A New Thing
"Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you." Isaiah 42:9 (NAS)

Have you ever had that feeling that God was doing a new thing but He hadn't revealed what it was yet? You just knew something was coming. And while you waited you sensed that He wanted you to seek Him, listen for direction and be willing to follow one step at a time?

Over the past few months God's given me that sense. At first, I thought it was our adoption. That alone will bring LOTS of "new" to our lives for sure, but we're stilling waiting. Although it's hard, over the past few weeks I've had this incredible peace about waiting. Perhaps it's because God has been turning the eyes of my heart to look deeply into the hearts of two sons we already have. As I shared last week, Joshua and Andrew have been asking so many new questions having to do with God and the Bible.

At the same time, God's been nudging JJ and me both to carve out space in our thoughts and in our schedules to connect in new ways with our boys on a spiritual level. It's not that we weren't doing anything already. We have been, but it's not the same as it used to be when they were toddlers or early elementary school age. It's much harder to feel like they are interested than when we played games and did fun family devos with M&Ms and blindfolds. Their age difference of 2.5 years is more noticeable now, and makes it challenging to connect with them both at the same time on the same level since they are at two different places in their faith journey. And, they are two very different children who process information in two very different ways: one by reading and thinking, the other by seeing and feeling.

Also, as they've gotten older we felt like we needed to stop pushing and planning it all ourselves. We've tried to leave room for their faith to become their own - not just an act of pleasing us. But now God is showing us that it's time to press in again, not back off, not even a little. He wants us to be more aware of where they are in life, and look for ways to bring Jesus into the picture on an intellectual and relational level. Encouraging and equipping them to follow Him with all their hearts, minds, and souls - outside of the walls of church and youth group.

The holiday break gave us time to share our thoughts and desires with the boys, get their feedback, set some goals and make some decisions. It's a starting place. It seems like a lot. But we've tried it for a few days and it's gone well. So, I'm going public with the "new things" we're committing to as a family 2009:
  • Read the Chronological Bible together for 15-20 mins each night and take turns facilitating talk-time. Update 1/7/09 - we just got started on this goal tonight. Great time reading with the kids but it's much harder now that they are back in school and we're back to work. We've been focused more on our next goal and giving ourselves lots of grace.

  • Do a short devotion in the morning and or evening with a verse and a prayer

  • Memorize a verse each week or so and pray it together.

  • Talk more about whatever we (all four of us) are going through at meal times, in the car, after school, before bed.

  • Look up verses that apply to our felt needs (which we'll know more about when we talk more about the) - like fear, anxiety, studying for tests, working through rejection with friends, balancing work and family, etc. - and making those our devo topics as we go along.

  • Play games and connect in fun ways as a family more regularly.

  • Cut back on watching tv, being on the computer and playing video games as much as we have been.

  • Find resources like DVDs and books that bring Biblical truths and history to life.

  • Run together and exercise our bodies and our minds while weaving in these things as they fit during recreational time, not just sit-down-and-talk time.

  • Claim Romans 10:17 as our family life verse: "Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God." (NKJV)
Would you like to join our family and commit to connecting with your kids spiritually in some new and fun ways? I'll be sharing what we're doing here. We'd love for you to join us!

If you don't have kids - I'd love to know what you are asking for or giving to God this year? For Christmas, I gave Him the commitment to not turn on my computer at all until I have opened my Bible and let God speak to my heart before anything or anyone else. I'm asking Him for a deeper hunger and understanding of His Word.

It's a new year, the perfect time for a new thing. What do you think yours will be?

Getting Ready...
It's a little hard to believe that it's the day before Christmas Eve. These Holy days have gone by so quickly but I'm finally enjoying them. This week I made myself slow down and find a rhythm in God's grace. Some things just aren't going to get done, and that's ok. Some things will get done but won't be things I planned to do but I have a feeling it's because God is getting me ready for more than Christmas.

Yesterday morning I was praying for my boys. Both have been asking really great but also challenging questions about the Bible. Joshua wants to be able to answer questions from friends and family who don't believe. He wants to know more than Bible stories; he wants to know facts that prove Jesus' claims are true.

Sometimes I don't feel equipped with answers, or I don't know where to start. Should I teach him about intelligent design? Should I have him read "More than a Carpenter" or "The Case for Christ"? God showed me yesterday that all I have to do is ask Him. So, I opened my Bible to Psalm 119 which focuses on the richness of God's precepts and principles. My eyes landed on verse 125 that was underlined from another day. There I found words to describe my heart's desire and hopefully the quest my children's hearts: "I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes."

