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Who’s in Your Balcony? (Encouraging book: “Balcony People” by Joyce Landorf Heatherley)

Friends! This is a post I’m bringing back from three years ago, its’ concept of being a “balcony person” well worth repeating should you have missed it. I pray you’re blessed by it.

Enjoy!


Oh, the days of cheerleading.

Peer pressure at its’ peak.

Mine peaked in Middle School as we know it now.  In my school days, (when we had to walk a mile in the snow to school) we attended “Junior High”, which included sixth thru’ ninth grades.

Seemingly every girl in eighth or ninth grade tried out for cheerleading.

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Clueless, I signed up.

What, pray tell, had I gotten myself into?  We had to attend several practice clinics.  Quickly, try-outs were upon us.

Bad-n-sad memories of not making it in eighth grade surface.  Oh, but then came ninth grade and by some miracle, I made it.  You haven’t “made it” ‘til you make the cheerleading squad.  Or, at least that’s what appeared to be true.

Shallow, naïve, junior-higher that I was, our new cheerleading squad became my new friends.  Dumping my old friends for girls I didn’t even know was my “M.O.”   Horrors.

We quickly learned new cheers, cheering for football and basketball games.  Humorous given I had no knowledge of sports, much less which cheer to do, etc.  Follower…Very insecure follower.

So, had I known of the concept we’ll discuss today, that of “Balcony People”, I’d have told you my tally was a big, round, fat zero.  Oh, but wait ‘til you see how many we have!!! Hang with me…

One of my favorite gifts I received for Christmas this past year, a must-read, is Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherley.   Joyce has the gift of opening your eyes to people in your life.  She talks about people with the gift of affirmation: Those who go around affirming others, not dragging them down.

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Those dragging you down are known as  “evaluators”, also known as “basement people”.  Know any of these?  Making a mental list?

“Basement people” spew snide remarks such as, “you’ll never make it…you can’t do that…”, inflicting judgment, damage, and unnecessary critiques.  Note the lower location of this moniker. (!!!)

One woman wrote to Joyce and asked, “Please keep reminding us how much God loves us.  We need that love, not the constant judgment we pour on ourselves.”

We got a large dose of judgment last week (check out “When Grace Rescues You From Judgment”), so this week we’ll discover “Balcony People”.

Joyce asks, “Who is the special affirmer who catches quick glimpses of the flames from the fires of your potential and tells you so?  Who, by his or her words, helps you to respect and believe in your own value as a person?”  We can dub these sweet souls our personal cheerleaders.

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Joyce douses any doubt you may have should you think you don’t have any affirmers.  She said, “I have known only a few genuine affirmers, but one affirmer is worth a thousand evaluators.”

She adds, “The need for affirming one another is crucial to our process of becoming real, not phony or hypocritical, people of God.  Affirming brings authenticity and credibility to our faith as it is lived day by day…Otherwise, we miss one of the main concepts of the Holy Scriptures—to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens.”

These affirmers, or “Balcony  People”, “practically hang over the rail, cheering us on.  As you begin to think of who in your life may be in your balcony, you’ll find it fun to discover these people do not have to be alive.” Do you love that?

One of Joyce’s friends shared his list of Balcony People: Number One:  The Lord (think about THAT!!!),  Paul the Apostle, and David the Psalmist, for starters.  Joyce added Peter the Apostle as well as her Mother who had also gone Heavenward to her list.

One aspect I love from Joyce is she includes her children on her list.  I’d like to think our boys and their wives are in my balcony.  That completely warms my heart.  You?

I have to say my biggest cheerleader/balcony person is my husband, John.  Love is blind comes to mind, God bless him.  (Kidding.  Sorta.)  Amazing grace.

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Jumping backwards to Middle School or Junior High, I can tell you I was not in my Mother’s balcony.  I gave her enough trouble to bond with her “basement people”  for years.  Awful.  By the same token if you have middle schoolers right now, never fear, for they will mature to cheer you on later.  Pray hard.

Joyce gives us one of my all-time favorite verses:  Hebrews 12:1 “telling us to run with patience (and perseverance) the race that’s set before us ‘since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands’”.

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With that in mind, here’s the kicker to this whole concept of “Balcony People”…

Joyce admits, “Listing the people who were in my balcony, I concluded, was only half of what should be written.  So I got out another sheet of paper and put down all the names of people to whom I’d be a “balcony person.”  She continues, “It was time to concentrate on my balcony people and on being a balcony person to others.”  Whoa.  That turns the tables a tad, huh?

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Taken from Liz Curtis Higgs Facebook page, “‘The Choir’ by Ofra Zimbalista, three life-size statues made of painted aluminum in 1995. You can almost hear them singing…”

Joyce teaches us to look for and cultivate the following three traits of a “Balcony Person”:

1 – “They Love.”

2 – “They Listen.”

3 – “They Care from the Heart.”

Joyce directs us to the entire sixteenth chapter of Romans where Paul is cheering numerous people onward.  Joyce calls it the “Biblical ‘balcony person’ passage.”  She says her “favorite balcony motto from Paul is ‘whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.’” (I Corinthians 16:14)

When Jesus was juggling the disciples’ arguments over who was the greatest among them in Luke 9, He gave them the formula, as Joyce calls it, “for being the best manYour care for others is the measure of your greatness.”

