Saturday, October 31, 2009

ESTHER: The Power of God's Presence

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting thoughts from one of my favorite books of the Bible as I re-read Esther. Hope you'll keep checking back to see what God is teaching me.

I remember when I first began reading the Bible on my own in elementary school. The book of Esther stood out to me as one of the first books I wanted to read because it is one of the only books of the Bible that bears a woman’s name in the title. It quickly became one of my favorite books.

In high school, I got very excited when my youth pastor’s wife decided to do a Bible study for the girls in Esther. During the first week, she was setting up the story. Suddenly, out of her mouth, I heard, “God’s name is never mentioned in the book.”

Puzzled, I looked at her like she must have made a mistake. Thumbing through my Bible, I began skimming chapters. I didn’t want to prove her wrong, but I knew she had gotten that wrong. I had read the book at least ten times, and I knew I would find His name within seconds.

But she was right. His name is not mentioned, not even once.

Charles Swindoll may explain this best as he observed, “God’s presence is not as intriguing as His absence. His voice is not as eloquent as His silence…Yet later, we realize how very present He was all along.”

Sure, it’s awesome to read in Scripture about God speaking through a burning bush to Moses, in dreams to Joseph and writing on the wall to Daniel. However, there may not be a book of the Bible that’s easier for us to understand today than God in the book of Esther.

Think about the role of the director of a movie. He controls every scene. From the actors who play each character to the when, where and how each scene is filmed, the director calls the shots. His name is the first to appear before the film starts and mentioned first on the ending credits. While he never appears on the screen, his fingerprints are all over the film.

That’s very similar to how God works in our lives. When we express faith in His Son, we may not be able to physically see Him or audibly speak with Him, but He is always there to direct our steps.

As I was reminded of this truth today, I couldn't help but ask myself the question,
"Does my life reflect the God I serve so much that without mentioning His name, others can feel His presence?" Many times, I know my answer would disappoint me.

So today, I spent some quiet moments in prayer asking God to daily control my life and consume me with the desire to fully trust Him. As I have admitted before, I am a control freak...but the chance that others will see that God is in me and at work in my life is far more important than my initial comfort level.

Notice I say initial comfort level. Because everytime I let go of myself and cling to the Lord, that's when He chooses to use me. I love those moments when I get to praise my Savior for allowing me to be a small part of His story. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being used by Christ.

I am praying for the attitude of Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Look at the picture posted with this blog. I was blown away by the beauty of this scene. God may not physically be here, but His fingerprints are all over this world. Starting today, I'm going to ask myself a new question each day:

What am I doing to make His presence known?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beauty By Design - My Interview with Alyssa Avant

Yesterday, I had the honor of being interviewed on the Mom-Daughter Connection Radio Podcast. Alyssa Avant has a fantastic ministry, and yesterday, her topic was anorexia nervosa. Alyssa set up our conversation very well on her blog (, so I'm going to re-post her comments and attach a link to the podcast. I hope you will listen.

For today’s show I interviewed a young lady in ministry, Michelle Myers, who several years ago struggled with a big temptation and sin in her life. Her sin was unlike some that teens struggle with, but all the same it was the area where Satan attacked her life.
She shares her story of dealing with anorexia, bringing her close to death, but ultimately closer to Christ. She now shares her story as a way to share Christ with others. It is an awesome testimony all young girls need to hear.

I want to thank Michelle for being on the show and tell you that you must keep an eye out, as Michelle is writing a book that is a must have. She’ll be back on the show once it is available and we’ll be sure to help you know where to get your copy. Thanks Michelle!

Please listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why I Don't Read the Twilight Series

I love to read. I always have. Usually, when a popular series comes out, I'm curious enough to at least check it out at the library. After all, regardless of whether it's my favorite genre or not, if it's good enough to get national attention, I figure I can at least learn something as a writer.

However, I was extremely skeptical about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Call me crazy, but there didn't really seem anything too appealing to me about reading a teen "romance" novel if you can even call it that, since the guy is a vampire. Working on a master's degree gave me plenty of reading material, so I put reading the teen saga on hold.

