Friday, December 19, 2014

Three Women Who Knew: The Word Became Flesh.

The Bible tells us of only three women that knew Who He really was; only three women knew His Divine identity. One was His mother, one a distant cousin, and one a poor widow who lived in the Temple. When a prince is born to a royal family today, it is on all the tv channels, in all the newspapers, his arrival talked about for months, and gifts are sent from around the world. But no one knew of His arrival. His identity was known by only a few.

After Gabriel made his announcement to Mary, did she tell her mother? What did she tell her mother? How do you explain Emanuel to your mother? Miraculous conception isn't something you explain, it is something one must......know.

Mary knew; with one cell of her body she knew when the Prince of Peace began to grow in her womb. But who could she tell? Who would believe that the Kings of Kings could be Mary's child; she was a peasant, He would be a peasant, too.

When I was expecting each of our sons, I loved talking with my mom and other women about the soon arrival. There is such a sweet bond between mother and daughter during that time and I am so thankful that I experienced that with my mom. With my first, I listened wide eyed to the tales of older women and their experiences with labor and delivery. And more than once I caught my mother's eye as she cautioned them not to say "too much" in my presence. I enjoyed being with my friends who were expecting. During two of my pregnancies, two of my sisters were also expecting babies about the same time and it was a sweet time of "baby talk" and hopes and dreams. Did Mary have sisters? What did the older women say about her and her baby? They didn't know Who He was; but Mary knew.

Elizabeth knew. The moment Mary walked through the door of her cousin's home and her own son, John, leaped in her womb, Elizabeth knew. She knew she was in the presence of holiness, of perfection. And for a brief time Mary could enjoy the joys of expecting her first born Son, unafraid, unashamed, completely accepted and loved. It was a secret the two women could share with no one else; Mary's Son was God.

Anna knew. She had lived in the Temple quarters for women for over eighty years. She had seen lots of babies come and go. She knew when parents brought their eight day old baby boys to be circumcised, she knew when they were brought to the Temple to be blessed and with each new baby boy she hoped and wondered if this was the One; could this be the Messiah? And then she saw Him, and she knew.....the One she had waited her whole life to see was there, in the flesh, for her to hold and bless and to praise God for His promise kept, fulfilled.

Could there have been more? Maybe, but I doubt it. God shares His secrets with but a few. Psalm 25:14;
"The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant."

I know who to share my secrets with, don't you? I share them with those I trust, with those who respect me. Mary, Elizabeth, Anna; women who could be trusted with the secret. Women God knew who respected Him, believed His Word, trusted His promises. Soon the secret would be revealed to all, but for now, only three women knew that a young Jewish woman had given birth to the Savior of the World.

Dear friend, I hope you know Him. It isn't a secret anymore; the angels announced His birth on that night, months later wise men came from afar to worship Him and bring Him gifts.Others soon learned that God had come to earth in the flesh. John 1: 14:
"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory; the glory as the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

If you do not know Him, you can. And this is how you can know Him as Emanuel, as the Divine Son of God, as the Word that became flesh and dwells among us;
1. Admit you are a sinner. Romans 3:23; All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Romans 5:8; "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
2. Believe. Romans 10: 9,10; "If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and will BELIEVE in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED."
3. Believe and Receive. Romans 10:13; "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

Friend, you can know the joy of salvation this Christmas season; you can have the greatest gift of all. If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, please pray this prayer:
"Lord Jesus, I am lost, I am a sinner. I want to be saved from my sins. Please come into my heart, forgive me of my sins, and today I give my life to you and accept You as my Lord and Savior."

He will not turn anyone away. He loves you. He longs to give you His gift.

I'd love to hear from you. Have a Merry, Merry, Blessed Christmas.

With love and blessings to you and your family from:
David, Penny and the whole Noffsinger family.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Feel Like You Are Living in a Pressure Cooker??

Pressure. Ever feel like you are under so much pressure you could......explode?

My Mom would sometimes use a "pressure cooker" when she wanted to get the potatoes done in a hurry or get meat tender quickly, especially on Sunday after church. No, we never went out to eat, ate sandwiches, or waited till supper time for our "big meal" on Sunday. My Mom, every single Sunday of my growing up years, cooked a full meal and had it ready within an hour after we arrived home from church. The family sat down AT the table together and that Sunday dinner tradition impressed me so much that as a young Mom, I was determined that my boys have that same experience. And we did. For years after they married and had homes of their own, when they could, they came here after church on Sunday and we enjoyed Sunday dinner together. And yes, from time to time, I used a "pressure cooker."

Every woman of my Mom's generation, that I know of, had a pressure cooker and she used it every Sunday. A pressure cooker works by tightly sealing the lid onto the pot, the lid has a small hole in the top, and a little regulator fits over that hole. The idea of the pressure cooker is that as the food inside it cooks, steam builds, then escapes through the hole and it is let off at regular intervals by the regulator. The food, under intense pressure, gets cooked very quickly. After the food is cooked, the pot is removed from the heat and the pressure is released a little at a time until there is no pressure left inside. Great idea right? And this is my Mom's pressure cooker. I use it occasionally, but actually, I am a little intimidated by it.

Not a great pic and you can sure tell it was used a lot, but girls, this is an old fashioned pressure cooker!!
It was the last one she used, but certainly not the first one. It really would be an antique!









 I don't remember any "explosions" with that pressure cooker, but David also remembers his Mom's pressure cooker............

David's Mom was a great cook and she used her pressure cooker a lot. One day, in a hurry to feed her hungry family, she decided to quickly cook some "greens" (spinach, kale, for you who are too young to remember "greens".) The  "jiggler" as we called it, was happily singing on that pressure cooker, the family was in the living room laughing and talking and suddenly there was an explosion in the kitchen. They all ran in and David said "greens" were hanging from the light fixture, curtains, and everything else in that kitchen. (I could make a joke here about the "hanging of the greens", but I won't) Greens cook very quickly and his Mom forgot to turn down the burner under the pressure cooker, pressure built to such intensity that the pot could not handle the pressure and the only thing it could do was to "blow up". And that is where we get the phrase, letting off steam.

Pressure affects every woman I know. Whether it is the girl in Middle School, the bride engaged to be married, the new wife, the Mom who is trying to keep it all together, the women in our 50's and 60's who are feeling the pressure to adjust to changes in our lives, or the woman of any age who feels pressure to fit in, look good, feel good......do good, women today are pressured. And when there is too much pressure, and not enough "steam" is let off, we're going to explode and when we do, there will be pieces of us laying everywhere.

At this time of year, most of us feel like we are living in a "pressure cooker." There are only 31 days in this month, but I can tell you of more than 31 events that David and I would like to attend, together. With 3 sons, 8 grandchildren, our extended families and church families, this month is packed; and in a good way. We love the holidays and we especially love being with our family, and I sure don't want to have those special times marred by memories of the "pressure cooker", (me) blowing up and leaving a mess!
So how do I handle the pressure?

1. Say this with me: "Everything in my house does not have to be perfect and look perfect!" Now remember that when family and friends stop by unexpectedly.

2. Say this with me: "I do not have to be all things to all people."  With all you have to do, I am going to add one more thing to your list; sorry. Each morning, this month, before your feet hit the floor, pray this prayer:
"Lord, help me stay focused today on pleasing You." It is amazing how that simple prayer keeps things in perspective for us, even if we have to pray it several times during the day. I tend to be a "people pleaser" and I often say yes, when I should say an emphatic "no!" When I'm focused on pleasing God, it does unexpected things to my attitude toward all the demands on my busy life. I don't want to over-use that word "amazing" here, but it is amazing how that simple prayer keeps me focused, and keeps life in perspective.

3.  It's ok to have a private meltdown, in the bathroom, with the door closed, with guests seated around the table, tree, fireplace, etc. When you feel the pressure build, take a break. They can handle it for a few minutes if you aren't in the room, they'll adjust, they may not even miss you. Please don't tell my kids this, but on more than one holiday, (several actually), I have gone into my bathroom, closed the door, sat down on the floor, took several deep breaths, hummed a few bars of  "How Great Thou Art", went back to the group and had a great time!! It's amazing, (that word again) how much steam escapes when I focus on God, praise His Holy name, and remember that Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

The old saying, "hindsight is 20/20" is so true and as I get older, I am finding out more and more just how true. And this is what I am learning; most of the pressure I felt I was under when my marriage was new and my kids were little was pressure that I put on myself. It did not come from David's expectations, my boy's expectations, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my church family, it came from the steam to be all things to all people that built up in me, and instead of letting it off a little at time, I exploded.

So, ladies, in this pressure cooker month we live in, take some pressure off. Be sure to have a few minutes each day of quiet, close your eyes and breathe slowly and say His precious name. It is amazing how that name above all names, (Eph.1:21) breathed in prayer and thanksgiving slowly eases the pressure. Take time to just sit still; Psalm 46: 10; "Be still and know that I Am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Put your focus on that baby in the manger, God's greatest gift to us, and enjoy the angel's exaltation: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to all people." It only takes a few quiet minutes, focused on God, to release a ton of pressure.

January 1 will be here before we know it. There will be new pressures in 2015. Sorry, but that is the way life is. Maybe if we learn how to take some pressure off, we can avoid those nasty explosions! (remember the greens???)