Then my eyes glanced across to the other page where I read v. 73, "Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands."

I was so excited that I took my Bible to Josh and Andrew to read these verses to them. I shared with them how David recognized the power of God's Word, but asked God to give him deeper understanding. Since God had formed him, He knew what David needed to find the answers to his questions. I explained that because God formed us too, He knows us inside and out. So He is the One who can help us understand His Word and His ways. We were about to run errands together so I suggested this be our prayer and focus for the day - that God would help us understand Him better.

Hours later...towards the evening....we gathered around our Advent wreath to lighting two candles and talk about what they symbolize. (We're being a little creative this year - doing Advent the four nights before Christmas.) The devotion we're reading suggested we talk about what "prophecy" means and how Jesus was God's promise kept. Then we read prophesies written long before Jesus' birth and then stories of how they were fulfilled.

This time, it seemed our boys were more interested than years past about the details behind what God did leading up to Jesus. Andrew heard something for the first time - although we've shared it before - when we talked about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. I told them how the word Bethlehem means "house of bread," and explained how Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. How cool it is that God would name the town of Christ birth to match one of the claims He made about Who He is? I saw light bulbs going off and a bright smile on Andrew's face when it clicked. Joshua leaned forward and asked how many prophesies were fulfilled to prove Jesus is God and to prove that He came.

Advent for the kids used to be mostly about lighting candles, which I loved! But today God answered my prayers for a Christ-centered Christmas in a whole new way by "giving discernment" into His precepts and His greatest promise - fulfilled through Christ. Our times around the Advent wreath have changed. I have a feeling this night was preparing us for the coming of Christmas, but also for the coming years. We're entering a new season of life in many ways. I wonder how God will give us more and more understanding of His heart and His purposes in our family and in our lives in 2009?

We finished our time together praying and thanking God for the extent of details He went through to send His Son and to prove His love to us. Then we shared another favorite tradition - drinking hot chocolate and driving around looking at Christmas lights. I went to bed last night with a heart full - knowing I had spent some very special time with my favorites in the whole wide world - Jesus and my guys!

All in a day...
My heart feels ready and so does my home. I spent all day shopping for food and gifts yesterday.Today has been spent with friends and now I am back to share photos from last week's adventures. I can't believe it's already been a week since we got back. Here are a few of the fun memories...

Lights, camera, action!
The first part of filming was just me talking to the camera - sharing about the conference and why it's so very needed for parents today. Then I shared a D6 story.
Leah said it went great. I was so glad she was there to
encourage and pray for me. Here she is on the floor, which she said was more comfortable than the chair behind her.
From the floor, this was Leah's view of us filming.

Jeremy (who has such a servant's heart) is working the cameraand Matt Markins (who is a creative genius that passionately loves Jesus and his family) is getting ready to do the interview portion. He had such great questions!

Lysa stopped by towards the end to
share two great D6 stories.
Leah took a quick photo of us together.
This is our before photo...

These are our "after" photos!

After we finished filming, we caught a 7:45pm flight to Houston - which was delayed. We got to TX at 11pm our time. Somehow our luggage got delayed in la la land. Here we are standing in baggage claim for what felt like forever waiting for our precious cargo!
Here I am swatting at Lysa who's trying to get a close-up
so you can see how blood shot my eyes are.
We finally got our bags, rented a car and found our hotel. Much to our surprise, it was FREEZING outside!! Thankfully they had hot cocoa in the hotel lobby (although the color of the hot water was questionable). We got some anyway, and then went nighty-night. It was 1am EST when our heads hit the pillow. All this happened, all in a day!

Twas the Week before Christmas
Twas the week before Christmas,
and all through my house
there were cameras and lights
and a sick child on the couch.
There was talking, and laughing and Tylenol too.
Josh had come home from school sick with
a high fever - what if he had the flu?
I was supposed to be in Texas
for meetings the next day
but he'd need to miss school, shouldn't I stay?
That's my joy as mom: to sit by his side,
take his temperature every
hour and stay close by.
But as I shared in my post just that day,
God's timing doesn't always match mine
so I have to depend on and trust in Him all of the time.

Lysa came to get me and shared a D6 story or two,
We caught a few fun camera shots
and filmed a complimentary SheSpeaks promo too!
Then we left for the airport just in time to catch our flight
And woke the next morning in Texas
met with KSBJ and started planning our Girl's Night.

