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What’s your story?

A Broken Step Mom

Stories That Inspire!

A Woman’s Struggle With Pornography big mama’s big news!

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Praise and Coffee Magazine A quarterly online publication.

Connect

Founder and Editor

Sue Cramer

4| Spotlight Praise and Coffee

Co-Editor

Plainwell, MI Community group

Denise Dykstra Submission Guidelines:

38| Praise and Coffee Menu pp. 38-49

1. Anyone is welcome to submit articles or testimonies.

50| Cross Pollenating Circle of Friends

2. Submissions by women who have attended or hosted a Praise and Coffee event will be considered first 3. Testimonies can be personal or connected to your experience at a Praise and Coffee event.

Encourage

4. Articles that will be considered are to be encouraging and inspiring.

22| Denise Dykstra

5. Length of submission should be 400-800 words. This can be negotiated for feature articles.

26| Darlene Lund

16| Big Mama’s Big News Why I Dislike Dave Ramsey Holding Your Girlfriend’s Heart

6. Submissions will be read and considered among the Editor and coEditor.

58| Amelia Rhodes

7. We do not pay for articles, they are on a volunteer basis.

60| Alece Ronzino

Getting Real One Word 2013

8. Submissions should be in “Times New Roman” #12 font.

70| Marriage Matters

9. Submissions need to be emailed as an attachment and include:

74| Encouragement for Today with Ronel

Make a Plan

Name

Stripped Down Faith

Email

76| For Caffeinated Moms Like You with Denise

Website (if applies)

Our Stories

Short (100 words or less) bio

80| Sue Cramer

11. Email submissions to our Co-Editor:

Her Religious Upbringing Couldn’t Save Her

Denise@PraiseandCoffee.com

82| esPRESSo

For advertising info, contact Sue at:

6 Session Curriculum

Sue@PraiseAndCoffee.com

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Winter 2013 Volume 3 | Issue 2 Inspire 8 | Alison Hodgson We need to tell our stories.

12| Renee Fisher No one wants to be the underdog.

18| Heather Hetchler The struggles of a step mom.

32| Maureen Milham A room with a view: of Israel.

52| Diema Roth Getting over our fear of friendships and stepping out.

55| Robyn Dykstra When the fairytale of a perfect life is shattered.

62| Amy Riordan Freedom from pornography, depression and homosexual feelings 66| Arlene Pellicane How long do I have to wait to find the perfect man?

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Praise and Coffee Spotlight...

Sue Cramer Community group

~ Plainwell, MI

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


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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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


My heart for this magazine is two-fold. I started it to help connect the women that were hosting and attending Praise and Coffee events across the nation. Now, it has developed into a platform to encourage and inspire by sharing the stories of every day, relatable women just like us.

What’s your story?

I don’t for one minute pretend that this is a professionally streamlined magazine. This is my amateur attempt to make a little noise. I would love to have professional editors and graphics experts, but for right now, it’s just simply me and some committed friends working to produce something that we hope lifts your day, possibly your week and occasionally changes your life. We pray that you are inspired to stretch and transform or maybe just pick yourself up off the laundry room floor and believe that God loves you and that your life has meaning. I’ve read that God used a donkey, a chicken and some muddled up characters to declare His love for us, so I feel that we’re in good company as we plod through this attempt to make a difference with our words. We all have a story; the truth is we all have many stories, this issue highlights a few. We hope they resonate with you and stir your heart to want to experience something deeper than church attendance. We pray that it creates a longing in you that is unsatisfied by whatever has promised you harmony outside of a relationship with the One who created you. In Anna Nalick’s rather despondent song “Breathe” she sings... “And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud And I know that you'll use them, however you want to…” I appreciate the women who shared the words of their diaries with us in this issue. I know that He’ll use them however He wants to…

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013

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

Connect with me online...


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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


The gift we can give each other, to ask the sincere question…

What’s your story?

“What’s your story?” By Alison Hodgson I never wanted to be that lady at the party telling her birth story. You know. Hasn’t she, at one time or another, tortured us all? “So I was dilated to three and effaced 20%—” “No, you were only at two, Honey,” the husband interrupts. “Oh right! So I was at two and then the mucous plug went—” 8

Mucous what! Where! Have you no sense woman? I don’t like to think about mucous ever—let alone discuss it—and certainly not the kind that was plugging a stranger’s birth canal. Thank you, very much. “She was great. I was so proud of her,” again the husband. Doesn’t he know any better? No, he doesn’t. And so they tell their story with all the gory details and the rest of us quietly throw up in our mouths.

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


I would never, ever be the lady at the party telling her birth story. I was completely clear on that…until I gave birth. My natural birth philosophy was more of a dogma, so I was fully committed to protecting my baby from the threat of any medical intervention. I knew giving birth without drugs wouldn’t be a picnic but I was counting on that glorious amnesia which makes women forget the pain of giving birth. Here’s what happened to me, I pushed before I had the urge to push and my baby's head got stuck, for hours, in a spot it should only have been for a few minutes. Short story: I got broken. After my husband Paul cut the cord and the midwife handed my son Christopher to me my first thought was “He’s so heavy,” my second was a question, “Why does it still hurt?” Everything I had read described the feelings of relief and joy, even euphoria at the moment of birth. It was for this, second only to a desire to protect my baby, I had rejected any and all pain relief. I wanted to be fully present, to feel it all, but all I felt was a persistent and throbbing pain, a sense of confusion and an overwhelming exhaustion.

“Yes, I would like fries with that and I think it’s because SOMEONE BURNED MY HOUSE DOWN!” Within minutes of giving birth, I understood the obnoxious ladies with their graphic birth stories. I didn’t excuse them, but I understood. Yes, women have been giving birth for millennia but I did and I would have the inability to do much of anything without pain to prove it. And yet I wouldn’t allow myself to talk about it because I wasn’t going to be that lady. When an arsonist randomly set our house on fire and we lost everything, I felt no such restrictions. There had never been an obnoxious lady telling her awkward fire story at party after party, so I filled the void, and I mean I FILLED it. Our acquaintance might only have been minutes, seconds even, but I managed to find a way to tell my story. “Yes, I would like fries with that and I think it’s because SOMEONE BURNED MY HOUSE DOWN!”

Not what I expected, to say the least. For two years, just the thought of Christopher's delivery made me gasp. My chest would constrict and my stomach would flip. To say my child's birth was a traumatic experience sounds so histrionic, and yet that's the truth even though I didn't know it. After my daughter, Lydia was born that glorious amnesia I had heard about, came and covered both births.

On the other hand, my family hated to talk about the fire. This was challenging, because so many people asked about it. Some were genuinely concerned for how we were doing and others were idly curious.

I still couldn't sit without pain; healing that was another story. Five years after the blessed event I couldn't walk, sit or stand for more than a few minutes without discomfort or outright pain. Finally I realized that ain't right and made getting some help a priority. I spent the better part of a year making my way around, the offices of proctologists, physical therapists and chiropractors, before finding it but eventually, thank God, I did.

We were asked this so many times, once by a man who was a distant neighbor we’d never met. He stopped by our property when we were checking the progress of the new house and told us how alarming our fire had been for him (You would be astonished how many people did.) I could feel my daughters stiffening beside me and then he asked so casually about the cause, you know just shooting the breeze.

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“So, did they every find out what caused it?”

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


cont…

“Yes, they did catch the guy, although technically our fire isn’t part of the case—I don’t know why— officially the cause of ours was ruled “undetermined” but off the record they called it arson; my husband’s car door was open, the corresponding garage door was up and they never found the gas can….”

“It was arson,” I said, “and.we.don’t.like.to.talk.about.it.” He was shocked, not so much by what I said, but my tone.

As the months passed I became ashamed by my need to talk about the fire... And so on. He glanced around at Paul and the girls who were stone-faced, impenetrable and made a huffy sort of mutter as if he was only trying to be nice. I knew he thought we were rude. It didn’t occur to him, he was the one being thoughtlessly cruel. And here’s the thing, if it had only been me, I would have still been affronted, but I would have happily answered his every question and volunteered what he didn’t know to ask.

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As the months passed I became ashamed by my need to talk about the fire, how I couldn’t seem to move on. From the distance of two years, I can only have compassion for myself. What exactly is the timeline for grief and trauma? Now I know, underneath all the talk was the question, “Why does it still hurt?”

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Pain is meant to be a warning or a sign, but in the aftermath of my son’s birth, I judged it to be evidence of my physical weakness. With the fire, I saw it as a lack of trust in God, a spiritual feebleness. I wonder how it would have been for me if, instead of condemning myself for the pain, I had allowed it to be what it was—not good or bad—and simply tried to understand the cause or the source. While we were re-building things became difficult with our township and insurance. Anyone who has built a house will tell you how stressful it can be under the best circumstances. Anyone who has rebuilt after a fire, with a whacking case of post-traumatic stress, will tell you it’s beyond terrible. I began to feel constant anxiety and with the fear came self- reproach. I can see now I believed; if I only trusted God more I wouldn't be in pain, as if someone burning my house down wasn't a terrible wound requiring time to mourn and heal.

I told Paul the first day, "I don't want to white knuckle this." You know, tight smiles and pretending everything is fine. I just wanted to live the experience honestly but I had no idea it would be so astonishingly hard. If I’ve learned anything from this about how I want to treat my friends and family going through a crisis, it’s that I want to be curious which is distinct from being intrusive. but. The gift we can give each other is to ask the sincere question, “What’s your story?” and then to wait—open and without assumptions— for the answer.

And it wasn’t just me with unrealistic expectations. I was surprised to find myself at odds with the prescribed narrative. This is the script strangers seemed

I told Paul the first day, "I don't want to white knuckle this." You know, tight smiles and pretending everything is fine. I just wanted to live the experience honestly but I had no idea it would be so astonishingly hard. to be following: Act One: Fire bad. Losing everything is super sad! Act Two: Buying new stuff is FUN! Act Three: Moving into a brand, new, beautiful house: Super fun!

Alison Hodgson is a gifted communicator who writes and speaks about all the gory details of following Jesus. Her writing has been published with Baker Publishing Group, Houzz.com, the Christianity Today blog for women: Her.meneutics and Religion News Service.

The End.

She lives in Michigan with her husband Paul, their three children, and their two good dogs. You can keep up with her at her blog:

Except that’s not how it was for us.

www.olderthanjesus.blogspot.com 11

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


What’s your story?

