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Archive for the ‘Guest posts’ Category

I am so pleased to have a special young woman guest posting on Kindling today.  I think you will so glad to meet Bethany Winz, the daughter of a co-worker of mine.

“Set yourself on fire and people will come for miles to watch you burn.

Bethany Winz

Though the author of this quote seems to be elusive (it is often wrongly attributed to John Wesley), its words ring with such truth. In January, 2011, I set myself on fire. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was God who set me on fire. It was a fire He had been preparing in my heart for years.

The fact that slavery still exists today is horrible beyond words. I first learned about it four years ago and the more I learned about it, the more passionate I became about seeing it end. My passion finally culminated on January 11, 2012 when I started wearing a certain black dress. My goal? To wear it for a whole year as a way to raise awareness about modern day slavery. (more…)

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All the time I challenge people—and especially God’s daughters—to discover who God made them to be and to live out what He created them to do.

All of us—occasionally or as a way of life–settle for less than God’s best for us.  Sadly, we women are often encouraged to settle for less, or readily choose to, robbing ourselves and the Body of Christ of the best contribution we have to make.

The mission Christ gave us requires what we have to offer.

man_in_wheelchair

So click on over to Jenny Rae Armstrong’s blog to read Limping Along: Why We Can’t Let Half Christ’s Body Atrophy.  I’m so grateful to be guesting with Jenny.

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I’m a mom and a grandmother (Jeedoo is my grandmother name.)  And all you young moms, I know how weary you can be.  But I tell you, I am weary too–and it has to do with the lifelong nature of motherhood.  So I am thrilled to tell you about a wonderful little resource:  Hope for the Weary Mom by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin.  Here’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Do you know what is powerful?

Hope.

“Hope” is the kind of word that makes us close our eyes and think ,“I could use a little bit of that tossed my way.” We need it in the morning when we stir our coffee and we need it as we lay our heads down on our pillows at night to drift off to sleep.

I know a thing or two about needing hope.  Last year I was buried by the task of mothering my four girls. I decided to pour out my heart in a blog post called, “Steve Jobs, Me, and Being Fresh out of Amazing.”  In it I said:

“I’ve pretty much fallen short in every category. I am tired and not really good for much right now. The trouble is, Lord, I need to be amazing and I’m fresh out of amazing. At least it sure feels that way. Lord, I’m dry. Empty. Hit the wall. I got nothing.”

To my surprise this blog post resonated with women. Out of it grew a blog series with my friend Brooke McGlothlin and from that a tiny e-book called “Hope for the Weary Mom” was born. Along the way we found thousands of other moms who said, “I could have written this book.”  The only complaint we received about the e-book was that I wasn’t long enough.  So we decided to expand the original e-book by 50%, add new chapters, resources and a Q&A section. The newly expanded e-book released yesterday on Amazon.

Brooke and I are just two weary moms who met God in the middle of our messy lives and found each other. We are pulling back the veil, sharing real stories from our lives and pointing women to the only source of true hope, Jesus.

Our desire is that every mom who needs it will be able to pick up this new book. We are offering “Hope” today (10/24/2012) free for Kindle readers through Amazon. We actually opened up the free offer yesterday and saw the neatest thing happen. Hope began to spread.

We are trusting God with this message. Hope has always been His idea. He is the one who chose to write the story through us. We are humbled to be used by Him in this way.

You can find your free copy of “Hope for the Weary Mom” here.

While you are at it, why not send it for free to a friend? All you need is her email address to send it.

“See, hope is not a wish or a sprinkle of magical fairy dust. Hope is a person. Hope comes with flesh and blood in Jesus. When I call to Him, He comes quickly,” P.22

Let’s share Hope today and watch what happens.

Stacey is Mikes’s wife and the mother of four vibrant girls. She is a believer and writer who loves God’s Word and connecting with women. You can find her blogging at 29lincoln Avenue and on Facebook and Twitter where she usually hangs out with a cup of coffee in her hand.

