Previous month:
March 2014

April 2014

Shocking the World with Generosity

NotAloneImage2I stood on the knoll of a grassy field, watching my youngest daughter, Leslie, then only five years old, as she kicked off her shoes at the starting line. No shoes? How would her little feet grip the grass and propel her forward? Several of the other children in her age group had done the same thing, so I resisted the urge to run over and make her put her shoes back on.

We’d moved to Switzerland in the spring and had spent the summer adjusting to our new surroundings before school started, thus immersing my girls into a culture and language they’d just barely begun to grasp. Today’s event was a big part of kicking off the new school year. I watched Leslie stand there, looking around at the other children so eager to start and win this race. The prize? A round ornately stitched patch declaring the bearer winner of the race for their age group.

Did she even stand a chance?

The starter shouted the Swiss version of “get set, ready, go!” and off went this group of five and six year olds, sprinting down a grassy field. Little legs pumped madly and arms swung back and forth. Seemed like minutes instead of seconds passed as the fastest runners pulled away, and to my amazement my daughter was one of them.

I think my mouth about fell open as my daughter took the lead and won!

Full of pride for my girl, I waited until she’d followed protocol to receive her award and came running toward me. One of her new friends trailed behind her and as my daughter hugged me, I could see her friend was struggling not to cry.

Leslie had noticed too and turned to face her. She held out her new prize to her friend, whose eyes grew almost as big as the patch Leslie held. The little girl looked at me as if to ask, is this okay? My same question—I’d watched Leslie work so hard for this prize, yet there she stood, ready to give it way.

So I asked Leslie, “Are you sure you want to part with that?”

I think I was the one struggling with parting with it, not her.

“Yes, mommy. I want her to have it.”

Her friend took the patch and threw her arms around Leslie. The two skipped off together to play. My pride in my daughter grew even larger.

I think at times our children know how to be more generous than we do. I’ve watched my daughter grow into a generous teenager who was always quick to give away what she had and spend her allowance on her sister or her friends before buying herself anything. My biggest challenge as her mother—to let her. To support her in her generosity, even when she gave away a Visa gift card she’d received for her birthday to a homeless person. As I had asked at that race so many years ago, I asked again, “Are you sure?” She said the joy of giving the card away was better than anything she could have bought. Some kids just get this, others need to be taught.

Either way, we as parents have a wonderful opportunity to help our children grow into generous teenagers and adults who shock the world with their generosity. Just as Jesus came into this world and continues to shock us with His. Along with Jesus, my daughter has become my teacher and inspiration to give more of my resources, my love and my time. I love watching her shock the world with her generosity.  

Note Alone Cover Art
In Not Alone, you’ll find encouragement and inspiration from Scripture and true-life stories from other spiritually mismatched moms. Plus, find practical tips for capturing teachable moments with eternity in mind, and discovery questions to help you grow as a parent. This is a parenting book, but it’s much more. It’s a love letter to all mothers—a message that changes our homes, our kids and our lives. It’s about the Father’s love that impacts those around us and changes ordinary moms into women of extraordinary grace, beauty and wisdom. You may sometimes feel you’re on your own when it comes to godly parenting, but Jesus promised to be with you always. You’re not alone!  

Dineen Miller is passionate about God’s Word and truth. She’s been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk and FamilyLife Today. Dineen lives in the Bay Area with her family and is the coauthor of the award winning book, Winning Him Without Words and author of the ACFW Carol Award winning book, The Soul Saver. Visit Dineen online at

SUMite Jennifer and God ' s Provision

My name is Jennifer Calder.  I have been with my husband for 17 years, married almost 13 of them.  I knew going into our marriage that Dylan had no religious background.  I did not, however, know the extent of his “atheism” until recent years.

I began my journey with God as a child, but began a real personal walk with him in 2011.  I had personal struggles and marriage struggles starting that year.  As my personal struggles eased and my walk with God became stronger my marriage worsened.  It seemed as my faith grew stronger my husband’s atheism grew like I had never imagined it could. (So true how the enemy works and fights us as we make progress.)

