Heart Choices: 2012 -->

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Have You Surrendered Yet?

Have you ever felt a strong call from God?  Was there a moment in time when you knew that He was calling you to follow Him in a particular direction for your life?

I've had this happen to me.  Many years ago, I had the most vivid and memorable dream of my entire life.  I'm always a bit wary of people who focus on dreams. I believe that our circumstances and emotions can play tricks on us.  God speaks to us through His Word and He never contradicts Himself.

But this dream was different for me.  I was living my life in a good and decent way.  But I wasn't walking in obedience to the Lord.

God spoke to me in my dream.  No I didn't hear an audible voice. But I knew.  He was giving me a glimpse of the world through His eyes.  And nothing was the same.

I awakened sobbing.  This had never happened to me before.  My husband woke up and instantly knew something significant had occurred.

I attempted to share what happened but the tears kept flowing.  This was not something I normally do much of (crying).  Greg grabbed a pad and started writing as I described my dream for him.

I'd like to say my life totally changed that day but it didn't.  Although I was touched in an amazing way, it still took me several years before I let down my guard and yielded my life to the Lord.

Surrender.  What will it take before you surrender?  Surrender your ways, your goals, your desires and begin to trust the One who made you.

I've discovered that He planted desires in me.  I had to trust Him enough to get in touch with His plan for my life.  And that required trust and surrender.

Blessings and love,

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Do You Keep in Touch With the People Who Matter to you?

What's most important in life to you?  Often people devote much time to accumulating things.  Magazines and advertising fill us with a longing to buy this product and then I'll feel ____.  You can fill in the blank.

I love this plaque.  It focuses on how the important things in life are not ...things.

Faith, family, friends

I've been engrossed the last weeks in my journals.  I'm thankful that I discovered them in a box during our latest move.  The lessons I learned, the prayers I now see were actually answered, the people I love and care about, the friends who hung with me through thick and thin.

People are much more important than things.  

We will all leave this earth one day and guess what?  You can't take anything with you!  I wonder how many people will regret not spending enough quality time with the people who mean the most to them.

I think of the Griffin family.  Yesterday they invited me to their home for lunch.  I first met the Griffins about 19 years ago.  Their son Mike was a patient in our Cardiology practice.  He suffered from cardiomyopathy, a disease where the heart muscle is weakened which makes it difficult to pump blood and oxygen to the rest of the body.  I came to know this family through the difficult times as Mikey died at the young age of 28.  That was almost 17 years ago but we've continued to maintain a beautiful friendship.

Sue and her sister Barbara have seen me through some very trying times too.  Their prayers, love and friendship have encouraged me.

I've had the pleasure of many Christmas luncheons with Jim, Barb and Sue over the years.  Yesterday as I stepped into their lovely home I immediately remembered Mikey when I stepped on the Christmas decoration that shouted "Ho, ho, ho".  He loved Christmas and decorated with lots of fun stuffed Santa Clauses.  There were decorations on their tree with reminders of Mike.  Even though it's been years since he's been gone, we can now laugh and reminisce about the good memories.

Yesterday I asked a question on Heart Choices.

What would be your biggest regret if this was the last day of your life?  

You can read more about it here in case you missed it.  Many of you responded with comments and I appreciate that.  If you didn't have the opportunity to respond, it's not too late.  :)

Today I want to ask you another question.

Do you keep in touch with the people who matter to you?

Relationships can be challenging.  Not all families get along well. Holidays can certainly bring that out.  But there may be people in your life that you love and care about.  Do you keep in touch?  If you found out you were going to die, who would you want to spend time with before that day?  Is there someone you may need to call or get in touch with?

Blessings and love,


What Would Be Your Biggest Regret If This Was the Last Day of your Life?

It may be a difficult question to ask.  But I believe it's an important question to ask.

What would be your biggest regret if this was the last day of your life?

Too many people get to the last day of their life unexpectedly.

  • A fatal car accident 
  • An unexpected diagnosis with no cure 
  • A sudden heart attack without warning
Most people seem to think there's plenty of time.

Time to deal with:

  • Issues you've been suppressing for years  
  • Bitterness and rage against perceived injustice done to you
  • Relationships that need healing
  • Unfulfilled dreams you've kept locked inside
  • Anxiety over loved ones
  • Words that need to be spoken
The reality is we don't know the exact day and hour of our death. It's a subject most people don't want to think about.  But of one thing I am sure.  Death will happen to each one of us one day.