Love you all,
Penny

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Thing I Long For

"Oh that I might have my request and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!" (Job 6:8)

Ever felt like that? I have. And we're in very good company because in the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, Mr. Job knew what desperation felt like. What request had he made of God and prayed that God would grant him the very thing in life he longed for the most? He had lost everything; his children. He had lost other things, too, but in comparison to the loss of sons and daughters, everything else paled. But Mrs. Job had lost the very same things that Mr. Job had lost. Was she desperate to hear from God, too? Did she long for Him to grant her the thing she longed for? I believe she did.

I know desperate people. They put on a smile, act as if everything is ok in their lives, but inside they are longing for something that only God can do. And time goes on and still God does not grant their request. I, too, have been one of those desperate people. I, too, have approached the throne of grace with the same request: "Oh that I might have my request and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!"

You've heard it said, I'm sure, that desperate people do desperate things. Job was desperate, but all he could do was sit in his "ash heap" covered from head to toe with boils and listen as those around him told him what they thought he should do. I've been there, too.

Ladies, let me share with you something I learned many years ago and it has sustained me many, many times through desperation; giving thanks for the very thing that I am so desperate for. I know it is not logical, it makes no sense, even sounds contradictory, but it is a spiritual discipline that will transform your prayer life and your intimacy with Christ. Here is how it works and it is based on the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18; "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you."
God intends a command to be obeyed and we can give thanks with our mouth, even though we do not feel "thank-ful" in our heart. You may think you can't, but yes Ma'am you can!

You are desperate for God to heal your marriage. You give thanks for the very thing that is hurting your marriage, and you acknowledge (Prov.3:6) that God will do all things for His glory and your good. (Romans 8:28)

You are desperate for physical healing. Give thanks for your illness. (Proverbs 3:6, Romans 8:28)

You are desperate for God to bring your grown child to his/her senses. Give thanks for your child and what is happening in their lives. (Proverbs 3:6, Romans 8:28)

You are desperate for God to give you/your husband a job. Give thanks that you need a job. (Proverbs 3:6, Romans 8:28)

You are desperate for God to heal your relationship with a loved one. Give thanks for the problem with the relationship, acknowledge God's activity in your life, and trust Him to do all things for His glory and your good. (Proverbs 3:6, Romans 8:28)

True story; our son Kyle had an "old" work car that was not very dependable. Many nights on his way to work it broke down. One day he shared his frustration with me about that "old car" and he was just about at the end of his rope. (Kentucky slang for "had it") I shared 1 Thess. 5:18 and encouraged him to start right then and there giving thanks for that car. And each time it broke down or delayed him in some way, he gave thanks, and then he mentally listed every reason he could think of to give thanks for that old work car.  (very short list)
Long story short, it didn't happen overnight, but over the course of the next few weeks, God began to move in his circumstances and he was able to get a better work car. But more important than a better work car was a much needed lesson learned in obedience and the faithfulness of God to bless our obedience and enlarge our faith. Does your faith need to be enlarged today? It can be as simple as to "give thanks."

Ladies, it can hurt to say those words: "Lord, I give You thanks for............ I acknowledge your faithful work in my life, and I trust You to work even this seemingly hopeless situation for my good and your glory." But,
when you and I are obedient, even when it is painful, God releases His supernatural power upon our desperation and even though our situations may not change immediately, (although I have experienced it)
something changes in us and we have the peace of God that He is working in the heavenly realm to bring about our good and His glory here on earth.

Dear friend, if the mysteries of God made sense they would not be the mysteries of God. And I am glad they don't make sense because if they did, it would take the faith factor out of our desperation.

While we focus next week on Thanksgiving Day and all we have to truly be thankful for, allow your desperation and your longing to lead you to obedience and "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you."

Will you give this a try? And will you let me know either in a comment or an email how your obedience turned around your desperation?

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Giving Thanks!1

Penny

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Give Away Jesus

I know it's only been a week since my last post, but I read a scripture a few days ago that I felt impressed
to share with you: Acts 3:6;
Then Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

I love my Charles Stanley Life Principles Bible. Dr. Stanley has such incredible insight into the Word and I learn so much from his interpretation of the scripture. This is what he said about that verse:

"We may not have riches or political influence or many other things that the world craves, but we do have the Spirit of the Lord living within us--and we can always give away Jesus while still keeping Him."

Those of you who know me know that I believe in the inerrancy of the scripture and I believe that no matter how many times we read a verse or portion of text, we can learn something new. And I have learned something new---Jesus wants me to give Him away....everyday. And no matter how much of Him I give away, I still have all of Him. That revelation is so incredible to me.

When I give away His kindness to someone who is unkind to me, I am still full of His kindness.
When I give away His love, I am still full of His love.
When I give away His compassion and understanding, I am still full of His compassion and understanding.
When I give away His forgiveness, I am still full of His forgiveness.
When I give away His peace, I am still full of His peace.
When I give away His joy, I am still full of His joy.
When I give away His gentleness, I am still full of His gentleness.
When I give away His wisdom, I am still full of His wisdom.

What part of Jesus does someone need you to give them? Whatever it is, it is still ours to keep. Give it away and experience Him replacing it with more of Him. Oh dear lady He is so good and so worthy of our praise.
Give away Jesus today; no matter how much you give away, you'll still keep all of Him.

Penny

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Think on These Things

David and I are in Michigan. Yes, Michigan. Before you ask why, just let me say that where else would a Ford man be during the 50th anniversary of the Mustang? We visited the Henry Ford Museum , spent a day in Ontario, did lots of other Ford stuff and enjoyed a prelude to winter. (yes it is down right nippy) While he is checking out the cars, I thought I would post a quick blog about something that affects every woman I know, especially me:
how we think.

In a recent article in the Western Recorder, "People are Looking for Mercy", Rick Warrren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California said this: "A lot of people think mental illness means people are out of touch with reality. Ninety nine percent of us-and I include all of us-- struggle with mental health issues, and we're not out of touch with reality. Depression is a mental health issue. Worry is a mental health issue. Compulsion is a mental health issue......Fear is a mental health issue."

Rick and Kay Warren have experienced something that no parent should experience; the suicide of their son, Matthew. They have been very open about the mental health issues he suffered since childhood. And while I am no where near qualified to discuss the issues of mental health from a professional perspective, like most women, I have experienced depression, worry, compulsion, and fear. And before I go any further, let me encourage you to seek professional help for depression or mood swings that consume you or hang on for long periods of time. Tell a trusted friend or family member, please don't suffer in silence, find someone who will listen and get the professional help needed to get well and whole. This post is not meant to address those issues in any way. This post is for those times in our lives when we are fearful and worry, when we feel mildly depressed and just a little compulsive. Sound like your life? It sure sounds like parts of mine.

Phil. 4:8.
"Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." 

Most of the things that bring us down emotionally are things that are simply untrue. And lies of our enemy bring on feelings of fear and worry. Who told you that you aren't as good as...........? And who said you aren't as smart as.......? And who is this "they" that we often think are talking about us or putting us down? Stick with the truth of what God says about you in Ephesians 1: you are "blessed, chosen, holy, without blemish, (sounds pretty good to me) adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven," and that's the truth! More truth: Phil. 4:13 and 19; "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." V19; "God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Truth; through Christ you can do all things so don't be afraid.
Truth: you will not starve, God will supply all your needs so don't worry. And since God is always right, and since He is always good and since He will only allow into our lives the things that are best for us and bring Him the most glory, that takes care of worry and fear for our future. Think about that.

The truth is, we are His chosen, beloved children and "no weapon formed against us will prosper." Isaiah 54:17. When I replace fear and worry with truth, I take the focus off of me and my way of thinking, and it changes everything.

Most women can get a little compulsive from time to time. (I am smiling as I write this) We get compulsive with how we look, what we eat, how we decorate our homes, how are children are perceived, and yes, you got it; ourselves. Many, many times I have been more consumed with what people thought of me than what God thinks of me. Read Isaiah 6:1-3. It really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up and sitting on His throne. Above the throne stood the seraphim and what were they calling to each other? The truth is, it is not about me and it is all about our holy, holy, holy Lord. Truth sets me straight and keeps me in my place, but more importantly truth sets me free. (John 8:32) One day, the things we are consumed with, the things we think are so important, will pass away and we will kneel at His feet and proclaim that He is holy, holy, holy.

Guilt often leads to depression. And it doesn't take but one drop of guilt for the enemy to start a fire of depression and I tend to isolate myself. He knows that if we as believers are isolated from other Christians, we develop a more inward focus and the guilt will eat away at us and kill the joy. Guilt keeps us from church attendance, from prayer, from reading our Bible, from fellowshipping with other believers and before we know it we have gone so far we think we can't get back. And that is depression's goal; to take us so far away from truth that we feel there is no way back. But when I think about truth, and honesty and being fair, again the focus is turned from me and my prideful thinking that "it is all about me" and placed where it belongs; on Him. I have learned that when I begin to feel guilty it usually means that I have unconfessed, unforgiven sin that is standing between me and my Father. Forgiveness wipes the slate clean and brings back the joy, it brings back the hope, and it puts out that fire of depression. The goal of our enemy is to keep us so consumed with ourselves that we cannot see anyone or anything else. We train our minds to think in the heavenly realm when we think on truth, honesty, fairness, pure and lovely things, reports of good news, things that are virtuous and worthy of our praise.

Now, that means we may have to change what we watch on tv. We may need to change the style of music we listen to, the books and magazines we read, who we hang out with, and where we go for entertainment, but it will be worth it. Because you see, when we replace a lie with the truth, when we replace compulsive, depressing thoughts with pure and lovely things, dwell on the good news and not the bad, and we look for things in our lives and in the lives of others that are virtuous and worthy of our praise, a whole new way of thinking and believing opens up to us. And when we control our thinking instead of our thinking controlling us, oh ladies, we begin to experience the freedom that salvation intends us to experience. So today, you choose what you think about; don't let the enemy make that choice for you.

