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Praise and Coffee Spring 2013

Summer 2013

Freedom:  Forgiving Ourselves  Living Authentically  From Labels  From Debt and more...

A Woman’s Struggle With 5 Pornography

Our Last Issue

Tips for New Bloggers! Scan for website Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


Praise and Coffee Magazine A quarterly online publication. Founder and Editor

Sue Cramer Co-Editor

Denise Dykstra Submission Guidelines: Note: We are not currently taking submissions. 1. Anyone is welcome to submit articles or testimonies.

8| Where In the World is Mel’s World? Melissa Mashburn 12| Forgiving Others Forgiving Ourselves Renee Fisher 15| Praise and Coffee Night Spartanburg, SC 16| Paint Chips

2. Submissions by women who have Susie Finkbeiner attended or hosted a Praise and Coffee 19| To the Lonely and Forgotten event will be considered first 3. Testimonies can be personal or connected to your experience at a Praise and Coffee event. 4. Articles that will be considered are to be encouraging and inspiring. 5. Length of submission should be 400-800 words. This can be negotiated for feature articles. 6. Submissions will be read and considered among the Editor and coEditor. 7. We do not pay for articles, they are on a volunteer basis.

Sue Cramer 20| Freedom In A Life Lived Authentically Denise Dykstra 22| Five Tips For New Bloggers Melanie Nelson 28| Freedom From Labels Tracee Persiko 30| A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet Sophie Hudson 34| Maureen Milham

8. To submit an article, go to our submissions page on our website and fill out the form and we will contact you with a couple weeks to let you know if we will accept a submission.

A Room With A View: Of Israel.

9. Link to submit article: http://praiseandcoffee.com/ magazine-submissions/ For advertising info, contact Sue at: Sue@PraiseAndCoffee.com

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Summer 2013 Volume 3 | Issue 4 36| Freedom Julie Arduini 39| Freedom From Debt Michelle Lazurek 44| Freedom in the Face of Fear Diema Roth 48| Forgiving Myself ~ Finding Freedom Tricia Goyer 50| Feeling Crafty With Katie & Korene 52| Encouragement for Today Ronel Sidney 56| Why Do I Even Try? Denise Dykstra 62| esPRESSo Freedom 64| Goodbye For Now Sue Cramer

Scan for website

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Interested in starting a Praise and Coffee group? Check out our online leaders manual: Starting a Praise and Coffee www.PraiseAndCoffee.com 4

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Across the Nation and World! For where 2 or 3 gather together because they are mine, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20

Buffalo, Minnesota

Plainwell, MI (the original!)

Ephrata, PA

Reno, NV Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Henderson, NV Butler, PA

Connecticut

Prescott, AZ

San Diego, CA Anthem, AZ

Lynden, WA

New Hampshire

We want pictures of your events!! Email them to us or post them into the albums on the Praise and Coffee page on Facebook!

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Webster’s Definition: Freedom: the condition of being free, the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. We picture the pastor released from an Iranian prison and breathe a sigh of relief: freedom! But what about you, are you free? Are you able to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints? Are you free to be yourself or are you restrained by living up to others expectations of you? Let’s take it even deeper. Are you free to be who you really are or does some inner voice silence you? Does fear keep you restrained from stepping out with power to do the things that burn in your heart?

Even after receiving such a glorious freedom many Christian women still live in selfimposed slavery. We live stifled. We read book after book about how to become a better woman, wife or mother but still ache with the feeling of being smothered by the expectations of others. Guilt flows as we read the Facebook status’ of women who cherish every waking moment with their children while we pray at noon for bedtime to come. We step into our capris, grab our yellow markers, attach our plastic smiles and stroll into Bible study with an ache in our heart hidden behind a giant shield of perfection. We may fool these ladies but we’re not fooling God or ourselves. He knows that even though we spend a half hour each morning reading a devotion and reciting prayers from our favorite pocket version of the “power of a praying someone,” we haven’t spent any real time with the Father.

If fear did not hold you back, what would you do? What would you say?

Sue Cramer Founder of Praise and Coffee Sue@PraiseandCoffee.com

What would you create?

Connect with me online... Freedom always costs something. Jesus came and paid for our freedom from the power of sin and death. I’m hoping you’ve experienced that freedom.

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We’re so programmed to “do,” that we don’t even miss the “be.” But we know something’s wrong. We know that our heart and our words don’t commune. We haven’t rested in His love. Being a good Christian wife and mom doesn’t earn His love. He doesn’t love you more when you finish your exercise video than He does when you stuff yourself into your fat jeans and throw down another peanut butter cup. In fact if we are honest, we carry a mental list of all the things we should do before we are loved by Him. Our prayers are filled with requests but void of the heartfelt “Father, this hurts, help me.” Are we missing the prayers that draw us to His heart and let us crawl into His lap for comfort? The performance is thriving but the relationship is lacking. Intimacy with God cannot be replaced by good deeds. Ladies, there is more. The Father wants a relationship with you that brings freedom.

It’s the freedom to be who He created you to be. It’s the freedom to breathe, the freedom to shine.

Our prayers are filled with requests but void of the heartfelt “Father, this hurts, help me.” Are we missing the prayers that draw us to His heart and let us crawl into His lap for comfort?

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Freedom to be vulnerable and leave the plastic smile in your make up bag, admit that your struggling and watch the masks fall off other women like paper mustaches when they hear that they are not alone in their prison of performance. Freedom to be brave, because when you know that the God of the universe loves who you are, bad words, secret sins and pity parties, it makes you brave. You don’t have to do something to be accepted by Him, you have to be something: His daughter. When you choose freedom through a relationship with Jesus, He gives you “the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.”


Where In The Wor

It’s a bird.

could no longer bury my head in the sand and pretend like He wasn’t talking to me. He was telling me it was time to step out and boldly go

It’s a plane. It’s.

forth with this new adventure.

It’s. Oh come on, you didn’t really think I was going to say I’m super WOman, did you? I didn’t fall off the internet. I didn’t become a hermit. I have been working on a “new thing” and it, along with ministry at my local church, has completely consumed all my “free” time. Let’s face it, we are busy women, and free time is something we’ve all heard of but not many of us experience-- at least with any regularity, so what really has been going on. Last summer I had begun to feel God nudging me into a new direction. I tried to ignore it. I tried to pretend like I didn’t hear it, and to be quite honest I tried to run from it and yet God was incredibly patient and kind with me. At first gently guiding me back on track, then when the neon signs started to show up I knew that I

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After a lot of prayer and many honest, heartfelt discussions with my friend and ministry partner, Sue, we both knew that it was time for me to step away from my role as the Co-Founder of the Praise & Coffee Nights ministry so that I could focus completely on this new season in my ministry. I announced it to the girls at the South Florida Praise & Coffee Nights event that Fall, much to their shock and dismay, but also let them know that something new was coming from me. Something focused on the heartbeat of South Florida. Something that was outside of my box, but something that God has been wanting me to share. It was not an easy decision for me, but thankfully Sue and I both knew, that even though we wouldn’t be doing this particular ministry together any longer, that the friendship that God

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?

rld Is Mel’s World By: Melissa Mashburn

brought together, back in 2007, would continue on for many, many years. Keeping us connected, allowing us to support and encourage each other, but at the same time doing a little shift (my One Word for 2013) within both of us. These last six months have been filled with a lot of preparation, planning, dreaming, praying, crying, and every emotion that you can imagine in between. Thankfully through it all my relationships have gotten stronger; with my husband, my kids, my friends and ministry partners. It has not been an easy journey at all, but it has been so worth it. Through it all I have seen God in the most incredibly personal ways. Guiding me. Guarding me. Teaching me. Preparing me. For that, I would not change any single part of it in the world. Part of this new season is a more focused approach to my life and ministry. My heart is encouraging women to live as Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith. in action. Putting the truth of Romans 12:1-2 into our everyday, ordinary lives. You don’t have to be supermom, climbing the corporate ladder, or even the best Bible study teacher you can think of to make a difference in your everyday, ordinary life. You just have to grab hold of the purpose, passion, and gifts He’s given you and live full out for His glory.

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This is my “new thing” and my call to action as a woman of God. I can’t wait to shout it from the rooftops and walk alongside women from all over the world as they seek to serve Him with their whole heart. One of the incredible gifts that has happened throughout this “shift” in my world is the tremendous opportunity I was recently given to be a part of the speaking team for the Girls Get Away Cruise 2013. (I know, right, how stinking awesome is that?)

I am blown away by this opportunity and just have to tell you that I am half way thinking at any minute they are going to contact me and change their mind. I’m just a regular, everyday, ordinary Jesus girl, looking to tell the world all the wonderful things He has done for me, but who am I to be sailing and speaking alongside the likes of Jennifer Rothschild, Renee Swope, Robin Jones Gunn, Selah, Amy Lively and the Comedy Angels? I am a child of the Most High, and because of that, just like you, He can do anything He chooses to.

