When You Think You’ve Gone Too Far

As long as you’re still taking breaths…you haven’t gone too far away from His love.

No matter where you’ve gone or what you’ve done, He’s been pursuing you with His love.
Stop running…

god love is fierce copy

Fierce: /fi(ə)rs/

Adjective: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.

 

1 John 4:9
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Proverbs 3:3
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Psalm 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Three Tips for a Stronger Marriage

stronger marriage

Three Tips for Stronger Marriage:
1. Forgive- the fire goes out when you water it with forgiveness.
“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”
Eph. 4:32 The Message
2. Communicate- your spouse is not a mind reader, tell him/her how you feel and use phrases like “I feel…..” not “You always……”
3. Play- Do something fun together. Set aside life’s worries for a time of connection and laughs.

 

“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!” Eccl. 4:9-10 MSG

Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed its’ the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

If there is one thing we are figuring out in the past ten years, it’s that systems and bullet point aren’t enough. We’ve been doctrined to death. We have access to more Bible studies, commentaries and guides than Justin Bieber has Twitter followers.

But we’re still hungry and unfulfilled.

So we go to conferences. We travel meeting to meeting, getting there early to snatch a good seat. We stand outside the door smiling at the other ladies in line all the while implementing: “Operation Get Down Front” that was hatched in the minivan on the way to the coliseum. We spread out, putting two women at each door because Jesus always sends us out in twos. We make sweet small talk with the ladies around us asking where they traveled from and how many kids they have, all the while pretending that we’re not in a cutthroat race against these capri wearing, Bible toting, scripture quoting, sleep deprived women. The doors open and it is game time. We keep our plastic smiles painted on as we swiftly walk, careful not to actually break into a jog, to the seats we want, swerving around the pokey women who obviously have no idea how this works. Finally, we settle on a spot, one woman on one side and another on the other and we throw coats purses and Bible onto all the seats in the middle.
Whew, we made it, time to fall in love with Jesus!

Is that still working for you? Me neither.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some conferences, and I will probably still attend a few, but I want more, I believe you do too. Crowds of Christians are stepping away from traditional churches/venues to find something more. Sadly I don’t think that stepping away really solves the heart of what we’re missing. I think we just need to get across the table and start connecting instead of lining up in rows next to each other listening to a speaker only to feel shame six months later when the life changing conference didn’t really change us. I’m not blaming the conference, I blame us. We want the easy fix. We want ten steps to freedom.

If we forget everything we know about church and church life, pretend we have never experienced any of it, then pick up a Bible and start reading the Gospels and book of Acts, and were asked to describe what the Christianity should look like, would you describe your life right now?

I think most of us would have to admit that we’re missing something.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. Sometimes we get messed up in our thinking and we look at the Bible and see a set of rules, but it is a book about connection.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others.

Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin.
It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and experience new possibilities. New places for us to unfold and come alive with a realization that we’re not the only one weary of these roads we travel. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

John Cacioppo considered by many as one of the fathers of social neuroscience says:

“Our survival depends on collective abilities not our individual might. Our very health and well being depend on our ability to form and maintain satisfying social connections with one another.”

Studies show that those who are connected with family and friends are happier and healthier people. The emotional brain feels safer when we belong and have a connection with others; our brain has a basic need for security and protection. We are social beings. We feel better when we have friends and do things that we enjoy together. The way people respond to us is often a cue for telling ourselves “How lovable and acceptable I am.”

God created us for connection; our bodies and brains are hardwired for it. The brain is a social brain. We have neurons constantly firing; processing new experiences, creating pathways in our brain that information and emotion can travel.

Rascal Flatts were (was?) right , life IS a highway!

But if the neurons are not being used, if they’re not firing, they die off, by the millions. When they die off, connections in our brain are seemingly left at the edge of a cliff without a bridge. Eventually these neurons prune, shrivel and die just like we do if we are isolated and disconnected. Our experiences and relationship are powerful interventions that keep us alive and thriving.

When we feel safe in relationship, we engage, we interact and we bond or attach. This process releases oxytocin in us and that calms the fear center in our brain. It causes us to relax and rest in the comfort of relationships.

When we are wounded in relationships, we can quickly become apathetic towards the idea of connecting with people. When we become apathetic, our brains essentially go “offline,” it’s similar to the act of playing dead so the lion won’t eat us feeling.
It’s paralyzing to our relationships and ultimately our lives.

Social isolation, has been linked to an increased risk of infectious, cardiovascular, and many diseases.

When we can’t or won’t socially engage through friendships involving eye contact, meaningful conversation or emotionally connecting, our brain goes off line and the fear part of our brain takes over. It leads to stress and anxiety and produces an increased amount of cortisol in our body.

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small amounts of cortisol are good for us. It’ gives us a quick burst of energy for survival, it helps us run from lions and lift cars off our children, it heightens memory functions and lowers sensitivity to pain. Cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important for the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.

Did you know that higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress and isolation) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, higher blood pressure and lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences.  Over time, this seriously accelerates an age-related decline in health and well-being.

Most important, it also leads to increased abdominal fat.

Hello?! Healthy connections, are the key to losing our muffin tops!

God created us to live healthy and part of that is through meaningful connections. To keep cortisol low and oxytocin high we need to be connected to others. Family is one of the most important earthly connections we need but it’s not the only one. We also need friends. We need to connect with other women, especially those on similar journeys.

This, THIS is why I am so passionate about women connecting, encouraging and inspiring one another.

We’ve had a lot of interest in women starting Praise and Coffee groups in their community. It seems that once they realize that they just need to invite a couple friends out to a coffee shop or over to their kitchen table, they relax and jump in.
No centerpieces, door prizes or tackling women for a good seat, just real women, sharing life and stories around a table.

We believe wholeheartedly what the Bible says in Matt 18:20, that when 2 or 3 gather in His name, He comes.
No, you don’t need to call it Praise and Coffee, who cares what you call it, just do it!

But if you are interested in learning more about Praise and Coffee groups, we are holding a live chat in our online group for Praise and Coffee leaders. There is no cost, or sign up.
Click here to join us Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM EST for one hour or so. Ronel Sidney and I will be giving you ideas and answering questions. By joining us that night you are not committing to anything, we DO NOT want you to feel pressured to do one more thing unless God is leading you that way.

You are loved.

More: Loneliness is Not About Being Alone

The Summer 2013 Praise and Coffee Magazine, Our Last Issue

The Summer Praise and Coffee Magazine is here!

Click here to read: Summer 2013

It’s filled with great articles by amazing women. The topic is freedom, and we tackle it from all angles.

Freedom from our past, freedom to forgive, freedom from debt and more.cover summer 2013

Our last issue…

It was a little harder to press “publish” on this magazine. As you will read, it is the last magazine for an undecided amount of time. I tell you about the decision on the last pages of the magazine.

We’ve had three great years publishing this magazine! I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who submitted articles and poured their hearts out on the pages over the years. I’ve met some wonderful ladies along this journey and connected with women that have become friends in real life.

My focus is shifting and I have some other projects that have been calling for my attention for a long while and I’m hoping I can make some forward motion in those areas now.

The topic of “Freedom” was decided before I decided that this would be the last issue, but it is quite fitting. I don’t mean to say that I’m ‘free of the magazine’ because I’ve loved doing it. Loved it! But it is freeing to know that it’s ok to lay down something you love doing when you do it while trusting that God is leading you and has other things on the horizon.

It’s easy to go with the flow and once a system is started, just keep moving but the past few years I’ve learned to enjoy the fluidity of a relationship with Jesus. The message stays the same, but the vehicle changes. Freedom brings peace, but it often has to be fought for. We have to fight the voices and disappointments of others. Don’t expect everyone to love or understand the changes that God calls you to do.

But bravely step out, or step back, whichever you’re feeling the tug to do. Peace is the signature of a walk with God. I did not say quiet or calm or even easy, but I said peace, that inner sense that you’re on the right track and the contented rest that comes with trusting the Father’s love and leading.

I hope that even this move to stop publishing the magazine will encourage and inspire you to follow close to what God lays in your heart because His ways are always better than ours.

 

Here are some of the article pics if you would like to Pin them for us! And we would love it if you did!

diema freedom

espresso

farewell

forgive

freedome julie

grace

israel

mel capture melanie

tracee article

tricia capture

Spring 2013 Praise and Coffee Magazine is here!

Thank you to so many amazing women (and one man) who grace the pages of this issue!

spring 2013

We do not have print subsciptions available yet but you can order the magazines individually here:

Praise and Coffee Spring 2013

Praise and Coffee: Praise and Coffee Spring 2013

Connecting women to encourage each other and inspiring them to draw closer to God.

Find out more on MagCloud

 

And for all of you wonderful Pinners, here are some Pins for you to share!
Also available on my Pinterest page:

alli

contents 2

dee

espresso

fashion

israel

marriage

mel nelson

ronel

tami

underlying anger

Sign up here to receive an email when each new magazine comes out (this is only for magazine, not our actual website updates and you will only get 4 email a year).


Register for Praise and Coffee Magazine email updates

Marriage Is Not About Two Perfect People

They said it would never last. We stubbornly scoffed at them. We were young and so naïve.

I was 20 years old and engaged to be married to a man I’d known less than a year. I promptly ran out to buy my wedding dress and gathered prices on reception halls.

Two months later I was pregnant and the fairy tale wedding unraveled along with my reputation and friendships.  Our family was disappointed but supportive; we moved the wedding up and scaled down the celebration. I’d need a new dress, the off the shoulder summer design would not work for a November wedding.

