Wednesday, December 20, 2017


(The story of Mary as told by Matthew & Luke—and filled in-between the lines with my vivid imagination. But what’s not imaginary is that we, like Mary, can all be pregnant with the promises of God. “For with God...nothing is impossible! A privilege of a lifetime can belong to each of us.)

My name is Mary. I was born to middle-class parents in Nazareth. My father used his hands to build furniture—really, anything with wood—for a living. I have an older brother named David. I grew up understanding that David was the favored firstborn—and a firstborn son, at that. He stood in line to inherit everything from my father. I stood in line to clean, wash clothing, and cook—everything expected of a girl in our culture. But YHWH had blessed me with a good big brother. David was my co-conspirator and confidante. We’d always had a great relationship and he let me tag along with him most of the time. In fact, it was through David that I’d first met Joseph. They were best friends. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to hang out with the two of them—that wasn’t permitted in our culture. But I’d seen him and knew he was handsome and heard David talk about him enough to know he was a man of good moral character. In fact, I’d hinted to David of my admiration of Joseph in hopes he’d tell our father who had recently told our family it was soon time for me to be betrothed. And it worked!  Joseph & I had recently celebrated our engagement with friends and family. Joseph was now working to build our future home and David had offered to help him in the evenings. 

But then, the “thing” happened. I was working in my room one morning when an ANGEL appeared to me!  I know—it sounds crazy!  But it really happened. Gabriel’s first words to me were, “Hello, Mary!  You are highly favored by God above all other women. Don’t be afraid!”  Of course, I was afraid! No one I knew had ever seen an angel before. I was also very confused. Why me?  The angel seemed intent to answer all of my questions. He said, “You will have a baby boy and name him Jesus. He will be the son of the Most High and he will rule his people.”  Thoughts were flooding my mind. Every Jewish girl hoped to be the virgin promised to have the Messiah. But how could this be?  I could only ask, “How can this possibly happen?  I’ve never been intimate with a man.”  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you and you will conceive this son. He will be God’s son!”  It was like moments of time—past, present, and future—were flashing through my mind. I was seeing everything which had brought me to this point and every possible outcome to this extravagant offer (because I knew it wasn’t a demand, but a request). I considered them all but in the end, I said, “I’m willing!” And my heart felt the pleasure of God. 

I went into the barn to find David. I felt like I was still in a dream but it had all been very real!  “David!  You’re not going to believe this!  An angel named Gabriel just appeared to me and told me I was the chosen one—I’m going to have God’s son, the Messiah!”  David dropped the tool he was using and grabbed my shoulders. “What are you saying, Mary?”  There was an intensity in him I’d never seen before. I explained it again, “An angel, David!  He told me God has chosen me as the virgin to have his son!”  David walked in short circles in deep thought. “What’s this going to do to Joseph?  Have you thought of that?”  Joseph!!  Of course I’d thought of him in those flashes before I gave my answer to Gabriel. But...would he believe me?  David shook my shoulders in his strong hands again and said, “You must go tell Joseph. I’ll go with you.  But have to tell father and mother.”  After we’d told our parents of this wondrous event (At this point, fear had moved in—but I kept reminding myself it WAS a wondrous event!), they agreed we must tell Joseph immediately. 

My heart was about to come out of my chest as I told Joseph word-for-word everything the angel had said. I could see his eyes dim. And I could tell—he didn’t believe me!!  I was crushed. 

David didn’t say much on our way home. I could sense he was doubting the whole thing. But then, I began remembering other things the angel had said. I told David, “The angel told me that Elizabeth is going to have a baby, too!”  Elizabeth was our mother’s cousin who was as old as our mom and she’d never had a baby until now. “That’s it!” David exclaimed!  “We’ll send you to Elizabeth’s until we see what Joseph is going to do.”  We both knew we were facing a very scary situation. Joseph could have me killed for being pregnant before we married. The whole community would believe I’d been unfaithful to him if he chose to disclose it. He could also “divorce” me from our betrothal—another possible public humiliation. That meant I’d probably be doomed to never  marry. Our consolation was that Joseph was a kind man. But we never knew what could happen with pressure from his family. As soon as we got home, David told our parents of Joseph’s unbelief and suggested he take me to Elizabeth’s. They agreed. We quickly packed and David and I began the short journey to my cousin’s house. 

When we arrived at Zachariah & Elizabeth’s house,  Elizabeth saw me and screamed excitedly!  She had a glow on her face as she exclaimed, “You are blessed above all women, Mary, and the baby you’re carrying is also blessed!”  She laughed and told me her baby had leaped in her womb when she saw me. I grabbed her and hugged her tightly!  Someone KNEW!  Someone believed!  Even though my parents and brother wanted to believe me, I still sensed doubt in them. But when I looked at David in this moment, I knew he now believed. I wanted to cry, to shout, to sing and dance!  My heart was full and overflowing. How could Elizabeth possibly have known unless YHWH had told her?  

Peace pushed fear out of my heart. And I was reminded of Gabriel’s words to me, “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.”  I soon found out God was proud of his son’s birth—he wasn’t ashamed and didn’t want me to be shamed. An angel appeared to Joseph and told him not to be afraid to take me as his wife—that what I’d told him was true. And God didn’t just speak quietly to Elizabeth’s heart or have an angel speak privately to Joseph. His announcement of our son’s birth was shouted in the skies by an army of angels. God made a public announcement that his son had been born—to the poor and rich, alike!  Confirmation after confirmation reassured me of God’s love for me and his son. 

I knew I’d never be a perfect mother to this perfect baby boy...but I knew God wouldn’t fail. He would fulfill every promise—just like he’d already done. I had the privilege of a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Discarded Gifts

Have you ever given someone a Christmas gift—and you knew immediately it was a fail?  You could tell by the look on their face or the way they lamely thanked you—or the fact that they shoved the gift under all the wrappings on the floor. It’s disheartening. I’ve had a person like that on my list. I can spend hours thinking about the gift, search through every store and online, spend more money on them than anyone else...and still feel like I’ve failed. 

I was thinking about this recently (because I was shopping for them again), and it occurred to me that I may have done that with God. So I asked. “God, have you ever given me a gift which I apparently didn’t like and just tossed aside?”  I immediately heard, “Yes!”  (He didn’t have to answer so quickly!)  So I asked which gift I’d rejected. To which he replied, “The gift of writing.”  I tried arguing, “But I write all the time—blogs and...stuff.”  And he was silent. Because he knew that I knew what he meant. He meant fiction. I’ve toyed with the wrappings of that gift but had never picked it up and used it. So I told him right there that I wanted to embrace each gift he’s given me—and he might have to remind me of the other gifts I’ve rejected. 

It hurts when a gift is rejected. Remember that this Christmas.  And if you have the courage, ask God which of his gifts you’ve rejected.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Part IV

Kids with wings, shepherd’s robes, and animal faces were running all over the fellowship hall after the Christmas play. “Sugar high,” Caleb surmised. I was thanking Jessa for her help. “What a sweet way to start the candle lighting service.  I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.”  “We were lucky that Evelyn didn’t toss all those costumes from ten years ago. I hope you stay in shape—you know everyone is going to expect this every year now,” she said laughing. I think Jessa had a point but it was so much fun, I didn’t even mind. “Merry Christmas, God,” I whispered in my heart. 