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Here’s a little bit about the cruise: It’s time to pack those flip flops and sunscreen! Grab a couple of your best friends, or come by yourself and meet lots of new friends, and join us on the Girls Getaway Cruise! We want you to be part of our trip from sunny Port Canaveral, Florida to beautiful Nassau, Bahamas and Half Moon Cay. This will be more than “just a cruise”, it will be a well deserved break for you from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. It’s a time to refresh and renew (and let someone else make dinner!) Our prayer for you is that you leave this trip encouraged and recharged (and tan!). Sailing with us is the dynamic Renee Swope with Proverbs 31 and author of A Confident Heart, fun and energetic Robin Jones Gunn, author of the “Sister Chicks” books (what a great person to sail along on the Girls' Getaway Cruise!), and inspiring teacher and speaker, Jennifer Rothschild, author of Missing Pieces. Leading us in music for our cruise is the fabulous, Dove Award Winners, Selah!

You wanna know what is even more awesome? As friends of mine, I get to invite y’all to join me on this cruise, not only that, but if you want decide that you just have to go with me, then because you’re my friend, you will get $100 off your cruise event by using the promo code “MEL”. I know!!!! (Insert crazy woman squeal here!) 10

When you aren’t listening to the incredible bible teachings and inspirational messages from our speakers or lifting your heart in song along with Selah, you will be laughing your heads off at five, yes FIVE, Christian comedians -- the Comedy Angels. These “angels” are guaranteed to make this trip one you will not forget!

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Oh, and get this, you will also receive one night FREE at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa on October 2nd (the night before the cruise sets sail) to enjoy as part of your cruise package. The cruise is October 3rd through the 7th. The Itinerary and all the info you could want is located on the Girls Get Away Cruise website. I would love, love, love to have some of my Praise & Coffee sisters there with me. Truth be told, I could absolutely use your prayers, love and support. This is everything I dreamed of and then some and it would be even more amazing to be on this journey with some of you right there with me. Remember, if you are interested, then make sure to use the promo code “MEL” for an extra $100 off your cruise package.

There’s more coming soon, I can’t wait to share those details with you, but just know this...I haven’t gone anywhere far, I am always right here. Praise & Coffee Ministry is my family. Sue and I are still best friends, who love, support and pray for each other and I still have a heart that beats wildly for the mission of this ministry. I know that God is not done with the connections we have through this great adventure and look forward to watching Him continue to interconnect us all through this journey. Now...it’s time to get ready to sail, who’s coming with me? Bunches of hugs to you all! Seeking JOY on the Journey, Melissa Mashburn www.MelissaMashburn.net Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith.

I have been so excited to share this news with you! Melissa is one of my closest/far-away friends and I am thrilled for the opportunities that God continues to place in her life. She is a joy to know and a gift to anyone who listens to her speak. We continue to encourage and love each other as we walk alongside one another in different ministries but I will always consider Mel one of our Praise and Coffee gals! ~ Sue Cramer 11

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Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me By Renee Fisher

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You know you’re forgiven--so shouldn’t you feel set free?

The second key to finding freedom from forgiveness is realizing that forgiveness is a choice.

This is a question that I have been asking myself for years. It seems Christians and pastors in church talk a lot about forgiving others--but what happens if the person who you need to forgive most is you?

I don’t know about you, but this one hurts the worst.

In my fourth book “Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me” (releasing August 1); I share four ways to find freedom from forgiveness. Before I share them, I want you to know my story. Forgiveness is not something I take lightly--no!

“Like Jonah we sometimes leave difficult situations too quickly. We know God has already forgiven this person, and we just don’t have the heart to let them off the hook…yet. Maybe we want them to suffer for their sins a little bit more” (Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, 83). I mentioned Jonah because we can learn a lot from him, and not what your Sunday School teacher taught you. The giant whale has nothing to do with it actually! Jonah preached a message of repentance that was hardly a sermon. In total it was eight words long, which is the shortest recorded message in the Bible (Jonah 3:4).

In fact, I’m 31 now but I started writing on forgiveness when I was just 19. I had returned from a mission’s trip early because of my poor health. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t get over the fact that God would let me fail at serving Him (or so I thought). I also couldn’t forgive myself for each dumb mistake after dumb mistake that I feel caused my You can’t judge health to crash. Nothing, it someone’s process of seemed, would pull me out of this dark pit of despair. forgiveness, that’s

Jonah didn’t think the great city of Nineveh deserved God’s forgiveness. Even though he eventually “obeyed” and returned to the city--he hardly gave his serbetween them and God. mon much thought. I’m sure he The first key to finding freewas hoping--no, expecting they dom from forgiveness is realizwouldn’t listen to him so God ing that forgiveness is deeply would have to punish the city. personal. What he didn’t expect is how Maybe the person you’re struggling to forgive isn’t rich God’s mercy was when they did repent. yourself, but a loved one or close friend. Every person has unique thoughts even if they shared a simi- I think Jonah missed the point. lar experience. You can’t judge someone’s process “The Only person you have control over is yourof forgiveness--that’s between them and God. self. The only attitude you can control is your own. We can’t control what other people do, how they In my book I ask, “Have you ever been so turned off from God’s love because of your circumstances act, or what they feel. We can only make choices that you wanted to throw up?” I know I have many for ourselves” (Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, 93). times. Not just because I struggled to forgive myself for the things I’d done, but because someone hurt me over and over and I didn’t know how to let The third key to finding freedom from forgo. I’m sure you can relate. Forgiveness and recon- giveness is realizing that unforgiveness kills. ciliation can get muddled together in a wet, sloppy It’s interesting to note that after God relented and puddle, meanwhile it’s okay to feel like a giant did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah ran away--again. mess. 13

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This time he was so angry with God that he literally said he wanted to die (Jonah 4:9). Really Jonah? Really? Who is he and who are we to get angry when God chooses to forgives the person or people we don’t deem forgivable. (Ouch!) But the Lord said, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals” (Jonah 4:10, NIV)? When we throw a tantrum like Jonah, we are endangering ourselves. That’s when all sorts of things can take hold of us to keep us behind bars. Things like bitterness, anger, despair, and hopelessness grip their way into our mind and heart until we’re trapped behind our own prison bars. Thankfully Jesus stands on the other side offering His love and forgiveness. Ultimately, the fourth key is realizing that forgiveness matters because of what Jesus did on the cross. Forgiveness is the free gift Jesus so graciously gave to us by dying on the cross for our sins and rising victoriously from the grave three days later. Therefore we fix our eyes on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV). If you remember nothing else--remember this: “In our sufferings, we have the awesome privilege of identifying with Jesus. Once we take up our cross we find hope. It’s amazing how one act of surrender, submission, and humility can help us regain control…God can and will use everything the enemy intended to harm you for His good” (Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, 165-166).

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Today you have the choice to get alone with God and conduct business. Be honest. Do you want to be set free from forgiveness? Or like Jonah are you still harboring other sins like bitterness, anger, or even a death wish? Pray. Get on your knees. Read the Word. Worship. Take a walk if you need too. Anything it takes to realize you’ve already been set free because of what Jesus did for you and for me!!

Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of Faithbook of Jesus, Not Another Dating Book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, and Loves Me Not. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. She and her husband, Marc, live in California with their dog, Star. Learn more about Renee at www.devotionaldiva.com.

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Praise & Coffee Night Spartanburg, SC with Jennifer Rash

What an awesome evening at Praise and Coffee! It was much needed and a blessing to be surrounded with great fellowship in Him! Thank you for the devotion, Jennifer Rash as I find "My Chair" and meeting with God. He's calling “Come Away With Me”…nothing can take that away! ~ Natalie Linfante Find out more about this group on our website.

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By Susie Finkbeiner

I had this cat when I was a kid. We’d named him Moxie. Let’s just say, he lived up to his name. Full of spunk, that one. The poor guy wanted nothing more than to get outside and live out his wild nature. But, we lived in the city and he had no claws. So, inside he stayed. Whenever someone would open the door, he’d venture a peek outside. Sitting on window ledges, he’d swat at passing butterflies only to hit glass. His panther heart defeated, he’d curl up and sleep, no doubt dreaming of adventures in some jungle or bounding across the African Savannah. One day, he got out. Slipped right past me out the back door. He sat on the stoop and mewed. Fierce and savage. Well, I’m sure he thought so. He put one foot in the grass and pulled it back up, flicking it in the air. Not liking the chill of dew, he stayed on the porch. Closed his eyes and lifted his nose upward. He breathed in the freedom of fresh air. Sunlight. I had to bring him back in. By then, he was an old guy and would have faired poorly in the wild of a city backyard. When I lifted him in my arms, he extended his neck, as if reaching for the last bit of outside he could get. I don’t remember him trying to get out again. But he still gazed out the window, watching the world from the ledge, patting at insects through the glass. Freedom is a longing that we all have within us. Freedom to experience life, to enjoy the world, to make decisions for ourselves. I believe that this desire has been woven into our made-in-theimage-of-God fabric. 17

Harriet Tubman, born a slave in Maryland, escaped at the age of 29. She so valued freedom that she risked her own to help rescue over 300 slaves. (Source: Wikipedia) Bill and Joanna Leep, after seeing human trafficking first hand in a red light area of India, decided to start Better Way Imports. This Zeeland, Michigan company sells handmade items crafted by women rescued from sex slavery all around the world. These women have a job that pays fairly, is safe, and gives them hope for the future. Not just their future, but the free future of their children and grandchildren. (Source: www.betterwayimports.com) Working at Wedgwood Christian Services, Andy Soper met a troubled, young girl. She left the facility and was trafficked only miles from Wedgwood. Even after their hours and weeks of searching, they didn’t find her. This spurred Andy and his wife Marcy to learn as much as they could about slavery in the modern world. Out of that difficult situation, The Sopers have been a major part in the opening of The Manasseh Project, which advocates and helps rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking in West Michigan. Also, they work tirelessly to educate the community about the issue in order to prevent it from happening, raise awareness, open eyes, and educated community leaders (such as law enforcement) to see the signs of a trafficking situation. (Source:www.manassehproject.org) We as free people must value that freedom. Not only for ourselves. But for others. Even if that other lives in the house down the street, in another state, or on the other side of the world.

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You see, the made-in-the-image-of-God freedom that we so desperately want is for all who are made in His likeness. In my novel, Paint Chips, Lola is a survivor of sexual slavery who devotes her life to freeing others. She runs a safe house for girls who had been trafficked. She counsels them, encourages them, teaches them to live as survivors. Writing this part of her character was easy.

It is valiant and wonderful to pray for those who are victims of slavery, exploitation, and abuse. And to do what we can to help them. It is a whole other thing to pray for those who are abusing them, to desire for them to be redeemed. It is a difficult prayer to utter.

The difficulty came when she shows concern for the freedom of a pimp named Antonio. Through a conversation with him, she sees that he’s not free. Really, he’s never been free a day in his life. And this man who starts his interaction as her enemy, becomes someone she desires to see free.

A few years ago, driving my car, I was struck by the lyrics to “How He Loves” by David Crowder. With tears in my eyes, I thanked God for loving me. Instantly, I felt the injustice of the fact that He loves those who hurt others, who live to garner control and who commit evil. That God loves the abusers and traffickers. The johns and the exploiters. I told God that it wasn’t fair. That I didn’t understand. I expressed my anger at the fullness of His love for those who stood against Him.

“You were not born to pimp or hustle or exploit women, children, or anyone else. You were created to do something beautiful for Jesus.” (Paint Chips, page 67)

Then I remembered that Christ died for all. All. Not just nice kids or those who play fair. Not only for those who win the Christian Character Award or volunteer at the soup kitchen.

Lola sees that Antonio is a slave of a different sort. He’s a slave to sin. He allowed circumstances in his life to take over, putting him in shackles more powerful than any metal formed by man.

Christ laid down His life, gave up His freedom, put on our slavery to sin. For all.

And Lola values her freedom in Christ so much, that she longs for Antonio to find that freedom as well.

He set us free. He is the Way. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).

Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist and short story writer from West Michigan. Her first novel “Paint Chips” releases as a digital book in January, 2013 and paperback in April with WhiteFire Publishing. She is currently working on a second novel and a collection of short stories. Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

SusieFinkbeiner.com

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To the lonely and forgotten, You are seen. You are not invisible. You’ve listened to lies sung, spoken and assumed that said you are worthless and unimportant You’ve believed that the world wouldn’t miss you when you’re gone. The truth is that you are loved. You are valuable and worthy of love and belonging. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 He waits patiently as you search for meaning. He longs for you to turn to Him as you scavenge for that which would fill the emptiness. Nothing satisfies, nothing completes you. He’s there, when you’re ready. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

I see you and you matter, God 19

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By: Denise Dykstra

Recently, on Facebook, I posted this… There are rare days where I cannot find humor in the boys antics and I really can't wait for them just to go to bed for the night. Like tonight.

I mean, it’s not like I am lying. I just don’t tell you everything. I want people to see me in a good light. We all do, don’t we? Isn’t that why we post the highlight reel on Facebook/twitter/blogging? And if it’s a bad spot, hey, a little sarcasm can go a long way to soften that blow as well. But sometimes – okay, more often than maybe we like to admit – we feel the longing for authenticity.

I was rather surprised – okay, shocked – by the response it received.

I am there with my spiritual life. I am weary of people telling me what I should do, how I should be expected to act, what is really right and really wrong and I just feel this whisper crying out to God, “What is it YOU want of me? What is it YOU say?”

“No fakebooking here!” one person posted.

Because isn’t that what truly matters the most?

Just keeping it real, folks.

While I have a tendency to always look at what my boys are doing and find exactly what is humorous about it – I do this with every aspect of my life is some way – there are those days that I am just to the bone weary and there is no humor in it. In a conversation recently, a friend encouraged me to say exactly what I had just told her to a group we were meeting with. “I can’t do that!” I stuttered, “What would they think?” “They would appreciate your honesty,” she said simply. I balked. Be totally honest? 20

There is a freedom in authenticity. There is a danger to it as well. But I am beginning to realize there is much more freedom then there is hurt. What better compliment then for someone to say you live “authentically”? I have had people tear into me as well. I have had them say that my life is a sham, that nothing bad ever happens to us, have them stalk my blog/ Facebook to use as some demented form of “catch you messing up”. I wanted to crawl into a hole, I wanted to hide away but there are too many people who looked me in the eye and said, “No, this is you and you live life as you. They have the issue, not you.” Because, really, if you are just sharing the truth on your life, how can someone say it isn’t?

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This translates over to parenting as well. Sometimes I get so caught up in being “the good mom”. You know, the mom who has all her ducks in a row? I strive for the mom that I am sure I am supposed to be instead of relaxing and realizing the strengths I have as the mom I am – while not turning a blind eye to the areas I need to work on. (My husband and boys are sure to have a list. J ) Sometimes that translates into just realizing that yes, my kitchen is a disaster zone and I know that my ideal mom would have it cleaned up. But the me mom, well, I’m the one who says, “Daddy is late tonight so how about dinner on the front porch and I read to you from this Paulsen book?” And the peace that comes over me – yes, my kitchen is a mess and I’ll have to take care of it – but the peace in doing what I am supposed to be doing (reading) has an air of freedom to it. I am not locked to being the mom I invented, I am free to be the mom I am. As always, there is a balance. I am not perfect (oh goodness, I hope my boys and husband don’t read that one! Oh wait, being authentic here…and really, they totally know I’m not perfect. Sometimes they just let me believe it.) and I am still figuring out this whole “freedom of authenticity” thing. But I know enough to be kind, I know when to keep my mouth shut (sometimes) and I am guessing most of us do as well. You can be authentic without airing out all your dirty laundry so that when someone sees you coming they aren’t bracing to hear what you have to unkindly say and are looking for any way to escape.

I don’t know Jen Hatmaker, I believe we would get along smashingly though. Her end of the school year post is exactly what I am talking about. She was authentic. She was also hilarious. And if one is going to be authentic, well, heck, you might as well be funny about it because – Hello! Life is funny a good bunch of the time! - http:// jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-ofschool-year-mom-ever. So here is my summer project for you (because summer has so much free time (and all the mom’s laugh because they know summer is the busiest time!), learn to live your life with the

freedom of authenticity. And how better to do that then to turn to the Author of your life, Jesus Christ? Learn who you are in HIM, not what someone says you are, who you really truly are. Look to Him to guide you in this life, after all, he IS the Author of your life (Hebrews 12:2). Share your journey with me, because, girl, I am right there with you.

Denise Dykstra, co-editor of Praise and Coffee the Magazine. Denise is heavily caffeinated and joyfully married to her truck driving, farming husband. They reside in Michigan raising their four boys (ages 14 to 7) on a hobby farm that keeps them hopping busy. She updates friends on her sons’ latest escapades and caught snakes on her blog “Life With Four Boys...Coffee Please!” Dense@PraiseandCoffee.com

Cuz there are those people out there too. You know what I mean. Don’t be them. 21

www.DeniseDykstra.com

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Five Tips For New Bloggers Yes, Melanie’s back this issue with more great advice! Melanie Nelson is a professional blogger and social media consultant who has been working with business websites since 1995 (it's true -- she remembers Mosaic and she coded websites in Notepad). As a veteran of online publishing and marketing, Melanie has grown with changes as they happen and she looks ahead to coming innovations. Melanie owns BloggingBasics101.com where she shares information about using Facebook to build your business, building loyal online communities, and improving SEO. Hubspot included Blogging Basics 101 in its list of "10 Amazing Blogs About Blogging to Start Reading NOW". Melanie's presentations and workshops have inspired attendees at conferences such as Blog World & New Media Expo, Type-A Parent, BlogHer, and Blissdom.

BloggingBasics101.com Every day, people visit my blog because they have questions about blogging. They want to know if they should start one, and if so, how do they do that? My visitors want to know what a permalink is or whether it’s OK to use certain images on their blog or how to get started with search engine optimization. But mostly they just want to know if starting a blog is a good idea. My answer is unequivocally: YES. 22

Here’s why:   

Anyone can start a blog with any budget. You don’t have to be a particular kind of writer to start a blog. Blogs are a way to find others with your same passion.

At the very least, blogging is an affordable experiment. If it turns out you don’t love it, you’re not out much more than some time. If you stick with it, blogging can provide an opportunity find a connection with others that blossoms into a strong community.

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Starting something new -- especially something as public as a blog -- can be daunting. I have some advice for those of you starting out (and even you seasoned bloggers may find a helpful nugget or two). Here are my top five pieces of advice for new and beginning bloggers.

team of people working behind the scenes to make it happen. So cut yourself some slack. Remember that for most of us blogging is about the journey. If you understand that going in, then you’ll be able to weather the ups and downs more easily. Which leads me to...

Start!

Don’t give up.

It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t make it past the idea phase of blogging. If you want to blog, don’t worry about whether you’re going to keep up with it or whether people will read it or not. I’ll save you some trouble: Very few people are going to read what you write in the beginning. THAT’S OK. Your job is to start. The rest comes later. You’re going to learn as you go, pivot a few times, and finally find your stride. This rarely happens the first week or even the first year.

Understand that blogging isn’t always easy. If you’re starting a blog to make money or find fame, you are going to be sorely disappointed. You’ve likely heard about some really popular bloggers who are making lots of money and are famous. Can you name more than five in a particular niche without Googling? Probably not. That’s because blogging is harder than it looks; the successful ones (as in every space) make it look easy. In reality, uber-successful blogging takes time, commitment, and a whole lotta luck (and possibly a marketing agency). That’s right, I said marketing agency. Few of us can afford that, but you’d be surprised to know that some of those big names you’re following, though they appear to just be putting things out there, actually have a 23

Now that you’ve started blogging, it’s not uncommon to become disenchanted or burned out. Inevitably when you begin your blogging trek there is a surplus of topics to discuss, stories to tell, or opinions to share. And then one day there isn’t. Don’t give up. Instead, take a break if you need to. I recommend two things to avoid this burnout as long as possible:

avoiding burnout... 1. Write everything you want to write, but don’t publish it immediately. You may end up writing 10 posts in a week, but that doesn’t mean you have to share them as soon as they’re written. Instead, schedule them to post throughout the coming weeks. This allows you to space out your content and take advantage of the words while they’re flowing so you have some fresh content if the ideas don’t come for a day or two. 2. Create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar doesn't have to be fancy: Start by brainstorming topic ideas you want to write about, decide what days you want to publish the articles, then put them in a calendar. The trick is to adhere to the calendar. Having that extra organization of what you’re going to post and when may be just enough accountability to keep you moving forward.

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Write what you know. While it’s cliché to say find your voice, it’s absolutely true. The most important thing in blogging is owning your voice. If you’re trying to emulate someone else’s style or recreate someone else’s success, you’ll either be called out (or worse, ignored) by the community at large, or you’ll get burned out quickly because you’re not writing your truth, you’re writing someone else’s. I cannot stress this enough: Find your passion and write about that. It’s OK if your passions are many or change frequently. As long as they are yours, you’re more likely to stick with blogging and more likely to write engaging articles. Your audience will appreciate that authenticity.

Pay attention to spelling and grammar. These two things -- spelling and grammar -can make or break your blog. If readers come and are constantly finding errors in your stories (no matter how engaging), they’ll eventually stop coming by. Of course, everyone makes mistakes here and there. You’re bound to miss a word or misspell something along the way, just don’t let it be a habit. Proof your posts, walk away for a day or two, then proof them again. If spelling and grammar don’t come naturally to you, have a friend edit your posts.

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Bonus Tip: Don’t obsess about your stats. When I started blogging I checked my stats a lot. A lot, a lot. About every hour or two, a lot. And you know what that got me? Not much. It’s fine to keep tabs on your stats -every blogger should install Google Analytics. In fact, having a baseline to measure what’s working and what’s not working is a good idea. You don’t need to check stats every hour or even every day, though, to gauge those things. It’s very easy to start assigning your bloggy worth to your stats. Don’t give your numbers more power than they deserve. You are more than those numbers. I wish you every success with your blogging goals. If you have more questions about getting started or what to do once you’re up and running, please visit my website Blogging Basics 101. Or, if you prefer video tutorials, please head over to Summit Integrated Media where my instructors and I are constantly working on new courses for all levels of bloggers. Melanie Nelson recently authored Facebook All-In-One For Dummies and is the founder of Summit Integrated Media, an online training site for businesses and bloggers. She also founded Blogging Basics 101 which has been featured on Mashable and Hubspot.

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Modern. Trendy. Beautiful. Contemporary handcrafted sterling silver jewelry for today's modern woman! I use recycled silver, copper, gold and gemstones to create wearable pieces of art jewelry.

Featured in Grand Rapids Women’s LifeStyle

www.StudioJewel.com 26

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Connect with Praise and Coffee online!

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PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEXA CRAMER PHOTOGRAPHY

Freedom From Labels By Tracee Persiko

Every single one of us feels inadequate, unseen, insecure, and not enough in some area of life. Tracee Persiko is a Speaker and Life Coach with a master’s in Professional Counseling. She cares deeply about the heart and story of other people. When it comes to areas of passion, Tracee enjoys speaking on topics including: leadership development, cultivating character, second mile living, identity in Christ, and carrying the weight of your influence well. Her heart is all about empowering others to believe different and live different. Connect with her at: http://traceepersiko.com/ 28

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We all grew up memorizing the nursery rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names/words will never hurt me.”

Labels are the words we use to describe who we are NOT, and keep us paralyzed in our perceived weaknesses.

For the life of me, I never understood the purpose for memorizing something like this. Why do we teach people this!? Is it some form of creating a defense mechanism to be able to handle teasing or name calling? The truth is that I would rather be hit with sticks and stones because it heals faster, and it doesn’t leave as painful of a mark on me.

They also shape the way we respond and the active role we play in our own lives, as well as the lives of others. Labels bear the scars of misperceptions and wounds. I hate that.

Words mean everything to our hearts and life. The sound of those words can make or break someone forever. Words and names pierce the deepest parts of us, and in such a short period of time. I am sure we can all think of words we heard in the last 24 hours that either encouraged us or left a mark of hurt that we are working through today. I have words that were spoken to me a long time ago that have developed into labels. These words have pierced my heart, and keep me limping in areas of life. I struggle to know that I am valued and loved as a result of broken relationships. I dismiss my intellect due to a diagnosed learning disability early on.

LABELS ARE REAL I cringe at receiving, and gloss over compliments and sometimes encouragement. My immediate thought is that those words are not meant for me. I have lies that were solidified in my ears a long time ago. It’s hard to hear “you’re beautiful” because “you’re ugly” has been spoken over me for too long. I still wonder what beautiful feels like. Labels are real. We all have them. Every single one of us feels inadequate, unseen, insecure, and not enough in some area of life. The root of labels comes from a place where we have either been told by someone else we don’t measure up, or we realize inadequacy in ourselves by way of comparison. 29

There is no freedom living life through labels. We listen to words and voices. Those words tend to determine how we view ourselves. They dictate the lenses through which we base our identity on. My heart hurts when I see the lifelong lies people live out. I am sad over my own lenses that determine my perceptions. I hate hearing about the hurts that people have experienced that have now developed into daily patterns of insecurity. The truth is that our identity can be challenged but never changed. We are already labeled with the names of “beloved, valued, wanted, enough, and beautiful.” This never changes. There is such freedom to be known when holding on to this truth. Everyone has gifts and talents that make them specifically great and valuable. Everyone has something incredible to offer. I believe God has wired us with passion and dreams for specific things He has for us – things only we are meant to do. Labels kill that value. God created us with an identity that never changes. This is the truth that we need to measure all words up against. He says we are worth saving and worth loving – worth laying down His life for. That is fierce love and value. Nothing changes that truth. Our lives face many battles and challenges to this truth, but truth can’t cease to be truth. You are spoken over and spoken for. I get that this is a lifelong challenge. Changing a long time pattern of thinking and believing takes time. My hope is that your lenses start to change and the voices you begin to hear at that of truth. You are worth it! Live life in that freedom!

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When I started a blog about 7 ½ years ago, I had no idea whether or not I’d stick with it. I figured that if I could come up with a post or two a week over the course of six-ish months, then maybe I’d develop some real-live writing habits. Even still, it’s hard to know how anything new is going to turn out, as evidenced by the free weights in my closet, the elliptical machine in our guest bedroom, and the fancy blender / smoothie maker in my kitchen cabinets. They were all short-lived fascinations and currently have loads of time on their hands. For whatever reason, though, the blogging thing stuck. And the longer I blogged, the more people started to assume that I must have some long-term writing goals rattling around in the back of my head. That’s precisely why the following two sentences became my own personal chorus. “I am never writing a book.” “No. Seriously. I am NEVER writing a book.” (I never claimed that the chorus was, you know, melodic.)

blogging, not to mention that the blogging community had become a tremendous source of joy and encouragement in my life. I was perfectly content writing posts about TV and bacon and Jesus and college football (sometimes I even covered all of those topics at the same time, which probably gives you way too much insight into how my brain works). I knew deep down that blogging and I were together for the long haul. But then something really unexpected happened. One day a couple of years ago I was folding clothes in our guest room when, out of nowhere, an expression that my Papaw Davis used to say popped in my head: “I think I need a little salty to cut the sweet.” It was his favorite saying when he’d polished off dessert but was still craving just one more bite of fried chicken. And as I stood in the guest room and thought about that expression, it occurred to me that it applies to family just as much as it applies to food. And in that moment, something shifted in my heart. It was almost like a switch flipped, and for the first time in my life, I knew that there was a book that I wanted to write. Oh, irony. You are a funny little rascal.

