Mar 20 2014

Yes, it’s been a while!

Taking the time to smell the roses….

 

It sounds cliche, but I can’t believe how fast time is passing this year (or any year….)!

You’d be surprised to know how often I think of writing a post here: I have something to share, something to encourage or (hopefully) inspire you, and point you towards our God of hope!

Forgive me for not being able to always follow though on that desire.

 

Books, schooling, and grading – Oh MY!

 

Life has been very busy this year – schooling, medical appointments, and the usual things that easily crowd out the other things we want to do or would rather be doing.

Can anyone relate?

 

Transformation

 

One of the huge changes this year from last year is that I am actually stopping and listening to God’s voice when HE tells me to do something (like stop, rest, or so something “un-productive”….).

I am letting Him set my priorities and guide every moment of each day.

I will be honest:  It’s been a hard transition transforming from an on-the-go super overachiever, able to multi-task many things at once, confident in her abilities

to

a person who trusts God (rather than myself!) for each task each day, taking them one at a time.

 

____________________________________

Oh boy!  I fight feeling like a failure, a lump of laziness, and a burden to my family sometimes.

(It’s hard to type that out there – - – but I am finding that such freedom comes from surrendering and allowing God to work through my weaknesses…. And, when I do, He does amazing things!)

 

________________________________________

In this time of cocooning,  I am learning that when He allows something hard, dark, and painful, it is His way of transformation: working in my life for my good and to His GLORY!

Are you in that dark place tonight?  My friend: take cheer!  You are being fashioned into His Masterpiece of Beauty, a flying testament to God’s Grace.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Hebrews 12:12-13 Proverbs 4:26, NIV

HE MAKES NO MISTAKES!

I am praying for you tonight – you are not alone!

To God be the Glory!

Gina Marie

 

*Picture Credits: All photos were found for free on Morguefile

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/03/20/yes/

Feb 12 2014

Celebrating the Gift of my Son–His 11th Birthday!

Happy 11th birthday to an amazing young man whom I am honored to call my son!

I have watched him grow from a sweet baby…to climbing everything in his path…overcoming difficult obstacles together.

I have the privilege of being his learning coach and teacher

as well as his mother each day.

I have had the honor of watching him grow into the maturing, fun, intelligent, thoughtful, determined, creative, very special young man who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith and what he values, learns from his mistakes, and isn’t afraid to be unique.

He loves life, having fun with friends and family,

as well as learning and discovering new things every day!

I am proud to be his mom and am looking forward to what is to come

in this 11th year of his life!

Happy birthday, Josh!!!!

I love you so much!

I am SO proud of you!

Love always,

MOM

Here is a little look at some of his adventures during this past year…

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Blessed by God with this gift of my son,

Mary Joy

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/02/12/celebrating-gift-son-11th-birthday/

Feb 10 2014

Let’s Celebrate Gina Marie’s Birthday!

It is time to celebrate the birthday of one of my dearest friends!!!!! Gina Marie, we would like to take this time to celebrate your 38th birthday!!!  February 11th is a very special day because it is the day we celebrate God bringing you into this world!

You are such a special woman with a heart and passion for her Savior and her family!

An inspiring writer and speaker as God leads her!

Gina Marie with her precious family.

Gina Marie with her precious family.

A wonderful homeschooling mother who encourages her children to discover a passion for learning!! (And my homeschooling mom buddy!)

A gifted musician!

A woman called to reach out to others for the Lord!

A woman who doesn’t hesitate to listen and minister to others in her own time of hurting and healing.

A woman who lives her life and her marriage in such an authentic way that we can draw encouragement as we witness how God is at work in her life.

You inspire me to keep going, every day, Gina Marie!

I love your passion for finding God’s grace in even the painful times of life. I love your never give up attitude. You an incredible encourager to me and helped me through the pain of losing my precious husband in July 2012 and the time that has followed. You never give up on me. The way you celebrate my baby steps in healing helps me keep going even when the road has unexpected twists and turns. Your words and the way you live your own life, help me to see how much God works His victories in our times of weakness as He carries us through the most difficult days…and nights.

We are so honored to have you sharing your heart stories with us here on Unwrapping His Grace as you share your pain, your healing, God’s grace in the dark and light times of your life. Your ability to focus on and DELIGHT in Him no what life brings is a gift to all who know you and read, hear, or witness your heart stories.

