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My daughter’s name is Jessica. So, when I heard of another little girl around the same age, also named Jessica, who needs our help, I felt that God meant for me to pass the word on to others.

This little girl named Jessica needs a liver transplant. Knowledge Box Central is holding a benefit where you can buy a cookbook written by Jessica and her mother (“In the Kitchen with Jessica”). All proceeds go directly to Jessica!

You can also receive $250 in additional free products from various publishers who have donated books, ebooks, and other items (including the free ebook “Dress for De-Stress: How Wearing the Full Armor of God Helps Deflect the Fiery Darts of Worry and Distress” that I wrote for my “Balancing Tips” newsletter subscribers). Many other publishers and authors have donated books for this worthy cause.

The full story about this amazing little girl can be found at:

http://0096cce.netsolstores.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=240

Please help out this little girl and her family! Thank you, and God bless you!

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Today is magical.

When I stepped outside this morning to start the car (to take my daughter to the bus stop), the snow was spellbinding, mesmerizing, beautiful, miraculous! I looked down over our yard, the trees dusted with white. I held my face to the sky, catching the fluffy flakes in my hair and on my eye lids. Twenty-three degrees didn’t even feel cold. All I felt was joy and oneness with God. How amazing that He created something so beautiful, so majestic, so regal, so pure.
 
I started singing worship songs, praising my Lord for such a wonderful, magical morning. When my daughter joined me outside, I told her, “This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” And I twirled around, snowflakes falling all around me while her little brother watched from the doorway of the house (thinking Mommy was crazy, I’m sure).
 
And I was crazy! I AM crazy. I’m crazy for God! I’m filled with His love and warmth on one of the first cold wintry days of the year, and I am so blessed.
 
One of the best blessings God has provided is His Son’s cleansing blood that washes us all white as snow. We are ALL covered in “snow” for all eternity. God loves us that much! John 3:16 is the most wondrous Scripture. “For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, that all should have everlasting life.” HOW WONDROUS! HOW AMAZING! God loves me that much. I’m not worthy, yet He still loves me! He loves us all.
 
My prayer for others is that everyone finds this everlasting life with God. He wishes that none should perish, and He provides a way, opening eyes and filling hearts with His love.
 
I never want to leave God’s winter wonderland where I’m covered in love as pure and white as snow. Every day is the day that the Lord hath made! Now and forever and ever and ever…. AMEN!

All in God’s Timing!

My husband has been looking for a job for over two years. That’s a long time! He had a number of interviews, even some second interviews, but none of them panned out. Many potential employers were in Pittsburgh, meaning he would have to drive 40 miles or more (much more in some cases!). It has been a frustrating two years for our entire family.

Finally, last week, my husband was offered not one, but two jobs, both closer to home. After all this time! Can you believe it? When it’s God timing, I guess it’s REALLY God’s timing!

My first thought: Where were one of these companies last year? Or the year before? That’s a normal response, isn’t it?

It’s also quite a human response. That question – where was this opportunity last year – assumes timings in life are up to us. Nothing could be further from the truth! The timing of everything under the sun is up to GOD.

So the right question then becomes: Why did God make us wait? What was the purpose of His timing? What did we learn through that process? Did we use that waiting time effectively?

Waiting, rather than being offered a job with a two-hour drive, means my husband is now working only 20 minutes from home. If he had gotten a previous job, he may have never even applied for this one. God wanted him to wait for a job closer to home, a more appropriate opportunity. So, we had to wait.

Waiting does not mean you sit around doing nothing, a fact my husband Ray instinctively knew. Not only did he stay active in managing softball finances and websites, but he also furthered his accounting career – by passing the CPA exams (no small feat!) and starting in a Master of Accountancy program. These tasks moved him forward in his career, providing him with skills and knowledge he may have never gained had he been hired a year ago.

Many CPA firms pay for their accountants to take the CPA exams. Ray’s initiative, completing this critical task on his own, makes him more attractive now for companies (who won’t have to pay a dime toward his certification).

Not only did Ray further his career during his “waiting” time (waiting for someone to hire him) – he spent more time with his family. Our children got to have us BOTH home this past year (since I am now working from home) – a very unorthodox arrangement that was a blessing for us all.

My husband was also not the only one to learn a lesson or two while we waited. Over the past two years, I have learned to more deeply trust in God – and much more patiently, with fewer complaints. I also learned to respect my husband’s decisions, that he knows what is best for his career and that I need to support his choices. I believe we’ve grown closer because of this time where we both waited actively.

Not having Ray home every day will take some adjustment – and not just for the children. It’s been nice to hang out together during the week, be able to take a break to go to the movies or to lunch while avoiding the weekend crowds.

