Monthly Archives: August 2017

Grab These Nuggets for Your Marriage…They’re GOLD!

Friends!  Have I ever got some great material for you for your marriage!  Even if you think, “Thanks, but I don’t need that.”, I’m here to convince you that yes, you do indeed.

A couple of weeks ago, John and I were blessed to attend the Love and Marriage Project Conference at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church.  Some of you may recall we attended the first annual one last year. (“When You Renew Your Wedding Vows, You May Learn a Thing or Two.”)

Because of going last year, neither of us thought we’d be going again this year.  Until…we discovered our friends, Elizabeth Jeffries Tweed and her husband, Stephen were going to be the speakers.

Elizabeth and Stephen were just inducted as “Legends of the Speaking Profession” at the Veteran Speakers Retreat in Front Royal, VA.

Elizabeth and Stephen are not only professional speakers who speak all over the world, they also happen to be marriage mentors at Southeast Christian Church.  I knew this was an event not to be missed.  John and I began recruiting our friends.

Clearly orchestrated by the Lord, I’m grateful for His prompting to my good buddy, Sherry, who suggested Elizabeth and Stephen.  I immediately emailed Jady Koch, St. Francis’ Rector. He reached out to them, and a miraculous opening in their calendar made them available.

Nearly seventy attendees were blessed by the Tweeds’ presentation.  Take-home value was at a premium, and you, my friend, are about to be the benefactor of their amazing handout. (It’s at the end of this post.)

I’ll share just a few of their nuggets. These are entitled, “The Seven F’s of a Balanced Life and Adventurous Marriage!”  Grab your spouse and work through these at your leisure.  They are GOLD for the health and maintenance of your marriage.

Also noteworthy, we were blessed to meet a couple who’d been married fifty-nine years as well as some newlyweds, who’d almost been married two months.  I thought both spoke volumes for attending as one could argue neither should need advice at those early and late stages!

Elizabeth and Stephen had all of us evaluate where our marriage is currently, plus what our five-year vision is by ranking ourselves on a scale of 1-10 in these seven different areas.  I confess John and I differed a little on the scoring which was a wee bit eye opening!!!

Early into their marriage, especially since they’d both been married before, Elizabeth and Stephen consulted friends who are also mentors to them, Jim and Naomi Rhode.  The Rhodes  gave them three do-or-die suggestions they’ve held onto throughout their marriage:

Elizabeth was very candid about this.  She remarked on the importance of who you hang out with.  She warned, “Divorce is contagious. I believe I got divorced in my first marriage  largely due to the people I was hanging out with at the time.”  This goes along with, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” (Go back and read #3 above!)

Elizabeth and Stephen initiated each of the “F’s” with Scripture as a foundation for the following categories: (I’ll elaborate on some, not all…that’s where your homework comes in on the worksheet.)

Faith – The Scripture they cited for us in this category is a favorite:

Family and Friends (Best Friend – your spouse, Both sides of your families, and Friends)

Key word in this category is CHERISH.   Do you have a “cherish mindset” towards your spouse?

Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish:  The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage came highly recommended.

We discussed what makes us feel cherished.  Elizabeth reminded us, “Language creates feelings, feelings create behavior, and behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.”  Let that soak in for a minute.

The other golden nugget they shared was a prayer to pray when you’re feeling your spouse is “less than.”  Elizabeth and Stephen suggested we pray this for our spouses continuously:

“Lord, help me to love him/her as you do.”

Here John and I are with some of our couple friends who attended.  Left to Right:  Randy and Susan Bugh, Yours Truly and John, Bev and Steve Fleece

 

And now fun with some of our girlfriends…Left to right:  Mary, Elizabeth, Mary’s daughter, Lacy (She and her husband, Dale, were our very brave newlyweds at the conference), and Yours Truly.

Fun – Oh wow, did we ever have fun with the “fun” category!  Our table mates discussed:

“What does FUN mean to you? 

How does FUN play out in your life and marriage?”