Then, it seemed like the Twilight phenomenon exploded in my life. Tons of the women in our church's young adults ministry were reading them. My hairdresser gushed about them. This was expanding way beyond the tween market!

My breaking point happened when one of the guys in the college ministry put up a Facebook status that said, "[His name] is better than Edward Cullen." Girls came out of the woodworks to comment. Most of the responses were outright violent! How dare him EVEN think that he could ever be better than their precious Edward!

"He's a fictional character!" I thought. "Don't these girls understand how ridiculous they sound?"

That was enough to convince me I needed to see what the big fuss was all about.

Just a few chapters in, I realized why every girl who read these books was head over heels in love with Edward Cullen.

He's perfect...if you can overlook that whole vampire thing.

He's tall, dark and handsome. (His skin even sparkles in the sunlight!) He's mysterious. He's always the at the right place at the right time. He's a good guy. He refuses to pressure Bella sexually. In fact, he turns down her advances. And the best part? His one-liners.

"I dream about being with you forever."

"Look after my heart. I've left it with you."

"Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?"

If you prefer poetic imagery, how about this?

"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars - points of light and reason...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn't see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything."

After reading that phrase, I thought, "Come on, James. Why can't you ever say something like that?!"

And that was when I realized I had to put the book down.

I'm not going to go so far to say that all men are wired one way and all woman are wired another way. There may be some women out there who could read this without becoming personally involved in the story. But I know myself, and I know that this book is dangerous territory for me.

Why? Because I am most attracted to sensuality and emotionally-filled words.

For women who think like me, allow me to flip flop the situation for you.

Let's say your husband is like mine, meaning he would choose sexuality over sensuality, and if he had to choose between seeing you and hearing you, he would always prefer to be able to look at you. Knowing this about him, would you say that it's perfectly safe for him to watch pornography? What about a simple sex scene in a movie with a female actress that you know he thinks is extremely attractive?

No way.

My husband and I both made "True Love Waits" commitments in middle school, meaning that we vowed we would not have sex until we were married. For 23 years, I heard women talk about how "sex isn't like they show it on TV." Now that I'm married, I know they're right...and to be honest, it really frustrates me.

Here's the bottom line. It's the media's job is to attract viewers. What better way to ensure that you have a captivated audience than show men exactly what they want to see?

They show the woman engrossed in a one night stand, but they don't show her regret the next day...or the fact that she struggles with trusting people for the rest of her life. They show the female as the pursuer in the bedroom, but they don't show the insecurity she feels inside. I won't go into details here, but they show how sex is picture perfect and passion-filled from the beginning...when in reality, the only way to make sex enjoyable is to have it with one person and learn from one another over time. They show the couple having sex multiple times a day...when let's be honest - if you have jobs and responsibilities, most couples are doing pretty good if they average a couple of times a week.

Because of the way sex is often portrayed in the media, not even including pornography, it sets unclear expectations on women from their spouses. Even for couples who wait like my husband and I did, at the beginning, sex was nothing like he expected. The media had put unclear expectations in his head of what the "ideal sex life" was like.

It makes me angry that the media can fill our heads with these lies. Trust me. Marriage is a blessing, but it takes work. Additional complications are not neccessary! Putting wives on TV who wake up in the morning looking as perfect as they did before they washed their makeup off, who work full-time, start dinner and give their husband "dessert" on a nightly basis is just not realistic!

It's just as unrealistic as expecting my husband to know exactly what to say to take my breath away each time he opens his mouth.

As I've already pointed out, Edward Cullen isn't real. He's a fictional character...and a fictional character CREATED BY A WOMAN at that. Of course he knows to say exactly what every woman wants to hear. A woman wrote the book!