I ask that God gives you the gift of continued physical healing this year as you discover what is behind the physical pain and limitations you manage to live with each day and the grace to delight in His work in you through that process.

I ask God to give you encouragement as you fight your life battles and that He lift you up in the way you always lift up those around you.

May God give you new peace and joy and delight every morning!!!!!!

May God give you continued courage in the face of obstacles and use your gifts and creativity to find new ways to solve or turn them into new victories for His glory.

May God help you see and experience His grace new every morning! May He continue to work through you to touch the hearts of people around you ways yet to be revealed to you!

I pray that I can be kind of friend that you have been to me…so gracious, always ready to listen, pray, and encourage in the tough times and squeal with glee with you in your personal victories and God moments of miracles!

YOU are a delight!!!

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

Happy birthday, dear friend and sister!!!!

A woman who has become my closest friend and sister to me.

I would love for you take a moment and tell Gina Marie Happy birthday and what an encourager or how she has helped you in your journey. PLEASE take a moment to share in the comments below!!!! You have no idea what a gift your words will be for her as she celebrates this, her 38th birthday!!!

By His Grace,

Mary Joy

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/02/10/lets-celebrate-gina-maries-birthday/

Jan 22 2014

Discovering a New HOPE in Healing

Whew! The weeks since I last posted a blog article have flown by! I decided to take a bit of a break over the holidays and it grew into a bit longer than I had planned.

Although I haven’t been active here, our lives as a family have been very busy!  December was a very full month for us…as I am sure it was for most of you! But even more than activities, family traditions, homeschooling, and life…God has been doing a lot of healing in my life.

This was our second holiday season since my late husband went home to be with our Lord and for some reason, I struggled in different ways than I did last year…which really surprised me. It took quite a while for me to realize that last year I was super focused on making sure the kids had all the special traditions our family has during Thanksgiving, Advent, and the Christmas seasons even though I was struggling with grieving. I was focused on their needs more than my own last year, I realize that now. And I do not regret that in the least.

This year, things hit me that hadn’t last year…yet at the same time I was amazed at the healing that God was doing in my heart, my mind and life. God brought me through our first year with Annie, my beautiful step daughter gone off to college during the holiday season in 2013. He is faithful and helped me to create some new traditions and our days were very full…but I took the nights to stop and think and just be…unlike last year when I spent almost every night after putting the boys to bed writing or working on something.

This year, I felt God nudging me to stop and get in touch with the reality of our new life as a family…my new life and who I am now. The trials that God has brought us through have stretched and grown me in ways I never imagined possible. I spent a lot of time last year ignoring my own needs in many ways. It was just easier to focus on my kids’ and their needs. Doing that helped me to survive our first year without Will her in our lives.

I felt God leading me to begin the process of facing my fears, my self-doubts, my pain, my loneliness, in a new way. I felt Him calling me to do some self-care that I refused to stop long enough to do over the whole year of firsts following our accident. He was calling me to slowing begin working my way out of my protective cocoon…numbness…of busyness.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself and the woman God is forming me into. God gently called me to stop pushing myself so hard that I forget to stop and breathe. He called me to stop trying so hard to “make up for” the kids not having Daddy here in our lives anymore. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/01/22/discovering-a-new-hope-in-healing/

Dec 31 2013

One Word: My Resolution for 2014

I have always loved New Year’s Eve and Day; one of my favorite memories from my entire life happened at a New Year’s Eve party. . . .

There was fellowship, an awesome bowl of chili, and I spent a large portion of that New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2000) talking to a new friend of mine.

That’s a story for another time. :-)

Back to New Year’s Eve/Day…. I love new beginnings and stopping to take stock of the past year while dreaming ahead of the new one.

It’s no secret that this past year has been a really difficult one for me; in many ways, I am ready to turn the page on the “Calendar” to a new year and leave the old one behind.

I have been praying and asking God for Him to direct my thoughts and dreams for this new year – - - 

What does HE desire for my life?  

What are HIS priorities for me?

How can I live out HIS calling on my life to my full potential?

I asked Him, and He answered me with love and simplicity in One Word:  Delight

When I think of the word, delight, I think of:

approaching the world with innocent joy and happiness – the sound of a baby’s laughter!

the  feelings that come when you stop to smell the roses, watch a kite dance in front of the blue sky, listen to the subtle nuances of music   – - –  

Delight is the emotion you feel when you lose yourself in the senses of the moment and experience every part of it, from your head down to your toes – - - 

(photo credit)

God is drawing me to DELIGHT

in His Presence,

&

experience absolute joy in the path of life

that He has chosen for me.  

