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How Ringing Bells Puts the “Merry” in Christmas

Dec

19

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 | 1 comment

Six years ago I began a tradition that would immediately become a beloved holiday favorite:

Ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraiser. 

I had no idea two hours could pass by so quickly, or that I had so many misconceptions about bell ringing and would learn so much (See 10 Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know to see what I mean). The first two years I flew solo, but ever since I’ve had a few partners in crime. Ringing with special friends had added great joy to the tradition. 

I’ve learned a few more things since that first experience, and my great hope in sharing is that I might persuade a few more friends to join this happy little army of neighbors helping neighbors.

1. Ringing the bells with friends makes the time go by almost too fast!

As is the case in so much in live, we really are better together.

2.  Ringing the bells is leading by example.


Every single year since I reported for “duty,” at least one passer-by has remarked they’ve always wanted to be a bell ringer. A joyful countenance, a kind word, and looking folks in the eye is an invitation to join this lovely work. I tell everyone who mentions it to Just Do It! You can find information about your local organization by starting at the national homepage and searching your Zip code

3. Ringing with children is an incredible secret weapon. Ringing with twins is almost unfair.

When I asked my friend Courtney if her twin daughters could ring with me a few years ago, they were only five years old. Who knew that little girls would be such a magnet to people’s wallets? More often than note, generous givers put dollars or coins in each girls hand to stuff in the red kettle. Miss EC and Miss S have become expert dollar-and-coin-stuffer-inners. 

4.  A Chance To Mentor

The twins are now eight years old, and they have me wrapped around those little pinkies now more than ever. They’re chatty and they tell you lots of things, but an hour together is a chance for me to encourage and affirm them, too. This year, their mama didn’t need to tell them what to do and neither did I. They immediately told every gift-giver “Thank you!” and “Merry Christmas!”  I get a bonus “paycheck” of the best hugs ever, too. That THEY have come to revere this as a special Christmas tradition is the sweetest gift back to me. 

5. Making it a family affair triples to joy.

I wish we had begun this tradition when our children were young and we could have volunteered as a family. But you don’t know what you don’t know, and since you can’t do a thing about the past, “now” is as good a time as any. Usually I ring earlier in the season before any kiddos are back home, but since Stephen was around, I asked him to join me for the first hour. While he wasn’t exactly jumping up and down about the opportunity, he ended up a little surprised at 1) how generous people are, and 2) how many people actually give. I’m convinced a mother-son bell ringing duo is almost as powerful a secret weapon as ringing with younger children. I couldn’t help but notice how many shoppers looked from me to him, and something about it must have been motivating to give. But also, I loved spending an hour serving with my youngest son, an early Christmas gift to me! 

Ringing the bells for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle drive truly sets the stage for a beautiful Christmas season. Those few hours of service will hearten you and help you to see the beauty of giving as you watch young and old, men and women, folks who don’t look like they have a dime and those dressed to the nines, reach in their pockets, open their wallets, and do their part to fill a red kettle. 

Would you please make gift to my Online Red Kettle? I know there are plenty of year-end giving options out there, but your gift would make a real difference for those in need, and at the same time, be a sweet encouragement and blessing to me.
Give by clicking here
(Thank you!!)

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The Reason It’s Crucial to Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2018 | 2 comments

If you’ve flown commercially, you’re undoubtedly familiar with standard safety procedure; it goes something like this: In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, secure your own oxygen mask first, before helping your children or others.The reason is simple and practical; a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching your brain (hypoxia), will render you useless. In almost no time you could begin experiencing blurred or tunnel vision, hot and cold flashes, euphoria, numbness, tingling, apprehension, nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue and belligerence (source). How in the world can you help a panicked preschooler if you’re vomiting and loopy?

It is critical to take care of ourselves first in order to be able to take care of others. Well beyond flying, the principle has application in daily living.

What first comes to mind when you consider what it means to take care of yourself? Diet? Exercise?  A creative outlet, cultivating a hobby, or indulging in a day at the spa? Mental wellbeing? All of these are important, true, but there’s something else so critical it is potentially life-saving: hearing what your body is trying to tell you.

Are you listening?

For years I struggled with insomnia. I chalked up my sleeplessness to age, hormones, stress–you name it, but I never considered I might be hurting myself by ignoring the issue.While I suspected I suffered from an actual sleep disorder, I kept holding out that over time my issue would resolve itself (spoiler: it never did). When I finally got around to talking to a doctor who specialized in sleep-related issues, I learned there were reasons to be concerned about my health. If, indeed, I had sleep apnea, I was at greater risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, atrial fibrillation, Type 2 diabetes, and hormone fluctuations resulting in cravings for carbs and sweets.

After a little education, I realized my body had been practically screaming at me to pay attention. Routinely, I was waking up from frantic dreams and sometimes nightmares, often including alarms, sirens, and even occasionally me screaming at myself to WAKE! UP! Once roused from sleep, I’d find myself out of breath with my heart jackhammering like I had just run a marathon. It (slowly) dawned on me these dreams were my body’s way of telling me I needed to breathe. My body may as well have been shouting Danger, Will Robinson! because I had literally stopped breathing long enough to deprive oxygen to my brain and raise my blood pressure. Ignoring the warnings wasn’t just stupid; it was potentially dangerous and even life-threatening.

The thing is, especially when you’re younger, you don’t expect a “worse case scenario.” But you and I are always our best advocates for our own healthWe cannot be satisfied with hearing what we want to hear just because it’s good news. My sweet, young friend Stephanie died in her early twenties, leaving behind a newborn, because her doctor had dismissed an ongoing issue she experienced while breastfeeding as something to do with a blocked milk duct when, in actuality, she had an aggressive form of cancer.

One Friday morning another friend, Louann, at the time a mama to two young toddlers, woke up and couldn’t see. While alarmed, this otherwise very smart nurse-friend of mine dismissed it due to work fatigue, the stresses of little sleep and family demands, and a pile of other reasonable excuses. Knowing the hospital she worked for was at capacity, consequently diverting patients to other area hospitals, she decided to wait until Monday to be seen. A fascinating long story short, Louann discovered she had pseudotumor cerebri, a rare condition more commonly found in obese women (she wasn’t the least bit overweight). Though her blindness showed up overnight, her body had been warning her for years. She had experienced daily headaches she learned to live with, always dismissing them due to stresses related to work and home.

You’ll want to find out what happened with my friend, Louann, so please continue reading Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First over at The Art of Simple!

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Stand with Secret Believers This Christmas

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 | 4 comments

Today, through a sponsored partnership with Open Doors, I’m sharing their message about something important to know. This is a season when many Americans have already begun decorating their homes for the holidays, a lovely tradition most of us take for granted. Please read and then act if you feel led to support this worthwhile initiative.

In North Korea, celebrating Christmas is illegal and believers must celebrate the birth of Jesus in extreme secrecy or risk arrest and life in a hard labor camp.

For the citizens of Brunei, celebrating Christmas can get you five years in prison and owning a Bible will get you nine.

In countries like Somalia, Christmas was banned several years ago. An announcement goes out every year reminding citizens that it’s illegal.

And in countries like Saudi Arabia, churches, crosses and Christian meetings of any kind are illegal all over the country.

All over the world, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus in late December or early January. But in many places, like Somalia, Iran, North Korea and other areas where it’s dangerous to follow Jesus, openly participating in Christmas can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. For these Christians, celebrating Christmas must be done in secret. There will be no parties or gift exchanges, and no church services or worship gatherings allowed. In places around the world, Christmas can be a time of fear and isolation instead of a celebration.

One believer from a Muslim background in Southeast Asia says, “We can’t celebrate Christmas openly…We can’t go to church and join in the celebration. Why? Because we are wanted by the government. Some of us can’t even tell our families we are Christians.”

Nevertheless, faithful Christians remind themselves that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to illuminate that light and remind isolated Christians around the world who must worship in secret that they are not alone … that the worldwide Church stands with them.  

You can make a difference today for secret believers this Christmas in specific and practical ways:

  1. Pray with them.
    Visit OpenDoorsUSA.org/SecretChristmas for prayer resources from secret believers around the world. You’ll find videos, prayer points and unique ways to connect to your persecuted family.
  1. Enter their stories.

Open Doors has created two resources to help you explore the stories of the persecuted church and to connect with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. You can download a free Secret Christmas eBook and even a Secret Christmas children’s book to read to your kids this holiday season.

  1. Join the fight

Don’t make persecution a seasonal issue, make it part of your daily life. It’s in the very DNA of the church to care for those who are suffering. Through Open Doors you can download a Prayer App, sign up for regular prayer updates and stay connected to the stories and needs of your persecuted family.

Together, we can make a significant difference in the lives, families and ministries of secret believers this Christmas and beyond as we stand with our persecuted family.

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A New Month, A Special Opportunity! #1000Mercies #OYTO

Nov

01

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 | 4 comments

 

Soon enough I’ll share some thoughts about what I learned by writing a book (surprising lessons, by the way), but for now, I’m coming out of my deep, deep book-writing hole to share something that well may be one of those “thousand points of light” President Bush spoke of three decades ago: (in)courage and Mercy House Global are “linking arms to provide a brighter, dignified future for God’s daughters in need.” 

We’re looking for 1,000 women to join (in)courage in partnership with Mercy House Global. Please say you’ll join us?

 

Our goal between November 1st and November 16th is for 1,000 women to donate $15 or more to Mercy House to help provide sustainable, dignified jobs for women in poverty around the world. This is one tiny, practical thing we can each do — in Jesus’ name — to make a huge difference in a woman’s life.

If you aren’t familiar with Mercy House Global founded by Kristen Welch, please, please take time to read Changing a Life, Changing the World by one of my oldest blog friends, Mary Carver. You’ll understand why it’s a no-brainer to ask for your support; this is important work making a tangible difference in the lives of those who are impacted. 

I’ll have a post up at incourage on Tuesday that tells you a little more about Kristen’s story, but until then I really, really hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about the #1000mercies Movement. The first 1,000 friends who make a minimum $15 donation to this initiative will receive a darling Christmas ornament as a thank you gift, hand-stitched by a beautiful Kenya woman who is part of the Street Hope artisan group. What a lovely token of remembrance. Don’t think you have to wait to put up your Christmas tree to display it, either. To keep Mercy House Global and its important work present in my thoughts, I’ve hung my little ornament on my desk lamp; if I’m not mistaken, my miniature disco ball is casting a thousand points of light in its direction.

 

 

This is an OYTO moment, Lovies, it’s time to seize an opportunity! DO let me know if you take part, and regardless, would you consider sharing about #1000mercies with your friends and family? I’m hoping we’ll shatter that $15,000 goal and need to come up with an alternative thank you gift because so many of you say “yes” to this special cause.

 

 

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Preorder Your (in)courage Devotional Bible & Receive A Free Leather Journal!

Sep

28

Posted by on Sep 28, 2018 |

 

Hello darlings.

 

While I’m anchored to my writing desk racing to complete the rough draft of my manuscript for For All Who Wander (praypraypray!), I wanted to let you know the beautiful (in)courage Devotional Bible is available for preorder now! Order by Sunday and in addition to a 20% savings, you’ll receive a leather journal as your preorder gift.

 

There is nothing else out there quite like the (in)courage Devotional Bible. Here’s why:

 

There are four cover types to choose from; each is beautiful in its own way on the outside, but it’s the inside that counts, right?  God’s word (CSB version) is the only thing that has the power to transform your heart, but there are extras that make this Bible special:

  • 312 devotions by 122 (in)courage community writers
  • 10 distinct thematic reading plans
  • 66 book introductions connecting each book of the Bible to the whole biblical narrative
  • stories of courage from 50 women of the Bible
  • Journaling space
  • Plus – FREE (in)courage leather journal
  • and so much more

They’re also competitively priced on Amazon but you won’t receive the preorder incentive.

Would you please consider ordering through one of my links?
As an affiliate, I’ll receive a small referral fee,
which I plan to pass right along to Compassion International. 
(Invite your friends to order through my links, too–please and thank you)

DO check out the video below to learn more, and if you click around the (in)courage Bible website, you’ll get to hear from a few authors about why they think this Bible is special. But, please, pop back over here to order your own copy, and a few more for gifts while they’re on sale and come with your preorder gift.

 

 

 

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