Back home all was well
with Josh and his dad
It seemed better I was gone,
although it made me really sad.
JJ stayed home from work
and spent the whole day by his side,
they watched tv together and had great quality time.
When I got back Tuesday night,
I could see Josh was getting well,
But whether it was the medicine or
his father's love that helped
I am not sure I could tell!

Last week was a whirlwind of opportunities to meet some amazing people, have loads of fun, get little sleep, and trust God continually. Of course, He came through in so many wonderful ways. Thank you so much to all of you who were praying. I got to spend the day with Josh on Wednesday while he was getting better so I still got that snuggle time I love when my kids are sick. I'm headed to the grocery store and the post office this morning, but I hope to get my photos downloaded and posted later today (Okay, I was gone ALL day so hopefully I'll get them up tomorrow). I want you to meet some of the incredible servants of Christ I spent the week before Christmas with. I can't wait to serve by their sides in 2009!

The Interview and the Winners!
I love your insights and ideas about parents being involved in their kids' spiritual lives. I have some special guest bloggers stopping by soon to share their perspectives and stories - maybe even a few author interviews, too. And best of all I've got more book give-aways sponsored by D6 and a big announcement about how you can win a trip for two (all expenses paid) to the D6 conference in September 2009!!! This week's winners, chosen by Random Integers, are: Commenters 9 and 1 Timestamp: 2008-12-18 03:33:14 UTC

1 -
Carol is the winner of Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna

9 -
Caroline is the winner of The Bathtub's Overflowing.... by Lysa TerKeurst

The Interview

The interviews on Monday were fun. I have photos to share, too. After I was done, Matt from D6 did a spontaneous Q&A with my ten-year-old, Andrew. It was just the guys talking, and me sitting there listening...and thinking... and praying! It was so funny and went something like this:

Matt: So, Andrew what is your favorite thing about being part of your family?

Me: Hoping he'll say "I love how my mom prays for me on the way to school and talks to me about Jesus, and tells how I can love people like He loves me. I also like it when we read the Bible together and have family time."

Andrew: Ummm, what I like most about our family is decorating the Christmas tree. I love the Christmas lights but I have to keep asking my mom again and again when we're going to decorate our tree because we don't usually decorate our tree until two weeks before Christmas but I love the Christmas tree lights and when we finally put the ornaments on.

Matt: Why do you like that?

Me: Hoping he'll say, "Because Christmas lights remind me that Jesus is the Light of the world. And Christmas is His birthday."

Andrew: Because it's gives me that warm feeling inside. You know that feeling you get when you are with family and it's all cozy 'cause you're together?

Me: Ahh, that is so sweet. But I sure do wish He'd mention Jesus or the Bible or something spiritual for Heaven's sake.

Matt: Andrew, what is your favorite thing about Christmas?

Me: Here's his chance to mention Jesus' birthday and our breakfast where we give Him a gift from our hearts and put baby Jesus in the mangers. Or how we do the advent wreath..oh no we haven't done the Advent wreath - yet! Note to self:Light Advent candles and catch up on Advent reading when you get back from TX.

Andrew: My favorite thing about Christmas is the Christmas tree and the lights and opening presents and being together. And oh yea, my mom will read the Bible about Jesus being born.

Matt: That's good since Jesus is what Christmas is all about, right?

Me: Oh, thank you Andrew for remembering that sweetheart. You might have just saved me from getting pulled off the speakers list!

It was really funny! Here I am being interviewed by the director of a conference for Christian parenting who invited me to speak and my child is not mentioning Jesus. I am sure he thought Matt knew enough about Jesus and just needed some Christmas light inspiration! My favorite part came towards the end when Matt asked:

Matt: What do you think your mom likes most about being in your family?

Andrew: Loving us. She really loves me and she's always there for me.

Me: Ahh, that's enough to make my heart just melt!

Matt: What do you think your dad likes most about being in your family?

Andrew: Reading the Bible. He loves to read the Bible. He makes me want to read the Bible and be a Christian when I grow up!

Me: Thank you Lord for my husband's influence in my precious son's life. Note to self: Be sure to talk with Andrew about what it means to be a Christian since he already is (or I thought he was) and be sure he knows he doesn't have to wait until he grows up to read the Bible :-) like his dad but I sure am glad he wants to!!

