Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today, for our link up (which I am once again late to), Holley Gerth asked us to write a letter of encouragement to our fellow dreamers. There are 99 people in our group, so I wasn't sure who to pick. Then I started to worry, what if I pick one person and someone else is hurt? What if nobody picks several people? Can you tell I tend toward being a peace maker and people-pleaser? Not to mention, with so many wonderful, gifted women - who could pick just one? So, in the spirit of equality, I'm writing to ALL the dreamers, those women on the God-sized Dream Team and those are aren't on the team but are dreamers none-the-less.

Dear Dreamer,
It's hard to be a dreamer, sometimes. Some days, it even appears impossible. Today, I interviewed a woman who had every reason to let all her dreams go, to give up because it's too hard. She has hydrocephalus which is basically spinal fluid on the brain. In her life, she's had 27 different serious, she-could-die-on-the-table brain surgeries. She is also legally blind.

As I talked to her and she shared the various things she's done in her life - including not only writing and speaking but also becoming a lawyer - she said something that hit me. "I like to focus on the abilities rather than the disabilities - God gave me both. I think He gave me both for a reason. We all have disabilities and I don't believe God gives us things without a plan of how those things, if we follow Him, will bring Him glory."

Maybe you don't struggle with a physical disability like blindness or a chronic disease. Maybe your disability is something much subtler, like a bad temper or chronic disorganization. Maybe, in a world or extroverts, you are painfully shy and see that as a handicap in your life. Get this - God has a plan, not just for your abilities, but the things you consider disabilities or handicaps in your life. He can use it all for His glory, if you let Him.

Later, the same day, I was listening to Beth Moore. I love her - don't you? :) She talked about Psalms 139:14-16,
"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."

Moore talked about how God knew you "when I was made in secret." In other words, there was a time when only God knew and delighted over you. Nobody else - not even your mom - knew you even existed yet. I guess the earliest detection is at about 7 days into a pregnancy - and that is with some spiffy tests your average woman doesn't get.

In fact, God knew you BEFORE you were even conceived. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I framed you in your mother's womb, I knew you."

That means that God knew you would struggle with patience or have a stronghold of fear before you were even formed. He knew if you would struggle with a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual disability. He knew; He planned for it; He can use it to bring Him glory.

What we consider the worst of parts of us can become a beacon of God's love, mercy and grace to a world cloaked in darkness.

So, Dreamer, will you give it all to a God that loves you, that has plans for you - yes, even for those things you consider disabilities in your life?

He is the God who bring beauty from ashes, after all.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


As I said in my previous post, the topic of unity has been heavy on my heart the past month. Everywhere I turn, I seem to hear or read or see something on this topic.

It has brought me to tears on more than one occasion during my prayer times - and I'm not really much of a crier.

Today, as I prayed (and cried) over the lack of unity I see in the body of Christ, I felt anger rising in me at people's blindness. Don't they know that we need to be united? Don't they realize the turn off we have become to the unbelieving world? As I prayed and felt the stirrings of righteous anger, God brought to mind a book I read recently.

It stopped me in my spiritual tracks before I had veered completely onto that path labeled "self-righteous." I know you're dying to know what the story was, so I'll share it with you. It's from a book called Warped. The whole plot is rather complicated, so I'm just going to share this small part of the story.

There was a young prince who wandered into a wood. As he dismounted from his noble steed, to walk through the narrow, leafy paths, a small dwelling seemed to spring up from nowhere. Although he had been in these woods many times, he had never seen this small house. Looking at it closely, it seemed to have grown from the very ground - covered in flowering vines and made from tree boughs as it was.

A small, elderly woman poked her head from the doorway and greeted him warmly. The young prince, seeing her tiny, frail form felt safe and entered her home when he was invited. She chatted amicably with him and he relaxed into the encounter. She drew ever nearer, but the young prince had no fears of a little, old lady - even if she did seem a bit odd.

The old woman pulled a small stone from her pocket and touched his chest with it. She started to babble undecipherable words. The young prince thought that the poor old thing had lost her wits - until he tried to move and found that he couldn't.

The old woman continued her garbled speech until the young man's very essence had dribbled out. The next thing he knew, he had changed. He was no longer a young man, but a strong unicorn with a long, spiral horn protruding from his forehead. Terrified, he galloped away into the woods.

Several days past and the young prince's family started to become frantic. Where was he? He had appeared to vanish into thin air. The next day, an old woman was in the village, telling everyone she had seen a unicorn, and that the unicorn had killed the young prince.

Immediately, the young prince's brother vowed that he would kill the unicorn. He mounted a hunt, and being an excellent hunter, had soon cornered the beast. The brother's eyes glittered with malice and determination as he approached the pawing, rearing beast - the enemy. He looked into the animal's eyes, and for a brief, dizzying moment he thought.... no, this was the enemy. The brother shook his head. He slashed at the unicorn. The unicorn, perfectly cognizant of who he was, didn't want to hurt his brother, but knew, his brother would surely kill him because his brother believed him to be the enemy.

The unicorn struck out with sharp hooves, wounding his brother in the arm. In the ensuing confusion, the unicorn broke away and escaped into the woods, dripping blood from a wound in his neck. His brother sat on the ground, the wound in his arm dripping blood onto the ground.

