Sunday, September 27, 2009

And the winner is...

Well I am a little bit late, but I wanted to take a minute and share the winner of Letters from Leanne. First of all thanks to all who entered and left a comment. I greatly appreciate your encouraging words. And finally congratulations to Kate from JottinMomma!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little bit about Letters from Leanne and a give-away too!!

This October 20th, Letters from Leanne - The Beauty of a Spiritual Mother-Daughter Relationship will officially be released. Today I'd like to take a little time and share some of our thoughts with you and give you the opportunity to win a copy for yourself. This is a book that has been on my heart for 3 years and on paper for nearly 2 and now I'm grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.

First of all a bit about the authors - My spiritual mom, Leanne, and I are co-authors and though I penned many of the words between the covers, emails and letters from her are woven through the pages. And the Titus 2 relationship is something that is important to both of us. We each make our homes in Northeast Iowa and feel our family is our priority. Leanne has three grown children and I have 3 under the age of 7 and a baby on the way. I spend my days homeschooling our oldest and coordinating a MOPS group, while Leanne designs fabric, runs her own company and works with youth ministry. Together we pray our story will touch your heart and not only encourage you to connect with other women, but also inspire you to draw closer to God - the One who's made this all possible.
Tell us a little about the book - Letters from Leanne is a look at what the Titus 2 relationship looks like today. The book is basically the story of our friendship over the last ten years and how God has worked through it in wonderful ways. As you read you will share in the joys and get a glimpse of the trials we have encountered on our walk of faith, but ultimately we pray you will see God’s hand in every situation. Letters from Leanne is a real life look at how we don’t always know the plan God has for our life, but when we trust Him, He will provide, strengthen and bless.

Why did you write this book? - To be honest, my initial comments about writing this book were in reference to a comment I made to Leanne in attempt to thank her for the role she played in my life. I knew I had been blessed by her presence - the perspective she offered as a Mom, the acceptance she gave as a friend, the guidance she provided as an older woman and especially the love she poured out as a sister in Christ. But as the writing process progressed it became more than that - this isn’t just a thank you for Leanne, it’s also one for God. I once heard someone say, “The best way to thank God is by sharing what He’s given to you.” Spiritual mentoring has been and still is a gift in my life and I pray by reading the story of our friendship, others will be encouraged to pray for one of their own.

I also believe this book is an answer to prayer. For a few years I’ve been asking God how I can better share my faith and with the words on these pages He’s given a quiet girl a voice. The book is not simply about spiritual mentoring, but ultimately about our relationship with Christ.

What do you hope readers will gain? - As women read our story my prayer is they will be encouraged in their faith and inspired to find a mentor or be one. I also hope they see a clear picture of what mentoring is all about - not having all the answers, but simply sharing your life with one who is following in your steps. Along with that we want readers to see the power God has when we simply surrender to His plans and follow His ways.

What unique elements are part of your book? - As God put this project on my heart one of the first things I did was really look into resources already available on mentoring. There are numerous beneficial materials on the shelves, but I believe our book is unique for two reasons. One it is a look at a specific spiritual mother-daughter relationship and takes you on the journey of how the friendship has grown. The other unique factor is for the most part the story is told from the younger women’s viewpoint, which is beneficial for all women to understand.

We have also included questions at the end of each chapter and hope women can take our story a step further. Rather than simply reading a story about two friends, you will be encouraged to slow down and find lessons in the letters applicable to your own life.

What others are saying - “This book is a beautiful picture of what a mentoring relationship can be - whether face to face or long distance. Many women today need mentors to learn from. I pray this book will inspire all of us to pursue finding a mentor, or being one!”

“What a beautiful look at what the Titus 2 relationship is today!”

“I finished your book- I loved it!! Thanks for being transparent and allowing God to work through you. Loved all the thought provoking questions in the back too.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I can't put your book down. It is such a beautiful story and so sweet to read.”

So that's a bit about our book and remember you have the opportunity to win a copy - simply leave a comment with your contact info and I will post a winner on Friday! In the meantime, I'd also love to hear how a spiritual mentor has impacted your life!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Follow the Leader

Do you remember the game as a child? I recall days of lining up, skipping along, changing directions and the way I moved feet as we ventured across the playground. It was fun to vary my steps and I appreciated the opportunity to set the pace as a leader as well.

But lately I've been thinking about that simple childhood game in a whole new way. It's no longer classmates leading me across monkey bars, over the playground bridge and around the bases, but instead it's God, my heavenly Father leading me on this walk of faith.

