a drug hallucination, and I traded my integrity at times so I wouldn’t have to spend a night on the street corner.”

While those memories are not easy to remember, it is a reminder of how far removed I am from that person. This is the power of God’s grace at work in my life.

Only He could transform that dark time in my life and turn it into a testimony for His glory.

The other morning I was talking to my sister on the phone, like we always do and she said, “If someone had come up to me and told me that one day God would use your story to glorify Him, I would have laughed in their face. But He did.”

Don’t you think Satan knew that too? Don’t you think he hoped I would stay in bondage for the rest of my life? But dear one hear me, greater is He that is in you, than he that is in this world. Because of that fact, we can overcome anything. Anything… Anything… (1 John 4:4)

God used the biggest hindrance in my life to become the bridge that would allow me to share His grace with others and point them to Him. He is the Guide that can lead us to freedom.

“Some things ache for years while God slowly mends us and shapes us into the image of His Son. But, in Jesus’ wonder-working name, you can indeed demand that the hindrance be moved from that hurt like a mountain moved into the sea.  Just a little bit of faith could change everything.” Beth Moore

Paul, when he was still known as Saul, did everything he could to persecute the early church. Upon his orders, Stephen was stoned to death and many men and women were in chains because of him. Then one day as he traveled down the road that would lead to Damascus, Paul had an encounter with God Himself and the unbelief that used to hinder him became the belief that would free him.

Sometimes it is our greatest hindrance that God plans to use to lead others to Him because only He had the power to remove it.

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Does God See Me?

Cart Does God See Me?Yesterday was not a good day…at all. The barometric pressure was doing crazy things, which meant for most of the day I felt like my brain was being squeezed in a juice press and was extremely dizzy and nauseous. It wasn’t until almost 10 o’clock at night that I felt well enough to go grocery shopping.

I had just thrown some mousse in my cart that promised to control my curls when I came across a very overweight man sitting on a bench right next to the now closed pharmacy section. He glanced up at me with eyes that mirrored despondency and then looked right back down. His hair appeared unwashed and his clothes were wrinkled and disheveled.

For some reason, I felt the Lord impress on me to reach out to him. “Hi, how are you doing?” I pretended to be perusing the vitamin shelf.

He lifted his eyebrows and looked around as if surprised I would be talking to him. He then gazed absentmindedly at the few items in his cart and muttered, “It is one of those barely making it days. You know… the kind of just trying to survive days.”

My heart ached for him because I did know how one of “those days” felt like and I told him so. He seemed skeptical. So I explained about my brain surgery and how my life had been plagued with chronic pain and horrific neurological symptoms ever since. I explained that is why I was grocery shopping so late.

He let out a halfhearted laugh, “I grocery shop late at night because there aren’t a lot of people. I don’t have to see how they look at me.” As he wiped the sweat from his brow with his oversized t-shirt, I wondered how many people had snubbed their noses or how many looks of disgust this man had endured before he began avoiding people all together? When was the last time someone had engaged this man in conversation? When was the last time he felt worth something?

I struggled to blink back the tears that began to form. As we continued to converse he mentioned how nice it was to speak to someone who could empathize with what he was feeling. I tried to reflect the love of Jesus and reassure this man that he was important. That in his attempt not to be noticed, I saw him.

As I was driving home, these verses came to mind.  “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)

Jesus willingly experienced the gamut of human emotions; the fickleness and pain of this life so that He could relate to us. So that on those days when we are just “surviving,” we could find mercy and grace in our deepest moments of need.

I don’t understand why, but we tend to avoid God when we are going through a difficult time. Like that man hoping not to encounter anyone to avoid the pain of rejection, we sometimes distance ourselves from God afraid to cling to the only One who can help us.

The Samaritan woman at the well was going to gather her water during the hottest part of the day. With five ex-husbands and now living with a man she wasn’t married to, she chose to gather her water when nobody else would be there. She wouldn’t have to dodge the disapproving stares or pretend not to hear the judgmental whispers of the other respectable women.