The witch - for that is what the old woman really was - cackled her glee. She had gotten what she wanted and the brother was still clueless that he had been hair's breadth away from mortally wounding his own brother for he was deceived.

This is what happens to Christians all the time. We are deceived into thinking our brother or sister is the enemy. They aren't. Instead, like the unicorn and brother, both parties run away from each other, bleeding, while satan sits back and has a good laugh at our expense.

How can we stop being deceived into thinking our brother or sister is the enemy? The answer is found through out the New Testament. Whenever there is a list of things you need to deal with fellow believers, you will always find the word "humility." It reminds of the verse in Proverbs that says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." It's the opposite of how we want to respond when we feel wronged by someone isn't it?

But as is so often the case, God asks us to do the very opposite of what our flesh clamors for us to do. There's a whole list.

If you want to be strong - be weak.
If you want to be great - become small.
If you want to be first - be last.
If someone treats you badly - pray for them.
If someone curses you - bless them.

I don't know about you, but those things don't come naturally to me, but it's really the only way to affect unity.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;" Phil. 2:3

~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Lately, as I have taught and studied the book of Ephesians for my Sunday school class, over and over again, I have run into the importance of unity within the church as a whole. Apparently, the world of unbelievers is supposed to be drawn to Christ by how we love each other, by how we treat each other.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Keep in mind that by body, Paul is referring to the ENTIRE body of believers, not just my church or your church, but all believers in all parts of the globe.

Look around. What are unbelievers seeing? Is what they are seeing drawing them to Christ or making them want to run in the opposite direction?

So often, we get this really wrong. We don't treat each other with gentleness or kindness or patience. We want to be right more than we care about the other person. We dutifully do "good" deeds, but our love is missing. The unbelieving world notices.

If this is so very important, not just within the body but in drawing others to Christ, why do we mess this up so much? Why do we do the equivalent of cutting our own flesh on a fairly regular basis?

As we were discussing unity in class the other week, one of the women piped up with this insightful comment. She said, "Maybe the reason it's mentioned so often is because God knew how hard it would be for us."

Of course, she was right. Unity is vital, but it's also hard because it involves dying to ourselves and being humble.

And because it is so important and we are so human, satan targets it. This isn't unusual because he often tries to take the gifts God gives us and warp or destroy them.

He whispers lies in our ears and manipulates circumstances so we start to view our fellow brothers and sisters warily, like they are the enemy. He incites anger and hurt, and then he hides behind a human target. So instead of slicing down the true enemy, we slice into each other.

This past week our study was the first half of Ephesians 4. This passage is often used to discuss spiritual gifts, but it is also a powerful treatise on the subject of unity within the body.

It tells us how to deal with each other effectively in verses 2 and 3: with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love.

A few verses down in verse 11, it lists the various areas of service in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It then gives in verse 12, the reason for these gifts: to equip the saints (believers) to go out and serve and to build up the body (church).

I know in my own life, it is so easy for me to get my eyes off that target. I can start to worry about if I am doing a good job teaching; if the ladies in my class like what I teach or how I teach; if my class is popular and growing or if it is shrinking. Being human, it's so easy to make my gifts all about ME. It's not, though. The only reason I have any spiritual gifts at all is to equip and build up other believers.

In verse 13, we find the goal of building up the body - to attain unity of the faith, knowledge of Christ and become mature in our faith.

One of the aspects of maturity in a believer is found in verse 15 - "speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ."

It's hard to speak the truth in love. By personality and by gift mixes, we usually fall on the side of mercy or justice. Truth without love is harsh and alienating. I know a lot of Christians who speak truth but without love, and it only drives people away from Christ. Love without truth isn't really love, though. I also know a lot of believers who are so afraid of hurting someone's feelings, they refrain from speaking truth, causing a deeper wound by what they don't say. "Faithful are the wounds of a brother." It's a sign of maturity when we can do both - speak truth and do it lovingly.

Finally, in verse 16, we get this wonderful picture of the body working together as it is supposed to.

"From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."

Each joint, every part - fitted together. Each tendon and joint is important for the whole functioning of the body. It's like when you get a blister on your pinky toe. Most of the time, I never think about my pinky toe. It seems so small and unimportant, but if I get a blister on it, even though it's a tiny wound on a tiny part of my body, my WHOLE body is effected.

So it is with the body of Christ.

When we are working together in unity, we are a force to be reckoned with - think of the first century church! When we are working together in harmony, we grow and build ourselves up in love.

When we treat each other with love and kindness and diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, the church becomes the glory of God. It shines like a beacon, drawing unbelievers to Christ.

How will you let your light shine today?
~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, April 19, 2013


If you know me, you know I am a huge movie buff. Nothing is better than settling back into a cushy theater seat as the lights dim, knowing I'll get to visit a different time or place or world. It's a kind of magic.

Tonight I went to see 42 - the movie based on the story of Jackie Robinson. At the beginning of the movie, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers decides to bring up a "negro" baseball player - the first non-white player. Mr. Ricky tells Jackie that people won't be welcoming him with open arms. He lists the insults Jackie may face - being turned away from a hotel, not able to use a bathroom or even turned away from locker rooms.

He looks at Jackie and says, "Do you have the guts to not fight back? Do you have guts our Lord and Savior had to turn the other cheek?"