Everybody likes an underdog story...

but no one likes to live it By Renee Fisher DevotionalDiva.com

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


At the age of fifteen I lost the skin off my face and feet. I wasn’t supposed to survive my story--let alone live a normal life. From an early age I struggled with anxiety. I was afraid to leave the house. Afraid to eat for fear I’d get fat and no man would ever love me. Then my skin happened. Every girl dreams of having the perfect complexion to woo boys--but not me. It would have been enough if I just had acne like every other normal teenager--but not me. At the age of fifteen I lost the skin off my face and feet. My parents took me to Children’s Hospital in San Diego, CA because they were afraid for my life. Somehow I came down with a bad case of skin rash (eczema). They had no idea where it came from and why it became so…aggressive. The doctors looked at me as their new mystery patient. They took pictures of my face. They encouraged other doctors to come into my room just to see my face--or lack thereof. I couldn’t open my eyes or mouth all the way.

I looked like a burn victim. It hurt so bad I had to take pain medication. I won’t even mention how badly it itched and how I wanted to die. I wasn’t supposed to have a normal face--let alone be able to wear makeup again. But I did. Back home at my parents, something even more mysterious happened. In the privacy of my bedroom--God met me. My mom and I kneeled before my bed and cried out to Him. We begged God to heal my skin. Three days later my face begin to heal. I didn’t need to use any more Cortisone creams or take anymore Prednisone. It was a miracle. However, my feet and the rest of my body took another six years to heal from the whole ordeal. From the ages of 15-25 I was pretty much housebound. I gained 100 pounds within ten months of taking the medications the doctors gave me at Children’s Hospital. Prednisone is no joke. Steroids harm. I was forcefully home schooled through the rest of high school. 13

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013

The only time I left the house was to turn in my schoolwork and take math class. After high school, I enrolled in community college I looked for a part-part time job. Since I could only work a few hours the only place that would hire me was a local Christian newspaper-Good News, Etc. Working there changed everything for me. I wasn’t supposed to be a writer--let alone publish my story. Working at Good News, Etc. had its perks. I had no idea the day their music columnist quit--my life would forever change. They asked me-someone who had zero writing experience--to interview Switchfoot and start writing all their monthly music columns. All because I had taken a History of Rock and Roll class through the community college--I got the chance at a new life. Gone were the days of thinking my life was over and that I had nothing to offer. No one, including my bosses at Good News Etc., Newspaper, knew I had kept a daily journal since my stay in the hospital. Every day since I was 15 I wrote to God,


“If you heal me--I’ll do anything or go anywhere for you!” I had no idea my private journal writings were the training ground for God’s calling on my life. To share my story and encourage others that God still heals. He is still in the process of making all things new--and that includes your story and mine. I still struggle with anxiety. That’s a fact. But it no longer stops me from writing my story and sharing it to encourage others. Maybe you’re in a tough spot. The New Year is almost upon us--and you’re having trouble facing what lies ahead. Maybe you don’t even believe you have a story.

Talk about devastating. I had to wait another few years before another published picked it up. After re-writing it for the third time I cannot wait to share with everyone in the New Year. It is called “Forgiving Others Forgiving Me,” and it releases Summer, 2013 with Harvest House Publishers. I can’t wait for you to finally read my story in its entirety--the story that wasn’t supposed to happen. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to face your own story--or lack thereof. Just know that you’re not alone. Keep fighting the enemy. Keep singing God’s praise.

Wrong!

My publisher decided to go in a different direction and canceled my book the day I finished writing it.

The ugliest and most painful lives make for the greatest stories ever told. Everybody likes an underdog story, but no one likes to live it. I know because my story took ten very painful years to recover from before I could boldly write. Even when I finally had the courage to write my story--it almost didn’t happen again. My publisher decided to go in a different direction and canceled my book the day I finished writing it.

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Renee Fisher aka the Devotional Diva® is a spirited speaker and the author of Faithbook of Jesus, Not Another Dating Book, and Forgiving Others Forgiving Me (Harvest House, 2013). She graduated from Biola University and worked with nationally known Christian speakers and writers at Outreach Events. She writes a monthly column on dating & relationships at nicoleodell.com and StartMarriageRight.com. Renee loves her engineering husband Marc who enjoys teaching her how to cook in their spare time. They live in Escondido, CA with their pit bull named Rock Star.

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


What women are saying...

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.

I was a part of the (city name withheld) Praise and Coffee last night for the first time! I know (leader) has shared with you about the "church split" so to speak and (leader) made both sides feel welcomed, at least in my eyes :-) Going to something like that is way out of my comfort zone but the NEED and WANT for True Friendship was worth stepping out. Being a mom of 5, I don't take the time for myself and my coffee is usually in a ToGO cup LOL, It felt great to sit down with some ladies and laugh so hard I cried!! Thank you for starting such an amazing thing for women to get connected. 15

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 my webpage for more info, links to the segments we’ve recorded and ways to connect with Tommy and Brook! www.WestMichiganStar.com

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


big mama’s big news… Four years I went to a conference called She Speaks. The official reason I went was to teach a little course on blogging, which in and of itself is hilarious, but when Lysa Terkeurst invited me she mentioned it might be a great chance to put together a book proposal and meet with some literary agent/ publisher type people. I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole thing and had no idea how to translate my unique ability to write about nothing into some type of book format, but I decided I'd give it a whirl and came up with a proposal. While I was there I met with an agent named Bill Jensen and liked him immediately. He promised to look over my proposal and said he'd try to get back to me in a few weeks. Then I met with a publisher who let me know she wasn't interested. AT ALL. Thank you. I will just go curl up in the fetal position and cry now. And so I decided to let the whole book thing go. Until several months later when I received an email from Bill Jensen asking if I wanted to talk to him on the phone. So we talked. And then we talked some more. And then I kind of freaked out and felt overwhelmed by the whole thing and sent him what I hoped was a very nice email thanking him for his time but explaining that I was slightly neurotic and completely incapable of thinking about writing a book. I'm a blogger. I blog. That's what I do. And it allows me to talk about the kind of chips I bought at the grocery store and the cute shirt I found on sale at Anthropologie and I think we all know that Jane Austen never wrote a book about any of those things. 16

Of course Jane Austen also wrote fiction and I don't do fiction because I prefer real life. She also wore petticoats. And probably wore her hair in a bun.

Melanie Shankle Watch for her fashion café again here in the Spring 2013 issue!

But the book thing (as I refer to it) was the thing that God didn’t allow me to let go of. So after a lot of starts and stops and tears, Bill helped me put a book proposal together and answered all 82,132 questions I had about the entire process. I spent weeks upon weeks at Starbucks typing my little heart out until the smell of coffee began to make me feel like I might have a seizure. But there's a moment in the whole thing that I will never forget as long as I live. About a week before we sent out the proposal, Bill and I were talking on the phone. It was mid-August and my daughter, Caroline, was sitting in the back seat, waiting on me to finish my conversation so we could go into Subway and order some truly mediocre sandwiches. After I hung up the phone I said, "Babe, thanks for being so patient. That was an important call about the book." "Mama?" "What, sweetie?" "It has taken you a really long time to write a book."

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Since I'm never one to miss a teachable moment outside of Subway, I replied "Yes it has. But you know what? Sometimes in life the things we have to wait on the longest or work the hardest for turn out to be the sweetest things in the end." And then she said something that I know was God speaking through her right to my heart.

To read Melanie’s blog and get info on pre-ordering her book go to: www.thebigmamablog.com

"Mama? Sometimes we have to walk to our future even when it feels like we want to run." It was all I could do to not break down and cry right then. Because it has been a journey and the book has been a dream I've had somewhere deep down for as long as I can remember. The proposal went out about a week later and I held my breath and told myself it didn't matter one way or the other, that I had done what I felt like God had called me to do and the rest was up to Him. Honestly, I halfexpected that maybe someone would offer to let me pay them $10 to get it bound at Kinko's and sell it out of their garage. But that's not what happened. And after much writing and editing and rocking back and forth weeping and sleepless nights, my memoir about motherhood and God and life, Sparkly Green Earrings, is a reality. It is being published by Tyndale House Publishers and will be released on February 8, 2013. Maybe you and my dad might buy a copy.

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Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


What’s your story?

God Whispers to a

Broken Stepmom By Heather Hetchler

“I can’t do this anymore,” I cried from the floor in my bathroom. Lying on the ground and calling up to God, I told Him “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep trying and loving and getting hurt over and over again. It’s too hard.” As I lay there in a puddle of my own tears I heard a gentle whisper, “You can’t, but I can.” Those simple words spoke to my heart and once again reminded me that it is through Christ’s strength that I endure. Why is it that I have this “strong” faith yet forget to rely on the One who can truly sustain me during the tough times? Why do I often “forget” my favorite verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” when I need it most? (Philippines 4:13) I knew those whispered words came from God. I picked myself up, and I started to pray. I didn’t want to pray because I was afraid of what God 18

was going to ask me to do. I wanted the easy life. The life that so many other “families” seemed to have. Blended family living wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had foolishly arrived at the conclusion that I could make our family picture perfect and glue all our broken pieces together, and I tried to do so in my own strength. That was my big mistake. I should have learned my lesson by now. I’ve been blessed to experience God’s sustaining love when I surrender it all to Him. When my exhusband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore, I was devastated. “How dare he leave me,” I thought, after receiving his life-changing news. I remember crying out to God, “I can’t do this on my own. I can’t do this on my own.

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


Please don’t harden my heart for my husband. Please help me to keep my kids’ needs first.” I promised myself that night that my kids would never be “punished” for choices made by their parents. I knew I needed God’s strength to keep that promise. In my own flesh, I was not capable. The Lord answered my cries that night. He sustained me. God led me to forgive my husband. I found myself at a new church that gave me the tools to heal. I was able to work with my ex. I was able to pay my bills, feed my kids, and be

Shortly into our marriage, my youngest stepdaughter, who had begged me to become her mom, turned on me and blamed me for all of her pain. It was hard to have such harsh words and actions come from a child I was trying to love. It was hard to have my kids witness it. They grew more protective of me and less willing to connect with her. It seemed I noticed all the “faults” in my step kids, where my husband seemed blind to them, and the reverse was also in play. I didn’t see the

I had never felt from another person before. I became dependent upon the way “he” made me feel. When the challenges with the kids started affecting our marriage, some of those feelings started to fade, and I desperately wanted them to come back. It is wrong to put the responsibility of my happiness on my husband. I know he loves me, but he is human. He is imperfect and he will disappoint me. But God will never let me down. He is the one unchanging constant of love in my life.

We were certain we would not face the same struggles that other stepfamilies faced. We were wrong. emotionally healthy for them and for myself. Then I met Andy. He was a single dad with two girls the same age as my kids. He had full custody of his daughters, who were in extreme pain from being abandoned by their mother. I started falling for this man of deep faith. I fought the love growing inside, as I had vowed previously I would never put my heart out there again. I didn’t want to get hurt, but God had a different plan. We married and blended our two families. We read every book on step parenting. We used our professional degrees to counsel each other and those around us. We were certain we would not face the same struggles that other stepfamilies faced. We were wrong.

struggles my husband was bringing to my attention in regard to my own kids. Tensions with the kids flared, and that meant tensions in our marriage flared. We knew we loved each other. We knew God brought us together. We knew that we needed a plan. God’s plan. On that night when I collapsed in utter emotional and physical exhaustion, God met me in my darkness. He reminded me that I had started to lean on my own strength to be successful, and that I was looking to my husband and family for happiness and peace, and not to Him. God was right. The love and rush of euphoria I felt around my husband was something 19

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013

Another message God placed on my heart that night was the importance of girlfriend support. I already knew that it was unhealthy for my husband to be my processing partner, but I didn’t realize I had to have others I trusted in whom I could confide. Honestly, I had been stuffing my pain and hurt down. On the surface it appeared I was fine, yet one “situation” or word could set off my volcano of emotions that would erupt without notice, taking me and my husband by surprise. Proverbs 18:24 comes to mind, which says “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” God wasn’t calling me to confide and be with just any friends. He was calling


me to walk with those women whose head and heart were pointed at Him. He was calling me to build a network of support where women could encourage, inspire and support one another. It wasn’t that I hadn’t talked with girlfriends about struggles, because I had. It’s just that it wasn’t always constructive, and I didn’t always share with those who had my marriage’s best interest at heart. I knew who to go to with what, and I have to admit there were times when I was low, and I would call a friend whom I knew would say things that would make me feel validated. But I didn’t need to hear “you shouldn’t have to endure that,” or “most women would have left by now.” Those types of negative words can send a woman in darkness further down the slippery slope of hopelessness. I needed women who would listen, understand, challenge me and share their own journey. And I needed to be that for others. God was calling me to share my story. I’m grateful to say that not only do I have an online network of loving and supportive women, but I also meet every Friday with three other women in blended families. Two of us are both moms and stepmoms, and two of us are moms married to men who are stepfathers. We share our different perspectives, and most importantly, we pray for one another and keep each other accountable in a loving and godly way. Having a strong stepmom support group has literally changed my life. It is a gift God gave me that night, a gift that I received in my brokenness. That night when God whispered to this broken stepmom was a long time ago, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t still get hurt. I’ve learned to go to God with those hurts and lay them at the foot of the cross. I don’t do it right every time, and often I pick them up as soon as they are set down. While I stay positive and help other stepmoms remain positive on their journey, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have nights when I cry myself to sleep. Because I do. Even today, I find myself thinking at times “I can’t do this” and as I finish the phrase in my head, I hear that whisper in my ear, “You can’t, but I can.” The pain is still there, but the peace I receive from God never leaves. 20

God is always talking to me. The question is, “Am I listening?” God uses our brokenness to speak to our hearts. He knows I’m the most still when I am broken. It is in my brokenness that I allow myself to hear Him. The blessing in this stepmom’s brokenness is hearing God’s words of life and living life in His strength, not my own. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ( 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Heather Hetchler is the mom of four and custodial stepmother of two. She serves stepmoms to help them thrive as the heart of their blended family. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Communication and Methodology and writes for Stepmom Magazine and Huffington Post Divorce. She is the coauthor of the book Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace: A Stepparent's Guide to Success. She and her husband Andy enjoy speaking to groups on the challenges and joys of blended family living. You can contact Heather through her website www.CafeSmom.com and can follow her on Twitter @CafeSmom.

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


the blog post heard

‘round the world! By Sue Cramer

My sweet friend Denise (co-editor of this magazine) has been a writer since she was a little girl, even if she didn’t know it. When my husband pastored a church in our community she was our chief letter-writing encourager. We smiled every time a letter from Denise arrived. The enveloped itself was peppered with kind words and fun scribbles which invited us to open up and read the hand-written message inside. She always filled her letters with fun anecdotes and compliments about a message he’d preached or an event she’d enjoyed with her ever growing family. She and I worked together to create a church newsletter and spent hours drinking coffee and pounding out the River of Life news each month. Years later I started a blog and just knew that Denise needed to start one too. She has a fun voice and the world was sure to love her! Fast forward a couple years and her blog has an average of 100-120 hits per post which is excellent in the competitive noisy world of blogging. Until. She blogged about Dave Ramsey. Not JUST about Dave Ramsey but about how much she DISliked Dave Ramsey. Well, dear Dave caught wind of it, tweeted and shared it with his readers and that day she had over 82,000

hits on her blog!

Not JUST about Dave Ramsey but about how much she DISliked Dave Ramsey.

I’m thrilled that so many were able to enjoy her blog...I hope they come back because it is fantastic! Seriously (if I were Southern, I’d throw a “ya’ll” in here for good measure)...this blog is fun! The stories of her smalltown, country life with four boys will floor you. From snakes to raccoons to paint spilled in the kitchen that became an impromptu party for the Dykstra boys. I will not even blink if she is asked to do a reality show someday. Not. Even. Blink. I keep waiting for the call (insert another ya’ll). Until then, you will have to read about their escapades...and please do. www.DeniseDykstra.com Turn the page for the exact blog post heard ‘round the world…

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Why I Dislike Dave Ramsey By Denise Dykstra

Denise@PraiseAndCoffee.com

Originally posted at DeniseDykstra.com...

He can literally quote his answers before Dave gets to it. I am the one who pays all the bills. I balance the checkbook and we have this system - I pay it, he doesn't see it and we all get along grandly.

My husband is a big fan of Dave Ramsey. He can quote him. I am not. I tend to loath him. My husband has tried to talk me into going to the Financial Peace classes and I am always dragging my feet. Seriously? 13 weeks of talking about MONEY? I think this is some sort of cruel torture. When our church had yet another Financial Peace class offered, I knew that Jake would ask me again, I would give him "the look" and tout a million reasons why we couldn't or didn't need to but then I thought about how happy he would be. I found out some of my best friends were taking the class - one of my friends is a therapist and she and her husband signed up - so I figured this would be a good class to take. We would require therapy and Renee would know why so that would help. Jake's eyes shown brightly as I dropped the check in the offering plate. He was nearly walking on air. He finally was going to get me to change. I had a pit in my stomach for weeks leading up to class one. When class one rolled around, I let everyone know just how much I was dreading this. You see, Jake has always wanted to be a millionaire. And then he married me...and we promptly had four boys. That sorta is a "money hit". He has planned our lives around much of what he has learned from Dave over the years listening to his radio program. 22

That was all about to change. At the end of Class One, Jake was nearly jumping up and down with joy. "We get to budget, won't this be fun?" Kill. Me. Now.

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Jake was working a ton and I was sitting at football practice at the time so I committed to this, "If I am going to take this class, I am doing it all the way". I read the book. It is lined with my smart aleck comments. I read it very critically. Very very critically.

We have a long way to go yet, but at least we are aware of WHERE we are going. I have informed my husband we are not going to become one of those crazy people either....I think enough of you out there know what I mean by that.

I did all the homework. And about three weeks in I looked at Jake and said, "Hey, you wanted to take this class, we better get busy and actually DO this class," and so began the first budget meeting.

Which gets me to my point...why I dislike Dave Ramsey.

It went better than I thought it would. We didn't even fight. Did you read that last line? We. Didn't. Even. Fight. Jake pretty much nearly had a heart attack when he heard our grocery bill until he realized we were living on five dollars a day per person for our entire grocery bill. If anything, he might have admired me a little. At least I hope so.

I dislike Dave Ramsey because after all this time of loathing him, I actually found out that he isn't all that bad. The things that my husband would say, "Dave Ramsey said we should do this and this..." well, he DID say you should do those things after you did a bunch of other steps that we hadn't completed yet. I read the book and found that out and I might have pounced on my husband about it. Not like I didn't have years of pent up anger or anything on that subject.

People would see me with the Dave Ramsey book and cringe. Then they would say, totally shocked, "You are taking that class?" I would nod. "What do you think?" they would immediately ask because they knew I would tell them exactly what I thought.

As it turns out, we didn't need therapy. We took the class with a genius with money (who happens to be the therapist's father), one of my best friends who went through a job change and host of others and we actually had a good time.

I told them I was shockingly enjoying it.

So, again, why I dislike Dave Ramsey....

We finished the class Sunday night. It was a nine week class, but some friends who have taken it before are hoping to get one of the videos from the 13 week class videos for us to watch because they enjoyed it so much.

Because now I have to eat a ton of crow.

I am not a fan of the envelope system because it's hard to put the cash in an envelope so you can put it back in the bank so then you can pay a bill. We don't like that at all so we are trying to figure that out. But as far as us sitting down and talking about our money, well, I never thought I would end a conversation about money and bills with my husband and actually grin when we were done. We talk about money and for the first time in 15 years it is not a stress or argue point for us.

I mean, like a ton of crow. Because our pastor asked us - um, yes, US - to coordinate (teach) the next class. I feel this is Dave getting back at me somehow. Anyhow, I never ever ever ever ever thought I would say this, but, if you would like a good class on money, look at Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I actually recommend it. A lot.

I recently sent a text to him that read, "I just finished paying bills and actually missed you while I worked on them. What have you done to me??????" 23

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Holding a

Girlfriend’s

Heart By Darlene Lund Darlene @HeartsWithAPurpose.com

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Do you long for a girlfriend relationship?

