by Dawn Smiling 

I have a list for everything.  I have a list for the store, and a list for work.  I have a list for my task at home, and a list for projects.  I even have a list for my son and daughter, although I am sure they would not appreciate it.  They are grown adults now so why do I have a list for them. I eagerly drive to the store and purchase a brand new spiral notebook to create my list. I list everything and number the pages. I create my list in order to move the thoughts out of my mind and onto paper. Isn’t that what I should do?  How many times have I heard never to keep everything in your head?  Doesn’t the bible say “write the vision and make it plain?” Is every thought a vision? It was not until recently that I started to analyze my posture before the Lord, and how my posture correlates to my list.

How does God view my list? I took a look at my spiral notebooks.  As I looked at these cute spiral notebooks, I noticed I could not find one titled “Spending time with Jesus”, or “What did God ask me to do today”. I think list are great, but as I continue to grow in God, I am learning that all of my list need to be God centered. 

God has to be in the details. I must admit, I seldom get up and bring my list of task to God. I bring my list of wants to God, and I bring my list of needs to God.  But how often do I come into God’s presence and have a one on one meeting? When was the last time I asked God to evaluate my progress? When I create my list, no one disagrees with me because I don’t run my list by anyone. But when I began to change my posture before God, I began to hear different things from God.  He began to question all of my motives to ensure they are pure and effective for the glory of His kingdom.

When Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane, He had a one on one with our Father.  Luke 22:42 tells us Jesus said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” This is a private meeting going over a list that was created a long time ago.  Yet, we find Jesus reviewing the list of instructions. He refused to remove anything from the list of assignments without God’s permission.

I have decided to consolidate.  I have a new spiral notebook.  The name of it is “Gethsemane”.  I am excited about my new list.  I am entering the zone.  This list is being created in prayer with an open ear to the Father. Gethsemane is derived from two Hebrew words GAT and SHMANIM, “the place where olive is pressed”.  If my list only has three or four items on it, I am happy to do it for God.  As women, we can handle a million and one things at a time. But is God getting the best out of you.  Is your list so long, you don’t have time to ask God what He thinks?

The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to be poured out on all of us.  I believe we all have a book called Gethsemane.  A list of request from God has already been predestined as God said in the book of Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you”. 

My prayer is that we review our list, and make sure that God is in the center of our business. Do you have a special list between you and God?  A list where God has instructed you on the beauty of your life and the awesome plans, assignments and goals He has set for you?  Stay in the press and hear from God. Share your comments and thoughts below!

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.

 

by Tammy Berard

I love summer! To me it means quality family time. I have such great memories of family summer vacations growing up and I enjoy making those same memories for my children. Up until now, we have not flown anywhere with our three kiddos.  My daughter is our first born, and for 6 years when she was an only child, we flew everywhere with her! We would go to California, New York and the Carribean. But, things changed when our two boys were born and we haven’t thought about stepping foot on a plane with all 3 of them!! 

So, traveling became part of our “Bucket List.” Our hand was forced to travel with all 3 kids when my husband’s brother, who lives in Oregon, got engaged last fall and wanted everyone in the wedding this Summer. Not only would we have to fly with three kids, we would have to fly clear across the country! As a recovering control freak and professional worrier, I immediately started thinking of ways to get out of it. I eventually had to surrender, and make the best of our plans to travel across the country! After all, this was going to be a big event in our lives and I wanted to create great memories for my kids.

Tons of work went into planning a trip for 5! It felt like constant stress and anxiety with every decision; bring the car seat or rent one? Fly early or late? Rent a minivan or SUV? Stay at a hotel or with family? One of my favorite bible verses happens to be 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Do all things decently and in order”…but I must admit, I need to loosen up the reigns of control sometimes.  My husband, as you might suspect, is a very patient man, and we eventually worked out the details.

As the trip got closer, I spent much time in prayer. The day before we left, my anxiety almost took over. My best friend and mentor came over to pray with me. They both prayed such sweet blessings and peace over my family and I, and that night I slept like a rock. On the day we were leaving, I woke up with an anticipation and a sense of calmness that I never expected. I love when God shows up like that right in the middle of a storm. The kids, as you can imagine, were so excited. My three year old had been counting down the days for a month until he would ride on a plane. To keep myself in a fun state of mind we planned a crazy photo shoot to take at the airport and send to our family to let them know we were on our way.  It was out of character for me, but I am thankful for that idea because we will cherish this photo for years!

In the end, the trip was a blast. Traveling was easier than expected and the best part was that my kids made some really special memories that will last a lifetime! I hope looking back that they won’t remember how nervous and neurotic I was…I hope they remember how cool we were instead! So, look out world, our crew can travel anywhere!