 

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In closing, Joyce shares a memory of her grandson being very fearful of an unknown noise:  A big garbage truck screeched to a halt in front of their house.  Joyce said, “James looked up to her yelling, ‘Hug! Hug!’ And the look on his face screamed, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”  She added, “I remember reaching down for him and wallpapering his little body to my chest.”  Precious…

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From that experience, she paralleled the noisy “pandemonium of this evil world making us desperate to be:

Hugged,

Rescued

Home safe…

We are shouting through our panic, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”

Then she poses, “What is the frightening noise in your life?…

Is it the noise of:

Cancer

Divorce

Rejection

Discouragement

Depression

Loneliness…?

Whatever is pounding loudly in your mind, your body, or your soul,

LET ME BE YOUR BALCONY PERSON.

LET ME HUG YOU WITH MY WORDS.

LET ME WALLPAPER YOUR SOUL TO MINE.”

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Joyce reminds us of the Apostle Paul’s words:  “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own.” (Check out the whole passage:  Ephesians 1:4-14)

Joyce further encourages: “You and I are His children.   I believe in you.  I’m leaning way, way over your balcony railing; I’m waving my coat above my head, and I’m yelling above the frightening noises of your world, You can do it!  Keep at it!  Keep on!  God’s here beside me; yes that’s right, He’s here, and He’s not sitting down.  YOU  are His child, He is YOUR Father.  and we are BOTH in your balcony cheering YOU on together!”

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I pray this concept of Balcony People has encouraged you…

Who’s in your balcony?

Whose balcony are you in?

May God guide us all to be more attentive to those whose paths we cross.

‘Til next time!

 

 

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Ding Dong, the Snake is DEAD…(Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist by Amanda Jenkins: A must-read!)

Forever attempting to play Beat-the-Clock, our wild-child-dog and I dashed out the door for an uber quick walk.  Knowing I had to be on the road in nine-point-five minutes, time was a wastin’.

Cell phone ringing while Gracie was sniffing something, (what’s new?), I answered  the phone.  Further inspection into her antics revealed a brown pile of something.  Nope, don’t go there, it was a coiled up somethingAs in brown-with-white-designs-looking-potentially-posionous-something….As in piles-n-piles of SNAKE!!!!

Close up of the bright, big and colorful anaconda snake

Shrieking loud enough to raise the dead, I jerked poor Gracie by her leash and we evaporated outta there.  Goosebumps and the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up, I yelled, “Thank you, Lord, that snake didn’t attack us!”  Then I looked down at my feet, and said it again as I realized my flip-flops would not have been a great attack mode had I needed to crush his head

Next move was to call in the troops.  Sadly John Jr. was not closeby, while hubster John was in a doctor’s appointment across town.   Now what? John reassured me he’d take a look at it in about three hours.  Certain the snake would find its’ way thru’ our yard, and probably into our home, I did what any respectable, terrified, paranoid and perfectionistic housewife would do and quickly vacated the premises.

Indiana Jones I’m not, but what I am, and I predict you will be too, is completely tickled and blessed and encouraged by a fabulous book I recently picked up.  Run, don’t walk to your nearest book store and grab this:  Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free by Amanda Jenkins.

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Amanda spills the beans.  Beans you and I often think, but probably would not print.  (Oh, I think we could sooo be her girlfriends!)  She confesses her perfectionistic tendencies all of us control freaks possess.

Two mistakes she begins with include:

Falling into comparison traps, and

Turning to the One and only One who is flawless, our Lord, as a last resort rather than a first one….Anybody beside me relating to this???

Why do we keep forgetting I Peter 1:24-25 which says, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field.  The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (NLT)

Amanda says, “How sad it must be for Him to see us clinging to false hope and worshiping at the altar of pretty.”  Oh yeah, been there…

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One of the many reasons Amanda gives us readers to live in Christ’s freedom is:  “…believing I’m a masterpiece is the first step toward being okay with my aging, imperfect self.”

Here’s another Scripture to soak in:  “I pray that YOU, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that YOU may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Amanda brings this Scripture right into our hearts:  “It’s not enough to know we’re loved.  God wants us to be rooted and established in His love—to be anchored and defined by it, and to see the world thru’ its lens.  Wrapping our minds around God’s enormous, indescribable, beautiful love for us in Jesus is the key to being happy with the way we’ve been made.” 

Key to life, Conceptual photo. On color wooden background

In addition to being vulnerable with us readers, Amanda is killer funny.  When she confesses about praising God as an afterthought, or making her to-do lists during church (Oops, please do not read my bulletin!), she says, “If I were God, I’d break up with me.” 

Amanda walks us thru’ more challenges:  Contentment (ouch) and Relationships.  These are excellent chapters you don’t want to miss.  Parenting (including the possession of the “worry gene”!!!)  is also included, which aids us weary warriors with more advice and Scripture, a favorite of which is pure bliss:

Psalm 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”  Amanda encourages, “Only the image of God standing over me and my loved ones, covering us with His shadow, does the trick.”

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Savor this on parenting:

“Only in the arms of Jesus will I find peace, knowing my precious little people are well looked after.

Only in the arms of Jesus will I be able to discern how to pray the prayers that need to be prayed.

And only in the arms of Jesus will he change my heart, bringing me to the place where I can accept His sovereign will.

I’ll never be a perfect parent, but I’m learning to be a praying parent.”

mother holding baby while praying

Another key Amanda offers is the strongest point in her book.  Straight out of Scripture (see what power the Word has?), she walks us thru’ each of the pieces of the Armor of God, found in Ephesians 6.  Verse 18 holds a key:  “Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” 

She closes with, “So the key to victory and freedom is simple:  be ready.”

