Monday, October 22, 2012


We are once again in the midst of one of my favorite months of the year - October! I love fall. I love the changing leaves and the crisp snap in the air. I love apples and cider and pumpkin spice lattes. :) I love the cozy feeling that cool nights bring.

One of the best things about October though, is usually, somewhere in there, we get an Indian summer. If you don't live in the North or Midwest, an Indian summer is beautiful summer-like weather when the weather has been decidedly fall-like and heading into winter-like. Usually, you have given in and changed over your closet to sweaters and sweatshirts.

This week, we've been experiencing our Indian summer. The temperatures are supposed to be in the 70's, the sky is blue and the trees are wearing their gorgeous fall colors. I sat outside to do my quiet time (figured I should probably enjoy it while I still could!) and soaked it all in.

While I love fall, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy balmy temperatures and sunshine less than the next person. I also still have some outside work to do, so I want to take advantage of the milder temperatures and sunshine!

The best thing about this week is that it reminded me that God's goodness and faithfulness are still visible even when you feel like you are going through a difficult and painful times.

This fall has not been a stellar time in our family. In fact, it's been downright hard lately. This hard time has come on the heels of a couple years of difficult times.

I'm tired. It sort of feels like I have been hiking for miles, thought I had gotten to my destination, only to look up and see a mountain looming in front of me. Did you ever see Homeward Bound - the movie about the two dogs and a cat that travel through the wilderness to find their family? I feel just like they did when they finally got to the top of the ridge, and instead of home, they saw a range of mountains they had yet to cross.

However, even when the cold winds begin to blow, God often surprises us with an Indian summer. We think that winter is moving in and sunshine and nice weather are far in the future. Then, God surprises us with His warmth and light in the midst of what feels like an endless, cold night.

During this difficult time, sometimes, it's hard to be thankful; it's hard to remember God's goodness, His faithfulness and His blessings.

Today, I was reminded that I still have a lot to be thankful for - that God's light is still shining on me and my family. He never leaves. He never fails. He never breaks a promise.

I'm sure things will feel hard again. But today - today, I'll savor the sunshine.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalms 27:13

~ Blessings, Bronte

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last week, I was feeling very thankful and aware of my many blessings - I just had a sense of contentment and warmth, like I was nestled in the palm of God's hand and right where I needed to be.

In the back of my mind I had that vague feeling of needing to be careful because I knew that it never fails when I feel thankful and content, that's when satan attacks. He waits until we get our guard down and then moves in.

I think the times I am most vulnerable is immediately after a mountaintop experience and when I am in the lowest part of the valley.

The former is because in a moment of victory, I am so busy doing my happy dance, I'm not really watching out for the enemies arrows. In the latter, I am so exhausted, I don't have the energy to look around, and sometimes, I'm just too tired to really care.

So, it wasn't surprising to me - after a great week last week - that this week has been less than stellar.

It started on Monday with several work related issues that caused me some stress (some of which are still raising my blood pressure) and just general feelings of being overwhelmed. It progressed to yesterday, when my youngest son was having some issues while I simultaneously found out we have a mouse (or mice) in our house {shudder} and then was capped off this morning when my computer completely crashed with a deadline looming.

Can I be honest and confess I lost my temper this morning? I punched several (soft) things and let loose with a few loud yowls in my frustration. I think I scared the dog.

Not feeling terribly thankful anymore, now was I?

After walking away from the computer for an hour, it finally came back on (whew!) and I was able to get my article edited and turned in.

A good friend of mine listened as I vented about my no-good, terrible week (that is only half over, I might add). I took a few deep breaths and felt myself calming down.

The truth is, I was ripe for an attack. My feelings of contentment had led to complaisancy. I had missed my quiet time all together yesterday and had shortened it several times last week - too busy and too lazy to refill myself with what was really my source of contentment to begin with - God.

So, instead of feeling peace and contentment, I was feeling anger, frustration and panic - not exactly the picture of that serene godly woman, is it?

Thankfully, God is always waiting for us. He never moves away or lets us down. He never fails us even when we are less than faithful.

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness."