Good friends stood by us, many church friends did not. A Pastor, who’d taken great interest in us as a young dynamic Christian couple, no longer greeted us with a big smile, instead a cool nod in our direction. Obviously, we’d failed him.

Matthew was born in May and we continued having a baby every other spring until 3 lively children filled our home. The years that followed were filled with love, laughter, tears, mountain tops and valleys.

Fast forward 25 years. Add another child…sans labor and delivery, this one was born in our hearts and brought home from a tiny village in the Chinese province of Xi’an.

It’s been an incredible journey, a road I’m so thankful to have traveled with my best friend. Like any friendship, there have been ups and downs, but always a commitment to come home and honor the promises we made that cold uncertain day in 1987.

Mark and I have spent endless hours counseling couples, many on the cliff ready to dive into divorce. As both sides plead their defense, our first question is, “how are your individual relationships with the Lord?” It’s so easy to blame problems on a marriage, but we have to look deeper than that. Often a marriage in trouble is just a symptom of one or two people who are not walking in personal peace and contentment.

The foundation of a strong marriage is girded on our personal walk with God.

When trials come, it is too easy to retreat emotionally, walk away from our partnership and let bitterness rule our thoughts. When we have the Holy Spirit whispering truth in our hearts, it anchors us, reminds us and draws us to lay down our offense and choose grace. Forgiveness is the powerful cord that weaves through our lives and holds us together.

Many said we would never last, I’m sure they saw what seemed like a shaky foundation. Thankfully we each had an honest personal relationship with a Father who never let go of us as we clung to His hand.

“Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Matt. 11:29 MSG

Marriage is not about two perfect people making it work, it’s about learning the unforced rhythms of grace as we navigate this dance we call life.

I’m grateful for the partner I’ve danced with and as we celebrate Matthew’s wedding this weekend, and add another daughter to our family, my heart swells with joy and anticipation of the next 25 years and new adventures ahead.

 

Edited to add:

We had a fabulous dinner last night at Ruth’s Chris in Grand Rapids and had to take a pic on the same stairway that we took pictures 25 years ago.

And a blast from the past:

 

It’s here! Summer 2012 Praise and Coffee Magazine

We hope you enjoy it and we’d love it if you share it, tweet it or pin it!

Moms, Don’t Lose Yourself In Motherhood

Being a mom is loads of fun right? Laundry pun intended. *Insert rolling eyes*

Raising our children is one of the best times in our lives, but often we get so busy with soccer, laundry, cooking, cleaning, playing, laundry, homework, lunches, bath time, laundry, reading, scraped knees and then more laundry, that we lose ourselves and identity as a woman.

This week I want to encourage moms not to lose themselves in motherhood.

We don’t want to be that woman who, when her nest is empty, has a complete meltdown because she forgot to invest in her own life.

A few ways we can avoid that:

  • Think about the things you loved to do before the kids came along. What are your passions, what do you enjoy? Try to fit some of that into your life now.
  • Take a class. Craft, photography, dance lesson, maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about photoshop: take a class, scrap booking, Zumba…go for it!
  • Date nights, spend time with your husband! Arrange a sitter and put it on the calendar.
  • Make time for girlfriends! Not just play-dates, but get out without the kids for some much needed girl time! Moms, we need that even more than we know. If you are in the Plainwell, MI area: come on out to our Praise and Coffee Night this Thursday!

So, moms…don’t lose yourself in motherhood…make time to nurture who you are as a woman.

Your family will be better for it because when Momma’s happy…

I do the ‘Real Moms of West Michigan’ segments on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook every Tuesday morning around 7:05 AM. If you are not in the West Michigan area you can listen on iHeart radio.
Click on the Star 105.7 tab to hear today’s segment.

God Understands the Tears of a Wife


Hello Ladies!

I’m posting over at the Internet Cafe’ today:

God Understands the Tears of a Wife

But before you read it I want to emphasize something that I’m not sure I did well enough in that post…

The post is about how God will heal the heart of a woman no matter what situation she is in, but it is NOT saying that a woman should stay in a situation that is either verbally or physically abusive or one in which your spouse is living in adultery.

I don’t want someone to read that and think…God will heal me so I need to stay here and continue to be abused. NO.

God will heal…He sees your tears, that is the heart of the post. The healing of a woman.

If you are in a painful relationship, I am so sorry. God is faithful, lean into Him.
Praying for you,
Sue

In Search of Security in Marriage


Hello!

I’m blogging at the 31 Days of Love at Darlene Schacht’s blog.

I spent years allowing the emotions of my day to be hinged on how my husband talked to me and treated me. If I felt loved and accepted by him, it was a good day. But if I felt I had let him down or he was angry or disappointed with me about something, it was a bad day. I lived my life through his eyes. My security came from him alone.

Click here to read entire article.

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