Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Inner Views of Wanda Ward

"The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, 
my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence."
2 Samuel 22:3
(KJV)

Today, I am so thrilled to share the interview of a precious sister in the Lord,
who has been a dear blessing to me, through the writing on her blog,
through the encouragement she so often leaves here,
 and through the technical expertise and help she has been so willing to provide.

I know you will be abundantly blessed as you read her testimony and the words she has shared with us here.  


I am so thankful to bring to you the
of
Wisdom-seeker, Jesus-lover, Book Enthusiast, Blogger,
Wanda Ward.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself. 

Wanda:  Thanks for having me, Cheryl. I’m an Arkansan that still lives in my small hometown, which was mentioned in Maya Angelou’s, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings". For the longest time, I considered myself a middle child, but then my younger brother came along and totally threw off that balance. Until then it was just three girls, and I indeed was the girl in the middle. Currently, I spend my days working as a case management coordinator for an older adult program and my free time is spent reading books and tending to my blogs.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony. How long have you been a Christian? What life events led you to the cross? 

Wanda:  Having been raised with a Christian mother (however my father was not) church has always been a part of my life. My siblings and I joke that she had us at church every time the doors were opened. Because I felt church was forced upon on me in certain regards, it would be years before I fully accepted the Truth of God’s Word as personal to me. Being raised in a very strict religious environment, it always felt as if I didn’t measure up or wasn’t quite good enough. I even went through a period of not attending church for a couple of years, but God in his faithfulness drew me back to him in my early twenties. And I’m grateful that He pursues us.

Cheryl:  Looking back over your walk with Jesus, can you share with us about a season of life in which you most felt His love for you? In what ways did He physically demonstrate how much He cared for you during that time?

Wanda:  One of those times for me would be when I desperately wanted a career change and to everyone around it made no sense to walk away. However, I dug into God’s Word believing that He could provide good for me even in this small place. I wanted to know that He was God of the little town just as much as the big city, and it wasn’t necessary to move off to see his goodness. And God proved himself to me. I saw a job announcement for a position just a day before it was to close, and I applied. After being interviewed and hired for the position that was advertised as  a 3-year grant-funded position, I find myself still there today. My job duties have changed, but God has kept me there and even used a skill I wanted to let go coupled with a degree I went back to school for.

Cheryl:  Who are your spiritual heroes of the faith? Who has most inspired you on your Christian journey?

Wanda:  One person who has inspired me is my older sister, I have seen her walk through the things I didn’t even know existed in churches. While she was shaken for a season, she continues to remain assured of God’s promises. I want confident faith like hers. She always challenges me to see God in the smallest of things.

Cheryl:  When did you begin blogging at The Watered Soul? What do you believe to be the most important thing God wants to accomplish through your blog?

Wanda:  I started my blog, The Watered Soul, in 2010. To this day I am amazed that it even exists. I didn’t know what a blog was, and I have never been one to talk much. It all started as a  way to process my thoughts as I walked through a particularly dry season of my life. I wanted desperately to see and experience what I heard other Christians talking about, but somehow I felt I was missing. I believe God wants others that come to The Watered Soul to know we all have searched and will search for something or someone to feel the empty places in our lives, but He alone fills. I hope they see that I’m just a person trying to find my way. I make no pretense that I have all the answers. But I trust in Jesus, who is our answer.

Cheryl:  Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Will you share with us about a desire you are still waiting for God to fulfill in your life? How do you remain hopeful during the waiting process?

Wanda:  As an older, still single adult, there is the desire to be married, and honestly I struggle at times to remain hopeful. I wonder if I missed my moment by being consumed with education or other things.

Cheryl:  What are you most passionate about? What ministry endeavor most fulfills you? If you could choose any line of Christian service to be involved in full-time, what would you most like to do?

Wanda:  I have always had a love for books, education, and learning. Give me something that relates to researching, teaching, administration, or technology, and I can get lost for hours. I’m definitely a behind the scenes type of girl.

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about Kingdom Advantrix and the services you offer?

Wanda:  Kingdom Advantrix is my freelance business where I provide assistance with blog set up/design, newsletter setup, or one-on-one help to other bloggers. It grew out my love for handling the back-end of blog administration. The business is all about helping other Christians advance the Kingdom through technology. The name was inspired by God, and I had no idea what Adantrix meant. However, when I looked up the the suffix “trix” I was so surprised to see one definition is a female that does or is associated with a specified thing. I am woman who is associated with advancing God’s kingdom through technology. Many people of faith have a desire to share the good news but are not comfortable with the tech side. It’s my mission to help close the gap.

Cheryl:  One of the blogs you have been instrumental in designing is "Blogs by Christian Women". We would love to hear more about this community and what it represents. How can we get involved? 

Wanda:  Yes, I started out volunteering as the Design Manager for Blogs by Christian Women, and at the end of last year, I took over ownership of the site. BCW aims to connect Christian women bloggers and showcase the unique voices of fellow sisters in Christ. There are several ways to get involved. We hope to be a resource for women who are looking to connect with other Christian bloggers, through our directory. So we encourage any women who are Christians that blog to get listed. We just rolled out a new directory. For those who like to share their story, we accept guest post submissions and are looking for regular contributors. I’m also seeking to form an Editorial Board. Anyone interested can feel free to contact me.

Cheryl:  You are an avid reader and often share book reviews on your blog, The Watered Soul. How do you choose which books you would like to invest time in reading?