But on one of those lonely water trips, she would meet a Man that had been waiting for her. A Man that would tell her everything she had ever done not in an attempt to shame her, but in an effort to free her with the words of living water. Can you imagine the implication that God Himself had sought her out had in this woman’s life? That while she was doing everything in her power not to be noticed, God saw her.

Guess what? God sees us too.

He intentionally allowed himself to experience our humanity so that He would be able to understand what we are going through. Our hope and healing come from Him.

The Samaritan woman’s story doesn’t end there either. She willingly shares the hope and healing she found in Christ with the rest of her village and because of her testimony many of those people come to know Christ as well.

Our stories weren’t mean to end the day we get saved either. God allows us to go through things, sometimes really hard things, so that we can in turn share His love in an understanding way with those who are hurting around us. It is when we understand that God sees us that we learn to see others.

Every now and then, I get a glimpse of the purpose of my suffering. Yesterday as I spoke with a man who needed a friend, who desperately needed to be seen, I am reminded of that purpose.

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A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper Cake

Diaper Trike 2 225x300 A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper CakeI just threw my sister a baby shower last week. She already has three wonderful little boys so we were all pretty excited when we found out she was having a girl. I wanted to create a unique centerpiece for the serving table that she could also use for the baby, but didn’t want to make a traditional diaper cake. As I searched for something to do, I came across this fabulous idea to make a diaper tricycle. Everything you needed to make it could also be used by the baby.

Shopping List

Here is what you need: A package of size 1 or 2 diapers (you will need at least 60 diapers), 2 receiving blankets (you could do blue for a boy, pink for a girl, or neutral colors if the sex of the baby is unknown), a pair of baby socks, 2 bibs, a bottle with an angled neck (if you can’t find a bottle a sippy cup would work as long as it has an angled neck), some ribbon (this was my favorite thing to pick out), twine or a long piece of yarn, and some large rubber bands (you will need 3).

Making the Tricycle

The directions I followed suggested using a cake pan to form the three tires. I highly recommend using the cake pan. It made building the tires a cinch.

Each tire will be made up of 20 diapers. Make sure that all your diapers are facing the same direction and then using the cake pan add one diaper at a time, overlapping each diaper by about an inch.

Once all 20 diapers are added, gently pull them out about halfway from the cake pan and then center your large rubber band around the tire. Using your fist, carefully make a circular opening in the middle of the tire. Then wrap your ribbon over the rubber band and secure with some double sided tape or a dot of glue using a hot glue gun.

Do this two more times so you end up with three tires.

Then roll one receiving blanket. Before rolling the second receiving blanket, add your long piece of twine or yarn down the middle of the blanket and then roll. Take the blanket with the yarn or twine and feed it through the middle of two of the tires (these will be your back tires).

Place the front tire between the back two tires and then feed the yarn into the front tire in a crisscross pattern and pull tightly and secure a not.

Take the remaining receiving blanket without the yarn and feed it through the front tire.

Place one of your bibs (puddle guard) on the front tire with the neck portion of the bib facing the back of the tricycle. Take your angled bottle or sippy cup and place it upside down with the nipple facing toward the back. The bottom of the bottle or cup is what becomes the headlight. You can use the bib to secure it.

Next bring the ends of the receiving blanket in the front tire up over the bottle and secure it with a rubber band. Once secured, add a baby sock to each end and this is what will form the handle bars.

Lastly, add the second bib that will serve as the seat of the tricycle by attaching the neck of the bib around the handle bars. Using some of the extra ribbon, tie a bow on the front of the bike.

I have attached the link I used to make the diaper tricycle as she thought to take pictures as she was building the bike. I was too frazzled to think of it at the time J

Diaper Trike 1 225x300 A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper CakeI hope you guys love this idea as much as I did! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to sound off in the comments.

5 Rockin’ Moms of the Bible and the Mother’s Day Blessing Giveaway

1mothersdayblessing300x225 zps0d0ca8fb 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway
Today is the beginning of the Mother’s Day Blessing Giveaway!! One mother will be blessed with two months of maid service and a fabulous mother’s day necklace from Rusted Chain Jewelry. All the details on how to enter will be at the end of this post.