Golden key in keyhole

One of my favorite things Dr. Jady Koch said at Woody and LT’s wedding a couple of weeks ago occurred just prior to the beginning of their vows.  He turned to both of them and said, “Are you ready?”

This must be our question to ponder.  Are you ready?

Are YOU ready?  

Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist would be great for book clubs or for your small Bible study group.  There are excellent discussion and Bible study questions at the end of the book for each chapter, full of ways to apply her topics and God’s Word to your life.

Finally, I happily confess I still frenetically fear snakes, always will and have no perfectionistic qualms about running from them. (No wonder one of Satan’s disguises is a slimy slithery serpent.)

Footnote to the “rest of the story”:  When John finally did get home, he went to the location I’d reported.  The snake was still there, with flies swarming over it.  Ding dong, the snake is DEAD.

‘Til  next time.

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Come with Me to France…(Managing Your Margin: Part 1 of 4)

Ahhh, a big bonjour to you, dear friends! John and I are just back from a wonderful trip to France. We were blessed to celebrate his 55th birthday and our soon-to-be-30th anniversary on a river cruise on the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.

I’ll be sharing highlights from our trip with you as we spend the month of May managing our margins (oh yes, I’ll explain), which translates into a huge benefit for our health and well-being.

The below photo was taken on a night-time walking tour in Bordeaux…

john and eliz in Bordeaux

It occurred to me, while on vacation, where one would certainly hope to have mega-margin, we still may not have any due to our over-worked and frazzled brains. Our world tends to encourage us to never shut down.

I love the Speed Bump comic where the Mom comes in and proclaims to her daughter, “There aren’t many nice days left—why don’t you go outside and text?” Sad, but true…..

Social media icons on smartphone

Unbelievably, while en France, I did manage to shut my cell phone down for eleven days! (Granted John’s phone stayed on, so we could call home, and I could get emails on my iPad, so don’t be too impressed, but you get the idea…)

My new favorite awe-inspiring, life-giving book is by Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. (It came highly recommended.) We will learn ways to enhance not only our Sabbath, but our margin as well.

The Rest of God

I confess I’m obsessed with margin, and securing more of it. This should come highly amusing to those of you who know me. I’d say you had no idea of my obsession as I’m sorely lacking in managing my margin. Daily.

After soaking in some of Mark Buchanan’s much-needed points on Sabbath, my “aha” moment hit. We can do this together, friends!!! Mark says, “I believe the Spirit has brought us into each other’s company for just such a time as this, that together we might discover Jesus in the midst of our busyness.”

Well, what is margin? Margin is the space between our load and our limits.

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Andy Stanley, in his Bible study Take It to the Limit Study Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Life (North Point Resources) says it best: “All good things happen within margin…such as your relationships with others and God. Because we are human, we all have limits on our time, our energy, and our money. So, if we push our limits, spreading ourselves too thin, we push out God. Therefore, deleting any margin we may have had.” (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!)

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Anybody good at spreading themselves too thin? ‘Tis one of my terrible “talents”…as my crammed calendar can testify. Sigh…

On our trip to France, however, we had no agenda. We simply did most of what Viking offered, which were wonderfully educational and enlightening experiences, beautiful scenery, and meeting fun people from all over the world.

Our ship’s Chef delighted us foodies with homemade soups, sauces, fresh seafood, steaks, lamb, bread, a boatload of butter (pun intended), a wide variety of cheeses, and desserts-to-die-for. Think of these meals for lunch and dinner, not to mention melt-in-your-mouth-clog-your-arteries Eggs Benedict for breakfast!!!

chocolate mousse and coffee

This was a favorite dessert served after lunch one day at Chateau Siaurac: chocolate mousse, a petite cookie and hot coffee. What a presentation!

While we did stroll thru’ the towns of Bordeaux, Paulliac, Blaye, Bourg, Libourne, St. Emilion and Arcachon, strolling is the operative word. Boat Blobs would be the end result.

We had glorious days to soak in the French culture, walking the cobblestone streets while viewing twelfth and thirteenth century churches. (Next week, we’ll also talk about the breath-taking countryside.)

Tower in St Emilion

This is the bell tower in St. Emilion

Back to the book, Mark lays out the importance of Sabbath, the gift of Sabbath and the challenge of Sabbath. Choosing to experience the Sabbath equals managing your margin.

For all you cat and dog lovers out there, Mark reminisces from his childhood days when his parents had multitudes of cats. He said they all would find warm, sunny spots in their home to curl up for a long winter’s nap. Our dog, Gracie, is also quite adept at this:

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kitty on roof

This little cat (if you can spot her!) chose to sun herself on a roof in Blaye, France…

Visually and poetically gifted as a writer, Mark offers this image after the cat nap story: “I think of Sabbath as a patch of sunlight falling thru’ a window on a winter’s day…In it, you can lie down and rest. From it, you can rise up and go—stronger, lighter, ready to work again with vigor and a clear mind.”

Mark confesses he was purpose-driven to a fault. He said he once went  forty days straight without taking a day off. (Never mind he’s a pastor!) He was squandering time. Bitter, impatient, easily irritable, and worse character traits suddenly crept into his soul causing all of his relationships to suffer. He realized, “I learned to keep Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.” 

Running Out Of Time

Mark gives us several ways to understand Sabbath: “Sabbath imparts the rest of God: practical, physical, mental and spiritual rest…but also the rest of God: the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” His goal for us readers is: ”to awaken in yourself wonder and expectancy, that Sabbath in the long-run is as essential to your well-being as food and water.”