Wanda:  Oh, how I love books, and it has gotten harder and harder to choose which to give my time and attention especially since joining book review programs and receiving requests from authors. My first criteria is if it’s a topic I think I would enjoy. I don’t want reading a book to become drudgery. Second, does the author’s timetable fit within my time constraints? Also, I have a desire to help showcase Christ-centered books. Many books I read and never share on the blog because it doesn’t fit within my blog’s theme.

Cheryl:  If you could go back and change or re-do any chapter of your life, which one would it be? Why?

Wanda:  Do I have some regrets in life? Certainly. However, I don’t think they grant a do-over. All of my experiences have made me into the woman, I am today. Some lessons I wish didn’t take me so long to learn.

Cheryl:  Will you share with us about a particularly dark place you have walked through? How did your faith in God sustain you? What most encouraged you during that time? 

Wanda:  One of the darkest moments for me was walking through a betrayal in a relationship. I remember many drives to college campus with tear-stained prayers of, "God, don’t let this make me bitter, but better". I wanted to forgive because that is what God’s Word said I should do, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. Clinging to key scriptures and repeating them along with that simple prayer and being honest with God about where I was at helped me. I knew I didn’t have to pretend or keep a happy face with him.

Cheryl:  Who is the one person you feel most indebted to? Why? How has their influence shaped and molded your life? What attribute do they possess that you most admire?

Wanda:  Beyond God, I would say I’m most indebted to my mother. She has faithfully shown up for me and modeled faith and resilience in the face of obstacles. It was her that ensured that I had a rich spiritual foundation.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite "go-to" Scriptures? Can you recommend other sources of encouragement? (Books, hymns, other resources, etc.) 

Wanda:  I find that my favorite Scriptures tend to change depending upon the season I am going through, but my blog’s foundational scripture of Isaiah 58:11 (And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail) remains a favorite. In times of trouble, I find encouragement in Isaiah 43:2. When I’m feeling alone, I’m reminded of Psalms 68:2, "God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land". And, at other times, I find comfort in the old songs the ladies would sing at my church when I was child like, "Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand". I didn’t understand the words then, but, oh, what meaning they have now!

Cheryl:  Name three things on your bucket list that are closest to your heart.

Wanda:  I don’t have a bucket list per se, but I would love to be able to travel to each of the 50 states. And I always wanted to have a scholarship fund to help send children to college.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Wanda:  Pray for wisdom, favor, and provision as I lead this online ministry at Blogs by Christian Women. Pray that I would be connected to the right people and the right leaders at this time in my life. And that I have the courageous faith to follow where God leads me.

Amen, and amen!
Wanda's prayer request is one that echoes the cry of so many of our hearts.
Thank you ever so much for sharing your inner views with us here, Wanda.
Your presence is such a dear blessing to us all!

Please keep Wanda and her prayer requests on your minds and hearts, dear readers,
and, if you get a chance, please go by and visit her blog and consider becoming a subscriber.
Please keep her technical help in mind for any future blogging issues or website needs.
She has been a huge blessing to me, and her rates are very reasonable.
Her heart and main focus is in serving God and His people, and it shows.

May God bless each and every one of you in a special way!

To read previous
click the links below.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Do My Actions Spark?

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works..."
Hebrews 10:24

How often have you heard the phrase, "sparked an outrage"?
Think about it.
We usually hear these three words spoken while listening to the news
and after the reporter tells of some event that has happened that has been unsettling to the people who were affected by it.

We have become desensitized to the phrase, since we so often hear remarks like,
"the teacher's unorthodox behavior has sparked an outrage among parents of students",
or "the across-the-board layoff has sparked an outrage among factory workers",
or "knowledge of the eating establishment's lack of adherence to health and sanitation stipulations has sparked an outrage among local patrons".

Outrages are sparked by behavior that negatively impacts the lives of others.

But, can positive actions spark the opposite of an outrage?
Can a random act of kindness or compassionate behavior also have a ripple effect upon those who are looking on and affected?

Recently, I heard a phrase inside a story that answered this question, really hit a nerve,
and caused me to stop and consider my own actions.

The Travel Channel aired a "Mysteries At The Monument" episode in which they told about the story of a respected preacher named William Danner, who worked with the American Leprosy Mission and traveled around raising awareness of the awful effects of this horrible disease.
It was during his travels in 1913 that he visited the home of the Chapman family in White Cloud, Kansas.
While there, his words deeply affected the Chapman's 10 year old son, Wilbur.
He was so moved with compassion for the lepers that he bought a piglet, named it Pete, raised it, and sold it for $25.00, donating the entire amount to a boy who was suffering from the disease.
Amazing enough, $25.00 was enough money to tend to the needs of a leper for one full year!
A national newspaper ended up publishing a story about Wilbur's act of kindness,
which caused a resulting peak of interest in the American Leprosy Mission.
The Mission began producing hollow cast iron pigs with a slot on top, 
big enough to deposit coins.
The recipients were encouraged to "feed the pig" with coins,
mimicking Wilbur's act of feeding corn to his pig, Pete.
The Mission ended up with donations totaling one million dollars!
The rest is history, as they say.
Banks in the shape of a pig began being produced, and consumers began purchasing them.
Thus, the story of how the "piggy bank" came to be.
A plaque that honors Wilbur Chapman and his pig, Pete, still remains at the Community Christian Church on Main Street in White Cloud, Kansas.

Photo Source

While the announcer was speaking of the plaque and monument at the beginning of the episode, 
the phrase that caught my attention and started the inspiration for this blog post was this....

"Who are the figures depicted in this plaque,
and what cultural craze did they unintentionally spark?"

Unintentionally spark.
This is what hit a nerve with me.

