Featured

How to Rise Above the Winter Blahs by Amber O’Brien

Feeling a little blah? The secret to rising out of the winter-blah pit can be found in the fabulous peacock feather.

On one end of a peacock feather is a bare, white stick but the other end displays the delicate, stunning plumage of greens, blues and purples which the male peacock so proudly displays to attract a partner.

So, I have a very important question for you my sweet sister: How do you balance a peacock feather with one hand?

While at a recent business convention, a motivational juggler used peacock feathers as an object lesson and so I brought the beautiful feathers back and added a spiritual twist for the local sweet sister group.

First, we were told to look at the ugly white point and balance the feather in the palm of one of our hands. As the audience tried to balance the tall feather and looked down at the stark, ugly end, the feathers kept falling as did our attitudes.

But………. when we looked upward at the top of the gorgeous peacock feather, then balancing became so much easier and our smiles turned upward as well.

Soon laughter and joy could be heard throughout the room, as we soon learned that we could toss upward the feather from one hand to the other, if we just kept our eyes on the top of the fabulous feather.

The spiritual secret of the Peacock feather is also found in the book of Philippians. Paul is under house arrest after experiencing so many hardships within the church community and outside as well. He tells his brothers and sisters to Rejoice ! and then gives his secret for not being sucked under into despair:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal toward the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians Ch. 3:13-14

then Paul encourages his readers to focus on whatever is: “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. ” Phillipians 4:8-9

Who is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable? only the Great I Am – the one and only God who sits on His mighty throne.

So what or Who are you focusing on today?

Perhaps you are frozen and stuck looking back over past mistakes and regrets? Or the let down after the excitement of Christmas and New Year has you a little down? I recently heard from a sweet sister who shared she wasn’t excited about her birthday. Is the passage of time getting you down? Or like me when I was younger, is the rise and fall of monthly female hormones causing you to see only the negative? (My poor dear husband) or perhaps you are living with fear over the choices of a child or the medical failings of a loved one? God hears your heart cries and He does not want you, his precious daughter, living in the pit of fear, or shame or despair.

No matter the reason you are stuck in the weeds, there .is. a. way. out.

Focus on the character of God and the hope and promise we have in the days to come. In Philippians we read that : God will provide us the strength for whatever situation we may face.

1. “I can do All things through Christ who gives me strength”

phil 4:13

and then we are promised that God will provide just what we need:

2. “God will supply All of our needs according to the riches of His Glory in Christ Jesus. “

Phil. 4;19

While you are waiting to see how God will work this all out for good (Romans 8:28) , take out a pen and write out the beauty of God’s character. What adjectives describe God? Every morning I write out a word or more during my adoration time during my date with Jesus. I’ll start you off : God is so: faithful, forgiving, generous, good, powerful, loving, caring, In Control, merciful, kind, Just, Great, etc………..

Now: Write out 10 good things about yourself. Or 10 good things about the person you are frustrated with. (During those hormonal days I would write out 10 good things about me, my husband and my life.) Or how about 10 ways that God has been faithful in the past.

By the time you have reached number 10, I guarantee you will feel light as a feather with a renewed perception.

So back to my original question: How do you balance a peacock feather with one hand? or really, “How can you stay balanced with all the strife going on around you? “

  • Keep your Eyes upward and forward at the beauty and truth that exists only in our Lord and Savior.
  • Then record this beauty and truth with a pen.

Recording God’s love and continued care with a pen will raise you out of the pit of lost perception and soon the winter Blah’s will become full of springtime hope and victory.

What are 10 adjectives that describe God (Jesus)?

Featured

3

On the third day, a Wedding took place in Cana. John 2:1

The best things in life need to be savored. Like a a fine dinner that one needs to chew slowly to truly appreciate the Chef’s choice of various spices and unique fresh vegetables meant to dance on the taste buds. In fact, one should ideally first relish the presentation of the meal with ones eyes before even beginning to eat. Imagine your favorite gourmet dessert and how it is best to slow down and then close ones eyes and linger over every bite so one can appreciate the sea salt that has been sprinkled in or the nuts that add just the right crunch.

Recently, the sweet sisters have been slowing down to savor the Gospel of John. Instead of watching a video or reading about another sisters take on a portion of scripture we are feasting on this finest of foods for ourselves.

We started with the story that begins Jesus’ ministry, when he changed ordinary water into the best wine and his disciples saw the glory of God and believed.

Gathered in a circle in my family room, we held our Gospel of John booklets and started reading the first 12 verses in chapter 2 and then I said, Let’s read it slowly through again. And then we started for a third time and carefully chewed on each verse and started to ask observational questions.

We carefully asked the observations questions for the inductive OICA study which includes: Observation, Interpretation, Correlation and application.

Observation: Who, What, Where, when, why and How.