Christmas Eve. Time had slipped by so quickly and I only had one more gift for Caleb—and I’d just finished my twelfth gift for God. My 12 Days of Christmas giving had done something amazing—amazing and totally unexpected. My heart had become more passionate about my husband. I’d focused on his gifts and desires for over a month and it had been so much fun!  I’d also learned a lot about him. He told me, “Merry, you’ve made this the best Christmas ever!”  I think it changed Caleb, too. It’s like he couldn’t help himself by doing little things for me along the way—like bringing my favorite chocolate donuts from the Donut Stop when he went to the city. But out of the socks, handkerchiefs, a gift card to A Lotta Latte, a new study Bible, tickets to the Trans-Siberian orchestra, a soldering iron, and, among other things, a trip for two to Oregon to see his sister (thanks to the pay raise and bonus from A Lotta Latte!), I think his favorite gift was the print with his names and the letter with the  prayer. I still caught him reading it often.

As for God?  I loved the way we’d laughed and talked for the past month. I know “everything is from him, through him, and to him,” and that’s kind of what I’d experienced in giving to him. I could never keep a secret from him. And I think several, and well...maybe all, of my ideas came from him. But the thing is...I know he delighted in ALL of them!  But what amazed me is that so many of the gifts I gave him involved the people in our church—things like taking several containers of soup for Miss Shirley who’d been sick and lived alone, a night of babysitting for Mark and Sandra, taking Opal to the doctor, and vacuuming the church for our janitor who had knee surgery. All of these things had developed a relationship between me and our church. I’d found my place.  

Christmas Eve night, Caleb and I sat in front of our Christmas tree relaxing and enjoying the lights. I was admiring the James Avery birthstone ring Caleb had given me for my birthday when he asked me, “Do you want to open your Christmas gift now?  I could almost sense him vibrating with excitement. “If you’ll open yours first,” I said. I handed him a shirt box and he shook it and said, “A red shirt!”  I rolled my eyes and inwardly cringed because he was half right. He tore into it and pulled out the red shirt and faded red cap. They both had a masculine logo design I’d created which said “Steadman Farms.”  He sat there holding the shirt out looking kind of stunned. I quickly interjected, “Caleb, I hope you like the logo. I created it in faith—believing that some day God is going to enlarge your territory and give you your heart’s desire.”  He didn’t say a word...and I was worried. He just picked up a large flat manila envelope with a big red bow on it and handed it to me.  I nervously began pulling the flap open and pulled out some official looking documents. I honestly had no clue what I was holding. Caleb took the papers and layed them down and took my hands in his. “Merry, the most incredible thing has happened and I hope you don’t mind that I did all of this without your knowledge. But it all happened so quickly—and I wanted to surprise you, too!  You know Mr. Troyer who fell and broke his hip?”  I nodded ‘yes’ but nothing was making sense. “His family put him in assisted living this week. And I heard they were going to put his farm—including the farmhouse, barn, everything—up for sale.  I went to them and asked if they’d consider a lease purchase of it all—including all of the farm machinery. And they said YES!  Not only was the machinery included, but Mr. Troyer had already purchased the seed to plant next spring.  The price they quoted was way undervalue—they were just happy to sell to someone they trusted who would take care of it. Plus they didn’t want to have to make more trips down here to try to sell it. Of course nothing is official until you sign the papers, too.”  Big ol’ tears were sliding down my face. How could something this wonderful be real?  And then Caleb told me, “Of course, I’ll still pastor, but I’ve  already told Jake Leathers that I’ll only continue working for him until April and then I’ll go to work on my own farm—and hopefully make money from crops next fall. Jake told me I’d done such a good job for him that he wanted to give me a bonus. We now have our first calf!”  I was sobbing by this point. This was infinitely above all I could ask or imagine!  How could I contain it all?  God had heard and answered our prayer—in an incredible way. He had definitely enlarged our territory and fulfilled Caleb’s name and dreams. 

That’s when I heard God whisper in my heart, “Happy Birthday & Merry Christmas, Merry Noelle!”  My name had never fit better. 

The End

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Part III

“Socks and handkerchiefs!”  Caleb really seemed to look excited. Maybe it was because I’d splurged and gotten him the heavy duty socks. It was Day 7 and he seemed to be getting into my gift-giving again. Somewhere around day 3, something had happened. I don’t know if he was feeling guilty because he was the only one opening gifts or if it was embarrassing I told him I didn’t have to keep doing the 12 days. But he quickly assured me that he liked it. And then I didn’t know if he was just trying not to hurt my feelings...but I wanted to keep doing it, so I did!  And honestly...Satan did keep trying to get me to take the bait of feeling left out. But when that thought would come in, I’d just tell Satan “NO!” out loud. I sure was glad no one was around to hear me. 

The gift for the 3rd day came from my Bible study in I Chronicles 4–of all places!  Two little verses tucked in that chapter talk about Jabez whose name meant “pain.”  He prayed a prayer asking God to expand his territory and redeem his name. So...I decided to google the meaning of Caleb’s names and hand letter it on beautiful paper.  Caleb Bartholomew Steadman.  I typed “meaning of name Caleb” and up popped the meaning of his name! His middle name came from his grandfather whom he adored so he was pretty proud of that fact. I couldn’t believe it when I uncovered the meanings of his name: “Loyal Friend—Ploughman—Farmer”  No wonder he liked farming—it was in his spiritual DNA and who God created him to be!  So I used all of that information when I wrote a prayer for Caleb to go with the print. I even asked God to expand Caleb’s territory like Jabez prayed.  “God, would you give him his farm?”  I know he loved that gift because I often found him reading the note again when he was relaxing in front of the TV. 

I’d also been busy advertising for A Lotta Latte. We already had 5000 followers on Facebook and it was still growing. I told Sam, “My goal is to gain 70,000 followers.”  After his eyes almost popped out of his head, I assured him, “I know that sounds like a lot—but that’s not even half of the city you serve, much less the surrounding area.” Sam seemed to be the one with the most ideas while Lynn was his support and encouragement. And she made his ideas come to life. He’d often call me with new promotions. “Hey Merry!  Lynn and I are thinking about adding soup and sandwiches to the coffee we already serve. The coffee’s selling great but Lynn has these dynamite soup recipes from her grandmother. What do you think?”  
“I think that’s a great idea!  The timing is perfect with the cold weather we’re having,” I said. “When you get a menu figured out, let me know and I’ll post it on social media. I think your traffic from this will surprise you.  Oh!  And Sam?  You really need to think about creating a website now. I know someone who is really good and isn’t expensive.”  There was a short pause and then Sam replied, “Send me his info. If we’re going to do this, we need to do it right!”

I certainly hadn’t forgotten about the 12 Days of Christmas with God. I wanted to give him spur-of-the-moment gifts.  I know it didn’t make sense, but I felt like the less I thought about it, I could keep it secret from him longer. The first opportunity came when I stood behind a  harried young mom in the grocery check-out line. Her baby was crying and she was desperately digging through her purse for five more dollars to pay for her groceries. I handed the cashier $5 and looked at the young mom and said, “Merry Christmas!”  I thought she was going to cry. Her baby had even stopped crying as the mom settled down. “Thank you so much!  I was panicked. That’s never happened to me before and...well, thank you!”  I looked up at God as I walked to my car and said, “Merry Christmas!”  

Another time (I think it was Day 3), I’d tried a super easy recipe I’d seen on Facebook.  In fact, it was called “No-Fail Enchiladas.” It said to buy a can of enchilada sauce, frozen taquitos, and cheddar cheese. Pour half of the sauce in the 9x12 pan, add taquitos, the rest of the sauce, and top with cheese. I’d even made rice and (canned) beans to go with the meal. It smelled heavenly. I was hoping for a culinary success. And just as we were sitting down to eat, George (a lonely widower from our church) knocked on our door. “Preacher, I’ve come to tell you our prayers have been answered!  My boy who’d gone to jail found Jesus there.”  As Caleb was celebrating with George, I poked my head around the corner and pointed at George and gave a little eating signal.  Caleb picked up on it and slapped George on the back and said, “George, how would you like to eat with us?  We’re having some of Merry’s enchiladas.”  “Don’t mind if I do. But just so you know, I didn’t mean to come at supper time,” George replied. He and Caleb were laughing as they walked into the dining room and I went to the kitchen to get an extra plate. I was so happy I had a no-fail meal to serve him.  I laughed in my heart and told God, “Merry Christmas!  And...thanks for the recipe!”

