Heart Choices: March 2013

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Five Minute Friday ~ Broken

It's Five Minute Friday when I link up with Lisa-Jo of The Gypsy Mama.  This morning I get to write for five minutes on our writing prompt ...broken.


Each morning when I go to work, I am greeted by children.  It's really a joy to hear their sweet voices as they clamor around to give me a hug.  But inevitably, they begin to show me their boo-boos.

"Miss Debbie, look at my boo-boo."
"I fell and now I have a band aid."
"Can you give me a band aid?  I think this scratch has blood."

I'm amazed at how many little boo-boos they get and how much they want to show them all to me.  :)

Aren't we all a bit like that in one way or another?

We all have stories of brokenness.  Sometimes it's easier to keep silent.  But other times we feel better if we tell someone about our boo-boos.

In my personal story of brokenness:

  • I can talk to others.  
  • I can bury my hurt.
  • I can try to comfort myself.
  • I can attempt a quick fix.  
  • I can become bitter.
But I have to say that nothing can heal my brokenness like God.  And He is doing that for me.

Having the opportunity to be greeted by children each day is healing for me.  You see I was not able to have children.  But the Lord never forgot my desire.  He answered my prayer in a way I would never have imagined.  It's not a way I may have preferred.  But in the midst of my brokenness, I am beginning to heal.

What a Savior!  My heart is so thankful.


Blessings and love,


Spring Show Blessings

Spring in Phoenix is warm and sunny.  On Saturday, Rancho Solano Private School held their annual spring show.  Our Pre-K 3 class had been practicing their Rubber Ducky song for weeks.  They knew the dance moves and the words to the song.  But the big question. Would they freeze onstage?  No way!  They rocked the stage.

Check out their costumes; bathing suits and shower caps.  The white balloons were supposed to be like bubbles in the bathtub.  And of course they held their rubber ducky.

Here is Miss Debbie with one of our precious students.  How fun to spend the day on the school grounds and to see the students perform on the stage in front of many parents, Grandmas and Grandpas and friends.  There were areas for people to eat a picnic lunch and a vendor with snow cones.  The kids loved that!

Miss Annie and I are planning to teach summer camp this year to the 3 and 4 year old children.  I drew this poster at the last minute since we were given an easel and a table to let parents know about the program that will be offered.  Lately I've been leaving my husband Greg notes and I always include a drawing that is done in stick figures.  Not the best artist but he enjoys it!  If anyone knows of any 3-4 year old children in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area tell them to check us out.  You don't have to attend the school to go to summer camp.

Heidi and I work so well together.  A parent came up to me today and told me this year has been the best at our school.  She has another child who is in second grade so she's been at Rancho for some time.  But her daughter is in our Pre-K 3 class this year.  And she told me she loves the balance Heidi and I have in our classroom. How thankful to hear kind words from a parent.

After our class performed their number, I was so excited and surprised when Charlotte (a local fellow blogger and hostess of Spiritual Sundays) came up to me.  She had her camera and was able to create a video of our children's performance.  How fun to see her sweet face once again!  Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to stop by and tape the kids.

# 745 An amazing spring show
# 746 The excitement on the children's faces
# 747 Our fabulous music teacher Miss Storme; you rock!
# 748 The opportunity to teach summer camp
# 749 Working with Heidi each day; go team!
# 750 A beautiful sunny day in Phoenix
# 751 Seeing Charlotte's sweet face as she came to see our kids perform
# 752 The kind words of a parent
# 753 The best compliment my husband ever gave me  (I just may need to blog about it later this week)

I love counting my every day blessings.  I'm linking up with Ann of A Holy Experience for Multitudes on Mondays.

Blessings and love,


On Becoming a Writer ~ A Book Review

BecomingWriter 3D 324

I jumped at the opportunity to review Denise J Hughes' first book entitled On Becoming a Writer.  The tagline really grabbed me ...What Every Blogger Needs to Know.

I'm a blogger and I wanted to find out ...what I need to know.