I'm in the process of writing an e-book on this topic of death.  I believe there are many lessons we can learn from the dying about living life in the now.  I worked as a cardiovascular nurse specialist for 25 years.  I've walked alongside of hundreds of patients and their families as they were dealing with life and death.  I kept journals filled with many of the stories of people who died.  Believe me when I say ...the dying can teach us lessons.

But today I'd like to ask you to consider this one question.

What would be your biggest regret if this was the last day of your life?

I'd love to read your responses.

Blessings and love,

photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc

Getting Back to Weigh-in Wednesdays

Weigh-in Wednesday already?

In my heart I'm thinking ...

  • the Christmas tree is still up 
  • there are goodies under the tree 
  • the smell of cardamom (Norwegian spice) is in the air
But what better day to start?  After all, I'm still on winter break from school.  I have time to start getting back into the habit of regular exercise.  And I can begin to plan and prepare healthy meals while I still have some time at home.

I signed up for the Biggest Loser competition at my school.  But I lost!

It figures that the winner was my cohort Heidi, whom I think didn't even need to lose weight.  But she won the pot of money.  So she can go shopping for some new clothes.  Way to Heidi; congratulations!  (Note to Heidi: can you hear Sawyer?)

Heidi is now in the best shape of her life.  She lost ten pounds and gained muscle.  Her pants are so loose she actually loaned them to me until ...they become too loose on me.  And that's what's going to happen!

I did go for a long walk with my next door neighbor several days ago.  We walked for more than 90 minutes and I have to say the time went by so quickly.  You know when you're walking and talking, you forget time.
There's nothing like beautiful scenery to get your mind off the fact that you're walking a long time.  I have to say that we have the most amazing winters here in Phoenix, Arizona.  This is the time when I forget all about the triple digit summers and simply ...enjoy.

When we passed by this view, it brought back such memories.  This is the mountain I used to hike up every day a few years ago.  I used to call it my mountain.  Well, I think it's time for me to reclaim 'my mountain' again.  Don't you think?

So, how about getting started even before the new year?  Yeah I know it's only a few days away.  But I for one, want to take advantage of this time off.  Part of losing weight is the planning.  So this week I will spend planning out my meals.  I take my lunch to work so this is important.  In between, I continue to press on in the writing of my book.  Those very early morning hours are the best writing time for me; no interruptions and my mind is most alert.

I'm linking up with Kim of At Home with Kim for Weigh-in Wednesday.  Won't you consider joining in?  How are you doing with your progress?  Did the Christmas goodies cause you to give in and simply enjoy?  Well, it's a new day and the time to start getting healthy.  In the process, we might just look good too.  And that's a good thing!

Heart Choices

How about making the CHOICE to take better care of your body?  I can guarantee that it will help other parts of your life too.

Blessings and love,


Merry Christmas

I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas!  Thank you for taking the time to follow and read Heart Choices.  I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am for each and every one of you.  I get excited to read each comment.  I know that many are reluctant to comment and that's OK.  But it's fun when you join in on the conversation.  :)

I'm on a two week break from school.  Between visiting with friends and family, I'm working very hard writing my book.  Those early morning hours are spent typing away on my computer.  In case you don't know, I'm writing the lessons I learned from the deathbeds of many patients I came to know when I worked as a cardiovascular nurse specialist for 25 years.  There's much to be learned and I for one don't want to have regrets when it's my time.  Keeping the end in mind keeps me motivated and energized to live intentionally.  I've so much to share so ...I hope you stay tuned.

Our Christmas tree is up and decorated.  I was concerned that it wouldn't fit in our small condo but it looks beautiful.  Here are a few close up photos of my ornaments.

I have many ornaments that were gifts from friends over the years. And of course I have a few Norwegian ones too.

Annual Christmas Tea

Every year I look forward to an annual Christmas tea with my friend Terri and her cousin Janet.  We've been doing this for years and how thankful I am to have this opportunity.  This year we went to the Arizona Biltmore Resort.  The food was fabulous and everything was so festive.

Take a look at these little sandwiches.  There was smoked salmon, dill and shrimp salad, lobster basil salad, and more.  The three of us finished off this whole tray.  Can you believe we had two more courses?  There were peppermint scones and eggnog spiced pound cake.  And then we had to leave room for dessert: gingerbread mousse swan, peppermint crunch brule and cinnamon crisp truffle.  