I thought about William Danner and Wilbur Chapman...
and the way compassion moved the boy to reach out and make a difference...
and how this act of compassion sparked the naming of something that probably nearly every one of us have or have had in our homes and/or possession.

William Danner may have felt that his labors for God weren't all that important.
As far as I know, he may have never achieved worldwide fame,
and I doubt if his name is familiar to many of us.

Wilbur Chapman, who listened and heeded the call of compassion, probably didn't do it with the intention of the public ever knowing what he had done.
He may have even seen his action as completely inconsequential,
and I feel sure he never dreamed that we would be talking about him over 100 years later!

But, their faithfulness to God unintentionally sparked a public reaction that still continues to this day.

Do you own, or have you ever owned, a piggy bank?

Thinking about Wilbur Chapman and William Danner caused me to ask myself this question,
"What are my actions unintentionally sparking?"

Does the fire of God's love burn so bright that it automatically sets aflame the heart of another?
Do I, by my actions, point others to the cross or away from it?
Do I live up to my profession of being a disciple of Jesus Christ,
creating a desire in the hearts of others to follow Him, too? 

What might a random act of kindness unintentionally spark in my little world?
Who am I influencing?
Who is following in my footsteps?
Who is watching what I do and how I react to the needs of others?

Just how important are the things we do?
Who can tell or predict what one of our seemingly insignificant actions may "spark"?

In every situation of life, we either leave the scene changed for the better or for the worse.
We can spread cheer or gloom,
encouragement or despair,
happiness or negativity.

How many actions are you and I responsible for on any given day?
Is any one action inconsequential?
In a day's time, how many opportunities are we presented with?
How many times do our paths intersect with the path of others?

A genuine smile when the slow-moving cashier finally begins ringing up our groceries
could spark a desire in her to pick up the pace and strive to be more efficient.
Words of encouragement spoken to the bag boy during our walk to the car
could spark a necessary change of direction in his life.
A compliment spoken to the sad-eyed, single Mom working the McDonald's drive-thru could spark the courage she needs to finally complete that online college application.
An extra few dollars in the envelope of the newsboy could spark a love for generosity.
A thank you card to our child's teacher tucked inside their latest homework assignment could spark a reminder to fill out a long over-due card to the teacher's out-of-state parents.
Kind words added to the obligatory shake of our pastor's hand as we file past him Sunday morning
could spark a renewed passion and fire and start a fresh blaze in his ministry.
Flowers from our garden arranged in a vase for our neglected, elderly neighbor could spark a restoration of her faith in humanity.
Anonymously buying the meal of the police officers seated two booths away from us in the cafe
could spark an onlooker to respect and show appreciation to the local police.
Paying the electric bill of the young family who is struggling to make ends meet
could spark hope in the midst of their desperation and prompt them to help another family.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

Chances are, the actions you and I are accustomed to making every day
were "sparked" by our exposure to the actions of others.
All of us have been influenced, either for the good or the bad,
and all of us are influencing others, either positively or negatively.
Must of it is unintentional, yet, it is happening, nonetheless.
We are "sparking" reactions through our every day actions.

I can still hear the advice my dear, elderly friend, Elanore, spoken over 30 years ago,
as I she and I stood together in her living room, and I tried to repay money she had so kindly lent to me.
“Cheryl, you don’t need to repay me anymore of the money.
 All I ask is that someday, down the line, you help another young girl who needs help.”

I have never and never will forget her words to me.
Her advice immediately sank deep within my soul...deep enough to stay there...permanently.
Her words unintentionally sparked a burning desire in my heart to reach out to others.
Did she have any idea how many times those words would come back to me
in moments of decision while being presented with the needs of another?

Remembering them now, all these years later, makes me want to help the younger generation....
to encourage them, instead of finding fault with their rebellious ways.
To dig beneath the sometimes undesirable, "strange" exterior and facade they have so carefully constructed, and touch their inmost soul with kindness.
To speak gently to them and show them they are important, and their life has value.

What if we all started doing this?
Not only to the younger generation, but to the sadly neglected and too often overlooked older generation, and everyone one else in between?
What if we decided to invest kindness in others?
What returns on our investment would we, and the world around us, receive and witness?
What if we started showing the respect we wish others would show to us?
What if we cut some slack and forgave debt(s) they deserve to have to repay?
Could we "not-so-unintentionally" spark a benevolent, even altruistic, revolution?

I don't know about you, but I think it is definitely worth a try.
The ripples of Wilbur Chapman's random act of kindness are still being seen and felt around the world.
What might our thoughtfulness and generosity to others unintentionally spark?

Is it worth the effort to find out?
I happen to think it most definitely is.
Somehow, I think Wilbur would agree.☺


If video doesn't load, click here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Inner Views of Lyli Dunbar

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
I Corinthians 2:2
(KJV)

I never tire of reading about and listening to the life stories of those who have been redeemed
by the blood of Jesus.
And, I never cease to be blessed by the precious souls I have met through this amazing and wonderful world of blogging.
The dear blogging friend who is sharing her heart with us today is one of those special people
whose path has crossed mine, while blogging.

Each week on Thursday, she hosts a link-up on her blog,
and I try to head over to add whatever God has recently inspired me to write.
She writes straight from her heart, and we are all so blessed to draw from the depths of wisdom
that spring forth from her writing, inspired from her own life experiences and personal pain.

If you don't know her already, you are going to love getting to know her today.


With joy and gratitude, I bring to you the 
of 
Disciple, Wife, Educator, Mentor, Writer, Social Media Manager,
Lover of Stories & Chocolate,
Lyli Dunbar.


Cheryl:  Can you tell us about your childhood?