Denise is qualified to write this book.
  • She teaches college composition at a private Christian university (that's English).
  • She's been a blogger for years.
  • She's the daughter of  Marsha, who is one of my favorite bloggers.
  • She's a follower of Christ and often writes about faith.
  • She writes her blog posts so beautifully and descriptively.
  • I learn about writing by simply reading her blog posts.
Since I'm in the process of writing my own book, I need all the help I can get.  So I accepted the offer of a free copy to read and honestly review.

I smiled soon enough as I began to read Denise's words:

To write is to join a conversation.  This is what every blogger does. We enter an online party where discussions are in progress.  We listen awhile.  We lurk.  And when we're ready, we tap that publish button. We join the conversation.

I love that about blogging!  I now have many new friends that I've never met in person.  Well I have met about a dozen bloggers and never been disappointed.  Because I ventured out and choose to join the conversation, I've been blessed.  It's much more fun than lurking!

The book is divided into seven categories listed below.  Within each of these categories are questions.  Denise answers 34 questions in a conversational style.  I found it easy to read and understand.  No wonder she's such a good teacher.  I felt as if I were sitting across a table from her having a cup of coffee.

  1. Joining the Conversation
  2. Getting Started
  3. Knowing Your Style
  4. Learning the Craft
  5. Understanding the Revision Process
  6. Avoiding the Pitfalls
  7. Becoming a Writer

You don't have to be in the process of writing a book to benefit from Denise's book.  I think this should be a must read for every blogger out there.  Bloggers write nonfiction on their blogs. After all, we are usually writing about our own lives.  And nonfiction is much different from writing fiction.  As a blogger, I am always using the pronoun I. After all, I'm sharing my own experiences, right?

If you ever hated English class, please don't let that discourage you from writing a blog.  It's a different venue entirely.

Now we're talking!  However, I happen to be one of those people who actually loved English class.

Denise also writes about knowing why we are writing.  Most people write:

  • To encourage (that's me)
  • To entertain
  • To inform 
  • To persuade
At the end of each chapter is something called "Writing in Action".  As you read this book, you have the option of practicing what you learn. Just like a teacher to give out homework!  But I have to say that it's certainly optional but very helpful.

I especially loved the section on how to engage your reader.  I'm not the best story teller so this helped me.

Overall, I really liked this book.

The official book launch date is Monday, March 25th.  The price of On Becoming a Writer is $4.99.  However, the e-book will be available for free on Monday and Tuesday only.  So don't waste any more time and head on over to Amazon now.  

Blessings and love,


Spring in my Heart

Happy spring!  Spring is a bit different in the desert of Phoenix. It's amazing to see a cactus bloom with beautiful flowers.  The orange and grapefruit trees produce delicious fruit ripe for picking. A sweet pleasing fragrance fills the air.  There's a special beauty in this season of spring.

However there's also a down side to all of these blooms; allergies. So many people in the Phoenix area suffer with allergies this time of year, including me.  :(

I guess there's two sides to everything.

I'm joining up today for a Faith Barista Jam.  Bonnie gave us our writing prompt as:  SPRING

It's the last two weeks of Lent.  Originally the word Lent comes from old English word meaning "spring".  Imagine Jesus whispering the word "spring" into your heart. Reflect and share what "spring" means to you in your current journey of faith.

I see with my physical eyes the desert blooming.  Spring is a season of growth.  I also see that spring is a season of spiritual growth.  I choose to listen to the whispers in my heart.

As I look forward to Resurrection Sunday or Easter, the Lord is preparing my heart.  I remember how Jesus spent 40 days in the desert.  And may I remind you that this time of testing occurred right after Matthew 3:17

And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased."  

Matthew 4:1-2 goes on to say:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Can you imagine fasting for forty days in the desert?

Living in a desert I can tell you that water is essential for survival. Dehydration is a very real danger and can even cause people to become lightheaded and pass out.  And yet that is when Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Despite being tempted in areas that I would have a hard time resisting, Jesus never gave in.  Instead His response to the devil was to quote Scripture.

I have to admit that probably wouldn't have been my first response. Think about it for a minute.