After ranking ourselves on a scale of 1-10, we unanimously decided what it would take for us to rate a “10”:

Tortola in February. (Hey, nothing wrong with goals??!!! Dreams??!!)

Here are our wonderful speakers, Elizabeth and Stephen, having FUN on the dance floor…

Fitness (Mental and Physical) – Being a book lover, it was my great joy to hear Elizabeth and Stephen ask us regarding the mental part of fitness, “What are you reading right now?”  They reminded us growth and learning are paramount to us individually as well as together.

Focus on Career

Finances

Free Gifts – Matthew 10:8 was the verse on this section reminding us, “…freely you have received, freely give.”

Additional excellent nuggets we were blessed with were two questions to ask each other at the close of every day:

Finally, Elizabeth and Stephen showed us a framed prayer they pray together every night before they go to sleep.  It sits on their bedside table:

At the close of the morning session, attendees were dismissed until 4:30 in the afternoon when a lovely service on marriage was performed by Jady.  We all then reconvened for dinner and dancing  which was the icing on the cake (Yes, we had a wedding cake of course!) for all of us.

Sherry affirmed all of our sentiments with this quote: “The day, from start to finish, was so special as we focused in on our marriage.  It’s been thirty years for Bill and me, and we both appreciated being able to reflect, learn and celebrate.”

Thanks again to Mary Young who birthed this idea a year ago, Jady Koch and the folks at St. Francis, and our outstanding teachers/speakers, Elizabeth and Stephen Tweed.

Please enjoy a couple more photos from the evening portion plus you’ll find the invaluable handout with contact information at the end.

Left to Right:  Bill and Sherry Leavell with Mary and Michael Young

Left to right:  John, Stephen, Elizabeth and Yours Truly

Do try these Seven “F’s” with your spouse (click the link to be taken to a printable version).

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Conferences, Life Lessons

What Every Grandmother Needs…

Friends!  Whether you’re already a grandmother or have a friend who’s a grandmother, I’ve got just the book for you and/or for you to give to a friend.

I discovered this book thanks to my sis-in-love, Margee, who gifted me with it when our little Claire Elizabeth was born. The book?  A Grandmother’s Prayers—60 Days of Devotions and Prayer by Kay Swatkowski.

Not only was the book new to me, so was the author, Kay Swatkowski.  I’m already a huge fan of her ideas and creative writing, plus I discovered her blog:  www.americangrandma.com which also offers a wide variety of information.

The book includes sixty devotions.  Each is short, including five parts:

1 – Kay opens with a story which illustrates the point of that day’s devotion.

2 – “Let us pray that…” This part offers points to pray about related to the story along with a Scripture to bring that point home.

3 – A prayer to help us apply this idea into our lives with our grandchildren.

4 – “Think and Do”:  This part includes questions to get us thinking about how to incorporate the devotion’s idea into our lives, sometimes a Scripture to look up and sometimes a children’s book is recommended.  (I grinned after Kay recommended children’s books by Max Lucado on more than one day.  This is yet another reason she and I could be big buddies. Bigger smile.)

I’ve made quite a list of books purely from Kay’s recommendations to look into for reading to Claire and our future grands, Lord willing. (This may be a bit of an investment!)  Kay gives a brief snippet of each book she recommends for younger and older children.

Here are just a few:

 

Bedtime Blessings by John Trent

Just in Case You Ever Wonder, The Crippled Lamb, and The Christmas Child by Max Lucado

God is With You by Larry Libby

My Friend Jesus by Kathryn Slattery

Too Small to Ignore by Wes Stafford

The Lord’s Prayer by Rick Warren

A Child’s Look at the 23rd Psalm by W. Phillip Keller

A children’s adaptation of Les Miserables by Monica Kulling

The Priest with Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul

She also recommends reading missionary stories of Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor, and Jim Elliot.

5Each devotion closes with several Scriptures to reinforce its’ focus.  Each entry is empowering and encouraging for us grandparents to boldly press on praying for our precious grandchildren.

Kay opens the book with a charge of sorts:

“Research reveals that the love and care of the older generation has a positive impact on children in many ways.

One study found a definite link between grandparent involvement and adolescent well-being.

Grandparents provide  not only affection and support, but also wisdom, problem-solving, and stability during times of family crisis…

GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH US.

WE HAVE A CRITICAL JOB TO DO.”

As God would orchestrate, when our whole family was at the beach in South Carolina in July, I opened Kay’s book to “Day Thirty:  The Sea.”  There I was, on a deck overlooking the ocean while Kay talks about us  being drawn to the sea.

All I have to do is see the sea and my soul begins to stir.  I recharge by the sea better than any other place on this earth.

Kay reminds us, “Our God is a Sea of limitless love and forgiveness. He is a Sea of acceptance and mercy. He is a Sea of strength and comfort…”

When the tide was out, walks on the beach allowed us to tote Claire along in her stroller.

Even this poor guy, having lost an eye and a claw, strolled the beach!

This particular morning, Diana and I started out with Claire in her Baby Bjorn.  It was so hot, Claire immediately fell asleep.  We decided to ditch the walk and grab an iced coffee in the air-conditioned shops.  Certain the whipped cream smothering that coffee was walked off from our other beach walks???

This year’s family vacation not only included the beach, but our new little beach baby.  Please note the wee bit of attention Baby Claire received from all of us:

In the devotional’s closing on the sea, Kay gives several Scriptures to pray, my favorite of which is:

“Let us pray that our children will have the delight of leading their children to an understanding of the deep love of God and of becoming part of one endless line of faith until Christ returns.” (3 John 1:4)

Amen and Amen.

 

Thanks to the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Charleston, South Carolina for a week of fun for our entire family…What a blessing!

Til next time!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Grandchildren, Travel

She Speaks Conference Equips Over 700 Women in Charlotte, NC…

Friends!  Any of y’all interested in writing or speaking?  Pray about attending next year’s She Speaks Conference, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries (www.proverbs31.org). I had so much fun at the most recent one on July 21st and 22nd, in Charlotte, NC, I just have to share some tidbits with you…

Whether you’ve written a book or are contemplating writing one, or have been speaking various places and think God is calling you to do more speaking, She Speaks is the conference to attend. (7/26-28 are the dates for 2018.)

Due to some perfecto peer pressure a/k/a strong suggestions from my friend, Liz, I signed up for this year’s conference. Not knowing a soul except for Liz Curtis Higgs who would be teaching two workshops and speaking for one of the Main Sessions, I prayed I’d meet some fun friends.  God was gracious.

The morning of registration, I immediately met two gals, one from Wheaton, IL and one from Naples, FL.  We were all three newbies. We had crazy fun connections and promptly agreed to meet up for every meal, sharing tidbits from our workshops.

My new friend, Dawn, and I posed by the She Speaks sign near Registration.  This was a popular photo opp, all of us dumping our book bags which amazingly no one tripped over.

The challenge of the conference was which workshop to sign up for as each one sounded better than the next. Just as an example, here are the ones I took:

“Creating Biblical Content to Engage Your Reader”

“Storytelling on the Page and the Stage”

“Creating a Message That is Powerful, Memorable, and Life Changing”

“How a Small-Time Blogger Can Actually Get a Book Contract”

“60 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Speaker”

“Study Strategies for Teaching Scripture”

The above are a glimpse of the many, many, many workshops offered, plus each attendee had the opportunity to attend Four Main Sessions over the two days with these top-notch speakers:

Pastor Chris Hodges

Chris kicked off the conference Friday morning with a powerful message from Exodus 28 and 29, called “Dress for Success.”  His connection with the Proverbs 31 gals is a sweet one:  One of his children is married to one of Lysa TerKeurst’s children.

Chrystal Evans Hurst is a  fireball like her Dad, Tony Evans, and her sister, Priscilla Shirer. Chrystal equipped us Friday night to take care of ourselves in order to be better used by God. Her stories of biking across the Golden Gate Bridge numerous times were priceless. Some trips were more successful than others, as in “let’s not bleed to death in the process.” (A trip over the handlebars brought about that illustration.)

Sometimes we need to slow down! Rest is a form of worship!

Chrystal also gifted us with several Scriptures, my favorite being:

She closed with, “Be true to your journey, it is enough.”  Amen.

Whitney Capps  was a wonderful wake-up call Saturday morning after many of us had had a sleepless night due to the power going out in our area.  Hotel rooms defined dark and became stuffy hot without the air conditioning.

Whitney remarked that Satan is always trying to thwart her efforts for her messages and this time was no exception…  Seems a snake crawled down into one of the substations and nibbled on some high voltage equipment, causing damage enough to knock out the electricity in a huge grid most of the night.  This included our hotels plus 14,000 other households.  Come on, now!

Here’s the pic the local paper ran:

He looks way too friendly.

Good news is the conference went on as planned, coffee was at the ready, and Whitney preached a meaningful message on “Six Reasons Your Church Needs You.” Thank you, Lord.

Liz Curtis Higgs closed out the conference Saturday night with a bang, working our tear ducts overtime from laughter one minute, to moving testimonials the next.  A few of my favorite quotes from her are:

“Minister to those who are in front of you. Don’t count numbers, because everyone counts to God.”

On writing, Liz encouraged us with, “If He knows every word we are going to say, surely He knows every word we’re going to write.” And I LOVE this:  “You don’t have to write THE best book, you just have to write YOUR best book.”

Obviously, take-home value was at a premium.

One of many bonuses we attendees received was the opportunity to sign up for cd’s of other workshops we weren’t able to attend.  Incredible resources!

Saturday afternoon I rode up the elevator with a gal who had attended this conference the previous year.  She said this year’s conference was so different.  I was astonished because the number of workshops and their variety causes one to wonder how you could keep changing it up?

The brainchild of Lysa TerKeurst, She Speaks ran like a top. Lysa’s beyond blessed to have such a sweet and compassionate team who somehow took all seven hundred of us under their wings!

Here are a few other workshops I also wanted to take but couldn’t squeeze into my two days:

“Writing a Bio That Gets You Hired”

“The Verses That Keep Me Up at Night:  The Risks and Responsibilities of the Christian Writer”

“Creating Your Book Proposal from a Marketing Perspective”

“Guarding Your Capacity to Pace Your Race”

“Finding Soul Rest in the Midst of Busyness”

“How to Write When You Have Kids”

And there were more!

Another bonus of She Speaks was the amazing worship offered before each of the Main Sessions.  Worship  was led by the worship team from Elevation Church in Charlotte.  (www.elevationworship.com )

They were incredible, opening the conference with my current favorite song:  What a Beautiful Name.  Another song they sang I learned they also wrote:  O Come to the Altar.  You can imagine the effect of 700+ gals singing their hearts out.  The Holy Spirit filled the room to its’ brim.

One exciting discovery was learning about the “First 5” app available FOR FREE to us all.  (Go to:  www.first5.org ) Many gals I met were familiar with this app and were “regulars”.  Its’ premise is we all need to plant our faces in Scripture the first five minutes of every day.

The First 5 teachers and writers taught different workshops. It was a blast to meet them and hear from them up close.  They were most gracious in sharing their various methods, all of these gals wise beyond their years.

We attendees also had the opportunity to sign up to meet with publishers and agents.  These were offered on a first-come basis.

She Speaks had about twenty-five people (publishers and agents) to choose from, of which I had to pick five, and of those five, they’d pick two.  How they orchestrated all of this made my head spin.  We each had fifteen minutes for our meetings which evaporated like fifteen seconds.  This was an invaluable experience.

At one point in the worship, as the conference was about to close, I thought, “What if all seven hundred of us goes home, ready to be used by God for God to reach so many for the Kingdom?  What if?”  That’s my prayer for all of us and for any of you considering such an opportunity.

‘Til next time!

 

Liz and I sat together Friday night when Chrystal spoke.

 

 

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Filed under Author Interviews, Conferences, Scripture, Travel