Here are the three of us after we ate.  We were still able to walk around and enjoy the beautiful Christmas trees.  What a fun time with good friends!  Thank you Terri.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration.  In case you are feeling stressed during this time of year, remember the reason for the season.  

Blessings and love,


Lockdown at our School Today

This morning I parked my car and began to walk to my classroom at school.  I noticed the kids who were playing on the basketball court suddenly begin scurrying inside.  This was unusual as the bell hadn't rung.  I quickened my pace to get to our classroom and was greeted by the sound of the bolt of the door being locked.  The windows were being covered with dark paper.  I yelled inside to Heidi to let her know it was me and she quickly opened the door but bolted it behind me.  I entered a very dark classroom and dropped my bags, unsure of what was happening.

I quickly found out.  We were in lockdown and ...it wasn't a drill.

We'd practiced for events like this, just in case.  The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has been heavy on our minds this week.  A chill went through my body as I discovered several children cowering closely together behind our cubbies in the corner.  I immediately grabbed the smallest child and held her close on my lap as we sat on the floor.

We didn't know anything except that this was not a drill.  The unknown can be very frightening.  But Heidi and I remained calm so the children would remain calm.

But I silently began to pray as I held little Natalie.

We played a game of 'telephone' in very low whispers to keep the children occupied and distracted.  Two of the children had been walking by our classroom when the lockdown was announced so they quickly came inside.  They were in first and second grade so were older than our kids.  They were aware of the events that occurred last week in Connecticut.  But they did very well by keeping calm for the younger ones.

Thoughts went through my mind.  What would I do if a gunman came barreling through that door?  I knew covering those kids would be my first concern.  I think my nurses' training came in handy.  I was always able to keep very calm in the midst of a critical situation. It was only afterwards ...

We were in lockdown for about 40 minutes although it seemed much longer.  We were finally told we could come out and return to our normal classroom activities. But that was easier said than done. Everyone was shaken.

These events happened during the time when parents normally dropped their children off at school.  They had been diverted away from the school by police due to the lockdown.  As they slowly returned to the school, everyone seemed shaken.  A few tears were shed and many hugs given to one another.    Our classrooms remained half empty as many didn't return for the day.  It was our last day before the two week break for the holidays.

Later we learned that a man in a long coat carrying a firearm had been spotted on the campus of a nearby school.  A worker had reported this to the police before the children arrived.  The school was locked down as they searched for the man but he wasn't found. Our school was locked down as a precaution, along with several other schools in the area.

It's sad when we have to be concerned about school shootings. Sending children to school shouldn't be scary.  But unfortunately our society has changed over the years.

How thankful I was to God that in this case, everyone was safe.  But I continue to pray for our country.  

Blessings and love,


Remember the Children

Remember the children of Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday morning in our Pre-K 3 classroom, Heidi motioned for me to check out something on her computer.  Her face showed deep concern so I moved quickly to see what was going on.  I read the news headline about the shootings in an elementary school and immediately felt ...shock.

Who could ever hurt innocent children?  What would cause a person to take out their anger on students and teachers like this?

Since that fateful day, my heart has been heavy. I listen to the interviews of experts in their fields.  Why did this happen?  How can something like this be prevented?

Is the answer: 

  • Improved healthcare for those suffering with mental health issues 
  • Better security at schools
  • Banning violent video games
  • Banning certain types of assault weapons
After a while, I had to turn off the television.  I don't have the answer.

At church on Sunday, my pastor talked about evil.  And then he brought up the topic of ...sin.  

Sin is nothing new.  Rebelling against God and His ways.  Sin is a word people don't like to hear or mention.  Rationalization for behavior is often cited.  Sin is nothing new.

Matthew 2:16-18

New Living Translation (NLT)
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”[a]

During the time of Jesus' birth, there was evil and sin.  Jesus came to give Life.  But the enemy tries to steal it.

We had our class Christmas party yesterday.  I gazed around our classroom at the faces of the little ones I've come to love.  Sweet innocence, open arms ...if only they would never have to experience or learn about the bad that lurks out in this world.

But we must go on ...

So how do we go about our normal activities during this Christmas season?

Stephanie Ackerman is an artist.  She loves to doodle and is very good at it.  She created this design to remember the names of those who lost their lives in Newtown last Friday morning.  I noticed it on Facebook as she posted it as a tribute to the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Stephanie wrote the following words above her beautiful design:

"When you don't know what to do, do what you know how to do, and then pray."