  • You're hungry
  • You're tired
  • You're extremely thirsty
  • You're alone in the desert
Not one of my personal experiences or temptations is anything compared to what Jesus went through.

As Jesus whispers 'spring' into my heart, I'm reminded that I can trust Him in the midst of my personal challenges in this season of life.  During this time of testing I ask myself:

  • Do I truly believe God's Word?
  • Do I trust God when my life has been turned upside down?
  • Do I look forward with hope?
  • Do I remember how much He loves me?
  • Do I realize that I am not alone and that He is with me?
I can tell you that I'm learning that I do believe and trust Him.  My faith is actually growing stronger through the trials and storms of life.  I believe His Word.  And I can look forward with hope.

After all, Easter is coming!  Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross.  But that's not the end of the story.  If that was the end, my faith would be in vain.  He rose to life on the third day and appeared to many.  He ascended into heaven and now sits on the right hand of the Father continually interceding for His children.

I realize that He is with me on my life journey through each season. Spring is a wonderful reminder for me.  I listen to His whispers in my heart.  Therefore I can be ...joyful and hopeful.  

Blessings and love,


Working on Getting Back in Shape

Have you set any goals for this year?  I have to ask.  How are you doing?  Have you made some steady progress or are you ready to give up?

One of my goals for 2013 was to get back in shape and live a more healthy lifestyle.

Last Saturday I went hiking with my neighbor Caroline.  We decided to tackle Squaw Peak which has been renamed Piestewa Peak.  It's a challenging climb but I remember how I used to be able to practically run up to the top and down.  It's a different story now!

I was equipped with my back pack filled with camera (of course) and my water bottle (much needed).  I had on my hiking boots and I was ready to climb.  It started off easy enough but as I continued I found myself getting so tired and winded.  Oh my, this could not be happening to me!

I came upon this bench and had to take a break.  I could feel my heart pounding fast.  I have to laugh because one of the thoughts that crossed my mind was 'Moses must have been in such great shape.  I can't imagine carrying those heavy stones with the 10 Commandments down a mountain.  And he had to have climbed up the mountain first; oh my.'

But as I paused to catch my breath and take a few photos, I realized how endurance is something that needs to be maintained.  If you don't use it, you lose it.  I thought of many patients who lost muscle mass when they were bedridden or disabled for a period of time.  Muscle needs to be rebuilt.  Aerobic capacity needs to be built up again too.  My internal dialogue was reassuring me that I could work at this; yes I could!

As I started back on my climb, I had to laugh at this shirt a young man was wearing.  He obliged me as I took a photo.  Yes, each one of us is like nothing you've ever seen before!  It reminded me that we come in all shapes and sizes.  God created us with different abilities.  But I am determined to take care of this body so I will have the energy and strength to be about what He has called me to do.  And I must add that working with three and four year old children all day requires much energy.

So I continued my climb.  I wish I could announce that I made it to the top that day but ...I didn't.

However, this hike helped me to gauge what still needed to be done to accomplish my goal of living a healthy lifestyle.

  • I will be back Piestewa Peak.  
  • I will be back many times.
  • I will not give up.
  • I will reach the top once again.  
  • I am determined!
So I ask you.  How are you doing?  Have you set goals and are you working towards reaching them?  Do you still have a ways to go?

Blessings and love,


Spring Break

Spring break in Phoenix is the perfect time of year.  The weather is beautiful.  While most of the country has been dealing with winter weather, we experienced sunny days in the high 70's.  It kind of makes up for the triple digit heat during the summer.  And yes, it's a dry heat.  But I have to say that 110 degrees is HOT!

I compiled a list of all I wanted to accomplish during my time off.  As always my list was more energetic than I was.  But I'm thankful that I had fun with friends and time to exercise and work on my book. I'll have to share more about that later in the week.  But for now just know that I'm editing and getting those transitions working more smoothly.  It just takes time!

I had some time to visit with my good friend Helen.  In fact, we sat outside Paradise Bakery at Desert Ridge talking, sipping iced tea and watching the fountains.  