Lyli:  My parents are Cuban immigrants. Mom and Dad came to the States alone as teenagers, shipped off to freedom out of the clutches of Communism by their sacrificial parents who stayed behind. They met on a street corner in Long Island, New York and married two years later. My birth was a traumatic one, and my dad learned to drive a car in order to transport his baby girl with the deformed right leg to endless doctor’s appointments in the big city. I was fitted with a prosthetic leg, but walk with a marked limp as my right hip joint never fully developed. 

We moved to the warmer climate of South Florida just after my 5th birthday. My maternal grandparents had escaped Cuba in time for the wedding and followed my parents to the Sunshine State about a year after our arrival. They served as a stabilizing force in my childhood and always lived right around the corner. 

Despite being “born special,” my childhood was idyllic. Mom and Dad never did quite get around to having more babies, so I had the undivided love and attention of my “familia.” Mom worked her way back to school and became a CPA, and dad found his niche as a process server. They scrapped together a nest egg to buy a little house on a lake, and we spent many Saturdays treading water and telling stories there in the backyard or at the beach. My mom also passed along to me her love of reading -- we devoured all the Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen mysteries. 

Cheryl:  How old were you when you became a Christian? What led you to take that step? Is there a particular person who has most influenced you in your walk with Jesus?

Lyli:  When I finished elementary school, my parents decided I’d picked up some undesirable habits and vocabulary in public school and determined I’d attend a private high school. A drinking buddy of my Dad’s shared that his girls went to a Christian school not too far from home. Mom had attended a Presbyterian boarding school in Cuba, and she loved the idea of my getting a religious education. Soon, I was attending a daily Bible class at a Baptist school and participating in weekly chapel services. Not long after, I jumped out of my seat in the balcony of the church sanctuary in response to an altar call. The chapel speaker shared the Gospel in a way that awakened my heart to the reality that I was a sinner, and I was overwhelmed to realize that Christ had died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I deserved hell, but God was extending grace to me. I surrendered my all to Jesus and never looked back. For the next 6 years, I learned to walk after Christ by following the example of my passionate teachers. Their impact changed the course of my life. Four years later, I returned to the same building as a teacher myself. 

Cheryl:  We would love to hear your love story. How did you and your husband meet? Was it love at first sight? When did you realize he was “the one” for you?

Lyli:  I spent 17 years serving in the high school trenches as a teacher. My days were filled with grading papers, chaperoning Friday night football games, and coordinating youth group slumber parties. I never married. I’d had a crush or two, but my Boaz never surfaced. I continued to pray about marriage, but I tried not to put life on hold while I waited. I wanted to keep growing, so I earned a doctorate degree, pursued short-term missions on my summers off, and joined a wonderful women’s Bible study group. I focused on loving and serving my family, my church, and my “kids.”

Then, after two decades of planting seeds in the same orchard, God decided to uproot me and cultivate new fruit. I accepted a position at a small Christian college that catered to middle-aged adults seeking to complete their college degree at night. I moved to a new church and joined a singles’ Bible study. 

I didn’t picture life changing so radically, but God loves to shake things up and surprise us. 

In the midst of my new normal, I volunteered to decorate a Christmas tree for a needy family at the church. I showed up after a long work day to put tinsel on a fake evergreen and never realized that choosing to serve that night would radically change the direction of my life. 

The singles pastor sent an email to everyone asking for volunteers, and I remember praying as I hit the send button with my reply: “Lord, let that guy Bruce be there. He seems like a nice guy, and I’d love to get to know him.”

I’d prayed crazy prayers like this many times. God in His mercy had always protected me from my love-struck foolish requests.

I’d prayed crazy prayers like this many times, which is why I am fairly certain my mouth dropped open when I arrived at the church to decorate the tree with 3 other girls and Bruce. 

I drove home smiling like I’d swallowed sunshine. “Lord, Bruce was there. Now what?” 

Thankfully, Bruce was Boaz personified, so he purposefully pursued. I continued to pray, and God filled my heart with peace that this man was the one. 

Cheryl:  What are you most passionate about? What fulfills you most?

Lyli:  I love a good story. I love telling stories, reading stories, and writing stories. I find great fulfillment in seeing how God is at work in lives of those I rub shoulders with every day and encouraging them to keep the faith. 

Cheryl:  Looking back over your life, what do you consider to be your darkest season? How did your faith in God see you through those difficult days?

Lyli:  I thought I knew what spiritual warfare was when I worked in youth ministry, but then I got married. I’ve learned that the enemy of my soul hates my marriage and loves to try to disrupt the peace of my home. Over the course of my seven years of marriage, we’ve faced one sucker punch after another. I’ve learned that limps are not just physical; sometimes we are limping along inside where no one sees. 

My most difficult battle truly was when I struggled with clinical anxiety and depression after a medical crisis in 2012. I’d faced dark days before, but during this season my mind and body were at war with my spirit. It’s hard to keep fighting when you can’t see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I fought hard every day to flood my mind with God’s promises and to continue to pray, even though I wasn’t “feeling it,” or seeing any visible results. I wrote daily in my spiritual journal – a habit I started during college. Looking back at those pages now, I see how God was clearly speaking to me through the verses I recorded. At the time, I didn’t recognize His voice, but He was walking with me step by step through the darkness. 

Cheryl:  What is your greatest strength? How does God use that trait to help others?

Lyli:  My spiritual gifts are teaching and encouraging. I am a natural cheerleader, and I love to help others keep pressing forward as they pursue Christ in faith. 