Yet, this new arrangement may also be good for us in its own ways as well. It will certainly help me stay on a more sane work schedule. And maybe we’ll get on each other’s nerves a little less. 🙂 It will certainly improve our finances and diminish stress.

The past two years have been a struggle for us, but we gained patience and trust. God had a plan through the waiting period that was just as important as the end result.

Why did God make us wait?

Look what we would have missed out on if we hadn’t!

That’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it!

Today (October 10) is my wedding anniversary. My husband and I have been married for nine years, and we have two beautiful children.

A lot has happened over the past year, since our eighth anniversary. Our lives have gone through a number of changes, some of them stressful. I quit a full-time job away from home and started doing writing and editing contract work from home. I started a publishing company and self-published a book. My husband has continued to look for accounting work. Our children are growing up (and our daughter has even more activities this year). We have been trying to get healthy, but it has been difficult, and we have both struggled over eating habits and finding time to exercise.

Life has been overwhelming!

Another stressor in our relationship involves spiritual differences. I am a Christian, and my husband would probably call himself agnostic. Having such different life values makes for some difficult situations, to put it mildly. Jesus said He came to create division – between mother and son and sibling and spouse (Luke 12:49-53). With such different worldviews, my husband and I have had times where we’ve struggled to get along – certainly, where we’ve struggled to agree on various issues (both daily and larger scale).

Still, we have hung in, through it all, together. We have committed to loving each other, and we stand by that commitment and that love. We recognize there are differences between us, and we know not everyone is the same. We each have different personalities, outlooks, skills, etc. We can cherish each other despite (and, sometimes even because of) our differences.

My husband has trouble understanding my devotion to Christ, but he supports my desire to pray and read the Bible and attend church. He supports my viewpoint even if he does not share it. He is a wonderful father, always there for our children, playing with them and taking care of them. He doesn’t argue against me taking our children to church or saying prayers with them. Sometimes I wish he would join us at church but all in good time. I keep praying for his salvation and for our children to grow up learning about God. I pray for our family, and I trust in God. God will work everything out according to His purpose and His timing. 

My husband and I love each other, even through our struggles. We try to respect one another, despite our differences. It’s not always easy, but we are in it for the long haul, and we are blessed to have each other. I thank God for my husband, my children, our wonderful family. I thank God for the nine years we have been married, the time we dated before that, and the years we knew each other as friends in college, high school, and junior high. We have been friends for a long time, and that has helped our love stand the test of time. That, and God’s grace, of course!

To my husband, Ray: Thank you for standing by me and supporting me and loving me. I love you so much, and I pray that we can grow closer as we approach 10 years of marriage. Happy Anniversary, honey!

Let’s take a detour from my recent posts about our wonderful pilgrimage walk/spiritual journey and return to a topic I touched on a few weeks ago: Health, exercise, weight, eating habits — and, in particular, the legacy we are leaving our children (https://chrisdowns.wordpress.com/2007/08/19/helping-our-children-make-better-food-and-lifestyle-choices/).

Unfortunately, many American children today (and, even just Americans, children or adult) have weight problems, some minor, some severe. Why have we drifted so far from a healthy, natural lifestyle, and how can we return? How can we truly live the concept of our bodies being the temple of God? How can we get past the guilt and the temptation?

I never thought I would ever have a weight problem. I was so healthy (and skinny) growing up; I could eat anything! Which, of course, was probably my problem. I didn’t have to watch what I ate at an early age, so I never picked up healthy habits. I’ve also always considered myself a determined, ambitious, goal-seeking person (in college, in career, in life), as well as fairly self-controlled and extremely persistent. How could I fall into the trap of over-eating?

My answer comes in one word, with which I’m sure many others will relate: LIFE!

After high school (and playing sports), I became a little less active. But, I still walked to classes at college, and I led a very active lifestyle (swing dancing, contra line dancing, hiking, in addition to walking 20 minutes one-way from my apartment to the Pitt campus my last year or so after I moved out of the dorms). So, I didn’t do too badly during my college years. I gained a little weight, nothing major. Then came the JOB. For the first time in my life, I sat behind a desk for most of the day — and then, when I got home from work, I’d be too tired to exercise. I drove to work (so no walking to/from anymore). Again, gradually, I gained a little more weight (and became less active). I was still very healthy, though. When I really started gaining weight was after having my first child. I actually started out well, losing the baby weight quickly. But, I didn’t realize how quickly it could return after I stopped nursing (which had really helped me keep my weight down!). From there, I became even less active (more responsibilities in life, so who had TIME to walk daily, right?). Even further, at some point, I started eating as comfort when I felt overwhelmed or down. You can see how that just exasperated the problem!