Our marriage was falling apart, rapidly falling apart in 2013.  In June of 2013 we had decided to get a divorce.  We had been through counseling, both talked to lawyers, and decided this was the only thing left to do.  Something in my spirit said this just is not right. Dylan was about to leave for a trip and we both decided we would wait until he got back to file.

When he returned he thought that I was still undecided about the divorce, and was planning on talking more before we went to attorneys.  I was surprised but decided that it can’t hurt the situation.  We talked for hours and decided that although we were different on many key issues in life we could try one more time.

A few months before my friend had recommended a book called,  The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.  I thought we were too far gone  at that time to read a book like that.  As Dylan and I finished talking God brought that book to my memory, so I brought it up with Dylan. Amazingly he agreed to read it with me.  If you know about that book you know it is Christian based.  The fact that my husband agreed to read it, and actually read it and agreed with the principles was a true miracle from God.

That book through God saved our marriage!! 

We both now knew and understood our own and each other’s love language, which was the key to saving our marriage.  I would recommend that book to anyone!  I am amazed and awed how God has changed me and my family over the past two and half years. Truly God does work everything out for our good!!!!:)

God bless you and your journey!! Jen  

My name is Jennifer Calder.  I was born and raised in Alma, Michigan.  I have degrees in art and education and am a former art teacher. I currently live in Temecula, CA with my husband and two sons, Tristen, age 10, and Aiden, age 7.   I am a stay at home mom.  I enjoy exercising, spending time with my family, the beach, watching movies, and doing things outside.  I am passionate about organic living, nutrition, and being environmentally responsible.    I am “new” in my faith walk, but am amazed at what God has done for me and my family in such a short time. I was introduced to SUM during my marriage struggles.  My son’s kindergarten teacher knew someone who knew Lynn.  My real walk with God started about that time, over 2 years ago now.  He has had the right people in my life all along and I did not even know it.  I love how God works!!!:)

Moving Forward: Part 3

Dear friends, SUMite, Gillian Russell Meisner, concludes her story about her experiences at the Intentional Life conference we held in Texas in April of 2013. For part one, click here, for part two, click here. Thank you, Gill, for sharing this amazing and inspiring journey with us! Part 3: Moving Forward by Gillian Russell Meisner