Created by: Stephanie Ackerman
So as we go about our days, may we remember the ones who lost their lives.  Pray for their families.  Pray for their community.  Pray for their school.  I printed out Stephanie's design to remember the children (and the teachers).  It reminds me to ...pray.

Blessings and love,

photo credit: TschiAe via photopin cc


5 Lessons We Can Learn From Kids

What can we learn from kids?  I have the pleasure of working with a classroom of twenty 3-4 year old children each day.  It's fun to observe them interact with each other and to listen in on some of their conversations.  I dare say ...yes we can learn from children.

Lesson #1: Eat until your full and then stop

I notice the kids eat with gusto if it's something they like.  On birthdays, the birthday boy or girl brings in a treat for the whole class to enjoy during snack time.  Often it will be cupcakes with icing. They get the icing all over their faces and don't seem to mind a  bit. We have to wipe their hands and faces with a wet wipe because they end up with much of it covering them.  But one thing I notice about the way kids eat is that they stop when they've had enough. They often leave half the cupcake ...unlike most of us adults.

Lesson #2:  Be excited about learning

It gives me such pleasure to see the look of excitement on a child's face when they learn something new.  Little Nevin gets so excited when he learns a new concept.  His face just lights up with excitement.  His eyes widen and he smiles and repeats what he's learned.  It's very rewarding for Heidi and me when we see they actually get it.  How often do we adults stop being excited about learning something new?  It can be all too easy to rely on what we already know.  Become a life long learner and share the excitement of learning something new.

Lesson #3:  Get moving

Children love to move. In fact, sometimes it can be hard to get them to stop.  They don't want to miss out on anything.  They bend and move and sometimes have to help Miss Debbie up when she's down on their level.  They have so much energy.  They are flexible but often lack some of the fine motor skills at this age.  Right now they're learning to throw and catch a ball in PE.  Some are more skilled than others but it doesn't stop them from trying very hard.  I really need to get back in shape to keep up with them each day, especially when little Sam asks me if I did my exercise today.  :)

Lessons #4:  Laugh and enjoy the moments

The kids play with each other.  The girls love to pretend they are princesses and even super heroes.  The boys tend to be a bit more aggressive but many of the girls keep up.  They run and laugh and cry and laugh again.  Simple things make them laugh.  I sit with them at lunch and listen in on their conversations and often ask them questions.  I asked them what their moms call them.  Hadley smiles and tells me 'my mommy calls me her angel'.  I'm always calling them cuties and we laugh when one has those little cutie oranges in their lunchbox.

Lesson #5:  Sleep well

After playing hard and learning many new things, the kids often fall asleep after lunch.  Many of the moms have told us that their child doesn't take naps.  But I think they have so much interaction at school, that they go to sleep.  Of course, there is always the one who fidgets and will not close their eyes.  But I have to say that Miss Debbie is so tired by the end of the day.

So learn these lessons from children.  I'm sure you could add to the list too.

Blessings and love,


The Blessings of the Christmas Season

It was the first Sunday of Advent.  As we gathered together to worship at my home church, the first candle was lit; the candle of prophesy.  Pastor Dan read from the Bible.

Isaiah 9:6

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

How amazing is that?  The Messiah, the Promised One would be born.  And He was born.  We celebrate that day each year.

"It is nearly unbelievable -- the wonder of the Advent of the Promised One, longed for through generations, now arriving in the context of human history.  This Christmas season, be sure not to lose the wonder of the Wonderful by getting mired in the mundane."  ~ Pursuing the Christ, Prayers for Christmastime by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

I purchased this small Kindle book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean for $.99.  It's a great deal and the short chapters help to keep me focused on the true meaning of this Christmas season.

And the little ones ...

This time of year is a wonderful time to be working in a school environment.  The children are so excited.  We decorated our classroom.  A small Christmas tree sits in the corner and the little three year olds get to decorate it again each morning.  It's not a Christian school but I have to admit that I pray for each one of these precious little ones. :)

We had a special visitor to our classroom this week.  Firefighter Mike gave a talk to the children.  He wanted them to see firefighters as their friend so they wouldn't be afraid.  The kids got to try on the mask and hat and even his boots.  They loved it!

Firefighter Mike was actually Heidi's dad.  He is so good with the kids.

They giggled as they tried on the pieces of equipment.  I was amazed how well they sat and listened intently.