Cheryl:  Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

Lyli:  I am an extrovert, but I’ve learned to adapt to the introverted lifestyle. Before I got married, I lived alone for close to twenty years. I don’t shy away from solitude, and I love getting lost in a good book. This makes my task oriented, introverted husband very happy. However, by nature, I thrive in community. I find great joy in having friends over for dinner and lingering at the table to talk. 

Cheryl:  What is the most exciting ministry you have had the privilege of becoming involved in? 

Lyli:  Currently, I mentor women who facilitate online Bible studies through LoveGodGreatly.com. It’s a joy to encourage women as they dig into the Word in community. The LGG studies are translated into several languages, and their free Bible study materials help women all over the world grow in wisdom. 

Cheryl:  Tell us about your blog, 3dlessons4life. What prompted you to start blogging? How did you decide upon the name of your blog? How has blogging impacted and enriched your life? Where do you find inspiration for blog posts? Is there a particular place you like to go to write?

Lyli:  I started blogging in 2010 after I had a miscarriage. Just 4 months into my marriage, we lost our little one, and I was so confused and sad. A former student reached out to me on Facebook and shared her infertility story. She introduced me to the blog world, and I found healing in reading the authentic stories that brave women were sharing online. I decided to start sharing my story in hopes of encouraging others on their faith journey. 

When I first started blogging, I wanted to stay true to my teaching roots and title my blog “Lessons for Life,” but that was already taken. I added the “3-D” in front of it on a whim. My husband’s business is nicknamed 3-D, and it’s a phrase that we use often at Casa Dunbar. When I moved my blog to wordpress.org, I had to decide if I wanted to change the name of the blog. I prayed about keeping 3-D Lessons for Life or tossing it for a new “revamped title.” As I thought about who I am and what my space on the web had become, the Lord impressed on me that the phrase “3-D” needed to stay. God has called me to live a fully-dimensional faith. That’s the focus of my life and why I write about life lessons. I want to pursue Christ with all my heart, soul, and mind. Living a “3-D faith” means that I’m:

• committed to growing intimacy with Christ

• charged to affirm others and walk in community

• called to reach out in love and live a life of service

This 3-fold focus was birthed in my heart through studying Paul’s prayer:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.  I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in.  And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.  Reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19, MSG

I’ve met so many amazing women online through blogging, and I love that I now have friends all over the world. Blogging has deepened my love for community. I can share Christ with others from my living room and truly make a difference. How amazing is that?

I write about how God speaks to me through my every day experiences. When I am struggling for a topic, I usually either tune into worship music on the radio, or I read Eugene Peterson’s The Message until I am inspired by a metaphor or word picture. 

I recently purchased an inexpensive small table to use as a writing desk and rearranged some furniture to create a space that is all mine by a window. I love sitting there and looking out at the lake behind our home. I hope to write many stories in this spot, but in reality, I write anywhere I am when the inspiration hits – at work on my lunch hour and in bed with my laptop while Bruce snores happily beside me are two other spots you will often find me. 

Cheryl:  Is there a cause you care deeply about and would like to introduce us to? 

Lyli:  Many people never fully recover their joy and passion after losing a loved one. Over the last 7 years, Bruce and I have dwelled in the valley of grief multiple times. I’ve learned that I do not need to walk this road alone. Free support is available through a wonderful ministry called GriefShare

GriefShare grief recovery support groups meet throughout the US, Canada, and in over 10 other countries. They also provide daily e-mail encouragement. You can locate a group or signup to receive their e-mail here.

Cheryl:  At the end of your life, what do you most hope to leave behind? What legacy do you most long to create as you walk this journey?

Lyli:  I pray that my life will point others to the freedom that is found in Christ. When my life is over, I hope others will say she loved like Jesus with every fiber of her being.

Cheryl:  On your bucket list, what have you already experienced and accomplished? What do you yet hope to do?

Lyli:  I enjoyed going on short-term missions trips to Cuzco, Peru and Creve, Haiti in 2004 and 2009. Both of these trips helped me to understand how important it is to share the Gospel with boldness. 

I hope to write a book about how we can overcome the crippling circumstances in our lives. God longs to transform our limps into a launching pad for His glory as we step forward with renewed faith, roll into His sure-footed strength, and rise above our brokenness and pain. 

Cheryl:  Who do you consider to be your biggest hero? What person in your life would you most like to emulate?

Lyli:  I’m a huge Beth Moore fan. I love her passion for studying God’s Word and her heart for encouraging women. 

My “American mom” and mentor is my friend Janet Yates. She was my teacher in high school, and then my supervisor when I started teaching. Today, she is a good friend. I love her authenticity and appreciate her wisdom. She isn’t scared to tell you the truth, but she always speaks with love. 

Cheryl:  How do you personally stay encouraged? Are there specific Bible verses, songs, books, or other resources that you turn to in times of discouragement?

Lyli:  I find great encouragement from reading the book of Psalms and Proverbs. During difficult times, I will pray through passages daily during my quiet time. This past spring, my husband spent 10 days in the hospital battling pneumonia, and I prayed Psalm 91 over him daily. 

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (vs 14-16 ESV).

I’m a huge book nerd. Other women buy shoes, but I buy books. I have stacks of half-read books all around the house. A book that really ministered to me during a dark season is As Silver Refined by Kay Arthur. She encourages her readers to view disappointments as “His appointments.” 

When I am going through a valley season, I always have music playing. Now that I have a fancy phone, I can carry my Bible and worship music with me wherever I go. 

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you now?

Lyli:  I have a close family member who is not a Christ follower. I’ve prayed daily for this loved one for close to four decades. I like to call this person my “tough cookie,” so pray for Bruce and I to continue to love him sacrificially as we wait for his heart to soften.