Kids! They'll keep you humble for sure. But I am so thankful for my little man. One thing I know: he loves God's beauty reflected in Christmas lights! And he lights up a room with his smile and humor, the way Jesus did. Just makes me want to squeeze him!

So, have your kids ever had one of these moments? I have another funny story about something Andrew said to my pastor about "gas" after one of his sermons. Oh, but I don't think I can share it in bloggy world!

More than I can Handle
Today holds a little bit more than this girl feels like she can handle in one day. I have three guests arriving in two hours with video cameras, lights, electrical smetrical gadgets and interview questions! Matt Markins from the D6 Family ministry is flying in from Nashville, TN today. He's bringing a video/camera guy to my house to capture some conversations on film to use in promotions for the D6 conference I'll be part of September 23-25, 2009 in Dallas, TX.

My wonderful friend and speaking assistant, Leah DiPascal, will be here too. She'll be smiling and encouraging and calming - like she always is!! She'll be reminding me that this is God's assignment and that He's given me all I need to fulfill it. She's so much like Elizabeth, how she encouraged Mary to keep believing and focusing her eyes on the one who called her and promised to supply all that she needed!

So, about those interviews we'll be doing. Matt wants me to share why it's important for parents to be involved in their children's spiritual growth. He's has asked me to share a D6 story about a time with my kids where life and God's truths intersected. I plan to share about Joshua's incredible insight after my mom's tinted sunglasses moment and how it opened the door for a very meaningful conversation about how we can see things through God's perspective. The term D6 comes from God's clear, powerful and practical commands for parents found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

We'll also be talking about why this conference is needed at a time when mom's are being pulled in every direction and overwhelmed, but longing for encouragement and ideas to connect with their kids spiritually.

Then tonight I fly out to Houston, Texas with Lysa to meet with KSBJ tomorrow about our Girl's Night out with Proverbs 31 Ministries, Kate Gosselin from TLC's Jon and Kate + 8, and Ayiesha Woods in Houston on January 22, 2009.

It's the week before Christmas. This is crazy isn't it? What was I thinking? Honestly, I wasn't. This wasn't on my calendar until two weeks ago. But I have come to believe that long, long ago it was on God's calendar. He just happened to insert these plans it into mine when all the details, and promotions deadlines came together. Sometimes, God's timing doesn't make sense but if it did I wouldn't have to depend on Him so much. Today, I definitely do. It might be more than I can handle, but He can more than handle all of it!

You know, there are days when parenting two boys feels like more than I can handle, too. That's why I need conferences like these and encouragement from others. So, I'd love to hear your thoughts about what we're discussing today: Why do you think it is important for parents to be involved in their children's spiritual growth, rather than just taking them to Sunday school and youth group?

I'll be doing a drawing sponsored by the D6 conference and P31 this Wednesday, giving away a copy of George Barna's, Revolutionary Parenting, and Lysa TerKeurst's, The Bathtub is Overflowing but I feel Drained . For a chance to win, please share your thoughts below in the comments section. And the winner of my Friday Christmas give-away is Chef Diane!!

Welcome to those of you hopping over from Karen's Ehmans 12 Days of Christmas give-away or from the P31 woman magazine article I had this month. I wanted to share with you a prayer I penned over the years after my crazy Christmas. I pray through it often during this busy time of year to help me prepare a place for Christ in the manger of my heart and home at Christmas.

The Manger of My Heart
This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.

Fill me with your presence, from the very start.

As I prepare for the holidays, and gifts to be given,

Remind me of the gift You gave,

when you sent Your Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas gift, the greatest gift ever,
You came as a baby born in a manger.

Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,

Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.

This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Search me and know the most intimate parts.

Reveal to me if I have ever hung a sign within,

Claiming it off limits, implying “no room at the Inn.”

Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus’ birth,
He left the riches of Heaven
and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.

Emmanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.

As angels announced, “Into your darkness,
God brings His Light.”

“Do not be afraid,” they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.

Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to your call.

Casting distractions and worries aside,
to You I surrender them all.

Surround me with Your presence, Lord,
I long to hear your voice.

Clear my mind of concerns and all the holiday noise.

Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.

In the midst of parties and planning,
I want to feel Your hush.

This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.

Dwell within and around me,
as I unwrap Your presence each day.

Keep me close to You, Jesus.

It’s in your wonderful Name I pray.