That description of God is scattered throughout Scripture, and I take a lot of comfort in it because that means I don't have to be perfect. It means, even if it takes me a while to learn something, that God is not up in heaven tapping His foot and rolling His eyes at my denseness.

Instead, when I finally, finally get it, He looks at me with love and tenderness and says, "That's my girl!"

So, the next time you experience a mountain top experience, by all means do your version of a happy dance, but be sure to keep one hand on your sword and keep your shield of faith handy!
~Blessings, Bronte

Monday, October 15, 2012


Can I just be completely honest? I've had a spectacularly crappy day. I mean, I didn't get diagnosed with cancer or anything horrible like that. I've just had a bad day at work - well, I work from home, but you know what I mean.

It started out with an email that informed me pictures did not get taken. I then was blamed for two mistakes I didn't actually make - that's a lot of fun, let me tell you.

I got those things straightened out, but every time I sat down to write my rough draft, the phone rang or someone came to the door or the dryer buzzed or....well, you get the idea.

It was just one of those days.

I had managed to put it all behind me (sort of anyway) and was cleaning up the dinner dishes, when the phone rang. It was a photographer who was on assignment for one of my articles. He was - how should I put this? - rather ugly to me. Since he is normally a nice guy, I was taken aback and sort of ticked, to be truthful.

I mean, the reason he was there was because he didn't show up where he was supposed to be two days ago. So why yell at me??

I was oh so tempted to bring up his failure and stick it right back in his face. Instead I bit my tongue (I think there might be holes) and tried to be gracious. Lest you think I'm some kind of saint, it was mainly because my kids were all right there and they had a friend over. I didn't to blow up in front of a guest!

After this lovely conversation, I followed my long-suffering husband into the bedroom and told him that I didn't get paid nearly enough for this aggravation. He, being the even-keeled, non-emotional type of guy he is, was trying to soothe me. Instead, I was sort of annoyed he didn't want to go punch the guy in the nose! Hmph!

After a few deep breaths, I decided I needed to call back said photographer and offer to go where he was and help out. It was MY article after all, and he wasn't sure what kind of pictures I wanted. No, he hadn't said it in a very nice way, but there you were - my responsibility when you got down to it.

When I called back and offered to come over there, he reverted back to the nice guy I've known for about a year and a half and apologized for the way he had talked to me. He shared that he too had had a very crappy day and one of his main lenses for his camera was broken making getting the shot we both wanted impossible. I told him that we all have our moments and to forget about it.

I have to say that I really appreciated his apology. Should he have gotten all ugly? No, probably not, but we all have those moments, don't we? It took a big person to say he was wrong, and the fact that he gave one, made all the difference.

Personally, I'm just thankful my kid's friend was over, so I didn't get sucked into dishing it right back at him. I DO write the religion column after all. lol

It reminded me of when I was doing my Bible study which is centered on the Sermon on the Mount at the moment. How we respond to people - even people who aren't treating us very kindly - says more about us than them. When we allow other people's behavior to push us into acting in kind, we give them control.

Instead, when we are gracious, even in the face of the uglies, we aren't being doormats. We are being true to our new identities in Christ.

So the next time someone is nasty to you, take a deep breath and decide how you will respond, based not on the other person's actions but who you are.

Oh and if you are the one being ugly - apologize. It really makes a world of difference!

~ Blessings, Bronte

Saturday, October 13, 2012


A look at Sarah's life wouldn't be complete until we take a closer look at the whole Hagar issue. Who is Hagar you might ask (and you might also be wondering why did her mother give her such an ugly name but I can't help you with that one)?

Hagar was Sarah's Egyptian maid. In Genesis 16 it starts with this verse, "Now Sarai, Abrams' wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar."

You just know that with a start like that, trouble is brewing and the next verse bears that out. "So Sarai said to Abram, 'Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.' And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai."

Now before you accuse Sarah of a lack of faith, it's important to know that most commentaries say that she didn't just grow impatient with the wait. She had gone through menopause, and could no longer physically bear children.

Based on the physical evidence, Sarah came to the conclusion that her biological clock had ticked its last tock. She was past the age of childbearing, and so she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Of course, by doing this, she didn't just affect herself and Abraham, but also Hagar and Ishmael, the child Hagar eventually had by Abraham.

What's even MORE interesting is if you read the chapter before this one. The whole of chapter 15 is taken up with God making a covenant with Abraham, promising him many descendants.

Abraham even brings up the fact that he and Sarah have no children and since they are getting up there in age, the likelihood of that happening seems less and less. God tells Abraham very clearly that HE will give Abraham descendants that are his blood children.

This leaves us with the question why in the world would Abraham go along with Sarah's scheme after this intense interlude where God Himself made a covenant (which Abraham would have realized was serious stuff)?

The answer is in verse 2 - "And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai." If these words sound familiar, that's because they are.

If you remember back when we were talking about Eve, when God told Adam his portion of the curse, He explained why, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife." As in - you listened to your wife and not Me!

Can't you just see Sarah persuading Abraham. "Well, God did say you would have a child of your own blood, but did He specifically say it was ME you'd have the child with? Be reasonable - I'm past the age of childbearing - how would I even get pregnant at this point when I was never fertile in my young years? This is the only way Abram - it's not against what God told you, is it?"

Obviously, I have no idea what Sarah said to Abraham, but he went along with her scheme. The result is the Middle East mess we have today - the descendants of Abraham still are feuding today with no end in sight.

Before we are too quick to criticize Sarah, though, how many times have YOU decided God needed a little help when all circumstances seemed to point that things were hopeless and it was up to you to fix them?

I know - I'm guilty too.

The other thing that hit me about this part of the story is that we DO have influence with our husbands. I remember Beth Moore once saying that while women don't have the authority in the home, they have the influence.

There's a reason for the saying, "Behind every great man is a great woman." So, what kind of influence am I having with my husband? Am I encouraging him to follow God wholeheartedly or am I instead persuading him in a different direction - particularly if it makes my life easier? This story makes me very aware that I need to use my influence prayerfully and with wisdom - not throw it around casually.

The final lesson I learn from this part of the story is that sometimes, if allow ourselves to get to the point where what we so desperately want makes us willing to do anything to get it, we end up with something that ends up hurting us.

How many women have insisted on a relationship; married and then been miserable? How many women, once married, have destroyed that marriage in the quest to have a baby? Anything that is raised to the status of an idol in our lives has the power to hurt us badly. Idols demand sacrifice but offer no grace in return.

Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and it says he took her as his wife. So now, after all these years, Sarah has to share Abraham. Even if she was probably only a concubine, Hagar was now clearly more than just a maid. She had gained a bit of status.

Then Hagar did end up getting pregnant which gave her even more status - after all Sarah couldn't have children and the number of children, particularly sons, a woman could produce gave her worth, value and status in that ancient culture.

Now, the Bible says, Hagar despised her mistress - the original word means that she looked at her as trifling or inferior.

Sarah just wanted a baby, but by trying to manipulate the circumstances, what she ended up with was a mess.

I don't know what Hagar and Sarah's relationship was before this whole thing went down, but afterwards there seemed to be a continuous strain - even after Sarah had her own child, Isaac.

It's interesting to me that even though Sarah inserted her free will and jumped way ahead of God's plan, He still carried it out. God said He would give Abraham descendants and He meant for them to come from Sarah and that's what happened.

It's sort of comforting to me to know that even if I mess up - even if it is in a big way - I can't thwart God's plans. Yes, I have to live with the consequences of my choices - just like Sarah had to deal with the problem she created for a long time - but God loves us so much and is so merciful that He works out His plans in our lives anyway.

Despite her big mess up, Sarah still gets a mention in the Biblical faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11:11, "By faith, even Sarah herself received ability to conceive,even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised."

I guess Sarah finally realized that God's promises were more reliable than her solutions.
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


There are a lot of lessons to learn from the life of Sarah. Today, I'm going to look at the fact that Sarah was one hot mama!