We must look at Sabbath in two ways, also a key to managing your margin:

–         Set apart portions of a day, working up to an entire day: Realize it’s a gift from God, not something to feel guilty about. If an entire day is too extreme for you, start out slowly. (*See end of post for ideas.)

–         Sabbath is also an attitude: A Sabbath heart “is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God.” And don’t miss this warning: “You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.”

Lovely little girl playing with red heart shaped balloon

One Scripture I’m always drawn to is Jesus’ invitation to us all: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The Life Application Bible says, “The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose.” 

The ESV Study Bible says, “Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. ..The wider application is that Jesus provides ‘rest for our souls’(v. 29)—that is eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.” 

Enjoy these pictures of doors from all over France.  When thinking of an invitation, especially at Jesus’ prompting,  how lovely to enter via a beautiful door…


cool door in st emilion

black iron door w topiaries

picturesque door in Blaye

fancy wooden door in paris

teal and brass ornate door

Wooden Door w brass knobs and lion heads

maison du commander door

 

So, for any of us who are tired and worn out, this is not God-intended. What can we do this week to manage our margin? (*No need to stress over jumping in to a full day, start out slowly…)

Take a walk

Take a nap

Sip and savor a cup of coffee or tea

Read

Meditate on God’s Word

Go for a bike ride

Listen to music

Garden

Pray

Call a friend for no reason

Write a hand-written letter

REST!

Luxembourg Gardens

On one of our days walking thru’ Paris, (we had three nights there after the river cruise) John and I happened upon the Luxembourg Gardens. While it rained off and on that day, we were blessed to have clear skies and sit and rest and enjoy the beauty of the gardens, children playing with boats, people having a picnic, etc. Pure margin!

We’ve just barely touched the tip of the Sabbath/Margin iceberg. More to follow this month when  I’ll take you to more picturesque scenes from France.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with our last day’s adventure to the resort town of Arcachon. Oyster fishermen were plentiful and John and I tasted our very first raw oyster!

Forever fearful of these marvelous molluscs, I emphatically stated, “Well, we certainly can’t come all the way to this seaside town in France and hurt the feelings of this brave oyster fisherman, now then, can we???”

oyster farmer explains to our guide

Without further ado, our group very bravely sucked-n-swallowed the salty, slimy things, fully doused with lemon juice, followed by a large slice of bread and salty butter. No problem… (Note John is quite triumphant while I opened my mouth as wide as possible in hopes I wouldn’t taste it so much….Crazy tourists….)

John Swallows an oyster

Eliz eating oyster

Our moments of margin that day were on the boat ride across the beautiful bay. Our French-speaking captain showed us the oyster beds and the remarkable high, high sand dunes near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. This was truly a lovely, soul-replenishing day.

arcachon

Sand Dunes and oysters

(These sand dunes are the largest in Europe. They are so tall, there are stairs you can climb to the top which is about 360 feet. It’s about 9 football fields wide and 1.86 miles long and get this: it moves about 16 feet a year! Incroyable!!!)

I pray our journey thru’ Mark Buchanan’s book will bless you and afford you a little more time to rest, savor the Sabbath, and manage your margin.

‘Til next time!

This week’s post is dedicated to all you Moms. Grandmothers, and Great Grandmothers out there with Mother’s Day fast approaching. May you find some moments of margin and savor the Sabbath. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Let’s Learn More about Heaven and Angels…(To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD will fascinate you and give you hope!) -Part 1 of 2-

Any of you adventure-lovers out there???

Anybody love to go white-water rafting?

My first and ultra-frightening experience with white-water rapids occurred while attending tennis camp. (Makes perfect sense…) My roomie and I were canoe partners and the counselors advised, “Now there are three sets of rapids on this river. Be on the lookout…”

Wonderful. No instruction. No advice. Nothing. (Never mind we campers were wee campers too!)

Sport oars

We successfully went thru’ the first set of rapids…Backwards. Somehow we managed to finish in one piece, without capsizing, famished for lunch (perish the thought we miss a meal), and off we went to tackle another tennis lesson, unscathed. God was gracious.

I do recall making a mental note to not pursue any more rapids in a canoe. Even a calm creek flipped me out years later with hubby John and two of our three boys. Somehow I managed to get us stuck in the middle of five huge boulders. Hello?

Onward!!! After receiving several recommendations to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story by Mary C. Neal, MD, I snatched it up and began reading.

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Mary has a knack for building and maintaining suspense while increasing the reader’s heartbeat! Oh, and right back to white-water rapids we go….only this time, Mary is the captain, solo, in a kayak. “While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged.”

 

To complicate matters, this didn’t happen in the United States. Mary and her husband Bill, were with friends who are experienced guides, on the Los Rios River in southern Chile. (Keep in mind they are both orthopaedic surgeons!!!)

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Once the group realized Mary was missing, one of the gals timed how long it took to find her. (Some say anywhere from 15-30 minutes, underwater, with no oxygen.).

Frightened and in a panic, her friends were able to bring her out of the river, onto the beach. Mary’s body was blue and she was not breathing. Tom, Kenneth and Chad Long immediately began the resuscitation process.

Some in their group tried to dissuade the rescue attempt, claiming Mary would be a vegetable, having gone so long without oxygen. But Mary was the Long’s friend, thus they doggedly prayed and begged Mary to breathe.