Who: Jesus, his mother Mary, his first disciples, a bride and bridegroom, the servants, the master of the banquet Where: the town of Cana, just north of Nazareth (where Jesus was raised) When: on the third day.

but when the question of “why? needed an answer:

We. were. stumped.

We kept coming back to why did Jesus’ first miracle/ sign happened on “the third Day”. What is the significance? Why would this be significant to the first disciples who were guests at the wedding?

And then it happened. Sweet Sister Marni flipped to Genesis Chapter One and read to us what God did on the third day.

And God Said, “Let the waters under the earth be gathered into one place,and let dry land appear,” and it was so. Genesis 1: 9

On the third day, God (the Creator God) transformed water into dry land. And then “God saw that it was good”.

What an “Ah Ha !” Moment for us.

Only God could change water into dry land.

Only God could change water into wine.

What is God telling us through this first miracle/sign of Jesus’ ministry on earth?

Jesus IS God.

Jesus was there at Creation as God refers to himself as “US”

“Let US make God in OUR image, in OUR Likeness” Genesis 1:26

and as John continually declares in his prologue,

“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. John 1:1

And Oh sweet sisters, as I have delved deeper into this Special 3rd day of creation, I have discovered that God also created all the vegetation, and plants and trees that bear fruit and seed. Of course when I read about fruit and seeds, I thought of God’s sweet echo in the story of Cana of the wine that is made from grapes.

Grapes! Sweet grapes that were crushed to create wine.

Can’t you just see the gears turning in the heads of the disciples (present and future) when they see and taste that it is “the best wine” and they are reminded of how God on the third day “saw that it was good.” ?

Do you believe that Jesus is God?

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His. Glory, and his disciples believed in Him.

(John. 2:11)

Who Will Fill the Hole?

By Amber O’Brien    

I should have used my big girl voice

I should have said, “Will you please fill the hole?” as the family

Packed up their plastic toys and shovels.

For I knew what they did not; for  

A hole left open can lead to heartache.

Years before a woman on a nearby shore stumbled in the dark

And she fell into a neglected hole;

She couldn’t climb out and she soon fell asleep.

Early the next morning a sand -cleaning machine

 Pushed the sand over her and

She. Was. Buried. Alive.

The reporter urged the viewers “to please fill in the holes”

After scooping sand and sculpting sandcastles.

But, there are some gaps we cannot fill up

On. Our. Own.

I thought of my own regrets:

As a mother. As a friend.

A sister, daughter, wife

Would my regrets ever end?

So many pits, so many pangs of regret

How many people have fallen into the holes that I’ve continually dug

With clenched fists of selfish pride and fear?

 Or on the other hand,

How many people have hurt me and bore huge holes in my own heart?

 But I worsened my wounds with unforgiveness and

 Allowed the gaping holes to fester from self-pity.

 This huge hole left in the sand in front of me

represented all my failures and  

I sat anxiously in my beach chair pondering what to do.

I didn’t have a shovel,

Or the strength…………… for I now finally comprehended that

All these holes together form a Grand Canyon sized chasm that separates

me from holy heaven.

Who will fill the hole?

Downhearted and distressed,

I grievously sat gazing at the ginormous gulf

Paralyzed with despair.

Who Can fill the hole?

Then a lifeguard

Wearing a blood-red tank top

With a white cross sealed across his chest

Climbed down from his high white stand,

Kneeled in the sand and

With his open bare hands,

He gently and carefully pushed the sand from the rough edges

And Filled. In. The. Hole.

Above all, Love each other deeply, because Love covers a multitude of sins.

I Peter 4:8

Love Drives out the Hamsters: How to find Peace when faced with a Storm.

Superstorm Sandy swirls around our home and I ponder the fear and anxiety that so many people must be feeling right now. The year is 2012 and Hurricane Sandy is predicted to be the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic and as I type she blows through the densely populated east coast threatening nearly 60 million people. I say prayers for our home and for all those who may be in Storm Sandy’s path and then I keep typing. We have hunkered down our home and now we much wait. When one is grieving or afraid or worried the advice I remember author and missionary Elizabeth Elliott giving is to:

“Just do the next thing.”

Elizabeth Elliott

So I keep typing.

Some people deal with severe anxiety all the time. Like my friend Lucy. She shared with me over Mexican food,

“Sometimes I feel there are hamsters running around in my brain” and then she leaned in and whispered , “and lately the hamsters are having a party”.

I smile because even though Lucy deals with ADHD and other learning challenges she has kept her sense of humor. She also has a childlike wisdom. “Ms. Amber, could you write down something I can look at when I am worried?”