Again, I'm not saying that this should be the rule of thumb for every woman. I'm just suggesting...if you are inclined to think like I am, reverse the situation:

Would you want your husband to subject himself to any material that could possibly put unrealistic expectations in his head of how you were supposed to behave? My answer is no, so that is why I realize that I don't need to read things like this book.

Now, I didn't finish the book, so I can't give a full report of this, but I do want to make a few brief comments on the character of Bella. As soon as she discovers Edward is a vampire, she is so intrigued by his life that she becomes disgusted with her own humanity. Very quickly, Bella becomes willing to throw away her values, family and friends for a guy she barely knows...and what she does know of him is pretty dangerous.

My pointis not that idenitifying with character of Bella could cause a woman to desire to fall in with a vampire. However, especially by means of social media, it's easy for grown men to have access to young girls and lure them away from home...just by saying (or typing) the right words. Idolizing a character who desires to exchange her created purpose for another life, disobeys her parents and devalues herself is just not the role model I would want my daughter to have.

I don't think you are a bad person if you read this book or if you let your daughter read it. These are simply my own personal convictions and precautions. Sure, there's a chance that I could read this entire series, enjoy it and never put unrealistic expectations on my husband.

But my marriage is too valuable to me to take that chance.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes

October seems to be the only month we see pumpkins in the grocery store. Coming from a nutrition perspective, that's really a shame! Pumpkins are a low-calorie vegetable that are rich in potassium and loaded with beta-carotene (a powerful antioxidant). Its natural sweetness brings flavor to baked goods without any added guilt.

Here's one of my favorite recipes that I use year-round for breakfast:

To make the batter, mix:

• 1/4 cup oats
• 1/4 cup egg whites
• 1/4 cup pumpkin
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp cinnamon

(These measurements make one serving at only 130 calories.)

Since it's so low-calorie, you can add a topping depending on your taste preferences...but keep it healthy! I suggest 1 TBSP of chopped walnuts. Yum!

Mix all ingredients together. Pour onto a hot skillet, and treat it like a normal pancake batter. Eat and enjoy!

Additional Tip:

Don't have time to prepare in the morning? No problem! Whip them up the night before and refrigerate. The next morning, pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds and toast in the toaster on a light setting to keep them crisp. (You can also make a week's batch and freeze to keep them fresh!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Thanksgiving Project

My husband and I always look forward to Thanksgiving. Since we're in Texas and our families are in Tennessee, we only see one another two or three times a year. Usually by Thanksgiving, it's been six months since we've seen them, so it's always a fun reunion. Since my dad's parents and sister live about 30 minutes away from James' immediate family, Thanksgiving is unique for us because we get to have both of our immediate families together for at least part of one day. Christmas leaves us driving back and forth between his hometown of Huntingdon in west TN and my hometown of Knoxville in east TN. Thanksgiving gives us as a chance to rest and really enjoy our families.

The only complaint I ever have is just how stuffed I feel as we drive home. In fact, last year as we drove back from Thanksgiving, James and I never really stopped to eat a meal. We were so full from a complete dinner at my aunt's house on Thursday, then another full holiday meal the next day at his grandmother's house. Just yesterday, I recounted this complaint. It's the only thing I dislike about the holiday: feeling uncomfortably stuffed!

God really convicted me of how blessed I am (and have no right to complain) when I discovered across a new organization this morning: Project Nicaragua. Project Nicaragua is the first social project of One Thread Outfitters.

This December, the brains behind the ministry, Mark and Patrick, are kicking things off with a drop to Managua, Nicaragua. They will be traveling with the non-profit organization, Chosen Children Ministries, to deliver food, clothing, and, more importantly, the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will be going to several villages and orphanages in the Managua area, delivering items to men, women, and children in severe need.

Nicaragua is the third poorest country in the Americas, with over 2.3 million of its citizens affected by poverty and a third of whom face extreme poverty. Eighty percent of Nicaragua's roughly 5 million citizens live on less than 2USD a day, meaning a meal a day is not an expectation. That's a staggering statistic.

