Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review - The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I didn't want to read this book let alone like the book. But this book was just sitting there begging to be read. I read it in 24 hours; so much for not wanting to read a book. This book is not a how to self-help manual, which was why I had no interest in reading it initially, but rather it's one person's story of how she changed her mindset and what it looked like for her.

Shonda Rhimes is the writer/producer/creator (she has many titles) behind Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder. Even if you live under a rock, when you come out ever so often you will hear of one of these shows especially if it's a Thursday night.

This book shares one woman's viewpoint of going from a No to a Yes mentality. A No mentality is: where you're afraid of what a yes will mean so you live safely in your cocoon; where you unintentionally isolate yourself even if you appear successful; where you aren't determining your happiness, you're just existing. This mentality defined the author for most of her life until she made the choice to approach things differently. She shares her transition by letting the reader into her brain so that through the book you can see how she navigated from point A - No to Point B - Yes and the profound impact it had on her.

This book is well written in the author's voice. It's authentic and compelling and a book I reluctantly but heartily recommend.


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Is Your Opportunity to Create a Legacy

Sometimes I can't believe the family I have. I can't say that when I was growing up we were a close knit family as is portrayed on screen. We were close because we had no choice. No one was going anywhere and if we did it was done as a unit. As we got older, and life intervened we all went our separate ways. And these days, though I love getting together with my siblings we just don't have a close family dynamic. There are some elephants in the room whenever we're together and we just can't seem to get past them. We keep feeding the elephant when it should be kicked out; elephants don't belong with humans or in rooms.

This is a legacy.

With my husband, I have been able to create a family that makes me genuinely happy. We hang out with each other and we talk, really talk with each other. If there's no one else around I'm quite content to hang out with these people and in my wildest dreams, I never thought this was possible. As the wedding approaches, we find ourselves randomly practicing dance moves for the big day. We find ourselves vetoing another's silliness all in good fun or having our typical family banter via group chat.

My husband has always been more focused on us doing things as a family. That's the phrase he uses, "we're going to do this as a family." I wasn't always keen on this idea, but I went along and now today we just automatically do things as a family, if we can.

This too is a legacy.

He was intentional about creating good experiences, but so was I in a different way. I was big on Family Devotions, Sunday Dinners, Christmas and over time Thanksgiving and any other family holidays. Through a best friend, we started having birthday get togethers where we had a cake and sang Happy Birthday. It might have been just us or it might have included anyone who was over at the time. When we had children, I thought about what would my children think about their family. As much I could control it, I did my part in creating favorable memories. We still talk about the time I burnt my son's birthday cake, or the time my husband took a daughter on a shopping spree for her birthday, or the time another daughter thought she outsmarted me by buying a pair of sneakers.

This is a legacy.

Legacy happens whether you're intentional or not. You and your spouse are leaving an imprint on the next generation. As much as it depends on you, be willing to work with each other, compromise, talk and share to create beautiful moments for the next generation. Part of my legacy is knowing that we were so grounded in God's Word we lived it out and passed it on to our children while going after life with gusto. Whatever your legacy is, I hope it is grounded in love: love of God and love of family.

In Caesarea, there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. Acts 10:1,2

What's your legacy?


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Monday, July 24, 2017

Your Faith Can Eliminate Worry

Don't worry! We hear it all the time yet it's the first thing we do when faced with any daunting
circumstance. In spite of ourselves, we worry more than we should because it's almost second nature.

We worry about our children in myriad ways - are they OK? will they be damaged? are we raising them right?
We worry about our jobs and our careers - Will I ever get promoted? Did I follow the procedure correctly?
We worry about money - How am I going to pay for this? Where am I going to find the money to pay for this part, this piece, this project?
We worry about other people - Do they like me? Will I like them? Did I say something to upset them?
We worry about our relationships - I wonder what he's thinking? Why didn't she return my call?

Do you notice how our worries seem to take the form of questions? Who are we asking these questions of and who will provide the answers? If we were asking ourselves, we might have the answers.