Do you have any big trips planned for the summer? What are some travel tips you can share for traveling with a family? Share your comments below!

 

 

 

 

Tammy has been married to her college sweetheart, Raymond Berard, for 17 years. They have three children ages 12, 6 and 3. Tammy is a previous teacher and school administrator who now enjoys being the keeper of the schedule for her busy family. She is also the current leader of Beautiful Moms and hosts a small group for Married Life. She loves to shop, cook, dance and cheer on her Gators!

by Dani Catherine

Swimming is not my gifting. I know how to swim, and by swimming I mean doggie paddle. The thought of holding my breath for a long period of time terrifies me, so I usually opt to do the doggie paddle and sometimes I even consider not going in the pool or ocean at all. And recently, I almost wore a pair of swim floaties from Paige Eavenson’s 3 year old daughter, who is a better swimmer than I. I didn’t have a specific event happen to me that has caused me to not like swimming…I just have an irrational fear of it. When I had knee surgery in February, I knew my workout routine was going to have to change. My physical therapist suggested that I started to swim instead of doing my normal boot camp workouts. I cringed at the thought of swimming laps in a pool, especially at the gym with aspiring professional swimmers next to me. So, I was challenged to get out of my comfort zone of doggie paddling, and I added “Learn how to swim like a fish” to my summer bucket list!

My gal pal, Taylor, went with me to swim laps for my first time ever. She has done triathlons before, so I knew she would be able to show me the proper form and techniques. She showed me a few things about swimming and then we were off to the races with our swim caps and goggles. While she was on her 5th lap, I was still on my 2nd. I felt like the water was winning and in my head I kept putting myself down. I kept saying “I don’t think I am meant to swim…I am not doing it right…the people in the other swim lanes are probably making fun of me.” Such irrational thoughts, but I thought them. Taylor kept telling me I was doing great and was encouraging me to keep going. So, I kept going. I started to “Praise Swim.” I started to praise God and thank Him for a breath of life, the two arms and two legs I was using to swim and for the memories I was making with a dear friend. I realized that I sometimes get so caught up in “what is going wrong” or “what I’m not doing right” that I forget about the things that I am blessed with. The moment I realized that it wasn’t about how fast I was or what others thought of my swimming, was the moment I started to find joy, and swimming became easier.

After our first swim session, I started to attend the gym regularly to practice my swimming. I am now fully comfortable in the water and I am not fearful of what others think of me while I am swimming. The one thing that I was so scared of doing, is something I now enjoy doing! I finally faced my fear!! I learned that no matter how hard something seems and no matter how scary it looks, to ALWAYS put my faith and trust in the Lord and to praise Him for everything He has already done! I know sometimes we get scared to try new things, but what if we didn’t try?…would we ever know that we might have enjoyed it? What if we faced our fears?! I challenge you to try something you are afraid of doing and have faith in yourself!! I promise you that God will show you joy in those fears!

Is there an activity that you are afraid of doing? If so, what is it?! How can you push through those fears? Share your comments below! 

Dani Catherine is the Communications Coordinator for the Beautiful Ministry, as well as a full time Substance Abuse Therapist. Dani loves to bake, eat ice cream, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones…especially her dog, Jeter!  

by Julie Jaunese

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful opportunity to attend an awards ceremony.  My husband, Mike, is a teacher of children with special needs. The mother of his one-on-one student, Taylor, had nominated him for an award. I had met Taylor in the past but didn’t really know him.  I knew my husband has really enjoyed teaching Taylor and I was looking forward to meeting Taylor again and getting to know his mother, Janet.  Taylor mesmerized me that night.  He taught me about the simple things in life and how much I really need to stop and enjoy more, see the little things in life, and live a content life.  How could he teach me so much in such a short period of time? 

When I met Taylor we were near the front door of the Embassy Suites.  It had been pouring down rain outside and people were rushing to get into the lobby of the hotel. Taylor sat on the sofa and clapped and cheered every time the electronic doors would automatically open and attendees would enter. He spent about a half hour just waiting for the doors to open and more people to enter the event.  I got out my iPad and wrote on my list “enjoy the simple things” then made a video of Taylor getting excited every time the door opened so I could remember and watch this few seconds over and over.  That will be my goal for the summer as I work my 40 hours a week, lead my groups and enjoy having our 15 year old grandson with us for the summer.  A time that could feel overwhelming.