So after finishing lunch, I bring Lucy back to my office where I grab a big black marker and a piece of white clean paper and Alice intently watches as I write out the Word of God. She tries to tell me what to write and what she wants to hear but I insist that I cannot make this up but to truly bring peace the words need to be from the book that points always to the “Prince of Peace”. So I write out:

#1– Cast your cares on God, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Just as Peter cast the net out as a fisherman, we need to throw out to God our cares and concerns. Write them down or symbolically open your hands and ask Him to take control and take over your concerns.

#2- There is No FEAR in LOVE, but perfect LOVE casts out Fear. ( 1 Jn. 4:18)

What can help push out our fears and anxieties? Love.

Who is Love? The. Prince. Of. Peace. Jesus.

Lucy, I urge, “If you invite the Prince of Peace into your troubled heart, there will be no room for all your hamsters”.

What about your hamsters? What is running around in your head? Are they having a hamster party? Each day we have new hamsters (anxieties) running around in our heads. So each day we need to sit in quiet and invite God’s perfect Love and truth to drive out those pesky little rodents. We need to write out our cares and cast them out to God. Then we should thank Him for all the storms He as already carried us through.

This is how I concluded my piece seven years ago, “Our electricity is out and as I type the laptop uses up its last juice. Night falls and I will listen in bed as my home creeks under the constant rain and the howling winds rips through the trees. Tomorrow we will pick up the debris and check to see if we have permanent damage from flooding.

I will rest in God’s Love for I have God’s peace in my heart.

Below is a poem dedicated to all my sisters who are facing storms….literal storms and emotional ones as well. Keep your eyes on the King of Heaven who is on His Throne.

No Storm is Greater Than I

by Amber O’Brien

You’re sitting in a rain cloud

Don’t know which way to go

You’re dreaming of your future

and Hoping for a rainbow

But the winds are ripping faster

Your life’s falling apart

Your can’t see through a rain-cloud

But God can see you heart

Chorus:

Child jump aboard my hands

Above the Storm we’ll Fly

Let Abba’s Love enfold you

Daddy’s hands will hold you

No Storm is Greater than I

I know you heart is heavy

I feel your every pain

while I catch each precious tear

On my throne I remain

Chorus:

Child jump aboard my hands

Above the storm we’ll fly

Let Abba’s Love enfold you

Daddy’s hands will hold you

No Storm is greater than I

My Adoption Trust Story- Signs from God by Michelle Weber

    Amber had asked me to tell the story of how we formed our family, and the way God has provided in our lives. Here is our story of God’s providence and love.

Early Years

    I was blessed to be born into a great family with faith filled parents. I am the oldest of three, with a younger sister and brother. I was instructed in the faith from an early age, and God was a part of our lives, guiding my parent’s decisions as we grew up. I attended Catholic school for twelve years, and participation in church and the surrounding activities was a given in our household. I always knew that I was loved by my parents and by God, and had a relationship with God from an early age. It’s not that I didn’t, at times, stray from God and my faith, but I always knew where my center was, and came back to the truths that I knew in my heart.

Infertility – Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage, yes wait For the Lord!”

     Dan and I met in college at the University of Cincinnati and dated for a year before getting engaged. We married in September 1981, right before our senior year, and after we graduated we both got engineering jobs in Maryland, moving in 1982. Our jobs were going great, and we felt settled in Maryland, buying our home in 1984, an old farmhouse which we renovated over the years. Still, we made frequent visits to see family in Cincinnati, and still considered it home, too.

     Although I loved my job, I always felt that my real calling in life was to be a wife and mother. We started trying to have a baby about three to four years into our marriage, but month after month there was no pregnancy. We went to two doctors, including the infertility clinic at Johns Hopkins and went through all of the tests-twice. This was physically and emotionally painful and very distressing. Every month I prayed for a baby, and I became very angry at God, even wanting to stop going to church. It was Dan who insisted that we still attend Mass, saying that since God has given us so much, we should at least give Him an hour a week. At the time I was involved with a prayer group at our church, and the faith filled women there helped me through some very dark times. Over time, I could see that my relationship with Jesus was deepening, in spite of my sadness. I knew that God was with me through this trial, and although I was not less sad, my anger dissipated.

     When we went to Johns Hopkins, the doctors there told us that “they could get us pregnant”. This seemed very strange to me, since I thought that this was between me and Dan and God. I just wanted them to find out what was wrong and to fix it. They never did find out our medical issues in spite of all of the tests and procedures. In prayer we had a clear sign from God that we weren’t going down the assisted fertility treatment road (IVF, etc.). Instead, we decided to build our family through adoption.

     After going through an adoption information class, we were considering adopting from Korea. We hadn’t been to any home study meetings yet, and at the time were still finishing up some infertility medication, which had some horrible side effects, putting me in a perpetual grumpy mood – my poor husband! At one point during this time, I remember praying and crying out to God to let me know what He wanted for us. As I was alone in my room, God did give me a sign. Now, I am not one to have mystical experiences or to be overly sentimental – I’m an engineer by training – but on that evening in May of 1987 God gave me a vision of a 2-year Korean girl, sitting in the rocking chair in my bedroom.