I encourage you to read Phil 4:8, spend a few moments meditating on truth, honesty, fairness, lovely and virtuous things, the good news we hear and cultivate virtuous thoughts. Think on the these things and watch God transform your attitude toward your husband and kids, your work and other relationships, and your feelings and emotions concerning the future. God is interested in every area of our lives and it all starts with what we are thinking.

(I did not know they have black squirrels in Ontario! An amazing sight to this Kentucky girl. Oh yes, and at the border, as David talked with the border control agent, he politely smiled and said, "I can tell you are from Kentucky." Now wonder how he knew that?)

Penny

Friday, September 19, 2014

Share the Dream

I've been reading in Genesis the last several days in preparation for a series of Sunday School lessons I'll be teaching on the life of Joseph. His life intrigues me. Each time I read his story I am amazed at his wisdom, self control and self discipline, his faith, and his forgiveness. He stands as a shining example to every little boy and every little girl of what God will do with a life of integrity, character, and submission to His divine will. I have read his story many times, taught many Sunday School lessons, and heard many sermons based on his life, but didn't react to this one particular verse until the other day: Genesis 37:11;
"And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind."

If you aren't familiar with his story, Joseph was son number 11 of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachael. Jacob had run away from his angry brother Esau, traveled to the land of his mother's people, met beautiful Rachael at a well, agreed with her father Laban to work for her hand in marriage for 7 years, was tricked on his wedding night and found out the next morning that he had actually married her older sister Leah. His love for Rachael was so great that he agreed to work for another 7 years for her and he and Rachael were married the next week. Over the course of the next several years, Leah and his 2 concubines gave Jacob 10 sons, but the Bible says that Rachael could not have children.

In Genesis 30:22, "Then God remembered Rachael, and God listened to her and opened her womb."
Verse 24; "She called his name Joseph." Rachael and Jacob later had another son, Benjamin, but in giving birth to Jacob's 12th son, Rachael died. From chapter 30, on through the rest of the book of Genesis, we see Jacob's favoritism toward Joseph and the envy that it created among his other sons almost destroyed his family.

The Bible tells us that Joseph was a very handsome man. The Bible also tells us that Rachael was a beautiful, stunning woman. I believe Joseph looked exactly like his mother and each time Jacob looked at that face he saw the face of his beloved.....and the 10 older sons could not help but see the look of love on Jacob's face each time he looked at Joseph or spoke of him. (Please read the rest of the book of Genesis to see how things turned out. It's a good lesson for every parent on what not to do! Don't play favorites with your kids.)

In chapter 37, we're told that Joseph dreamed dreams of greatness. And he didn't keep those dreams to himself, but he shared them with his father and 10 older brothers. And in v11, when Jacob heard Joseph tell of his dreams, "he kept the matter in mind." I believe at that moment Jacob knew that God had placed His calling on his son's life. Of course he didn't know all the details, nor did he know the hurt and anguish they both would endure for the next several years, but....he knew.

Mom, I believe God has placed within your heart the ability to discern His voice in your child's life. I have many examples with all 3 of our sons when I knew that God had spoken to them, but I'd like to share one in particular.

When Jeff was a junior in high school, he came to me one day with a piece of paper in his hand and said, "I wrote a sermon." For a few moments I didn't know quite how to respond, then I said, "Well what are you going to do about it?" And at that moment I had a sense, deep within me, that God was going to use him in ministry in some way. I had no idea how, but I knew.

We did not talk it about anymore for years, and he became involved with teaching at our church and working with the youth and I thought maybe God would use him in some way in youth ministry. But when he shared with his Dad and me that he knew God was calling him to preach the Word, I wasn't surprised because I just knew....it had always been there because "I had kept the matter in mind."

So how can we help our children and grandchildren discern God's voice in their lives?
1. Love the Word, be a student of the Word and teach them from an early age to be lovers of the Word.

This is where they will first hear God's calling on their life and where He will establish His Word in their heart. A student of the Word is someone who is preparing to hear from God, and this above everything else will develop a sensitivity to all things holy and spiritual in your child's heart.

2. Make sure they hear good, solid, conservative gospel preaching that speaks truth into their young lives.

Have them attending a good Sunday School class with a teacher who has been called by God to teach children. And ladies there is a difference in a teacher and a God-called teacher. God calls teachers just as He calls preachers. (1 Corinth.12:28) Could God be calling you to be teacher? ASK HIM!

3. And this is so important; begin early in your child's life developing the kind of relationship with your children that they feel comfortable coming to you with "their dreams."

Jacob and Joseph lived in a time when children were considered property. Most sons didn't have an open, loving relationship with their father and Jacob certainly didn't have that kind of relationship with his other sons. But in chapter 37, Joseph eagerly shared "his dreams" with his father. Joseph saw Jacob as "approachable". Do kids not share their dreams with us because they are afraid we will not take them seriously or dismiss their intimate thoughts? I love to hear my sons share their hopes and dreams with me. Whether it is Kyle sharing with me his dreams for Africa, Bryan sharing his dreams for his family and his personal life, or Jeff sharing a dream he has for his church, I want to be approachable to my sons and interested in their dreams. And the really neat thing is, now my grandchildren are sharing their dreams; maybe not on as great a scale, but I believe little dreams turn into big dreams and I want to be a part of it all!!

So...as you tuck in those little ones tonight, or sit around the table with your teen or pre-teen, create an atmosphere in your home that invites "dream sharing." What a privilege to be a part of their lives and dreams. And when they do open their heart, (maybe just and inch or so) and share their most intimate hopes and dreams, "keep the matter in your mind" and watch over the next few years how God turns that dream into a calling on their lives. And because you have been approachable and inviting, you get to influence the dream and become a part of it.

Penny

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To Stay or Flee

Did you ever get in trouble as a kid and try to hide from your Mom? Some of you may remember when families kept a "folding bed" tucked away for guests who visited and spent the night. Basically they were like a sofa-bed except they could be moved more easily. It was a regular bed with "springs" and a mattress, 4 wheels, it folded in the middle, had latches on the top, and when you unfolded it, it became a bed that could be used, then folded and stored away till the next batch of company showed up. They are becoming popular again and are great for when the grandkids visit. And for kids, they can be a great place to hide when they are folded.

When I was a child we had one. It stayed "folded" and out of the way until we had company, and one of the funniest stories my Mama would tell was about one of us kids, (not me) and the folding bed.

One of the "kids" did something he or she shouldn't have done, knew they "were going to get it" and ran and hid in the folded up folding bed. Well Mama couldn't find him/her anywhere, then she noticed the folding bed and saw his/her feet sticking out of that folded up bed and got so tickled she could not bring herself to punish him/her.

I hadn't thought of that story for years until I read Psalm 11.
v1: In the Lord put I my trust; how say you to my soul, "Flee as a bird to your mountain?"

David knew what it meant to hide. For 10 years he hid from Saul and then he spent years hiding from his son, Absalom. He had put his trust in the Lord and now he hears God speak to his soul and say, "Flee, just like a bird who is pursued by an enemy flees to the safety of the mountain."

David had spent most of his life in the fields and the woods and the mountains. Don't you know that many times he watched as a bird being pursued by a larger bird or animal flew higher and higher until it reached safety. And how many times he may have watched that bird and longed to be able to fly far, far away. Far away from Saul, and later in life, away from God's eye.

I know what it's like to want to hide and I know what it's like to wish I could "flee". But I also know that there are things to stay and fight for. And in this post I want to share with you 2 situations; in one of them we stand and fight, and in the other we flee. The secret is having the spiritual discernment to know which to do at just the right time; our testimony and our effectiveness depend on staying or fleeing.

v3; If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Foundations are important, right? Does it matter what kind of foundation your house is built upon? It sure does.A foundation is something you lay down first, and in today's building code, that foundation is cement or steel, depending on what is being built. Then layer by layer you lay down the right material in the right order and when you do it right, you have built something that will last and stand the test of time.

So let's do some building; let's build a marriage. What is the foundation that a lasting marriage is built upon?
1. Love for God, love for each other.
2. Respect.
3. Trust.
4. Faithfulness; to each other and to the marriage.
5. Forgiveness.
6. Patience. (ouch)
7. Work together as a team.
8. Commitment to the marriage.
9. Endurance.
10. Choosing to look for the good, refusing to allow bitterness to grow.

Ladies, we are at a crisis level in our world today. The 2 targets on satan's hit list are the family and church and in that order. Your family starts with the foundation of your marriage and then on that foundation you build a foundation in your children. If he can destroy the family then he will succeed in destroying the fabric of our society and he is targeting our kids. We stay and fight for marriage and family.

This fall tv viewing season is said to be a record setting season for the number of shows that do not depict the traditional family, and this is how you stay and fight:
Educate yourself about what your kids are viewing on tv, reading, the music they listen to, who their friends are, and pay close attention to what they are wearing. In other words, get real nosey. Who told you you had to respect their privacy? You are MOM and studies show and I firmly believe that kids today are "needy" for an "on sight" Mom and Dad who love them too much to respect their privacy. Commercials, shows, movies, books, and music that portray families as anything other than a Mom and Dad are targeting your children to help develop in them a tolerance for open sin and tolerance for lifestyles that are not biblical. (I know there are many single parents today doing a fantastic job and I know a few of them personally. Keep it up! That isn't the subject of this post; please keep reading and you'll see what I mean.)