© 2003,
Renee Swope ~ www.ReneeSwope.com

Also, here are a few practical ways we can get intentional about unwrapping Christ's presence each day:

  • Plan out your holiday calendar and identify which days might be the most challenging. Write on an index card “God’s with me” and carry it around. Every time you feel stressed, thank Him out loud for being "with you" and ask Him to help you as you through your activities.

  • Write down on your schedule time to be with Jesus each day. Sit still in His presence, soak in His perspective through His Word, and bask in His peace as you work, drive, wrap gifts, cook, entertain, etc..

  • Throughout December, listen to songs that remind you of the gift of Christmas - Immanuel – God with you!

  • Make a list of expectations and preparations that could rob you of joy and consume your focus this Christmas. Place the list in a gift box and wrap it in God’s presence with a prayer - asking for His perspective and peace for everything you listed.

  • If you feel yourself getting anxious, go back to the gift box and remind yourself that each assignment and challenge is wrapped in God’s peace. Trust Him and thank Him that no matter what comes your way, He is with you!
If you'd like to be part of today's give-away, you can double your chances of winning by leaving a comment below about your favorite Christmas tradition or how your family celebrates Christ at Christmas. I"ll be giving away my Christmas message on CD and a Bath&Body works candle to someone here and someone on Karen's blog, too.

Looking for a great gift to give and receive?
As many of you know, my family has a heart for adoption and we're in the process of bringing home a daughter or two from Ethiopia. It's a very expensive process and many families who want to adopt aren't able because they don't have the funds. My friend Marybeth is doing a give-away on her blog today to help a family who has already adopted three children from China and is trying to adopt a fourth-- which would make a family of seven kids.

Marybeth is giving away three candles from Connie, who is selling candles to raise money to bring their newest child home from China. So, if you are looking for a great gift and a way to help out a family, this is perfect!

Here's what Connie had to say about what one lucky winner will receive:

12 oz. hand poured...triple scented. All are a milky white color...any scent will match anyone's home. 9 scents to choose from representing each Fruit of the Spirit. Different Bible verses on each one to go along with each fruit of the spirit. Poured in a square jar with extra cute packaging...great for a Christmas or Birthday gift. All scents have been tested in our own homes. We've been making candles for over 10 years.

Be sure to visit Marybeth's blog to find out more!.

Marriage with No Regrets
I honored my husband last night by going to bed at 9:30pm. Believe me, I wanted to to stay up and determine the winners of my R-E-S-P-E-C-T give-away. And I wanted to finish decorating my Christmas tree because I was hosting the P31 staff Christmas party at my house this morning. But no announcements and no ornaments meant no arguments, so I was able to go to bed with no regrets. Well, accept that I didn't get to tell you the winners...until now.

Thanks to Christy Leake for suggesting we invite others to give away copies of Melanie Chitwood's book, "What a Husband Needs from His Wife," we have six winners. I let the Holy Spirit and Random Integer do the choosing, and the winners are...

Laurie Golden
Amber Jackson
Kim at NothingCanSeperateMe
Hayley (who's just been married 9 months)

I really, really wanted all of you to win. If you aren't listed above, I hope you'll consider getting a copy of "What a Husband Needs from His Wife " to read. Please know, I don't get anything from promoting it - except knowing God will use it powerfully in your life and in your marriage. I'd love to hear about it if He does! I also wanted to share with you an email I received the day after my devotion about honoring our husbands.

Dear Renee,

Reading your devotion was like reading a letter I would write. I have always tried as a wife to honor my husband. God joined us and led us and he was the head of the house. Sure we compromised when we made decisions but the final was usually by him. He honored me too because I did honor him. He always asked me also to call him away from the childrens hearing and tell him what I needed to tell him. I usually did. If I didn't he would later tell me.

If there was something that disturbed me, I would go in my room, close the door and pray, Lord is this something that hurt me because I was in a bad mood? Or something I need to call him aside and talk about it?

If it was because I was in a bad mood, the Lord let me feel that and I would return to whatever I was doing. If I needed to talk with him, I would tell him I need to talk about something and not to get mad. Then we talked and usually ended up hugging.

He went to be with the Lord too soon for us. He had lung cancer for over 3 years and worked till it was hard too breathe. He knew I was ill the night before he went to be with the Lord and drove me to the Dr. Then the next morning he woke me and said he could not breathe. I tried to help him , praying, calling 911, and working on him.