Adoptions – Psalm 30:11-12 – “You have turned my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. “,

     Dan and I completed the adoption paperwork during the summer of 1987 and we had our home study group meetings in the fall. We decided that we wanted to adopt siblings under age five.  A colleague at work had adopted his two daughters from Korea at the same time and I thought it was so nice that the sisters had each other. My sister already had two daughters who were two and an infant. We were anxious to start our family, and getting a newborn was not a priority for us. We thought that siblings would be harder for the adoption agency to place and just wanted to open our hearts to children who needed a home. By the end of winter 1988, all of the families in our home study group had been assigned their children. We were still waiting, and it seemed interminable. Finally, on March 28th, 1988 we got the call. They had two little girls for us, sisters, Mee Na, age 3 and Mee Yun, age 13 months.  Jill Mee Na and Holly Mee Yun came home on June 16th at ages 3 ½ years and 16 months. Life was wonderful! I quit my job as an engineer and became a stay at home mom, taking care of our daughters and finding new mom-friends in the community.

Jill and Holly finally arrive! Thank you God for answered prayer.

      During this time, I was anxious to adopt again. I was so happy as a stay-at-home mom, and longed to add to our family. My husband thought otherwise. There was much stress in our marriage. We put in paperwork to adopt again in 1990, but then withdrew it. This was so very painful, and I felt so distant from Dan, but I felt very close to God at this time. I knew that God knew the desires of my heart and although I didn’t know if we would ever add to our family, I felt that God was with me.  I clearly heard with an inner voice that Jesus was telling me to offer my pain in this situation to God for Dan. I rebelled at this – how could I offer my pain for someone who was causing my pain?!  Jesus quickly told me “That is what I did for you when I offered myself on the cross for the sins that you committed”. Well, how could I counter this?

      Dan’s heart softened, especially after he went on a weekend silent retreat. The lawsuit was over and the financial stress had lessened. We put in our adoption paperwork again in the spring of 1994, wanting to adopt two children again, since our daughters by this time were seven and nine. There was a problem, though. After the 1988 Olympics, Korea had closed their adoption program, and when they reopened it again, they were only placing children from infants to age two with American families.  We decided to wait for twins, but it was a longshot.

     As we were waiting for an assignment of children, our good friends had generously offered to let us stay with them at no charge at the beach house that they rented on the Outer Banks. We had a wonderful week in North Carolina with our friends, their five children, our two girls, and the two black lab puppies that we and our friends had gotten from the same litter. It was a relaxing and prayerful time as we waited for our paperwork to process. I prayed that God would answer our prayers for two more children. The beach house where we stayed, which our friends “coincidently” picked – The Twin Dolphin.

     Christmas came and went and we were still waiting. Again, the families in our home study group had all been assigned children and they were even all home with their new families. We were not sure what was going to happen and in January 1995 we were asked by the adoption agency if we would consider another program besides Korea. We decided to wait a little longer. Then in February a double rainbow appeared in the sky after a winter rainstorm. I snapped a picture, and still have it, although it is undated.

     Then, on March 28th, 1995 we got the call. We were celebrating that day because it was the anniversary of the day that we found out about Jill and Holly in 1988.  It was exactly seven years later to the day when our social worker told us that they had one-month old twin boys for us! I immediately saw the hand of God in our lives. Our social worker was not aware of the anniversary date, and she was not the same social worker when we adopted Jill and Holly. God wanted us to wait for these two baby boys so that they could be a part of our family, and he arranged the dates. The twins were born on February 20th. Was that the day of the double rainbow?  

     Our sons, Andrew Jee Won and Nathaniel Jee Hoon, named after two of the apostles, came home on June 20th, 1995. Life was busy and full, caring for the twins, homeschooling our girls and taking them back and forth to gymnastics. Jill and Holly, now ages ten and eight, were a great help with their baby brothers.  With Jill, Holly, Andy, and Nathan we thought our family was complete. But God had other plans!

The Additions- Mark 9:36-37 – “And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

     The kids grew and Jill was off to Ohio State on a gymnastics scholarship in 2002. She married David in 2004, and had our first grandson, Ryan. The twins were nine, and Holly was seventeen, finishing up high school. Holly went to Michigan State on a gymnastic scholarship that fall, and I was homeschooling the boys. When we all gathered at Christmastime in 2004, with eight of us including Ryan in a car seat, and with all of the gifts, and a big Christmas tree in the room, there was just no room! It was early in 2005 that Dan and I decided to build an addition on the house with a great-room and a garage underneath.

     At the time I was meeting with a group which encourages people to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and scripture. I had a spiritual director that I met with monthly. She asked me what God wanted us to do with this new addition to our home.  I said I didn’t know, but deep down I felt that something big was going to happen.

      At an open house we had for friends at Christmas 2005 several said that we needed an Amish clothesline out of our new laundry room window to a nearby tree.  We already had a long clothesline, so I didn’t think too much about it. Also, at Christmas that year, Holly had a friend, Katie, who went to Franciscan U. in Steubenville, and was visiting after just finishing a semester in Austria. She had gone to Assisi and brought me back a very nice statue of St. Francis, which I put on the mantle in the new great room. These two facts might not seem like it, but they do relate to my story.

       To understand this, let me tell you a bit about St. Francis. St. Francis was born in the 1200’s in Assisi, Italy. He lived a worldly life, but then felt God calling him to serve, and he renounced his wealth. God told him to rebuild His Church, and Francis thought God meant the church of San Damiano, which was on a hill near Assisi and had fallen into disrepair. Francis began building the church, but then God said, that He didn’t mean brick and wood, but He meant to build up the people of God, and bring them closer to Him.

     It was then early March 2006, on a Thursday and I was walking to the mailbox, thinking that nothing good ever comes in the mail. It was one of those dreary days in March – not biting cold, but not warm, when the earth seems like it is just waiting to green up into spring, but winter is still holding on. I found in the mailbox, along with the junk mail and bills, a newsletter from Catholic Charities Adoption. Inside the newsletter was a section on waiting children and I saw two tiny pictures of two little boys that needed a home. They touched my heart.

     The next day, Dan and I were outside and I commented that we needed the clothesline tightened after the usual sagging during the winter. He asked if I wanted to put up an Amish clothesline, like our friends suggested at our Christmas party. I replied “No, we don’t have enough kids, like the Amish do, to need an Amish clothesline. But we could get Joey and Hector.” Dan asked who Joey and Hector were, and I showed him the newsletter with the information about the two boys who were biological cousins, ages seven and eight from the Philippines. He didn’t say any more, and neither did I, but those boys were on my heart all that weekend.

     Because of my busy schedule with homeschooling, I would often get up with Dan at 5 a.m. to pray and ready my school day. That Monday, as Dan was heading down the stairs to the garage to go to work, he said, “If you want to call about those two boys, you can.” I really didn’t think I heard him right, since I was half asleep. I said I would, and called that day and got some information, but didn’t want them to send me any paperwork. I really wasn’t sure about this and didn’t want to get too emotionally involved before being sure.

     Dan and I talked and talked about whether this was right for our family. I thought about the scripture from Mark 9:36-37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” and I knew what God was telling us to do. I thought about St. Francis, his building of the church of brick and wood, but God calling Him to build up the people of God. We knew this was the right thing to do, but we really had to step out in faith and trust. We would be 47 years old when they arrived, we had two grandchildren, with Jill having her second son in February, I would be homeschooling four boys, I would have to travel to the Philippines, we would have the cost for the adoption, Dan would be close to retirement age when they graduated high school, and most importantly, what would it be like to adopt two foundlings at ages eight and nine?  So many unknowns! Still, I could just feel the grace being poured out on us.

      We decided to go forward with the adoption on the weekend of March 18-19. March 19 is the feast day of St. Joseph, but since it fell on a Sunday that year, the feast was moved to Monday, March 20th. I called Catholic Charities on Monday, St. Joseph’s day, to tell them we would like to adopt our Joseph and Hector.

     Joey and Hector visited in July 2006 in a summer program designed for waiting Pilipino children and we knew that we had made the right decision. All the paperwork was in and I prayed that they would be home for Christmas. Dan is not a traveler, and he had to stay home with Andy and Nathan who were eleven. A friend Catherine, from Birthright Pregnancy Center where we volunteered, told me from the beginning that she would come with me to the Philippines. I was concerned about her travel expenses, and she was confident that she would find someone to give her sky miles to fly free. A woman that I never met, from Catherine’s knitting group, gifted 120,000 sky miles, enough for one free round-trip ticket.  In October, we made the arrangements to leave the day after Thanksgiving. Since hardly anyone flies the day after Thanksgiving, Catherine only needed half of the sky miles that were given to her, so I flew free too. God arranged free airplane tickets for both Catherine and me. Joseph James and Hector Thomas (two more apostle- the middle names we gave them) came home on December 2nd, 2006.

      Our family continues to grow with three of our children now married and with eleven grandchildren. We have been truly blessed. God is good!

The #1 bucket list Item

May you rejoice in the wife (husband) of your youth. Proverbs 5:18

As i was walking down the beach today I overheard an elderly lady chatting with her friends. “Do you know what the number #1 bucket list item is? She paused and excitedly exclaimed,,,,’To fall in Love.” and then she paused, smiled and said “Again”.

Was she a widow? divorced? All I know is that she would put falling in love….Again at the top of her bucket list.