We all make choices, don’t we?  We can decide each day if we are going to enjoy the day and be excited by such simple things as an electronic door, going to the beach,  watching a sunset or perhaps enjoying a walk in the rain during an afternoon shower in Tampa.  How about a simple thing like looking at the clouds as you drive home from work? When was the last time you stomped in a puddle?  I have some Croc shoes and will be playing in puddles this summer without the need to worry I am killing my shoes.  I will try not to even have a feeling of complaint when I walk out to the parking lot after work and it is raining because I will be so blessed thinking that this is another opportunity to celebrate the simple things.  I have thought about Janet and Taylor several times this summer.  Janet is as excited about Taylor and the little things in his behavior as I was about my girls when they were young.  We tend to age and forget about the little things that God shows us that will make us giggle like a kid.

We have a new morning of choices every 24 hours.  We have the opportunity to be blessed by the simple things.  We have a choice to be happy or to be irritated by something that might not end the way we thought it would.  Do you think God isn’t in the mix of our irritation, just waiting to teach us a valuable lesson? A simple lesson! We could find a simple joy in a juicy piece of watermelon, a walk in the falling rain,  a wonderful steak fresh off the grill, or an unplanned stop at the frozen yogurt place.  Enjoy each minute of the day!

I’m reminded of a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”  When we look at simple things, the ordinary things like blinking and breathing, we are reminded of God and how much he cares for us EACH and EVERY day.

What are the simple things you’ve enjoyed today? Share your comments below! 

Julie Jaunese has been married to her husband Michael for 42 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren. She works at Moffitt Cancer Center and hosts two women’s small groups, the Yada Book Club and the Fabulous Fems. Mike and Julie have been part of Grace Family Church since it began with 40 people in a house. 

by Debbie Altman

Let’s see…something on my “Summer Bucket List”…well, one thing comes to mind…so simple…so boring, so unspiritual…so pathetic…to clean out my closet!  

The problem is, this has been on “my list” for about 5 years now!  My Spring Cleaning List, my During the Holidays List, my New Years Resolution List!  It has become this big monster hanging over my head!  I just can’t do it!  I have cleaned out every other drawer, small closet and nook and cranny in my home over the last couple of years, but I just cannot conquer this one.  This closet is not just my clothes…that’s not even the part that’s overwhelming me.  This is my main storage closet in my home.   This one will entail getting rid of things!  I’m not good at this.  I’ve always been frugal, and it’s hard for me to “waste” anything.  I just know I can use that down the road in 15 years when I have grandchildren!  (That’s what I said 15 years ago and now I do have a grandbaby!   And now we don’t use VCR tapes anymore!)

This one will require a whole day. This one entails picture albums, and collected greeting cards from loved ones, a few college nursing textbooks, wrapping paper, leftover material…and it will mean I will sit on the floor in the mess and start looking and remembering and reading and probably crying.  This is a big project!  It will require deciding, do I throw this away? Do I give it away so it is not wasted…but who would I give it to?  Do I save this?  I just read a quote, “Mess is stress.”  But you also want to save memories, and sometimes deciding what is mess and what is memories is just not that easy.  Especially for me.  I’m kind of an over-thinker, and a saver, and sentimental…you know the sort…

So, I’ve thought about having someone help me, but that wouldn’t work either, not with this stuff.  I know that can be a good idea, but these things are more personal than that.  This is something I must conquer by myself!  It is going to take a whole day of concentration, and I never seem to have a whole day!  I am a busy girl and out and about! 

I will get thinking about doing it and I’ll go in and look and I’ll see even one section and think of the decisions that section will entail, and I just turn away and think of all the other things I need to do or would rather do!  Like write a blog about it!  Or I get busy with children, grandchildren, ministry, friends and just life, and I think “what does my messy closet matter in the scheme of things!…”  But it is hanging over my head…

So there it is.  This big “monster in my closet” that IS my closet!  I’ve always had to have “the spirit move me” when it comes to projects like this.  Hmmm….

Life is funny.  It just “keeps on coming” as I like to say.  So many hang-ups we have, so many priorities we make, or don’t make.  There are things in our lives that are like my closet.  We know they need to be addressed, they bother us, but we’re not at a crisis point yet!  We don’t want to take the time.  We don’t want to make it a priority.  We look at it, but then walk away.  And our lives are a little less “clean” than they could be.  But then when we press in and take care of things, we feel “free” and like a weight has been lifted.  I pray that we would all continue to allow the Spirit to move us to ever increasing places of simplicity and freedom in Christ.  And I need a big move of the Spirit to get this closet cleaned out!  He cares about the smallest of our prayers… “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Jesus, don’t allow me to put off the really important things. Don’t let me walk away from the hard things.  Help me to desire to be “cleansed” and at peace with you. 

Is there a specific task that you’re putting off? What scriptures help you stay at peace with God when life just “keeps coming”? Share your comments below! 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading, the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.