Since I was spending more time on Facebook with A Lotta Latte’s ads, I was seeing all kinds of things. One of those things was an adorable children’s Christmas play. It was so simple. I think I’d found my next gift for God. I decided to give Jessa a call. She was the young mom who did most of the organizing of our children’s ministry. “Jessa?  I think I have an idea for our kiddos for Christmas. Tell me what you think...”

12 Days of Christmas Part II

If I start feeling depressed, it’s a big red flag that I need to crawl up into my heavenly Daddy’s lap and let him talk to me. I needed to hear him in a big way this Saturday morning. “God, I don’t like this feeling of insignificance. I know it’s not from you, but I don’t know what to do about it!”  I sat there for the longest time just feeling God wrap his arms around me and then I heard him say to my heart, “Merry, just do the next thing right in front of you that delights you...and then the next thing...and the next thing...and every little thing after that.”  I sat there for a bit just rolling that thought around in my head. Finally, I got in the shower because Caleb and I were headed to the city to buy our first Christmas tree. And even though I scorned the spelling of my Christmas name, I LOVED Christmas!

Caleb and I were trying to decide on the perfect shape of our artificial tree when I heard someone shouting my name. I turned and saw Hallie. She was all smiles and her voice was eager as she said, “Merry!  I’m so glad I ran into you. Sam and Lynn were just telling me that they’re opening a new coffee shop and they don’t know the first thing about how to get the word out on social media—and I thought of you!  Would you be interested in helping them?  It pays!”  I turned to Caleb and saw a sparkle in his eyes and I thought, “This delights me and it’s the next thing in front of me!”  “YES!!  I’ll give them a call on my way home. Thank you so much for telling me about it.”  We hugged Hallie and hauled our new tree to the check-out counter. Life was looking up!

I began advertising for A Lotta Latte on Monday. We created accounts on every social media outlet and began giving things away as the opening of their coffee shop drew near. Taking a break, I ran over to the church to help Caleb bring down the Christmas decorations from the church attic. After that dusty job, I walked down the long hallway and noticed the sad looking bulletin board which obviously hadn’t been used in years. “This is such a poor representation of who we are,” I thought. And I slowed my step. I could do that!  My creative juices began to flow and I ran to the children’s storage room to find some supplies. An hour later, the old bulletin board had been given new Christmas life. It might not matter to anyone else, but I felt like I’d contributed something. And then I began laughing. “Just do the next thing right in front of you that delights you.”  This had definitely brought me pleasure. 

Caleb’s work in the field was slowing down—the harvest was almost in. So we celebrated that night by putting up our new Christmas tree. We were stringing popcorn (since we had so few decorations) when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He was silent for a bit and then said, “Man!  I can’t think of anything. But I could use some new sock and handkerchiefs!”  I fell in the floor laughing. Who used handkerchiefs anymore?  I guess farmers who were constantly wiping chaff off their necks and faces. 

Socks and handkerchiefs. Bleh!  Even though my new A Lotta Latte job didn’t pay much, I knew I’d have enough Christmas money to do better than that! My mind went into full-blown creative mode. I really don’t consider myself  artististic—just highly resourceful. A smile began to crack on my face as the idea grew in my mind. “Twelve Days of Christmas!  I’ll buy or create twelve gifts and start by giving one now and give the grand finale on Christmas Day!”  I sat down and started making a list and created a giving calendar. 

That night when Caleb came to dinner, an envelope was laying on his plate with a handwritten note on the front, “On the first Day of Christmas, I gave my true love a date with me.”  He looked at me quizzically but grinned as he tore the envelope open. “Tickets to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas program in the city?  Wow!  You were really listening, babe. I’ve always wanted to do this.”  I was so excited!  And I knew in that moment that I might change some of my gift ideas to include more special time with my husband. 

And something began to shift in me. I was no longer thinking about my adjustment as a new pastor’s wife. I was having FUN! I was focused on my husband and finding gifts which would delight him. And then an extraordinary thought crossed my mind, “Why not do Twelve Days of Christmas with God?  I wonder what he’d like for Christmas?”  And then I began laughing with God as this thought floated through my mind, “I’d never be able to surprise him—he knows everything!” So I just asked him, “God, would you act surprised every time I give you a gift?”  And that made me think of the number of times my own parents had to do that very thing—acting surprised when they’d helped me shop and pay for their own gift from me. “This is going to be fun, God!”

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Short Story Part I

Hallie introduced us on that fateful Halloween night, “Merry Noelle Bishop, this is Caleb Steadman, your partner for the evening!”  

I would never have guessed that Caleb Steadman had a masters in theology and had hopes of being a pastor of a small Baptist Church—preferably bi-vocationally so he could still pursue his passion of farming. 

“Hi, Caleb!,” I said to my farmer-partner with a big smile. “It’s so nice to meet you!”  

I had no problem meeting new people—especially someone as good looking as Caleb. I could tell that he probably spent a good deal of time outdoors. After all, he was still in his work jeans and wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a faded baseball cap. I thought maybe he’d just dressed for the part, but as the evening wore on, I concluded he’d come straight from the field. 

Nodding and touching his cap, he smiled a crooked grin and said, “Nice to meet you, too. I hope I don’t embarrass you tonight. I’m not very good at this stuff.”  I laughed and assured him, “I don’t have to win. Let’s just try to have fun, ok?”

Caleb’s best friend, Josh McGyver, sat beside me during the dinner portion of the murder mystery game and spent more time telling me about Caleb’s aspirations than trying to help me solve the murder which had happened in the kitchen with the lamp stand. 

He told me, “Caleb knows God has called him to preach, but he can’t help but get dirt under his fingernails.  He loves the whole process of planting and harvesting.  He also hates being in crowds of people he doesn’t know—which is why I almost didn’t get him here tonight!!”  He scratched his head and said,  “I’m not sure he’s figured out how he’s going to pastor a crowd of people he doesn’t know.”  

Josh & Hallie were our mutual friends who were hosting the Halloween murder mystery party. They’d been married a year and had invited some of their single friends (mixed in with other married couples) in the hopes of making some “divine connections,” they later told us. Caleb didn’t usually go to parties like this—but Josh had twisted his arm. 

“Caleb, you’ve got to come!  We need a farmer and you’re the perfect stand-in for the part!  You won’t even have to change clothes—just come as you are!  You know there will be food.  Besides...wait until you see your partner, Nurse Betty!” 

I was “Nurse Betty” in the game—but I didn’t find out until much later that Josh & Hallie were actually trying to set us up that night. Caleb & I were thrown together throughout the hilarious evening of trying to solve the who-done-it—and I guess it worked. Fourteen months later, Caleb and I were married on Christmas Eve—which is also my birthday. (This explains my parents’  “unique creativity” in giving me a Christmas name—which has only caused me to have to spell my name over and over all my life!)

Merry Noelle Bishop Steadman.  I loved being married! And I knew when I married Caleb that he loved four things:  God, me, preaching, and farming—and in that order—with his cow dog, Max, and a few other animals thrown in there somewhere at the end.  Caleb had found his dream jobs in Sunrise, TX. He’d become the bi-vocational pastor of the 100-member First Baptist Church and he hired out to Jake Leathers as a farmhand. 

“Merry, the two go together,” he said. “Sowing and reaping can be preached in the pulpit as I do it in the field.”  I believed him. 