Lyli Dunbar enjoys road trips with her husband, connecting with women through Bible study, and reading way too many books. She shares how everyday experiences help flesh out her faith at 3-D Lessons for Life. A disciple, wife, educator, and mentor, Lyli is just a girl working to keep the faith day by day. She serves as Social Media Manager for Missional Women and is a contributor at Start Marriage Right and Daily Devo
You can also connect with Lyli on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

A huge thank you to Lyli for sharing such amazing insight and encouragement with us here!
I know her words will touch and bless the heart of every reader.

We appreciate you, Lyli, and you are such a blessing to us all!
God bless you abundantly, in return!

Please remember to add Lyli's family member to your prayer lists, dear friends.
"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, 
seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Hebrews 7:25
What a comfort to know that Jesus Christ is interceding for this "tough cookie",
right alongside Lyli and Bruce!

In the words of Lindsay Huggins, there is nothing He can't redeem!


If video doesn't load, click here.

Praise His name, as long as there is life, there is hope.
Let us pray on until the answer comes!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Enter To Win A Copy of Tim Tebow's NEW Book!!

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16
(KJV)

I was recently asked to be a part of the launch team for Tim Tebow's new, 
soon-to-be-released book, called, "Shaken".
I was honored and humbled by the invitation, and, Lord willing,
I will give my two-cents' worth and opinions of his book, after reading it.

But, today, I wanted to let you know that Tim is offering the chance for someone to win
an autographed, advance-release copy of his new book!
You can enter the contest to win by clicking here.


I have admired Tim's courage and stand for his faith in God 
ever since Kevin started telling me about the way Tim would kneel on the football field
while playing a game.
The whole world watched, as he unashamedly proclaimed his worship of the One Who deserves all of our praise and devotion.

I also remember how he used to paint Scripture verses on his eye black.
Scriptures like Ephesians 4:32,
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you",
and
John 3:16,
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life",
and 
Philippians 4:13,
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me",
and
Ephesians 2:8-10,
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them",
and 
 Romans 1:16, 
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

After painting John 3:16 on his eye black in 2009,
"the verse was the highest-ranked Google search term over the next 24 hours, 
generating over 90 million searches."

When He painted Proverbs 3:5-6 on his eye black,
it generated 3.43 million searches!

That is pretty neat, if you ask me.

I loved hearing the story of how his missionary parents, Robert and Pamela,
decided against aborting him when a doctor recommended they end the pregnancy.
I first saw the story in this ad.



If video doesn't load, click here.

To see the whole story, watch the following video.



If video doesn't load, click here.

I look forward to reading Tim's book and commenting on it afterwards.
I hope you will take the opportunity to click here for your chance to win your own copy,
and that you are able to take a few moments to watch his video below.
I know you will be inspired!


If video doesn't load, click here.

We need more people who are willing to speak loudly and boldly about their faith in God.
God bless you, Tim!
You are an inspiration to us all!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Inner Views of Michele Morin

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38,39
(KJV)

I love to read blogs written by bloggers who dig deep into the Word of God.
Each time I visit the blog written by the dear lady being interviewed in this post,
I find encouragement and a depth of rich, spiritual insight.
So many times, she has stopped by here and left a kind comment that has boosted my spirits
and given me courage to keep pressing forward on this blogging journey.
It is with so much joy I share her interview with you today!

Michele is wife to a patient husband, Mum to four young men and a daughter-in-love, and, now, Gram to one adorable grandboy.  Her days are spent homeschooling, reading piles of books, and, in the summer, tending their beautiful (but messy) garden and canning the vegetables. She loves to teach the Bible and is privileged to gather weekly around a table with the women of her church and to blog at Living Our Days about the grace she is receiving and the lessons from God’s Word that she is trusting.



And, now I gratefully share with you, the 
of 
Michele Morin.


Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.  

Michele:  I’m a 53 year old mum to four guys who get taller and smarter everyday, and raising them has been job one for the past twenty two years. For twenty six years, I’ve been married to an unreasonably patient man, learning what it means to be “heirs together of the grace of life". Unbelievably, I still discover new qualities to appreciate about him -- God’s greatest gift to me. We live on a country hill in Maine, and every summer I plant a big garden that keeps me well-entertained – and keeps our family in green beans, spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc. for the year. Our church family is located in a small fishing village about a half hour east of us. They’ve loved us well, we’ve raised our kids together, my oldest son met his wife there, and the ladies join me in studying the Word of God in Sunday School and in our Ladies Missionary Fellowship group which has been meeting since the days when we met for lunch and rolled bandages for “the War.”


Michele's four sons in 2010

Michele's sweet grandson, Raymond

Cheryl:  How did you meet your husband?  To what do you credit the longevity of your marriage?

Michele:  The patient husband and I met at a Child Evangelism Fellowship teacher training class. We were friends for years, and I was happily single – really not expecting to get married. We called our dates “friendship appointments,” but, to my surprise, we fell in love, and it was clear that God wanted us together. We’ve weathered some rough days together: the deaths of three of our parents and one of his sisters, the pull and haul of raising a family and managing a home, but I am blessed to report that marriage has been a lightener of the load. I was asked once, years ago, by a friend who had known me in my independent, career-oriented single days how I managed to live at peace in my role as a wife and mum. The words that floated to the surface then are still true today: Trusting God and trusting my husband.



Michele and her husband, Calvin, on their happy wedding day

Cheryl:  What led you to homeschooling?  How many years have you homeschooled?  To the mother who is considering beginning a homeschooling journey, what advice can you offer?