Meanwhile, Mary tells us after her body was pulled by the current out of her boat, all the while under water, both of her knee bones broke. Even more astonishing, she said she felt no pain and felt her soul leave her body.

Mary said, “I rose up and out of the river, and when my soul broke thru’ the surface of the water, I encountered a group of fifteen to twenty souls (human spirits sent by God) who greeted me with the most overwhelming joy I’ve ever experienced and could ever imagine…Their brilliance was both blinding and invigorating.

dark sky with sun and beautiful clouds

As she’s seeing what seemed to be Heaven, she could still hear the Longs calling for her, yelling at her to breathe. She returned to her body three different times to take a breath.

However, she didn’t want to leave the love, joy, and peace of Heaven and being with Jesus. She said, “I knew with absolute certainty that I was being held and comforted by Jesus.” What hope!

Finally, one of the spirits or angels tells her it is not yet her time and she must return to earth. Upon her return, you cannot begin to fathom Mary and Bill’s arduous trip back to the States, the reunion with their four young children, and her long road to recovery. Don’t miss these details!

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A couple more hope-filled tidbits: while still in the hospital, Mary realized her vision wasn’t quite right. Yet with blurred vision, she pressed on to read a Bible in her room. She “proceeded to look for verses about gaining strength, looking to the Psalms.”

Three favorites are journal worthy:

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)

Psalm 91:15 “When you call to me, I will answer you. I will be with you when you are in trouble. I will save you and honor you.” (God’s Word)

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (NRS)

One verse in particular was crystal clear to her: I Thessalonians 5:16 – “Rejoice always.” (ESV)

Mary believes this was “a directive from God.” She said, “I thought about the fact that a joyful heart and a joyful spirit are important to God…Joy is clearly different than happiness. It is not based on circumstances. Joy is a state of mind and a state of being. It reflects a conscious choice to believe in the promises of the Bible.”

peace, love and joy word abstract - a collage of isolated text i

The next verse, later that day, became clear to Mary’s vision:  I Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” (ESV) She adds, “It instructs us that we should live a life of prayer, continuously offering silent prayers with every breath we take, and listening for God’s leading.”

The last verse she was able to see was: I Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)

As God would orchestrate, these three verses in I Thessalonians 5 were all Mary was able to read. Everything and everyone else was blurry. She read and re-read these verses over and over.

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If you think her time in Heaven is interesting, wait ‘til you read about her encounters with Angels! She shares about several eye-opening and thought-provoking discussions. (You’ll want to share these with your loved ones.)

Next week, we’ll finish up Part Two and briefly discuss more incredible books about Heaven!

Enjoy one of many interviews with Dr. Mary Neal: (For more, checkout her website: www.DrMaryNeal.com )

‘Til next time!

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Who’s in Your Balcony? (Encouraging book: “Balcony People” by Joyce Landorf Heatherley)

Oh, the days of cheerleading.

Peer pressure at its’ peak.

Mine peaked in Middle School as we know it now.  In my school days, (when we had to walk a mile in the snow to school) we attended “Junior High”, which included sixth thru’ ninth grades.

Seemingly every girl in eighth or ninth grade tried out for cheerleading.

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Clueless, I signed up.

What, pray tell, had I gotten myself into?  We had to attend several practice clinics.  Quickly, try-outs were upon us.

Bad-n-sad memories of not making it in eighth grade surface.  Oh, but then came ninth grade and by some miracle, I made it.  You haven’t “made it” ‘til you make the cheerleading squad.  Or, at least that’s what appeared to be true.

Shallow, naïve, junior-higher that I was, our new cheerleading squad became my new friends.  Dumping my old friends for girls I didn’t even know was my “M.O.”   Horrors.

We quickly learned new cheers, cheering for football and basketball games.  Humorous given I had no knowledge of sports, much less which cheer to do, etc.  Follower…Very insecure follower.

So, had I known of the concept we’ll discuss today, that of “Balcony People”, I’d have told you my tally was a big, round, fat zero.  Oh, but wait ‘til you see how many we have!!! Hang with me…

One of my favorite gifts I received for Christmas this past year, a must-read, is Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherley.   Joyce has the gift of opening your eyes to people in your life.  She talks about people with the gift of affirmation: Those who go around affirming others, not dragging them down.

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Those dragging you down are known as  “evaluators”, also known as “basement people”.  Know any of these?  Making a mental list?

“Basement people” spew snide remarks such as, “you’ll never make it…you can’t do that…”, inflicting judgment, damage, and unnecessary critiques.  Note the lower location of this moniker. (!!!)

One woman wrote to Joyce and asked, “Please keep reminding us how much God loves us.  We need that love, not the constant judgment we pour on ourselves.”

We got a large dose of judgment last week (check out “When Grace Rescues You From Judgment”), so this week we’ll discover “Balcony People”.

Joyce asks, “Who is the special affirmer who catches quick glimpses of the flames from the fires of your potential and tells you so?  Who, by his or her words, helps you to respect and believe in your own value as a person?”  We can dub these sweet souls our personal cheerleaders.

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Joyce douses any doubt you may have should you think you don’t have any affirmers.  She said, “I have known only a few genuine affirmers, but one affirmer is worth a thousand evaluators.”

She adds, “The need for affirming one another is crucial to our process of becoming real, not phony or hypocritical, people of God.  Affirming brings authenticity and credibility to our faith as it is lived day by day…Otherwise, we miss one of the main concepts of the Holy Scriptures—to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens.”

These affirmers, or “Balcony  People”, “practically hang over the rail, cheering us on.  As you begin to think of who in your life may be in your balcony, you’ll find it fun to discover these people do not have to be alive.” Do you love that?

One of Joyce’s friends shared his list of Balcony People: Number One:  The Lord (think about THAT!!!),  Paul the Apostle, and David the Psalmist, for starters.  Joyce added Peter the Apostle as well as her Mother who had also gone Heavenward to her list.

One aspect I love from Joyce is she includes her children on her list.  I’d like to think our boys are in my balcony.  That completely warms my heart.  You?

I have to say my biggest cheerleader/balcony person is my husband, John.  Love is blind comes to mind, God bless him.  (Kidding.  Sorta.)  Amazing grace.

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Jumping backwards to Middle School or Junior High, I can tell you I was not in my Mother’s balcony.  I gave her enough trouble to bond with her “basement people”  for years.  Awful.  By the same token if you have middle schoolers right now, never fear, for they will mature to cheer you on later.  Pray hard.

Joyce gives us one of my all-time favorite verses:  Hebrews 12:1 “telling us to run with patience (and perseverance) the race that’s set before us ‘since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands’”.

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With that in mind, here’s the kicker to this whole concept of “Balcony People”…

Joyce admits, “Listing the people who were in my balcony, I concluded, was only half of what should be written.  So I got out another sheet of paper and put down all the names of people to whom I’d be a “balcony person.”  She continues, “It was time to concentrate on my balcony people and on being a balcony person to others.”  Whoa.  That turns the tables a tad, huh?

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Taken from Liz Curtis Higgs Facebook page, “‘The Choir’ by Ofra Zimbalista, three life-size statues made of painted aluminum in 1995. You can almost hear them singing…”

Joyce teaches us to look for and cultivate the following three traits of a “Balcony Person”:

1 – “They Love.”

2 – “They Listen.”

3 – “They Care from the Heart.”

Joyce directs us to the entire sixteenth chapter of Romans where Paul is cheering numerous people onward.  Joyce calls it the “Biblical ‘balcony person’ passage.”  She says her “favorite balcony motto from Paul is ‘whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.’” (I Corinthians 16:14)

When Jesus was juggling the disciples’ arguments over who was the greatest among them in Luke 9, He gave them the formula, as Joyce calls it, “for being the best manYour care for others is the measure of your greatness.”

 

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In closing, Joyce shares a memory of her grandson being very fearful of an unknown noise:  A big garbage truck screeched to a halt in front of their house.  Joyce said, “James looked up to her yelling, ‘Hug! Hug!’ And the look on his face screamed, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”  She added, “I remember reaching down for him and wallpapering his little body to my chest.”  Precious…

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From that experience, she paralleled the noisy “pandemonium of this evil world making us desperate to be:

Hugged,

Rescued

Home safe…

We are shouting through our panic, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”

Then she poses, “What is the frightening noise in your life?…

Is it the noise of:

Cancer

Divorce

Rejection

Discouragement

Depression

Loneliness…?

Whatever is pounding loudly in your mind, your body, or your soul,

LET ME BE YOUR BALCONY PERSON.

LET ME HUG YOU WITH MY WORDS.

LET ME WALLPAPER YOUR SOUL TO MINE.”

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Joyce reminds us of the Apostle Paul’s words:  “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own.” (Check out the whole passage:  Ephesians 1:4-14)

Joyce further encourages: “You and I are His children.   I believe in you.  I’m leaning way, way over your balcony railing; I’m waving my coat above my head, and I’m yelling above the frightening noises of your world, You can do it!  Keep at it!  Keep on!  God’s here beside me; yes that’s right, He’s here, and He’s not sitting down.  YOU  are His child, He is YOUR Father.  and we are BOTH in your balcony cheering YOU on together!”

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I pray this concept of Balcony People has encouraged you…

Who’s in your balcony?

Whose balcony are you in?

May God guide us all to be more attentive to those whose paths we cross.

‘Til next time!

(This post is dedicated to Kristen Sauder.  She went to be with Jesus on Wednesday, January 22nd.  She was a balcony person to countless souls.  She pressed on and I know she is now cheering us on side-by-side with our Lord.  If you’d like encouraging words to endure our brief time on this earth, I have two websites for you.

Bob Rusell preached the eulogy at Kristen’s funeral.  An excerpt of it can be read from his blog entry from January 26th.  Go to:  www.bobrussell.org

Kyle Idleman preached on “How to Make a Difference” in the “It’s Not Too Late” series, also this past Sunday, January 26th.  He showed a clip of Kristen filmed just a few weeks before she died.  She’s encouraging all of us to make the most of our time left.  Go to:  www.southeastchristian.org and go to “sermons”, then click on the one from 1/25-26.  Grab some Kleenex before you do….)

 

 

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What Kind of Friend Are You? Faithful or Flaky? (Part 1 of 3)

“Depends on the minute, the hour, and the day…”  is how I’d answer.  Not such a swell response…Flaky comes to mind…

How  ‘bout you?  Would you say you’re a faithful friend (Think Winnie the Pooh), or a flaky one (Who could ignore Eeyore?)???

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Indulge me in two amazing, inspirational stories of friendship.   We’re still following Holly Wagner’s book, God Chicks-Living Life as a 21st Century Woman.   Next in line is the Friend Chick.  (For other super fun chicks we’ve learned about, click on…Just B U, Princess, Warrior, Champion…)

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If we could jump into a sidewalk chalk picture, a la Mary Poppins, we’d take our first plunge into a busy street scene in New York City….many moons ago…

My Aunt June and Uncle Mac lived in Englewood, New Jersey, right across the George Washington Bridge from New York City.  Mac was a tax attorney on Wall Street.  June was an amazing mother to my cousin Russ as well as a Housewife, faithful churchgoer, fan of the theater, fan of the Opera, and life in general. She knew no strangers.

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My favorite story about their marriage, besides their mutual love of travel (They actually lived in Paris for several years!), was that many nights a week you could find them in their basement playing ping-pong!  Quite a sight to behold given Mac’s six-foot-six frame.

Realizing how much time they spent in the City, they decided to find an apartment where they could spend weekends to catch a Broadway show or attend dinner parties.  The apartment also came in handy for Mac to be able to work late.

The only place they differed in their cultural interests was the Opera.  June adored it.  Mac?  Not so much.

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June discovered an easy solution to this dilemma.  She began going to day-time performances of the Opera. It was at these events where she met an amazing woman.  Funny discovery, they shared the exact same last name:  another Mrs. McCandless!

One thing led to another and both Mrs. McCandless’ enjoyed lunches together, savored performances at the Metropolitan Opera House together, and delighted in Afternoon Tea together.  Quickly, a rich friendship blossomed.

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Opera seasons and the years flew by.  Their faithful friendship grew closer with each passing year.  Sadly, the elder Mrs. McCandless’ health began to deteriorate.  Upon her death, June and Mac were amazed to learn that Mrs. McCandless truly had no immediate family.  Her husband had passed away years before.  She left her entire estate to my Aunt June.

The elder Mrs. McCandless also had a New York apartment.  As June and Mac sifted thru’ her belongings, they kept some things and donated some things.  One lighting fixture was always a favorite of my Aunt’s.  It was a crystal chandelier.

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They had the chandelier moved to their home in New Jersey.  For some reason, they couldn’t get the fixture to operate consistently.  They had a lighting expert, whom I’ll call Joe, come and take it to be cleaned and thoroughly re-wired.

A few days later, Joe phoned June.  “Mrs. McCandless, you’d better come down here.  I want you to see something.”  Fearing he’d somehow damaged the chandelier, June jumped in her car, arriving in minutes.

“Mrs. McCandless, I’d like to show you something.  What you have, I believe, is priceless.  The crystal drops on this chandelier are signed.  This is Signature Waterford.”  Now, while my Aunt was normally the very calm, conservative, serene type, I suspect she was border-line heart attack at this announcement!  Can you fathom such a scenario?

Now please-oh-please do NOT hear me say, “Let’s make friends just so we can inherit a priceless treasure…”(Au contraire!!!),  but please DO hear me say: Pay attention to people with whom God crosses your path. God made us for relationship. He usually has a purpose in crossing your path with someone.

Always keep your heart open for friends….of ALL ages.  (You can revisit last week’s post about carrying the torch of friendship “Just Take One More Step”… regarding Champion Chicks.)  We learned via a relay illustration how we must not only pass the baton of faith to younger generations, but we must receive the baton of faith from older ones.

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While I jokingly say, “Friends are cheaper than therapy,” for many of us, it’s the truth.  Angela Hunt said, “friends are the life preserver to one’s sanity.” 

The biggest requirement for a faithful friendship to grow is the GIFT OF TIME. 

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Our challenge in today’s culture is the demands it puts on our time.  Sadly the first thing to go, many days, is our time and effort spent with a friend.  Texting has now pre-empted email which has now pre-empted phone calls.  When was the last time you received a hand written note in the mail?

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Recently I was awakened late at night by a text message.  It was from a long-time friend who I’d not seen in months.  What she wrote, in one simple sentence, would NOT be something to text someone.

For starters, it was late and secondly, this was a supremely delicate subject which really required a face-to-face conversation or a phone call at the very least. Because she is a long-time friend and I know her character, I trust she didn’t mean any harm by it.

But… my friends, it’s fair to say this is where our culture is headed.  Bottom lineBe considerate in how you handle your friends. Don’t be flaky!

I love how the Message tackles this subject:  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, EACH  WORD A GIFT.”

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The New International Version is also great: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Holly Wagner reminds us, “Friendships are not just for you, they are to help those around you. Friendships can be an avenue of hope.

Holly adds, “One way to build friendships is to show acceptance in spite of differences.”   She then expounds on the four personality types:  sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic and choleric.  (See chapter five in God Chicks.)

Carl Rogers gives us the perfect depiction of appreciating differences: “When I walk on the beach to watch the sunset, I do not call out, ‘A little more orange over to the right, please, or ‘Would you mind giving us less purple in the back?’ No, I enjoy the always-different sunsets as they are.  We’d do well to do the same with people we love.”

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May we all be purposeful in being faithful friends.  May we give grace and the Gospel, loving as Christ loved.

We will learn of another uncanny friendship involving two very different personality types AND two different generations next week.  Go hunt down some Kleenex, you’ll need it.

‘Til next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to my sweet Aunt and Uncle, June and Mac McCandless, who are already with the Lord, perhaps dancing, reading, teaching, and of course, playing ping pong! Time spent with them was always educational, fun, and enlightening.  One of June’s many gifts was handwriting a beautiful letter.  After Mac passed away, June played the role of the Matriarch of our family beautifully.  Even at 90 years of age, she had a personal trainer!  Now THAT is some positive attitude!!!  She, too, was a Champion Chick as well as a Faithful Friend Chick. And for those of you wondering the whereabouts of this incredible chandelier, it is now happily hanging in my cousin Russ’ dining room.)

