Heart Choices: December 2013

Theme Layout

Boxed or Wide or Framed

Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider

Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider

Grid Slider Styles

Display Trending Posts

Display Author Bio

Display Instagram Footer

Dark or Light Style

Reflecting on 2013

The last day of 2013.  I'm learning that time passes by so quickly.  I spent this week reflecting on the past year.  I find that I learn from looking back so I can adjust for the new year.  What do I want to do differently?  Are there things I will continue the same?

My one word for 2013 was ...surrender.
For the most part, I focused on surrendering my wants, desires and goals to the Lord.  After all, He is the One who created me and certainly knows what I need. He knows what will fulfill me better than I do.

I have to admit I struggled at times.  My human flesh can get in the way. But I do believe I've made progress.

I reviewed my blog posts on Heart Choices for 2013.  I wrote many posts about being thankful as I reached #1,000 on my list of every day blessings.  Many of those blessings included people I love, the children I get to spend my days with at school, my co-workers, and the lessons I'm learning in the hard places of life.

But I also focused much writing on losing weight ...

Miss Debbie doing planks
I did not reach my goal. 

I've lost weight and then gained weight.  The variance isn't very wide as the fluctuation involves less than five pounds.  But I hoped to get back to my normal weight pre-stressful period in my life (the last four years). And I didn't!

I also focused on finishing my book ...

I did not reach my goal.

Yes, I can rationalize that my computer crashed this past year.  For several months I was without all the work I'd written. Eventually, my friend Sue's husband was able to restore my document for me.  But I continued to write only now and then. It's easy for me to write a blog post but harder to focus for long periods of uninterrupted time writing.

So what do I do now?

  • I recognize my weaknesses and give them to the Lord.
  • I remember: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
  • I can pray about where the Lord wants to lead me in 2014
  • I remember: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." Psalm 127:1
  • I can appreciate the people the Lord has brought into my life and love them
  • I can establish healthy habits that I can live with ...for life 
  • I can break my book down into shorter chapters like blog posts so it's not so overwhelming
No I haven't lived my life perfectly. But I focus on the One who is perfect and His name is Jesus. I will continue to trust Him and surrender to Him as I journey with Him.

  • I've prayed about my one word for 2014. 
  • I've talked with my husband about my one word for 2014.  
  • I will share more about my one word for 2014 in another post.

How about you? How did you do in 2013?  Do you have a one word for 2014 yet? I'd love to read your comments.

Blessings and love,


Grace and Truth

The Scripture for the Sunday sermon at my church this week was John 1:14. The pastor had the congregation stand and read it together. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It's overwhelming to realize how much God loves us. To submit to God's perfect plan, Jesus was born a baby. He was fully divine and yet fully human.  He grew and lived a perfect life to save us from our sins.  We can be reconciled to the Father through Jesus and ...have peace with God.  Love so amazing.  That's really what Christmas is all about.

To continue reading, please go to Laced with Grace

Blessings and love,


Thankful Thursday ~ Quiet Christmas Blessings

It's the day after Christmas and it's quiet in my home. It's actually been a very quiet week and I'm just fine with that.  Greg and I have adopted our own Christmas traditions that we enjoy.

My one sadness is not being able to spend time with my family in Florida.  But I am very thankful for phone calls and Facebook photos!  Here are a few photos my niece Kristin shared of Kenzie on Christmas morning.

Kenzie and her daddy
Kenzie is more interested in the bows
I can't wait until I can squeeze this little one ...in person.  Maybe on spring break?

One of the nicest presents I received this Christmas was an invite to a website called RightNow Media.  A few Sundays ago, the music minister at my church mentioned that we would be receiving an email with this invite.  I immediately logged on and have been watching free videos of many of my favorite Christian authors and speakers.  

The first one I've been intently watching is John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life.  I read the book but watching the videos has brought it to life for me.  This is something that's been on my mind a lot lately.  I don't want to waste the lessons from the trials I've gone through the last few years.

I've been eating way too many sweets and ...Norwegian waffles.  It's hard to avoid extra foods during this season as I received many sweet gifts from co-workers and children at school.  I've kind of given in but this morning I got back on my treadmill.  

I had the opportunity to watch a few of my favorite holiday movies, including The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.  It's about the Walton family and takes place during the Depression.  I watch it every year.  