Michele:  When I played with dolls as a little girl, I was never their mother. I was always either their nurse or their teacher, so homeschooling for our family came as a natural consequence of all the “teaching” that happened when our boys were tiny. We just sort of grew into it. Now, seventeen years later, we see that by homeschooling we have given our children the gift of control over their time. With only my husband’s work schedule to accommodate, we were able to have a family breakfast with morning devotions, to emphasize music and creativity as part of their daily learning, and each of the boys has had the opportunity to learn a trade along with college preparatory course work in high school. (My youngest starts high school this year, and I expect he will do the same.) In the early years it was wonderful to have everyone home together, to be able to have a little more control over outside influences, but here’s the thing: it’s crucial that we not make decisions about our children out of fear. Homeschooling is hard work, and fear is not strong enough to carry a busy mum through the commitment, daily sacrifices, and time pressure that comes with teaching children at home.

Cheryl:  As a long-time homeschooling mother, what would you define as your most difficult moment?  During that time, how did you find strength to continue?

Michele:  As a homeschooling mother the word that comes to my mind first when I think about homeschooling is: HARD! It takes preparation and planning, and then the daily routine can feel a little bit like a straightjacket. My boys span eight years, so there were only five years in which all four of them were in school together, but they’re a rowdy crew. I’m sure that there are boys out there who enjoy polishing a sentence until it shines or pondering the amazing relationships among numbers that math reveals – but not my boys. My most difficult moments in homeschooling have been when I have forgotten that I am teaching children – not subjects. I still battle perfectionism and impatience almost every day. Having said that, we have wonderful memories of reading books aloud together, lots of hands-on learning, and days of blessed chaos and togetherness.

Cheryl:  What is the most important thing we should teach our children in this modern age?

Michele:  My husband and I have tried to remind our children that whatever they have in their hand, God will use. This honors their uniqueness, and it also encourages them to strive to refine their gifts, to have lots of good things “in their hands”: not so that they can become proud or self-centered, but so that they can offer them back to God in service and in love.

Cheryl:  If you could go back and change one thing about your life, thus far, what would it be?

Michele:  I’m a slow learner, so I’ve pretty much been working on one lesson for my entire life. It has impacted everything I’ve ever done, and it’s this: The importance of valuing relationships over tasks. I was a machine in college, working several jobs and pushing, always pushing for excellent grades. I burned a lot of bridges, and even as a mum I’ve missed a lot of eye contact and focused listening that I would like to go back and re-capture. Even so, I’m thankful for the mentors God has provided along the way, for the patience and grace of a husband who consistently reminds me that our boys are my priority – not the house work or ministry or any of the other idols I manufacture.

Cheryl:  When did you become a Christian?  What life events led you to make the decision to follow Jesus?

Michele:  When I was in junior high, I began attending Sunday School somewhat regularly and my teacher had just come home from a year of Bible college. She took us through the book of James, and I realized that everything James said about needing wisdom from above and the futility of controlling my tongue in my own strength was TRUE. I didn’t follow the Lord consistently at first, but God placed faithful people like sign posts along my path – and He used the hot fires and deep water of living in a family that was shaped by alcoholism and mental illness to strengthen and refine what He had begun.

Cheryl:  So many times, I have come to your blog seeking encouragement, and I have found Scriptural depths that have fed and nourished my soul.  Can you describe how the Lord reveals His mind to you concerning blog posts?  Is there a certain place you like to go to find His inspiration?

Michele:  I’m convinced that the Lord speaks to us through His Word. If we say that we want to hear His voice but do not put ourselves in regular contact with the primary means by which He has promised to communicate, we’re only kidding ourselves. It is my responsibility to “show up,” to hold myself before the mirror of God’s written Word and to bask in the miracle of His unwavering attention. Most of what I write comes as a result of whatever I’m learning. I want to challenge my readers to push themselves beyond biblical literacy and into biblical fluency! When I’m teaching a series to my Sunday morning women, I have usually published a weekly blog post for them – and for whoever else happens to read it. Regular reading and studying for a blogger are like finger exercises for a musician. They strengthen and build skill so that when it is time to play a piece of challenging music, the raw material is there.

Cheryl:  When did you begin blogging?  What is the main objective of your blog?  How has blogging enriched your life?

Michele:  My pastor invited me to write guest posts for our church’s blog, and the idea of starting a blog of my own began from there. I’ve just finished my second year of blogging at Living Our Days, a phrase I borrowed from a statement by Annie Dillard: “The way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our life.” I’ve carried that quote in my heart for most of my mothering years, because I struggled so in the early years when I came to the end of the day exhausted, yet feeling as if I had accomplished nothing. Learning to value the daily development of relationships with my boys, to slow down and be thankful for hummingbirds and the flapping of clean sheets on the clothesline and papier-mache Viking hats perched on four precious heads was a daily discipline for me. With that in mind, I write about the intersection of family life and theology. I review Christian books that encourage (mostly) women to become all that God wants us to be. Blogging has enriched my life in two ways: first, it has provided accountability for my writing. Second, it has introduced me to a community of writers and thinkers who consistently challenge me to step outside my comfort zone and to press on in this life of believingly following Jesus Christ.

Cheryl:  What is your passion?  What fulfills you most?

Michele:  Isaiah 58 with its challenge to “extend my soul” to the needy has long been a favorite passage. It promises renewal in times of drought which I know applies to the people of Israel in exile, but as a child of God, adopted into Abraham’s line, I experience God’s work of “bone strengthening” and “garden-watering”, and especially appreciate the truth of verse 12: “You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.” Somewhere along the way I heard someone loosely translate that last phrase as “the rebuilder of paths leading home.” This is my passion in this season of my life. I am past the mid-point in my parenting days with my third and fourth sons both in high school, but my investment in all four boys will go on and even though there was estrangement and alienation in my family of origin, I am trusting God for a new beginning with our boys in which the path leading home will always be open.