We worry incessantly and it drives us crazy but we are told not to worry. Not only are we told not to worry we are told we don't need to worry because worrying doesn't solve a problem but creates more anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34). We are told to discard the worry and instead practice and exercise faith (Matthew 11:28-30). Not worrying is the first step of faith because as soon as you realize the futility of worrying you also simultaneously begin to realize the beauty of trusting. It's at this point you make a choice to either continue to worry or to exercise faith

I am not immune to worrying, as a matter of fact, the longer I live the more things they are to potentially consume my thoughts. Among other things, we are in the middle of planning a wedding. But I have learned and am learning that the more faith I exhibit the greater peace which eliminates the need to worry.  When I'm tempted to worry I pray (just like I learned in Sunday School). I pick up my Bible and read any part of it for I remember that faith comes through the Word of God (Romans 10:17). I remember to praise Him with a greater frequency and exhibit a grateful heart (Psalms 119).  I tell myself to stop worrying. All of this happens between my ears sometimes in a split second and sometimes over a longer period of time but I make the choice not to worry.

God knew that worrying is part of human nature, but he also knew that He was the antidote to worry. Wouldn't it be great if exercising our faith was second nature instead of worrying? We can then know a calm regardless of our circumstances - "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding” which He has promised will “guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalms 56:3

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength."- Corrie Ten Boom


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Best Marriage Advice

When I got married 28 years ago we went to counseling and as I sit here today I can't remember anything I learned in those sessions. I did a sanity check and asked a friend who also has been married for a long time and she also had the same response. Though premarital counseling was valuable there's nothing that beats experience. So here's what I've learned along the way:

Keep the doors of communication open. By any means necessary, communicate. Sometimes it will be loud, sometimes soft, sometimes nothing will need to be said. Sometimes you may use therapy speak, you know..."I feel this way when you say XYZ ....." but most times you'll be who you are. Sometimes you'll text and sometimes you'll leave notes around the house. The point is to communicate, communicate, communicate even in the mess.

Communication leads to other things - intimacy, knowledge, growth. Sex is a form of communication that is fun and messy and complicated! Enjoy it but just know like everything else, over time it will change. Drives change, bodies change, frequencies change - it's all good.

Hug and laugh often though there will be times when you don't feel like hugging and there's nothing to laugh about. Ride it through.

Grow duck feathers and let each other's offenses roll off your back. If you don't deal with an offense but try to smother it, it will lead to resentment. Resentment can start from the stupidest stuff and it just grows until you wonder why you're so angry with each other. Resentment is the third party that you don't want in your marriage, so learn to forgive without holding a grudge and forgive often. Have a short memory when it comes to offenses.

Learn each other as the person you marry today will change. We all change. Learn and grow together and do nice things for the old person and the new ever evolving person. Do nice things.

All men don't cheat or have a desire to; all women aren't domestic or automatically know how to change a diaper. Don't bring generalizations around marriage and gender roles into your marriage, instead, continue to figure each other out in the context of your marriage and work with what you have.

Most importantly, have the same spiritual foundation. Take divorce out of the equation. You're stuck with each other like peanut butter and jelly so figure it out because peanut butter is so much better with jelly!

Marriage is a wonderful thing. I don't say that lightly or because it's the thing to say. I am the person I am today because of my marriage. Marriage has allowed me to develop and grow in ways  I did not know I was capable of.  The preparation isn't what made it work but rather the commitment to each other and to the marriage. This commitment cemented in love has allowed my marriage to blossom for marriage is love in action.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

What was your premarital counseling experience like? Do you remember any of it? What's the best advice you received prior to getting married? What's the worse?


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Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Deal with SPAM

At first glance, this email looked like any other email. But upon further inspection, it came from an unknown source, with an address similar to one that was familiar, with instructions to click an attachment. This was not productive email, but SPAM - the gateway to foolishness, aggravation, and frustration. The only way to avoid getting caught was to know what the real thing looked like and to be aware that such a thing as SPAM exists.

Have you ever clicked on one of those innocent looking emails thinking it was harmless? I have and here is what happened:

Denial - I couldn't believe I was so foolish! I knew better yet because of curiosity and denial of reality I clicked.

Discovery - Clicking led to a new problem: malware was installed on my computer. Malware is annoying. It takes a special kind of person to write this piece of software. Now every 5 minutes another window opened telling me to click to download. Or a voice started speaking telling me to call a number to have my PC cleaned. And while this was happening, this piece of software was infecting programs on my entire machine. This innocent click produced damaging results that drove me crazy.