I remember very little after that for 6 weeks. I was at the services, greeted friends, so I am told. I woke in the hospital this time last year. It felt like he passed the day before, but it had been 6 weeks. I had post tramatic syndrome. I still do not remember much but what counts is the husband I did honor and he honored me. He will be at the Gate waiting for me one day.

I was taken to the hospital after my family came in at night and I was in the bed. They knew something was wrong because I did not make a scence on the phone. So from December until March I was too weak to be alone. Now I am healed. I am strong and live for the Lord even more than I did before. Because I honored him as my husband and as the father of our children, my heart feels proud of our life. I know the Lord led us and lit our paths for 40
years. God is so good.. Now I do mission work and God gets all the honor and Glory.

Take care,
Patricia Ross

As many of you know, my husband has had pretty serious health issues this year. He's doing really well this week, but when I got Patricia's letter he'd just gotten out of the hospital. I cried as I read it because I was keenly aware that each day is a gift, and I don't know how many I will have with my husband and best friend. I pray that it will be more than I can count. But how ever many God gives me, I want to honor JJ each day that I have been given. I want to have a marriage with no regrets!

Cool Christmas Give-Away Winners
Thanks to all of you for being part of my Cool Christmas Give-Away this weekend. My special give-away winners:

59 43 53 3

Thanks to Random Integer generator.
Timestamp: 2008-12-09 01:44:04 UTC

# 59 Allison wins the $10 Target gift card or $10 Starbuck's gift car

# 43 Shannon wins Susie Larson's - The Uncommon Woman

#53 Amy Jo wins Melanie Chitwood's - What Every Husband Needs

#3 Alyce wins Renee's Swope's - Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Chart and Cd

Some bloggers aren't drawing winners until this Friday, so be sure to hop over to Lysa's blog and visit more blogs with great give-aways that are listed in Lysa's Mr Linky.

Also, thanks for your prayers for my half-marathon and my event last Thursday night!! There were both great!!!!!! I've been recuperating all day and working on a chapter that is due this Wednesday, for a book I am contributing to. As soon as I am done writing on Tuesday, I'll be posting photos and details of my run. JJ and the boys came to cheer me on during the race, and one of my best friends ended up running with me, so it was just an incredible end to an incredible week!

More Cool Give-Aways
Today is the big day for me to announce the winner of "What Every Husband Needs from His Wife" from Wednesday's post. It's so hard to imagine only giving one of you this book. I want every one of you to win a copy! I told God about my little dilemna, and guess what? Late last night after my event, I checked my email and GOD ANSWERED! Christy Leake wants to help me give more than one book because her heart was so moved by all the stories and comments, too. I'm flying home this morning, then headed to SC for my half-marathon tomorrow but somehow I'm going to contact Christy so we can work out the details. We may do a matching gift-give-away so if you want to help please visit Christy's blog and leave a comment on her Cool Christmas Give-away post and we'll be working on this together.

I'll wait to wait to announce those winners next Tuesday night (once we figure out how many we can have). Be sure to keep coming back to see if you're one of them!

And there's more...I'll be giving away 4 additional gifts to 4 winners on Monday night as part of Lysa's TerKeurst Cool Christmas Give-Away! Here is what you could win:
  • $10 Target gift card or $10 Starbuck's gift card
  • Susie Larson's - The Uncommon Woman
  • Melanie Chitwood's - What Every Husband Needs
  • Renee's Swope's - Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Chart and Cd
Please leave a comment below this post if you'd like to be one of my Cool Christmas give-away winners. If you'd like to be part of the marriage give-away be sure to go here. And for more cool Christmas give-away's, be sure to hop over to Lysa's blog by clicking on the Cool Christmas give-away button above.

Happy Friday!

All Things
If you're stopping by from my devotion about honoring our husbands, welcome! I shared some true confessions yesterday about God working on my heart for years- showing me how to love my husband like He does. I also listed practical ways we can honor our men, and told about a great marriage book give-away on Friday. Be sure to scroll down to yesterday's post to find out how you can be part of it.

Marriage can be hard. We want to be all God's calls us to be as wives, but it's not easy. We're afraid. We've been hurt. We're tired. We want our way and sometimes our husbands are hard to love. Some of us are in very difficult situations and need Godly counsel and wisdom for the next step. As I read your comments, I'm praying for each of you specifically. I'm so proud of you for being real here.