Cheryl:  What is your favorite thing about being a grandmother?  Can you tell us about your grandson and how he brightens your life?

Michele:  I consider myself to be still a “Grandmother in Training” since we have just one grandson, and he’s not quite two, but what a joy that little brown-eyed boy has been! Best of all, he provides one more way in which we can help and support our son and his sweet wife. We want to be available for counsel and babysitting, to pray with and for them, to teach and train that little guy in righteousness alongside his parents. Whenever I review children’s books, he definitely has input to the process in some way!

Cheryl:  You often do book reviews on your blog.  Can you share with us about some of your favorite books?  Are there certain books that you have felt a desire to read more than once? 

Michele:  I could talk about books and authors all day! I have gone through lots of “phases” in my reading life, but running through all of them has been a return to certain authors who have been “book mentors” to me. For instance, Luci Shaw and Madeleine L’Engle have inspired me with the beauty of their writing and the great care they take in the formation of every sentence. If I have any iron in my soul at all, it is likely because Elisabeth Elliot’s words have galvanized me in the pursuit of God. I used to read a lot more widely than I do now: lots and lots of fiction, random biographies, memoirs, history. However, about five years ago, I began to look at my reading time as an investment – I really don’t have much time to read during the day (although, as the boys become more independent, that is changing), so I wanted to be more intentional in my choices of reading material. I started reading books by John Piper and other theologians, and somewhere along the way I started blogging and learned that I could review books for publishers. The only thing more satisfying than reading a great book is the fun of talking about it and sharing it with others. One of my goals as a reader and as a blogger is to transition from reading so many new books so that I will have more time to read and to share some ancient classics with my readers.

Cheryl:  In the church today, we are involved in a continual cultural war against evil.  Iniquity is abounding, as Jesus prophesied it would.  How can we overcome the prevalent evil with good?  What are some things you do, on a personal level, to make a positive difference?  

Michele:  When I think about the climate of evil on this planet, I am tempted to feel helpless – that there’s nothing I can do about something so pervasive. Then I remember that I have influence in my small world – that one day (sooner than I like to think about) there will be four more “Morin families” headed by men that my husband and I have trained and loved. Strong families make for strong churches, and we need to follow the example of the early church in our commitment to demonstrate that “God is truly among” us (I Cor. 14:25).

Cheryl:  What encouragement can you offer the reader who is tired from the intense fight against wrong?  How do you personally stay encouraged to press on in the face of increasing opposition to holiness in our culture?  What are some of your favorite Scripture verses, hymns, and other sources of encouragement?

Michele:  Amy Carmichael, missionary to India in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s was vexed at being delayed in her journey to India. The boat was docked en route for several days, and she marveled that her traveling companion and senior missionary colleague was taking it all in stride so well. The wise woman’s words to Amy became a byword for her for the rest of her ministry whenever things did not go as expected: “God knows all about the boats.” I try to remember this, for I am guilty of praying “prescriptive” prayers to the God of the universe, telling Him how He should handle matters both big and small. When our boys were just entering the teen years, I often felt overwhelmed by the many “new” influences that found their way into our home. I pictured myself flung, spread-eagle and wild-eyed against a bulging door, trying to hold out evil. This was NOT a helpful mindset! The majestic words of Romans 8, the reminder from Psalm 46 that it is possible to be still in the midst of tumult, great hymns of the faith, remembering the discipline of gratitude: these are key to reminding me that God is sovereign. He “knows all about the boats,” and He knows all about whatever it is that is frightening or worrying or frustrating me on this planet.

Cheryl:  Describe what you consider to be a perfect day.

Michele:  For my husband and me, the most glorious sound on this earth is the laughter of our boys when they are all together. Anything that we do as a family ends up being the perfect day, which is surprising because my boys continually push me out of my comfort zone. Recently, we paddled our way TEN MILES down a river. It was beautiful, but I was a wreck, worrying about the fading daylight, the fallen trees and rock outcroppings that formed an underwater obstacle course to challenge our paddling prowess. I do love being outdoors, and when there is a free minute, a cup of tea, a book, my journal, and a sunny spot on our country hill . . . ahhh!

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about SheLoves Magazine?  What is your personal involvement in this ministry?  What is (in)courage?  How can our readers become involved and participate?

Michele:  For me, blogging has been a community affair right from the beginning. Before I even considered writing myself, I was enjoying the inspirational offerings of other bloggers through gatherings such as SheLoves Magazine and (in)courage. I was much too timid to comment at first, but read faithfully, and eventually felt led to comment on posts that spoke to me. Good conversations came from that (heart-pounding) risk-taking, and one day I mustered up my courage and started submitting my own words as guest posts here and there. I cherish the diversity of these communities, and my thoughts are continually challenged by writers whose geography, race, age, faith traditions are different from my own.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you at this current season of life?

Michele:  It is my deepest desire to finish well in this parenting journey, to continue to build into my boys, and to be faithful in giving them roots and wings. As they grow and become more independent, I’m trusting for wisdom to know how to use my time and to be disciplined in study so that my writing and my teaching will be grounded in Truth.


What a noble desire and request for prayer, Michele!
A big thank you for this wonderful interview.
It was so nice to get to know you better.
You are such a blessing to us all!

Be sure to go by and check out Michele's blog and consider becoming a subscriber,
and please do keep Michele and her requests in your prayers.

God bless you, and thank you so much for reading, dear friends!

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