Gill Intl LifeFlying home I was really tired, and a little bit sad, and it would have been so easy to just let myself come crashing down...but I had said no, I'm not going to live that way anymore—"I will live in FREEDOM!! Right now, going back home is Your will and in it I will rejoice!"
It was a much quieter trip, and I had lots of time to think. It began to hit me just how much time I have spent striving! I really had been trying way too hard! Jesus tells us, His yoke is EASY! His burden, is light!!! Trusting God, staying close in His arms: letting go, in that place of complete trust is so easy! And Lynn had spoken freedom to me just to enjoy my kids again. I had gotten so caught up in all the other aspects of parenting and trying to bring obedience out in them, I had forgotten how to just enjoy their company.
Back home I could see a major change in myself. Of course over the next few weeks I had to figure out how to integrate this new outlook of freedom into my life, but already I was catching thoughts and surrendering when I never could before.  I had really been plagued by negativity and now I can catch myself thinking like that and take those thoughts captive to Christ. But the biggest thing is the freedom from stress.
I feel like this HUGE weight has been lifted.  
I used to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how to fix things: kids not obeying or cleaning up etc…the schedule not working – and I’d have to stop and fix it, right now! Now it’s ok, because I’m learning that all these things will work out eventually, in God's time. And the mess and clutter in the house, I can let go even more, because I know my heart is more important than any tidy rooms... And I really live differently now.
I still typically make a plan for the day, but WITH Him, and I just let Him work out my days. If He gives me lots of energy I make lots of time for work and activities with my kids in between prayer. If I'm really tired I try to rest in Him and take it easy myself and with the kids. And if it changes half way through then I go with His plan. I also really try not to make decisions myself anymore, even in areas where I do have control. Ideally, I try to take my own desires of it and let God speak through my circumstances and through others.
Last summer we decided to move from our first little home. I knew I wanted the house that God had for us, so while I gave input in what I liked and didn't, I really left the final decision up to DH and his friend who would be renting from us, trusting God to lead us all to the place where He wanted us. The house they both picked in the end wasn't my favorite at the time, but it has turned out to be the perfect fit for us and I know we are exactly where we are meant to be.
I still struggle with trying to take control in small situations, conversations, frustrations etc, but stepping out of the driver’s seat of my life and letting God take over has brought freedom and an abundance of blessings for me and for my family that I wouldn't trade for the world. I know this freedom is nothing I could ever do. I could never break those chains, so I have no reason to boast. It is entirely His grace!!!!
I know this freedom is nothing short of the power of Christ, who lives in me.
The other change I see is with my oldest. I noticed the day he came home, that something was different about my five year old.  He just seemed so different, that I asked him straight out if he met Jesus while I was away, and  he said yes!  He said Jesus was there at the end of Nanny’s bed, and Nanny was asleep, but he was awake. His hair was black and his clothes were brown and white… He told me, "Jesus said if I be bad, then I don’t get candy."
Seriously, I just love how God works because back home I actually felt relaxed enough to let them have candy/treats– especially because they were being so good!  Meanwhile God had told that to my son he'd get candy if he was good, and then He put on my heart that it was ok for me to give them some!! God is too funny. :) And my son seems different, he is so much more obedient. It’s like he’s made up his mind now that HE wants to obey, and there is also a fresh enthusiasm to his faith (which was really only mine before). He is so excited for Jesus.
We were singing the rise up song from the Easter flash mob and he was dancing around. I played the Newsboys song, God's Not Dead a few times around them, and then one night he was just screaming it over and over! ‘God’s not dead, He’s surely alive!’ It was so funny :)
God is good. He is in control. And if we put all our trust in Him He will take us on the most amazing adventures! It is my great hope that my story will encourage you to step out and trust God more. He really does have every little thing under control. :)

Part 2: Freedom: God Always Knows Best

Gill worship handDear friends, SUMite, Gillian Russell Meisner, continues her story about her experiences at the Intentional Life conference we held in Texas in April of 2013. For part one, click here. She will share the conclusion next week. Thank you again, Gill, for sharing your heart with us!

Part 2: Freedom: God Always Knows Best by Gillian Russell Meisner

Because the trip to Texas for the SUM conference was entirely God's idea, I knew this was a tremendous opportunity, and I didn’t want to miss ANYTHING that He might have planned for me, so I gave the entire week over to Him.

The whole time God took excellent care of his little girl, but He didn’t make it easy, (getting lost, discovering I was without my passport the night before an early flight) and yet through it all I discovered incredible freedom: For example: when the cabbie and I were driving around unable to find the house I was to stay in at 2 in the morning, I discovered I wasn’t upset, or stressed. I didn't even care, because I knew God had a plan.

I continued this surrender and experienced such peace and joy all week, until Friday. The day started out fine but by the evening, as I was heading to the church for the meet and greet I just felt so scattered. My peace was gone and it was like I couldn't even enter into the moment.

Then I was inside and I saw Lynn and Dineen standing by the table and I was like, ‘ahh! I'm not ready for this!’ So I tried to find a spot off by myself to try to get back to God, and then Lynn came over and found me. :)

But driving home that night I realized what had happened. That morning I had made a simple list of the things I wanted to make sure I didn't miss out on before I left the house where I was staying. I wasn't obsessive and I had let the Holy Spirit remind me of things I almost forgot, but in making that simple but deliberate list, I had taken back control from God. I had my own plan and was no longer open to other things He might have asked of me should they have interfered with what I wanted.

When I realized what had happened I knew I never wanted to do that again, here I was unable to really enjoy the amazing experiences I was having and now the conference was tomorrow! After all, that was the whole reason God had led me down here in the first place, so I knew I had to find a way to give the control back to God, not just a simple I surrender, but from my heart. And there was a sacrifice I had to be willing to make to do this.

That evening Lynn had told me there would be a dinner after the conference for some church ladies and the ladies of our community. I very much wanted to attend especially to have more time to talk face to face, but before coming down I had already committed to going to Mass on Saturday afternoon since I’d be flying all day Sunday. And I knew from the website Mass was right at 5:30, dinner time. And so, if I wanted to give control back to God and experience everything He had for me I knew I had to be willing to let that go. And so, I did. Whatever God did have for me, even if it didn’t include the dinner was more important. And as soon as I surrendered my heart wholly back to His will, my peace and joy came flooding back again.

At the Conference I felt that 2 months of suffering had better birth tremendous grace and let me tell you, God does NOT disappoint! I felt like a brand new woman!

Lynn talked about the lies we have believed and how to replace them with truth, and Dineen spelled out those awesome 4 principles to trusting God. It was exactly what I needed to hear. During the freedom portion of the conference when Lynn and Dineen were praying and people were laying down the lies they had believed, I was still working through my own stuff and they were wrapping up and I heard Lynn say, ‘Lord, someone in here isn’t finished…’ I just knew, that was me.

So the band played another song and God kept speaking truth into me and blew me away. After everything He had been teaching me this week, I knew one of my biggest lies was that I needed to be in control. I remember it was the moment God’s voice just broke through everything and He spoke to my heart : "You will have absolutely EVERYTHING you desire, you dream about, just leave it in My hands."

I was overcome with emotion and His love and I just melted! But, what I didn’t know until later was the chains that He broke at that moment: my desperate need for control and the negative thought patterns that seemed to follow me – they were a great source of stress and both of them used to trap me in great prisons of frustration and discouragement. Now, by His grace, I had a way out. (These were major major issues, I figured ‘thorn in the flesh’ type, or maybe just MAYBE with enough patience and perseverance, really gradually, they might be broken, months or even years from now.

But no. God said enough, she’s struggled enough, set her free! ) After the conference that day at the other church I could hear my thoughts, ‘I need to take this photo and Lord, I still have to , a, b, c... And I so want x....’ And He just cut straight through all of that: "Haven't I shown you I can take good care of you?? Haven’t I shown you that you can trust Me???"

"Yes Lord, but…"

"No. Stop. Be IN Me. You let go and let Me take charge, and You will see and I will give you everything. Just let go and trust Me."

So I gave the whole day to Him. And in return He gave me everything: time for confession, divine mercy, Mass, AND to go to the dinner as well, photos at both churches, a picture with Lynn and Dineen, my book signed by both, and even time to chat w Lynn about everything for close to an hour!

Looking back on my day there is not one thing where I think, ‘oh I wish that.....’ because He gave me everything!!!!! So that night getting ready for my early flight next morning, the person I was staying with asked, "You got your passport?" I looked in my purse, the other bags – it wasn’t there! I felt God say ‘Trust Me’, so I said yes, I would go along for the ride… But then as I stepped outside for a moment I heard myself say, "Really?! Really, Lord???"

And woah it hit me, that's fighting Him, that's not trust! I resigned from living that way, I don't want to live like that again. When I fight God that’s when I get frustrated, I get hurt. He has shown me all week that He is more than capable of taking care of me so why take that back from Him now? And so instead I let go and told God I accepted it, and to have His way with this too. I knew control was a lie, and I had known better, but I hadn’t lived it. Honestly I don’t think I knew how to let God be in control before. It was incredible, and I just knew this was going to bring new freedom to every area of my life! It was going to permeate every one of my relationships: with my hubby, with my kids! I have been quite controlling at times, especially because I felt that if I didn’t make sure X happened then it would be the end of the world. It was like a compulsive thing, but now I have the freedom to say, well, if my son misses praying first thing in the morning today, it’s no big deal, God’s got it! God will take care of him. :)

And so, on this trip, along with the freedom, God birthed in me incredible, unconditional trust. An unconditional trust He knew I would need down the road. And of course, it all worked out in the end.