At times the journey is fun and exciting just like those days from long ago, but the walk isn't always simple and at times traveling is tough. It can be difficult to follow when the leader goes where I don't want to follow. At times it seems the walk is all uphill and yet others we trudge thru the valley and still there are times when the road is simply dark and what once was a game now becomes a scary adventure.

Unlike the playground at the school, now I don't know what lies around every bend and ultimately this game never ends. Back then the whistle would blow and leader lost their job, but now there's a need for endurance as I follow the One who planned the steps I will take. Even though at times it seems we've taken a wrong turn or perhaps even hit a dead end, in this game our roles never change.

As a child I had the opportunity to be the leader, but today there's only One qualified for the role. It is God and the rules of the game haven't changed - where He leads, I must follow.

So today I ask you, "Are you still playing the game from years ago?" If so have you given up the role of leader and submitted to following Him? May I encourage you, as I do the same for myself, keep walking in His steps and stay on the path, ultimately this journey will be better than any game we played as a child!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Look at Me"

This past June while attending the local county fair my brother-in-law came across a picture in a scrapbook from years ago. It was of me during my early years of high school and as he showed his wife, my husband and children I was embarrassed.

Though everyone laughed, I hurt as I recalled many negative feelings associated with my looks. What really hurts is they haven’t entirely disappeared over the past 20 years. As a child and teen I was a tomboy who enjoyed sports and life on the farm much more than fashion, make-up and the latest hairstyles and my picture proved it.

The doubts on the outside weren’t the only ones I recalled as I took a look at who I once was - I recalled the insecurities as well. The picture brought back a statement I’ve said to myself quite often as I’ve journeyed through life, “look at me!”

These words have never been an attempt to catch everyone’s attention, but instead have given me a reason to doubt. Many times I’ve looked at myself and thought I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or worthy enough to do whatever it was someone was asking me to do.

After giving my life to Christ in my early 20’s I caught myself giving the same response to God – “Look at me!!” He obviously had made a mistake; I wasn’t the girl for the job!

In the past few years God has used one of my children’s favorite stories to speak to me. My kids are intrigued with the idea of walking on water and have attempted to do it themselves, but more important than Jesus’ ability to defy nature is the message He has for all of us.

In Matthew 14:22 – 33 the story is told of Jesus walking on water. It begins,“Immediately after this Jesus made the his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” I think we can relate, I know there are times when storms hit my life and it feels as though Jesus is far away. In those moments it can be easy to lose focus and rely on my own strength. It is then that the “look at me” worries, fears and doubts resurface and seem just as powerful as the strong winds and heavy waves.

But we read on – “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once, “It’s all right,” he said. I am here! Don’t be afraid.” A man walking on water, who wouldn’t be afraid? But Jesus assures them of His presence and the story continues,

Verses 28 and 29 – “Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” All right come.” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus.” Again can we relate? Have you ever felt God’s presence in your life and by faith reacted to his calling? Like Peter have you jumped out of the boat with complete trust in your savior who is calling you? Have you taken the initial step of faith only to experience what came next for Peter?

In verse 30 we read, “But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

I read this verse and can picture Peter mentally saying, “look at me” I’m walking on water and then when the reality of the situation hits I see the statement move from being one of pride to one of fear and doubt. He looks around and sees the danger in the situation coupled with the lack of his own ability to do the very thing Christ told him to do and fear sets in.

As I share this story with my kids, I see myself in this role all too often – God calling me to do something and then in my heart I say yes, but as I survey the situation I too become terrified and start to sink. The “look at me” phrase returns and leads to many excuses in my mind that cause me to sink before my feet even leave the boat.

But as God continues to prove Himself faithful, the final verses of the story carry more power. It says, verses 31 to 33…"Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshipped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.”

How many times has Jesus uttered the same words to me? “You don’t have much faith. Why did you doubt me?” For years I believed doubting myself couldn’t hurt God, but I’ve realized that is wrong. If it is Him who lives in me, when I say I can’t who am I referring to? Take a minute and think about that.

As I do just that I think about our evening at the fair and I recall someone saying, “Well at least you can say your looks have improved.” Perhaps, but more importantly than what’s on the outside is what’s happened internally.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” I’m grateful I don’t see the same person anymore and I’m more thankful that every time I hear the familiar phrase “look at me” I’m beginning to sense God whispering, “No Jill, look at me.”

Though He has yet to call me out of the boat and literally walk on water, He has asked me to do things I never thought I would do. How does this happen? By keeping my eyes on Jesus. As Peter did this he did the unimaginable – he walked on water! When I focus on Christ, though the winds may blow and the waves rage, He keeps me from falling and proves himself true. Sisters he will do the same for you – keep listening for his voice, you will hear him say, “Look at me.”