I doubt I’m unique in the pattern I’ve described. Many adults have fallen into this trap, allowing life to push them into unhealthy habits (or a lack of healthy habits).

So, if our entire society (not just me, as one person within the larger society) has drifted from good health and exercise, how do we solve the problem and get back on track? How do we prevent the next generation from falling into the same bad habits?

I don’t think there’s any one right answer, and many of us are exploring multiple options (and have been for some time). One person has set out to help children get healthy, and you may be surprised to hear who it is. This advocate for children’s health is none other than the basketball star Shaquille O’Neil.

Shaquille O’Neil started a television program — “Shaq’s Big Challenge” — last year to help six obese Florida teens and pre-teens shed the pounds by eating better and exercising more (basically, by learning to live a more healthy lifestyle). According to the website (http://www.shaqsfamilychallenge.com/), “Shaq’s Big Challenge was designed to be a wake-up call — to prod us into taking action against one of our nation’s most critical health issues: childhood obesity.”

We watched the show last season, and I think, in particular, it opened our daughter’s eyes regarding eating habits and health. Most of the lessons don’t just apply to children, though. We all need to learn from what Shaq is trying to do to help a handful of children in this country.

One lesson that really stuck with me is the episode where Shaq’s trainer said the children need to learn what true discipline really is. Don’t we all? Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), yet many of us struggle the most with this concept (hurting ourselves and others by indulging ourselves). It feels good to eat a donut when you’re feeling down (it tastes good, too!). It’s difficult to get up and walk when you are tired and cold in the morning. It really DOES take some self-discipline.

The doctor on the show said that depression and anxiety are killers to eating healthy and staying motivated and energized to work out. How true! Depression and anxiety eat away at your self-discipline, making it even harder to get moving and to stop eating. It’s easy to say you should do something — harder to actually do it when obstacles are placed before you. And depression is one of the worst obstacles of all to many tasks in life!

Ironically, exercising will actually help combat depression — if you can just make it to the point of starting in the first place. That’s why something like Shaq’s Challenge, or Weight Watchers, or simply exercising and eating healthy alongside a friend or accountability partner can be so effective. You need support and encouragement during those times when you have trouble getting started, and you can also provide that same support to others in a similar situation — helping one another reach the goal of getting healthy.

You also need to make God your “accountability partner” in everything in life. God is there to take your burdens and to lead you through difficult times (so that you don’t need food or alcohol or any other vice). God is there to give us strength, and we can do it all through Christ! “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” – Psalm 55:22

As Shaq’s site prompts, it’s time to make the commitment to make some changes in my life. But I won’t do it alone. I’ll do it with the support of my family and friends, and I’ll do it with the support of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

We prayed these words as we walked with Pilgrim George — occasionally out loud, but also in our heads (at least I did, and I know Bunny did when we weren’t talking because we discussed it a little). It was the only thing keeping me going at one point (I felt almost a physical push as I uttered the word “sinner” in my mind). God literally propelled me forward when I wanted to just fall down on the side of the road and not get up.

PRAISE GOD!

The worst moments for me, physically, were probably the final bit, as we walked UP the hill to our final destination (Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown, PA — with “mount” in the name, I should have known that final trek would be UPHILL!). My wonderful sister in Christ, Christine, carried my bag on that final hill (also, once on an earlier hill), helping me a little with my burdens.

THANK YOU, FRIEND, SISTER. WHAT A BLESSING TO BE THERE WITH MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST!

I don’t know why I keep trying to put into words how meaningful last Friday’s walk was because it’s impossible to fully capture in words. But I’m a writer, I’m a “words person,” so I guess that’s “my thing.” It’s what I try to do about everything that means something to me.

And this meant SO much that I want to try to capture some part of it, to never let it go. I want to be able to come back to it and remember. I pray that God brings me back to that spiritual place again (which I still feel, but in a different sense from on Friday, which was absolutely and unbelievably amazing).

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. This prayer, the Jesus Prayer, says so much. It describes perfectly how we are to live with Jesus in our hearts. It helps us learn to pray without ceasing (https://chrisdowns.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/the-way-of-a-pilgrim-pray-without-ceasing/). It fills us with strength and peace and love.

“What did you give up to be here today?” That’s the question Pilgrim George asked me when it was my turn to walk alongside him (since you could not walk more than two across, sometimes only one, along the highway).
 
My answer to him:

Hours of paid work — which is particularly meaningful right now, with our family finances in a state of struggle and me being the only one working. And time with my children. I also added that I expected to give up some comfort (after all, 8 miles is quite a distance for someone unhealthy like me; it can be a lot for many people, and I haven’t walked 8 miles even in an entire week since at least last year).