Satan wants to convince us that we'll never change and that if others knew the kind of wives we were, they'd stone us. Jesus wants us to be real with each other and confess our struggles with the desire for real change. But it takes daily, moment by moment surrender. Real change comes through the power of God's Spirit living in us - transforming us into His likeness each day. Even when it gets hard and we blow it, we need to keep going, keep surrendering because God promises that we can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives us strength!

Sadly, the enemy is gaining ground in destroying marriages. Yet God wants our hearts and our homes to be Holy ground - places where the enemy dare not tread! I want that, and I know you do, too! So let's stick together and tap into God's power through prayer:

Father, we humble our hearts before You now and ask that You pour out Your grace and mercy on each of us. We need Your love to saturate our souls with Truth. We need our eyes to be opened to the hope which you have called us to, the glorious purpose You have for our marriages. We thank You for the gift You have given us in our husbands. Help us to see things they do that are worthy of honor, respect and encouragement; Make us slow down long enough to tell them. Help us to silence the enemy's voice of condemnation that sneaks up in our thoughts towards our husbands. Lord, take our thoughts captive and re-align them with Your thoughts. Help us not look to our husbands or anyone else for identity, purpose or joy. Help us to look to You alone for all that we need. You are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

If you live in Tallahassee, I'd love to meet you. I'm there right now preparing to speak at a Christmas outreach event tonight at Wildwood Church. We're believing big that God is going to show up in a powerful way and draw us to Himself. Please pray for the women coming, for the team who's prayed and planned this event for months (the leader's husband is having emergency back surgery today as I write) and also for my family while I'm gone, for God's powerful anointing to come over me. It's been a long hard week at home. I need the Holy Spirit to come upon me and the power of the Most High to overshadow me as He invades the room with His glory and fills the heart of every woman there!

I'll be praying for you, too. Wherever you are, whatever He's calling you to do or be, remember, "You can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives you strength!"

R-E-S-P-E-C-T...that is what he needs from me!
Okay, we're gonna get real here today! I have an embarrassing confession to make: When JJ and I got married 15 years ago, I took out the words "honor and obey" from my marriage vows. While I'm confessing, you should also know I didn't say I would submit to my husband either. I said I would "submit my ideas and dreams" to my husband and trust God's leadership in our marriage. I was a baby Christian, but mainly I was measuring my words to make sure God and my witnesses didn't catch me in a lie.

Oh, I had some serious issues going into marriage (and sometimes still do). Boy has God done a work on me though. Like many women, I was terrified that if I submitted to my husband I'd become a doormat and lose myself somewhere in the middle of letting my husband lead. I regretfully remember one time JJ told me it was easier to let me lead because it wasn't worth the argument to him.

You'd think that's what I wanted - to get my way. But it wasn't what I wanted because JJ became apathetic. Soon I realized I was losing respect for my husband and it was mostly my fault. I wanted him to lead, but when he tried I'd often criticize how he led. It was a mess.

One day I was praying God would change JJ and make him more decisive, more confident, more protective and well, just more what I wanted him to be. God strongly impressed on my heart that my criticism wasn't getting me any closer to my desired result. In fact, my frustration with JJ only contributed to the condemnation of his own insecurities and doubts as a man. (You know they have doubts, too). God also showed me I was fueling Satan's flaming darts aimed at my husband's heart. Here I was joining forces with the one who wanted to take out JJ as the leader of our home.

Through prayer, God showed me that my husband needed me to be his greatest cheerleader, his biggest supporter and to use the power of my words to build up and not tear down my man. He wanted me to keep my mouth closed when JJ was doing something I didn't like or leading in a way I didn't want to follow. He wanted me to be verbally, emotionally and spiritually encouraging when I saw things I appreciated. I was to find things I respected about JJ and let God take care of things I didn't.

I started doing what God told me. I looked for and found things in JJ that I'd never really noticed before; I discovered things that were worthy of respect. It all started over 10 years ago. We've been through so much together now, and followed many of his decisions that scared me: job changes I didn't want him to make; financial investments that seemed too risky; parenting issues that were hard.

I can say with joy that my husband is now the leader of our home. It's taken commitment and many choices to honor him in big and small ways. And although he isn't perfect, he's more the man I dreamed of marrying than I ever hoped he'd be!