I was especially convicted when my quiet time this morning included reading Luke 14:12-14:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

I really admire the heart of these two guys...that they would be willing to extend their resources to those in need. But here's the good news! They are only two guys. They need our help!

Click here to visit the ministry website.

By buying a $15 shirt, you will provide a family of four with 40 meals. You can also simply donate the money if you don't want the t-shirt. All money donated goes to straight to paying for food and clothing for the people of this land and to provide the cost of the trip for Mark and Patrick. (All donations are tax-deductible, and you can email them to request a tax donation reciept.)

Want to be more involved? If you have another fundraising idea, you can email them directly from the website. They are more than willing to help you get started in helping this important cause.

You can also just tell more people about them. You can follow them on Twitter at @projnicaragua and join their Facebook group by clicking here.

Hope you are as excited to get involved as I am. I'm vowing to replace complain about eating too much this year with making sure others have food for their families this Thanksgiving. With a ten hour drive back to Texas, I have a feeling my husband will be thankful for that!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep.

There's nothing quite like the kindness of a stranger. I could share a million stories of incredible things my family and close friends did for me while I was growing up. But whenever I am asked about a special memory from my childhood, there's one story that always comes to mind...and I can't even tell you his name.

We were on a church youth choir trip. My dad was the trip coordinator, so my while family tagged along. I was only five years old. When it was time to eat a meal, my dad always tried to stop at a mall. The food court was not only time efficient, but it gave more options for a variety of diet needs and taste preferences and gave everyone a chance to walk and stretch their legs after several hours on the bus.

As you can imagine, being an active five-year-old, I was done with sitting down by this point. I ate my meal in record speed. Since our table was right outside Bath and Body Works, I asked my mom if I could go in the store and look around. My mom was hesitant, but since she could see inside the store, she agreed.

I walked in and immediately began picking up everything labeled "tester" I could get my hands on. I would simply open it, smell it, and set it back down where I found it. I could only reach the bottom row, so I quickly ran out of new options to smell. Not ready to head back to sit down, I simply wert back to the front of the store and started down the line again.

There was a man working in the store. I noticed he was watching me, but I wasn't hurting anything, so I kept moving down the line: picking the tester up, smelling it and setting it back down. Then, I noticed he was walking towards me.

"Would you like to smell something from one of the other rows?" he asked.

Knowing I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, I nodded. He began helping me with my pattern. He would pick up something from the rows I couldn't reach, let me smell it and put it back where it went. He continued this pattern until I had successfully smelled every scent the store had to offer.

My mom noticed that I had been gone for quite some time. When she saw the man helping me, she decided it was time to come get me. After all, I wasn't a buying customer. She didn't want him wasting his time.

She reached her hand out to me. "Come on, Michelle. Let's go take a walk down the mall now." She turned to the gentleman. "Thank you."

"Could you hang on just one second?" he asked my mom. "I'll be right back."

Confused, but willing to comply, my mom and I waited as he walked into the employee room in the back of the store. When he walked back toward us, I noticed he had two boxes in his hands. He opened them both to me to reveal two different scented soaps.

"Which one do you like best?" he asked. He held them up while I smelled them both several times. They both smelled good, so I wanted to make the right decision.

Finally, I pointed to the purple-colored soap (that I now know was Lavender Vanilla). "This one," I said, decisively.

"Okay, wait right there," he said. I watched in amazement as he went behind the counter, got one of the store's gift bags and wrapped the soap I picked in tissue paper and tied the package with a bow.

"Here you go," he said, handing me the bag.

I, of course, lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, we can't take that," my mom said. "I'm sorry I sent her in here alone. She just wanted to..."

He cut my mom off mid-sentence. "She was so good in here, careful not to spill anything or open a bottle that wasn't labeled as a 'tester.' I'd like for her to have the soap if it's alright with you."

My mom agreed. "What do you say, Michelle?"

"Thank you so much," I told him. "I'll take good care of it," I promised.

He laughed. "Just promise me you'll enjoy it," he said. He waved and moved on to help another customer.