As I continued to walk along the shore, I remembered a simple poem I wrote many years ago (see below) about how God desires for us to fall in Love again and again with our spouse for He came to make all things new. We can’t control our spouse or change him, but we can ask God for help to be the best wife, mistress and best friend to our husband as possible.

How to Fall in Love…………. Again

Oh give my husband a brand new wife
One that will serve him lovingly
G
ive him the helpmate he deserves
And may that “new wife” always be me

Oh give my husband a hot mistress
One that will surprise him lovingly
Give her energy and fresh ideas
And may that “mistress” always be me

Oh give my husband a new best friend
One that will listen lovingly
Give her wisdom to find the good
And may that “best friend” always be me   

Would you like a few practical suggestions on how to spice things up?

A sweet sister confessed over lunch last week that her and her husband were in a bad rut and weren’t communicating ahead of time about their needs.

I told her “How about picking an emoji and sending it so the each other earlier in the day so the night doesn’t go too late and both prepare to get to the room before both our too tired?” Then dear sister when you are in the bathroom preparing for your rendezvous, say a quick prayer “Lord, give me a desire for my husband” Then put on some lipstick, perfume and maybe some high heels to help put you in the mood.

Does your husband work like a microwave in the bedroom? and you are more of a crock-pot? how about communicating using sports analogies. My friends husband loves sports so we thought up a way to relay the message using baseball terms. “Sweetie, you can’t get a home-run with out touching all the bases”.

Consideration and mutual respect needs to go both ways. If one is too tired than make a plan for when a rendezvous will work. “Tonight I’m too tired, but tomorrow morning will work”. If you were the one to postpone then be sure to follow-up and show your husband that you do find him desirable.

Marriage is such a sacred gift and we need to do all we can to nurture and protect it.

Here’s to falling in Love. Again.

Love Always Wins

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word Love lately as Dave and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and so I thought now would be a fitting time to share this poem I wrote last year. The I Corinth. 13 love chapter ends with the words, Love Never Fails…but I prefer the more powerful phrase Love Always Wins. (so much so that it hangs on a plaque above my stove) For our anniversary we went to the newest Sight and Sound production titled JESUS and in this spectacular, state of the art production one quiet scene spoke the loudest. At the last supper, Jesus invited Judas to sit next to him and lovingly he kneels down and carefully washes his feet. Jesus, all God and all man, the Maker of Heaven and Earth kneels down to wash the feet of his betrayer. Isn’t this our own story? While we were yet sinners, the holy God of the universe kneels down to take the form of a human and then rescues us by pouring out his own blood to wash us completely clean. Will you let Him wash your feet? and then Will you wash the feet of those causing you to suffer?

Love Always Wins

 Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins

Come to The Well again and again

Fill up to the brim with all that’s true 

He came to restore, make All things New

Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins 

Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails

Once we sat helpless in death-rows jail

God’s red love lavished to set us free

Long- suffering turns the prison door key

Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails

Chorus:

True love is bloody and sometimes it hurts

True love kneels down and then takes off His shirt

Love washes our feet and seeks all to Save

Love always wins for He conquered the Grave

Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins

Love covers the ugliest of sins

        Pull out by the root your bitterness

Pay forward God’s undeserved forgiveness

Oh my sweet friend, True Love ALWAYS Wins

Finding Jesus in the Midst of Hurt

by Carrie McCarty-Gibson (guest Sweet Sister)

I sat in church that January my heart aching from five years of infertility which had just ended in a second miscarriage.  A visiting, itinerant priest, a friend of our pastor’s from seminary, announced he was there to talk personally with anyone who needed to discuss her relationship with God.

Well that wasn’t me!

I went to church every Sunday, prayed with my husband, and even taught the 8th grade class right there at church, but I didn’t talk to anyone about my relationship with God.   As Father Fred stood at the back of church shaking hands with people as they left, I was making a wide arc to avoid him when I felt compelled instead to go speak with him.  Before I knew it, I found myself saying, “I think I ‘m supposed to talk to you about my relationship with God.” 

I went to meet with him and poured out my heart and ended with,

“I don’t understand what I’ve done that has made God angry with me.  I don’t understand why he is punishing me like this.”

Father Fred smiled a big warm smile and chuckled a bit.  He went on to explain that ever since the first day he had been ordained a priest God had been sending him infertile couples and he had known when I saw him in the church why I was coming to see him. For decades, he had kept a list of infertile couples and he would pray that they could find their lost fertility.  He told me in all the years of his list, he had never had one couple who couldn’t conceive.  He asked me if I’d like to be placed on his list.  I was so excited.  This was all I needed.  I could be right with God if I could just be on the list of this holy priest to whom God had given this special ministry.  Father Fred prayed over me and I got up to leave.  He motioned for me to remain sitting and said, “Now, let’s talk about your relationship with God.”