The Bible makes it clear that Sarah was incredibly beautiful. She was so beautiful, in fact, that old Abe asks her not once, but twice to say she is his sister so the king of the land they were passing through wouldn't kill him in order to have her.

I guess Helen of Troy had nothing on Sarah. The first time this happens, Abraham and Sarah, along with their entourage, had gone down to Egypt due to a famine. Abraham had an idea that the Pharaoh would want Sarah for himself, thus decreasing Abram's life expectancy - at least in Abe's mind anyway.

A little side note: The truth was, Sarah WAS Abram's sister - his half sister, that is. They had the same father and different mothers. I know this is rather icky to us - incest and all that - but back in the day, this was not unheard of or really frowned upon. It wasn't until Moses' time that God forbade the whole way too straight family tree.

The next time, was much later in Abram and Sarah's life. In fact, Sarah was in her 90's at that time. So, either love really does make someone appear more beautiful or Sarah had some killer genes. The thing was, King Abimelech DID take Sarah for his wife.

In both cases, God had to step in and protect Sarah since Abraham, sadly, was not doing the job. In the first case, God struck Pharaoh and his household with great plagues. Pharaoh was understandably upset since he had no idea Sarah was anybody's wife but his! He gave Sarah back to Abraham and escorted them out of his land. I don't think they got an invitation to stop by the next time they were in town either!

The second time around, God visited Abimelech in a dream and basically told him he was a dead man if he didn't return Sarah to Abraham. Needless to say, Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham post haste.

So many times, we see women who are beautiful, thin or fill in the blank. They seem to have it all together in some way that we do not, and we imagine their lives are just perfect and overflowing with happiness.

Things like Facebook, blogs and Pinterest play into this idea that somehow, someway everyone else has it all together but us. Every woman out there seems to make homemade meals from scratch after harvesting their organic vegetables from their raised bed garden out back where their free range hens are scratching around. All this is in between homeschooling their children who have retained the innocence of childhood (captured in wonderful, candid photos featuring sunny meadows, adorable overalls on equally adorably mussed children)and recording these moments in a literary award-worthy blog.

Oh yes, while the children are romping in the sunny meadow absorbing their education through fun, one-with-nature type projects, the mom (who happens to also be thin, fashionable without being too fussy and radiantly wholesome) is handcrafting a wreath while simultaneously re-purposing an old wardrobe into a very chic piece of furniture with yarn, a power drill and the kids' finger paints.

I don't know about you, but my life doesn't look like that. On any given day, I am fortunate to have dinner on the table and clean clothes for my kids. It's an added bonus if I get the floor mopped and bathroom cleaned that week. My idea of decorating is setting a couple pumpkins on the porch. I usually forget about them until I discover that the entire bottom has rotted out.

As women, we tend to compare ourselves with other people - at least I do at times. We compare our marriages, our children, our homes and our physiques. The problem is often what we are seeing are the best moments of someone else's life, not every moment. We don't see them with bed head or when their children are threatening each other with bodily harm or they are sniping at their husband for not feeding those stupid chickens.

Yes, Sarah was incredibly beautiful, but she carried the heartache of being barren in a culture where the ability to have children equaled a woman's worth. I bet she would have traded a plainer face or dumpier figure for a houseful of kids any day.

She left a thriving metropolis to be dragged around in a caravan with no real destination in sight. She could have coined the phrase "living out of a suitcase" (or perhaps a animal skin bag would be more accurate). She suffered the humiliation of being passed off as her husband's sister and given to two different men. It's unclear if Pharaoh had relations with her, but it said that God stopped Abimelech before he "knew" (in the Biblical sense) Sarah, but still the fear and uncertainty she must have felt during these times are hard to imagine.

Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall of the ride back to their camp after Sarah had gotten out of another guy's harem? I mean, what would Abraham have to say for himself anyway?

While Sarah's outward appearance was breathtaking, it certainly didn't guarantee her an easy life.

As women, we long for close friendships, but sometimes, I think the comparison game keeps us from experiencing that. We get so busy feeling inferior and trying to impress others that we miss the real wounds and sorrows of those around us or worse, we never get real with each other because we put on a show.

So, this week, call that woman who you think has it all together. Invite her out to lunch and really listen to what she has to say. You might be surprised that she thought YOU had it all together.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


We started a series on the women in the Bible a few weeks ago in my Sunday school class. We just finished up with Eve last week (what can I say - we talked way too much the first week and never really got around to the actual lesson) and now, this week, we have moved on to Sarah or Sarai as she was known for the majority of her story in Genesis.

We meet Sarai, whose name means princess, in Genesis 11:29, 30, "Abram and Nahor too wives for themselves. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Sarai was barren; she had no child."

So, the first time we meet Sarai we learn three things about her - she lived in Ur of the Chaldeans which was a thriving metropolis; she was married to Abram; and she was barren. Just in case you don't get what barren means, the verse reiterates - she had no child.

While infertility is something modern women face, and nobody can say it isn't very painful and difficult, there was an added component in ancient culture. Because ancient culture was very cause and effect, if anything happened to you physically, it was sort of a given assumption by those around you, that you had done something bad to deserve it.

I have never personally struggled with infertility, but I have several friends who have, and one thing that seems to be a repeating theme is they feel somehow broken or defective - like their bodies have betrayed them by not working the way they should to conceive and/or carry a child. I'm sure that is very hard to work through.

Now what if you are infertile and you feel that way AND everybody is saying the fact that you can't get pregnant is all your own fault - you must have done something to become barren? That's how it would have been in ancient times. It wasn't just a heartache - it was a shame. That woman walked around with a stigma hanging over her head like a neon sign - barren.

A woman's husband could get rid of her because she couldn't have children. Nobody would have looked askance at him either, if he took on another wife or two. In fact, the people who knew him would think he was very generous to keep his barren wife, even if he added more wives.

It kind of tells you the type of man Abram was because not only did he NOT divorce his wife because she couldn't have children, but until Sarai basically threw her maid at him, Abram didn't take any additional wives either. It appears that Abram saw Sarai as more than as a means to perpetuation his gene pool.

Added to the shame was the practical implications of being barren. There were no old age homes. There was no social security (such as it is) or medicare. Your children were the ones that took care of you. If you had no children, well, it was a pretty scary prospect.

The word barren is the Hebrew word aqar which means sterile. The root of the word means to, "pluck up; rooted up or hamstring." In other words, being barren meant the roots of your family tree were rooted up. It's interesting that this word is also translated "lamed" elsewhere in the Bible. To not have children, certainly did cripple you in practical ways as you got older.

While not being able to have children is still a heartache for many couples, things are different these days. Not only are there medical options that weren't available in Sarai's day, but there aren't the stigmas attached either.

That's mainly because these days, as a general rule, we don't believe that if you get cancer or a tragedy befalls your family then you must have done something bad to deserve it. There are those who still have this view, but they are in the minority.

At least, we SAY we don't believe that. On the flip side though, there are a lot of people who question why bad things happen to good people. There are books, sermons, study series - all on this topic. If we believe that bad things aren't a result of bad behavior, why do we believe good things are a result of good behavior? Or inversely, righteous living shouldn't equal bad things happening.

There is a great quote - I think it is by Ernest Hemingway - that I had hanging in my classroom for years. It said, "Expecting bad things not to happen to you because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian."

Even though I love that quote; even though I can chant the line that bad things happen independent of behavior; even though I can spout the promise that God works all things for good - I still fall into this thinking. I still tend to feel like it is unfair if unpleasant or difficult things befall me even when I think I am doing the right things.

To be completely honest, this mindset has caused me a lot of angst over the years. If I could just wrap my mind around the fact that bad things aren't unfair or God's way of somehow getting back at me for something, somewhere that I did.

I guess the first thing we can learn from Sarai's life is that no matter what our actions are like, they don't necessarily correlate to the things that happen in our lives. I think if we can truly understand that God is sovereign and He really DOES work everything out for good, we can let go of our expectations or at least not be completely blindsided when (not if ) bad things happen. I think there is a lot of peace to be found in truly accepting that life is not necessarily cause and effect.

"The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all." Psalm 103:22