Psalm 16:11 (NET)

In typing that out, I actually feel a tingle running down my spine!  

What a beautiful promise from His Word and a blessed focus for my year ahead:  I will choose to pursue to delight in the Presence of the LORD and find joy in the Path of Life that He has chosen for me!

~~~~~

What about you? Has God impressed a certain word, verse, goal, or desire for you to pursue in 2014?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please feel free to leave a comment below and let us know.

Thank you for your continued love, support, friendship, and fellowship you extend each day in our Unwrapping His Grace Community!  Mary and I are so humbled and blessed by all of you.  We look forward to seeing how God is going to continue to bless others through this ministry; we give HIM all of the Glory!

Happy New Year *2014*!!!!

Pressing through with YOU towards what He has in store for us in this New Year!

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19  (AMP)

16 Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters,

18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

TO GOD be the GLORY – Always!

Gina Marie

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2013/12/31/standing-end-2013-looking-forward-tomorrow/

Dec 08 2013

Praying in Color: Putting our prayers into art form

I don’t consider myself a compulsive doodler or a person that is defined as an “artist” – - – from the time I turned 15 years old and started teaching in church, I have been a teacher.  If you asked me what I was or what God had called me to do, that would have been my answer (and still is).

I love being a teacher and consider that my primary calling from God.  What a gift to be able to homeschool my own children full-time now.

I love teaching little ones, young children, teens, and women; it doesn’t matter if it’s the Word of God, how to enjoy reading, or how to praise God through music, I feel such joy in being able to invest my life in the lives of other people.

I consider myself blessed to have been able to live out my dream in this calling from Him, by God’s Grace.

Even though I am a teacher at heart, I have always enjoyed being a creative person and expressing myself through artistic ways:   as a seamstress/costume designer for plays, a photographer for fun, and in other personal ways like acting, playing the piano, singing, and dabbling in many different types of creative arts.

I look forward to learning more about jewelry making and design this coming year (for fun!).

 

 

I praise God for creating Art.

 

 

Creating specific “works of art” has been a personal expression that I have saved for special times since I became an adult; it’s been a long time since I have dabbled in creating art on a regular basis.

I don’t have a lot of “free time” to spend just having fun!  Sigh – can you relate?   I miss the practice of being creative and expressing myself through art.

 

I had the pleasure and joy of being able to study art throughout high school – all four years, if I remember correctly.

 

I loved working in watercolors – - – that was my favorite part of art every year.

 

 

 

I *know* that I have been blessed to have had that opportunity to learn so much about art at such a young age.

I am a strong supporter of art and music education since I know just how much those two disciplines have enriched my life.

 

 

 

But, I digress.

I want to share with you how I have jumped back into the art world this last month after reading the book, “Praying in Color” by Sybil MacBeth.  I enjoy reading about ways to enrich our prayer life, and this book’s title just grabbed my attention.

 

 

This book proved to be a quick read – but a fun one too.  It presents the theory that by drawing our prayers and allowing our right brain to be engaged while we are praying, we engage ourselves at a deeper level.  By creating a piece of art for our requests and/or for each person, we are able to recall our “list” more easily too since we now have an image to represent each request or person on our prayer list.

 

*LIGHTBULB*  OK – as a visual learner and a person who has a photographic memory, I knew that this concept could be something that could help me enrich and deepen my prayer time.  (It was worth a try anyway, right?)

 

I have a friend named *K* who  needed to be covered in prayer this week; she is in full-time ministry and is facing a time of being needed and used by God on so many levels.  I was praying for her daily, but this was time to take things to the next level for her – - -

So, I grabbed a piece of blank printer paper, a thin black Sharpie, and a marker with a color to represent my friend (her favorite), and started drawing…

~~~~~

I started with her Name in the middle of the paper.  (It’s partially blanked out here for privacy.)

And then I prayed and allowed my hand to start drawing lines,

and symbols, 

and words

that represent her roles in life

and her special calling from God.

~~~~~

I added what I felt that I was praying for God to provide for her - 

I allowed God to lead me in choosing these words - 

~~~~~

All around the outside of the K design, 

God lead me to write in big, bold words, 

His Special Promise for her:

“Unlimited Reserves of HOPE”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is the finished graphic I created when I was praying for my friend:

kprayingincolor

 

 

I know God had a Hand in putting all of this together – - – and I really enjoyed this prayer exercise.   As I prayed and drew shapes, I felt His special leading in this prayer time and in making this prayer graphic to represent His Promise(s) for my friend, K.

It was such an enriching experience that I am in the middle of making another one for another friend right now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

This time of year proves to be one of the most – if not the most  - stressful times of the year for many people.  As a result of reading this book and trying out the exercise, I feel that God leading me to create Colorful Prayers as often as I can.

Not only will I be able to express my heart in prayer to the LORD with more focus and dedication, but by creating a visual representation of that prayer (need),  I will be able to also spend time doing something that brings me joy AND lowers my stress levels too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What do you think?  Is this something you would like to try? 

For more inspiration, you can look at these examples from the blog and give it a try for yourself.

I plan to try the Advent Calendar next.  It looks like such a fun idea.

If you decide to give it a go, share your creations with us on our Facebook page!

Ephesians 3:19-21 (NLT)

 

 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

God bless you!

TO GOD be the GLORY – Always!

Gina Marie

 

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Dec 01 2013

Advent…Discovering Beauty in Imperfection

Discovering and focusing on the beauty of imperfection has never been easy for me. For so many years, I’ve tended to get myself all stressed out and completely frustrated in my quest to have everything go “just right”.

It has taken years for me to “get” the fact that life isn’t perfect. No one is perfect. And family is filled with imperfect people so our homeschooling days and special holiday celebrations will be far from the unrealistic goal of “perfection” that I had gotten in my head actually exists.

Intensity is something that I struggle to calm and God has used my late husband, and now my children, to help me “loosen up” a little more every year.

In the past, the only kind of family portrait I was OK with having would look like this one. You know the kind…the kind that takes more than half a dozen attempts before you get even close to “forcing” everyone to hold still, smile…all at the same time. Whew!

Know what?

I love this picture. I love the looks on the faces of my kids. I love the impish look on my youngest’s face…the giggles he is trying to suppress.

But I must admit, this year, I was actually the one who suggested that we have a relaxed silly family photo taken too!!! I thought my kids would fall over when I told them that if they held still for a nice smiling family photo the next one would be a goofy one!

They were thrilled! And their grins became more real. And so did mine!

Every day I struggle to remember that even though our homeschooling day are filled with “interruptions” and unexpected detours, the reality is my kids love learning. They love asking questions and when I stop and I am learning to breathe and find ways to encourage their curiosity more and stop being so intensely focused on what we “should” get done in one day. Some of our best learning days happen because Mommy is more focused on learning than on a check list. In reality, there is so much beauty in the imperfection of those days.

I struggle with this in areas outside of homeschooling too…

Today is the first day of Advent, one of my most favorite seasons of the year! I have to watch myself SO carefully though. I have a tendency to create a picture in my mind of what our Advent celebration “should” look like, so when things don’t go exactly as I had planned I get put out and get cranky with my boys…the complete opposite of the purpose of our celebrations and family traditions!

Today I found myself starting to do that again. After sending Michael off to time out for the second time this evening, I was finally able to see the error of MY ways. I had gone back to my intense habit of pursuing a perfect experience of our tradition instead of keeping my focus on the REASON we have these family traditions. I felt convicted as soon as that thought hit me. What am I pursuing and who I am teaching my boys to pursue? A life of love and grace or the idea that it isn’t a good experience unless everything is perfect!!! Ouch!

I had to back up and look at our evening through the eyes of grace.

I didn’t have a chance to finish making our Advent/Christmas count down calendar and have it neatly hanging on the wall before the boys woke up this morning. Instead, I got it started tonight while they watched a Christmas movie and Josh got involved and helped me with some of it.

I decided to accept the fact that I didn’t have time to finish all 25 tags tonight and move forward with our first Sunday of Advent family celebration…and watching my son, Josh’s face relax when I told him we would finish it tomorrow and move on from the work and start the celebration, his relaxed grin was the answer and reminder I needed. Seeing his face helped me to remember to discover the beauty in the imperfection of our First Sunday of Advent family celebration this year and stop kicking myself for what I “should” have been able to do.

With that changed mind-set the stress level started lowering in our house.

We sat on the floor in the living room and I shared the first stage of the amazing story of Mary conceiving our Messiah, Joseph’s disbelief until the angel appeared to him in his dream, their rough journey to Bethlehem while she was VERY pregnant and not finding a beautiful room at the end of their trip…their accommodations couldn’t have been more imperfect!! But there was so much beauty in the imperfection of their surroundings. God was present. He worked through their situation to help Mary to give birth to the only perfect gift!!! Jesus our Messiah! Our long-awaited Savior had come!

If the imperfect birth place of a manger bed in a stable was good enough for our Savior, why do we waste so much time trying to create “perfect surroundings” so that our memories will be perfect?

In fact, it was Michael attempting to follow my lead story telling and Josh helping me place the people/characters in our stable that hit my heart. He couldn’t find all the pieces to their Nativity (because they have played with it and leaving pieces all over the house). I couldn’t see how he would be able to use it and told him it wouldn’t work. But I am so grateful that he didn’t listen to me this time.

He found a few shepherds and angels, a lamb and a goat. He decided to use the lamb in place of Jesus and set it up like the photo above.

My heart almost stopped when I paused to really look at what he had done.

Jesus…the Lamb of God…placed in the manager.

He didn’t realize what he did at first. He was just trying to discover beauty in what he did have. When I told him that using the lamb was a great idea because Jesus is the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for our sins and rose again, his grin was priceless. It was an amazing moment! It was a moment that would have been lost if I hadn’t stopped myself from stopping him from following my lead with the Nativity story because “he didn’t have all the right pieces”.

We continued our Advent celebration with the lighting of our first purple candle in our Advent wreath and our devotion for tonight that I printed off of the Adventures in Odyssey Advent Adventures Calendar for this year. It is free, easy and fun to use, and the boys love it! Our Advent wreath isn’t perfect either. We should have new candles each year, but this year I could only afford to replace the pink candle. I couldn’t find a pink one at the store so I I took a deep breath, prayed and told Michael, who was my shopping helper, that red would work just fine. Once more trying to focus on the beauty in imperfection.

Know what? I am the only one who noticed that we only have one new candle this year and they didn’t care that it wasn’t pink. They were just excited about getting to light our first candle and starting our Advent devotions with their favorite characters in Adventures in Odyssey. Josh read the scripture verse for today. I read the devotion. We all sang “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”, and Michael wiggled a lot. LOL

We ended with Josh getting to turn over the first of our Christmas/Advent Countdown tags and reading today’s instruction…reading from Luke. Josh excitedly found the passage and read it to all of us. We closed with sharing prayer requests and me leading our little family in prayer.

Over and over God taught me the lesson I need most during this time of year…getting my boys to focus on Jesus during the weeks of Advent and Christmas isn’t about creating “perfect memories” with everything in place and working perfectly smoothly. The pure joy and excitement of the story of our Savior isn’t taught through perfect lessons…it is caught through grace and joy filled experiences. When I relax and just allow myself to experience the awe of the season and do it with grace discovering beauty in the imperfection of our celebrations…I am teaching them so much more than the story of our Savior, I am passing on His grace and that is a lesson for a lifetime.

I hope you will join me through this Advent season as I share my journey of discovering beauty in each day, no matter what challenges I may face. Some days I will remember to slow down and discover the beauty in imperfection and other days I will need to be reminded. But this is a wonderful season to learn this lesson!

Advent is a time of slowing down and preparing our hearts and minds for Christmas by putting our focus on His love, His grace, His story by retelling it, sharing it, and serving others with grace. It is in remembering the incredible imperfections in the journey Mary and Joseph took as expectant parents that we rediscover the gift of our Messiah in our hearts and lives. And no Pinterest perfect activity or tradition can compare to that.

Will you join me on this imperfect journey to Christmas?

Don’t miss a single post! Take a moment to sign up for the free updates through your E-Reader or in your email.  And be sure to join the Unwrapping His Grace Facebook Community where you will find daily updates, Scripture, encouragement and opportunities to share prayer requests or follow us on Twitter!

Abiding in His Grace,

Mary Joy

**Special thanks to David Pershing, my wonderful brother-in-law and the photographer who took the family pictures in this blog post.

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2013/12/01/advent-discovering-beauty-imperfection/

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