I was confused.  Being on the list was what I needed.  Exactly what I needed.  But God wasn’t leaving me in the misconceptions of my immature faith so Father Fred couldn’t either.

Father asked if I could picture the most painful memory of all I had experienced.  I said, “Yes.  I see the doctor’s face, hear the monitor beeping, feel my husband’s hand.  I see it all, Father.”  He gently responded, “No. You don’t.” 

“You don’t see where Jesus was in that moment and I promise you that he was there with you.”

He told me to ask Jesus where he was.  “Lord where were you?” I cried in a half-sob.  I closed my eyes and pictured the scene again and this time I could see Jesus standing by me and when the doctor spoke those cruel words, I could see him bend over me, shielding me.

  Then I saw so many of the other scenes from this painful journey and I could see Jesus with me through it all.  Father Fred asked, “What is Jesus doing?”

  I answered, “He’s crying.”

“And why is he crying?” Father asked.

“Because I’m hurting and he’s hurting.”

“Why is he hurting?” prodded Father.

“Because he loves me,” I sobbed.

“That’s right! “Father joyously exclaimed.  “Jesus loves you! He’s not punishing you because of something you did wrong.  He’s hurting for you because he loves you.”

Father Fred went on to tell me that bad things happen in the world because sin exists and bad things that happen were not even necessarily the result of our own sin. Sin and the sad that resulted from it were never what God wanted, but that he could bring good from it if I would let him.

I felt so much better and thanked him and got up to leave.  Father motioned for me to sit and said, “Now, I’ll hear your confession.”  I wasn’t ready for that.  I liked to prepare.  Father said, “Relieve yourself of these sins you feel are so great that you believe God is angry with you and punishing you.”

In Isaiah 40:1-2, God says:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

God forgave me and I needed to believe it.  I have spent years learning that lesson – God has forgiven me of anything I had done.  The negative feelings I now felt weren’t an issue with God; I needed to learn to forgive myself.

Father listened to my sins and told me God forgave me. 

Then he paused and said, “I’m getting a very strong feeling from the Holy Spirit that you are going to be pregnant by Easter. Yes. Easter.  Let’s pray you can carry this baby to term.” We prayed. I thanked Father and left.

I went happily through the season of Lent.  The peace my faith had brought me during our infertility and miscarriage trials had inspired my husband to seek Jesus and he was preparing to be baptized at Easter, April 16.   It was a joyous, hope-filled time.  We made a peaceful spiritual retreat to lovely Savannah, Ga and grew in faith and love of God.  Two weeks before Easter, we discovered Father had been wrong.  I was not pregnant, but I talked to God about that and told him we had so much growth that it was okay that Father had been wrong and had misinterpreted the message God had sent.

My husband was baptized at Easter.  It was a beautiful time and it made it ok that Father Fred had been wrong.

 Except, he hadn’t been.

Two weeks after Easter, I discovered I was pregnant and looking back on all those records folks struggling with infertility keep, I was a day or two pregnant at Easter when my husband had been baptized. 

I did go on to carry our little girl, not only to term but two weeks past. Savannah was born in January – exactly a year after I had met with Father Fred.  Easter Sunday that year was on my birthday and Father Fred just happened to be passing through visiting our pastor for Easter. He gave me the best birthday gift I’ve ever received when he baptized Savannah on that Easter birthday of mine.

In so many ways then and since then God has shown me the truth of Jeremiah 29:11-13 –

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.12 You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

With my heart broken, I sought a relationship with God, and in finding that relationship, God healed that broken heart.

In the years that followed, I learned:  God has good plans for us and they are so much bigger than our own plans.  I learned to forgive myself if for no other reason because God forgave me and his is a perfect example to follow.  Most of all, I learned to look for Jesus in my times of hurt because he is there.

A Christian Single Mom’s Guide to Raising a Child Who Will Grow up To become Fabulous Fruit

by Sue Karsner (Sweet Sister guest post)


Divorce can be devastating for a single mom, especially knowing that God hates divorce. How do you reconcile this? After being divorced for 20 years, I will cut to the chase and give you the bottom line for me.

God hates divorce, but He loves more!

If you read the story of the woman at the well from the Gospel of John 4:4-26, you will see that Jesus desires the woman’s worship over and above her guilt. This is what set her free to become the first evangelist!
This may be comforting to you, but what about your children who grow up without a dad or has a distant father?
I’m sure you’ve heard the odds of what happens to boys who are raised without a father. I surely did when my son was only a baby when my marriage ended. Fear and anxiety set in knowing that the distance of his father was going to mean that there would be little to no interaction – the interaction that would keep my son out of serious counseling or even jail.
Miraculously, by the grace of God, this didn’t happen. At least not yet, and my son is now 24.

In fact, raising my son was the most enjoyable time of my life, and fruitful indeed! This single mom didn’t experience the normal exasperation of raising a child alone.

