Spring Into Praise

Isaiah 61 11

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Isaiah 61:11

I love spring! Since I live an hour southwest of Chicago, we experience all the seasons, but my favorite has always been spring. I can tell spring is around the corner not just by the calendar, but also by the birds chirping, the warm wind, and the tulip leaves pushing their way through the hard dirt. All around me the earth is shouting: a fresh start, a new life, a new beginning, and an optimistic view. My winter blues dissipate with each added minute of sunshine and upward degree. I feel lighter, and my energy increases as winter bids farewell and spring says hello. My entire perspective changes. It is similar to how my view changes when I praise the Lord. Each time I am depressed, discouraged, or down in the dumps, I have an opportunity to worship God. When I chose this route rather than self-pity, my perspective improves. My faith increases as I begin to acknowledge that God is not surprised by my circumstances, and He is aware of what I am feeling and experiencing. As I trust in Him, I am able to move to a spring-like attitude, full of hope in God that flowers will bloom out of trying situations. My trials are the dirt for the flowers to bloom.
Lord, remind me to praise You. Amen.

Love Each Other Deeply

1 Peter 1 22 2
Love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

This past March 2 was my birthday. Several close friends and family members made me feel loved by sending text messages, birthday cards, and gifts. Although I was still coughing and weak from the flu, it was a great day! A few days later, my sister, Alyssa gave me a birthday card which I put in my purse to read later. Alyssa and I have been talking on the phone at least once a week not only to check in as sisters sometimes do, but also to discuss our business progress. She is entering the business of designing her own fashion line, and I am expanding my speaking and writing into a business with a message of faith, hope, and love. Alyssa and I also have been working through a productivity workbook & creative business planner entitled, 2016 Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs given to us by another sister, Tara, for Christmas. Together, Alyssa and I committed to meeting once a month for both encouragement and accountability with regards to our business plans. Chatting, sharing ideas, and being accountability partners have drawn us closer.
My purse which is actually a large tote bag carries my life in it. The birthday card got lost in this black hole until many days later when I was cleaning out old receipts and gum wrappers. Touched is what I felt when I opened the envelope and read her heartfelt hand-written words, “3 Things I Love About You:” She proceeded to list three specific qualities she admired in me. In addition, Alyssa drew a caterpillar exactly the way our grandma did when she gave us a card reminding me also of our grandma’s love for us. Immediately, I texted Alyssa thanking her for the lovely card.
All day long at work, I carried those carefully crafted words in the back of my mind and in my heart. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” So true! Alyssa’s words also reminded me of my theme for this year, “Connecting with God and others.” What better way to connect authentically with those around me than to give specific compliments. I know I felt not only loved by Alyssa but also understood. I have decided to use Alyssa’s beautiful example as a model for loving others. It is important to tell others how much we love them, but Lys took love to another level by sharing a few qualities that she appreciates in me. May we take the time to tell others what we love, appreciate, and notice about them.
Father God, help us love each other deeply. Amen.

Cheese Curls & Vanilla Wafers

Psalm 73 24

Cheese Curls & Vanilla Wafers was first published in the September 1999 issue of the Hearts at Home magazine.
By Sheri Schubbe & Tena DeGraaf

While in the grocery store the other day, three-year-old Dan walked up to the bags of cheese curls and confidently placed a bag in the cart saying, “We need these mom!” Dan’s mom wondered why he was choosing this particular snack because she had never bought them before. But suddenly she remembered that cheese curls are a lunchtime favorite at his friend Kristen’s house.
Then, a few days later, Kristen visited Dan’s home. There she was given vanilla wafers for a snack, and Kristen enthusiastically exclaimed, “I LOOOVE these cookies!!! We don’t have them at our house!” Again, it was just a different snack that her mom did not buy. (But now she does at the insistence of her daughter!)
These little incidents got us thinking about a deeper truth. The influence that children have on each other starts at such a young age. Granted, three-year-olds wanting snacks that were enjoyed at a friend’s house is a simplistic example, but leads to a profound realization, nonetheless. As children grow, they influence each other in countless ways, including clothing styles, music, language or habits. All too commonly, though, these relatively harmless examples become more important and complex issues such as drugs, alcohol, and prejudices as a child matures.
So what, then, can we do as parents of young children? Monitor developing friendships of our children with others. Discuss and model values and habits we want our children to emulate. Keep lines of communication wide open, and most importantly, PRAY. Ask God to help our children meet and choose friends who build them up- not tear them down, friends who will influence our kids in positive, character-building ways, and those who will help our kids grow up with healthy self-images and happy times.
As children grow, reinforce the importance of choosing friends carefully and wisely with God’s Word: My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them (Proverbs 1:10), and Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
Pray for your children constantly, and teach them to turn to God themselves, for He will guide them in finding true and lasting friendships.