Today’s post is all about moms! Here are 5 rockin’ moms of the Bible and what we can learn from them.

Rahab the Reformed: Rahab was a prostitute. She wouldn’t have been nominated for mother of the year.

Yet, she hid the spies on her roof because she believed that the God of the Israelites was the One True God. Because she believed, she saved her family from perishing in the siege of Jericho. Her belief in God changed her life.

She ended up living among the Israelites. She got married and had a son. Her son’s name was Boaz and he would grow up to be man filled with integrity and a man of character.

I think one of the greatest fears we as moms face is that our children will end up making some of the same painful mistakes we made. I at times certainly wrestle with worrying that my kids will end up going down some of the same destructive paths I did when I was a teen.

Rahab shows us though that just because we have made mistakes in our past (even big ones) it doesn’t have to mean our kids are destined to make those same mistakes. Rather, we can allow God to reform our lives and let the power of change only He can bring help illuminate the path that will lead our children to Him.

Hannah the Prayer Warrior: Hannah was barren and full of sorrow. She knew the best place to go with her broken heart was before the Lord in prayer. She knew she would find the grace needed to bear her troubles before the throne of grace. The fact that she shares her struggle with infertility and the desire of her heart to be a mother speaks volumes about the intimacy of her relationship with God. When God ends up granting her request, she then prays a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

In the bad times she prayed. In the good times she prayed. Prayer wasn’t just something she haphazardly did on occasion, but rather something she did because she realized the importance of communicating with God.

As moms, there will be many times our hearts are heavy. We can become unsure of what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of our children. We are tempted to try and figure things out on our own. We end up intervening when we shouldn’t.  We must learn, like Hannah, to develop a life spent in prayer.

Mary the Willing: Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been esteemed as a saint–perfect even, but Mary was just a woman, much like you and me. She looked forward to being married and starting a family with Joseph.

God didn’t choose Mary to carry the Son of God in her womb because she was sinless, but because she was willing. She would lose her reputation. She would lose the man she loved. She might even lose the relationship with her family.

She knew all these things, but yet was still willing.

Our kids need to see us living lives that are willing to be used by God. To obey Him even when that obedience doesn’t make sense or will cost us something. We can show our kids that the only thing needed to be used by God is a willing spirit.

Jochebed the Defier: Jochebed was Moses’s mother. Moses was born in Egypt at a dangerous time. Pharaoh had commanded all the Hebrew baby boys born to be thrown into the river at birth. The consequence for defiance was death, but when Jochebed stared into the eyes of her baby boy she saw something special in him.

Instead of following Pharaoh’s orders, she hides Moses. When he becomes too big to hide in her home, she puts him in a basket and places it in the river. Pharaoh’s daughter finds Moses and adopts him as her own son. Eighty years later, God calls Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.

It is easy as moms to allow fear to creep in and affect our parenting. Jochebed wasn’t afraid to do what was right. She didn’t allow the fear of what Pharaoh might do stop her from saving the life of her son. As moms, we must raise our kids to know God. No matter how unpolitically correct it becomes, we must determine to be moms of faith.

Eunice the Faithful: Eunice was the mother of Timothy. Despite Timothy’s father, who was not a believer, Eunice raises a son strong in the faith who ends up being a vital part of the apostle Paul’s ministry.

Our kids deal with many outside influences. In public school, God and Christianity are openly mocked. TV and media are filled with all kinds of things that are completely contrary to the Word of God. Eunice shows us the power a mother’s faith will have in the life of her children. As mom’s we mustn’t throw away our scope of influence because we are afraid the darkness is too strong. In pursuing our own relationship with God and having a genuine faith, we can allow the Holy Spirit to shine through us. Our kids are watching.

Can you think of any other amazing moms found in Scripture? Are there any moms you know that are living out these principles in their lives?

Now here are all the details for the giveaway:


Price Package Includes:

  • Two months of maid service! (If winner does not have a maid service local to her, she will be forwarded the equivalent value of the prize in the amount of $240.