Even though I really didn't want to get involved in another music competition show on TV, I ended up loving The Sing-Off.  The groups sing a cappella and ...they are so good.  Jewel is a judge and I love her.  (I watch her family in the Discovery channel's TV show Alaska: The Last Frontier.)  You've got to listen to her sing with the winners from this season; Home Free.  Such beautiful voices!

I'm thankful that I've been able to focus more on the reason for the season; Jesus.  I love the decorations and lights but most importantly I always want to remember the why. Having my early morning quiet times keeps life in proper perspective for me.

How about you?  What are you thankful for this Christmas season?

I'm linking up with Iris of Grace Alone for Thankful Thursday.

Blessings and love,


The Power of Hope

Hope has power. If I didn't have hope, I don't know what I would do.  There's so much going on in this world today that causes me to wonder what will happen next.  I turn on the news.  There are constant breaking alerts as the latest scandal or major accident has occurred.  I have to admit that at times I want to simply block it out.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.

To continue reading, head over to Laced with Grace.

Blessings and love,


The Gift of Love

Image via: resolutewoman.tumblr.com
The focus of my week has been ...love.

I've been participating in an Advent study with the Good Morning Girls. What a blessing it has been!  With all the busyness of this Christmas season, I have kept my focus on the reason for the season and His name is ...JESUS.

Week one focused on HOPE.
Week two focused on LOVE.
Week three will focus on JOY.

But back to LOVE.

Jim Cymbala is the senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I've had the opportunity to visit this amazing church several times when I went back to New York City.  My nieces and I took the subway to Brooklyn to attend.  I love the mix of races and the beautiful voices singing and praising God.  I can't help but think it is a foretaste of heaven.  But something that I love about Pastor Cymbala's messages are their simplicity.  He teaches directly from the Bible. He always provides practical examples of how to apply the Scriptures to our daily walk.

Photo Credit
Yesterday, I listened to one of Jim Cymbala's sermons online entitled "The Secret of Christmas".  Based on Matthew 2:1-12, he taught how the wise men offered gifts to Jesus.  His message went on the suggest that we can give three gifts to Jesus.

  1. The gift of your past: We can give Jesus our sins, our mess ups and leave it with Him.  We can't undo it but we can confess it and give it to Him.
  2. The gift of your future: We can give Him all of our decisions, where to go, how to live and offer ourselves completely to His direction. We don't know what will happen tomorrow.  But our security is in Jesus.
  3. The gift of your today: The only day you're sure of is today.  Offer Jesus your today.

I've been listening to one of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir's Christmas CD's in my car.  Back and forth from work, I get to sing and worship.  It's a great way to start and end my day.  One of the songs that speaks on this topic of what we can offer Jesus is called "I'll Give Him My Heart".

What can I give Him
Poor as I am
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring Him a Lamb
If I were a wise man,
I'd sure do my part
So what can I give Him
I'll give Him my heart

I'll give Him my heart
Give Him my heart
What can I can give Him
But all of my heart
I'll give Him my heart
Give Him my heart
What can I give Him
But all of my heart

What can you give Him
What can you bring?
What can you offer
That's fit for a King
Bow before Jesus
That's where you can start
What can you give Him
Just Give Him your heart

Give Him your Heart
Give Him your Heart
What can you give Him
But all of your heart
Give Him your heart
Give Him your heart
What can you give Him
Just give Him your heart

Because of the love that He has shown to me, I make the choice to give Him my heart.  What about you?

What gift will you offer Jesus this Christmas season?

Blessings and love,


The Little Girl in Me

The little girl in me is alive and well. I have to laugh. When I look in the mirror, I look older than the way I feel inside.  It's been a long journey but I'm still learning and growing.

I was born with a congenital heart defect.  For seven years, I was sidelined since I couldn't run and keep up with other children.  I loved to color and play with my dolls.  Even at that young age, I was aware of the worried looks and whispers. In my innocence, I tried to be good and not cause any further problems.

Eventually I had successful surgery and my life changed.  I was able to do all things kids my age could do physically.

But the seeds of people pleasing had taken root.  

I made my share of mistakes and had a time of rebellion.  I enjoyed my teenage years.  As I look back, I realize how fortunate I was to have parents who were always willing to listen.  What a gift that can be to a child!

But as I grew older, I wasn't always aware of my true feelings.  I was often on autopilot and knew the expectations.  I tried to meet them in my work and personal life.  At one point in my adult life, I was going through many changes. I tend to dream a lot when facing decisions and change.

Early one morning, I awakened and immediately grabbed my journal so I could write down my dream. I didn't want to forget because I knew it was significant. In my dream I was a dog.  I know ...don't laugh.  

I can almost hear the kids in our preschool class beginning to bark if I told them this story. But back to my dream.

I was swimming underwater. There was some kind of a party going on beside the pool. Eventually, I got out of the water and did what dogs tend to do.  I shook and shook to get the water off. There were many people at this party in my dream and they became quite upset.  As I was shaking, the water was spraying all over them!

Photo Credit
As I pondered this dream, my husband got in on the action. He attempted to interpret it along with me.  I knew I had the tendency to stuff my emotions. I wanted to keep the peace and not create waves. However, inside my head I had many thoughts and feelings but often kept them to myself.  After all, not everyone would approve!

The dog was symbolic of how I thought people would react if I shared what I felt inside.

I can't say that things changed overnight but having that awareness had a profound impact upon me. I've come a long way since that time. I still have a tendency to prefer peace.

But ...I've learned that I have a voice.  

Through my writing and blogging, I'm sharing it with the world. That would have been very scary for me in the past.  After all, not everyone agrees with me.  But as Pete the Cat says in our children's story book ..."that's OK".

I love to share and discuss. I don't like to push my opinions on others.  But as my faith has grown and deepened, I've learned that I'm playing to an audience of one.

Galatians 1:10

New International Version (NIV)
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

So the little girl in me is ...alive and well. She has a voice and is proclaiming it to others.  I invite you on to join me on this journey.  We may not always agree on everything and ...that's OK!  

I'm linking up with Bonnie of The Faith Barista for this Faith Barista Jam.

Blessings and love,


What Do You Hope For?

Credit: Dreamstime
What do you hope for?  Christmas can be a time of hope for many.

  • Hope that families will get together and get along
  • Hope for a friend going through a difficult time
  • Hope for a loved one who seems to be off track
  • Hope for more hours in the day to get everything done
  • Hope that you can stay on budget
  • Hope that you won't gain weight during the holidays
  • Hope that you won't get sick
  • Hope that you'll get well
We hope for many things.  But how often are you disappointed?  After all, we can't control how others react and respond.

I've been participating in an Advent study hosted by the Good Morning Girls.  This was a Bible verse we are memorizing.

I'm learning that my hope must be placed in a person and His name is ...Jesus.

I can focus on wishing and hoping on things and people but ...they so easily disappoint and don't last.

How about you?  Do you have expectations for this Christmas?  Are you hoping for certain things to happen?  What do you hope for?

Blessings and love,


Will You Experience Christmas Differently This Year?

Have you heard of The Advent Conspiracy?  It's a movement designed to remind us to slow down and experience Christmas differently.  This short video may help explain it better.

[Click here if you can't access the video]

My church is participating in the Advent Conspiracy.  During the weeks leading up to Christmas, we get to hear sermons on the following:
  1. Worship fully
  2. Spend less
  3. Give more 
  4. Love all

Today our pastor challenged us to:
  • Reject radical consumerism for radical worship
  • Desire presence not presents
  • Fund ten water wells in Mozambique
I'm looking forward to a different kind of Christmas this year.  I don't want to stress out.

I want to focus on Jesus.

Here are a few things that I'm doing differently this year.


I'm participating in an online Advent Study through the Good Morning Girls.  I already had YouVersion (Bible app) downloaded to my Kindle. So now I go online each morning to read a portion of Scripture and a related devotional.  I love how the Good Morning Girls always recommend using the SOAP method (Scripture, observation, application and prayer).  If you subscribe to their blog, you will receive a study guide free.  

I'm getting up early in the morning to have my daily quiet time.  

I'm listening to Christmas music at home and in my car.

I'm sitting and enjoying my Christmas tree.

I'm rereading Jennifer Walker's Keeping Christ as Christmas.
Maybe you can help me out.  What are you doing differently this Christmas season?

Blessings and love,

[name=DEBBIE PETRAS] [img=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2CDrwq9-7eo/WV6tdbP-QgI/AAAAAAACfb0/ViqQSnSVaDsMLXyz3AEEzZ5-78luBHOGgCK4BGAYYCw/s1600/Debbie%2BFace%2Bblog.JPG] [description=]