(I never claimed it was catchy, either.) And listen. When I’d find myself in situations where I was singing that chorus over and over again, I meant every single word. I didn’t want to write a book because I’d never had an idea for one – and I couldn’t fathom that I ever would. I loved the flexibility of 30

The book that I never thought I’d write officially released at the beginning of June, and believe it or not, it really is called A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon. It’s a collection of essays about the salty, bittersweet, difficult stuff that every family goes

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through, along with those sweet, heart-warming moments that make you love your people just a little bit more. I hope that it reminds people how God is always at work in the day-to-day, how we can see so much of His faithfulness smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary. (I also hope that it reminds people to incorporate bacon into their meals as much as possible.)

We asked Sophie…. What is your favorite date night dinner? I’m honestly not picky as long as I am not the one preparing it. But if I had to pick an absolute favorite, it would probably be a really good steak and salad, and maybe some bread pudding or cheesecake for dessert.

(But that’s probably more of a secondary theme.) More than anything, I hope it reminds folks to soak up time with their families and not take a single minute of it for granted. It’s so easy to feel like it’s no big deal to sit around the table with our aunts and uncles and cousins and eat a meal and tell some stories, but I am more convinced than ever that while the food might be what brings us to the table when we get together to break bread and catch up, it’s the people who are gathered around the table that provide the real and lasting nourishment. And here’s the best part: right there in the middle of joining hands and bowing heads and sharing hearts, God uses our families to teach us deep, lasting lessons about loyalty. About love. About Him. So that’s the story of my little book. I hope it will make you want to hug your people a little tighter and linger at the table a little longer. Maybe it’ll even prompt you to write down a few stories of your own. And I hope you’ll feel right at home. Visit Sophie’s website to read her blog or learn more about her book: www.boomama.net

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What is your favorite thing to do with your kids? We love college sports in our family, so probably my favorite thing to do with Alex is to go see Mississippi State play foot ball, basketball, or baseball. We have made some of the best memories watching the Bulldogs play. We’re also crazy about a good theme park. What is your favorite driving song? Right now it’s not just one song; it’s John Mayer’s Born & Raised album. It’s been a favorite for about a year. David Crowder Band’s Give Us Rest album is also in constant rotation. What item in your purse might surprise us? I just looked, and there are seven-SEVENdifferent tubes of lipstick in my purse. Apparently I like lip color options. What is one place you’ve never been that you would love to visit? I have never been to London, but I have always wanted to go. The opening credits of Downton Abbey are almost painful for me to watch; I am dying to see that beautiful countryside in person.

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Some of our fave Pinterest “words.� Click here to follow and find these!

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Room With

View

Jerusalem 2012

Maureen Milham is the founder of Shine International. Shine International currently has projects located in Tel Aviv, Israel working with Refugees and Foreign Workers coming from all areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. We are dedicated to assist them during this transitional time of life. Email: info@shineinternational.info Shine International’s website: http://www.shineinternational.info/ Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShineInternational Follow Maureen’s personal blog here: http://israelibliss.wordpress.com/

By Maureen Milham info@shineinternational.info 34

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A Time to Mourn and A Time to Dance Living in a region where freedom is a concept which is always being challenged, the definition of the word takes on a completely new meaning to me. Moving to Israel, one of the only true Democratic Countries in the Middle East, with many of her neighbors squashing freedom at every corner, has been eye opening in many facets; but seeing the idea of Freedom from other viewpoints has been truly educating. Growing up American, I am accustomed to having all my freedoms at any time… freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and especially freedom to be who I want to be as an independent woman. Not once did I ever question my freedoms or think I’d be living somewhere where one day they would be confronted.

The Time to Weep and The Time Mourn... Leading up to the celebrations of our Freedom, two important days are observed: first, Holocaust Remembrance Day and second, Memorial Day. Freedom never comes cheap, and these two days are reminders of that. Paying tribute to all who were taken during the Holocaust, remembering the suffering and pain they went through, and honoring their lives. Moments of silence and sirens of observance blare throughout the country as literally everything stops to honor their memories. Memorial Day is no different, this time praying the Yizkor Prayer and honoring all those who have fallen to protect Israel and keep her safe from surrounding enemies. Families come together to mourn loved ones as the country does the same. A Time to Laugh and A Time to Dance…

This geographical area is no stranger when it comes to lacking freedoms of every kind, dating back to the Biblical era. From modern-day women not having rights to drive in Saudi Arabia to a complete breakdown of religious freedom in Egypt, everywhere you look freedoms can be non-existent… and Israel knows the price of freedom at the highest level, fighting each day to preserve it. Just recently we celebrated our Independence Day, 65 years as the state of Israel. It’s a day of not only celebrating the birthday of Israel as a country, but also the celebration of a Jewish State even existing today! Considering the fact that only 20 years prior to Israel becoming a state Jews were being exterminated by the millions in World War II, it really is a freedom we should never take for granted. The famous line from Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “There’s a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance….” Israeli’s take this verse to heart, and it is so evident the week of Independence Day as the two concepts go hand in hand. 35

After the two Remembrance Days are finished, Independence Day comes rolling in. The country has commemorated and memorialized, and now it is time to celebrate! Israel flags are flown everywhere as a sign of this well-deserved freedom. Families gather to feast in jubilation and to proclaim their love and gratitude. Singing, Dancing, Smiling, and Laughing. A mixture of celebrations declaring this freedom we all treasure. It’s a way to express the joy of knowing we are alive, safe, and free. And although we continue to fight each and everyday to maintain this freedom, which has been 65 years in the making, we are also taking time to realize it didn’t come easily. Many lives were lost, lives are still being lost, and unfortunately lives will be lost in the future. The Price of this beloved Freedom. But we must remember, always remember, that after the weeping comes the dancing. After the mourning comes the laughing. With Freedom comes much responsibility. Responsibility to maintain that freedom and to remember where it came from. A concept I’m experiencing in a deep and personal way, from this Room With A View…..

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Freedom... By: Julie Arduini As we celebrate America’s Independence this month, the principles this country was founded on came through sacrifice. For freedom, soldiers suffered and died. That’s true for any war. It’s also the same for personal freedom. Any victory in your life comes in part because you had to fight for it. Combat is work, sacrifice, and painful. But the freedom on the other side? It’s so worth it.

Julie Arduini is a writer and speaker who encourages audiences to find freedom through surrender. She knows it has to start with her, so she’s surrendering the good, the bad, and---maybe one day---the chocolate. She blogs for Christians Read, the Bella Women Network, and is working on her Adirondack based contemporary romance. Julie facilitates the Greater Youngstown Praise and Coffee chapter and lives with her husband and two children. Learn more about her ministry at http://juliearduini.com.

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Our local Praise and Coffee chapter had the

My surrender was a process. I didn’t wake up

blessing of having Sue Cramer and Ronel Sid-

one morning and fear of man was gone. It was

ney join us in May. Sue, both in the meeting

a bloody battle in the heavenlies. The true de-

and in our own conversations, shared how

feated one, the devil, doesn’t want anyone to

Praise and Coffee came to be. As I got to know

overcome. To see me transformed and un-

her and the testimonies in her life it became

afraid because of Christ’s healing in my life--

clear she endured a lot of pain to get where

that made the enemy of our soul desperate. It

she is. And because of that pain, there is free-

was a constant battle to remember who I truly

dom in her life. And because of freedom in

was, God’s beloved daughter, and who I was-

Sue’s life, we all benefit from Praise and Coffee.

n’t, the defeated one that the enemy was al-

It’s a journey where like a quilt, the threading

ways trying to deceive and stick me with a la-

on the back is messy, but without it, the quilt

bel that is ultimately his.

wouldn’t last. We need adversity to weave into our stories, and it’s important to fight for personal freedom to reap a harvest that will bless others on the other side. One of the biggest surrenders in my life has been fear. Worrying what others thought of me and feeling so little of myself consumed me. I was so insecure about my value I felt I had to contribute just to bring something to Christmas dinner with my in-laws. More than lending a hand by bringing dessert, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning literally whittling an eggplant into a Christmas penguin center-

Fifteen years later there is such a mark of free-

piece. I’m not a crafty person, so it took longer

dom in my life the thought of whittling produce

than it would have anyone who is artistic, and

makes me double over in laughter. I don’t stay

of course I woke up tired and cranky for being

up crying and obsessing over that person look-

up so late. When I brought my sacrifice of sorts,

ing at me or what they might be saying. Years

no one paid much attention to the edible pen-

ago this was my ritual. I understand people

guin. Their focus was on relationship and family.

might be talking about me. Their words might

What I couldn’t fathom at the time was I was

not even be positive, but I’m still not worrying

already accepted. I was enough. Once I

about it. My status as a loved and accepted

grasped that, the peace and joy that came

daughter of the One True King is what I think on,

from that freedom was amazing.

breathe in and out, and live for. 37

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If freedom in Christ is the desire of your heart, here are the go-to’s that helped me along the way: Surrender each thought to Christ.