Jeff and Sarah 04 04 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway

  • Stunning mother’s day necklace from the Rusted Chain Jewelry company.

necklace 300x300 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway



Giveaway Rules: No purchase necessary. Must be 18 to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Open to US residents only. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated by Facebook. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release Facebook, Woman to Woman Ministries and all participating blogs of all liability. If winner does not have a maid service local to her, she will be forwarded the equivalent value of $240. Contest ends at 12:01am EST on May 11, 2014. Winner is randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and will be emailed.

Rafflecopter code:
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List of Participating Blogs:

Woman to Woman Ministries

Jenifer Metzger – Sweet Blessings

Visionary Womanhood

A Mama’s Story

Heather Bixler

Leaving A Legacy – Angie Tolpin

Blessed in Homemaking

The Chuppies

Write the Vision

Beauty in the Mess

Whole Family Strong

Your Modern Family

A Heart for the Home

Abiding Woman

Debi Baker – Treasures Found in Him

Our Goodwin Journey

Live ~ Laugh ~ Love

Awakened Anew

I’m A Lazy Mom

Shari A. Miller

Thankful Homemaker

Book Review: A Beauty so Rare

A beauty so rare 195x300 Book Review: A Beauty so Rare Memorable characters and a great story line are what keep us turning the pages of a new book long after we should be asleep at night. Author, Tamera Alexander, has delivered both in her new historical novel, A Beauty so Rare. From the moment the book begins with Eleanor in a field hospital, during the Civil War, listening to the last regrets of a dying soldier, we are hooked.

Tamera doesn’t shy away from having her characters face difficult situations. Eleanor Braddock, our plain looking but fabulous protagonist, certainly faces her share of hardships. Her father is battling dementia and she is forced to place him in an asylum, her aunt is planning her life to include a marriage of convenience, and her own dreams of starting up a restaurant are quickly extinguished.

However, it is during these difficult moments, that her life begins to take an unexpected direction. Eleanor, while out one day, meets one of the many war widows who are now trying to eke out a living in the city of Nashville. She begins using her own money and limited resources to cook and feed for the needy widows and their children. Although Eleanor would have never chosen this path for herself, she finds a sense of fulfillment she didn’t know was possible.

Unfortunately, this path seems to collide with the plans Eleanor’s wealthy aunt has for her future. Her aunt tries to help Eleanor mix with high class Nashville society so she can secure a match with bank president, Lawrence Hockley.

Complicating things further, Eleanor forms an unlikely friendship with the extremely good looking Marcus Geoffrey who she thinks is her aunt’s undergardener. However, Marcus Geoffrey is much more than he seems. Not only is he a gifted architect and botanist, but is also heir to the Austrian throne.

Eleanor and Marcus’s friendship quickly lead to romantic feelings, but Marcus is engaged to a Baroness back in Austria and will have to return back home soon to assume his responsibilities. Eleanor, on the other hand, needs a husband now as she knows she won’t be able to provide for the cost of her father’s care much longer.

When Eleanor finally goes out to dinner with Lawrence Hockley, she may have found the solution to securing her future. Lawrence, while painfully practical and void of any emotion, seems to be the answer to her prayers, but Eleanor is keenly aware her marriage would be devoid of any love.

Will Eleanor trust God to provide for her needs and continue on in the work she feels called to do? Will she marry the man who can certainly provide for both her needs and the needs of her father or will the thought of a loveless marriage be too high a price to pay?

This hard to put down novel challenges us to trust God in times of uncertainty, to see the people that may be hurting around us, and to embrace the courage to live out lives of purpose. I highly recommend this book….as in go get it now icon smile Book Review: A Beauty so Rare

From the Back Cover:

Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war–and still had one to fight.

Eleanor Braddock–plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty–knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects.