Do you desire a deeper connection in a friendship? Have you tried establishing a girlfriend connection, only to be whiplashed? My hunch is, you answered, “Yes” to at least one of the above questions. Female friendships can be mysteriously dynamic, difficult, demanding, and yet richly rewarding and refreshing. Whenever I speak on friendships of women, l enjoy the story of Mary and Elizabeth. Plus, I love to study the scriptures that teach us the “how to’s”. Let us zoom in on their friendship found in the New Testament book of Luke. A bit of the background story; Elizabeth was married to Zacharias, who was a priest. The angel Gabriel had spoken to him in the temple. Zacharias and his wife had some personal issues. They were advanced in years and barren. The angel had informed Zacharias that his wife would conceive in her old age, and they were to name their son, John. Needless to say, this instant message from the angel shell-shocked the priest; so much so, he did not believe the angel. He was told, “You will not be able to speak until these things happen” (Luke

the baby within Elizabeth leaped and she was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The older woman knew Mary was carrying the Lord in her womb. She asked Mary, “How has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) How compassionate our God is to allow these two women time together. Both pregnant with unplanned pregnancies, yet carrying created images of God. Scripture does not let us in on their three month conversation but I can only imagine. Other stories of women from the scriptures give us a clear picture that women were emotional creatures then, just as we are today. After all, Elizabeth, Mary, you, and I were fashioned by the same God. They were blessed women to have three months together. One woman, six months pregnant, yet advanced in years, while the other just finding out she was pregnant—and a teenager at that. Oh my! What a perfect scenario for tears, laughter, joy, and lots of questions being tossed back and forth. Elizabeth and Mary surely spent that time wondering, sharing special food and beverages, voicing rich words about their futures and those of their sons—being a part of

Let me remind you that Elizabeth and Mary were individual women walking out their stories, and each was unique. 1:20). He returned home to his wife, and in time, she conceived just as the angel had forecast. In a town about seventy to ninety miles away from Elizabeth, her cousin Mary discovered she was expecting. This was Mary the mother of Jesus. When Mary found out she was expecting, she headed to see Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel had given Mary a heads -up. “Your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month” (Luke 1:36). Personally, I think this was way too cool of the Lord to make certain Mary had some female touch points. God did not have to give her the inside scoop on what was happening in Elizabeth’s’ life, but He certainly did. He had a plan for major divine appointments scheduled on His calendar. When Mary arrived, Elizabeth was six months pregnant. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, 27

God’s love-plan to restore and redeem mankind. They must have tucked those precious conversational-bonding-hours away like hope chests full of stored -treasures. Maybe some of the questions asked by Mary were, “What if he does not nurse?” “What if something happens to Joseph?” “What if I get sick?” Back and forth they confide holding each other’s story delicately, lovingly, and trusting one another. Elizabeth must have really loved conversing with someone. After all, her husband was not able to speak until John was born, and it had already been six months living with her speechless man. That could drive a woman a bit crazy. Let me remind you that Elizabeth and Mary were individual women walking out their stories, and each was unique. They were women from the opposite

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Yet, women compare, and then jealousy sets in. end of the age-range, maybe forty to fifty years between them. They lived miles apart. One son would be the broadcaster for the other son. One pregnancy was honored in the setting of a marriage. One pregnancy was a miracle—created only by Father God Himself—allowing Mary to be the chosen mother of Jesus. One woman, having the disgrace of not being able to conceive wiped from her life as her stomach swelled. The younger un-wed woman had conceived her baby before marriage, raising questions and eyebrows while the gossip chain spread. One honored. One Another humbled. Two females with “ attitudes” could have stopped the precious three month get-away. Mary could have gotten upset and left within days or a week. For example, Elizabeth could have gotten jealous of Mary. After all, Mary was allowed to carry Jesus, and she only carried John the Baptist. That sin would have begun with Elizabeth glancing over and comparing her life to Mary’s to see what her friend had and what she did not. We think, “How silly!” Yet, women compare, and then jealousy sets in.

One was during my years of infertility when my heart was torn from longings with an unanswered prayer. God brought into my life a woman named Sheri to encourage me, weep with me, pray with me, study the Word with me, and hold my story close to her heart. She did just that. She kept my infertility story to herself until I was ready to voice it. Then God moved her out of my area, just as I became a mother.

time was when my life was moving way too fast on life’s treadmill. I knew my engines were going to blow internally if I did not stop the out of balance living.

Elizabeth could have even opened her mouth and run to the water well to gossip and share Mary’s story without permission, wounding her cousin. Unfortunately, today women use Facebook, emails, or texts as they quickly shoot off words to pierce—forgetting there is a heart behind that screen. The expressed words tear to the core of a woman’s heart and slaughter her emotions by shredding and diminishing her personal story. That bites. Let us use Mary and Elizabeth as examples. We never ever hear a negative speck from their three month conversation. They held each other’s stories protectively until the world needed to know. They were wise women. In my own life I have had seasons when I had a girlfriend in my sphere of doing life, and other times I have not had a close-up girlfriend. However, when I have needed one to help me through some tough patches of life, God brought her in the nick of time. 28

I think back on three friendships in particular.

Another time was when my life was moving way too fast on life’s treadmill. I knew my engines were going to blow internally if I did not stop the out-of- balance living. I recall meeting this dear friend at our church in a Bible Study. I wept in our church parking lot, telling her I had nothing to offer her as a girlfriend. I was way too spent “doing busyness.” That was several years ago, and she has walked beside me during many turbulent storms on my pathway.

The last instance would be the time when I met my own Life Purpose Coach.® We were in training together in California, and Cindy, my coach, so happened to come back to Orange County for level three training. I recall our meeting. Cindy walked down the steps of the classroom, extended her hand, and introduced herself. I sensed an arrow pierce me through our handshake, as if to say, “Pay attention to meeting this woman.” She has been more than a coach; indeed, she has been a dear friend who has coached me through the landmines on my own path. She knows my story and will hold it dear until God gives the green light. As a coach, I hear stories of scars women carry. Yet, I also hear the richness of healthy friendships and the risk it takes to build and create those relationships. I challenge you to honor a friendship as a woman tipping her heart to you in trust. Do hold her words protectively, not stepping on her or spilling her words. Hold them dear.

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I coach women one on one and in groups. I listen. I hear. I learn. I hold their stories close. Their stories are not mine to share. If I ever desire to use a story in writing or speaking, I first ask. Then I share it to encourage others, or offer comfort. I leave you with guidelines to know how to hold your girlfriend’s heart in your hand. 1. Set boundaries. Protect her story. 2. Have her best interest at mind. 3. No part of her story is aired on Facebook, texts, emails or through the mouth. Zip, unless she says, “It is fine.” 4. Women want to know they have been heard. Tell her, “I hear you.” 5. Ridicule, slams, or jokes to hurt are not allowed. 6. Embarrassment or shaming is never for the good of your friendship. 7. Speak in an atmosphere of grace, love, and support, based on truth. 8. Honesty is a must. 9. Bottom line, women want trust and loyalty. 10. Extend grace, and extend grace, and keep on extending Think before you speak. To hold a friend’s story in your hand is to hold her heart. If you desire a female friendship, keep your heart open to that desire. Pray for a friend. While you wait for your prayer to be answered, grow in love with your Creator. Once you attain a friendship, I recommend you release control. Set your girlfriend free to blossom and grow in her potential to become the woman she was created for. Remember, jealousy is not a companion. Just like Mary and Elizabeth, have a shared life experience, then set off to do what each has been called to do in God’s redemptive plan.

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Darlene Lund is a Life Purpose Coach®, Grief-Loss Coach, and Abuse Coach for women. She is founder of Hearts with a Purpose, a business that allows women to unpack their hearts (through coaching, instructing, and life-plans) and empowers them to focus forward with purpose. She coaches, speaks, teaches, facilitates, and writes on behalf of the needs of women. Part of her story is published in Live Big, by Dr. Katie Brazelton. Visit www.Heartswithapurpose.com and take the free coaching analysis and sign up for the monthly newsletter. She is also blessed to be called Mom by one young adult and two teens.

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Andy also has weekly style tips on Star 105.7 in West Michigan!

Look 10 years Younger in 2013!! Boots! You can look 10 YEARS YOUNGER in 2013 by making small, simple changes in your wardrobe and cosmetic routine. Small shifts can add up to a big change. It’s time to rethink your shoes with skirts. If you reach for a fun, modern, sexy boot instead of shoes or dated pumps, you can shave years off your outfit and overall look. Boots naturally look more tough and rebellious... which in turn makes you look younger. So, when slipping into a great skirt or flowy dress, think about a great boot.

The most modern boot shapes are more rugged looking with substantial hardware and stacked heels, which are great for those of us who are sick of teetering on icepick stilettos. If you are looking to buy some new boots, your money will be best spent on natural brown and gray tones. These colors look fresh and will keep you looking 10 YEARS YOUNGER for years to come.

www.AndyPaige.com 30

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Think about your feet.! Hot boots will help you look 10 YEARS YOUNGER!!


Some of our fave Pinterest picks. Click here to follow and find these!

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Room With

View

What’s your story? Jerusalem 2012

By Maureen Milham info@shineinternational.info 32

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our years ago I entered a new stage of my life. After living five years in Brazil and two years in Africa, I landed in the Holy Land. Israel. Almost daily, people asked me what brought me here, why I came to Israel; and while there is always a long, complicated answer there is also a short, concise one. Simply stated, to Shine. At first it was God who called me to this land, but something happened in my heart along the journey. Israel become my home. Israelis become my people. And the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continued to bless me in this land throughout every mountain peak and each valley.

It is in one of these dark-filled pockets in which I live. South Tel Aviv has been called many things since my arrival here, but the most common one is plainly this: Not Israel.

This small piece of spiritually prized realestate, once coined the land flowing with milk and honey, is today a thriving Jewishstate. We are prosperous in the High-Tech world, innovators when it comes to military and intelligence, an economic miracle many say… yet in the midst of all the light in this nation, there are many pockets of darkness. Darkness in forms of hatred, racism, poverty, prostitution, drugs, slavery. Pockets where the light of this nation is not shining so bright, or shining at all.

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It is in one of these dark-filled pockets in which I live. South Tel Aviv has been called many things since my arrival here, but the most common one is plainly this: Not Israel. Many Israelis refuse to even acknowledge it as part of their country. Its “Africa” or its a “foreign land”, and to be honest its not without reason. South Tel Aviv has become the dumping ground for refugees, foreign workers, prostitution, homelessness and drug dealing. Theft and crime is high, employment is low. Hundreds of African refugees live and sleep in parks, on the streets,

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or in the alleys. Drunkenness and nightly street brawls are common. Most nights sirens ring through the air. Darkness. Yet, are we not called upon to be a light in the dark? A hope for the hopeless? A small candle light that flickers? The truth is, we can be lights wherever we are. We can burn bright as we sit in service every Sunday or meet in our weekly small groups. When we are at home making dinner or tucking the kids into bed. Everywhere we go, near and far. We are still shining. But imagine this: Its Christmas time and we ALL love the lights twinkling on the Christmas tree, lighting up our rooms during the holidays. But here's the key: those lights were meant to shine brightest when all other lights are out. Not too many ‘ooohhhhs and ahhhhhs’ when all house lights are on and the lights on the tree just blend in.