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Corinthians 10:5, MSG

Have a team of trusted prayer warriors cover you consistently in prayer. Dig into His word.

For me, Beth Moore’s Believing God was a huge factor, as was John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating. Freedom is painful, it involves fighting for your victory. But ladies, it’s worth every blood, sweat, and tear.

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Freedom from the chains of

DEBT By: Michelle Lazurek

I clicked on the submit button and a huge grin spread across my face. I had just paid off a credit card bill. Unexpected pay cuts and bad decisions had become like a spiritual noose around my neck. With the simple click of the mouse, I experienced a sense of freedom that seemed impossible just a few short months ago and loosened that spiritual noose of the bondage of debt. Merriam Webster defines a yoke as “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together; an arched device formerly laid on the neck of a defeated person.” For years, I had been yoked with the burden of debt. The stress of trying to keep afloat financially weighed me down, making the yoke burdensome and tiring. I bucked hard, trying to go my own way and free myself from the debt on my own. When I did that, I just found more bills that vied for my attention. I had put the yoke of defeat on myself, and now it was causing me to crawl to Jesus instead of run to him with perseverance. But God has a better plan in store for me. Mark 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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When I chose to throw off the yoke of cumbersome stress and worry that debt causes and began asking God for His provision, I found he multiplied my finances in miraculous ways. Sometimes He used other church members to supply food, gift cards, etc. Other times, I would find extra money at the end of the month. When I went to God in prayer, I chose to walk with Him as partners, forging through this difficult season of life together. I no longer felt the need to travel alone, for my yoke felt lighter and freer. Although I have a long way to go to become completely debt free, one thing is for sure. It is better to travel with God’s yoke than my own. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Indeed.

Michelle S. Lazurek is a pastor's wife, a mother, an author, and a speaker. Her writing has been published in numerous publications, including www.womensministry.net, and christiandevotions.us. Her e book Everything I Learned About Writing I Learned From Rocky Balboa: Six Ways To Keep Fighting Without Throwing in the Towel made Amazon’s best seller list in its category. She holds a Master’s in Counseling from Liberty University. Please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com.

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To learn more, read our eBook on our website! 40

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Step 1: pick the ‘flavor’ of your group.

They are listed on our website in the eBook!

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Freedom In The Face Of Fear By : Diema Roth

At the time of this writing, our fifth child sleeps in the other room. Simply stated, under normal pregnancy timeline, he would not be due yet. As it turns out, God had other plans. He had a nearly impossible, yet beautifully triumphant journey positioned for our family. During a routine ultrasound at twenty weeks pregnant, we discovered that my amniotic fluid was dangerously low. Our obstetrician decided to refer us to a high-risk clinic in hopes of detecting what was causing the fluid issues. There was severe concern of chromosomal issues that may have resulted in a genetic defect in my placenta, the baby, or both. Our appointment was scheduled for early February and we left that ultrasound drowning in fear from the unknown. We never made it to that ultrasound in February. On January 19th, 2013, I woke to what I believed was fluid leaking. We quickly arranged a sitter for our four small children and drove to the hospital where my “high-risk” appointment would have 44

taken place. After hours of tests and waiting, a triage nurse confirmed that my “water had broken.” Considering that I was not yet twenty-two weeks pregnant, our situation was dangerous for both the baby and I. An ultrasound confirmed low fluid and the gender of our newest addition as a boy, whom we would name Malachi Joshua. We were then instructed to wait for the doctor to come in to discuss the ultrasound. Hours later, he explained the potential problems with our situation. The biggest areas of concern were loss of pregnancy, infection to the mother and baby, pre-term delivery resulting in many complications for Malachi, and abruption or separation of the placenta. If our pregnancy carried close to term, the low amount of fluid could also cause growth problems for him. Considering that I was barely halfway through my pregnancy, Malachi’s viability was very low; therefore I was ordered to be on strict bed rest at home for two weeks. If I were to carry him to twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, he would have a 50% survival rate and the potential for a whole

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gamut of medical complications resulting from premature birth. If still pregnant at twenty-four weeks, the doctor informed us that the optimal choice would then be for me to be admitted to the hospital for continuous monitoring on bed rest until delivery.

found was that blood was never a negative sign. Blood solidified a covenant between God and His children, was a covering from death at Passover, and promised freedom in Christ. I was not to be found fearful at the sight of blood. He wanted me to Trust that it was a promise of His faithfulness.

As soon as we walked into our home, my husband hit his knees to pray. Our Father removed his fear by telling him, “I will deliver her.” This was the same thing he would say to me just days after calming my husband’s thoughts in order to free me from my fears also. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we continued to seek Him, praying for the miraculous.

The bleeding lasted a day and then subsided, only to return weekly over a course of eight weeks. When the bleeding would start, fear and doubt would taunt, and I would doubt His deliverance until I focused back on His words and Scriptures that promised freedom from the fear. God carried my womb a miraculous ten weeks after my fluid started leaking and we delivered Malachi, lungs screaming and big for his age, on March 30th.

The timeline from twenty-two weeks to twenty-four weeks was an emotional rollercoaster. We went from scared, to rejoicing when a twentythree week ultrasound revealed a great amount of fluid and a perfectly growing baby, back to fearful at twenty-four weeks when my water broke again. At twenty-four weeks and three days pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital, poked with an IV, and pumped full of several different medications to give Malachi a higher chance of survival. From this point, the fluid continued to leak occasionally. I was told that this was normal, but if bleeding started, that could signal the onset of labor. After all, I had already carried two weeks and most women would have delivered after one. We were already a miracle case. At week one, the bleeding began. I have two words to describe my thoughts; fear and doubt. I was so uncertain because I thought that God was going to “deliver me” from the troubles. A hurting mess, my husband encouraged me to find rest in Scriptures. God found me in Psalm 91:7, “A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you,” and Psalm 91:14-16, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” These were to be my promises through the journey. I took hold of them, wrote them on cards taped to my bed, and meditated on them continually. He also reminded me to recall what bleeding signified in the Old and New Testaments. What I 45

Almost daily, I found myself comforted in Scriptures that reminded me to seek Him, trust Him, and praise Him. What I discovered through this process was that fear and doubt are crippled when we seek Him, the enemy has zero ability to gain a foothold through your circumstance when you wholeheartedly trust Him, and you will always find freedom from hardship when His praise is continually on your lips. When we seek Him, always looking up, we are automatically seeking liberty because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.”

Diema is a Christ-following wife and mother to five under five. When she is not running her beautifully chaotic home, she can be found sewing, crafting, or baking. Occasionally, she finds time to blog at refreshinglifeoflove.blogspot.com, where she shares stories from the frontlines of motherhood in an attempt to encourage other women.

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


These are a few of our favorite things‌.

Becca is a blogger, freelance writer, and basic blog designer (that means she loves playing with Photoshop, but doesn't know html code). She lives in the middle of the Arizona desert with her husband and two boys, and can't imagine life getting any better. Peek into her life at MyCrazyGoodLife.com, or connect with her on twitter @BeccaLudlum.

TheGodJourney.com

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the h c t Wa ram g o r ep entir online! free

Discover how you can find peace, even in the most tragic times of life. In the DVD presentation, “He Loves Me”, Bible teacher Cindy Bultema shares her personal testimony of God’s power that healed and restored her from a life consumed by addiction, low-self esteem, and loss. Gain a better understanding of God’s love and faithfulness from her experiences. Find hope and encouragement to help you on your own journey to peace. The complete program will be available to view at (Day of Discovery) dod.org.

Runtime: Approximately 26 minutes 47

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


Forgiving Myself~

Finding Freedom

I am more than and unplanned pregnancy…Tricia Goyer’s Story

I'm 42-years-old and the author of 35 books, but for years I just wanted to write one book … and not for the reason you might expect. I remember the day my mom sat me down and told me that my stepdad wasn't my biological dad. We were sitting in an attic room in a community called Angel Valley, a section of town made up of old mill housing and low-income families. She was crying she explained that she'd gotten pregnant but she hadn't seen her old boyfriend in a while. She told me my dad had seen me once—just once—but she didn't know where he was now. I knew I was different, mostly because I was treated different. My stepdad favored my younger brother, his biological son. My grandma favored me, because she helped to raise me when I was a baby. I was only in 2nd grade when I found out the truth, but it shackled like a burden around my heart. All I knew was that my dad had seen me, and he'd walked away. My weak self-esteem attempted to carry the whole brunt of that … and in my mind I told myself I need to do something wonderful—become someone wonderful—to make him proud. Then, and only then, would he come back. Now you'd think that as I got older my ideas would change. But it's a goal that I carried into adulthood like a ball and chain. I became a teen mom, which I was sure wouldn't help my odds of meeting my biological dad. But then, after that, things changed. I met and married an amazing man and we had two more kids. 48

I clearly remember being twenty-five years old with dreams of writing my own book. This was 1996, and the Internet had just emerged. I knew if I typed my dad's name into that little search engine that I'd find him. Yet I didn't. Not for a very long time. Why? Because I'd given myself two goals: 

I wanted to have my first book published.