My three year old personal trainer Sam is keeping me on track with my exercise.  He is too funny!  As I was leaving school on Friday, he called out to me.  "Miss Debbie, did you do your exercise?"

I laughed because I can't disappoint him and I have to be honest. So instead of going on the bike that stays still, I hop on my treadmill.  I told him it's a machine that let's me run but I go no place.  I think he understood.  And he added "Miss Debbie, I love you."  My heart melted and I smiled.  Thank you Lord for these little ones.

#612 Celebrating the first Advent Sunday
#613 Getting into the Christmas spirit
#614 Spending time in the Word each morning
#615 Coming home each day to the sound of Christmas music, candles lit and tree lights on
#616 A husband who tries to make our home extra special this time of year
#617 Celebrating my mother-in-law's 88th birthday
#618 Co-workers who are such fun
#619 Seeing the delight in the children's eyes as they listened to firefighter Mike
#620 Decorations for the Christmas season
#621 Peppermint mocha at Starbucks
#622 Beautiful weather in Phoenix
#623 Looking forward to a visit with my friends from San Antonio
#624 Watching Kirk Cameron in "Monumental"; a must see documentary

Keep on counting those every day blessings.  I can guarantee it will change your perspective.

Blessings and love,


Remembering Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar was one of the people who has inspired me most in my life.  He died on Wednesday at the age of 86.  He was the best salesperson but more importantly he was a Christian who ...walked his talk.

Many years ago, I began reading his books and listening to his tapes. I had a thirty minute drive to work as a nurse.  It was the perfect amount of time to soak in some wisdom from Zig.  He helped me motivate many heart patients to make healthier lifestyle choices.  It got to the point where I could quote him word for word.

I can hear him even now in that southern husky familiar voice saying:

You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.

I purchased his performance planner and dutifully wrote out my goals for that year.  I had two pages for each goal, including what I needed to do and what obstacles I needed to overcome to accomplish each one.  As I look back at those goals, I see that I accomplished every single one of them.  There is something to be said for writing them out like this.

A goal properly set is halfway reached.

I've seen Zig Ziglar speak several times.  One year, my husband and I purchased tickets to attend a luncheon where Zig was speaking. We had a table right up front.  I didn't want to miss a thing!

Zig spoke about the importance of fathers.  He said that the majority of men who are in prison either had no father figure in their life or a troubled relationship with their father.  He encouraged all of the men in the audience to be an active part of their children's lives.

At the end of the talk Zig left the podium and I quickly got up so I could speak with him before he left the room.  He graciously signed one of his books for me and then he smiled at me and asked me if I knew what Ephesians 2:8-9 said.  Thankfully I did.  Those verses speak about the grace of God and how we cannot earn our salvation. Although this luncheon wasn't a Christian conference talk, Zig so kindly shared his faith in Jesus. What a beautiful example for me!

I was able to email his son Tom Ziglar in more recent years to share how much his dad influenced me.  He wrote back to me and told me he read my note to his father.  I was thrilled!

This morning I listened to his memorial service.  It was held in a Baptist church in Dallas, Texas but I heard it live on Zig Ziglar Radio. What a blessing!  Zig even planned his own funeral down to the message and songs.  The first song they sang was "Because He Lives" and of course, I began to tear up.

I believe Zig Ziglar is in heaven and he will be meeting up with his daughter.  But best of all, he will see Jesus.

I leave you with this video so you can hear Zig Ziglar for yourself.

Blessings and love,


Five Minute Friday ~ Wonder

It's Five Minute Friday when I link up with Lisa Jo of The Gypsy Mama.  She gives us a word each Friday and we get to write on it for five minutes flat.  Our word for today is WONDER.


Wonder can be defined as an emotion comparable to surprise that people feel when perceiving something rare or unexpected.  What do I think of when I hear the word WONDER?

I think of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Three in one.  Amazing, awesome, overwhelming at times but ...oh so wonderful.

My heart overflows with thankfulness as I consider the real meaning of Christmas.

To think that God loved me so much that He wanted to be in relationship with me.  But the only way I could know Him was to be without sin and that wasn't possible.  So He sent Jesus into this world, fully human and yet fully Divine.  He lived a sinless life and died on the cross for my sins and yours.

When I received this amazing gift personally, my name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  I was forgiven and free to be in relationship with God.

Does that fit the definition of wonder?  You bet it does.    

The wonder of the gift of Christmas.  It's a gift that's free to each one of us.  


Blessings and love,

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