As I promised in my P31 devotion today, I wanted to share some practical ways we can honor our husbands and strengthen our marriages:
  • Tell your husband that you believe in him!
  • Don't point out his mistakes, just fill in the gap.
  • Ask God to show you ways to serve your husband.
  • Don't ever say "I told you so."
  • Say "I'm sorry" and mean it when you dishonor him.
  • Say "I forgive you" and mean it when he dishonors or hurts you.
  • Tell your husband that you thank God for giving him to you (and be sure you do).
  • Let him overhear you telling someone something you appreciate about him.
  • Support and encourage his decisions.
  • Praise him when his decisions turn out well and encourage him when they don't.
  • Tell you husband each day about one thing you are thankful for - about his character, his work ethic, his provision, his humor or something his adds to your family.
  • Pray for your husband every day.
Several of these ideas came from my friend Melanie Chitwood's book, "What a Husband Needs from His Wife."

For a chance to win this great marriage book, filled with insights, encouraging ideas and powerful stories, enter my drawing by clicking on the word "comments" below. Then type your name and email address (so I can notify you if you win) in the white box. Choose anonymous if you want to be - just come back to see if you won. I'll announce the winner on Friday. And I'd love to know is if you have any embarrassing or fun marriage stories to tell. If not, what is one thing that makes your husband feel honored? Be sure to ask him if you don't know the answer.

No Place Like Home
JJ is doing so much better after his four-day stay in the hospital for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling being home has a lot to do with it (along with many, many prayers!!). He and the boys were joking and laughing Sunday night at the dinner table as he sipped his beef broth. It was good for my soul to see my guys together with all smiles.

It was also nice that no one was taking his temperature and giving him medicine at midnight, so he got some extra sleep. I slept so much better with him by my side again.

He stayed home from work Monday but he's going to try a half-day at the office today. We're still waiting to hear back about some test results. We're not sure exactly what he had still, but we do know that what he had this time isn't like anything he's had before.

And if you want to pray along with us - please pray for his medicine to COMPLETELY get rid of this bacteria. If it's the C Diff, then it has a tendency to be dormant and come back later. But in Jesus' Name we are claiming full extermination of it and full occupation of his intestines with good flora! Have you ever heard such a prayer!?

Knocked in the Noggin!
You're not seeing double. That's my face in the same photo, two times today. Welcome to those of you who popped over from my interview for the cover of the December 2008 Christian Women Online magazine (e-zine). I'm so glad you stopped by!

Now don't let that touched up cover photo fool you. I have a lot more wrinkles than it shows and I'm no cover girl, let me tell ya. I'm an ordinary woman/mom/wife who sometimes doesn't even get to take a shower before her husband gets home. Like yesterday, for example. It's a good thing they weren't taking my picture then. It would've been hard to catch me since I was driving from here to there and everywhere picking up kids, grabbing lunch at the drive-thru, cleaning floors and towels, vacuuming and running to the hospital to get my husband who'd been there over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I was hoping to look pretty for JJ's homecoming. You know - wash my hair, change out of my sweatsuit. But I gave up that plan after chasing my soaking wet dog who'd come in from the rain. While I wiped her paws, she slipped away in an attempt to run rampant on my newly cleaned floors, so I dove for the open laundry room door. That's when I slammed the corner of my head into the corner of my faux marble counter top. OUCH!!! (Things like that are not supposed to happen when you're trying to go get your husband from the hospital.) I really didn't want to cry. So, I just bit my lip and ignored the throbbing sensation under my bangs and headed for the hospital.

JJ and and the boys gasped when I showed it to them last night. I wish the flash didn't wash out the color so you could see it. It looked like a bloodshot blue eyeball on my forehead. Lovely, huh?

Here I am knocked in the noggin with a big ole knot on my head and theCWO magazine cover shot and article pops into my email inbox this morning. God's timing is so funny!

Before I go, I want to say "thanks" to Christian Women Online for the honor of doing this interview! It was a real treat. I loved getting to know Sunny Shell (my CWO interviewer and new friend) and answer all of her great questions. It was like tracing the lines of God's story in my life for the past 13 years. It helped me remember and thank God for all that He has done. I pray that as women read my story in this interview, they'll be able to trace His hand in theirs. If you'd like to read it, click here.

12 Days of Christmas Give-Away
If you'd like to find some great holiday ideas, easy recipes and have a chance to win both practical and pampering prizes, be sure to pop over to the blog of my friend and teammate, Karen Ehman. She'll be sharing Christmas favorites and traditions from a few of my other “sistas” from the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaking team. So, be sure to get in the holiday spirit and hop on over to Karen's blog! Be sure to leave a comment so you'll have a chance to win!