And as painful as it was for Caleb, he seemed to be overcoming his adversity to crowds as he got to know his church at a time. Of course, I helped where I could by being my extroverted self. Caleb wasn’t just content to know his flocks’ names, he wanted to be involved in their lives—and he told them that. And they seemed happy to have him out and about in the community instead of sitting at a church desk. 

So when widow Katy Brown’s heifer was calving, she called frantically, “Preacher!  I need you over here NOW!”  And he was. He helped pull that new baby calf and stayed until it was nursing. 

And, yes, everyone called him Preacher. 

Or when Pete White’s farmhand broke his leg, Caleb didn’t even think twice—he jumped on that John Deere cotton harvester and helped until the cotton was tarped in the fields. 

Caleb told me often, “I love you, Merry!  You’re everything I’m not—and that God knew I needed.”  He was the kind of guy that when dinner was inedible, he’d say, “I was kind of hungry for a DQ Dude, how about you?”  But really...who ever gets hungry for DQ?  I knew he loved me by the way he cared for me. 

Of course, his first job commitment was to preaching—Sunday mornings to the church and Wednesday nights to the youth. His next obligation was to Jake Leathers. But Caleb would dream as we’d lay in bed at night, “I want to earn enough money working with Jake to save up for our own farm some day.”  It wasn’t going to happen anytime soon at the rate our savings account was growing—even if we did live in the church parsonage. 

Which is why I wanted a job. Plus my husband’s dreams were all being fulfilled. But somehow, I was having a hard time in Sunrise, TX, population 650, to find my dream job. I’d studied business and advertising. The grocery store, hardware store, The Grill, Sunset to Sunrise Motel, the Dairy Queen, nor the gas station needed help with advertising. They were the only game in town and everyone already did their business with them. 

I was also bored. Caleb was working way too many hours—and I didn’t know where I fit in the church. I didn’t know how to play the piano. I was too insecure to teach Women’s Bible Studies to women older than me. And I just couldn’t work in the nursery—it might stir up some premature desires.  The kitchen?  That was out, too. I could barely boil water. I didn’t want to be a complainer—but I was beginning to wonder why God had made me a pastor’s—uh, preacher’s—wife and why He’d set me in Sunrise, TX. My mom had always told me, “Merry Noelle, we expect you to always live up to your name!  God has given you a delightful laugh and a beautiful smile. Use it!”  I was afraid I was about to lose my “merry”—even though Christmas was right around the corner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Has your soul “entered the iron” of your circumstances?

When I read Psalm 105:18 in the Amplified version years ago, it haunted me. “ His feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in chains of iron and his soul entered into the iron...”. It implies the same message in many versions. Joseph’s soul entered into the iron which chained him. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers. And he was chained. I can’t even imagine his circumstances...or can I?

What horrible circumstances have you gone through?  What kind of abandonment have you experienced?  Have you been attacked by those who should love you?  Have you been wounded, oppressed, violated, or shamed?

It’s so easy to go there—letting your soul (your mind, will, and emotions) go into the iron (captivity) of your circumstances. It’s easy to keep your eyes on others, on what is happening TO you. It’s just easier to give in to all of it. It’s hard to fight it. The Bible insinuates Joseph lived there for years—his heart locked (and strengthened) in the foul play of his brothers. 

How do you break free of those chains?  Better do you keep your soul from entering the iron in the first place? must see your circumstances from God’s perspective. He’s allowed this to touch your life. And “what Satan intends for evil, God means for good.”  We have already been seated in heavenly places—a good place from which to gain God’s perspective. Talk to Him. Ask Him what you need to see and learn through this adverse season. 

Bless. Don’t curse. This is so important to keep your soul from the iron. Pray immediately for those who’ve hurt you. Ask God to bless them. And give God praise. And forgive. 

I’ve had several dark hours where my soul did—or wanted to—enter the iron. And I believe blessing and praising were two key elements which kept my soul out of the iron those times. And most of the time, I’ve only gained God’s perspective and purpose in hindsight. So...give God time to work!  He only wants good for you!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Hitting the Target

Andy loves to tell the story of when he ran sound for George W. Bush when the Texas governor spoke in Borger, TX.  Zach excitedly told us that he got to write some songs with some well-known song writers recently. I’ve been to both The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile & Magnolia Markets.  Why do we get excited to be around famous people?  I️ didn’t even have to see Ree Drummond or Chip & Joanna Gaines—I️ was just happy to be around what they’d created!

There’s something in us that causes us to admire celebrities and draws us to their greatness. I️’ve thought on this a lot. We love to see someone who’s “made it!”  This can be good...but it can also be harmful if that person has no moral character. And any celebrity will tell you that they miss the anonymity they once enjoyed. 

I️ believe the greatness we must be drawn to is the Spirit of God in others. I’ve known so many people in my lifetime who weren’t famous—but I️ was drawn to them because of the beautiful display of spiritual fruit in their lives. The Spirit of God is preeminent. HE’s the one who has power. HE’s the one who can do more than we imagine. HE’s the one who teaches, guides, and counsels us. He must increase and we must decrease.  We humbly submit who we are to God so He can fulfill the good purpose He has for us.  

I️ think it’s a beautiful thing when we finally “get” our reason for being created—when we understand our purpose. It brings us into alignment with God. We agree for His good plan which He prearranged before time began. . It may or may not make us famous. But...we can certainly allow the Spirit of God to shine through us to a world who needs HIM. THAT’S when we hit the target of His will. 

“For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].  Ephesians 2:10 (Amp)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pastor Appreciation Week

Pastor Appreciation Week
Andy Dietz & I have been leading Pastors & Wives’ Retreats (and Pastors’ Wives’ Retreats) for the past couple of years through Double Honor Ministries. I can’t begin to tell you how needed these Retreats have been. We’ve ministered to some very hurt people. 1500 ministers are leaving the ministry each month. They’re facing challenges ministers never faced 50 years ago. Satan has upped his game and his attacks. His desire is to leave no minister standing. 
Because of this brutal attack, it’s more important than ever to let pastors and their wives know they’re not alone and there are still people who consider them “worthy of Double Honor!”  It’s especially important for older pastors to encourage the younger ones—and to show them that it’s possible to finish the course. 
I don’t know of any other ministry doing as much for pastors and their wives. I highly commend this ministry. If you want to honor your pastor, consider donating to this ministry in a big way (They spend a considerable amount getting the pastor to the retreat, funding meals & entertainment, and creating an environment for REST!!) Give generously.  And if you can, please consider making it a monthly donation. And THEN...give us your pastor’s name so we can invite him and his wife to a retreat!!!  They will be BLESSED...and honored. You can find the “DONATE” button at the bottom of the page.  Please consider sharing this post.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Epic Lifetime

“King David was now an old man with an epic lifetime behind him...”. I Kings 1:1 (The Voice)

Don’t you want to get to the end of your life and say the same?  “That was an amazing life—EPIC!”  Of course, there will be bumps and dips in the road. There were for David!  But I think the one thing we can say that made David’s life epic was he had a heart after God. He followed God all of his life. And when he disobeyed...he confessed his sin and repented. 

I want to look back and say I did all I knew to follow Jesus. I want to have had the most intimate relationship with him I could possibly have had. I want to quickly obey..and quickly repent when I disobey. I want to please him.  

I want an epic life!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

42 Years

42 Years. We celebrated last night and reminisced. We both agreed our greatest accomplishment was our four children. We're so proud of them--and glad they're awesome adults in spite of our many blunders and mistakes. 

Andy's biggest regret: that he wasn't bolder and more confident early on. He said he was proudest of me for truly partnering with him in ministry. 

My biggest regret: that I didn't understand, focus on, and partner with our strengths earlier. I am proudest of Andy for the amazing way he connects with people and invests in them. 

But we both agreed that our regrets mean nothing--knowing it was all part of the process of growth!  It's been so fun to look back and see God's hand guiding us to where we are today!  (And we BOTH agreed that this has gone WAY faster than we ever thought possible!!!!)

Happy 42nd Anniversary, Babe!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Principle of Exchange

What do you think of when I say, "Hershey's Kiss?"  Do you see silver foil twisted around a cone-shape with a little white banner flying out of the top? Do you see pure milk chocolate in the same shape? Does it look mouth-watering?  Can you just taste the smoothness of that perfect chocolate as it slowly begins to melt in your mouth?  

Now...quit thinking about the Hershey's Kiss. Stop!  Don't think about the twisted foil. Don't look at the Hershey's banner flying out of the top.  Stop!!  Quit imagining the sweet chocolate. STOP!!!!

Once your mind has been filled with a thought, it's almost impossible to quit thinking about it. But God told us to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  It's up to us!!!  We can't just pray those thoughts away--God told US to do it!!  How??

I did this exercise with our youth recently. It's almost impossible to just quit thinking on something Satan plants in our mind.  This is where temptation starts. And just so you know...the first thought isn't's a temptation TO sin!  It becomes a sin when we entertain that thought and act on it. I picture a "thought" entering my mind and me setting a table with my very best china and sitting down and hosting a dinner. I've done my best to make it feel welcome. So it must be stopped before we entertain it. EXCHANGE IT!!!

Think about a juicy, crisp apple. It's gloriously red on the outside with soft, little green stripes running through it. When you cut it open, it has light green flesh with droplets of juice sitting on top. You bite into it and it has a sweetness with a hint of tartness which hits your glands as you munch on the crisp apple. 

As you thought on the apple, you quit thinking about the Hershey's Kiss. You had to exchange that thought to create a new one. It's the same with temptation.  It's hard to just quit thinking on a sinful thought. You have to exchange it. When a temptation enters my mind, I say, "NO!" out loud!  (Satan can't read your mind even though he can put thoughts in your mind!)  By doing that, I've captured that thought and taken it hostage. And then I have to exchange it with a new thought. I read or quote the Bible. I sing or listen to praise music. I speak TRUTH and remind myself of that truth. But I must exchange thoughts.  This is something God has given US to do!!  We're to be the gatekeepers of our own minds. 

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12:2

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  II Corinthians 10:5

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Fear is powerful!  Satan wants us to imagine the very worst--because he knows that we'll act on what we're thinking. (Proverbs 23:7)  If we're imagining the worst case scenario, our minds will provide the roadmap to get there. 

I read through Genesis this morning and wrote down 122 fears I saw in that book alone!  Out of those 122 fears, I could categorize most of them into the following 14.

•Rejection/ Comparison
•God/God's people
•Unfulfilled Promises
•The Unknown

I'm not saying this is a comprehensive list!  But imagine Satan feeding you even one of these fears (and yes, we can fear good things!) and you taking the bait and following it to its natural conclusion. God never wanted you living in fear!!  In fact, He told us that "fear is not from God and that perfect love casts out fear!"  (I John 4:18)  What is that perfect love?  God's love!!  The more we get to know God, the more we'll trust Him. And the more we trust Him, the less we'll fear!  God hasn't given us the spirit of fear (it IS a spirit!), but of power, love, and a sound mind. (II Timothy 1:7)  

How do we overcome fear?  First of all, you have to recognize it. Fear should be a red light for us!  God doesn't make us fear...Satan does!!  He's our accuser. So since it's not from God, we know we should take that thought captive and make it obey Jesus!  (II Corinthians 10:5)  Throw it away if it's fear. What do we replace it with?  Love. Understanding and knowing how much God loves us. Think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, etc. (Philippians 4:8)  LISTEN to God's voice as he speaks to your heart. 

We all fear time-to-time. But you don't have to live in fear. And you certainly don't have to allow fear to lead you to its ultimate end--destruction!  Fear can be debilitating and keep you from fulfilling your full potential and your God-given purpose. God has given you the way to abundant life.  It's up to you to control the thoughts you allow into your mind. Take your thoughts hostage!!

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Friday, September 8, 2017

Intensity & Frequency

Have you felt things becoming more intense and more frequent?  I have. It's like I can't catch my breath in between events. The birth pains are coming closer together. No wonder we can't rest!!  Years ago, I was watching a seismograph as a meteorologist explained El Niño--and it hit me!!  It looked exactly like the heartbeat of a baby during delivery. El Niño means baby boy. Last night, someone asked me, "What happens before a baby is born?  The mom's water breaks!"  Could the hurricanes be a picture of that in the natural?  This morning, there was an 8.0 earthquake off the coast of Mexico. The labor pains are closer. 
I Thess. 5:3 says that in the last days, people will be crying 'peace and safety' and sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. Did you know the U.N. has declared a Day of Peace on September 21 (the middle of Rosh Hashanah-Feast of Trumpets)?  And the theme is, "Together for Peace: Respect, Safety, & Dignity for All."  And we can't dismiss the terrorization of Kim Jong-un as he tests nuclear bombs. That's not safe.
Many believe Jesus will return during Rosh Hashana--it's the next feast on the Jewish calendar for a major event to take place. (September 20-22 this year)  Plus it says Jesus will return with a shout of the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. 
These could all be coincidences...or it may be that God wants us watching the signs and looking up!  Either way, the time is closer.
There will be those who laugh, saying,  "nothing's changed and people have been saying 'Jesus was coming' for thousands of years"--but that's just another sign fulfilling II Peter 3:3-7. 
I've been watching the skies myself.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When Hospitality Costs You

As a pastor's wife, we've all been in that situation. Your husband tells you he's invited a committee to meet at your house and will need refreshments served...or someone's coming to speak and will need to stay at your house...or the staff Christmas party will be at your house in two days!  

Hopefully, you and your pastor-husband communicate well and plan ahead. But there are always those times that the unexpected happens...and God uses those circumstances to squeeze us. We have a choice in how we respond. 

God expects us to be hospitable. (I Timothy 3)  The problem is...I don't always feel like being hospitable. And sometimes (most of the time) hospitality costs us--time, money, physical & emotional energy, etc.  

So what's the key?  I've learned a few things through the years. The times I don't want to be hospitable usually turn out to be some of the most meaningful experiences. I remember Andy wanting to invite a family to our home for dinner and money was so tight that I told him the only thing we could offer them was a sandwich. But he still wanted to invite them. I was embarrassed. But they came. That family became some of our very best friends. And the woman confided years later that they'd had nothing to eat because they'd just moved to town and we're waiting on their first paycheck. Our friendship was sealed over a sandwich. 

Hospitality always seems to cost something. But the reason it does is because it's so VALUABLE. Hospitality is God's way of inviting others into our lives. It's the very plan He uses to grow the Church. There's something so important about sharing a meal together!  Jesus did it over and over with His disciples. Eating together opens our hearts to one another. 

I encourage you to be hospitable...even when you don't feel like it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Job's Wife

My sister, Becky Sanders Dietz and I were discussing the subject of Job's wife, and she had such great insight I asked her to co-author a blog with me.  I'm glad I did!  Here's the outcome of that collaboration...Sandra Langford. 

Job had a pretty good life.  He was, though not perfect, a man devoted to God.  In fact, in Job 2:3 God Himself said of Job, "No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.” His reputation was infallible. Job was a man of wealth and a father to seven sons and three daughters.  His family appeared to have a happy and close relationship. They would have a feast "each on his appointed day" (probably their birthday) and invite each other to the parties.  After the feast, Job would offer a sacrifice in case any of his children had sinned in their hearts. 

Then, one day, God looks upon Job and with pride, and asks Satan the life changing question for Job. "Have you considered my servant Job?" With that simple question, Job loses everything, his animals, servants, and finally his sons and daughters.  Everything, that is, but his wife.

I had never considered before why Satan the accuser chose not to kill Job's wife.  But why kill her if you can use her?  Satan first afflicted Job with painful boils all over his body. Then he attacked Job through the words of his wife, "Why don't you curse God and die?"  Satan knows better than we do how powerful our influence is over our husbands.  Her words are actually suggesting treason against God. "Declare a rebellion and insurrection against God and His kingdom!"  

How many of you wives have ever thought, "I could do this life so much better without my husband!"?  I have. This isn't my own thought--but one the Great Insurrector put in my mind. Satan wants to divide us as husband and wife. Every single girl longs to be married and every married woman longs to do it alone. It's Satan's way of spreading discontent and disunity. (And it has been working for thousands of years!) If our marriages are a picture of Christ & the Church, Satan will do everything in his power to destroy it. 

Even though Job's wife was used by the enemy to try and cause an insurrection against God--and even against their marriage--God used her as part of the restoration process.  When God restored everything to Job, He also gave an increase.  He doubled all he'd owned...everything, that is, except children. He received exactly what he'd lost--7 sons and 3 daughters. But I like to think peace, spicyness, and allure came into his marriage in spades. After all...that's what he named his new daughters!  Job and his wife were the age of grandparents by this time.  That can bring hope into marriages which are in that stage.  I believe the marriage of Job and his wife was completely restored.  I believe it became everything God intended it to be--a picture of Christ & the Church.
--Sandra Langford

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Tonight, Jamie Shuck led our youth in an exercise of emptying our cups of pleasure and culture (good or bad) at the cross...and lifting our cups and asking God to fill it with Him. It was a powerful moment as I realized how empty I was. 

I know the way to be filled is intimacy with God. It's listening to Him--from His Word and in my heart. And me sharing my heart with Him. Jamie even read Psalm 23:5 to us. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over."

As I came home and began journaling what God had shown me tonight, I told God I desired a deeper intimacy with Him--I had let the world and circumstances crowd Him out. I'd lost focus. Immediately, a picture came into my mind of me sitting at the table feasting with Him--intimately. Just like the couple in this photo. I was so enthralled with God, I had no awareness of the enemy around me. This was a completely different interpretation I'd ever had of Psalm 23:5!  

I want to be that enthralled with Jesus!!  I want to be so intimate with Him that the enemy can do all kinds of shenanigans around me--and I only have eyes for my King.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

When the Enemy Taunts

What is your first response when God is putting a plan in your heart and the enemy taunts you?  I'm guessing it's to stop...retreat...cower in fear...listen to the the to like-minded friends about that mean ol' enemy!

That's what the Israelites were doing for 40 days as Goliath sneered at them. Then as soon as David arrived and heard Goliath, God began putting a plan in David's heart. He began asking what the reward would be for the person who killed this giant who was mocking God. And David was eattacked, taunted, jeered, and made fun of--by his own brother, Eliab. 

What did David do?  Very simply...he ignored his brother. Now this brother was his oldest brother--and David was the baby of the family. For David to ignore him shows how powerful this was. I imagine God had been in the process of strengthening David's inner man as he spent so much time alone caring for his father's sheep. God had already told David he would be the next king. God had sent a lion and bear for him to kill and overcome. And David knew it wasn't about him--it was all about God. 

What plan is God putting in your heart?  Has the Enemy taunted you about it?  He may even speak through those closest to you. He may use intimidation you've lived with your whole life. You should have one response...
Ignore it. 

"Eliab: Why have you come down here? Who is watching your tiny flock in the wilderness? I’m your brother, and I know you—you’re arrogant, and your heart is evil. You’ve come to watch the battle as if it were just entertainment.

David: What have I done now? I was just asking a question.

David ignored him and asked another soldier the same question, and the people gave him the same answer. When news of David’s valiant words reached the king, Saul sent for David."

Friday, July 7, 2017

God is Good All the Time by Sandra Langford

I don't think I'll ever forget it.  I won't tell his story because I don't know much of it and it isn't mine to tell.  But a small bit of the story I think is mine.  He had suffered from illness for awhile, in fact, I believe he was diagnosed just a few months before I found out that I too was being attacked by cancer.  The last Sunday that I saw him was probably his last to attend church before he went home to heaven.  He had been talking to my husband, and I walked up to greet him.  His last words to me were simple but heart felt.  He looked into my eyes and with deep peace simply said, "God is good ALL the time."  I wanted to grab his arm and talk to him.  I wanted to share what God had been teaching me thru my hardships - to truly delight in God no matter the circumstances.  I wanted to hear exactly what God had been teaching him because it was apparent he had learned some lessons as well.  However, I could tell his energy was lagging and that he needed to leave, so I simply agreed with him, God is indeed good all the time.

I saw a quote not long ago by Graham Cooke:

“If you are in mourning, you have the opportunity to worship in the most powerful way possible: lamentation. This worship isn’t done in order to have God remove the pain. It simply recognizes that God stands in the moment with us. Lamentation elevates God in the presence of our enemies. It brings out a side of God that other forms of worship simply cannot touch.”

When I choose to worship God, delight in Him, and give thanks to God in times of hardship, in times of grief and distress I believe it sends a very strong message.  A message that my church friend sent loud and clear.  It is a message that  the world, our church, our youth and children need to hear.  This ability to sincerely declare "God is good!" even during difficult circumstances proclaims to the world that God is worthy of our praise no matter what. It shows our children that God still stands with us and loves us and is truly trustworthy.  It magnifies Him.  This declaration helps people see that He is worth following for a lifetime. I think the enemy is fearful of this kind of worship because it is powerful.  

There is another powerful time of delight and worship that I think brings equally deep fear to the enemy.  A time that makes a very strong statement of God's power, love, strength and glory.  It is a time that seems to make people so uncomfortable that I've seen them gently reprimand others for it.  When God shows up and shows off with power and people declare "this is what God did for me! God is good!" well meaning friends will respond "God is good all the time" as if to say, "don't declare God's goodness during your celebration - it will make those who are going thru hard times feel bad."  (I know that isn't what all who say that mean, but many do!) Frankly, this as a lie of the enemy.  In fact, I think it is because we hesitate to declare God's miracles, His greatness in the good times that our children, our world, and yes, even our church fail to see God's power.  I think it is one reason our youth and young adults don't continue to attend church after they leave home.  Why would they follow a god that they see as powerless and unable?  Those who are grieving, in distress, and floundering NEED to be reminded that God is still in the miracle-working business, they need that hope!  I know I did and our friend reminded me even in his pain.  Let's cut the enemy off at the knees, bring satan to a place of cowering in fear because of our declaration of God's power.

Let's begin to celebrate freely!  Let me declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord. (Psalm 118:17)   After all, My God IS good ALL THE TIME - yes, even in my celebration.  How sad is it that I hesitate to tell good news because of other's discomfort in declaring God's glory?  Look at God's work in my life! See what He has done!  He is all powerful!  He is my Delight  in good times and bad.  He is Jehovah Rapha - The Lord Who Heals.  He is El Roi - The God Who Sees!  And this time He has seen fit to see me, to heal me!  My doctors were so sure that cancer had again attacked my body that they had plans in motion for treatments after my surgery.  BUT GOD.  On my way to the appointment to see the surgeon after surgery, I received the call that the pathology report showed no cancer.  I believe God healed me.  Since He can see me, work miracles in my life and love me, He can do the same for you -no matter your circumstances.  Just as God walked with our church friend and carried him though his time of illness, God walked with me.  God was good then and He is good now.  Praise HIM!  If I could talk to that friend again, I would thank him for so gently reminding me when he knew I was waiting and hurting -  "God is good ALL the time."

One of my favorite stories in the Bible recently has been the story of Moses in Exodus 33.  Moses was pleading for God's favor for the Israelite people and then he asks God, "Show me Your glory!" God tells Moses to come to the cleft of a rock and  passes before him, protectively covering Moses with His hand until He had passed by.  As God took His hand away Moses could see the back of God.  In Ex. 34:6-7  "Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands...."  I've always pictured this in my mind as God solemnly walking past Moses somberly saying "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate.....".  Then I recently heard it described another way.  Probably much more accurately than I had pictured it.  What if instead of solemnly walking by,
God was jumping up and down, dancing - perhaps throwing his hands in the air celebrating Himself as He delightedly declared to Moses, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious...!!"   My challenge to you is to not be hesitant to declare God's glory in fear of hurting others, but to be like God Himself, celebrating His glory and goodness.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who am I?

"Who do people say you are??"  Have you seen that game on Facebook where you write one word to describe a person and post the first gif which comes up?  It's pretty telling. People are seeing what others think of them. Now here's the second question..."What do you WISH people said about you?"  

I asked these questions in Sunday School before I taught on Judges. And then we looked at what God said about each judge.
Othniel--went to war
Ehud--left-handed judge who killed a king
Deborah--judge, prophetess, liberator, carried the presence of God, led army to victory
Gideon--mighty warrior, led people into idolatry
Tola--judge, defender of Israel
And the list goes on and on...

If your life was reduced to one or two words, what would it be?  Would you be remembered as a warrior?  A good mother?  A businessman?  A sports addict?  

What do you WANT your legacy to be?

Now...are you pointed towards that target?  Or do you need to adjust your aim?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

To Young Moms


What would I say to a young mother?

I'm watching you young moms out there and appreciate what a hard job you have.  I want to encourage you today.  It's been rolling through my mind as I read Facebook what I'd want to say to each of you if I had the opportunity.  So...I'm taking the opportunity.

Enjoy your children.  I know as you're changing diapers, potty training, trying to get kids to clean their rooms or trying to get teenagers out of bed, it seems like this job will go on forever.  While you'll be a mom forever, this part won't last long in the great scheme of things.  Enjoy it while you're on this leg of the journey.  Laugh...a lot!

Take the time to train your children--it's time-consuming, but the payoff is great.  I remember how hard it was to train kids to clean their rooms.  (I pretty much gave up.)  But training your children how to sit at the table with good manners is huge.  Training them how to be a good friend will have long-term payoffs.  There are so many ways you will train your children.  Just remember that you're investing in our society in a huge way when you train your kids.  And...because there's such a lack of training among a lot of homes, your children are going to really stand out and be leaders.  Remember that.

Relax!  Don't be so hard on yourself or your kids.  Looking back, I spent way too much time trying to impress others with my parenting skills instead of just pleasing God.  He's so much easier to please!   

Remember these are little people with real feelings.  If I'd been thinking of how my words or actions might affect my children long-term, I might not have said or done a lot of them.  You may be rearing the next world-changer.  Take that in mind and treasure their little hearts.  Kids may be resilient, but how many of us look back on our childhoods and can pinpoint one situation that killed a part of who we were?  We have a lot of power as parents.

Take time for yourself.  Make time to develop friendships!!  This is so important.  You need a sounding board or just being away from the fray.  Expect your kids to whine as you leave them with dad or a babysitter while you go have coffee with a friend.  Be strong!  Don't let it keep you home--go get that coffee.  You'll be a better mom when you get home.  Have fun while you're out!

Date your husband.  I can still remember my kids giggling as I told them I had a date with their dad.  This brings comfort to their hearts knowing that their parents enjoy being together.

Spend time with God.  Maybe this should have been at the top of the list, but I know as a mom it was hard to find a time alone with God.  I usually found time during the kids' naps to do it.  God knows how hard this is!  But just make your conversation with him go on all day long.  His Word is hidden in your heart, after all.

Along that line, ask God how to parent.  He's the best parent and knows your children inside and out.  And He's given you the best counselor--the Holy Spirit!

Spend time getting to know each child.  They're all different!  Consider this a privilege with long-term results.  Take them out individually.  Let each of them get to do things the others don't get to do.  (This will also make for some great feuds when they become adults!  Ha!)  Let them know they are each special and dear to your heart.

I know this may look more like a list of what-to-do instead of encouragement.  So if I could sum it up in one word, it would be this--ENJOY!!!  Enjoy those tiny people.  Enjoy each stage.  Purpose in your heart to enjoy the children God has entrusted to you.  Don't strive so hard.  Don't make it a pain. Don't pressure yourself and them.  Just...enjoy.  You're doing great, Momma!  No,'re doing GREAT!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Victim or Victor?


Victim or Victor?

It's so easy as a pastor's wife to adopt the attitude of victim. "Unless you've walked in our shoes, you just don't understand. I don't even WORK at the church, but there are so many expectations placed on me!  Everything my children do is scrutinized, analyzed, and discussed. People come to me with sweet-sugared criticisms of my husband--and sometimes not so sweet-sugared!"

Is that REALLY who I want to be?  A victim?  Actually, I'd rather be a Deborah. I want the confidence to know who I am and who God has called me to be!  I want to be that person who KNOWS her giftings and walks in them--not manipulated into things I have no desire to do. Deborah was a force to be reckoned with. She sat under a tree--HER tree--dispensing wisdom with which God had gifted her. She was a prophetess and I believe she was fearless. In a day when women were right above the family cow in the pecking order, she was fearless in telling people--even men--what God was saying. She was a judge deciding between right and wrong. And then one day, she sent for Barak and asked him, "Hasn't God told you to take on Sisera?(The captain of Canaan's army who held Israel captive--and had chariots of iron.) Go ahead!  God will deliver him into your hands!"  But Barak makes an interesting comment, "I'll go if you go with me."  My sister gave me insight here. She said she believed Barak knew God was with Deborah and wanted her to carry the presence of God into battle. Deborah agreed to go with the understanding that a woman (Jael) would get the credit for killing Sisera. And it played out exactly that way!  Deborah led the army into battle fearlessly--against strong men with iron chariots--and won!!  

Deborah didn't get sidetracked with the numerous "womanly" duties around her. God called her to prophesy, judge, and lead an army into battle--and even share the glory with another woman who just happened to put a tent peg through the head of Sisera while he rested in her tent. 

Yes, I want to be victorious!  I want to be filled with the presence of God, walk in the ways in which he's gifted me, and go into battle when necessary. I want to be fearless and confident. I want to have laser focus. How about you?

The Profit

Marcus Lemonis stars as The Profit on CNBC.  I stumbled upon this reality TV show recently and it has reeled me in.  Marcus is a real-life millionaire (billionaire?) who rescues failing businesses with a financial investment, taking over a percentage of the company, and declares, "I am now the boss."  The rest of the hour is a summary of how he brings about change to make the company solvent.  As I began to watch episode after episode, some things began to stick out to me.  Some things which are common to life...not just business.  So I took some notes and these are the things I've learned from The Profit.  As you read the list, don't just think about business...think about life!