Determination - I couldn't solve this problem on my own. Every time I thought I had removed the problem, it showed up somewhere else. I had to call in an expert who had all the tools to remove the problem. In dealing with the expert, I noticed he was calm though I was not. The expert had seen so many people with this problem he was amazed that they still fell for it. Better yet he had become quite efficient at resolving this problem. What took hours for me, seemed to take only 10 minutes for him.

Discernment - At this point, I became more vigilant about SPAM detection. I always check the source, and I delete any email that appears problematic.

The proliferation of spam E-mail mirrors the misinformation we are bombarded with today, some with malicious and insidious intent. For our emails, we are told to create filters, use the SPAM folder, block unwanted senders, and to not open attachments from an unknown source.

We can use these same rules in our lives. Create a filter - set your affections on things above, not on things upon this earth. (Colossians 3:2) Use the SPAM folder - let the Word of God be your guide (Colossians 3:16); seek out wise counsel in everything (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 11:14); guard your heart and your thoughts (Proverbs 4:23). Block unwanted senders - don't be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-16); know your purpose (Colossians 3:12-18) so that you're not immersed in a lifestyle you had no intentions of being a part of.

The only way to not be duped by SPAM is to know the real thing. The only way to not be duped by the enemy of our souls is to know Jesus. Get to know Him by spending time with Him. He's the expert who has seen it all before.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” John 8:32, 36.

How do you deal with SPAM?


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Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Good Partnership

Bryan Brothers
It's your team's turn to serve. Your partner and you go to the baseline, you quickly converse about a strategy, you both assume your positions, you execute. Whether you win or lose the point, you regroup, show some physical contact and do it all over again.

Doubles tennis, though not as popular as singles, is twice as much fun to watch with more energy and more surface area for play. It would seem that two are better than one, but doubles require more coordination, communication, and grace.

As a single, your strategy is your own - it's in your head and no one knows what will happen until you serve. But in doubles, both parties have to be on the same page. Often times you will see teams using surreptitious ways to communicate with each other so that the other side is unaware. They may use the tennis balls to cover their mouths or whisper in each other's ears. The point is, as a team, only they know what they're doing; no one else does. A doubles partnership is beginning to look like a good marriage - no one else needs to know every detail of your marriage; only you and your spouse are privy to that information.

Next, each partner assumes their position. The server stays at the baseline and the other player goes close to the net and crouches while her partner is serving. Once the ball is over the net, she gets up and is prepared to hit any ball that comes her way. The server moves in and covers the back of the court and is also prepared. They may have discussed what shots they were going to use and now they are executing. Some volleys are so long and exciting, the positions may change. Again, as in marriage, each person knows their position and plays, though sometimes each person's position may change based on the circumstance, it's for the betterment of the team.

After a point is played, whether a doubles team won or lost the point, at the end of each point they always hi-fived or touched hands and then re-grouped. Physical contact is important as it says, we're in this together. It's almost as if it didn't matter the outcome of the point, but that you played your part and made the effort. You made the effort. High five, shake it off, strategize, and continue to play the game. Continue to make the effort.

Our marriages require more coordination, communication, and grace. We start together and we're on the same page. We strategize, execute, high five and repeat. We forgive and give grace. We keep putting the effort in and serving up love like a good doubles game until this life is over.

Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? Amos 3:3

How is your doubles partnership?


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Monday, July 10, 2017

Staying Within The Lines

Before Venus and Serena Williams became well known, their father was watching TV one day and saw the awards ceremony for a Tennis match. As the story goes, at that moment when he saw how much money tennis players made, he decided that his daughters would play tennis.  And play tennis they did as they have continued to reap the rewards of this sport. It was not an easy choice but a worthwhile choice.

In order to play tennis, you have to know the rules. One of the most important rules of the game is to keep the ball within the lines - keep the ball in. Within the lines, you can hit the ball as hard as you want or as soft as you wish, you can be loud or you can be soft, you can have a beautiful backhand or look clumsy making a shot. It doesn't matter as long as the ball remains within the lines. Of course, there are rules that govern behavior - profane or obscene comments immediately incur a point penalty, as does misconduct or unsportsmanlike behavior such as smashing your racket or threatening a linesperson. A tennis court is 78 feet long and  27 feet wide for singles matches; 36 feet for doubles matches. This court is straight and narrow and yet it is worthwhile to make the effort of staying within the lines. Though there are constraints, which are in place for the effectiveness of the game, there is freedom within the lines.

Staying within the lines is so important that the Hawkeye system was created. If a call is questionable, Hawkeye determines if the ball was in or out and the player has to accept Hawkeye's determination. Hawkeye has the final word.

I have never heard a tennis player say, "I wish I could hit the ball outside the lines or anywhere I want." This would be a pointless statement. Playing the game well by the rules gives each player the potential to reap huge rewards.

As Christians God tells us to stay within the lines with our actions, our words, our thoughts. He says it's worth it. He said, you're not constricted as a matter of fact you're free. And the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the Word is our Hawkeye!

You may be tentative about this Christian life or about becoming a Christian. But if you liken the Christian walk to the game of tennis and choose to play, it will be the most rewarding game you have ever played. If you think being a Christian is boring, look at a tennis player - they are anything but bored. They are playing for a worthwhile reward as is a Christian who reaps rewards here on Earth - peace, power, love, abundance, wisdom, assurance (this is a short list), and for eternity. Ephesians 1:3-12

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Are you in the game? Are you willing to make the sacrifices for the rewards of the game?


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mothers, Daughters and Self-Image

Eating disorders are pervasive in our current culture, and there was a time when it seemed to reach epidemic proportions. I wondered what part, if any, does a parent play, in particular, a mother, when it comes to body image disorders such as anorexia and bulimia which overwhelmingly affect females.

Research indicates that there seems to be a correlation between a mother's fixation with her image which may unintentionally send the wrong message to a child especially if she has a different body type. But then there are also cases where a mother didn't send a negative message yet the daughter still ended up with an eating disorder.

For myself, I cannot say that my mother ever made a fuss about her body image or her weight - she had other pressing matters to deal with like keeping house and ensuring her large family was happy. I was a very skinny girl, and my mother was not. I distinctly remember having a class assignment where we had to create a healthy diet. Working with my mother, we created the following menu: Breakfast - Bacon, Eggs, Bakes (Pancakes) and Orange Juice. Lunch: Rice and Beans, Chicken, Plantains, and Coleslaw. Supper: A Corned Beef Sandwich and Tea.

When I submitted this assignment to my teacher, I distinctly remember the teacher looking at this 'diet' in disbelief and then giving me the once over and deciding it was OK. I was unbelievably skinny, and everything in this menu was meant to fatten me up.  BTW I ate like a horse and still didn't gain weight; I was 99 pounds when I got married at 22 and after the honeymoon had gained a whopping 6 pounds. Finally, I had cleared the 100-pound milestone!!!!

I knew I was skinny because I was teased for it at school but I was never made to feel sorry for it at home nor did I ever feel bad because of my weight. My mother was not slim, and she carried herself well, so I never thought negatively or had any thoughts about her weight. She also didn't make any comments within my hearing regarding her appearance or her weight. But as I had children and heard what other mothers were saying about weight gain etc., I became conscious about weight - mine, and others. My daughters have always known that I prided myself on the way I look, but I wasn't overbearing with it. They've heard me say I feel fat without being anywhere near fat. As a mother, I had to be responsible for my words and actions yet still be a person. As it related to food consumption, I made food choices early on for the family that they didn't have a say in, based on what I thought was best. For example, I never bought sodas, focused on fruits and vegetables, and only bought wheat bread. This is what they knew, and this was their routine.

I became conscious of how I spoke to my daughters about weight and body image. The older they got, the greater wisdom I had to exercise especially if this was a touchy area. Sometimes I said nothing, and if I said anything, it was minimal. I'd seen other parents lose this battle and I learned that I had to pick my battles. Weight gain or weight loss, I still wanted my children to feel accepted and loved. Apparently, I wasn't always successful at this, because to a young child, a critique may seem like a deadly blow. One of my daughters told me many years later that I made her feel insecure because of her weight when she was much younger, but somehow it didn't lead to a downward spiral of an eating disorder. Maybe I knew to stop, perhaps she knew that she was worthwhile, or maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe in all of these maybes, God was in the mix providing wisdom, understanding, discernment, and grace.