I wanted to lose 20 lbs. I still had it in my mind that I needed to be something great for him to love me.

Thankfully God got a hold of my heart. As I started my own personal quiet time, digging into God's Word, I realized that in God's eyes I was accepted. God loved me completely and I didn't have to do one thing to earn it! When I understood forgiveness and God's intense love for me, and when I forgave myself for all my foolish mistakes, I found a freedom that I didn't know what possible. I was not only free from my unrealistic expectations of myself. I felt free to try to find my biological dad, because he was someone God used as part of my story. What the world would call an “unplanned pregnancy” had been planned in God's heart all along. I was planned in God's heart and knowing that made me feel as if I could walk on clouds! So I did it. One day as my kids played outside I search for my dad's name. Sure enough, his phone number and address popped up a few minutes later. My mom offered to call him, but within a few minutes my phone rang. He was calling me, excited to have a daughter!

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You see, it was true that he had seen me when I was a baby. What I didn't know is that my mother had been afraid of losing me and had told him I was someone else's child. So all this time when I thought he knew about me and just didn't want to see me was wrong! Over ten years has passed since that time, and while our relationship still isn't super close he does care for me and my family. We talk many times a year and we've enjoyed vacations together.

In fact, my new release The Promise Box is about an adopted young woman who has the same feelings of unworthiness. I've already received tons of emails from readers telling me how real her struggle seemed. Yes, I admit as I write them back, that's because it was my struggle first.

It saddens me to think of all those years I carried around the burdens that I wasn't enough … but I'm so glad God brought me freedom deep in my soul, which allowed me to be free in numerous areas of my life.

Won't you turn to Him? Won't you dig into His word and ask Him to show you His love? Everything will change when you do. Internally and in your world and relationships, too.

And as for those 35 books … more than one of my novels has a main character who longs to be reunited with a father and mother and has the same feelings of “not being enough.”

Find out more about Tricia and her books at: TriciaGoyer.com 49

What about you? What lies—the were first planted in childhood—do you believe? We can try to push them out of our mind, but the only thing that will wash them away is understanding the unconditional love of Christ. He's given His life so you can have freedom in yours—not just eternal freedom (which is amazing!) but freedom now.

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


Feeling

Crafty?

Grade-school friends Katie Wettlaufer and Korene VandenBerg compiled their talents and craft knowledge to create the craft blog ‘Craftredo’ www.craftredo.com. We aren’t experts – just two moms stumbling upon craft ideas, giving them our own twist and having fun along the way. Hopefully you’ll find a project or two that you can use. Since most of our projects focus on recycling or repurposing, you can join our mission . . . “Saving our planet (and our sanity) one craft project at a time.”

Visit their blog to turn this……………………..into this!

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Praise and Coffee Groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania Sue Cramer and Ronel Sidney traveled to these groups in May. With no preconceived ideas or agenda, we took a road trip and were blessed beyond words by the ladies we met and the conversations that we took part in!

Youngstown, OH with Julie Arduini We had a fabulous time meeting Julie and her crew! Wonderful ladies!! It was a very interesting time with them as their group has gone through a lot of changes over the past 6 months. Specifically, most of the ladies had been from one particular church and that church sadly went through a split. This has changed the dynamics of the group. I must say that Julie handles this with incredible grace for the ladies on both side of the fence. She loves them all equally and her heart is evident in her actions and words. This group, like so many is evolving and who knows what it will look like down the road. Our heart was to minister the love and mercy of God to these ladies. We were honored to sit in Panera Bread and share a message of forgiveness and healing to these beautiful ladies. We also had a few “God appointments” along the way and cherished our time with each one of these women. Thank you for letting us come!!! ~Sue Cramer 51

Butler, PA with Amy Riordan Amy’s group is a large eclectic group of ladies for all different churches and backgrounds. They meet in a YMCA and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Amy’s heart is wide open to these ladies and they connected in a way that went beyond the four walls of church. We were honored to meet these women and even thought the event is set up with the podium in the front of the room, Ronel and I had so much for talking with the group and sharing the love of God with them. We had no agenda and nothing prepared to speak on but God led the discussion and it turned out beautifully. Thank you Amy and ladies for letting us come and meet you, you are a wonderful group of ladies and we hope to be back again!!! ~Sue Cramer

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Encouragement for Today with

Ronel Sidney

Freedom In Love

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEXA CRAMER PHOTOGRAPHY

There has never been a time in my life where

so often. Jesus was a scary man who hung on a

God was not present. I was raised with two free

cross at the front of my church and Mary was to

spirited parents who took us to Catholic Church

the left of him with candles and flowers sur-

but did not hold any rigid religious obligation

rounding her. These images feed into my fear of

over our heads. I am not quite certain at what

God and fueled my need to strive for the perfec-

age or how but I feared God and was certain I

tion of Mary. The chains of fear, unworthiness

would NEVER gain his love because I failed him

and perfection have been apart of my life for far

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too long. The only thing that could save me was

The cycle of working for my marriage,

the freedom in Jesus’ love and sacrifice for me

family, friendships, and for Jesus’ love left me

and you.

drained, alone and burnt out on religious obliga-

My inability to fully understand how much

tion and approval. I wanted so bad to be loved

love Jesus has for me no matter what I do is a

and accepted that I ran myself raged and con-

hard pill to swallow. My need for acceptance,

stantly overextended myself which left me bitter

approval and worth is something that is hard to

and resentful. I began to think earning Jesus

let go of. Early in my marriage I would wake an

love was just NOT worth it and I just wanted to

hour before my husband went to work in order to

give up on it all.

make his breakfast, coffee and lunch to be cer-

It’s funny how this was exactly where Je-

tain I gained his approval as a wife. When my

sus wanted me. He wanted me broken, upset,

son was a toddler I took him to the park while

frustrated and alone. He wanted me quiet and

ignoring my weight and health issue that needed

humble. He wanted me to see that I could NOT

to be addressed. I did not share the pain and

earn anyone’s love or affection. He wanted me

hurt from my childhood out of fear of being

to see religion was a waste of time. He wanted

talked about or judged. I allowed friends to use

me to fully surrender EVERYTHING to him.

me and abuse me so I could gain their acceptance and love.

The brokenness I had felt for years was boiling over and pouring out in all areas of my

The overriding feeling that I was not wor-

life. I no longer wanted to volunteer for my son’s

thy of love began to permeate in my marriage,

sports, I wanted to quit ministry, and I wanted to

parenting, family, work, ministry and friendships.

just be free with Jesus… no church, no school-

Without my works I was NOT good enough or

ing, no ministry, no nothings. I wanted to leave it

worthy of love. Without my works I would NEV-

all behind in order to fully embrace Jesus’ love

ER be a good enough daughter of Christ. With-

for me despite my brokenness and lack of com-

out my works I would not be a good wife or

mitment to finish anything strong. I went from

mother. Without my works and sacrifice I would

overachieving to quitting everything in hopes of

NOT ever succeed in life.

finding freedom in love.

Ronel Sidney is the National Director for Praise and Coffee. Ronel Sidney is the National Director for Praise and Coffee. She lives in California with her husband and son. She’s a working mom who's learning to let go and PLAY everyday.

Check out her blog: www.ChosenForMore.com Contact her: Ronel@PraiseAndCoffee.com 53

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013

(Cont…)


Cont… It is in the midst of the letting go of com-

love our hearts will begin to feel the brokenness

mitments and obligation that I have found true

of the world. When we feel the brokenness our

freedom in Christ. I have begun to engage in

hearts will leap at the chance to share his love

new and exciting conversations about him. The

not in words but in action. Freedom in Christ

heart of my own brokenness is my own ability to

means love, worthiness and acceptance despite

accept that I am exactly who God created me to

me!

be, that it does NOT matter if I never change or

Freedom is a gift and in embracing His

grow. If I never lead another Bible study he will

freedom my heart longs to extend His love and

still love me. If I never do ministry again he will

acceptance to everyone I encounter… not for

still love me. This pure and all powerful love is

what they can do for me but for the experience

life changing. The love of Jesus finds us right

of loving like Jesus. Loving no matter how bro-

where we are at in life and frees us from any

ken, lost and alone people are in your life. For-

and all obligation. He looks at us the way we

giveness, freedom and love can only come

look at our sleeping children, with awe, peace

through Jesus… nothing I say, do or achieve in

and unconditional love.

life will bring me what He has already give me.

Does this mean his love can not or will

Learning to live in His freedom will be a life long

not change us? No, what it means is he loves us

journey, I will fall and fail but He knows me and

if we NEVER change BUT when we embrace his

He will never turn his back on anyone of us.

I’ve had the awesome opportunity to share tips and encouragement for Real Moms on STAR 105.7, a secular radio station here in West Michigan. We talk about everything from bullying to tips for dealing with teenagers. If you’re not in West Michigan you can listen online at iHeart radio. Check out the Praise and Coffee website for more info, links to the segments we’ve recorded and ways to connect with Tommy and Brook!

www.WestMichiganStar.com 54

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


We recommend... “He knows that only by trusting him can you participate in relationship with him and enjoy the fullness of life in his household. He also knows you’ll trust him only to the degree that you are certain of his love for you.” Wayne Jacobsen

“Too many Christians are living in a house of fear and not in a house of love.” Brennan Manning

Available at Amazon.com 55

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


“Why Do I Even Try?”