For example; when you watch a movie or tv show and 2 people who are married to other people decide to have an affair, does it shock you? Probably not because our generation grew up being conditioned that, "Hey, that's life." Why? Because there is a crumble in our foundation and we have developed a tolerance for the adultery we see portrayed, cursing and taking God's name in vain, nudity, exploitation of women and children and they are so common place that we aren't even fazed by it. And the result; we are helping satan accomplish his purpose, crumble by crumble.

So how do we stay and fight? We get back to Bible morality. We read it for ourselves, ask God to give us His convictions for how we are to live our lives, and then we speak up; first, in our homes and to our own children, then we don't remain silent when issues come up at work, in the school, in our community, or in our relationships. We don't hide away and let our foundation begin to crumble: we take a stand and we fight!!

But when do we flee? When a man who is not your husband begins to notice you a little too much, or makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable, that's our God-given 6th sense that warns us of sexual danger; "that's your cue to flee as bird to your mountain." And if he doesn't stop, tell the appropriate people in your life. Stand up for yourself, you don't have to be treated that way even if it is your boss, or family member, or family friend. If you are married, do not be alone with any man who is not your husband, do not accept gifts from him, and after the first, "you look nice today", don't let it go any further; flee!

We fight by speaking truth into people's lives, and we flee by protecting ourselves and those we love. And yes, even a teenager needs the protection of parents who know the truth and teaches it by how they live their lives. And ladies, our husbands need our protection, too, just as we need his. That's a blog for another time!

Morality, morality, morality; we teach it by taking a stand for it, and we teach it by fleeing when it's time to flee to the mountain.

Whew........I have felt so pressed in my spirit to share this with you. I know it may sound so out of date and old fashioned to some of you, but.....it is the truth.

Questions or comments?

Penny

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Knee Deep in the Struggle

Are you in a "struggle"? You know what I mean; you feel like you are pulled in 100 different directions at once and you don't know which struggle is worth the fight and which one is not. Struggles come in all different shapes and sizes. I have a friend who is in a physical struggle with breast cancer. She has small children and struggles with how to effectively treat it in order to have more time with her children. I have another friend who is in an emotional struggle with how to effectively help her aging mother. A sweet young friend of mine is facing a struggle with her pregnant teenager and they are both way in over their heads, knee deep in the struggle. Daily I watch a friend struggle with insecurity, low self-esteem and depression. And dear friend, I know that if you are living, breathing, and serving Christ, you struggle.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I don't swim, I awkwardly dog paddle. Since my Dad had such a fear of water that he told us girls we couldn't go swimming until we learned to swim, I didn't do much swimming. When I was about 9 or 10, our Baptist association rented a local swimming "lake" for the day and all the
G A girls and their leaders were invited to swim, free of charge, and my Dad let me go. There were lots of leaders there, plus women from our own church, and I'm sure he felt I would be safe.

For awhile I was content to splash around in the edges of the water, but I kept watching my friends out in the deeper part, so I decided to venture out a little farther. This may have been a man-made lake, but it still had drop-offs and I hadn't ventured out too far until I stepped off the solid ground and found myself in water up to my chin and I panicked. And what do we do when we panic? We struggle. Even to this day I can still feel the fear, I can still hear the roaring of the water in my ears, and still remember struggling for something to grab hold of. As I stood on my tippy toes and tried to get closer to shore, the noise, the splashing, and the fear all contributed to my struggle. I was in "almost" over my head, struggling against the water that threatened to wash over me, and more scared than I could remember being in my entire young life. Suddenly someone saw my struggle and they reached out a hand and effortlessly pulled me onto solid ground, I made my way to the shore, and I stayed there for much of the day.

As an adult, I learned that the struggle I had with the water that day was nothing compared to the struggles of everyday living. David and I married young and when 2 very opinionated, strong willed people try to make a decision or come to an agreement, you talk about a struggle! I've struggled with other issues such as fear, low self-esteem, the usual depression that most women struggle with from time to time, jealousy, hurt feelings and anger. I've struggled with making good choices, and the everyday struggle of being a godly wife and raising our sons. And then as if I hadn't struggled enough, there was the struggle to be a good mother-in-law, grandmother, daughter, daughter-n-law, sister, friend. In other words, the struggle to be perfect and have it all together because that's what people expect of us strugglers, right?

If you are a reader of the Old Testament, then you know that many men, and women, struggled. In Genesis
32 Jacob actually struggled, physically, with God Himself. And poor ole Moses endured one struggle after another as he tried to get those wandering Israelites to the Promised Land! But for me, Job stands out as the "struggler of all strugglers".

Job was a man who loved God and God loved him. Job is one man in the Old Testament that I believe God was "proud of", like you and I take that good kind of pride in our children. Job was wealthy, blessed with a wonderful family, honor and prestige in the community and an all around great guy. Then one day, he lost it all. And for the first time in his life he knew what it meant to struggle, I mean really struggle. I hope you'll read his story in the book of Job, but what caught my eye today is found in Job 41. I was reading in a devotional and saw the verse Job 41:3, and in that verse is a word that has always fascinated me and sent my imagination racing; leviathan. The leviathan is defined as the largest of all sea creatures and in Job 41 the Bible says in v33 that "upon the earth there is nothing that can compare to leviathan."

Dear friend I do not know what your struggles may be today, but as a woman I know you have them. Just know this; that what God created, God controls. And if God has complete authority over leviathan, then He has complete control over your struggles. You may have created your struggle through neglect, wrong choices, or out and out sin, but God allowed it and what God allows, He can fix.

So whether you feel you are treading water and just trying to make it to shore, or if you are-facing a struggle that threatens your marriage, the safety of your children, your job, or your very life, the God Who created leviathan can replace your despair with hope.

In Job 41 God reminded Job that He had created leviathan and He has all authority over it. But please don't stop there; in chapter 42 Job finally gets it. After all of his struggles with fear, insecurity, loss, hopelessness, and pride, he sees for the first time why God allowed his struggle.
v2; Job said, "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You."
v4; "Listen please and let me speak."
And here it is: v5; "I have heard of You with my ears, but now my eyes can see you."

We hear the words of God, but after a struggle with our weight and health issues and God prevails, we see Him.
We hear His words in our struggle with insecurity, but He answers us, and we see Him.
We hear His words in our financial struggle, but then He sends a breakthrough and we see Him.

Dear friend, whatever your struggle may be today, I encourage you to take it to the One Who created and controls leviathan. Remind yourself of Who God is, how big and powerful He is, of His abiding love for you. I am continually amazed at how much less I struggle when I remember that the One Who created all things has total authority over my struggle. Could my struggle in that lake so many years ago turned out differently? It sure could have, but God had a divine plan for my life and He has a divine plan for your life, too. Sometimes in that divine plan He lets us struggle for a set time so that we can grow and expand. And sometimes in that divine plan He lets us struggle so that we won't just hear Him, we will see Him.

Blessings to you and yours today. Thank you to each one who responds; many are faithful to respond to each post and it means so much to me.

Penny

(and just one more thing; when you have been delivered from a struggle, and you see a dear sister in her own struggle, do what that dear lady, that I did not know, did for me: reach out a hand and help pull her out of her struggle. God bless)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's The Plan?

I am a planner. If you read my last blog, then you also know I like structure, routine, and order in my home and in my personal life. As I often heard a wise woman say, "A place for everything and everything in it's place." Sometimes that works, but much of the time it doesn't, right?

Being a a structure oriented, type A personality, goes a long way in making me a planner. When we have a holiday or family get together coming up, I start making plans weeks in advance. Most of the time, planning in advance is a good thing and it sure helps things to run more smoothly, but.......sometimes even the best made plans can get unmade in a hurry.

This month we are celebrating our youngest grandson, Isaac's birthday. He will be a year old and we are so blessed and thankful for his life. Since April had a C-section with our grandson Alex, she scheduled a C-section with Isaac. And since the hospital was about 40 miles from their home, and she would have to stay for 3 days, David and I planned to stay in a motel with the 3 older children so they would be close to the hospital and it would make for much less driving back and forth.

As is true to my character, I had our bag packed several days before the planned event. Two days before the scheduled C-section, I receive a call from Kyle about 6 a.m. saying April was in labor, they were headed to the hospital and he needed me to get there as quickly as possible. Do you know what an unexpected 6 a.m. call like that does for a seasoned planner? First of all, I had "planned" to wash my hair that day and do all the things we women "do" when we know we are going to be gone a few days. I had "planned" to get everything in order here at home, and I was looking forward to spending a few days with the older children and being a help to Kyle and April and their family. But my plans didn't even enter the picture when I received that call. David had already left to get an early start at work, so I called him and told him what was going on, then I threw on some clothes, combed my needed to be washed hair, jumped in the car and headed to the hospital. I was excited, nervous, and deep in prayer as I turned on my flashers and as David says, "Probably at least drove the speed limit."

As I am driving down the parkway, I receive another call from Kyle. An ambulance had met them about half-way there and she would be arriving at the hospital ahead of them and I needed to be there. That sure wasn't in the plan, and I began to pray, in earnest, for God's mercy, His grace, and His blessing. God was faithful to our family that day and we have precious Isaac as evidence of His goodness.

Later that evening after things had calmed down a bit, I jokingly told a friend, "Well as usual, I made my plans, then God showed me His."

Do you ever make plans? It is scriptural to make plans; remember the ant in Proverbs 6? And what about the woman in Proverbs 31? She made all kinds of plans for herself and her family, and they were good plans, plans that God blessed. Making plans, setting goals for your family, your personal spiritual growth, financially and for your health are all good things and things that God will bless. The problem occurs when I focus on the plan and not the God Who reigns over the plan.

Proverbs 19:21; "There are many devices (plans) in a person's heart; nevertheless the counsel (decree) of the Lord, that will stand (prevail)."  I love that KJV word nevertheless; for me it's right up there with "wherefore and therefore". It says to me, "Penny, go ahead and plan your day, nevertheless, don't be caught off guard if I change things around a bit for your good and My glory." Only someone in authority can issue a decree and only God Jehovah has the authority to make a decree in my life.

So how do you respond when your best made plans are suddenly changed and you or someone you love must move in a different direction?

True of false:
1. I get angry.
2. I blame someone else.
3. I try to make my plan work anyway. (can be dangerous)
4. I cry and have a "poor me" party for one.
5. I adjust my plan to God's plan and keep on moving.
6. I learn from the experience and choose to ask God to help me make my plan the next time.
7. I look at God's plan and say, "Hey, this worked out much better than I had planned."

Well, needless to say, God's plan was much better than mine. April had a speedy recovery, no issues with surgery, she was back home in less time, and there was less stress on their family. And for me...I'm learning some planning adjustments. I find myself asking God more often, "Lord, what do You want me to do today?
How can I be a blessing to someone? I "plan" to do so-and-so today, but if You need me somewhere else, I'll change the plan."

I had such a good time that day with my grandchildren.  There was no plan, we just hung out, ate lots of junk food, made a movie of the day, and I inner-acted with people I may not have had the opportunity to be with had we stuck to "my plan."

Ladies, it is amazing what God will do when we let Him "run the show". Would there be less stress in our marriage, with our kids, in our health, at the workplace, even in our church family, if we didn't have to always be in control, and if we got up each morning and said, "This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad." And Lord, what's Your plan for me today? And then move in the direction that the Holy Spirit sends us.

People watch how we respond to the un-planned, and they are influenced, one way or the other by how we react. It's amazing, yes, even life altering what un-explainable, supernatural things can take place when I take my hands off of my life and surrender control to the One Who has the authority to issue the decree and say
nevertheless.

Penny


Monday, August 4, 2014

Boundaries, Structure, and Responsibility

Hey Everyone! Has this been the busiest summer you have ever had or what?? I know it sure has been at the Noffsinger household. We've hardly had time to sit on the patio and enjoy a cold glass of tea and watch the hummingbirds! (one of my favorite summertime things to do. If you haven't gotten there yet, trust me, one day you will be old enough to enjoy it, too!)

I can't believe school is already starting! My Mom used to say that she was always ready for school to be out, but she sure was ready for it to start again. And as a Mom of 3 boys I soon understood what she meant. School means routine and I like a routine.

Recently a Mom was sharing with me about her daughter's obsession with her new phone. We talked about all the advantages of kids having cell phones and she feels that her daughter is mature enough to handle the responsibility, but she had some concerns. She said to me, "All she wants to do is face time her friends, take selfies, (selfies, really? what's next?) text and play games." I shared with her that my boys often express relief that kids didn't have cell phones when they were in school because I would never give them a minute's peace; I'd be calling to check on them all the time! So true. We talked for a while about some things she could do to lessen her daughter's phone time, and with school starting this week, I thought I'd share 3 of those things on the blog.

(to my friend in Uganda we will do a marriage post soon, I promise.)

With kids it's all about boundaries. Boundaries say to a child, "You are loved. I care too much about you to allow you to do whatever you please, whenever you please." I asked her, "Who bought the phone?" And she said, "Well I did." And I said, "I thought so. Children usually don't have the money to buy their own phone, ipad, notebook, or ipod. And since you are the one who bought it, doesn't it just make good sense that you should be the one to decide when it is used, where it is used, and how it is used?"

It's amazing how secure kids feel when parents establish authority in their home by setting boundaries. Ipads are great tools for school and work, plus they're fun. But children need balance and too much Iphone or Ipad time will get the best of kids off balance, quickly. You bought it, you set the boundaries.

Children don't just need boundaries for Iphones; parents need to set boundaries for how their children speak to them, for how they speak about them, for how they speak to other adults and their peers. Children also need boundaries in what they wear, (who buys their clothes?) who their friends are, where they go, and what time they are to be home.

So Mom, talk to Dad and together you set the boundaries for your family.When you do, you will be amazed at the level of respect that will be present in your home. Respect for you, but also, you will treat your children with more respect. Remember, you are the Mom; you bought it, you set the boundaries. You are the Mom; you decide how you are treated by your children, tell them what you expect, then tell them what the consequences will be when they step outside the boundaries, and follow through. Here's a great Bible verse to teach your children about the importance of living within the boundaries that you set for them;
Psalm 101:2; I will behave myself wisely in a mature way.

Children need structure. Parents create structure in their children's lives by developing a routine that works for your family. A set time for homework, family devotions, mealtime, bathtime, getting their backpack ready for the next day, laying out their clothes and a set bedtime all work together to make your kids feel secure, and gives them the structure they need to be successful in school. Structure and routine will give your kids the edge they need to be prepared physically, mentally, socially, and scholastically. A sleep deprived kid, without his homework complete, and all fueled up with sugar and junk food does not make for a pleasant student. And there is no way they can have a good day when it gets off to that kind of a start. Mom, you are the key; work out a routine that works with your family's schedule and stick to it as much as possible. You will be amazed at the difference almost instantly in your kids when they adjust themselves to the routine you put in place.
A great verse for teaching structure; Eccles.3:1; To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Children need responsibility. When you create boundaries in your child's life, then build structure into their day, giving them age appropriate chores will build confidence and self esteem. Work is an important part of our lives. And next to our identity as believers in Christ, our work identifies us. Our work is a display of our talents and spiritual gifts and training. Work is a good thing and most children like to work. When children are given age appropriate tasks, then as they grow bigger, given more advanced chores, character and integrity begin to blossom and grow. They love to hear Mom and Dad praise them for a job well done. Even when they let you know very matter-of-factly that they are not pleased with what you have assigned them to do, but they finish the job and you praise them for their work, you can just see that little face soften and grow tender at your praise and gentle touch. Giving your kids age appropriate work will be a blessing in their lives, even if they don't think so at the time. Here's a great verse to teach your kids about the importance of work; 1 Cor.4:12; Work with your own hands.

Mom and Dad, you are the key players in your children's lives. Our kids are too valuable and too important to us to allow them to live outside the boundaries. We care too much about them to allow them to live without good habits that are formed by family structure and routine. And work establishes their place in the family and society. And as I shared with my young friend, when Mom and Dad set boundaries for their family, set up structure and a routine for their home, and give age appropriate work for their kids to do, iphone, ipad, ipod, video games and a whole lot of other "obsessions" have an amazing way of taking care of themselves.

Here's a suggestion; try these 3 things in your home for 2 weeks and watch the level of respect within your family go through the roof. See if they don't make a difference in how much more smoothly their school day goes and how much work will actually get done. But it gets better; kids who live within the boundaries that are lovingly set by their parents, learn good habits through structure and routine, and who learn at an early age the value and importance of a job well done, will be "stand out" kids from most of their peers. They will have a level of character and integrity that we don't see in every child. Sounds simple, I know, but from experience I can tell you it works. Try it, you will be amazed!

I'd love to hear from you. Contact me through the blog or by email and let me know how it's working for you. God loves your family and He desires that you succeed as a Mom. And I do, too.

Have a great day and a great new school year!!

Penny

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Do You Need a Miracle?

When something extra-ordinary, or something un-explainable by human reasoning takes place, we often hear someone say, "It's a miracle!"

Then we hear a theologian explain that "we live in a time when there is no need for miracles, because we have the Word of God, and miracles in the Bible were simply a means for God to reveal Himself to mankind".

The definition of a miracle is this: "An event that appears un-explainable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural." And ladies, I believe in miracles; yes, the old fashioned kind that cannot be explained by any other means but........God.

No matter how old we are, no matter how long we have been a Christian, we never outgrow our need for the basics. We will never grow in our faith, we will never be the women God created us to be, unless the basic truths of God's Word, of His character, His love for us, His plans for us, are firmly established in our hearts and in our minds and in our very being. And one of those basics is this: Our God still works miracles in the lives of His beloved children every single day! And you and I need to believe it.

Do you need a miracle? I'm talking about a good ole fashioned miracle like we read about in the Old Testament. A miracle like the parting of the Red Sea, water springing forth from a rock, a young boy with a sling killing a 9 foot giant who was welding a sword bigger than he was, or a pagan king's heart melting at the sight of a beautiful Jewish woman named Esther.

Or maybe you need a miracle like we read about in the New Testament; a deathly illness that is healed, bread and fish multiplied to feed thousands of hungry people, blinded eyes that see, legs that run and jump, or money to pay the bills that just keep mounding higher and higher.

What looks like a miracle to me, may not look like a miracle to you, but when I am desperate for something that can only come from the supernatural hand of God, it's a miracle. And if you don't need one today, just hang on; this life is full of hills and valleys and one day, maybe sooner than you think, you will need a miracle and you will be desperate for the touch of God upon your life.

One of my most favorite women in all of the Bible is Ruth. I love her name. It is simple. It is strong. It is a no-nonsense name that speaks of stability, faithfulness, truth. Her name means "friendly", and that is how I picture her in my mind.

Let me briefly tell you her story:
Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem for Moab during a severe drought. The old saying, "the grass always looks greener" certainly applied to them. They were Hebrews, from the mighty tribe of Judah, living in Bethlehem which means "house of bread". They left their family, their friends, and forsook their land and went to a place that was evil, practiced idolatry and child sacrifice, and a place God had cursed and commanded His people to avoid.

Their 2 sons married Moabite women; Chilion married Orpah and Mahlon married Ruth. For 10 years both women were exposed to a new way of living. They were introduced to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But Elimelech died. Chilion died and Mahlon died and 3 wives were now 3 widows.

In her defeat and depression, Naomi makes the decision to return to Bethlehem. She has heard that the drought is over and her hopes are that some near kinsman will be so kind as to invite her to stay in his home as a servant or maybe a care-giver for his children. She has nothing; her land was forfeited when Elimelech made the decision to move them to Moab. Her husband and her sons are gone and there is no one to redeem the land. Orpha and Ruth both decide to go with her, but after a while, Naomi realizes how absurd this is; she knows they will not be accepted, they will be treated as outcasts and she commands them to return to their families. She reminds them they are still young and can marry again and have a family. Orpah turns back, Ruth is determined to stay.

After a series of events that you can read about in the book of Ruth, Ruth receives a marriage proposal from one of the wealthiest, most influential men in all of Israel. His name is Boaz and he is a near kinsman of Elimelech. His father was Salmon and he had married Rahab the harlot after the invasion of Jericho. Boaz and Ruth had a son, Obed, and as an heir of Mahlon, he receives all of the land that once belonged to Elimelech and his family. Obed becomes the father of Jesse, Jesse became the father of David and our spiritual lineage becomes one miracle after another, and another, and another.......

Oh dear lady, please don't listen to the lies of the enemy when he tells you that God cannot love you, or save you, or use you for His kingdom work because of sin from your past. You see, He used Rahab who had a sordid past, and He used Ruth who was directly descended from Lot and his daughter. (Gen. 19)
You can never do anything to make God love you less and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more. His love is unconditional and you are important to Him.

When you and I believe in faith (Matt.:21,22) that we serve the One Who can do what human logic says is impossible, we'll see the miraculous. Do you need a miracle in your marriage? God can do it. Do you need a miracle with your son? God can defy human logic. Do you need your daughter to come to her senses and return to her faith? God is waiting. Aren't you thankful that God defies human reasoning and logic??

What miraculous thing do you need God to do for you today? Don't be afraid to ask; He delights in doing what human logic deems impossible. Luke 1:37; "For with God nothing shall be impossible." I encourage you to boldly enter into His throne room of grace (Hebrews 4:16) and ask Him to step into your situation, whatever it may be, and do the supernatural.

What if Ruth had settled for a life in Moab? Look what she would have missed: a miracle. A poor little girl from Moab became the one God used to bring His Son, the King of Kings into this world. Now that's a miracle. Step out in faith today. He will not fail you. (Psalm 89:33)

Penny

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mom, It's Up to You.

As Beth Moore often reminds us, "It's tough being a woman", right? We play so many different roles, wear so many different hats, and feel pressure from all sides to be all and do all. So why would I, a woman, bring up one more thing for you to add to your list? Because I feel it is important, and something that is missing in many marriages and families.

I was going through some of my notes this morning and ran across something I had written down ages ago, and I tweeted it, then decided it needed more than a tweet; it needed to be "blogged". It is something my Mom modeled for us kids when we were young, and something I tried to do with our kids, although I know I failed many times. And it is this;
"Moms are responsible for how their kids view their Dad."

The way you speak to and about your husband in front of your kids will be the influencing factor for how your children will speak to their Dad, and one day speak about him to their friends. Mom, you do your children a great injustice each time you belittle, criticize or manipulate your husband. Little ears hear a lot, and each time you show dis-respect for your children's Dad, you are teaching them, by example, that it is acceptable for a wife to verbally tear down her husband. And each time your daughter hears you disrespect her Dad, you are setting her up for trouble in her own marriage some day. And each time your son hears you disrespect his Dad, you are tearing down his hero and role model, and making it more difficult for him to be the spiritual leader in his own family.

No man, no Dad is perfect. David and I have been married 44 years and raised 3 sons; need I say more? I know men are imperfect, and we are, too. Ladies, some things just need to be overlooked. Sometimes we need to just walk out of the room, (even the house) take a deep breath and ask ourselves, "Is the aftershock really worth the blow-up?" It's easy to tear down what we've worked so hard to build up, and we can do it with only a few words.

Begin today looking (intentionally) for the good qualities in your husband and point those out to your kids. Don't you enjoy being appreciated for what you do for your family? Don't you feel good when your husband or kids compliment you on how you look, the meal you cooked, how clean the house is, etc? When a man feels respected and appreciated it changes the whole dynamics of the family relationships. It strengthens your marriage and bonds a Dad to his kids like nothing else will. Teaching your children to look at your husband's strengths rather than his weaknesses will build security into their lives. Girls who see their Dads as a strong father, (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) will look for those qualities in a husband. And boys who see their Dad's strengths will be strong leaders in their family, their church, and yes, even in our nation.

So Mom, it's up to you. The most important thing you can give your kids is to love their Dad and accept him just as he is. Our job is to love him and be submissive to his leadership in our home. It's God's job, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to do any changing that needs to be done. I learned a long time ago that the only person I can change is me. I can pray for change in those I love, but ultimately, the only person I can do anything about is me.

If Moms and Dads want their kids to be spiritually and emotionally strong, they have to stay on the same page. There is power in a united front, and ladies, building that united front with your husband begins with how your kids view their Dad. When they hear you praise his good qualities and point out the many ways he sacrifices for your family, you are well on your way to laying a foundation of respect for their Dad that you will be so thankful for in years to come. Oh what Mom and Dad can accomplish when they work together and not against each other!

Sunday is Father's Day. Make it a special day for your kid's Dad. It is tough being a woman, but God has created you and placed you in this man's life for a reason. Respect is one of those things that the more you give the more you receive.

I was blessed to have a wonderful father and my Mom made sure we knew his good qualities and I never heard her belittle or criticize him in our presence. Thank you Mama for your example.

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband. He is the best husband in the world and my boys could not have a better Dad or role model. And I think our sons are great Dads too!!

l-r; Bryan, David, me, Jeff, and Kyle.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Don't Get Caught in the Undertow!

I can't swim. I can dog-paddle like crazy, with my head bobbing around in the water and my hands and feet kicking along, but if my head goes under water I panic...and I do mean panic. My Dad used to tell my sisters and me that we could go swimming as soon as we learned how to swim! Now Daddy was an excellent swimmer. He swam in Green River, in lakes and ponds, but he was also afraid of water. Not for himself...but for us. You see, in his generation, the only place boys could go swimming was in the lake or pond on the farm, or in the river. And more than once he had been present when someone had drowned in the swift flowing waters of Green River, and he knew the fear of seeing that lifeless body pulled from a muddy river with a current so fast it could pull down the biggest, strongest, fastest of swimmers before anyone could even know he was gone.

I did not let my boys go swimming in lakes or ponds. When Jeff was about 6 and Bryan about 3, David and I took them to Kentucky Lake for a few days and we swam at the beach area. Bryan and I stayed mostly on the shore, (after all I didn't want to embarrass myself or anyone else with my dog-paddling technique) but Jeff and David had a "big time" playing in the water, that is, until David and I got to talking, then looked around and couldn't find Jeff!! To this day I can feel the sickness of fear that started in the pit of my stomach, surged through my heart and got stuck right in my throat. As my eyes scanned the top of that water, looking intently at each little 6 year old boy, praying that he was there and just hiding or caught up in the mix of faces, arms, and legs that were splashing around in the water, it was at that moment that I knew for the first time as a Mom what it felt like to not be able to find your child.

Well, for those of you who know us, then you know that David is very calm, level headed, a take charge kind of guy. And that is exactly what he did. I stood there helplessly on the shore, in a near state of panic, ready to scream at the top of my lungs, while David jumped in the water and went to the place they had been playing, just a short distance from shore. At 6, Jeff was already a good swimmer, but there's just something about water, a 6 year old boy, and a Mom who can't see her son, that is not a pretty picture! David spotted him with a group of kids messing around with a tire inner tube, but needless to say, my day was ruined. I felt so sick I thought I would die, and I was ready to go home. And that was just at Kentucky Lake. Now why would someone with my water phobia take her family to the ocean?? But we did. A few times when the boys were small we did the Florida thing, but they were young, not too adventurous and were content to play in the sand or in the edges of the water. But then they grew up.

When Jeff and Dana were engaged to be married our family planned a week's vacation in Destin, Fl. We had rented a beach house, invited Dana to go with us, and our son Bryan invited his best friend Shawn to join us. We rented jet skis, played golf, did all the fun stuff, and the kids messed around in the water occasionally the first few days we were there, but we stayed so busy, they didn't have time to do much "ocean stuff."

Toward the end of the week, David and I were burned to a crisp, (literally) but we all walked down to the beach, David and I sat in the shade of a beach umbrella, (no joke) and slept! The "kids" even our 11 year old, Kyle, were in the water and after a while, David looked up and said, "They are too far out. They really need to get back to shore." And what did I do? I panicked. I jumped up and began yelling and motioning for them to come back, then David said, "I don't think they can." Oh my word! Didn't he know by now that you don't tell me something like that, in quite that way? But I knew he was scared, too. He ran into the water and they were waving, calling for help, all hanging onto a raft, and David began swimming along the beach. After a while, they were able to pull together and start for shore, and as they lay in the sand, exhausted, they began to tell about their experience and all I could do was sit there and thank God that they were there, right beside me, right where I could see them. And still, all these years later, I think about that afternoon. And each time that memory comes to my mind, I pause in what I am doing and breathe a prayer of thanks to God that He brought them out of that undertow and brought them safely to shore. I know beyond a doubt that He protected my children that day.

Ladies, just as an undertow can pull a swimmer away from shore and out into deep water, unbelief is an undertow that pulls us away from God and out into the deep water of sin. A swimmer can't look at the water and automatically tell what's going on underneath. But suddenly there is a scary pulling on your body and before you know it, the shore is barely in sight. And unbelief is a stronghold that keeps pulling and pulling and pulling until we are so far from God that we don't know if we can ever get back. It is so subtle, so sneaky that God is here and you are there and you don't know how it got that way so fast.

I heard recently on a news show that if you are ever caught in an undertow, the most important thing you can do is to "stay focused." If you panic and loose your focus, you'll be pulled down and away from shore.
If you and I are going to have a strong belief in the promises of God that will build a strong marriage, raise godly children in a world that has a negative agenda toward the family, and have an influence with people, we must stay focused and not get caught in the undertow of unbelief.

The Bible calls unbelief a sin; Hebrews 3:12; "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, departing from the Living God."

And our enemy uses the same ole line on us that he did with Eve; "Did God really say that?"
God told Eve, "Don't eat from the tree of good and evil or you will die."
Satan said, "Did God really say that?"
Jesus said, "With God nothing is impossible." Luke 1:37.
Unbelief says, "But what about........?"
Jesus said, "I will work everything for your good." Acts 8:28.
Unbelief says, "But that surely doesn't mean.........
Jesus said, "And ALL things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing (no unbelief), you shall receive."
Matthew 21:22.
Unbelief says, "But surely He didn't mean........."
Jesus said, "Whosoever calls on My name will be saved." Romans 10:13.
Unbelief says, "Yeah, but does that mean you?" Yesssssssss dear sister that means you.

Here is a checklist for the next time you find yourself in an undertow of unbelief;
1. "Where is my focus?"
Am I thinking about how hard that is, or, am I focused on the God Who does impossible things?
2. Don't live by sight, feelings, or emotional responses; live by the truths of God's Word. Choose to think about what He says about Himself.
3. Be careful who you listen to. Not everyone has a biblical worldview, so their "advice" or take on your situation, may drive you deeper into the undertow. Choose wise, godly counsel.
4. Stay in the Word and read, read, read, read. And refuse to stop reading and praying until you are free from the pull of the undertow of unbelief and safely on shore.

And yes, we've been back to the ocean many times since that July afternoon over 20 years ago, but we've learned our lesson about undertows. I wish I could say I've always had faith and never experienced the doubt of unbelief, and I wish I could say I'm always focused. But I sure am trying!!

Thanks for reading!
Penny

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What is Valuable to God?

The more we have, materially speaking, the less value we put on things. If you have 10 pairs of black shoes, (after 44 years of marriage, David still doesn't understand why women need so many pairs of black shoes; he has 2) then buying another pair of black shoes means very little to you, right? And of course women can never have too many pairs of black shoes. After all, they go with everything! But what if you only had one pair of black shoes? Wouldn't you take better care of them, not throw them to the back of your closet, or walk through all that water and mud? My point is, many times the less we have, the more value we place on what we possess. And when there are an abundance of things in our lives, they tend to be less valuable.

Now, imagine all that God has? Stop reading and make a list, (mental or on paper) of all the things that we know God possesses; impossible?? It would be a long list, right? And impressive.

When God Created the World, (title of my children's book!!) He placed value on all of His creation when He spoke the words, "It is good." (Genesis 1 and 2). And from that moment, time began, and God saw His creation as having value and worth. But after creation, after the moon and stars were placed in the heavens and each planet set on it's rotation, the sun placed firmly in the far end of the galaxy and living things began to grow and multiply on our earth, God doesn't speak much about what He considers to be of value. That is until He makes a discreet and poignant statement in 1 Peter 3. Beginning in v1, God shares His heart with us about women. It is very important to Him how we look, what we wear, and how we conduct ourselves.

Some of you have shared with me your desire for your husband to become a believer, and some have shared how you pray that your husband will "step up" and be the spiritual leader in your home. In v1, God makes you this promise; it is possible for your husband to become a believer by your "behavior". (KJV, conversation.) God promises in v1 that women who are married to an un-believing husband can "win her husband as he observes the behavior of his wife." And I believe a woman can help develop her husband's leadership skills by her "behavior".

So ladies, what kind of "behavior" inspires a man to seek God's leadership for his family?
What kind of "behavior" brings conviction to a man's heart and moves him to accept Christ as Savior?

The answer begins in v2: "chaste conduct". (virtuous, morally pure) A wife with "chaste conduct" isn't looking for the approval of other men. A wife with "chaste conduct" is busy feeding her spirit (last post) and as her husband "observes" (beholds) how she lives her life, day in and day out, the Holy Spirit begins to bring conviction to his heart and he accepts Christ. "Chaste conduct" creates less stress in your marriage and in your home, and clears things out of the way, so to speak, so the Holy Spirit has the freedom to work in that home and in the lives of all who live there.

Respect. (fear,v2) Your husband wants and needs respect, especially yours, and when you show him your respect, and see to it that your children do, too, he will be much more open to your witness of the Savior's love and His desire that your husband become a Christian. I shared with you in an earlier post of 2 ladies in my church when I was growing up who modeled these verses for me, and I saw God faithfully keep His promise. Their chaste conduct and their respect did more to win their husbands than any sermon could ever do.

And now the hard part.......what we wear determines how we are treated. If I want to be taken seriously and treated with respect, then I need to take how I dress seriously and show respect to myself and my family by dressing appropriately. And as Christian women, no one needs to tell you or me what is appropriate or what is in-appropriate for us to wear. All we have to do is ask God and He will tell us!! The girls in our lives are watching us and they will take their cue from us. (Titus 2)

Now the good part:
Look at the last part of v4; when God sees a woman with "chaste conduct", showing "respect" to her husband, "dressing appropriately", and then she adds to that a "meek (gentle) and quiet spirit" "in God's sight it is of great price." (great price means valuable) A woman with a meek and quiet spirit is attractive to God, but she is also attractive to others. Isn't that amazing??? The One Who created every single thing, The One Who owns it all, considers "chaste conduct", "respect", "modest dress", and a "meek and quiet spirit" as VALUABLE!! He doesn't say that about a man, He doesn't say that about gold, silver or precious gems, He doesn't say that about anything else in creation; He saved that honor for you and me dear sister in Christ.

I encourage you today to meditate on those 4 things; chaste conduct, respect, what we wear, and meek and quiet spirit, and ask God to reveal areas of your personal life that need His special attention. If these 4 things are so valuable to God, shouldn't they be valuable to us? And shouldn't they be things that Christian women strive for in our lives? And after you've meditated on them for a while, ask your husband what HE thinks about these 4 things. It just might be a real conversation starter about spiritual things and lead to some changes in your home and marriage.And that's a good thing.

Have a great day and thanks so much for the many great responses from the last blog. New followers from Belarus, Sweden, and New Zealand!! Thanks for reading.

I think David needs another pair of black shoes, don't y'all???

Love You!!
Penny

And 1 more thing; my book, When God Created the World can now be ordered through our Lifeway stores or at lifeway.com. I hope you'll get a copy for the little ones in your life. Thanks!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spirit or Flesh; Which One Are You Feeding the Most??

Have you ever watched an entire show on tv, then when it was over you said, "Why in the world did I waste an hour of my life watching THAT!! David and I wasted not only one hour, but 2 hours Saturday night and when he turned off the tv he said, "Wasn't that just plain stupid?"

Sunday morning as were getting ready for church, he brought it up again and made the point that we should have changed channels or turned it off altogether. And of course he was right, but something else began to nag at me; on Saturday night, before we prepared for church on Sunday, before I taught a Sunday School class of women who were looking to me to "rightly divide the Word of truth", I had sat  mindlessly, half asleep and watched not 1, but 2, shows that I would not have let my grandchildren see. And it occurred to me, I had spent more time feeding my flesh than I had spent feeding my spirit.

I have often said that the word "holy" is a word that scares me. But a word that is equally scary to me is
"virtue". And maybe it is such a scary word for me because we associate the word virtue with the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, and oh my ladies...isn't she intimidating? We go from trying to be like her to hating her, but one thing I learned about virtue this week is this; virtue is the total package. It is who we are on the inside after beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ that spills over into every area of our lives. And the more we feed our spirit and starve our flesh the more virtuous we become. Being virtuous is attainable to every woman who has put her faith and trust in what Jesus did for us at Calvary, and it becomes attainable by feeding our spirit the good food of spiritual truth and starving the flesh by removing any and everything from our lives that does not line up with God's absolutes.

I've done this with my class a few times over the years and those silly tv shows reminded me that I needed a refresher course; I need to take the test again. So here it is, you fill in the blanks with the word flesh or spirit.

Does this feed my flesh or does it feed my spirit?
1. Reading my Bible every day. _______________.
2. Being faithful to church services._____________.
3. Watching reruns of Desperate Housewives?._______________.
4. Spending quiet time in prayer.____________.
5. Taking notes during the sermon on Sunday, then meditating on what my pastor said.____________.
6. "Discussing" with my best friend my husband's faults and "how he makes me soooooo mad."________.
7. Telling the latest news on the woman down the street and all her marital problems._______________.
8. Participating in the Lord's Supper with my church family.____________.
9. Reading the latest trashy romance novel. (I won't give titles or authors!!)_________
10. Listening to music that glorifies sexual relationships outside of marriage, drinking, crude language._____.
11. Looking over things in our children's behavior that we really need to address.__________.
(yes we can actually feed our flesh and starve out the spirit in not only our lives, but theirs, when we fail to parent in even the "little things".)
12. Letting our mind linger on the compliment from a man who is not our husband, brother, son.________

(and I won't mention Facebook...that would be a whole other test!!)

I think you get the idea. Take stock of the things that you accept as your "normal" way of life and ask yourself; when I participate in this am I feeding my spirit or is this feeding and weakening my flesh?

It is a constant battle and sometimes it is just easier to give in and go with the flow. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It's hard to turn off the tv when your kids are asking, "Why do we have to be different from everybody else?" And what woman wants to get together with her girl friends and just sit there while they discuss the latest episode of Devious Maids, or do a little hubby bashing, after all, your husband isn't perfect, right? And what woman doesn't enjoy the compliment of a man and feeling appreciated for who she is?

And the flesh gets fatter and fatter and fatter and before long the spirit is as skinny as a rail!

So today I challenge you, look for ways to feed your spirit and starve that sinful flesh! And the heavier the spirit gets, the more virtue others will see in our lives.

And David says........"Next Saturday night we ARE NOT watching anything stupid!"

Let me hear from you and have a very spirit-filled day!

Penny

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Agreeing Together in Prayer

I am a visual learner. I love to read and I learn a lot from what I read, but like most people, I remember what I see explained to me. And I remember one particular lesson I learned about prayer that no amount of reading about it could have taught me.

As a child growing up, our family was the first to arrive at church on Sunday morning. Daddy was the church custodian and he was responsible for unlocking the door, turning on the lights, etc. And he was always faithful to his job. Living in the country, he would leave the front door of the church unlocked from the ending of the morning service until after the evening service. (life was much simpler then!!)

On Sunday evenings, we would get there 45 minutes to an hour before the service began, and often when we came into the church, there would be 2 ladies, dear friends of my Mom's,  kneeling in the altar, praying together. We quietly sat down, not wanting to disturb them, but as soon as we, or anyone else came in, they would get up from the altar, come and talk with us and the others who had come in, and said nothing about what they were praying for.

Sunday evening after Sunday evening I saw these same 2 ladies together in the altar, eyes tightly closed, heads bent slightly toward each other, hands clasped together, tears rolling gently down their cheeks........ and I watched.

One Sunday night after we got home from church, I asked my Mom what those 2 faithful ladies were doing;
I knew, of course, that they were praying, but I was curious about why they were always in the altar, together. And why did they come so early to pray?? And this is what my Mom told me; "Their husbands are not Christians and they are agreeing together in prayer that they will be saved. Each woman is praying for her husband and her friend is agreeing with her for his salvation. Then the other lady prays for her husband and she agrees with her in prayer for his salvation." Such faith. Such trust. Such taking God at His word. Such valuable instruction for a little girl who had such a hunger for all things spiritual.

It took years of faithful praying in that altar and of course privately, but I saw both those men come to faith in Christ. Fast forward many years to a time when David and I had 3 little boys at home and the news came that he would be facing a lay-off at work. I knew what Matthew 18:19 and 20 said; I had read it many times, hi-lited it many years before that, and had witnessed it personally as a child. I knew what the word "agree" meant and even though David and I didn't always "agree" on things back in those early years, I knew that we would agree together about this!!

I got my Bible, read this verse to him and said that I believed the promise in this verse; he said he did, too. We got down on our knees beside our bed and he began to pray for his job and I began agreeing with him in prayer. And ladies, I am not exaggerating one bit; before the day was over he received a call from his work that there had been some changes and he was to report to work that night. Coincidence? I don't think so. God knew we were young and inexperienced in spiritual things and we needed Him to build our faith and did he ever do a great job of building the faith of 2 scared "kids".

Now fast forward many, many years later. We've learned a lot, spiritually, grown a lot, spiritually, (and we have much more to learn and a lot more growing to do) but we've never forgotten the supernatural power of those 2 verses, and we have never forgotten the faithfulness of a loving God. Most nights before we go to sleep we agree in prayer together for our kids, our precious daughters-in-law, our grand kids, each other, our church, our friends, you name it, if it's important to us, we agree together in prayer that God will step into the situation and His precious holy will be done. Are there things we're agreeing together for that we still have not seen fulfilled? Yes, several things. But do we believe God will answer? We sure do! Maybe not exactly like we hope, ask or think, but if not, it will be much better than we hope, ask, or think? (Eph. 3:20)

Dear friend, is your husband a believer? Is your teenager drifting farther and farther away from you and away from God? Are the bills mounting and no job in sight? Is your health a concern to you?

I don't know why I have felt so driven this week to write this post, but I believe God has a purpose for it. And this what I hope you will do:
If you have a need today that is so big it seems impossible for even our Omnipotent God to work out, read Genesis 18:14; "Is anything too hard for God?"

Then

Read Matthew 18:19 and 20. Hi-lite it, tell God you are believing His promise.

Then, ask someone you love and trust to enter into agreement with you for your need, and regularly meet and agree in prayer for the burdens of your heart. Agree together, and don't give up until you see God answer, or see Him move you in another direction.

The 2 ladies in my church knew they were praying in God's will. (1 John 5:14,15)
They took God at His Word. (Matthew 18:19,20)
God proved Himself faithful. (1 Thess. 5:24)

Prayer will change things. I know because it changes me.

Let me hear from you! I love getting your questions. I'll do my best to answer, but if I can't, I'll find someone who will!!

As of this week, we have viewers from 39 countries who regularly visit this blog!! Amen!!

Penny

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Can I Develop a Better Self-Image??

I've been hearing the words, "cabin fever" quite a lot lately, haven't you? Our boys were small during those really bad winters of the late 70's and early 80's and oh the stories I could tell! But now that they are grown, I will refrain from sharing tales of snowball fights, snow forts, snow tracked from the back door all the way to the basement and beyond, David hitching the sled to their pony, wrestling in every corner of the house, fights over brownies and hot chocolate, and oh the broken things...we really won't go there. And from what I am hearing, Moms are just as affected by cabin fever today as I was, oh so many years ago.

Being stuck in the house has an effect on our children's behavior, and how we parent. But I also found out that me being stuck in the house can affect my behavior, my discipline, and my self-image. Wearing your flannel pj's all day is great for the 1st snow day, but after a few days, we pass by a mirror and realize it's time to trade in the flannels, fix the hair and put on a little make-up for heaven's sake.

I love my Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible. Throughout it's pages are principles for daily living and lessons from stories of great people that are impacting my life. Lately it seems I've had a combination of cabin fever, melancholy, worry, and too many flannel pajama days. Recently, while reading my Bible, Dr. Stanley placed this question on the page where I was reading: How can I develop a better self-image? Most women I know have or have had issues with our self-image. And as mothers of daughters or granddaughters, we are all too familiar with the standard of beauty and physical perfection that they are bombarded with on a daily basis. As Christian women, we want the girls in our lives to derive their self image from their relationship with Christ; we want them to see themselves as He sees them. The problem is, too often we don't follow our own advice. Dr. Stanley used this story about Franklin Delano Roosevelt to teach me what God sees when He looks at me and my life.

"On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt was sitting for his portrait, when he suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The "Unfinished Portrait" as it was called, still remains on the easel, looking just as it did the day he died. The artist, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, laid down her brush when she saw the president collapse and never picked it up again. The portrait she had been painting shows a man with great inner strength, calmness, and confidence. But the photographs that had been taken just days before and placed beside her easel showed a much different man. Those photos showed the real face of a national leader who was completely worn out by the heavy political strain of the great depression and World War 2.

Later, Madam Shoumatoff returned to her work on the president's portrait, but she chose not to complete the watercolor, because she saw it complete, just like it was. Instead, she began and finished a new portrait, this time in oils, and it is a beautiful portrait of a strong President Rossevelt with no signs of fatigue, worry, or flaws.

Have you ever wondered how God views your life? Do you worry that He sees your flaws and mistakes and loves you less? Do not worry! God knows you perfectly and loves you completely just the way you are. You are His masterpiece, His workmanship of grace and love, His work of art. He continues to paint the colors of your life in such a way that you will glorify Him." (end of passage.)

Don't you love that? I, like most women I know, need those positive, reassuring words that God loves me just as I am. I cannot make Him love me more and I cannot make Him love me less. That is unconditional love.

Women are natural born worriers. David says I can find more to worry about than anyone he knows, and I don't want him to know he's right, but he is. If I can choose between worrying and not worrying, my mind naturally navigates to the worrying side, every time. And sometimes I do worry that God sees my flaws and my mistakes, and is it possible that He could love me less because of them?

In Eph. 2;10, the apostle Paul says this: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

So on those days when too much cold, too much snow, your cabin full of small children (and some not so small children) seems to be getting smaller and smaller, let Ephesians 1 remind you that when God looks at you and me He sees His beloved child who has been "blessed, chosen, holy, (yes holy) loved, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and sealed." We can choose to get our self-image from tv, Hollywood, social media, or from a hundred other places, or, we can choose to see ourselves as God sees us. I choose the latter.

Only 2 weeks till spring and underneath all this snow and ice are Easter flowers!

Read the book of Ephesians this week; tons of real encouragement, just when we need it most.

Penny