Stacey Thacker

blog :: 29lincolnavenue.com

:: a place to grow, connect and encourage hearts

twitter :: stacey@29lincoln

my ebook:  Hope for the Weary Mom is now available on Amazon

:: get my newest resource “What God Wants You to Know” free.

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I’ve been bearing the weight of a long journey, especially the past few months.  So fellow Redbud Writer’s guest post on Bearing the Weight really ministered to me.  I know you will feel like Dorothy has come along side you as well.

I woke at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of wood scraping against the clapboard. The three birch trees outside our bedroom had gone from upright to nearly horizontal in the course of the night. It was a brutal storm.

Since we’ve not yet had a killing frost, most trees were cluttered with leaves which acted like velcro for the snow. Camera in hand, I headed for the conservation land at the end of our road hoping for a spectacular sunrise. Instead I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of trees taken out by the storm.

Saver of the Trees

I assumed a familiar post snow storm role – saver of the trees. Moving from sapling to sapling, I shook off the snow from as many as I could get my hands on. I don’t mean to come off as a pantheist, but I deeply identify with nature in crisis.

Due to a more than a decade long battle with chronic illness, like the trees on this October morning, I have many times felt incapable of standing erect. Fibro pain. Eighteen years of disrupted sleep. Sometimes all it takes is one thin coat of ice to make me feel that I can’t possibly shake off the burden and stand up.

With or without a medical diagnosis, many friends fight their own devastating storms: death of a spouse, failure of a marriage, loss of a crucial relationship, the unrelenting nature of caring for a disabled child or poorly aging parent. And that’s just here in a civilized nation. Those who were born in a region that lacks potable water, adequate food and medical care, or a stable governmentsmust clear the snow off their trunks at the advent of every sunrise. I have traveled enough to resist self-pity.

It’s odd to realize that something in and of itself so light could become such a burden. A single snowflake, perhaps even a thousand snowflakes would not even register on a scale. The cumulative effect, the unrelenting nature of chronic pain, be it physical or emotional, pushes it from barely noticeable to unbearable.

Pain Progressing

The leg and arm pain frustrated, but failed to sideline me. When it progressed enough to prevent me from skiing, swimming, and playing basketball with my sons, I tilted a good 30 degrees. And in the course of this past year, when conflicts in our community came crashing down around us, I could feel my back bending another 45 degrees. A few more inches and my nose will be scraping the ground.

Though I’ve rescued many trees before, I learned something during this storm. Typically, I tap the bent trunks and limbs causing just enough movement to free the wood from its burden. While that worked for the young saplings, it failed miserably with the older trees. The snow was too wet and the weight too substantial. The first limb I used this technique upon snapped decisively.

Needing a new method, I pondered what would serve me and realized that if someone sucker punched me, even if they had the best of intentions, I too would break in half. Instead, I reached under the limbs, ever so gently shaking the snow off, while gradually pulling it up. Even with this white glove treatment, I had a few additional breaks. We lost our peach tree completely and a good section of our dwarf red maple.

A Compulsion of Empathy

My trees saving compulsion reveals both my need as well as my pastoral instincts. I do for the trees exactly what I do for others and what I myself need. My instincts to serve those who bear a crushing burden issues less out of co-dependence, or a need to rescue, and more out of empathy.

I get it. I’ve had enough mornings when it takes all of the courage I can muster to just get out of bed and face another day. And more sleepless nights than I care to recall. Looking past my own limitations and reaching out to another eases my aloneness even as it practically serves them.

On some days however, despite my heroic efforts, I can’t lift my burden let alone anyone else’s. I often find myself turning to written words, seeking meaning and inspiration from others who have travelled this road before me and stopped long enough to write down their experience.

From King David in the Old Testament book of Psalms:

I lift my voice up, to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from you, maker of heaven, creator of the earth. Oh how I need you Lord. You are my only hope. You are my only prayer. So I will wait for you to come and rescue me, to come and give me life.

If you’re anything like me, waiting is hard. Sometimes excruciatingly painful in and of itself. Even as I dutifully freed many branches and saplings, the unmistakeable report echoed through the woods from trees that succumbed: a crack, followed by leaf covered branches plummeting down to earth. I have my moments when I wonder, Will I succumb too?

The only thing I know to do then is cry out to God and those around me, asking them to lighten my burden, come alongside of me, shake off the snow and gently lift me back up. And as soon as I have a shred of hope and strength, turn and do the same for the ones standing next to me whose heads are still bowed down.

Dorothy Greco is an extraordinary photographer who also writes.  She lives with her husband and three sons outside Boston.  You can see more of her beautiful work at http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com/

Photo by Dorothy Greco

What about you?  Where are you bearing a great weight?

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Questions!  I love questions!  I learn so much more when I ask questions—especially good questions.  That’s why I so like my friend Bob Tiede’s blog Leading with Questions.  And I’m honored to guest post there today!

Questions are bread and butter for a journalist.

In my years of journalism training and experience we had six specific questions drilled into us:  the five W’s and an H.

First we had to get the facts:  Who, What, When, Where.

You can read the post here.

 

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Today please welcome Connie Jakab to Kindling.  A Redbud Writer friend, Connie just released her first book, Culture Rebel, last week.  I am posting her first chapter here, hoping to entice you to hop over and order it for yourself.

 

I like to live on the edge. I’m a brave, gutsy, ADD type of gal who can’t sit still. The problem is that I’ve lived on the wrong edge for the last 20 years.

Since my first full-time job, I have lived a life with me at the center of my attention, and now I have nothing to show for all my years of work, college and career. Coming close to 40, this has caused much introspection. What I’m discovering isn’t nice to look at.  Ask me how much I’ve saved in 20 years?  Zip. Well, that’s not entirely true. Thank goodness I have a savvy hubby who saves.  So yes, I have some savings … through him.

That Shiny Silver Card

Even more pressing, ask me how much I’ve given in 20 years? Okay, that I can brag about a bit; I love to give. I consider myself to be pretty generous. I love taking people out and giving lovely gifts; it’s nothing, really. I just put it on this shiny silver card that I carry in my wallet, and I don’t feel a thing. The problem with this shiny card is that they send letters to my hubby, and he’s never in a good mood after he opens their mail. What’s that about?

Ask me where I’m sitting right now writing this book.  Starbucks, but isn’t that where all the cool writers write?  Yup, I’m pretty trendy sitting here with my five-dollar coffee that’s already cold.  I think I must own stock in this place.

Oh, no, I don’t mean their bean stock, which I’ve heard great things about.  I’ve decided to go a more modest route:  If I buy one five-dollar coffee per day, let’s see— I’m not so great at math, but that’s got to be around $1,625 a year.  (Pretty impressive “estimate,” eh?)  Okay, I totally used my calculator, but getting back to my “investment,” with all that five-dollar coffee inside me, I should be heading toward becoming a part owner of this place one day!  Or maybe not …

Clothes and Bling

Are you wondering where else all my money has gone in the last 20 years?  Me too, but I have some ideas.  I love movies.  Actually, I really just like the popcorn; the movie is an added bonus.  I also love clothes … and “bling.”  Not Tiffany’s “bling,” but “bling” nonetheless.  I’m not a show off, but I really like those big rhinestone earrings that hit the shoulder (from their great length) and make my head go lopsided when I’ve put one in one ear.

I’ve lost my wedding ring … twice. I’ve owned some great clothing too, but I don’t know where half of it has gone. I did see one of my items in a local Salvation Army store, and I almost bought it again; it was beautiful!

I’m not a “shoe person.”  I don’t fully understand those people.  I mean, what a waste of money.  Not to mention, what a clutter nightmare! Don’t get me wrong. I do own a pair of heels that I bought in three different colors to be sure that I could match all the basic wardrobe essentials.  I have boots with heels and without (because sometimes you just don’t want to wear heels while you are grocery shopping), and each of these are in three different colors.

But that’s all just practical, isn’t it?  I have runners for dance (naturally in every color to match my hip-hop Adidas jackets).  And of course, I purchase new runners every six months for running because I don’t want to injure my coming-up-to-midlife knees!  Nope, I’m definitely not a shoe person; I think I’m more of a coat person.  Now that makes more sense to me.  I have a coat in every shape, color, size and style you can imagine—leather, tweed, fleece, down.  I consider this shopping addiction more practical, as I live in a winter city.  Keep warm and stylish.  Win-win.

Diet Books and Fads

I’m also a sucker for diet books and trends; if there’s a diet book out there, I own it.  I’m considering opening my own library in my basement.  Name a diet-fad product, and I’m sure I’ve tried it: pills, shakes, bars, metabolism-boosting drinks, and stretch-mark cream (what a farce!). I’ve done every diet program out there: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, raw food, vegan, drink-nothing-but-soup (I passed out on that one), Eat Clean, Balkan, and fitness model. (On that last one, I got to put chocolate pudding powder in my protein shakes! What a treat!)

Then there’s all the equipment I’ve purchased. (Old exercise equipment makes lovely side tables, by the way). There’s the BOSU, the band, kettlebells, a treadmill, the yoga block, a medicine ball, a bender ball, a pilates ball (really anything that ends with “ball”).

And I can’t forget to mention my workout DVD library, which consists of Jillian Michaels, Windsor Pilates, yoga (every type just to cover all my bases), Hip-Hop Abs, P90X, and Richard Simmons.  Did I just say Richard Simmons?  Geesh, how did that get in there?  Who has that one, right?

I should probably just make a quick note about my love for my hair; it’s my crown, and I love doing funky things to it.  There’s nothing like a trip to the hair salon!  I have to dye my hair.  No, really, I do; you should see how many gray hairs I have!  I even have them in my eyebrows, which also calls for a trip to the spa to get my brows plucked and waxed.  Maybe add a manicure onto my bill while you’re at it.  Add a pedicure for ten dollars?  What a great deal! Twist my rubber arm!

Last thing, I promise.  Mascara. I have yet to find the one that gives me the lashes that Drew Barrymore has on the commercials.  One day, I will find my dream mascara.  It’s a long-term goal that I have. Wow, I think that’s it—

Yes, as you can see, I’ve made a huge investment in a product called “me.”  It’s the edge I’ve lived on the last 20 years. It’s the edge that keeps me thinking that a new shirt, a night out, a manicure, a new diet, and a Starbucks will give me the life I’ve always wanted.  I will be hot.  I will be sexy.  I will have the respect of everyone around me.  That’s what the advertisement said just before it said, “I’m worth it.”

Yet I’m discovering that this “edge” really isn’t an edge at all.  It has become dull and unfulfilling.  I’ve given it a real “go” for a while now.  It keeps promising me “babe” status, but I find I have to keep going back for refills.  I’m sick of it.  My hubby’s sick of it.  Actually, I think he’s sicker of those letters he keeps getting from this strange person named “Visa.”  Maybe you relate?

A self-centered existence leaves us with a life without purpose.  I have found a new edge that I’m dying to tell you about.  That’s what this book is about.  I want to share my journey with you in the hopes that you may also find the strength to make the shift to a more altruistic, adventurous life filled with the purpose you were born to find.  It’s not about money or stuff, but a way of living that, in some strange way, delivers the promise that all of the stuff I just mentioned tried to promise but couldn’t deliver. It’s called being a culture rebel.  What does this look like?  Let’s find out.

 

Connie Jakab, the author of the blog, Culture Rebel, is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out. She is an active member of poverty reduction in her city, the founder of WILD (women impacting lives daily) as well as Mpact (www.mpactdance.com), a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues.  You can read her blog at Culture Rebel , find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter .  And you can order her book, Culture Rebel, here

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Please welcome Redbud Writer Dorothy Greco as a guest writer on Kindling today.  I love what she has to say about forgiveness.

True confession: I was venting, maybe even railing, yesterday during the time I had set aside to be still and try to connect with God. Due to some unfortunate and protracted circumstances, I feel backed against a concrete wall with no visible form of egress. And I’ve been in this position for too many months to count.

As I was detailing my complaints and the impossibility of the situation to God, I lofted a simple question in his general direction, “What do you want me to do?” God’s response? “Forgive them.” (For those of you who don’t buy the possibility of connecting to God in this way, I realize that sharing this dialogue may damage my credibility. Hold off on coming to any negative conclusions until you read through to the end. Then, feel free.)

In the gospel of Matthew, Peter inquires of Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister when they sin against me? Seven time?” I’m certain that Peter assumed others would find him quite magnanimous for his suggestion. Jesus multiplies Peter’s figure by 70. A shocking number given its application.

My husband and I have been married for more than 20 years now. I don’t think we would have lasted more than two if we did not admit our mistakes and forgive each other. We tend to be quick to do so, fully understanding that delays potentially widen the chasm between us. Over the course of these 20+ years, we have probably each wronged and forgiven one another at least 490 times.

It’s really not that remarkable because we always (well mostly always) admit when we have failed one another and ask each other for the gift of forgiveness. Given the current mess, I find myself wondering, did Jesus leave any loopholes for situations where the one who wrongs me fails to see or admit their mistakes?

The process of forgiving someone does not deny that an offense was perpetrated, even though that’s how modernity most often views it. Many years ago, I had an assignment to photograph a top executive. His assistant repeatedly communicated, “You will only have 15 minutes with him. You have to be completely ready when he walks in the door.” Being the obedient type, I was ready and promptly waited for more than an hour. He waltzed in and breezily said, “Sorry for being late.”

Normally, when we find ourselves in such predicaments, we try to make the offender feel better by saying, “That’s OK,” even though normally it isn’t OK. Since he had inconvenienced me, I sincerely responded, “I forgive you.” Dead silence. Then he narrowed his eyes and nearly hissed, “Who gave you the power to forgive me?” I balked. Was he inviting a theological debate or asking a rhetorical question? I ventured in and humbly explained that I believed Jesus gives us authority to extend forgiveness when someone hurts or wounds us. And then I apologized if my beliefs offended him – he was Jewish after all. He softened and miraculously, the shoot went well.

By dropping the charges against those who have sinned against us, we are not excusing their actions, minimizing the damages, or as many fear, opening ourselves up to further mistreatment. We actually go on the offensive, spiritually speaking, when we choose to cancel the offender’s debt particularly when the other refuses to see that their actions or words have stung, or in some cases, drawn blood.

Un-forgiveness is like a land mine. The anger, frustration, hurt, and confusion all serve as explosives packed tightly together with a short fuse. One false move and we all blow. (It’s messy but does have moments of carnal satisfaction!) I’m not proud to admit that I sometimes find excuses for not forgiving. I feel somehow justified because, after all, THEY wronged me! Jesus doesn’t seem to share my perspective. In his economy, holding onto wrongs ultimately leads to death via bitterness, health issues1, and fractured relationships. Not great options.

Conversely, forgiveness disarms the mines. Forgiveness lifts us above the fray and permits us to gain objectivity and sometimes, even empathy for the one who has wounded us. In light of this, I would be a fool to resist God’s directive. Perhaps the suggestion to forgive was his way of dropping a ladder over the concrete walls that have become my prison. Though it would be infinitely more satisfying to have the ones who wounded me at the top of the wall, extending their hands to help me over, I can’t wait for them. Hand over hand, I’m climbing out.

Dorothy Greco is an extraordinary photographer who also writes.  She lives with her husband and three sons outside Boston.  You can see more of her beautiful work at http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com/

1 According to an article in the January 2004 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, forgiving those who hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/power_of_forgiveness and from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131

Photo by Dorothy Greco

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