In fact, I seemingly enjoyed the easiest teenage years compared to most intact families, resulting in a mature, responsible, deep-thinking, God-fearing young man who also gave me a beautiful, amazing, puts-me-to-shame daughter-in-law.

How did this “fabulous fruit” come to pass when the odds were against it? Here are some spiritual truths that provided the necessary nurturing of my little seed and practical tips that watered and fed this little guy to the wonderful young man that he has become. If you find yourself in this unfortunate, sometimes tragic situation, you may want to try these suggestions.

• First and foremost – Commit  yourself, your Child , and your Parenting  to the Lord. Realize your child is a miracle and a gift from God, but he/she belongs to Him.

You will never be alone! God says in Isaiah 41: 10 

“Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I can’t say enough about the peace that I received from the Lord and all His incredible guidance. He provided always with gifts of wisdom, financial means, and forgiveness of my former spouse.

• Delve into the Word. As your young child sleeps, plays, etc., take this time of your singleness to intensely study the Bible. There is much wisdom, and you will need this to parent your child. Personally, I spent the first 7 years of my son’s life in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and 3 more years in Community Bible Study (CBS). You can find these classes in most major cities.

Your closeness with the Lord will guide you in your parenting in ways that you could never fathom.

Remember that God loves your child more than you ever can. It’s awesome to see God’s hand on you and your child!

• Pray for “daddy” with your child. (No matter how you feel about your child’s father). This will keep a distant father in your child’s life in an important way. Address God as “Our Perfect Father in Heaven” when you pray, and this will distinguish God as your husband and Father who will love, care, and provide SECURITY for your family and who will never fail you. Keep your emotional and material issues with your child’s father undisclosed. Wait until your child is asleep to call a friend or counselor to discuss any pain you are feeling toward your child’s father and the loss of your marriage.

 Christian Counselors are very helpful. They can provide a perspective that you may not see. I was feeling anxious, fearful, and helpless during the early years, and my counselor was able to provide practical ways to get through the day and provide hope for the future.

• Daily Devotions with your child will be like having God in your house! Your child will feel more secure knowing that his perfect Father is listening and guiding each and every day.

• Pray for Godly men in your child’s life. Coaches, teachers, pastors, and neighbors, will provide examples that your child can model.

Practical tips:

• You need your sleep. If you are alone with a young baby or child, you will need to teach your baby to sleep. Make sure your child learns that their crib is not for playtime and they will learn to take sleep seriously. Put them down, say goodnight, and walk away. Use a pacifier, if necessary. Expect them to sleep and they will learn to do so…as long as they are not distressed or sick. If they fall asleep outside the crib, make sure they wake up in the crib. Stick to scheduled naptimes. When your child is older, set a time limit for when your child is allowed to get out of bed. For me, it was 7:30 a.m. My son was told that he needed to wait until then.

• Refrain from using the word “no.” Instead say “you may not do that” or “sorry, but that’s not allowed.” Children, unfortunately, will mimic the words you use, and “no” isn’t a very pleasant one to hear from your child. Your tone and words should always be respectful.

• Provide security. Surround yourself with Godly friends and family. Grandparents are great for this. We also had wonderful neighbors who were always there for us. My son knew where to go if he needed someone’s help in an emergency.

• Messaging should be consistent. Your child needs consistency in their world-view. I was fortunate to be able to provide Christian education for my son, and we also attended the same church throughout his upbringing. School, church, and home messaging was consistent and constant. We loved our church, and it was never a thought to miss a Sunday.

• Always be honest. When you hear your little Kindergartener, in his car seat behind you, begin a conversation with “Tell me the truth, Mom” and proceeds to ask about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy all at the same time, give it to him straight. (Yikes ) Also, refrain from sarcasm, bribery, and threats. Trust and respect are crucial.

• Expect obedience. If your child thinks it’s okay to disobey you until a second or third repeated request, you are teaching them to not obey you. This is where the “higher-calling” comes into play. Those daily child devotions are full of life lessons that encourage the importance of obedience.

• Raise your child to be a decision-maker. If my son wished to wear shorts outside in the dead of winter, that’s what he did. I knew that if he was cold enough, he could come inside or change his clothes. He decided when to do his homework while he was in Grammar school. I remember when I was picking him up after school and feeling delighted to see him lying face down on the trampoline at his friend’s house with his books spread out, while his friend was bouncing around. This attitude continued till high school when his homework habits were solidly getting him through those difficult years. Making his own decisions provided the confidence he needed for work (he was an umpire at age 12) and later on in his college years.

In conclusion, notice that the flip side to the Isaiah verse (above) is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Let this encourage you. I rejoice happily, for God has blessed me with this fruitful life. He will give you a fruitful life as well, if you commit to give Him the glory.

Happy Mother’s Day! To God be the glory!