Yes! Without a Doubt! And that's why I'm here. In South Tel Aviv. With the hopeless. With the Needy. With the cast out. In the darkness. To Shine My Light…. In a Room With A View.

The magic comes when the lights go out. We've all seen it. We've all experienced it. Those lights were meant to bring beauty and glory to that tree in the darkness.

We are the same. We are meant to bring beauty and glory to God. Sure, we can do that wherever we go, and we SHOULD do that wherever we go; but our light will shine the brightest where its needed the most. Our light will be HIS light reflecting HIS glory in the darkness. He is the tree and we are his twinkling lights. Are we all called to move to the ghettos of our cities? No! Absolutely not! But are we all called to be A Light in the Darkness however we can?

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Tel Aviv Israel 2012iv 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/ 35

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You asked for it... Praise and Coffee Magazine is now available in print through MagCloud. Magazines can be ordered individually

but not by print subscription.

(Yet. Stay tuned‌) The print magazines cost about $13-$15 each. To order a copy in print, go to www.magcloud.com/user/praiseandcoffee

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Q&A

How often should I hold my Praise and Coffee?

That is up to you but it should be consistent.

We suggest one of the three: * once a week

How do I host the group with the books? We recommend using the book as a “springboard” for conversation.

You do not have to follow the book strictly,, just decide ahead of time

how much you are all going to read

* twice a month

and be prepared to talk about it.

* once a month How long should I keep doing my group? We would like you to commit to

holding your group at least 6X. So that would mean your group will

last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months long. Then feel free to start over with a new group or

keep going with your current one. Is there a cost or membership fee to join Praise and Coffee as a host or a participant?

What if the members of my group don’t keep up with reading the books? Always go back to the heart of these groups: * Connecting women * Encouraging Growth * Inspiring Change Our focus is NOT structure or obedience to a set of rules, it’s a

matter of the heart. Be gracious

and let God lead by what is on the hearts of the ladies there.

No, not at this time.

Cont... 47

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How do I “lead” the groups that

How do I start??

conversation from?

Fill out the form

don’t have a book to springboard We encourage you to use our

esPRESSo curriculum at the end of this magazine. Or, look up arti-

cles that apply to your group topic and discuss them, or go around the table sharing how the past

week or month has been in light of the “flavor” of your group. i.e.: If your group is about blended

and start inviting

girlfriends!

families, talk about what has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a step mom. Be creative! And watch how God

just opens the conversation once you let your own walls down. Do I have to pray out loud to host a group? That is up to you. You can format your groups with or without a

time of public prayer, but we do

encourage everyone in the group to keep one another in their pray-

ers and send emails or texts to let each other know that you are praying for one another. 48

*

on our website

Do I have to use the books suggested for the “flavor” group I want? No, they are just suggestions. Where do I buy the books?

We have a list of the books on our website with direct links to Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate we would love it if you order them through our website! Click here: Resources

or go to our website PraiseandCoffee.com and find the “Resources” page under “Praise and Coffee groups”

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


It’s more than a ministry,

it’s a

* Movement!

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Praise and Coffee believes in….

Cross Pollenating Highlighting other Women’s Ministries because we’re all in this together!

This issue: Circle of Friends

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Circle of Friends Ministries was formed to organize and meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of women. Their first and foremost desire is to build a pathway for women to come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some of their ministries include: -Counseling Services - Women's Events - Women's Groups - Radio (Friendsradio.org) - Adoption/Foster Care Promotion and Support - Life Skills Classes and Conferences - Marriage & Family Resources Circle of Friends Mission: The mission of Circle of Friends Ministries, Inc. is to honor Jesus Christ through meeting the needs of women in local, national, and international communities.

Lisa’s book, “A Place to Belong” Every woman needs “a place to belong”—and that’s the underlying theme of this brand-new book from Lisa Troyer—president of Circle of Friends Ministries, singer/ songwriter, and program show host for Moody Radio. Lisa shares her passion for women’s ministry, as well as the story behind a dynamic group of “women helping women,” who call themselves the Circle of Friends. Readers will be inspired to reach the lives of women—locally, nationally, and globally—and will catch a vision to be wholly committed to Jesus Christ, obediently seeking God’s will, and fulfilling their life mission as Christfollowers. A much-needed message of hope. . .that women all have a place to belong in the heart of Christ.

OurCircleOfFriends.org 51

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Lisa Troyer President of Circle of Friends

CD available on iTunes!


Are we adult women

or teenagers back in

High School? By Deima Roth

I am not out going. I get really nervous when meeting new people or going new places. Really, really n.e.r.v.o.u.s.

You see, as I was growing up, I was awkward and unpopular. I wasn't girly, my eyes were too big for my face, my hair went wherever it felt like going, and I hated girls in friendships. Petty, catty, mean, etc... That's the way I defined most girls.

The fun thing about God is that He helps us push beyond that bubble, that place where we're so comfortable; even when we think it'd be better to avoid what makes us uncomfortable. If we let Him, He will grab our hand and lead us to do new things. Since moving an hour away from EVERYONE I knew, He has led me outside my bubble of comfort.

Fast forward many years and add a relationship with Christ that has helped me see Truth in how great fellowship with great ladies can be. And you find me going to places where I don’t expect to know A SINGLE SOUL. Last night, I nearly backed out of an amazing time. I was invited by a new friend to attend Praise and Coffee. I almost backed out. I almost e-mailed her to beg to be her shadow for the whole night.

Do I like to talk to people? Yep.

God said no to both. So I went.

Do I look forward to developing good relationships with strangers? Not really. 52

Alone. But, not alone. He was there.

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What’s your story?

I went to a Praise and Coffee Night. At it, we met Maranda from WOTV and heard a bit of her journey. Wow, what a woman being used by God in a time where family units are being challenged. I had a great time. I can't wait until next time. I really believe this movement for women is headed to do BIG things. I am excited to be a part of it! I wouldn't have known that if I had hid inside, afraid to step out of my fear and love of comfort, to meet some great women doing great things for the Kingdom of God. So, I encourage you, step out! Even if you’re trembling. Ask God to find your hand, to give you peace, and to walk you through it. He will. 53

I'm Diema; a daughter of the King and servant to my growing family! I'm a lady learning to be content with the daily love of Christ. With four children under 5 and another due in May, we're often running around the house cleaning up toys, making meals, and learning to humbly follow the lead of our Savior. Put on a smile and an apron; it's sure to be fun and messy!

Diema’s blog: refreshinglifeoflove.blogspot.com

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What’s your story?

When

Fairytales Shatter By Robyn Dykstra Robyn@RobynDykstra.com Even if you don’t know me personally, you probably know someone like me. Almost annoyingly cheerful, endlessly positive, and ridiculously lucky. If you believed in magic, you would deem me charmed and want to rub me for luck. My life looks like a fairy tale well on its way to happily ever after. So, can you guess how I start every day? Healthy breakfast? Exercise? Quiet meditation? Nope, the first thing I do every morning is check to see if my husband is still breathing. I suppose it’s an odd ritual for someone who presents such a positive lease on life, but no one is exempt from trials and turmoil and I am no exception. 55

Jesus’ name has been spoken to me since childhood. If someone was hurt or angry, I heard it. His name was an expletive, not the beckoning to a Savior for divine encounters. I managed to avoid the deity of Jesus until college, where I met my Prince Charming and future husband Jay. Prince Charming fell in love with me at first sight, but there was a problem. He was a Christian. Admittedly, I didn’t know any other Christians but from what I heard in general and seen on 60 Minutes segments, I thought that Christians were solemn people who wore gray and black clothing and sensible shoes. They weren’t allowed to watch movies or go dancing or have any fun. They were supposed to have huge families, and

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three or four generations lived in communes together – maybe even the same house. None of that appealed to me. Jay wasn’t like that. He didn’t drink or smoke or sleep around but he didn’t judge me harshly for doing all those things. He talked openly about God and his faith in Jesus Christ with me. He loved me relentlessly for years, pursuing me, telling me about his

Spirit of God could teach and refine me into a woman who would represent him well. In fairly short order, I was on my way to becoming the Princess Wife that my Prince Charming had been praying for. One area of nastiness after another fell to the wayside. My happily ever after was coming to pass.

I refused to have children because I didn’t want to give up my 4” heels, 22” waistline or assorted vices. Jesus. Finally, as his guest at a Christmas program, overcome with emotion, I made a profession of faith in Christ. Six months later we were married. Poor Prince Charming, I was not transformed like in a fairy tale. For years, my will collided with him and with God. I refused to have children because I didn’t want to give up my 4” heels, 22” waistline or assorted vices. I was so jealous and insecure. I didn’t want Jay to love his baby more than me. After seven years of marriage, he had loved me long enough to trust him and we produced a perfect combination of our best qualities in a son. It was shortly after the baby’s birth that I heard from God Almighty, who, in the still of the night, gently asked me, “Robyn, what are you going to tell that child about me?” That sent me running to the local church I pretended to attend when my husband’s parents visited us from out of state. I signed up for a Women’s Bible Study in an urgent quest for knowledge. Through the teaching and patience of the women in that study, I found an authentic relationship with God the Father through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ, so that the Holy 56

Like every fairy tale has a defining moment of darkness, so does mine. My Sweet Prince Charming died unexpectedly at age 39 of a heart attack. Our babies were 7 and 4. As horrific as it was to bury my Prince, my solace and hope wasn’t in an earthly realm, but a Heavenly Kingdom. I held onto my faith in Christ and the promises in God’s Word. Promises about His faithfulness to take care of widows and orphans. Promises to never leave me. Promises to be my Provision and Protection. I clung to them like a child clings to her good daddy. God did not disappoint. He blanketed me with comfort, insight, wisdom and peace. He surrounded me with an army of women from my church family who filled in the gaps during my grief. They provided childcare, lawn care, car repairs, and prayer care for a year! God in Spirit and in Body, walked me through the valley of the shadow of death and into a life of abundant joy.