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Can a Princess Really Play in a Peck of Dirt???

Spring cleaning…

What’s your reaction to the above phrase?  Do you groan, or do you smile with glee?

For me, a very audible groan emanates.  But, I have friends who have been happily spring cleaning since the new year.  They love it.  I loathe it.  IF I started cleaning today, I might be done by Christmas.  Maybe…

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Amazingly, I did tackle a porch project recently.  Everyone else was spreading mulch quite feverishly around our bushes and trees. I figured I, too, had better “do something”.  We were having a petite army over for Easter, including two newborn babies, so the dirt had to go.

Our screened-in porch hadn’t been used in months because of winter, so armed with mop, bucket, sponge, paper towels, shop vac and windex, off I went.  Thankfully the babies visiting on Easter wouldn’t be crawling yet, so I s’pose I wouldn’t have to scrub every brick on the floor.

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Oh, the dirt!  Bucket water blackened all too quickly, requiring numerous trips to the laundry room sink for fresh, clear water.  My Mother used to say, “There must be a peck of dirt out here!”  Double that, for certain. (Fun fact for you fans of “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”:  a peck is  a quarter of a bushel, or two gallons of dry weight, or ten to fourteen pounds.)

In a recent article on spring cleaning, clearly written by a fan of spring cleaning, this gal said, “one must dress the part”.  Donning old clothes comes to mind.

Too far into the job, I realized I had on a brand-new, long sleeved WHITE t-shirt!!!  “Not the sharpest tool in the shed” also comes to mind.

I admit, completing a project does feel good.  Problem is, I’d rather be doing something else.  Something else fun.  Un-chore-like.  Can you say, “Princess”???  Pityful, I know.

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One of my friends has a daughter whom we actually call “The Princess”.  She knows it and she likes it.  She knows we love her even tho’ we poke fun at her.  She’s a good princess tho’, not a prissy one and there’s a BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

Remember last week when we talked about Holly Wagner’s book, God Chicks—Living Life as a 21st Century Woman?  (Click on “From Easter Chick to God Chick” to learn more…)  All eight of the chicks Holly writes about are so powerful.  Last week we addressed the Just-B-U Chick.  This week, we’ll address The Princess Chick.

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Oh boy, do I ever have some good news for you!!!  Because we serve an active, living and loving God, and because He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and because we are His children, His daughters, THAT makes us princesses!!!  Holly tells us, “We are living, breathing, wonderful daughters of the King.”

1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

More good news: Holly adds, “In spite of the pain and mistakes of your past, God sees you as His daughter.  Your past is in the past.  Don’t let shame cause you to feel ugly.  He commands you to live and hold your head high, wearing the garments of royalty.  YOU are a princess because, first you are a daughter!”

Holly continues with reassuring advice: It is crucial that we girls understand that we are the glorious, delightful, irreplaceable, irresistible, loved-beyond-measure daughters of the King.  We are His daughters, which makes us princesses.”

Psalm 45: 9-14 has a great visual of “daughters of kings being among honored women, glorious, gowns woven with gold, in embroidered garments, being led to the King…”

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to be a princess of a palace?  What IF you could wrap a long flowing robe around you, place a crown on your head, and grab a scepter-to-go?  Come on, couldn’t we have some fun with that?

The Butter Babes (see… “Never Wrestle With a Shop Vac”…for more info’) recently kidnapped our birthday girl and made her “queen” for a night in a real-live castle!

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It was a taste of fantasy that five-for-five of us enjoyed.  Judy was the birthday gal and we gave her different crowns, a cape and a scepter at various times throughout the day.  (For you Kentuckians, you have probably seen this castle.  It sits on Versailles Road on the way into Lexington. )

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Holly makes a point you can’t argue with:  “When you realize there’s a crown on your head, that you truly are a princess, then you will live your life differently.  You will value your life differently.”  Think Cinderella.

Here’s the best part: “When we understand our value as daughters of the King, not only will our lives be changed, but so will the life of each person with whom we come in contact.”

Unlike the world, loaded with princess paraphernalia, we as princesses must look for opportunities to serve, rather than be served.  The world sells tiaras, t-shirts and tu-tus, along with diva mentalities which scream: “It’s all about ME!” and: “Serve ME!”

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But…Holly teaches us a concept in the opposite direction of the world:  “From the inception of royalty on the earth, kings, queens, and their children were supposed to serve the people they ruled.  They were to be the protectors.  Regardless of whether any of our current royals get this concept of serving or not, you and I must.  I am a princess not to be served, but to serve.  We can serve our fellowman only when we understand our role.”

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Romans 8:17 reminds us, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (NIV)

So, let’s return to my question of this post: Can a Princess play in a peck of dirt???  Absolutely!  We are all fellow “Princess Chicks”.   While we may feel ordinary, God has chosen us, we are His daughters, and we were put here on this earth to serve others in extraordinary ways.  May we glorify Him in all we do.  Be blessed.

‘Til next time!

(This post is dedicated to the delightful daughter of my friend Doris, whom I talked about earlier.  She’s the gal who knows we call her “The Princess”: Miss Eden Bridgeman.  She’s the most gorgeous Godly young lady you’ll ever lay eyes on and is the sweetest gal you’ll ever meet all at the same time.  We miss you Miss Eden!  Congrats on becoming an Aunt!  Now you have another “princess” to train!!!)

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