However, on my drive home the unexpected happened.  A man cut me off in his car as he made a right turn in front of me.  Thank goodness no one got hurt.  But my poor car ...

I love my car!  I purchased it 13 years ago but it still looks great despite many miles.  I was so relieved that the other driver's insurance company will be paying for my damages.

I've been wanting to do something with my hair lately.  So I got it cut shorter and I like it.  I'm not one who takes lots of time styling and blow drying my hair.  It's got to be fast and this cut seems to be working for me.  Thank you Jennifer!

I went for many walks and finally had the time to attend my neighbor Caroline's exercise class.  This gal has been teaching Pilates and aerobics classes for 30 years.  Her Thursday evening class is a great workout.  I kept up with much of the aerobics.  But the Pilates part was harder for me as I'm just not that flexible.  But I'm not giving up. I want to work at it.

Caroline and I also hiked up a popular mountain in Phoenix on Saturday morning.  The views were fantastic.  I didn't do as well as I hoped since I didn't hike all the way to the top.  In years gone by (when I was in good shape and pre-stress years), I used to almost run all the way to the top.  But I guess I'll have to work on my endurance again.

Along the way I had fun taking photos and watching the people.  One lady was shouting loudly that there were free massages at the top in her attempt to motivate people to keep going.  :)

Although I enjoyed my time off, I do miss the children in our Pre-K 3 class and Heidi (of course).  So I'm looking forward to getting back to my usual routine this week.  But I'll be on the lookout for those every day blessings for sure.

#735 Spending time with my former car pool buddy Tara
#736 Not having to get up early but ...still getting up early
#737 The driver of the other car accepted full responsibility for the accident
#738 My car will be repaired this week and I won't have to pay my deductible
#739 Finally seeing the movie "Quartet" with Maggie Smith (enjoyed it)
#740 Time to exercise
#741 Time to eat healthy and plan meals
#742 Making a batch of Norwegian waffles (I used nonfat sour cream and skim milk)
#743 Longer quiet times in the morning this past week
#744 Discovering that my symptoms are all related to allergies and sinus

I'm linking up with Ann of A Holy Experience for Multitudes on Mondays.

Blessings and love,


Five Minute Friday ~ Rest

It's Five Minute Friday when I link up with Lisa-Jo of The Gypsy Mama.  We are given one word each Friday as our prompt and we get to write for five minutes flat.  I set my timer so I don't run over as it's easy to do.  Our word for today is: REST


When I think of the word rest the picture that comes to my mind is something like this Pinterest photo.  I can just picture myself lying in the hammock with a mug of my favorite tea, listening to the sound of the ocean waves and smelling the salt air.  Now that's rest!

However, I am not in this photo.  I don't even live near the ocean.  The reality is that I live in the desert of Phoenix.  Life is not always smooth sailing for sure.  And yet, can I be at rest?

Yes I can!  (Can you hear me Heidi)

I love the rest that the Lord offers to us.  He says to 'enter my rest'.

How can that be?  Each day I make the choice to follow Him. I don't always get it perfect.  In fact, sometimes I get way off track.  But how thankful I am for His mercy, patience and forgiveness.  When I walk in His ways I am filled with His peace no matter how chaotic my world may be.  When I enter His rest, I remember who I belong to.  I remember that Jesus paid the price for my sins.  I have peace with God through Jesus.  I know the end of the story.

And I have to say that gives me peace and allows me to rest in Him.


Blessings and love,


Faith to Follow

I'm joining Bonnie of Faith Barista for another Faith Barista Jam. Our writing prompt for today is:

How is Jesus placing the word “follow” on your heart today?
In order to follow Jesus, I need faith.  I find it amazing that He is the One who initiates relationship.  I read in Matthew 3:18-20:
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers , Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  At once they left their nets and followed him.  

Peter and Andrew were going about their normal duties making a living as fishermen.  But one invitation from Jesus and ...they followed Him.

Matthew 3 goes on in verses 21-22:
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.  They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Once again Jesus initiates the relationship with James and John while they were going about the normal activities of their life.  But they immediately left and ...followed Jesus.

As I reflect on these events, I have to be honest.  Would I respond immediately and follow Jesus?  Or would I say "Well Jesus, I'd love to follow you but I have so much on my to-do list for today.  Could I join up with you tomorrow instead?"

Am I trying to balance my life?  I have my morning quiet time. Check that off my list.  I get ready for the day.  Check.  I go to work.  Check.  I come home and exercise.  Check.  I spend time with my husband.  Check.  Each day I follow a plan, the routine that has become my life.

But if I am to follow Jesus, He just may upset my plans.

I'm amazed by how often I hear (not audibly) a whisper in my heart "trust me". When life seems to be turning upside down once again, He says "trust me Debbie" and "follow me".

I know that He has plans for me.  I know His plans are good.  I know He alone knows what's in my heart.  I cannot hide anything from Him.

So what do I do today?  I make the heart choice to trust Him and ...follow.

  • I pray for His guidance.
  • I pray for wisdom.
  • I pray for His strength.
  • I pray that He would open my eyes to see as He sees.
  • I pray that I will not be so busy with my plans that I miss out on His plans for me
How about you?  Do you ask God to reveal His plans for your life? Do you take the time to read His wonderful instruction book for life; the Bible?  And then do you obey what it says?  Will you make the heart choice to follow Him?

Blessings and love,


Cherish your Friendships

Cherish your friendships.  Life can change suddenly.  I received the phone call in the evening of last week.  My friend Susie had died suddenly.  I could hardly believe this news.  After all, she hadn't been sick as far as I knew.  As news spread among her friends, the overall response was shock.  I think the suddenness and unexpectedness of her death stunned everyone.  And yet we never know when our last day on earth will be.

To continue reading ...go to Laced with Grace.

Blessings and love,


Counting Sweet Blessings

Photo: Munchkins gone wild!
As I continue to count my every day blessings, I have to include this little munchkin.  She's my great niece Kenzie.  She's ten months old and oh so very cute!  I only wish she lived in Phoenix so I could see her every day.
This past week our school hosted a Field Day and the theme was Dr. Seuss.  It was such an exciting day for the children in our Pre-K 3 class.

Photo: Miss Debbie had fun on Field Day; getting my face painted.
The children and teachers got to wear jeans and our class t-shirts. We had such fun going from activity to activity.  I decided to join in and had my face painted with a red heart (of course).

How thankful I am that I get to work with Heidi.  She's such fun and also loves to join in.

She's even a good sport when I took this photo.  She and the kids were actually sitting on the balls and jumping up and down.  I guess I caught her when she was getting ready to sit down. :)

I think you'll get the idea when you check out this collage of the kids participating in some of the activities.  They were so excited and they all fell sound asleep during nap time.  I only wish the teachers could pull up a nap mat too. :)

#723 Getting to see how fast little Kenzie is growing
#724 A fun Field Day at school
#725 Beautiful weather for Field Day
#726 An amazing friend and co-worker
#727 Seeing the children's faces light up with excitement
#728 My dad is back on Facebook
#729 I'm on spring break
#730 Inspiration and time to complete my book
#731 A wonderful sermon to get me prepared for Resurrection Day
#732 Time to wind down this week and get organized
#733 Time to prepare some healthy meals
#734 Beautiful weather so I can go for long walks

I'm linking up with Ann of A Holy Experience for Multitudes on Mondays as I continue to count my every day blessings.

Blessings and love,


A Good Friend and Mentor Died this Week

My friend and mentor Susie went home to be with the Lord this past week.  Although I will miss her, I know where she is and that provides such comfort.  I've been looking for photos of Susie to share with her husband David.  I rediscovered this post I'd written in 2010.  I decided to repost it today in honor of Susie.
Extravagant Grace
I'm joining with eLisa of Extravagant Grace today. We are continuing our series on becoming Titus 2 in 2010.

Here is the Scripture from Titus 2:3-5:

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

For this week our discussion is focused on the question:

"What does it mean to be reverent?" in becoming a Titus 2 woman.

I believe that being reverent means to show respect. The fear of the Lord is an awesome respect and reverence for God, who is sovereign and has dominion over all His creation.

However, it seems that in today's culture, there's not much of that. Even in day to day relations with people, many children aren't even taught respect for other people.

As a child, I was instructed by my mother to always greet my neighbors with "Hello Mrs. Smith" instead of "hi, how's it going?" or something like that. She believed it showed a sign of respect.

As an adult, I've been honored and privileged to have a mentor named Susie. She was the children's director in Bible Study Fellowship while I was a children's leader. We bonded so well and I just love her.

Susie began mentoring younger women in the ways of God. She uses the Christian Called to Obedience curriculum written by Howie and Dennie Dowell. I'd like to say I was her only student but of course, that's not true.

I was invited to a luncheon that included many of the women Susie has mentored over the years. It's amazing how many women have been impacted since Susie listened to God's call on her life and ...she obeyed.

Hmm ...message to self; trust and obey.

There were about 8 or 9 tables filled with women of all ages who had been mentored by Susie.

Dennie Dowell, the writer of Called to Obedience was present and shared words of wisdom from the Bible.

Susie mentored Jenni, who in turn has now mentored many young moms.
We were taught that fear of man's rejection shouldn't control us. When you are relying on God's eternal, unchanging love for you ...He will provide all you need.

God must be the source of your emotional and spiritual stability. What a great and important lesson for me to learn.

As far as reverencing husbands, I do believe it's important to respect your husband. Many women today seem to find it easy to belittle men. If you ever watch TV commercials, I'm amazed at how they stereotype men.

After reading a book called "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, I realized how much husbands desire respect. I now look for things I can respect about my husband and ...I tell him.

When you start paying attention, you might be amazed at how many good things you will find that you can respect about your husband. It may start with little things. But note his response. Most times he will be so pleased.
As women we want to be loved. And our husbands crave respect.
~ ~ ~

As I read through this post again, I couldn't help but notice the ripple effect.  One life touching another and in turn that life touching others.  Susie touched many lives, including mine.  I will be forever grateful.

Blessings and love,

Sumstad Family Gathering

Several members of the Sumstad family gathered together at The Farm at South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona.  As I sat under an umbrella on the patio of The Farm Kitchen eating lunch, I couldn't help but consider that it was a farm in Norway that united each one of us.  Sumstad, Sor-Trondelag, Norway was the birth place of my paternal grandfather.  This was the place where he was born and raised before leaving with his younger brother Konrad for a new life in the United States.  I am a descendant of this family.

Bill and Sharon Sumstad were visiting Reidar in Arizona.  I'd never met Bill or Sharon so this was a great opportunity to get to know them.  My Aunt Ruth (my father's sister) and her husband Bob decided to travel from southern California so they could join us. Barbara Finney, another cousin who winters in Arizona from Wisconsin was able to attend too.

I was given a packet of information on our family history dating back to the late 1700's!  We poured over documents and shared stories.

We laughed and had a great time.  We each had visited Norway at separate times over the years and so we shared our stories.  We tried to piece together what this Sumstad family was all about.

How thrilled I was that the Sumstad family was a family of faith. Faith in Jesus.  How often that faith begins with one person and spreads to others.  Not all members of our families continued in that faith for themselves but there are many.  And for that I'm grateful.

My own grandfather came to America through Ellis Island.  He settled in Brooklyn, New York where he met my grandmother.  He began teaching the Bible in his native tongue to other Norwegians who had moved to this land.

Brothers Reidar and Bill had a sense of humor that I enjoyed.  We share the same great grandfather.  Or was it our great great grandfather?  I must admit that I'm new to understanding ancestry.

Here are a few photos I took during our afternoon at The Farm.

Bill Sumstad and his wife Sharon from the Seattle area

My father's sister Ruth and her husband Bob from southern California

This is not the end of our Sumstad family gatherings.  Bill and Sharon have planned a reunion for this August in Seattle.  I love that the family of Ingebright Tomasen Sumstad have decided to take the time to get to know one another.  As we said our goodbyes, I knew that we would gather again in the future.

Blessings and love,

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