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After a couple years of marriage, he and our airplane disappeared on a routine flight to PA. I married again, a family friend of Jay’s. Craig was an a adventurer who thought it was ridiculous to own a vehicle you don’t know how to operate, so I got a pilot’s license to fly the airplane he came with, and a motorcycle endorsement, so we could each take a child passenger for scenic trips and ice cream cones. We vacationed at romantic locations where I learned to snow ski and snorkel, and read French menus in the fine restaurants of Paris. After a couple years of marriage, he and our airplane disappeared on a routine flight to PA. The FAA, Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard, State Police in 5 states, even NASA got involved in the search. He was eventually found, dead, weeks later on the final day of the search.

obyn Dykstra is a popular retreat, conference and MOPS speaker who lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband of 11 years, Dave. Robyn says Dave is the bravest man she knows. Obviously not superstitious, Dave married her at the precipice of menopause and adopted the boys in the throws of adolescence. Their life may look like a fairy tale, but she and Dave will tell you it’s only because Jesus reigns in His Kingdom and their home. www.RobynDykstra.com www.facebook.com/RobynDykstraSpeaks

Returning to the line of new widows, I again, found God and His people faithful, generous and compassionate. My story is better than any fairy tale. It’s the story of what God can do with the broken pieces of our lives if we will just stop fighting for our own way long enough to try His. I choose a life of abundant joy that sustains and uplifts. It gives me hope for my future no matter how bleak it may appear to me or to those around me. My joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I want everyone to know my Jesus, the God who loves extravagantly, orchestrates miracles out of devastation, and offers hope eternal.

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Getting Real By Amelia Rhodes

Allowing others to see us broken will help us build authentic relationships 58

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“How are u? Been thinking about u!” I stared at the text message while my thumbs hovered above the keyboard, debating how to answer. Give her the pat answer that everything is “just fine”? Or be real with her and let her know it’s been a rough day?

Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. (Ecclesiastes 4:9– 12 MSG) I spent too many years being “easily snapped” by the pressures and frustrations of life. God doesn’t expect us to appear to have it all together and go it alone. In fact, He designed us to do life together.

I took a deep breath and chose to be real. “Been a rough day. Not a fun dr. appt.” Within minutes my friend called wanting to know what was going on and how she could pray for me. There was a time in my life where I thought I had to always have it together. I assumed that being “a good Christian” meant I needed to rely only on God and be strong for everyone else. I rarely let anyone know how I was really doing. It was exhausting. In a world of nonstop tweeting, blogging, texting, pinning, and posting, it’s easier than ever to settle for superficial friendships. We can craft hundreds, even thousands of quasi-friends online, yet not ever let anyone know the real us. When we don’t go deeper with anyone, it’s like drinking decaffeinated coffee. It might taste, look, and smell the same as regular coffee, but there’s nothing providing us with the energy to keep going when we need it most. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us of the value and security in doing life together: It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. 59

Admitting my struggles to people I trusted opened the floodgates for relationships that were the most authentic, genuine, and caring I had ever experienced. Allowing friends to see me, broken and struggling, helped them know how to care for me and walk with me through my hurt. Because God is relational, He often will use other people to administer His love and comfort to us. But we have to make the effort to be real with people. Who are you doing life with? When the pressures of life threaten to snap you, do you have friends you can be real with? At some point in time, we all need friends who will pray for us and point us back to the God’s truths in the Scripture. Next time a friend asks, “How are you?” be real with her. Amelia Rhodes lives in West Michigan with her husband and two young children. She loves coffee breaks with friends and has a passion for encouraging women to share an authentic life together. Amelia is also the author of Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing life together in an all-about-me kind of world. You may connect with her at www.AmeliaRhodes.com

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it’s

not about doing more

by Alece Ronzino I've lived most of my life by shoulds. Growing up, I was the all-American good girl. I did well in school. I went on mission trips. I moved to Africa when I was 19 to serve as a missionary. I did everything "right". By the book. The way I was supposed to, expected to, told to. The way I should. But the treadmill of striving is exhausting. If only I could do more... If only I could do better... Yet for every should I managed to check off, more got added to the list. It was a vicious cycle of defeat. In my painful journey of the past few years, I realized how badly I needed to stop should-ing on myself. And I discovered how challenging it can be to get off that treadmill. One of the ways I've found some freedom from the should shackles has been by ditching New Year's Resolutions. I used to make a long list of goals I'd like to achieve in the new year, but never managed to live up to them (or, at times, even remember what they were). It only left me feeling like a failure. 60

So I began choosing just One Word as I step into a new year. One word that sums up who I want to be, or a character trait I want to develop, or an attribute I want to intentionally add to my life. And since it's just one word, it's easy to remember. I place reminders of it around my home and workspace, and I inevitably start seeing and hearing it everywhere, which helps me stay mindful of it. One year, I committed to risk more—it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn't ordinarily do. Another year, my word was look—it gave me eyes to see God's divine fingerprints even in the darkest of moments. This past year, my word was choose—a daily reminder that while I can't control what happens to me, I can always choose my response. My One Word isn't another to-do list. It's simply a guide as I make decisions, set plans, and go about my every day. And I've seen these words shape not only my year, but also myself.

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They've challenged me, inspired me, changed me. Such is the power of intentionality. I've chosen enough as my One Word for 2013, and with equal parts trepidation and curiosity, I am anxious to see how it will grow me this coming year. Will you join me in choosing One Word for the year? It's not about doing more, but about being who you were created to be.

What do you want to focus on in 2013? Who do you want to be by the end of the year? Once you've landed on your word, write a blog post about it. Then add it to the community link-up on the One Word 365 site.

Maybe a word popped right into your head. Maybe you need to let the idea percolate a bit longer. Either way, more often than not, your word finds you. You’ll probably have a love/hate relationship with it. That’s okay. If it doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, it’s probably not the right word. So… Together, let's stop should-ing on ourselves. Alece Ronzino A New Yorker changed by Africa, Alece is the founder of One Word 365 and a communications coach for non-profits. She blogs candidly about searching for God in the question marks of life and faith. Visit Alece's blog | Follow her on Twitter | Like Grit and Glory on Facebook

www.SusieFinkbeiner.com 61

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Where When the Roa

What’s your story?

Pornography? | Homosexual Re

I was always the quiet girl growing up. As a young girl, it seemed as if everyone knew my dad. He was a teacher in the same school district I attended, and my teachers always knew who he was. For a girl who wanted nothing more than to blend in and not be noticed, this caused me to be on my best behavior at all times in school, church and any other activities I was involved in. Unfortunately, I never knew that the state of my heart was more important than looking like I had it all together on the outside. By the time I was a senior in high school I was a huge mess on the inside. I had stuffed a lot of anger down deep inside of me, but no one ever knew. Everyone always commented on how happy I seemed, and no one noticed any differently. When I was a senior in high school, my mom and dad separated and later divorced. My world, as I knew it, came crumbling down around me. Any sense of security I had was ripped out from underneath me. It was at that time that my life started on a downward spiral. All of the junk that was nicely tucked in and hidden away inside of me started to seep out. My best friend at the time had parents who were divorced, so she understood what I was going through. I started leaning on her more and more. She was my shoulder to cry on and the stable friend I needed. I grew up going to church, but I never knew that God was able to give me the comfort and security that I was desperately reaching out for. My relationship with my friend became so close that we became emotionally enmeshed and eventually sexually involved with each other. I had never had feelings like this for another girl before, so this left me feeling confused and unsure of who I really was.

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Our relationship lasted another two years and eventually ended when she moved away. I felt like a piece of my heart left with her. I eventually started dating a boy whom I would later marry. It was in this relationship that I was introduced to pornography and drugs. Many of our evenings were filled with watching pornography and smoking pot. Needless to say it was never a very healthy relationship. My life just kept going downhill. Still, no one knew, because everything looked fine on the outside. Our marriage only lasted a year, and then he died of a drug overdose a few months later. I felt lost and unsure of what to do with my life. My whole life felt like an incredible mess. In an attempt to get my life back on track, I decided to go back to church. Several months later, I finally gave my life to Christ. My life started to change as I realized I could lean on Him for everything, and He was the stable Rock that I could depend on no matter what. I felt a sense of hope and peace that I had never felt before. Many years later I met and married my husband, Kevin. When we got married, I thought that I had left my past behind me. After all, I was following Christ and married to a wonderful Christian man who loved Jesus with all of his heart. Sometime after our first child was born, I was going through a very difficult time. I was adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom (even though I always knew I wanted to be one). It was during this time that I stumbled across pornography online. I had not looked at any pornography

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e Will You Go ad of Life Crumbles?

elationship? | Depression? One woman’s story. since I was married several years earlier, but this time was different. I became almost immediately trapped in its web, and I couldn’t break free. Here I was, married to a wonderful man, I had a beautiful baby boy, I was following Jesus the best I knew how, and I somehow got myself hooked on pornography. I didn’t know what to do or how to break free. My husband and I were very involved in our church, and I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I felt like such a hypocrite. In viewing so much of the pornography, I started questioning my sexual identity again. I found myself becoming more and more attracted to the women I was looking at, and I even started questioning if I was a lesbian. I started thinking that I made a mistake in getting married, and I should have been with a woman instead. This secret sin was literally killing me inside, and I didn’t know what to do. Almost two years went by between the time I first stumbled across the porn and when I finally told my husband. Kevin and I soon went to talk with our pastors, so we could get some direction of where to go from there. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life, but I can now look back and realize that confessing this struggle to someone else was actually what helped to set me free. The cravings in my heart were real needs, but they were incredibly misdirected. I never knew how hungry I was for intimacy with God. I was yearning for God, who was my Creator, Deliverer, Friend and Redeemer. Once I began to understand that this was 63

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what my heart was really searching for, I started to heal. I began to discover who God created me to be, and I found out that my identity and fulfillment was going to be found in Him only. Several years have gone by since then, and I can finally say that my marriage is healthier than ever. It has been a long and often difficult road, but as I keep surrendering my heart to the Lord, He keeps healing it more and more. I am so grateful to serve a healing and loving God! He has done a tremendous work in my heart, and I love sharing it with others. There is such hope and comfort in knowing that we serve a God who cares enough to make us new. For so many years, I would not let myself become close to another woman, because I was afraid I would feel something I didn’t want to feel. I was afraid of getting too close, so I kept them at a distance. Slowly but surely, I have let those walls come down as God has healed my heart. I am so glad, because I have formed some wonderful friendships since then. I also never would have been able to start a Praise and Coffee group if I wouldn’t have let God into those deep, untouched wounds in my heart that I had for so long. This past April, I started a Praise and Coffee group in my area. Stepping out to start this group has been such a wonderful experience. I asked my friend Laura to co-lead this group with me, and it’s been an incredible adventure for both of us. God just keeps growing our group and sending women from all over the Butler, PA area to get together with us. It’s been challenging and amazing at the same time!

given me to talk about these subjects that are often “taboo” for Christian women to openly discuss. I cannot tell you how many times women now come up to me and tell me something they have never told anyone before. In breaking the silence, their chains start to break free. It’s amazing to realize that when I make myself vulnerable (as scary as that can be), this gives women the courage to reach out and find the love and listening ear that they need. Praise God! I love how He works. It’s so wonderful to see women from all different churches in my community making new friendships, opening up to each other and encouraging one another right where they are. I love to see what God can do with a heart that is surrendered to Him. He will never stop amazing me!

Amy Riordan has a passion to help others discover who they are in Christ and find freedom in becoming who God created them to be. She has an awesome husband and two very energetic little ones. Amy’s website: WalkingInFreedom.net Email Amy: Amy.walkinginfreedom@gmail.com

I knew I wanted to encourage and inspire women to become all that God created them to be, but I was not expecting the blessing I would receive in return. I was able to share my testimony in front of 32 other women, and I was shocked at the love and compassion I received in return. As you can imagine, my testimony is not always easy to share (especially in a room full of women). God has been opening up more and more doors for me to share my story, and it has been incredible. I’m naturally a pretty private person, and I’m amazed at the grace that God has 64

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Amy also leads a Praise and Coffee group in Butler, PA.

The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you. 2 Corinthians 13:14 65

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What’s your story?

Waiting for

Mr. Wonderful By Arlene Pellicane Arlene@ArlenePellicane.com 66

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When I was in high school, I was blessed to have a lot of titles. Cheerleader. Honors Student. Student Body President. Youth Group Leader. But there was one title I was very displeased with. Dateless. I think I was the only one to graduate from high school without being asked out. No roller rink dates. No fast food jaunts. Nothing. But God had given me a promise. I went to a Christian school and one day after chapel, I was praying about my dateless state. To my surprise, the speaker came up to me and said, “I believe God has a message for you. He’s preparing a man of God for your life.” I cried tears of joy because like Hannah at the altar, I felt like my prayers had been heard. Mr. Wonderful was coming!

I felt as though life had stopped. One day, I was walking along the beach and felt impressed to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I declared out loud that God was faithful and struggled to believe it with everything in me. I prayed that God would either restore my relationship or take away my desire for my college sweetheart and bring another man into my life.

So I waited for the real Mr. Wonderful to walk into my life. And waited. And waited.

Starry eyed, I began attending a Christian college where I thought for sure I would meet my match. After all, there were so many new, cute Christian boys everywhere! But once again, dateless. Four years later, I received my BA but alas, no MRS degree. But I did come close.

My senior year, I began dating a terrific young man. He was involved in youth group and studying to be in the ministry. He was kind, smart, quick to smile, captain of the volleyball team and cute to boot. The more I knew about him, the more I liked. I was in love! I thought beyond a shadow of a doubt, “This is the Mr. Wonderful I’ve been waiting for all my life!” We continued dating after graduation, and I waited. Would he propose? God was about to prepare me for the answer. 67

One night, I felt terribly sad for no apparent reason. I began to cry in my bedroom. When I asked God why I was crying, I was drawn to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Was I willing to sacrifice my Isaac on the altar? Was I willing to let my relationship die? Tearfully, I said yes to God. A few days later, my boyfriend broke up with me.

Months went by and God had clearly chosen the latter. So I waited for the real Mr. Wonderful to walk into my life. And waited. And waited.

The months turned into years. I was in my late twenties and once again, dateless. But God had given me a promise. I’m very happy to say Mr. Wonderful did come along. The first time I ever saw James, he was flipping hamburgers at a welcome barbeque at the graduate school we both attended. It wasn’t love at first sight at the condiment bar, but he did catch my eye.

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We became good friends and it was perfectly clear to me that he was THE ONE. Unfortunately, it took him longer to catch this revelation so once again, I was waiting. After months of being only good friends, I had to re-evaluate my desire for James. I was growing weary of the crazy way my heart beat when I saw him. My theme verse was Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I prayed that God would take away my desire for James, or that God would place that same desire in James’ heart. In that time of waiting, I learned to surrender my wishes to God.

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to a Happy Husband and 31 Days to a Younger You. She has been a guest on Family Life Today, K-LOVE radio, The Better Show, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children, Ethan, Noelle, and Lucy. www.ArlenePellicane.com www.TheHappyHusband.com

A few months later, James asked me on our first date to Outback Steakhouse. Thank God he talked to a friend who discouraged him from taking me to Dairy Queen! At dessert, he pulled out a red rose and a yellow rose which he had discreetly hidden in his jacket. He said, “We’ve been friends for a long time and I want to date you and see if there’s something more.” From that moment forward, we were inseparable. Five months later we were engaged. Mr. Wonderful had truly arrived and he surpassed all my high expectations. That was 14 years ago and marrying James was definitely worth the wait. If you’re waiting for your Mr. Wonderful, take heart. God is at work even when you don’t see anything progressing in your relationships. Continue to focus on God and delight in Him then watch how He will give you the desires of your heart. And if you’re married, don’t forget your story. It’s one way to truly appreciate the Mr. Wonderful you already have. 68

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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 69

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Let’s Talk

MARRIAGE With Lori Byerly of “The Generous Wife”

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Making your

Marriage BETTER! Make a Plan Where Am I Going?

There’s No Hole in My Bucket

I have found that if I don't plan a bit, life just happens to me.

One fun idea is to create a “bucket list.” A bucket list is a list of things you would like to do before you kick the bucket.

My friend calls and needs me to watch her kids while she goes to a doctor appointment. My husband cooks up a treat and leaves a few dishes. The wind blows the patio furniture over. I just hop from one thing to the next, sometimes wondering where my day went.

I think it’s a great idea to create one for yourself, have your husband create a personal list and then create a “marriage bucket list,” things you want to do together.

Well, I don't want to reach the end of my life and wonder where my life went!

I want to organize all my photos, my husband wants to learn to play the violin and together we would like to visit Digby Bay and set up a marriage conference in the Northwest US.

I’m fine with loving on folks and taking care of needs (and some days will just happen in your face), but I would like for my life to have some direction. There are things that I’d like to do with my life and there are some things I’d like to see grow and develop in my marriage.

Our lists are much longer than that, but you can see how writing them down (and breaking them into smaller tasks) makes it easier to aim and usually get there. Sharing your lists means you know how to encourage and help each other to make plans and walk them out.

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MARRIAGE Mission Possible

Find a Fix

As you dream with your sweetie, you will begin to see certain values, concepts and principles leak out.

I don’t want to just plan the fun stuff, I want to plan to undo the broken stuff in me and in my marriage. I take the time to see what is not working.

Some people use these concepts to write a mission statement for themselves, their marriage or their homes. It can help you stay on track with what you value. Examples: 

Our home is a place of joy and safety, where people can be heard, loved, forgiven, helped and encouraged to grow.

We want our marriage to stand as an example of what real love looks like. Kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness and generosity rule in our home.

When my husband and I have run into a problem, we spend time getting educated about the issue and then we work to fix the problem. There is often a bit of trial and error, but it’s amazing what can be done when you work at something consistently. Early in our marriage we had sexual problems. He wanted to. I didn’t. There is lots of back story to that, but we took the time to study, learn and work toward a fix. It took us a number of years (there weren’t too many good resources back then), but we have built a bedroom life that we both enjoy.

Early in our marriage we had sexual problems. He wanted to. I didn’t. House Rules Another helpful guide is to make “house rules.” In our home, we have three rules. 1) Be kind. 2) Be responsible. 3) Respect the privacy of the bedrooms. Those rules have shaped the function and look of our household and helped us create a warm and safe place for family and friends. Guidelines like these can help support your mission statement and just make life more enjoyable.

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If you have a problem communicating, read a few books and practice what you learn. Ask others how they handle their communication problems. Play word games. Learn to use word pictures. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Don’t ignore the problems. Find a fix. The Days and Weeks I think family calendars and weekly talks are great. You make the time to think through what you want to do and you connect with the others involved.

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My husband and I may not get to something this week, but we’ve talked about it and made a point of working it into the calendar and onto our to-do lists. We do plan dates and times where we hang out with family and friends.

Make a plan. Write a bucket list or a mission statement. Create house rules. Find a fix. Meet weekly with your sweetie over a calendar. Plan a direction that will keep you on track in the storms of life and keep you pointed toward the life that you and your husband dream of.

Lori Byerly is married to The Generous Husband and lives in the beautiful Northwest US. She is the mom of two and has a lovely new granddaughter. She works for two non-profit ministries, and ministers in the area of marriage and small group church expressions. Sign up to receive daily marriage encouragement: http://www.the-generous-wife.com/ lori@the-generous-wife.com

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Encouragement for Today with

Ronel Sidney

Stripped Down Faith Our experiences and jour-

Our stories and our lives

that his best friend did not survive

are constantly changing and

ney can either be pain filled and

a parachuting accident has

evolving, we are in process and

rigid or they can be freeing and

changed the way I look at serving

walking a journey that will take

grace filled. My way of growing

our family. The mundane things

our whole lifetime to be complet-

and learning may not be the same

like making breakfast, lunches,

ed. This past year I

...the pain in my husband’s eyes when he found out his best friend

have been

did not survive a parachuting accident...

laundry, dishes and grocery

embarking on a path that has tak-

way that you grow and learn. My

shopping have new meaning. The

en some twists and turns. The un-

way of communicating and think-

dirty clothes a few inches from

certainty and unfamiliar trails can

ing may not be the same as your

the laundry basket are no longer a

be daunting and at times frighten-

way of communicating and think-

source of frustration and irritation.

ing yet through it all I have been

ing but does that make one of us

It is similar to walking out of a

learning to strip away my expec-

right and the other wrong?

Church service filled with joy but

tations and religious behavior to dig deeper with Father.

Recent events have pro-

then end up yelling at your kids

pelled me to a new height of

and husband before we even make

awareness of the mark we leave

it home. When the source of em-

ditions has been deeply embedded

on this earth. The words we

powerment is from someone

into my soul. I am a strong willed

speak, the actions we take and the

else’s experience it sadly does not

and opinionated woman who

time we share with those around

last as long as if you would have

wants to be right and have all the

us are more important than my

experienced it yourself.

answers. I want to understand

principles and practices being the

why things happen in our lives.

right way. The depth of despair in

this tragedy I had been feeling

The scary reality is we have no

our world is shocking and sad, yet

Father tug at my heart to make

clue what today is going to hold

as time passes, the thoughts of the

Him my first priority in life. If I

for us or our family and friends.

tragedies fade and we go right

put Him first He would give me

We can plan and prepare and still

back to business as usual.

the strength to handle anything

Religious practice and tra-

find ourselves stuck in the midst of tragedy and uncertainty.

Witnessing the pain in my husband’s eyes when he found out 74

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The weeks leading up to

life threw at me. Spending time in prayer and reading the word in the


morning has helped me to relax into the freedom of

My story is still in process and it will take a

what it is to have a relationship with Father. My time

life time to reach its full potential but in the process I

in prayer varies and is at times chaotic yet I am al-

am stripping away my thoughts and plans and in-

ways on my face ready and willing to receive His

stead learning to sit not only with the Father but also

grace and direction. Now, when interruptions come I

with my family and friends. Sitting and listening to

am not as agitated as I use to get in the morning.

each others life stories is important for this journey.

The rhythms of grace are ever changing and if we could just let go of the rigorous ways of walking with Father we would be able to experience Him in new and more intimate ways. No *new* steps exist to get you closer to Father or to awaken your faith. Instead of adding more to your relationship with Father might I suggest stripping it down and just sitting (sit, stand,

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

kneel, etc.) with Him. We do not have to have a degree or certificate to gain insight and strength

Stripping away the expectations and just learning the

from our Father. He is patiently waiting for us to

rhythms of grace in relationship within our commu-

stop running around and start engaging Him in a

nities can bring about healing and hope. Hope for a

more intimate and real relationship.

brighter more peaceful tomorrow. Father wants noth-

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and light-

ing more than for you to spend time with Him learning to trust Him especially within the wake of pain, sorrow, uncertainty and loss. This life will give us trouble but we have the benefit of having a loving Father by our side, walking with us amongst the trails of life, guiding our path. Our stories may seem different on the outside but deep within we are all connected by faith.

ly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

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 also in the process of getting her Master’s degree in Leadership; Women in Leadership Development. Check out her blog: www.ChosenForMore.com Contact her: Ronel@PraiseAndCoffee.com 75

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“Our Stories” 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 12 to 6) 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

I remember well the day I sat in a cold McDonald’s play area eating something bland and talking with Sue while our kids screeched and screamed on the echoing kids play land. “I really think you should start a blog,” she told me. “Me?” I asked incredulously, “Whatever would I write about?” But I knew Sue always has my best interest at heart and so she set me up with a blog and there it was on my own computer screen, beckoning and mocking me at the same time. 76

What would I write? Who would even read such things? A few nights later, I arrived home from church alone with two of my boys while Jake and two other boys were at a hockey game. I was wearing heels, black ones to be exact, because I had been cooped up in the house and I just wanted to wear heels and feel girly so badly. When I pulled into the driveway, I hurried to get in the door and get the lights on to get the little boys out of the suburban. But there in my way, by our main door, sat an opossum.

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It was a tough call who was more scared, me or the opossum or the two boys sitting in the suburban staring at the opossum sure they would be eaten.

down on my own since I was a little girl and all the paper I had was bright orange in color. So I have a special place in my heart for this verse,

This is the moment that I said, “You know, I bet I could blog about this.”

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

That was February 2009. Sue was correct; I loved to write on my little blog about our adventures as a family and my need for coffee and high heels. I had an outlet for our stories and it is therapeutic. It is precious to me to look back and read about our family in all its stages since 2009. It’s our story. It was hard for me to ever believe anyone would care about us. It shouldn’t have mattered, but it does, you know? You want people to like you and you worry if they don’t. You worry that they will look you over and disregard you as non-important, unworthy, less than a blip on the radar of life. The thing I hear still over and over and over again is that what I write it connects with someone else. We all share our stories in communication day to day (be it by way of print, online social interactions or face to face) because we long to connect. And when we share our tid bit stories, we bare a little more of our soul. When we do that, we connect with each other because so often, our stories are like others stories and it makes us feel connected. It makes us feel as though someone understands. It takes away the bit of loneliness. I have always loved stories. I have devoured them in books. I have written them 77

Jesus is the author of our story. Instead of worrying over whether we are worthy, if we are good enough, if we will measure up, how about we fix our eyes on Jesus – who wrote our story – and trust Him? Since He IS God, I tend to think that His story for us is going to be something much better than we could ever create for us. When we relax and let Jesus write our story, life takes on a beauty that only can be found in Him. A story we should share with those around us. It is in that moment that you can look at an opossum waiting for you on your front door and laugh, because this was a twist in your story you didn’t see coming, had not planned and would not have added. But God did. And for us, that is enough. If no one else finds it as hilarious as we did, well, that is just fine. Because I would rather have God as the author of my life and live in the joy of that then force a story along worrying over what others think. We all have our stories written by the Great Author. What is yours? Won’t you share it with us?

Praise and Coffee | Winter 2013


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Her Religious Upbringing Couldn’t Help Her By Sue Cramer

We met in a coffee shop (shocking I know). She needed someone to talk to, she couldn’t break free of the tormenting thoughts that kept her in chains. Her past was peppered with sin. Adultery, drunkenness and addiction painted the path she’d traveled. She couldn’t comprehend that forgiveness was possible or that God would even want to embrace such a tainted life. She hadn’t fallen accidentally into this pit, she dove head first ignoring the warning signs and internal voices that whispered and then screamed for her to turn around. I listened, my heart stricken with grief at the once lively, now broken young woman with empty, hallow eyes that desperately wanted to feel hope again. She had been raised in a good Christian home. Church every Sunday morning and night. She’d heard about God’s love and the stories of Noah, King David and Daniel facing those brutal lions. But there was a disconnect. Most of what she’d experienced was “religious” in nature and not based on a relationship that changes the heart. Mom and Dad were good people, especially on Sundays, but Jesus was not a part of their everyday life. He comfortably fit into the church building and stayed there. She was told of His love but never experienced it first hand. She pictured Him disappointed and embarrassed by her mistakes in the same way her parents were now. She’d stopped attending church after the disapproving stares became to painful to bear. This only further ramped up the rhetoric of guilt and shame poured on her by her parents. She felt they were more concerned with their own reputation in the small community than they were in her deep pain and loneliness. Sitting her bottom in a church 80

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pew was not what she needed, an authentic engaging relationship with the Father, was the only way she would see hope again. We talked about how Jesus reached out to the rejected and how He didn’t scorn them but offered acceptance and mercy. Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the lepers, and even the story of the prodigal son are just a few examples of the love that God wants to pour out on each one of us. She had spent her life thinking that fulfilling her religious obligations (going to churchnot missing Sunday nights- reading her Bible) was good enough and was as deep a relationship as God desired with her. She had no idea that He wanted to be a part of her everyday ordinary life.

us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10 Did you read that? Don’t skim it, read…His love for us is not based on us loving Him first…but on Him loving us first. I saw hope spring in her eyes that day. She began a journey of learning to live inside the Father’s love. Authentic. Not performance based. Merciful. Unconditional. LOVE. Her religious upbringing couldn’t help her, sadly it relied too heavily on actions without a heart connection. Knowledge about God can be wonderful IF it’s not a replacement for relationship with God.

We talked about many things including the way that God She thought His love was conditional, loved her now and and when she willingly walked away wanted her to live infrom what she knew was right, she side a relationship with Him. I explained assumed He abandoned her. how He wasn’t looking for perfection or some sort of religious performance and that This verse forever changed my life about 28 all the theology in the world would never years ago, I hope it touches yours today: bring her happiness. Her feelings of separa“Are you tired? tion from God were not because she hadn’t Worn out? done enough or been good enough. God Burned out on religion? promises never to leave us, never. He loved Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll her, always has and always will. She thought recover your life. His love was conditional, and when she willI’ll show you how to take a real rest. ingly walked away from what she knew was Walk with me and work with me—watch right, she assumed He abandoned her. how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I Of course that couldn’t be further from the won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. truth. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” “This is how God showed His love among us: Matt. 11:28 The Message Bible He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: Sue@PraiseAndCoffee.com not that we loved God, but that He loved 81

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Six session springboard for Praise and Coffee groups. Yes, technically it’s a curriculum but we’re calling 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. You can download these on our website. www.PraiseAndCoffee.com

Session One: Love One Another

Session Two: Forgiving One Another

Get things brewing: Do you make a New Year’s resolution or set goals before the New Year begins?

Get things brewing: What is your favorite winter drink?

Steep in God’s word: John 13:34, “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Press it out: -What does loving one another look like in your daily life? -Can you think of a time when someone showed you love despite your words, actions or reactions? -How would you encourage someone struggling to love a difficult family member or spouse?

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Steep in God’s word: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Press it out: -Can you think of a time when forgiving was difficult? -Why is forgiveness so important in relationships? -What advice would you give to someone holding onto bitterness and resentment instead of embracing forgiveness?

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Session Three: Accepting One Another Get things brewing: What is your favorite thing to do when you get time to hang out you’re your girlfriends? Steep in God’s word: Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Press it out: -Why is it so hard to be non-judgmental with the ones closest to us? -How do we accept those who are different than us? -Can you think of a time you felt accept even though you were different? -What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to fit in with a group of friends? Session Four: Bearing with One Another Get things brewing: What is your favorite form of communication (texting, calling, email or facet to face) and what is your least favorite and why? Steep in God’s word: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Press it out: -Can you think of a time when a friend stood by you and help you endure some struggles or circumstances in life? -How can we stand by and give support to those around us whom are hurting without being taken advantage of your generosity? -What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to be compassionate to others? 83

Session Five: Being Devoted to One Another Get things brewing: What do you do for fun? Steep in God’s word: Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Press it out: -Can you think of a time you felt like you did not belong? Did you press through the feelings or leave the situation? - Are there certain situations or certain groups of people where you struggle with pride? - How can be devoted to people whom believe different with us without judging them or compromising your beliefs?

Session Six: Honoring One Another Above Ourselves Get things brewing: Describe your favorite place to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. Steep in God’s word: Romans 12:20, “On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” Press it out: -What are some things you can do to put others above yourself? -Are there any community projects you can get involved with in order to help those who are in need?

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Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.

1 Peter 1:18 MSG Photo by Dreamstime

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Praise and Coffee Winter Magazine