Denise Dykstra, co-editor of Praise and Coffee the Magazine. Denise is heavily caffeinated and joyfully married to her truck driving, farming husband. They reside in Michigan raising their four boys (ages 14 to 7) on a hobby farm that keeps them hopping busy. She updates friends on her sons’ latest escapades and caught snakes on her blog “Life With Four Boys...Coffee Please!” Denise@PraiseandCoffee.com Most of the time, I glance at the calendar and gasp in shock, “July? How can this be? The boys JUST got out of school!” And another part of me it all, “July? I need a vacation if I am going to survive this summer!” I love when my boys are done with school. I mean, it’s really hard to tell who is more excited, me or them…but I am going to go out on a limb and guess them. It is good to have them home. It is good to have beach days again and watch my boys grow. They work hard on our little farm for us and the reward is spending so much time with them. 56

My boys have to work hard, but they get to play hard too. Recently, after they had picked enough strawberries for me to make three batches of jam and four batches of shortcake (it’s called priorities), I went to fetch them for dinner. I could hear them squealing with laughter out in the field, I knew enough to know this was not caused by them picking strawberries (as much as my husband would love to believe that his boys are outside saying “Yes! I get to pick another strawberry! And another! Oh, strawberries, how I love to pick thee!”). Interest piqued, I headed out to find them.

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


I had just spent a good portion of my day sweeping my dirt-encrusted floors and then I went all out and mopped them. Mopped them until they glowed. But really, why did I bother when they leave clothes on the floor that do this as they get into the shower? I’ll admit, part of me wanted to be all…

And because I know my boys, I brought my phone. And because of their squeals of laughter, I had it set to video camera.

“I JUST MOPPED FLOORS AND WHY COULDN’T YOU WAIT TO GET THIS MUDDY?” on them. But did you see their pure joy?

I rounded the corner around the raspberry bushes in time to see them each patiently waiting their turn (gasp!) as they took turns running as fast as they could across an unplanted part of the field to dive and then plop land into a deep pile of mud.

It’s the pure joy of being a boy in mud in the summer. It’s the freedom of summertime and being brothers. That is worth any muddy floor.

Words escape me. It was the best time they had had yet in the field this summer. They assured me they would wash off in the swamp before returning to the house. That was comforting. At the house, I made them up plates full of dinner, called them to the house, refused to let them enter and made them sit on the ground to eat.

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Help for women in cris

1.800.799.SAFE or 1.800.787.3224 Anonymous & Confidential Help

Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services.

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sis...

www.mercyministries.org

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Six Session Springboard for Praise and Coffee Groups Consider it a springboard because we don’t want you to feel so attached to a curriculum that you miss the conversations that will happen organically.

Bunny trails encouraged! You can download these on our website. www.PraiseAndCoffee.com Written by: Ronel Sidney~ Praise and Coffee National Director 60

Praise and Coffee | Summer 2013


Theme: Freedom Session One: What is True Freedom?

Session Two: Freedom From Religion

Get things brewing: How do you and your family celebrate the 4th of July?

Get things brewing: Describe a typical Sunday morning while you were growing up.

Steep in God’s word: Romans 6: 15-18 The Message “So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!”

Steep in God’s word: 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 The Message, “Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” Press it out:

Press it out: -What does freedom mean to you? -Describe a time when you were set free from something (relationship, addiction or career). -Can you think of anything you would like to be set free from right now in your life? 61

- Can you describe your relationship with Jesus (Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter)? - When you look in the mirror do you see Jesus shining through? -Describe a time when you could clearly feel or hear God directing your path or decision.

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Theme: Freedom Session Four: Freedom in Loving Get things brewing: What is your favorite Summer drink?

Session Three: The Life of Freedom Get things brewing: Describe your ideal Sunday afternoon. Steep in God’s word: Galatians 5:1 The Message, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Press it out: -Describe your ideal career if finances or commitments did not matter. -Do you ever still feel like a slave to sin? How do you let go and trust Him? -What does freedom in Christ mean to you in your daily life?

62

Steep in God’s word: Galatians 5:13-15 The Message, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” Press it out: -Describe a time you had to push through the pain and frustration to show someone love. -Can you think of a time when you wish you would have chosen to love instead of judge? -Do you ever feel overcome with evil when dealing with difficult people? What are some tangible ways to show them love?

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Session Five: Freedom in Serving Get things brewing: What was your favorite game to play as a child? Steep in God’s word: 1 Peter 16-17 The Message, “Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.”

Session Six: Freedom to Follow Get things brewing: Describe your favorite pastime or activity?

Press it out: - Describe a time when you felt free to serve God without worry or fear. -What would it look like if you could serve God in any capacity anywhere without worries or fear? - Can you think of anything that is keeping you from serving your community, children’s school, church, friends or family?

Steep in God’s word: 2 Peter 2:17-19 The Message, “There’s nothing to these people—they’re dried-up fountains, stormscattered clouds, headed for a black hole in hell. They are loudmouths, full of hot air, but still they’re dangerous. Men and women who have recently escaped from a deviant life are most susceptible to their brand of seduction. They promise these newcomers freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, for if they’re addicted to corruption—and they are—they’re enslaved.” Press it out: - Who are you following right now (trends, fashion, TV, etc.)? - Describe a time you felt hurt or judged my the church. -What does it look like to follow man verse following Jesus?

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G

oodbye, for

now.

After 3 years of Praise and Coffee Magazine, we are going on a hiatus. Ok, if you made it all the way through the magazine, you’ve come to the last page of the last page for a while. This magazine started out as a newsletter to connect the women of Praise and Coffee Nights that meet across the nation and world. It quickly evolved into a magazine sharing stories of amazing women and how powerfully God has touched their lives and how their stories can inspire us. Our passion has always been to connect, encourage and inspire you with this magazine and I believe we have held faithful to that calling. But I think that in the Christian world we can get caught up in thinking that just because something is good…it should never stop. We don’t always know how to close the curtain on a great show. 64

I think we all have to evaluate why we do what we are doing and decide if God is still compelling us to continue it or if maybe it’s time for something new, whatever that is.

I think we all have to evaluate why we do what we are doing and decide if God is still compelling us to continue it, whatever that is.

For instance, six years into pastoring a church , the Lord laid on our hearts, “You’re done here, it’s time to hand over the leadership, I have new role for you.” We had peace about it, but many people were upset with us. They felt that we had abandoned them. Sadly this meant that they had put us on a pedestal that should have been reserved for God. I don’t ever want that to happen again, I don’t want to be put in the place of fulfilling needs that only God can fill. I resist it regularly. When someone wants me to mentor them or lead them, I make sure that I continue to point them in God’s direction and refuse to fill the role of Savior in their life.

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I realize that taking a break from something that is so successful is a risk. To put it bluntly, I risk losing my “platform.” Oh how I hate even saying that. I think the whole idea of platform building is a bit nauseating. Why has ministry been reduced to a platform? Since when did Jesus say, “build your platform?” He didn’t. In fact He didn’t tell us to build anything, He told us to love Him and love our neighbors. Yet we get wildly distracted working to build a platform, running to conferences learning how to better inspire others to follow us. Oh yes, that’s the other thing He never told us to do…inspire people to follow us. It’s a fine line we balance… publically sharing our hearts to help others but secretly wanting their email address for our database. Oh yes I did just say that. Can I encourage you as I make this huge leadership blooper? Be real with yourself, your God, and your calling, even if it goes against the grain of what the leadership books tell you to do. Jesus does not need your platform. Really, He’s doing fine without it.

About the magazine…I’m not saying that we are closing this chapter for good, honestly I’m not sure right now. But we are going on a hiatus for a season, I’m not sure how long that season will be or if it will be permanent. I will keep you posted.

Why has ministry been reduced to a platform? Since when did Jesus say, “build your platform?” He didn’t. In fact He didn’t tell us to build anything, He told us to love Him and love our neighbors.

If you have influence, I hope you use it to show others His love and grace, and remember, you can do that with 2 or 3, so don’t feel “less than” if you don’t have as many followers as the other gals. Just honor God with what you have. It is enough and so are you. 65

I plan to keep the website and blog going as always, I’ll still be speaking, traveling and I’m hoping to visit more of our Praise and Coffee groups around the nation. I also have a few books on my heart and interest from publishers, so I plan to use my time to focus and get some work done. Thank you to all the amazing women who have contributed to Praise and Coffee Magazine, and especially Denise for spilling through the pages with me each issue, helping pick the covers and sharing ideas over coffee. Thank you for taking the time to read our ragamuffin magazine, we hope it touched your heart. Much love,

Sue Cramer Keep in touch with us! Sue Cramer at: PraiseAndCoffee.com Ronel Sidney at: ChosenForMore.com Denise Dykstra at: DeniseDykstra.com

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“But

because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,

made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions

it is by grace you have been saved.� Ephesians 2:4-5

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Summer 2013  

A magazine to connect, encourage and inspire women!

Summer 2013  

A magazine to connect, encourage and inspire women!

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