That final answer, regarding comfort, was given partly in jest although, I have to admit, I was a little concerned over how I would fare (and I told George of my concerns, as well as of my trust that God would give me strength, which was the only way I could even consider undertaking such a walk that seemed impossible to me).

Actually, I didn’t fully understand my third answer (again, the one about comfort) until MUCH later in our walk (about the 6th or 7th mile maybe).

Pilgrim George discussed suffering for Christ, and I had not initially considered the walk in that way. I had thought of it more in terms of prayer and fellowship rather than sacrifice and suffering.

Now I understand a little better. Christ walked a grueling trek during the final hours of His human life. He had been beaten, tortured, whipped. He was bleeding, exhausted, and dejected. And he had to carry a cross as He walked every painful step to Calvary.

I can never fully experience the same degree of suffering as Christ (none of us can), but yesterday I glimpsed a small measure of it. I was brought closer to Jesus, my Beloved Lord and Savior, through understanding (just a little more) how difficult it must have been, from a human standpoint, for him to take each and every step. Especially toward the end of His walk, as He must have been ready to fall over.

Then, the support of Simon, who took His cross from Him for part of the journey. What a blessing, what a relief, what a joy that must have been! With so many people persecuting and mocking Him, to have help surely was a Godsend (which I know it was!).

Even though Simon was forced to help, surely he was blessed by this task as well – by the task of taking a small portion of Christ’s burden on his own shoulders. Not many would have had the chance to understand in quite the way Simon would after that.

Not that I can claim to understand to that degree, but a pilgrimage does help you understand more than you did before (and to feel a little more than you did previously). I am thankful for the opportunity to grow closer to God in this unique way.

What did I give up? I think I gave up a little innocence, not having known that kind of physical suffering before.

I think I also took on some additional responsibility. Now that I understand a little more, and now that I have grown closer to Christ, I have the responsibility to continue on my path to Him (and my walk WITH Him). Not to stray. Not to grow weary. Not to give up! To just keep on walking toward Heaven, and to help as many others as I can on my way (to help them also reach Heaven). I can do it through Christ’s strength!

This experience has also awakened an even deeper hunger in me to expand my prayer life. I want more of Jesus! Maybe that’s selfish, but there are worse things I could want more of.

This past week, I’ve actually been reading the Bible more again than I have been lately (with the past few months being so busy), and I’ve also been praying more again (maybe God’s way of preparing me for the walk). I’ve also started reciting “The Jesus Prayer” recently (I mentioned it in a previous post, https://chrisdowns.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/the-way-of-a-pilgrim-pray-without-ceasing/) throughout the day, trying to pray without ceasing and keep God in my heart.

But, now, after yesterday’s pilgrimage (if you can call my part of it that; my portion of the walk was so inconsequential compared to the 1300 miles George walked, but I’ve also walked spiritually and emotionally as well) – now, after yesterday’s experience, I just want to be filled with Christ’s love and His Word. I want to know more, learn more, experience more, just BE with Him. I certainly know I can BE MORE with Him and through Him, and it all STARTS with giving Him my time, giving Him my ALL.

Pilgrim George is such a perfect example of giving Christ His all. Many of us have more distractions in life (families, jobs, other activities), drawing us more often away from time with God. Yet, we can still make time for God. It may not be as constant as walking 15 miles a day in prayer (and spending 7 whole months primarily in solitude and prayer, although that sounds absolutely heavenly at times), but we can learn to have constant prayer in our hearts. We can learn to pray without ceasing. We can learn to discipline ourselves (self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-26) to devote specific time to more deep prayer, Bible study, and meditation. We can learn to do more than we already do.

Why is it so hard, in our busy society, to find that time for God? Yesterday, we devoted our entire day to God, and it was wonderful! I wish I could do that every day in the same way, but, realistically, I know I cannot. However, I can still devote my entire day (my entire life) to God in more subtle and personal ways. I can find my own ways and my own time. I can also walk my own path with God (which may not involve so much physical walking as it does for our friend George, but just as much spiritual walking).

So, what did I give up by being there? I’m not going to dwell on what I GAVE UP yesterday because I GAINED so much more!

What did I GAIN by being there?

I gained a deeper understanding of Christ’s suffering, which is a blessing although it sounds like it would not be (to experience suffering).

I gained a more fervent hunger for the Lord! What a blessing. What more could I possibly ask for? What more could I possibly hope to gain? That is everything.

(Also, please check out my previous post about some of the practical details of our walk, to set the stage, so to speak: https://chrisdowns.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/details-about-pilgrim-george-and-this-annual-labor-day-weekend-pilgrimage/. Thank you. – Chris)