If you are visiting from Encouragement for Today, welcome!
I suddenly realized that I wrote today’s devotion 2 years ago shortly after I turned forty. It’s almost that time of year again, and I’m now “in my forties”.
There’s a lot to love about this age. There’s a confidence that comes with using your gifts for years. There are places of wisdom from personal experience. There is much joy in watching the growth—physical and spiritual—of those around us.
But there are some hard things, too. I’m realizing that I’m in a place where I will experience more and more loss.
I’m losing family and friends to disease and death. I’ve watched friends struggle with faith and suffer broken marriages. I’m definitely watching my face lose youth (even while my legs gain varicose veins—yikes!).
There’s sadness and the realization of the cruelty of living in a fallen world. That can be pretty earth-shattering for an optimist like me.
I have a prayer that has been resounding in my heart concerning my mounting years. Change me. Make me the woman today that I long to be tomorrow.
God has given me the gift of older women in my journey with Him. I have a very long list of women who have inspired, taught and challenged me. They have set the bar very high for being the “older woman”, and it’s a bar that I long to clear.
So I ask God to change me today. Expose the sin. Smooth the rough edges. Tame my tongue. Fill my heart with love for the lost. Give me a longing to reach out to younger women. Don’t ever let me believe that I’ve arrived. Make my heart sensitive and teachable.
I want to be the wise and treasured older woman instead of the sharp-tongued critic that everyone avoids. I want to bring God glory until my last day here on earth.
How do you feel about getting older? Most women don't even want to think about it. Let's be brave and talk about it! :)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
If you are visiting from Encouragement for Today, welcome!
Monday, September 28, 2009
I love fashion. It's not that I'm so fashionable myself, mind you. It just one of those guilty pleasures in my life. I'm too embarassed to tell you how many hours I spent lounging on the couch Friday night watching a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon.
Anyhoo, my friend Shari Breandel, fashionista extraordinaire, is doing a weekly post called "What to Wear Wednesdays". Love it! Check out her post from last week on boots. I love that she's including examples from every price point!
Friday, September 25, 2009
I have one last cheapskate thrill that I want--no need--to reveal. It all started with the cutest raincoat you've ever seen. You don't get excited about rain coats? Well, all I have to say is that you haven't seen this one. I honestly get compliments on it every time I wear it. It's hot pink with a black-and-white houndstooth lining. Cute, cute, cute!
And I think I paid $3.00 for it. Yep. $3.o0. That's why I love thrift stores. I have a friend who is tall, gorgeous and has enough money that shopping thrift is not a necessity. She started first, and I have to tell you that my initial reaction was "Gross!" After all, as my brother-in-law so eloquently says, "This is the age of cooties." Hello...washing machines. They wash all the cooties away!
The pink raincoat was just the beginning. Now visiting Goodwill, various thrift stores and consignment shops is a passion. I'd say about 1/2 of my wardrobe is from there (maybe more) and many, many things in my house. Last week I came home with a new lamp to spray paint black and the cutest pink courderoy jacket. (My whole wardrobe isn't pink, but I can indulge in bright trendy stuff in Goodwill when I see it--fun!) It's not just saving money, although that's great. It's become a challenge. I'm learning to resist blurting out how little I paid when someone compliments me on something, but it's really hard.
I have another gorgeous, stylish friend who I recently discovered also loves thrift. Now, honestly, I would have never thought it of this friend. She mixes high and low fashion so amazingly that you'd think she only shops high-end stores. I walked into her house the other day, and she has the most gorgeous bright red trunk used as a coffee table in her house. I couldn't believe it was thrift, and it was the perfect pop for her room.
Now I'm rambling, but ahhh...the thrift stories I could tell. Think it's gross like I did? I guarantee that you'll be hooked after one good buy. Try it...I'm sure you'll like it! Can anybody in the Triangle suggest a thrift store that I need to visit?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
At school, we've been doing a program with the kids about filling the "buckets" of others. Over and over again, teachers have stressed that as we seek to fill others' buckets, ours are filled too.
Before I left for Florida to spend a weekend with the women of Crossings Community Church, Barry prayed for me. My week had been stressful, and I felt zapped. Barry prayed, "Lord, as Amy desires to be a blessing at this retreat, would you use it to bless and restore her?"
God answered my prayer. My friend Melissa, who had spoken for Crossings last year, said it perfectly. "Beautiful place. Beautiful women. Beautiful God!" We were on an island off of Florida in the Gulf where palm trees abounded and animals of every description thrived. We even saw an armadillo. Did you know there are armadillos in FL? I didn't!
Mostly, the stories filled up my heart. Woman after woman told their story as we floated in the pool on Saturday afternoon. Many were stories of pasts of pain and suffering, but all ended with the redeeming work of God. God is still at work. He's at work in Florida, and he is at work in the Carroll house.
I left home worried about possibly stepping outside of His will. The women of Crossings reminded me that He is big enough to show me and redirect me.
How is God at work in your life?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I have a new way to save that makes me very happy. I love, love, love to do a decorating project, but I especially love "shopping the house" and repurposing items.
I've just gotten aquainted with a blog of a woman who's taken those passions to a new and gorgeous level. Make sure to visit The Nesting Place. It's a treat for the eyes and heart. I wish I had seen the blog before She Speaks where I got a chance to have dinner with The Nester. I would have been more appropriately awed!
Here's her blog's subtitle--"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Mmmm...permission to exhale and snuggle into home. This week you can link to DaySpring's new site (in)courage to comment to win one of The Nester's gorgeous tassles. You had better not beat me--I'm trying to figure out where to hang that tassle now!!!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I really, really, really love a bargain. In fact, I'm sort of proud of being a cheapskate. Here are a few things that make me so happy these days:
Aldi grocery store--I've been very open about the fact that I'm not crazy about cooking and it's not an area where I excel in any way, shape or form. And yet...a family has to eat. In the days when my boys could be filled up with a kid's meal from any number of eating establishments, we went out way too much. In retrospect, it was not only very unhealthy but very expensive.
Now that the boys are bigger than I, they eat real, full-size adult meals, and it's definitely too much money to eat out often. A grocery cart full of food is also quite pricey, but those dollars go a longer way in Aldi.
I started slow. I only added a few more things to my cart each time I went. There are a few things that my family doesn't like but not many. Staples are really cheap. There are also many prepared foods that are excellent.
We had Barry's parents for lunch a couple weeks ago and bought everything from Aldi. Our menu was: Teriyaki pork tenderloin, homemade mashed potatoes (made by the fabulous Chef Barry), asparagus (that comes frozen and is still delish!), and biscuits.
I'll post a couple of other cheapskate thrills soon, but try out an Aldi near you this week. Take a quarter for a cart (That's one way they save money--cart rental. You get the quarter back when you return the cart.), either cash or a debit card and your own bags or boxes. I'd love to know about your Aldi experience. Don't forget to come back to comment, first-timers! Also, check out this cool blog with recipes made with Aldi goods.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I sat on my deck at the picnic table with my Bible in front of me and my heart on the floor. A place of joy had become a place of self-condemnation, self-pity and self-accusation. I thought I had succeeded, but now it seemed I had failed instead. I felt deflated and defeated.
Wearily, I flipped to the first chapter of another book I had brought with me and began to read. I could almost hear my friend's voice as I read the words that she had penned. "Lord, thank you for truthtelling friends," I exhaled. My faithful friend exposed the true condition of my heart. Did you notice how many times "self" described the way I was feeling? Although I would have never described those feelings as pride, my focus on self revealed a mis-alignment of perception that scewed my entire perspective.
I asked God for forgiveness and His view of my circumstances and then began a dangerous prayer. "Lord, help me to focus on complete obedience instead of on my own results. Replace my pride with humility."
And then I braced myself. Praying for humility and obedience is the equivalent of praying for patience, right? Nobody in their right mind does that. It's just asking for suffering and trials, yet my newly softened heart prayed the prayer that was needed... and I waited for the shoe to drop.
Instead of the expected "stick" my day overflowed with one blessing after another. I found myself tearing-up over and over because of the kindness of others and an unexpected vote of confidence.
At the end of the day, I re-evaluated. What did my initial fears about my prayer say about what I truly, deep-down believe about God? Although it's true that He often uses hard places to mature us and make us more like Him, He is also the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the One who, "...crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Ps. 103:4-5)
God's ministry of humility to me that day didn't come in the form that I had expected. He showered me with love and compassion instead, and I'm still staring at my tiara-wearing self with amazement.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
If you're visiting from Glynnis' blog, welcome to you!
That's a little weird to sing that song (see title) to myself, huh? Anybody else old enough to remember "Welcome Back Kotter?"
So this year I'm returning to an elementary school classroom for the first time in 15 years. I have to say that God has given me a HUGE gift as I make my re-entrance. I'm teaching in a tiny private school in Cary, NC called Atlas International School.
It's a very unique setting. Elizabeth, the owner and director, is committed to spending tuition on keeping a low student/teacher ratio. That translates into something wonderful for me and hopefully for the three boys in my sixth grade class.
Yes...you heard right. I'm teaching three boys in the sixth grade. Yep! Here's the next great news. I teach from 9:30-2:00 Mon-Thurs. The students spend Fridays at home working on their projects that are due every two weeks. Unique, right? Wonderful for the kids and wonderful for me! It allows me to be home with my own boys and to also prioritize time to serve with my Proverbs 31 sisters.
It's interesting to be teaching again. I feel a little rusty, but it's coming back kind of like riding a bicycle. There's one big difference. I'm a parent now. I've now lived on both sides of the fence.
I've always had tremendous love and respect for kids, so I don't think that will be the change. I'm coming back to the classroom, though, with a new love and compassion for parents. It's amazing how confident I was about how parenting should be done before I had kids!
Now I know how hard the job really is. Now I know that every child is a bundle of unique joys and challenges. Now I understand that there are no perfect parents. Now I get it.
I hope that will translate into more effective communication, more compassionate treatment and a more respectful attitude in general.
I've been invited to post on my friend Glynnis' blog who is providing a month of tips. My tips are on creating a great school year for our kids. If you haven't seen it, I'd love to share my perspective gained from both sides of the conference table!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I want to tell all of you that both Tara and I were blown clean away by the response on Wednesday. Our hearts are full in knowledge that God is drawing so many women's heart into close relationship with Him, and you are running to Him!
I've never done a giveaway before, and I have to say I'm not sure I like it. I mean, I loved giving away something that I've personally found so valuable. I'm so sad, though, that I can't send one to each one of you.
If you didn't win, please don't just throw up your hands. You can purchase an Intimacy with God prayer journal from Proverbs 31 which will enrich your quiet time and support Proverbs 31 Ministries. If things are as tight at your house as they are at mine, just get a notebook and begin writing your prayers and your Bible study. God will bless your efforts!
Tara has just self-published a whole study on developing a personal quiet time. I've read over it, and it's wonderful. It is also suitable for doing a group study and a leader guide is available. Check it out.
Finally...the winner is...Sue! Congratulations, Sue! We're so excited for you!!!!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I've had a lot to say the last two days, so I'm going to take a breath :) and share this space. I'd like to introduce you to my friend Tara Furman. Tara is one of those inspiring people that I'd like to clone and loan to each of you so that you could could share her too, but this interview will have to do. (Don't miss the chance to register for the giveaway at the end!)
Tara has self-published a prayer journal and has just released a new study on having rich quiet times with God. Here's what she had to say about her experience:
1. What was your time like with God before you started this journey? What was missing?
For years, my time with God was a rote, religious activity. It was something that I checked off my list of things to do each day. I sat down – I read – I prayed for the people I was supposed to pray for, and I was off! You could have asked me at lunch time what my devotion was about and I wouldn’t have had a clue.
2. How did you make a change?
In 2005 (I’ll never forget this), I found myself drawn to “My Heart’s Cry”, by Anne Graham Lotz. I reluctantly brought the book into my quiet time and began reading only a page or two a day. [I say reluctantly b/c I used to be very legalistic about books in my quiet time.] However, during my quiet time, it was as if the Scriptures were jumping off the page into my heart – speaking directly to my circumstances. This was not a coincidence. I was encountering the Living God! My life and quiet time have not been the same since!
3. Describe your quiet time basket. (I love this, friends! It’s an idea that has helped me tremendously!!)
Beside my comfy quiet time chair, I have a basket with all the essentials: my Bible, Prayer Journal, Devotional books, Bible study materials, pens, highlighters, tissue, Note cards, a hymnal and a lot of other fun stuff. This keeps me from getting up and becoming distracted by all the other “things” that clamor for my attention: the dryer full of clothes or the dishwasher that needs to be emptied, the freezer screaming, “what are we having for dinner tonight?”, etc…! Also, keeping all my supplies in a basket prevents my spot from becoming cluttered and an eyesore.
4. How would you describe your times with God now?
As of today, and I pray it never ends, but I would describe my time with Jesus as vibrant! Most mornings, I can’t wait to hear what He has to say - especially during times of difficulty which I am experiencing now. He is my Lifeline. Encountering Him each day – not just going through the motions has become a vital necessity.
5. Would you tell us one story about how God spoke to you recently?
Well, I just shared that I am in the midst of a very trying time. As women, our natural inclination is to want to talk about our trials with other women. However, Jesus reminded me again today, that “quietness and trust will be my strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) In other words He said to me, “Tara, continue to keep your mouth shut and trust Me. Trust Me when you can’t see Me working. Trust Me to work out every detail on your behalf.”
God is so real and personal! He wants to shower each of us with the reality of His Presence every day! Only God can speak to the core of our being - replacing the anxiousness in our hearts with peace; our despair for hope and our insecurities for security.
Thanks for sharing, Tara! Find out more about Tara's ministry on her website.
She has generously donated one of her journals, Intimacy with God, for a giveaway. This is my first, so help me out!!
If you'd like to be included, leave a comment telling how you've built intimacy with God in your quiet time OR why you desperately need this prayer journal to begin the journey. Don't forget to include your email address. I'll announce a winner on Friday, so check back in!