  • You can't grow if you resist change.  In fact, you may be destroyed.
  • You have to have emotion for your business to succeed.
  • People fear loss of control.
  • When people refuse to change, they become argumentative (at the least), manipulative, subversive, divisive, and destructive (at the worst).
  • Someone must be in control--someone who knows how to grow the business.
  • You MUST get rid of the old to make room for growth and change.
  • A good leader acknowledges where you are, asks questions, LISTENS, but stays focused on the vision.  He's not afraid to speak truth to get you where you need to be.  
  • A business should know their numbers.  If they don't, they have no plan for success.
  • A leader must be able to see what is wrong.  They see weaknesses but play to the strengths.
  • A business should know their strengths and capitalize on them.
  • A business should surround themselves with people who are different--to fill in the holes of their weaknesses.
  • A business must VALUE their employees.
  • A business should reward faithful and helpful employees.
  • Negativity will kill a business.
  • There MUST be quality control.
  • You must admit mistakes and rectify them.
  • Strive for happy customers.
  • Be organized!
  • Make the most of your space.
  • Your business should be pleasing to the eye.
  • Praise a job well done.
  • Honor employees.
  • Prove you're better than expected.
  • Fix what's broken.
  • Make your name visible.
  • Don't be a know-it-all.  Be teachable.
  • Expand wisely.
  • Deal with your past and your hurts in order to move forward.
  • Expand wisely.
  • Get counsel from people who can see your blind spots.
  • Put "like" products together.  Get rid of products which have nothing to do with your business.
  • Have the right people in their right places.
  • Be willing to let go of perceived strengths when they actually may be a weakness which is killing your business.
  • LISTEN!!!
  • Don't waste money with unnecessary jobs, misused space, or products which have nothing to do with your main business.
  • Make a plan.
  • Observe.
  • Learn from successful businesses and people.
  • You don't have to understand product to understand the business of the product.  But you CAN research and learn!
  • Be efficient.
  • Obey laws.
  • Use the right equipment.
  • Create partnerships when you can and when it's wise.  If you already have a partnership, don't try to be a Lone Ranger.  
  • Believe in yourself!  Listen and receive the praise and encouragement others give.  It may lead to a new understanding of yourself.
  • Work hard to leave every customer satisfied.
  • Don't undervalue your product.  You've invested yourself in this product and it has value.  Believe it!
  • Don't leave anything on the table.  Give 100%.
I always find it interesting that people will call Marcus needing help to rescue their business and they know change is imminent.  But then most of them resist him every step of the way.  WE DON'T LIKE CHANGE!  But it's a rule of nature....if you're going to grow, you're going to have to change.  Change is all around us.  God even created us so that we have to change.  So when we resist change, do you think maybe we're resisting God?  God is the only one who never changes. He designed it this way so we have a point of reference--a focus--in the midst of our change to keep us balanced. Change is inevitable. Resisting change slows you down...and can even destroy you. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson


David & Evie are appointed to a task force by the governor to solve cold cases. They have no idea how close and personal Evie's case will become. Five college girls have been missing for years and they all seem to have one connection--they all attended a Triple M concert starring David's girlfriend, Maggie. David & Evie partner in closing in on the killer--which involves a dangerous and life-threatening situation for Maggie. 
Dee Henderson is one of my all-time favorite authors. She knows how to create suspense in a believable way and keeps me guessing the whole time about whodunnit. This book is no exception!  I loved the book and I'm already anxious for the next in the series!!
I'd give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Evergreen Church & all of us


"Will I be welcome?  Will I sit in the wrong place?"  These are both questions I ask myself when going to a new church. Believe it or not, I am an introvert. I hate walking into new situations--which is exactly where I found myself last Sunday. I had Zach & Shanna's children and took them to their church--where Zach is worship pastor. It's usually not uncomfortable for me because I have Zach & Shanna to sit with. But I was solo Sunday!  I walked in (with very few people knowing me) and at least 5 strangers greeted me before I ever entered the sanctuary. Then as I was seated and the songs began, a woman next to me leaned over and introduced herself to me. She asked me my name and instantly recognized my last name (there are two Dietz's on staff) and told me she loved my family. I settled into the service feeling welcomed, loved, known. 

Isn't that what we all want--and we fear it isn't waiting for us at church?  It also encouraged me to up my game!!  How about you?  We need to welcome each person who walks into our churches. We need to ask people to sit with us...ask questions...get to know our visitors. We need to take guests to lunch!  I can do those things--even as an introvert, which is no excuse. 
If you live in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow area, I highly recommend Evergreen Church!!

Let's love our guests--and long-time members--tomorrow!!!

Thursday, May 11, 2017



Last night, Jamie Shuck was teaching our youth about how important our reputation is with others. He asked why?  The conversation was great!  As he taught, I began thinking about lots of Bible characters--Daniel, Joseph, Esther, Deborah, and more. Why do we remember them?  Because they were CHAMPIONS!!  They chose to stand alone when it could have cost them everything. Some of them even did it afraid--they just pressed through their fears!  

Out of 107 billion people who've ever lived on earth, we only remember the names of a handful. And why do we remember them?  Because they were fearless. They may have stood alone when everyone else went with the crowd, they may have invented something when everyone said it couldn't be done, they may have stood for "right," they may have led battles, or they may have protected others. 

We need CHAMPIONS more than ever!!  And our kids need to see adults leading and standing more than ever. But I'm praying we have a whole generation of young leaders RISE UP and choose to stand for Christ--even if there's a cost.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Day the Veil was Torn


This simple fact is often overlooked in the story of the resurrection of Jesus--the moment the veil was torn. Not only was it torn, but it was torn from the top to the bottom--which is significant. This was a simple, yet profound, event. That veil was 6-8 inches thick...and yet it was torn. No man could possibly have torn that veil--especially from top to bottom. GOD tore the veil!

What was behind the veil?  The ark of the covenant. The ark was where God met man. And not just any man could go behind the veil--only the high priest. He had to make sure his sins were confessed or he would die behind that veil in God's holy presence. There were bells on the bottom of his robe so the other priests would know he was still alive. If the bells stopped ringing, they would pull the priest out with the rope tied around his ankle--because they couldn't go behind the veil. 

Ripping the veil at the moment Jesus died was so significant. God was declaring that Jesus' death made a way for EVERY man (and woman) to come into the presence of God!  As man confesses his sin, he's been invited into a personal, intimate relationship with our holy God. We no longer need a priest to confess our sins or intercede on our behalf. In fact, at the point of salvation, we each become a priest--able to talk and listen to God ourselves--intimately. 

What a holy moment for us...that moment when the veil was torn!!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Joseph's Brothers


Joseph was a favored child--and his father set him apart with a special coat (of many colors). Not only did this create jealousy with his ten older brothers, but then Joseph shared a dream that his brothers and parents would bow down to him some day--insinuating he would have authority over them. Now his brothers hated him!  And they concocted a plan to kill him and throw his body into a well and return his colorful coat to dear-old-dad with a story he's been killed by a wild animal. Except his older brother wasn't keen on the idea and suggested they just throw him in a deep well and leave him there--with every intention of coming back later to get him out.

What struck me this morning as I thought on this story is that Joseph's brothers very nearly killed their own deliverance!! 

God had a plan to deliver these ten brothers and their father through Joseph--through the very brother they hated. God even used their hate-filled plan to redeem them. 

Joseph was their deliverer--and they almost killed him.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Keys to the Kingdom


"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19

Sunday, Andy used this scripture in his message. When he did, a different interpretation jumped into my mind. A key LOCKS or UNLOCKS. It helped me understand this verse a little better. God gave us keys to lock and unlock doors. And He's given us the authority, as His ambassadors, to use them.
As His ambassadors, we must understand the constitution of the kingdom (what's permitted) and the protocol of the kingdom (when it's permissible) and the will of the King. But when we do, we have the authority to lock and unlock doors. Jesus did nothing apart from what He saw His Father doing. We have to keep our eyes on the King and be ready to do what He's doing--working in agreement with Him. Then we get to lock and unlock doors in His kingdom--knowing we have the full weight (authority) of the King behind us! Which key do you get to turn today?