The thing was, Jackie was a fighter. He was tough and not easily intimidated. He had a history of standing up for himself. It was one of the reasons Mr. Ricky picked him in the first place. As he looked through a stack of players, he stared at one dossier and said the man was too sweet-natured and he'd be chewed up and spit back out.

Throughout the movie, you see Robinson booed and insulted. At one point in the game, a manager from another team stands on the sidelines spewing racial slurs and insults. To be honest, I had a really hard time listening to it. I was appalled that anyone would yell that at someone else.

You see the tension on Robinson's face and how badly he'd like to shove those words down that other man's throat. But he doesn't. Instead, he has the guts to walk away.

We could all learn a lot from that example, couldn't we?

I hesitated to write this because a)I'm a white woman and b)I've never had bigotry, hatred or racism aimed at me. It's not like I'm writing this from experience.

But I do know that though this movie was set in the 1940s, this type of hatred is still around. People all over the world experience this because of their skin color, ethnicity, religion or gender. They don't just have ugly words hurled at them - although that is hurtful enough - but often those words escalate into violence. People lose their homes, their livelihoods, their loved ones.

Why do we do this to each other? I know, that sounds like a naive question doesn't it? Kind of akin to "can't we all just get along?" But really, why can't we?

Throughout the years, the cruelest and ugliest things have been done to humans beings by human beings.

And these things are not just perpetrated by people who are mentally unhinged either. These are people like you and me - people with jobs and families and grandchildren. How is do you get to the point where you treat another person like they aren't a person?

I think the answer lies, as it always does, with Jesus. It's easy to stereotype a group because you take away their humanity by lumping everyone together. They cease to be an individual.

The Bible says that God so loved the world, and Jesus died to save everyone. But redemption happens one on one, doesn't it?

While Jesus died for everyone, salvation is a powerful yet personal gift. It's an individual thing even after our salvation. God works in us individually. He cares about us in minute detail - down to the number of hairs on our heads.

The thing is, to God, each and every person is precious and beloved. It says He wasn't willing that even one perishes. There's that great parable of the shepherd going out after the one lost lamb, even though 99 were safe in the fold.

As Christians, as believers, there should be no room in our lives for racism or hatred of any kind. Our true enemy isn't other people - it's satan. He just tends to hide behind human shields.

The thing I loved about this movie is you saw that Robinson's behavior changed and challenged his teammates. If he had come out swinging, while they would have probably certainly understood, it wouldn't have touched them the way his ability to both stand tall and turn the other cheek.

Instead of fighting, he had the guts to not fight back. Do we have that kind of courage in the face of ugly words or actions? How do you respond when someone is less than kind to you?

~ Blessings, Bronte

Thursday, April 18, 2013


If you had asked me when I was 20 if I would still be living in the same little town at the age of 40, I would have laughed. The kind of laugh where you are bent double and your eyes stream tears and you can hardly breathe.

After I wiped my tears off my face and gained control of myself, I'd have told you that wasn't in my plans. My plans were to go, to see, to do. I wanted to have grand adventures, preferably while paddling down the Amazon, bright birds streaking overhead and monkeys chattering in the trees.

As someone who is endlessly curious (nosy seems so negative, doesn't it?), I could gladly pack my bags and hit the road to sights yet unseen, friends not yet met and experiences just waiting to be explored, without much hesitation.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans don't you?

Instead, God asked me to sit and stay. Most of the time I'm content. I can see the blessings of being in a place where you know and are known, the blessing of extended family and the blessing of my boys having close ties with their grandparents and the community.

But other times - times like right now for example - I itch to wander and explore.

Today, I don't want to sit and stay. No, I want to go. I want to visit Italy and see where my grandmother's people come from. I want to poke into dusty places where feet walked hundreds of years ago. I want to hike up a mountain with the delicious thrill of knowing that I could run into a bear or a mountain lion at any moment.

Sometimes, I don't know why God has asked my wanderer's soul to sit and stay when I want to go and see, but I know He has a plan and a purpose. There are things I can't learn if I don't stay here. There are lessons that only come when I sink my roots deeply into this particular soil.

While I still yearn to go and see, I've found that the biggest adventure, the best "experience" is God Himself. Any adventure I have apart from Him is not really worth having.

I Don't Want to Go by Avalon
You changed my world
When You came to me
You drove a passion
In my soul down deep
Lord, to follow You in everything

I don't want to go somewhere
If I know that You're not there
'Cause I know that me without You is a lie
And I don't want to walk that road
Be a million miles from home
'Cause my heart needs to be where You are
So I don't want to go

So come whatever
I'll stick with You
I'll walk, You'll lead me
Call me crazy or a fool
For forever I promise you that

Without Your touch
Without Your love
Filling me like an ocean
For Your grace is enough

Enough for me
To never want to go somewhere
If I know that You're not there

~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I was getting dinner ready the other day when the phone rang. I snatched it up, saw the number and hit the talk button. "Hey," I said, as I stirred the pot on the stove.

My friend's voice sounded strange - a bit flat. "I'm sorry I haven't been around the past couple days, and I don't have time to go into all the details, but I had a miscarriage this week."

The breath whooshed out of me, and I stopped stirring the cream corn. My heart fell to my feet and broke in a million pieces for my friend. While she had had symptoms of pregnancy, she hadn't really know for sure she had been pregnant until the baby was already gone. The whole thing seemed surreal for her.

Over the past few months, my friend had been through a roller coaster of emotions - she and her husband would be flung high on hope and then crash down with disappointment. You can read about her journey here, but the short story was, they had struggled to the decision to adopt, and were about ready to do so when a woman stepped forward to offer to be their surrogate. Dazed with hope and surprise, they crashed down again when they found out insurance wouldn't cover much and there was no way they could afford it. Now a miscarriage.

Sometimes, life just stinks. :(

As I listened to some of the details, I kept saying, "I'm so sorry." It felt inadequate and rather pathetic in the face of my friend's pain and disappointment. I wanted to do what I used to do with my kids when they were little and hurt themselves - gather her up in my arms and tell it would be okay. But it wasn't okay and none of my words would make it so.

In fact, I was a little afraid I would say the wrong thing and make things worse. Have you ever been there? I know when my grandmother died, more than one well-meaning friend said something along the lines of, "She lived a long life," or "She's better off." Yes, I knew that, but just because she was elderly didn't mean I was going to miss her any less. I knew they meant well and just didn't know what to say, but part of me wished they would just not say anything at all.

As I prayed for my friend during the evening and into the next morning, I began to think about the things we should do and say (or not do and not say) when a friend or loved one is hurting. What is helpful? What is hurtful? The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those that weep. What does that look like when you are actually walking that path though? As I prayed, a few things came to me.

1. Listen. Seriously - just shut up and listen. Be a safe place for the person to vent their emotions, both good and bad. Be a safe place for that person to express what they are feeling - even if it IS this really stinks or I'm mad at God. As Christians, sometimes, we have this idea that we should feel no negative emotions, so we try to talk other people out of theirs. I am reading through the Gospels and have come to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was so distraught, He was sweating drops of blood. That's some very negative emotion going on. I figure, since Jesus can have negative emotions, it's probably okay for us to have them, too.

2. Encourage them. I think it is okay to gently help someone lift her chin to look up to Jesus rather than look down at her circumstances, but you have to tread lightly here. Empty platitudes or getting preachy isn't really helpful and can often backfire. A Scripture offered is fine, but try to avoid the temptation to beat the person over the head with the Bible. If you are unsure if it is the right thing, saying nothing is probably better. I often put Scripture in cards of encouragement that I send. This seems less "in your face," than spouting them whenever I see the person. Don't guilt them for not having enough faith or trusting God enough. The person probably "knows" the "right" response but their emotions haven't caught up with that knowledge. That's okay - it's called being human.

3. Don't tell someone how to feel. Maybe it is because we are so uncomfortable in the face of grief or other negative emotions, but it seems like when someone is really upset, the temptation is to tell them how to feel. "Don't be sad," or "Just forgive and let go of the anger," really don't help. Give the person space to feel her feelings. Emotions have to be gone through in order to find the healing on the other side.

4. Respect their grief process. Everyone is different and everyone experiences things differently. Some women get angry. Some women weep. Some clean like maniacs or run miles. Give your friend the freedom to grieve in her own way. Don't judge her if it is a very different way than yours. And don't put a time limit on it. While excessive grief for a very long time might mean the person needs a professional to help them through, grief is an unpredictable thing. While my grandmother has been gone for six years, there are still times when moments of grief sneak up on me and surprise me with their emotional punch.

5. Give practical help. If someone is going through a really traumatic time don't ask them what they need. They might not be coherent enough to tell you. Instead, offer a meal on a specific day and ask them if that works, or show up and take the kids out. While it might seem more sensitive to put the ball in her court, your friend is probably dazed and more than a bit confused. Clear thinking can be difficult in the midst of a really hard emotional time like a death, a diagnosis or a divorce. Look around and see what is needed and then offer specific things for specific times rather than the nebulous, "Just let me know if you need anything."

6. Honor anniversaries. In high school, my boyfriend's brother was killed in a car accident. It was truly a horrible time for him and his family. I remember at the beginning, people were very sympathetic, but as time went on, they went on with their lives because it wasn't their tragedy and it didn't affect their daily lives. I remember him saying rather bitterly that everyone had forgotten his brother. While it is natural for people to move on with their lives when a tragedy isn't theirs, showing empathy after that first few weeks has passed will be greatly appreciated. I am terrible with dates, so I have to write stuff like this in my calendar. Realize that major holidays, birthdays and the anniversary of the death or event will be difficult for the person. Send a card. Give them a call. Show them you remember too, and you care.

7. Pray for them. I know, sometimes this ends up being my last resort sort of thing, but it really should be my first. Prayer is powerful, and praying for your friend really does make a difference. Let the person know you are praying for them, too. And if you say you will pray for them - do it!

In the end, just letting the other person know you care and are available for them can be the best gift you can give a grieving or hurting person. You'll never find the exact right words to fix it. Sometimes, "I'm sorry" is all they want or need to hear.

What ways have you found to help hurting friends or family? I'd love to hear about them.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This is Tuesday, and that means Holley Gerth gives us something to blog about and then link up. This week's assignment was:
For this week: “Sometimes we feel alone not because we need to be with others but because God wants to be with us. Our lives are busy–especially when we’re pursuing a dream–and God may want to pull us aside for a bit” {You’re Made for a God-sized Dream, Chapter Six}. The most important part of any God-sized dream is the Giver of it. Set aside a particular time this week to be with Him–to pray, journal, take a walk or simply sit quietly and listen. Write a post sharing what your heart hears or receives then link it up below.

I was super busy today, so this is really the first chance I've had to sit down to write this post (ironic, isn't it?), but it's been rattling around my brain all day.

The past few weeks have been pretty busy - much of that busyness has been out of my hands, but others have been very much of my own making.

There have been a few things though, that God has been speaking to me in the quiet moments I steal with Him here and there. One is a picture I've been getting for several weeks.

It is a picture of myself in a position of submission - on my knees, head bowed - before God Almighty. God has been pressing on my heart that a) I certainly can't do this dream thing without Him and b) it's not really about ME anyway.

The gifts, the talents, the abilities He's given me aren't really about me at all - they are about bringing Him glory. The only way I can do that is to be in a constant state of complete surrender. It's in being broken that He can build me up.

So often, I get afraid or feel unsure, so I immediately want to grasp onto control and fix things - make them neat and tidy and nonthreatening.

Other times, I am just lazy and comfortable. It's easier to do my own thing, go about my own agenda than to put in the work it takes to follow God's leading, His path. Just because it is a God-sized dream I'm following does not mean everything is easy and life is a bed of roses.

Worst of all, are the times when I start making it all about me. I start to worry about the way people see ME, worrying about MY performance, getting uptight about MY goals - forgetting that it's not about people seeing me but more about the way they see God IN me that counts.

The other thing God's been pressing on my heart is the need to be still. To stop, to quiet my mind and my heart so I can listen. It's so easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life, to feel like I'm on a merry-go-round that never lets me get off. The slightly off key calliope music drowning out the sound that still, small voice. The voice that beckons me to come and find rest at His feet. To just be quiet for a minute and listen. To soak in His love and grace which He wants to lavish on me.

I notice when I see this picture that once again, I am in a posture of submission - kneeling at Jesus' feet. This time, my eyes are intently trained on His face, ears attune to His quiet whisper.

This is a place of peace, where worry and cares are far away. Why do I wait so long to find my place here? Why do I instead listen to the siren call of squeezing in one more thing or insist I can "do it myself"?

God-sized dreams are wonderful things, but they aren't about us at all. They are God-sized because God is the one who should fill them up, thus filling us up, and in the process put His glory on display for all to see. The glow we see on our own faces is His brilliance spilling over, splashing us with His grace.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21

~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, April 12, 2013


Five Minute Friday Today is 5 minute Fridays - the day where we write for 5 minutes without editing, without tweaking, without our inner critic chiming in - about a word supplied by Lisa Jo Baker. If you want to read more visit here. The word today is "here."

Ready. Set. Go!

I tend to be a distracted, oblivious sort of person. I can be standing next to you, nodding my head, appearing to be here with you, but inside, my mind is a million miles away.

The age of the computer and all the techno gadgets we now have on hand does not help me in this area. It's why I have a simple tracphone that just makes phone calls. I don't text. I don't use a bluetooth (anybody but me answer someone using those and then realize to your mortification they weren't actually talking to you?).

But the truth is, even without an iphone, I am often not "here." I am fretting about the past and if I messed up. I am worrying about the future and how I'll get there. I am so often not present in the here and now. I'm often distracted and not giving anything or anyone my full attention.

Lately, it has hit me with full force how little time I have left with my boys - especially my oldest son. He's 14 years old and finishing his freshman year of high school. Four years from now, I will be frantically planning his graduation party (and wondering why I didn't organize all his pictures earlier like I had planned! lol). Four years. That's it. Then he's launched into the world or at least to the community college.

I don't want to waste those years by being here in body, absently nodding but not really listening. Not really being HERE with my whole self.

This was driven home to me when I overheard my son saying that, "Yeah, mom's always on the computer."


The truth is, he was right. I do spend WAY too much time on the computer, and not for working purposes either. Just frittering away time. Here in the house but not really present. Available to my kids, but not really.

It happened innocently enough. In a household of all guys, who watch sports all the time, I would drift into the den and plop down at the computer. But it grew from during the game, to when I got up in the morning, after I came home from picking the kids up or being out. I became tethered to my computer, and well, sort of addicted to surfing the net.

These days, I have made a conscious decision to step away from the computer. Because of my newspaper work, I do have to check my email at least once on the evenings of deadline days to make sure everything is okay, but other than that, my goal is to not be on here in the evenings when my kids are home. I have also been trying (pretty unsuccessfully lately, to be honest) to unplug on the weekends. I've stopped jumping on here before I do my quiet time and have found my mornings much more productive.

Technology can be a great tool, but as my Mom always used to say - "enough is enough."

What's the biggest threat to you being "here"?

~ Blessings, Bronte

NOTE: I did a book review of my good friend Amber Payne's book Breathtaking, the Revised Edition over at Circles of Faith. I'd love if you would hop on over here and check it out! :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I was on the phone this morning with a friend and she mentioned that after she has kids and they are old enough to be in school all day, she planned on working full time because she didn't want to sit at home and do nothing all day.

I felt myself bristle slightly at the "do nothing all day" comment, but I knew she didn't mean that stay at home moms sit around and eat bon bons. No, I knew she meant that after the kids go to school, most moms expect their time to get more flexible and more plentiful. I know that's what I always thought before my kids came along and when my boys were really little. As I waded through diapers, sippy cups and endless rounds of Candyland, the bright light of kindergarten beckoned me with the promise of going to the bathroom all by myself and definitely more sleep.

I was right in some ways,, but completely wrong in others.

Before you freak out that this is going to be some post about the stay home mom versus the work out of the home mom, rest assured that that really isn't my purpose.

In fact, as fellow moms and women, I'm going to step on my soap box for a moment and say we really need to start giving each other some grace, especially when our decisions and lifestyles don't jive with each other.

Homeschool vs. public school vs. private school - we're all moms that love our kids and want the best for them. Stay at home vs. work from home vs. work outside the home - we're all just moms that love our kids and are trying our very best for our families. Bottle vs. breast - again, just moms who love our kids, trying to nurture our kids to the best of our abilities.

We can still be on the same team even if we do things differently.

Okay, I'm climbing down off my soap box now.

While I was right that my kids being old enough to go to school did net me more time in some ways, it also made me busier in others. For instance, once my kids started playing sports, I was tied to someone else's schedule of where we all needed to be in the evenings and weekends. There was a lot less freedom in our schedules.

Homework and horn practice and last minute trips to find an AR book at the library replaced diapers and cheerios and nap time. My kids issues and problems, while not as immediate and urgent as when they were little, were bigger and more complex. I couldn't fix things with a Dora band-aid and apple juice anymore. Some days, getting everyone where they need to be feels a little like a military strategy. I found I was still busy, just in a very different way.

My oldest son will be 15 in July. Since his birth I've been a stay-at-home-mom. I've worked part-time outside my home, and I've also worked from home. Currently, I'm doing a little bit of both, since I write for the newspaper from home, but I substitute teach periodically, and I also work two evenings a week at the library. There have been pros and cons to all of those choices.

While I've never worked full time, last year, I worked three part-time jobs on a regular basis and several part-time jobs on a more sporadic basis. During my busiest weeks, I was working over 30 hours.

And I hated it.

I was constantly stressed and felt three steps behind all the time. I hated that feeling. I also hated the feeling that I wasn't there for my kids and was missing out on crucial moments in their lives. I cried a lot - when I had time that is, which usually meant in the shower or driving to one of my various places of employment.

What I was missing in my life was margin. Margin is that gap between a day completely full to the edges and a day that has a little grace built in. It's something we all need, no matter what your work situation.

Let's face it, everyone has days where for one reason or another, there is no margin. Days where, if one thing goes wrong or you are delayed even 5 minutes, the rest of your carefully orchestrated hours blow up.

The thing is, you can't live there - at least not very long - before you become a stressed out mess. And let's face it, while my husband is the head of our home, I am the temperature gauge.

When I have no margin in my life, I find myself being short-tempered and irritable. No, I don't want to look at the picture you drew or the story you wrote because I don't have time because we have to get to the next thing!

Now, not only am I stressed and anxious and irritable, but my attitude has rubbed off on the kids. My husband starts snapping back out of self-defense, and our home is not a happy place to be.

Everyone has a different space mapped out for margin in their lives. We all need it, but it looks different for different people depending on lots of variables.

If your husband has a demanding job that keeps him away from home, you may need larger margins because you can't always tag team an emergency, or you may have a child with special needs who needs more intense care and intervention that someone else whose child doesn't have those types of needs.

I know a woman who works a full time, demanding job while her husband works from home and is available for the kids during the day. It works for them.

It can also depend on personality. Some women can handle a 40+ hour a week job AND still have margin in their lives. Other women can be overbooked and stressed out being a stay at home mom with too many outside commitments. The key here is to look at your own life, your own commitments, your own limitations.

The bottom line is, no matter what your mom "label" happens to be, if most of your days are such that if one little thing goes wrong the whole day is a disaster, you need to make some room for margin in your life. Preferably before you go insane!

What do you do to keep some margin in your life? I'd love to hear about it!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


As most of you know, I have a dog. His name is Kipper and he looks a lot like Lassie. We walk - a lot! Together, we've probably clocked close to 1600 miles.

The other thing is, we have a lot of stray dogs in our neighborhood. Many of them are of the dreaded pit bull variety, but I've never really had any problems with them.

Nope, most of my problems have been with small dogs. Teeny, tiny dogs with Napoleon complexes are the bane of our walks.

Today, on the God-sized Dream team, it's Tuesday. That means Holley Gerth gives us an assignment, and today's assignment is to address our Chihuahua of fear that only sounds like a Doberman. (actually Dobermans are very sweet dogs and have a totally undeserved reputation, but I digress).

Actually, my dog Kipper has taught me a lot about dealing with tiny dogs and their big dog complexes. As I've said before God uses some interesting things to teach me what He wants me to know, and one of those things is my dog.

As I've watched my big, fluffy dog deal with some ferocious sounding (if not looking) dogs, he's shown me a thing or two about dealing with the "chihuahuas" in my own life.

First, there's nothing to really fear. Kipper easily weighs 65 lbs. Most of the dogs we've encountered are about the size of his head. Kipper has absolutely no fear of these tiny dogs which means he has no aggression toward them. He has a true picture of the situation.

Most of the times, my fears only sound big. When I get a good look at them however, they are tiny. They cast a much bigger shadow than they actually are. They sound ferocious, but they are really all bark and no bite. Even if they do bite, their teeth are so small, they won't do much damage. When I come up against my fears, I need to remember to take a look at the big picture, so I can see my fear for what it really is.

Second, get close and make friends. Kipper will approach a snarling, growling dog with a slow swishing tail, relaxed body language and inquiring nose. He's even laid down to appear less intimidating to the little rat, dog. Many times, this works and the other dog will gingerly approach and sniff noses.

In my life this means I have to get up close and personal with my fears. I need to look them in the eye and make friends with them, rather than run away and hide. Sometimes, a fear is rooted in truth and by acknowledging that truth, I can grow and move forward. I can make my fears an ally rather than an enemey.

Third, if overtures of friendship don't work, show 'em your teeth with a growl thrown in for good measure. I remember one particular time, Kipper and I ran into a little, tiny Chihuahua mix named Lucky. Lucky had less than a sparkling personality. He was all about showing everyone how tough he was. Kipper did his usual, "Hey I'm your friend." He laid down. He did everything he could to convey he meant no harm. Lucky was having none of it and launched himself at Kipper's head. Kipper ducked, and as little Lucky tried another attack from the flank, Kipper turned his head, showed his teeth and gave a low growl of warning. Lucky's eyes bulged even more. He tucked his tail and whimpering in fear, turned and ran home.

Sometimes, we have to get tough with our fears. We have to show them we've got some teeth and growl at them. Usually, when we get tough with our fears, they turn and hightail it out of there. Instead of letting my fears bully me, I can stand up to them.

Finally, expect trouble. Usually, Kipper is aware of any dog in the area way before I am. His ears prick forward. His tail lifts in a wag and he starts to whine. (he's always up for new friends!). He's ready to meet any newcomers and excited about the possibilities.

I'm not sure why I am blindsided by fears, but I often am. It's like I don't expect them to rear their ugly heads, even though it's a fairly regular occurrence. By being proactive and being ready for my fears to come after me, I could probably head off a lot of angst.

So, how do you face your fears? If you want to read about how others have sent there Chihuahuas of fear running for the hills, stop on over here.

~ blessings, Bronte

Monday, April 8, 2013


I have a secret to confess - I'm not much of a homemaker. It doesn't really come naturally to me at all. In fact, when my husband and I were dating, I informed him that I planned to travel all over the world (still waiting on that one) and that I didn't really know how to cook, clean or do laundry. Not only that, I wasn't all that interested in learning, so if he was looking for Betty Crocker, he was barking up the wrong tree.

Yes, I know - I was quite the catch! lol

In our early married life, I remember telling a good friend of mine very excitedly that I had "made dinner." She just looked at me and said, "Don't you do that every night?" She received a blank stare. For me, it was a big achievement. My poor husband - either he was a guinea pig for my various cooking experiments (and I use that word quite literally), or he was forced to make do with McDonalds.

The thing is, after I started having kids, I realized I needed to get a handle on things like laundry and a regular cleaning schedule and yes, cooking on a regular basis. Over the years, I've learned to enjoy cooking (although I still tend to experiment WAY more than my family of manly meat and potato types want me to), but running a household still doesn't come naturally to me, and I've never learned to enjoy cleaning a toilet.

I still struggle to meal plan and keep on top of our financial budget - let's face it, I became an English major for a reason! Math and I are not good friends.

The thing is though, God wants me to succeed at taking care of my family. It made sense to me to ask God for help before teaching a Sunday school lesson or before I put my fingers on the keyboard to write an article. These seemed like tasks that God would want to be involved in - you know, "important things."

But I've learned something. God wants to be involved in every area of my life, not just the things I consider big or important. You know, things like laundry or learning the fine art of getting groceries for less.

So, do I pray about those things? I didn't used to, but I do now. I recognize that my gifts don't lend themselves to finding the best buy on butter and matching it with a coupon. Keeping track of columns of numbers aren't really my thing. Heck, just balancing my checkbook can be a challenge sometimes. (and yes, I'm the type to just let it go if I can't figure out why my balance and the banks differs by a few dollars). I am not naturally organized.

But by taking care of the finances, I give my husband the gift of not having to worry about those things. He can trust me to take care of it and that's one less thing on his plate.

By cooking healthy meals, keeping up with the laundry, and regularly cleaning our home, I give my kids the gift of a peaceful retreat from the harsh world. I realize that throw pillows won't make or break a household, but if the whole place is cluttered and nobody can find anything, that disrupts everyone's peace - particularly if you are trying to get out the door in the morning and the soccer cleats or practice jersey are nowhere to be found.

I've learned that God dwells with me in the mundane.

He sees these quiet, often thankless tasks (which nobody ever seems to notice unless you don't do them, right?) as my way of serving my family.

So many times, I look around our world and think, "I should be doing more - more volunteering, more ministering, more Christian service," but by being faithful in the small things for my own family, God looks at me and says, "Well done."

A woman on a mom's board I frequent, recently posted about a woman at her Bible study saying that she wouldn't ever dream of wasting her gifts and abilities on just being a mom and a wife. As you can imagine, on a board of mostly stay at home moms, many women were a bit riled by this.

Mostly though, it just made me sad. Sad that this woman completely missed her first and most important ministry - the one to her family. There are a lot of needs out in the world, and God may very well have called you to meet some of those needs. However, there is nobody else who can be your kids' mom. There's nobody else who can be your husband's wife.

We have a unique calling that starts in our home. By inviting God into our mundane, He can make it holy.

So, I am going to challenge you (as I myself recently), to look at the things you do for your family, much of which you probably don't even think about, as not just daily tedium, but as showing God's love in very practical ways.

What mundane task do you need to invite God into?
~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, April 5, 2013


Five Minute Friday Every Friday, you can hop on over to www.lisajobaker.com and join in the 5 Minute Friday. What is 5 Minute Friday? Glad you asked! Lisa Jo gives everyone a word and we write for five minutes - no editing, no stopping. Just writing. This week's word is AFTER.

How many times have I used the word "after" as an excuse? As in, "after the holidays, I'll start eating better," or "after my schedule gets less hectic, I'll have lunch with my friend," or "after school gets out (or starts again), I'll do x."

It's so easy for me to put things off until after.

Why do I do that? Imagine the things I could have accomplished if I had just started now. Imagine the people I could have connected with, the relationships I could have nurtured - let's face it, the inches and pounds I could have lost already if I wasn't always waiting until after.

This year, I had three words. Yes, I know - I'm only supposed to have one, but this year, God gave me three. They are Proclaim, Pray and Persevere. I'm getting a better handle on what it is He wants me to proclaim. He has definitely sent me to my knees to pray for various things and people, but I'm still working on that persevere.

The other day, a question on Facebook asked, "I'm really bad at _________." I didn't even have to think - the words "follow through" jumped into my mind.

I am a big idea person - always have been. Need an innovative or creative idea? I'm your girl. Need someone to follow through with that idea? Don't look at me!

This year, God is teaching me that the time is NOW. It's not AFTER. I need to stop using AFTER as an excuse. If I wait until the perfect time, that time will never come.

Life happens in the now. As someone said, (and I really have no idea who did), "Time and tide wait for no man." If I'm not careful, I can use the word after to procrastinate living my life.

So, I'm not going to wait until a better time. I'm not putting things off anymore. After all, we just never know if "after" will even come.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


This week, our assignment from Holley is to explain WHY our dreams are important. Over the past few months, I've spent a lot of time thinking and praying about my dream.

It went from the vague, sort of nebulous "write," to a much more specific place - one with lines and color and shape. A week or so ago, Holley put up a post on her blog that gave me an "ah ha" moment. You can read it here. But basically what it said is that we have a destination and there are different ways to journey there.

For Holley, her destination is to encourage women, and she journeys to that destination of encouraging women by writing books, writing her blog, speaking and other things. I don't know why this resonated with me so deeply, but it did. (Thanks, Holley!)

The post has been rolling around in my head for a while. I know what God created me to be - a story teller. I've been doing it practically since I could talk, and before I told stories, I was begging anybody with a pulse to read stories to me. There are a lot of different ways to tell a story though - it doesn't all have to be fiction. I tell stories every week when I turn in articles for the newspaper. When I teach Sunday school, in essence, I'm telling a story.

But why are stories so important? What purpose did God have in making me a storyteller? I mean, entertainment is great and all, but that can't be all there is to it. Truly great stories (even the fictional variety) leave you changed in some way - opening your mind to new things, giving you a new perspective, answering eternal questions. They make you think about things that you may never have given a passing though to, or maybe look at something in an entirely new way.

As I pondered WHY story telling is so important, it hit me with the power of a lightening bolt - my purpose, the WHY of my storytelling is to connect people. I've always been a connector as well as a story teller. In high school, I had a very eclectic group of friends - kids from all the different "groups." Even now, I'm usually teh one that gets my friends together to do things.

On a professional front, my newspaper stories connect people with information, resources and other people. My prayer is this blog connects people with God, connects the reader with the truth that God does make a daily difference in our lives and He does long to be in relationship with you.

My destination is connecting people and my journey or way I do it is by telling stories.

But why stories? Well, from time immemorial, we have been telling stories - to connect people to truths, teach lessons, impart morals. Jesus used stories to reach an uneducated crowd. It was a way of connecting to people. Facts, figures, graphs and charts just don't have the same power as story to connect with people's hearts and minds.

Think about the last time you had a missionary into your church - didn't you enjoy and think about those that told stories of the people they ministered to? Stories give us a way to reach out and connect with other people who are very different than we are. They give us a context for the information we are given - a way for hearts to connect with hearts even if we've never met.

That's the power of story.

I can share with you about the need for wells in Africa, and you may pause and even agree with me, but it probably doesn't stay with you. BUT, if I tell you about a young girl and her family - suddenly, the need for wells becomes real. Why? Because I've shared someone's story. I've connected you to a person, not just a problem.

So, why am I pursuing my dream? Well, ultimately, to be obedient to what God has called me to and to bring Him glory, but another reason is because stories matter. They make a difference. Your story is important. No matter what that story is, it can make a difference in someone else's life, even if you think you have nothing important to share.

If you'd like to read the stories of other God-sized dreamers, hop on over here.

~ Blessings, Bronte