But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.*

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Yummy Recipe from author Tamera Alexander

savory custard 225x300 Yummy Recipe from author Tamera AlexanderOne of my favorite things to do is lose myself in the pages of a good book. I am all about going paperless and saving trees, but I still prefer to hold a book in my hand, to hear the rustling of pages being turned, and to watch the pages pucker up as my tears fall. Besides, you can’t leave a coffee stain on your Kindle now can you?

One of my second most  favorite things to do is cook and try new recipes. I am currently reviewing A Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander and cannot wait to finish so I can post my review. However, in the mean time I have a fabulous recipe to share with you that our protagonist Eleanor Braddock cooks up in the book.

I think this recipe would make the perfect brunch dish on a lazy Saturday morning. Enjoy!

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard

(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit


1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)

1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)

8 large eggs

1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)

1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.

Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust

(makes two large crusts)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander 

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

5 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form the 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at

Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

“There is no way you can start over and move on from this.” That is the lie Satan whispered and my fragile heart believed.

Every time I entertained a small glimmer of hope that healing was possible, flashbacks would come haunt my memories and that vapor of hope would disappear as quickly as it had come leaving the carnage of discouragement in its place.

I was only fifteen when I lost my innocence. I was only sixteen when I ran away from home. I was only seventeen and finishing up my senior year of high school when I found out I was pregnant. This was supposed to be the time of my life when the world was my oyster. When I was blazing a trail, leaving my mark on the world, and embracing my destiny. Instead I bore the scars of a soldier who had fought a war and lost….in every way possible I had lost. I had lost my self-respect, my dreams, my faith.

So I tried to patch my wounds. I was successful in my career, enrolled in college classes, and tried to be Martha Stewart in my home. All those things kept me busy and at times numbed the gnawing pain in my soul, but the wounds were still there… unhealed. I was going through the motions of life, but never really living. I was like this dead tree. Just existing. Taking one painful breath after another. I had all but given up.

Dead tree 150x150 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

That is when I got very sick, was diagnosed with chiari, and scheduled for brain surgery. I knew my life was in jeopardy and I started questioning everything. Just months earlier, I had told God I couldn’t live like this anymore. I didn’t dare ask Him to fix the mess I had made of my life, but I did ask Him to help me heal. And he answered that prayer the day my brain herniated out of my skull. Of course I didn’t even faintly understand that then.

The day of my surgery it was just me and God. I had hundreds of people praying for me, my husband was out in the waiting room, but only God could go through it with me. (I talk about my encounter with God the day of my brain surgery in my post Reflections of a Zipper Head.)

mustard seed 150x150 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!You see my healing would have to begin with a mustard size seed of trust. I had to believe that God was not only capable of bringing me through brain surgery, but That He was also capable of handling the rubble of my past. I no longer wanted to just survive. I was sick of repeating the same destructive cycle. I wanted to be free.

Progress was slow, but with each small step in faith I took, life began to course through my veins. I had to leave my career when I was left with permanent neurological symptoms and chronic debilitating pain. I was unable to continue my college studies and my house that I once could so easily keep meticulously perfect, now I struggled to maintain at all.

Everything that I had used as a vice to heal my own pain, God lovingly stripped me of. Until all I was left with was battle scarred me. I had no more accomplishments or achievements to cover up my endless amounts of failures.

“You are enough beloved. I love you. You are mine. There is nothing you have been through that I can’t redeem.” Those are the words God whispered and my fragile heart dared to believe.

I began to study the Word of God with a fervency I had never experienced before. My parched soul couldn’t get enough. And God began to remove the lies I had been clinging onto and replaced them with His truth.

There is no wound that His love cannot heal. “The Lord has appeared of old to me saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.’” Jeremiah 31:3-4

There is no limit to His mercy and grace. “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

He can redeem the years we have wasted. “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent amount you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-26

I no longer just exist. He has given my life meaning. He is my life. Every time I stand before a group of woman and share the story of how my chains  to bondage were broken, I silence the lie that I had once believed. My wounds are now beautiful scars. They no longer represent what ugly things I have done, but rather declare the unending love of my Father who never let me go.

Awakened Anew Tree 300x226 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!