There's a balance to how we do this, but even if we do everything right, we still don't know how it will be received by the child. That's the challenge of parenting. Ultimately I had to know that I was worthy, not because of how I looked or felt but because I was loved by God. This love gave me worth and confidence which my children could emulate and which I could pass on. I think this was my mother's secret and it became mine. It can be summed up in this quote by Naomi Wolf,  "A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem," with a caveat that the Source of this self-love is very important.

Young minds are particularly susceptible to the lies of the enemy and eating disorders are behaviors controlled by lies that show up in their approach to food. Am I saying that if you are anchored in Christ, you are immune from having a daughter that struggles with these issues? No, but what I have seen in my own life is that this makes a huge difference. A mother knowing Whose she is and who she is makes an imperceptible distinction to her daughter.

The enemy of our souls won't quit - so he may not get his hooks in to create full-blown eating disorders, but he'll keep trying. As Christian mothers, we have a power that can defeat the enemy. We have to believe it, tap into it, and use it. Perhaps with the strength of the scriptures, one less daughter will fall into an eating disorder.

God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalms 34:18

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

There's no age limit on any of these verses. To deal with anything, you must first acknowledge that it exists. Start there, then reach out to others around you until you have the resources and strength that you need. Please don't believe the lies that lead to an eating disorder; starving the body to control the mind does not provide a balance of health and well-being and doesn't give the answers that started you down this path. God created you to fulfill His purpose through you, so know that self-inflicted pain is no way to live. God wants you to thrive while you're alive, not live a life of lack because you are trying to control your body. Turn over the controls to Him. 


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Monday, July 3, 2017

Women of The Word - Pastor Andrea Humphrey

"Each person touching someone as we pray," is something Pastor Andrea Humphrey says every time she speaks. Recognizing that some won't experience human connection for any number of reasons and that it is because of God's great love that we can, we are encouraged to connect. She has a heart for people to experience all that God has to offer. Pastor Andrea Humphrey co-pastors Hopes House with her husband. As someone who has read her books and heard her speak on a regular basis, I'd like to introduce you to this month's Woman of the Word. Be encouraged and blessed.

Andrea Humphrey

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
AH: My favorite tools are the Word itself, Logos Bible Software, and

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
AH: I love both!

3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation? 
AH: I heard the gospel preached as a teenager and was drawn instantly to it. I love its flow, the way it tells stories, the power of the message and the way it grabs you when you think you have heard it all before. I am inspired, challenged, convicted, refreshed and captivated by its completeness and fortified by its grace.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle? 
AH: There is a moment when I know God steps in and it is if the pen is writing by itself and I am not a part of the equation. The thoughts are things I would not think, the connections are those that I would not make and the impact is nothing I could manufacture.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?) 
AH: I preach them anyway. The word can stand on its own and God can defend himself so I leave that to Him to worry about and I just move forward with what He gives me to teach.

6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you? 
AH: I take it in and I ask the Lord to allow it to tear down any religious thoughts or feelings I have in that area. I then ask forgiveness for anything wrong I may have lived out or taught prior to that knowledge of the truth.

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
AH: I am a lead pastor functioning often as a senior pastor at Hopes House Christian Ministries casting vision and carrying out the mission as God has called our house to fulfill. I just completed my doctorate in Pastoral Leadership and Biblical Studies and that was difficult but extremely rewarding. I am prone to look at the Word in light of both the church and the marketplace as I have an MBA and have worked in corporate America for many years. I believe God wants us to have an impact in the world as well as the church. I am a mother to a 15 and 11-year-old, and my goal is to raise daughters who love Jesus, see a powerful but submitted mom and respect their dad and God in ways that the world has rarely seen. In addition, I am a published author of More Than Just His Wife and Transformed for A Purpose: A Practical Plan to Get Unstuck and Live a Power Filled Life.

8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question) 
AH: Honestly I usually pick up the phone and talk to a friend. I know that most would say they go to God first but I usually look to hear an audible voice to jolt me out of whatever funk I am in. Then they usually pray for me and push me toward God and I pray and seek His face for relief. Sometimes I can get there on my own but I wanted to be honest and say I often need a person and a hug or an encouraging word or just an ear.


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