Even then, as a five-year-old, I knew that I had experienced an abnormal act of kindness. When we got home after the trip, my mom started to open the box to put the soap in my bathroom.

"No," I insisted. "I want to keep it in the box."

"Why?" she asked, obviously puzzled.

"Because I want to save a reminder to be kind to others. That man didn't have to give me that soap, but he did."

I don't think my mom knew what to say, but she put the soap back in the box. It stayed on my dresser in my room for the next ten years. Finally, when I was 15 and we were moving across the state, I decided it was time to use the soap. After all, I wasn't sure what six hours in a moving van would do to it.

However, the memory of that day is etched in my mind as if that box were still sitting on my dresser as a daily reminder. I was especially reminded of it today as I read Matthew 25:34-46:

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

How we treat others reveals our true devotion to Christ. Infact, before Jesus ascended to heaven after dying on the cross, he asked Peter the same question three times. Jesus said, "Peter, do you love me?" After Peter responded, "Yes, LORD, You know all things. You know that I love you," notice Jesus' response. He says phrases like, "Tend my sheep" or "Feed my lambs." (John 21:15-17) In other words, the best way we can show Jesus that we love Him is by caring for others.

Reflect on your own life. When is a time that you have seen Christ reflected in the way they treated you? Thank God for those momemts and pray God will give you opportunities to shine in someone else's life for His glory.

I'm not sure I'll ever see that man who worked in Bath and Body Works again, but the impact his small action had on my life is significant.

Do you love Him? Feed His sheep.

Do you love Him? Tend His lambs.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Volunteer Work that Matters the Most!

Volunteer Work that Matters the Most!

Shared via AddThis

Sometimes, being a writer involces knowing when you can't say it better than the original author. In a world that seems to value the family less with each day, I hope you will be challenged and encouraged by this post by Chalene Johnson (Pictured here with me this past summer at Camp Turbo). Just click on the title of the post, and you will be re-directed to her blog!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Give the gift of HEALTH this year!

Give a gift to a loved one (or to YOURSELF) this year that keeps on giving! Check out my special packages this year to help you and those that you love get physically fit. Prices available by emailing


- One 30-minute Phone Fitness Consultation with Michelle
- eBook of Michelle's Favorite Recipes
- Written plan of Michelle's Favorite Beginner Workout
- You may add a personal training session either at the beginning or end of your workout plan with Michelle for an additional $25 to your purchase package.


- Two 30-minute Phone Fitness Consultations with Michelle
- eBook of Michelle's Favorite Recipes
- 2 Samples of Shakeology (Chocolate or Greenberry Flavor)
- Customized Written Workout Plan by Michelle*
- You may add a personal training session either at the beginning or end of your workout plan with Michelle for an additional $20 to your purchase package.


- Two One-hour Phone Fitness Consultations with Michelle
- eBook of Michelle's Favorite Recipes
- 2 week supply of Shakeology (Either Chocolate or Greenberry Flavor)
- Workout plan (Including 5-8 DVDs, basic nutrition plan)*
- You may add a personal training session either at the beginning or end of your workout plan with Michelle for an additional $15 to your purchase package.


- Three One-hour Phone Fitness Consultations with Michelle
- eBook of Michelle's Favorite Recipes
- 1 month supply of Shakeology (Either Chocolate or Greenberry Flavor)
- 1 deluxe workout plan (Including 12 DVDs, detailed nutrition plan)*
- You may add a personal training session either at the beginning or end of your workout plan with Michelle for an additional $10 to your purchase package.

*Workout selected based on Initial Phone Fitness Consultation

**Packages may be adjusted based on client need. Simply email Michelle at to work out a custom package.**

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Blogs MERGED!

For those of you who have been following both of my blogs, I've decided to make it easier on you...all of my posts will now be in one place! AbSolution4Her has been incorporated into This will now be your one-stop place for encouragement from God's Word, random happenings in my life, as well as fitness and nutrition advice.

Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading!