Casting All Your Burdens

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV)

The week after Thanksgiving I was suddenly overwhelmed with prayer needs.  Dear friends and acquaintances were all going through trials at the same time.  First, a young mom’s baby was born with her intestines outside her stomach; mamma and baby were both life-flighted to a hospital far away. Then the husband of one of my best friends was diagnosed with leukemia, then our local pastor had emergency gallbladder surgery, then a dear church friend had a hysterectomy, then another church member had a heart attack, then a 7.2 earthquake hit Alaska where my college roommate lives, then a community member loved by all was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer…the prayer needs were daunting for me, combined with all my usual prayers. I found myself fretting throughout the morning, worrying about each person and praying for them over and over again. In my unfruitful way, I was trying to carry out Galatians 6:2.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

But then I realized I should bear those burdens to the Lord, carrying them from my friends to Jesus.  Once I gave it to Jesus, I was supposed to let go, not take it back. I was carrying burdens I did not need to carry.  I got out my prayer journal and wrote 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”  And I wrote all the people for whom I’d been worrying.  I prayed for each one and gave them to Jesus.  I said, “Jesus, please carry these for me, it’s too much for me and You know just what to do.”  And Jesus took my load. He gave me His peace that He would take care of everyone. I still lift these dear ones up to Jesus each day, but I’m not fretting now.  Jesus has them covered.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Write 1 Peter 5:7 in your prayer journal today.  Below the verse list people you’ve been worrying about, one name per line. Then go back and write a short prayer for each one by their names.  Thank Jesus for carrying these dear ones for you!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Good Deed Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (NKJV)

This December we are renewing a Christmas tradition we began long ago, the Good Deed Manger. It all started when our oldest two children were little and I was reading Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.  One story was about a mom with four children who was having trouble with them arguing and fighting during December.  So, she began a Good Deed Manger.

The story was a real tear-jerker and hard for me to finish reading aloud to my family.  But we read it each year, nonetheless, and made our own Good Deed Manger.  The first year, Kallie, Jacob and their Daddy built the manger you see in this picture, it was a little crooked, just like in the story.  Some family members went outside to collect dry grass or straw to put in a bucket near the manger.

Then we all wrote our names on slips of paper and put them in a Christmas hat.  We took turns drawing names until everyone had one.  It was a secret, so no one could know whose name we had.  That was the person we would do good deeds for all week, without them seeing us.  Each time we did a good deed, we could put a straw in the manger, trying to make a soft bed for baby Jesus.  Every Sunday night we would draw new names and continue with the good deeds.  On Christmas Eve we put a baby doll in the manger to be the Baby Jesus.  We hoped the bed was soft enough for Him because of all our good deeds.

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:12 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Make a Good Deed Manger with your family this December! If you can find Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul at your library, look for the original story  (p. 68 “The Last Straw”). and read it aloud together. Better yet, read the the story of our Savior’s birth in Luke 2. Then have a blessed Christmas season, surprising everyone with good deeds.

 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:16 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed this devotional activity, you might like to read my other Christmas Devotions, another favorite of mine is My Heart Inn.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Gingerbread Cookies and Chocolate Zucchini Bread

 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas before us, it’s time to start making more goodies.  Today I share two gluten-free recipes you can use to make treat plates to take to neighbors, if you can deliver the goodies before your family munches them!

The photo here includes both the gingerbread cookies I share with you today, along with the sugar cookies I  made one Valentine’s day.  Both are delicious and gluten-free, though I think the gingerbread variety holds together the best.

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 Tablespoon vinegar
1 beaten egg
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (Did you know xanthan gum is a powder ingredient that can be found near the Bob’s Red Mill flour in your grocery store?  It helps to hold baked goods together.)

In a medium saucepan, bring coconut oil, sugar, molasses, and vinegar to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat to potholder on the counter and allow to cool.

In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients: Brown rice flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and xanthan gum.

When pot is cool, stir in the beaten egg, followed by the dry ingredients.  Mix well, cover, and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove gingerbread dough from fridge and let sit on counter while oven is preheating.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Use extra tapioca flour to flour a cutting board lightly.  Scoop part of the dough onto your prepared cutting board.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out your favorite Christmas shapes. Use a metal pancake turner to lift the cookies from the cutting board to the parchment paper pans.  When the pans are full, bake for 5-8 minutes, or until done.  Cool on cooling racks.  Decorate with your favorite frosting and sprinkles.  (We mix 2 T. coconut oil, 2 cups powder sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and enough almond milk to make a fine frosting). Merry Christmas!!!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

If you’re like us, your freezer still has zucchini from last August.  We grated several zucchinis and bagged them for winter baking and cooking. Grocery stores still have zucchinis this time of year, too. This recipe was one of our favorites we made in summer.  The Chocolate Zucchini Bread can be wrapped and given as a gift, or sliced and arranged on a plate with the cookies.  This recipe we modified from the Gluten-Free Mama Cookbook, another great resource for gluten-free eaters.

Ingredients:
Coconut oil to oil baking pans
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 cups shredded zucchini
4 eggs
1 cup apple sauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 package Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two loaf pans with coconut oil.  Set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer combine the zucchini, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla.  Mix for one minute.   Next, add the dry mixture, a little at a time, mixing just a little bit until combined.  Finally, add the chocolate chips and gently mix.

Pour half the batter into each prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar.  Bake for 1 hour or until done.  Remove from oven to cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing.  So tasty it should probably be called cake!

Arrange all the goodies on plates for your neighbors with a Christmas greeting and Bible verse.  Another recipe your neighbors will love is Anna’s Peanut Butter cups!

Remember the REASON for the SEASON!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

 

 

 

Party Beans, Rice Con Queso, and Sweet Potatoes

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2 (NKJV)

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  The big day is tomorrow!  I pray that God blesses you with family and friends and a feast!  Here are a few more of our family’s favorite recipes for the holidays. Scroll all the way down for extra Thanksgiving links.

Party Beans

Ingredients:
(All bean cans are about 15-16 ounces)
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can butter beans
1 can black beans
1 can black-eyed peas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1- 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper

This is a great crock-pot recipe. First open your five cans of beans, empty them into a colander and rinse.  Pour all the beans into your crock-pot.  Next, chop your onion and peppers and add them to the beans.  In a glass measuring cup, combine the ketchup, water, brown sugar, bay leaves, cider vinegar, ground mustard and pepper.  Pour the ketchup mixture over the beans and veggies in the crock-pot.  Give it a quick stir.  Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 hours, or high heat for 3-4 hours.  Remove bay leaves. Serve with cheese or chips for a great meal or side dish.  Any combination of 5 cans of beans will work, whatever you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll use a can of corn.  The more colors, the more festive for your holiday gathering!

Rice Con Queso

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups brown rice, cooked with 3 cups water, salt and pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 small can green chilies, chopped
1-1/2 cups shredded Jack cheese or Daiya cheese
8 ounces Ricotta cheese or almond milk Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Daiya cheese

Put rice, water, salt and pepper in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.  Or, you can cook the rice ahead in your rice cooker.  Saute garlic, onions, and chilies, in a bit of olive oil.  Add the sauteed veggies, along with the black beans, to the cooked rice.  Lightly oil a 2 quart casserole dish with olive oil.  Layer the rice mixture, Jack or Daiya cheese, and Ricotta or almond milk Ricotta in dish.  Repeat layers 2 times, ending with rice mixture.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheddar or more Daiya cheese.  We make one with dairy and a dairy-free rice con queso.

To make this a festive Thanksgiving dish, instead of serving in a casserole dish, serve it in a pumpkin!  You will have to pre-bake the pumpkin.  Here’s how:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Choose a small to medium pumpkin and wash thoroughly.  Cut off the top and scoop out the insides.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and turn the pumpkin upside down onto the paper.  Bake the pumpkin for at least an hour, until the inside seems tender.  Don’t bake too long, or it will collapse (that’s what happened to mine this year, so I don’t have a final photo for you 😕 ).  Remove from oven and place upright on a fresh lined pan or oiled casserole dish.  Layer the rice con queso ingredients and bake as described above.  It’s an amazing treat for Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potatoes

Here’s another crock-pot recipe.  We make this Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving and let it cook all night. The house sure smells delicious when we get up on Thanksgiving morning.  Then we scoop it into a casserole dish to serve later with dinner.

 

Ingredients:
6 medium sweet potatoes or yams (we like the orange yams best)
1-1/2 cups applesauce
2 apples, chopped
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 cups water

Place all ingredients in your crock-pot.  Cover and cook on high 8 hours or overnight.  Enjoy!

Need more holiday recipe ideas?  Check out my complete list of holiday recipes. Or my pies and jello salads.

Need an activity for your family around the dinner table, or while waiting for dinner?  Check out the Thanksgiving Chain.

Need a new grace to sing with your family?  Check out these favorite camp graces.

How about some Thanksgiving Bible verses to add to place cards at your Thanksgiving table?

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.  Jesus loves you!  And because of Him, we all have a reason to give thanks!

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.  Psalm 116:17 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

MOPS: Mothers of Preschoolers

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
  Psalm 127:3 (NKJV)

One of my favorite organizations for moms is called Mothers of Preschoolers.  When I had my first two little blessings, there was a MOPS group for us to attend. There we made friends, were encouraged as moms, and shared fellowship with other moms who were seeking to follow Jesus.

This week I had the joy of sharing My TEA CUPP Prayers at a MOPS group in Big Timber, Montana.  What a lovely bunch of ladies!  I promised them I would post the devotions I shared here.  Just click on the photos below to read the articles. If you would like me to to share at your MOPS or moms group, I hope you will also contact me.  I’d love to share a CUPP of Mom TEA with you!

Here are the devotions we shared with the moms today:

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
  Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

Preschool Day

Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God. Psalm 50:23 (NIV)

Saying Thanks at Meals

And The Thanksgiving Chain.

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children. Isaiah 54:13 (NKJV)

Bedtime Prayers

For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. John 16:27 (NKJV)

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing
Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

God loves you!

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV)

My TEA CUPP Prayers Story

By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You.  Psalm 71:6 (NKJV)

Bonus Devotion:  There is Always a Baby

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.  Acts 20:24 (NIV)

My Running Testimony

Today’s TEA CUPP: Fall is a great time to join a new Bible study or moms group in your area.  These groups usually kick off the new season when school begins. Christian friends will keep you accountable on your walk with Jesus, and love you right where you are.  I encourage you to find a group in your town.  Ask your local church or check out MOPS.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

 

 

 

 

Morning Prayer

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You. Psalm 143:8 (NKJV)

Dear Lord,

I am Your servant,

Show me where to walk,

For I have come to You in prayer,

Teach me to do Your will.

May Your gracious Spirit

Lead me forward,

I am Your servant, Lord,

In Jesus Name I pray,

Let Your will be done. Amen.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  So long ago I read Psalm 143 and then wrote this prayer for God’s direction.  You can do it, too. When you need God’s guidance for your next steps, read Psalm 143.  Then pray Psalm 143, asking God to hear your prayer, to answer you speedily, to show you the way to walk, to deliver you from the enemy, to teach you, to lead you, to revive you.  And He will answer.  The King of kings and Lord of lords, the Father or our Savior Jesus Christ, will answer you and guide you on His straight and narrow path.

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.  Psalm 143:10 (NLT)

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.  Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

(NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation

(NKJV) Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Prayer Journal How-tos

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)

Keeping a prayer journal is a great way to stay focused while you pray, to encourage you that you really did pray, and to look back to see how faithful God has been in carrying you through so many prayer requests.  Just as there are a variety of ways to pray, there are numerous ways to keep a prayer journal.  Today I’d like to show you how I do My TEA CUPP Prayers prayer journal, and soon I hope to give you one along with my book.

For now, start by finding a notebook you know you will use.  I like a spiral notebook that is about the size of my Bible.  The prayer journal and Bible fit nicely together in my book bag.  The spiral binding allows me to open it flat or flip it completely open while I am journaling.  You can find inexpensive notebooks and journals at Walmart or Target or Family Dollar, or you can find a pretty flowery one at an office or gift store.  Whatever inspires you and helps you pray is perfect!

Next, find your pens.  If your favorite color is purple, perhaps you’d like a purple pen!  I use blue Pilot G-2 pens for most of my journaling because of the smooth writing ability.  I always need two or three, because they run out right in the middle of my prayers and I don’t want to have to get up and search the house for another one.  Have extra pens right by your Bible and journal in your quiet time spot.

My quiet time begins with Jesus having the first Word as I read my Bible. I follow the one-year Bible reading plan found in the Our Daily Bread devotional.  I have also used a One Year Bible in the past, which has the Bible divided into daily readings already. I pray,

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.”  Psalm 119:18 (NKJV)

I soak up all He has to tell me and underline my favorite verses.  I label the verses with the letters of the TEA CUPP acronym, so I may use them in my prayer journal.  Then I open my journal and get it ready for my prayers.  I write the date, then going down the page I write T-E-A.  On the next page I write C-U-P.  And on the next page I write another P.

Some Bible reading days have so many verses that it is hard to pick which ones to use.  Other days I don’t have enough verses, so I go back and use verses I underlined  in the previous weeks.  I find a THANKSGIVING verse and write it next to the letter T to thank God for His blessings.  I find an EXALTING verse and write it next to the letter E to exalt and praise my Jesus.  I find an ADMITTING verse and write it next to the letter A to admit my sins and ask Jesus’ forgiveness.

On the second page of my journal, I find a CALLING verse for something God is calling me to do today and write that in my journal next to the letter C.  I find an UNDERSTANDING verse and write it next to the letter U as I try to understand my story a little better.  I find a beautiful PROMISE verse and claim that as I write it next to the letter P.

On the third page, I find a  PETITIONING verse to use to pour my heart out to Jesus in prayer.  I pray all the parts of My TEA CUPP, filling in the extra spaces of my journal with more prayers on each letter.  Then I fill the rest of the PETITIONING page and perhaps another page with all my prayer requests for family and friends and loved ones.

If I am traveling or just had a new baby, I sometimes do just one letter a day in my prayer journal.  But I feel most complete when I have time to do all the parts and talk to Jesus about everything that is on my heart that day.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  I hope today’s devotion helps you as you fine tune your own prayer journal and devotion times with Jesus.  If you need ideas for Bible verses I have oodles for you here.  Someday, you will look back on all these prayers and be praising Jesus for His goodness all over again!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

A Trip to Zion

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad. Psalm 14:7 (NKJV)

Are you looking for a fun family vacation in God’s creation where you will be reminded of God’s Word and promises?  Where there are activities for children of all ages?  Where accessibility is ensured and shuttles deliver you from April to October to your next scenic point?  I have just the place for you, and now is the time to plan your trip!

Last July our family made a trek to Zion National Park in southern Utah to rendezvous with our New Mexico cousins.  And though it was 100 degrees and the crowds were at their peak, we had a wonderful time exploring this unique National Park.

My dear sister-in-law made reservations for us in March, and the closest campsites at that time were an hour away in Cedar City at the KOA.  The hour drive wasn’t so long because of the pretty scenery and time to discuss hiking plans.  The Cedar City KOA had a central picnic area where we could join our cousins for meals, though the KOA itself was better for RVs than for tents.

But when we saw the campsites in Zion National Park, we knew that’s where we would like to stay next time.  For the Park campsites you must make reservations now, because they fill up by December.  The park campsites are convenient to the shuttles, trails, visitor centers, and ranger programs.  You can even take a shuttle back into the town of Springdale for groceries.  Nestled among the trees in their own quiet area, the campsites are the way to experience Zion.  If you still want to be in the Park, but not out in the elements, try the beautiful Zion Lodge.

So, how does Zion National Park remind us more of God’s Word than the other three National Parks in southern Utah (Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks), or the Grand Canyon, just two hours away in Arizona?  Though Zion Park gained its title from Mormon pioneers, a Methodist pastor, Frederick Fisher, gets the credit for many of the park’s names.  Pastor Fisher named three peaks after the Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Running through the Park is the Virgin River, named for the Virgin Mary who gave birth to our Lord Jesus. Another edifice, “The Alter of Sacrifice.” memorializes the Old Testament story of Abraham obediently offering his son Isaac, foretelling God giving His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. Rounding out the Biblical illusions are the Great White Throne, Angels’ Landing, and Watchman.

…And I will place salvation in Zion,
For Israel My glory. Isaiah 46:13 (NKJV)

Numerous activities beckon every visitor who enters Zion National Park. From early  morning ranger hikes to late evening campfire programs, to talks and hikes throughout the days.  I asked our six year old son what he liked best about Zion, and he replied, “Soaking my feet in the Virgin River after that super long hike.”  I must add to his list, earning a Junior Ranger Badge, successfully hiking to the top of Observation Point in 100 degree weather, and making it back down, even though we ran out of water! We also took the shuttle to end of the road to visit the River Walk and convinced ourselves we must hike The Narrows on our next visit (this is a hike in the river, so we have to plan our trip for non-flood season and rent special shoes, June and early July might be best).

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Take Jesus on your next vacation or camping trip.  Start your day with a family devotion and prayer, then head out early to make the most of your day with hiking and fun times with your family.  Thank Jesus for His beautiful creation and let each family member say thank you for their favorite part of the day.  Get started here…Plan your trip here!

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.  Psalm 9:11 (NKJV)

And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ”  Isaiah 51:16 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Running with Jesus

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

This one is for you, the lady in whose heart God has put a dream…

On September 9, 2018, with God’s gracious help, I completed half of a goal I’ve had since I was 18 years old, to run a marathon. Over the summer, I signed up, trained, and ran the Bozeman Half Marathon in Bozeman, Montana.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of Jesus, my family cheering, and friends praying.  It was a long road!

When I was 18, it was no trouble for me to go out for a training run of 12 miles.  Our college cross country coach often gave us workouts that included a long run on Sunday afternoons.  And that was the easy day!  My friend Laura wanted me to run a marathon with her, but I hesitated because I was training for 10Ks.  But my 10K training came to a screeching halt in the fall of my sophomore year when my coaches and teammates died in a plane crash while traveling home from a victorious national meet.

I could barely run three miles after that disaster.  The grief made my heart and legs so heavy.  Slowly I started running again, but I also developed an eating disorder until Jesus saved me, so I was never in the such good shape again. Then came the blessing of marriage and children, and praying for more children, and not running so I could get pregnant, and before I knew it I was 52 and still hadn’t run that marathon I’d always wanted to do. So, this year, with God’s help, I set out to accomplish half the task, hoping to do the full marathon next year.  I looked up a free workout at coolrunning.com.

Each training morning, I’d get up super early to have my quiet time with Jesus before heading out on a run.  Then I’d take Jesus with me as I kept praying and singing songs in my head to Him.  When I had tight muscles in July I told friends at church and they must have prayed, because I got better and kept running.  When smoke filled the August skies, I kept running, even though it was probably bad for my health. I’m so thankful that I can still run in my second half-century of life!  As the day of the race drew nearer my stomach started acting up.  I tried to be careful about what I was eating, but it was still a mess the day before the race.

But when the day of the race came, my muscles didn’t hurt and my tummy behaved itself and God gave me the strength to run it!  I planned it so that each mile I sang a different song or Bible verse in my head that followed My TEA CUPP Prayers. I’ve also done this as I’ve driven to doctor appointments and other events. It helps the miles go by and encourages me as I run. Here are the songs I “played” in my head:

Mile 1: T – Psalm 100:4 I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart
Mile 2: T – Give thanks with a grateful heart
Mile 3: E – Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord
Mile 4: E – Psalm 63:3 Thy lovingkindness is better than life
Mile 5: A – Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God
Mile 6: A – I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken
Mile 7: C – Psalm 107:2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
Mile 8: C – Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Mile 9: U – Hebrews 12:1-2  If then we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..
Mile 10: U – Amazing Grace, my chains are gone
Mile 11: P – I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God
Mile 12: P – I believe in God the Father, I believe in Jesus Christ
Mile 13: Pet – The Lord’s Prayer and The Joy of the Lord is my strength

The day of the race came.  I didn’t sleep very well the night before.  I got up at 4 a.m. and had a banana and peanut butter and Gatorade for my quiet time with Jesus.  Then I stretched and packed up to leave home at 5:45 a.m., taking another banana and Gatorade for the road.  My husband and our three sons came to cheer me on.  We arrived in Bozeman at 6:45 a.m. and found a parking spot near Main Street. We walked to the designated shuttle area and found several school buses already full of runners.  I was hoping for a restroom, but there were none in sight.  I hugged my family good-bye and hopped on a bus, sitting in the front seat next to a lady in purple, my favorite color.

It turned out the lady was from North Carolina, 65 years old, and had just run a half marathon the week before in Jackson, Wyoming. God bless sweet Sarah Anne from North Carolina!  When we arrived at the starting-line, there were two dozen porta-potties awaiting us.  Whew, that was a blessing! There I met other runners older than me who were running a half marathon in every state. They call themselves 50-staters. And I just wanted to finish one race! Woah, talk about keeping me humble!

News came that the full marathon that was to begin at 7 a.m. had been delayed 10 minutes, so they were delaying our 8 a.m. start as well.  The runners tried to calm their jitters by stretching and chatting in the starting-line crowd.  Finally, the gun went off and people began running.  I took off, too, joining the throng.

For some mysterious reason, in all my planning and packing, I had forgotten my wrist watch to time myself.  My goal was to run 10-minute miles.  But now I had no watch to keep track of my pace.  So I just ran.  Occasionally, God would tell me to pass some runners.  In the past, I’ve always let the runners ahead of me stay ahead of me.  But this race I had dedicated to The Morning Center, a ministry that helps women and babies in Memphis, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. Very dear friends had sponsored me by the mile in support of The Morning Center. On the back of my t-shirt I had written, “Running for Moms and Babies and JESUS.”  I thought perhaps God wanted others to read my shirt. He gave me the strength to pass them, so I did.  At one point, a gal in light pink passed me and thanked me for my shirt.  That was pretty cool.

The course was so fantastic, that I don’t think I ever want to run anywhere else. The 13.1 mile route began in the foothills south of Bozeman, passing ranches and beautiful neighborhoods, until we reached Willson Ave. and then Main Street.  Though there were some uphill climbs, it was mostly downhill in elevation, making for a delightful run.  When I grew weary, I remembered what my friend Beth said about God pushing me and I asked Him to keep pushing. When we turned onto the final few blocks on Main Street, my legs were so heavy, but I pressed on.  When I saw my time as I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  For I ran it in under two hours, 1 hour and 57 minutes, faster than I ever dreamed, because I didn’t have my watch and I listened when the Lord told me to pass people. Tears filled my eyes as I thanked Jesus and hugged my family. 34 years after God first put the dream in my heart, I finished half a marathon.  I’m still thanking and praising Jesus for helping me run!

Stay tuned until next year to see if I can do the full marathon!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Did God put a dream in your heart years ago that you would still like to see completed?  My friend, it is never too late.  Pray to Jesus and ask for His help.  Take the first step. Then the second step.  And before you know it, you will have run a marathon!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

Let’s Talk about Calling

 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 (NKJV)

I remember sitting in the church sanctuary with a group of women.  We had spent the entire weekend together at a church as part of an Emmaus Retreat.  Over the course of the weekend we sang spirit-filled hymns, dug into scripture, cried over testimonies, and prayed in our family groups around the tables.  We shared meals prepared by loving church members and slept on cots in the Sunday school rooms. Now each lady was relating what the weekend had meant to her and what God was calling her to do next.

As each dear sister stood in front of the microphone and shared, I mentally prepared what I would say (as many of us do when we really should be listening!).  Then one sweet gal approached the stage and proclaimed, “I just want to go home and be the best wife and mom I can be.”  All my prepared thoughts were washed away by her sincere calling.  “That’s the call I want!”  I cried, already being the mom of two special young kids.  “Can I please have that calling, too!”

But when my turn came to speak before the understanding faces, I had to share what I had heard Jesus tell me during the weekend.  “I hear Jesus calling me to go to seminary to learn more about Him,” I confessed. But then I went home and asked God if I could have the other mom’s calling.

You know what He showed me? He made me a wife, so I’m obviously called to be a good wife.  He made me a mom, so I’m definitely called to be a loving mom.  But He also has something else He needs me to do.  And so I found a nearby seminary that offered the first course free and took a class on church history.  I loved learning about the Wesley brothers and their mother Susanna who prayed with her apron over her head so she could have quiet time in the midst of her many children.  And as only God can plan it, He also answered my long time prayer for another child and made me a mother again while I was taking this class. He blessed us with our dear son Kevin Jon, reinforcing my calling to be a mom.

And while Kevin was still nursing, God gave me My TEA CUPP Prayers as a way to spend time with Him each morning and be a mom, too. Kevin would wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, my trusty little alarm clock.  As he nursed, I read my Bible.  Soon he was back to sleep and I would tuck him in on the sofa beside me as I wrote in my prayer journal. I continued to take seminary classes at camping conferences where my family also participated, so I didn’t have to be away from our children, eventually receiving certification in camp and retreat ministry.  But I always embraced being a wife and mom, and now I’m a grandma, too!

Romans 11:19 says, “ For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  I can’t change what God is calling me to do.  He is calling me to invite ladies everywhere to have TEA with Jesus, the King of kings.  He has also stamped upon me “wife,” “mom,” “grandma,” “daughter,” “sister,” “aunt,” “cousin,” “friend,” “beloved.”

Every day as I read my Bible, I ask God what He is calling me to do.  Recent verses He has pointed me to include:

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NKJV)

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NKJV)

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  My dear TEA friend, what is God’s calling for your life?  If you aren’t sure, perhaps ask Jesus each morning, “What will you have me do today?  He will show you bit by bit, how to be a loving wife, mom, neighbor, friend…to pray for a stranger, to bake cookies for a neighbor, to send a card to a loved one, to hug your kids, to honor your husband, to share Jesus…and before you know it, you are living out God’s calling for your life.

I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.  Psalm 40:8 (NKJV)

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson