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Trading Winter for Spring

Trading winter for spring . . . by guest blogger, Rev. Paul Anderson…Having spent the first 20 years or so of my life in North Central Minnesota, I had the opportunity of observing the many wonders of nature.  As a boy I had a special fascination with the changing of the seasons.  At the conclusion of the last day of school, off would come the shoes and shirts for the summer, with all its wonderful pleasures— swimming, fishing, climbing trees, to name a few.

Then, sadly, summer would end, and it was back to school.  Fall, with its leaves changing to brilliant colors, ripening pumpkins, and birds gathering in preparation for their southward migration, gave way to the nippy air of winter.

My children and grandchildren will no doubt accuse me of exaggerating, but I declare this to be true:  I remember the thermometer registering 54 degrees below zero.  And that was before this stuff about wind chill factors.  I remember the accumulation of snow reaching 36 inches in depth, and the ice on the lake being two and a half feet thick.  One year a succession of blizzards hit the month of April when school buses could not run and school had to close for weeks.  In my youthful mind I did not see how anything could survive the harshness of WINTER.

But eventually the days of early spring arrived and the sun began slowly to accomplish the seeming impossible.  Almost beyond belief LIFE began to appear in ABUNDANCE!  Blossoms burst forth everywhere.  Song birds returned, and the miracle of new life triumphed over the severity of winter.

Those of us who have lived for a while have learned that our lives have their seasons.  Along with summer’s bliss there are times when life is like winter.  We experience many deaths and losses (some small and some big).  Life can be so severe and death so final.

The disciples felt that way following the crucifixion of Jesus and a sealed tomb.  But on that first Easter morning, hopelessness and despair gave way to joy and hope!  The Risen Christ tells us “Because I live, you too shall live!”  And the life He offers is Abundant Life!

In our winter seasons we need to remember what Jesus said:  “With men things seem impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”  (Matt. 19:26)  If you are going through one of those prolonged winter seasons of life, hold on.  Spring is just around the corner!23

Because He Lives

Because He Lives . . . I can face tomorrow    by Sharon Sheppard

The month of March can be somber, for many reasons.  It’s known for being wet, windy, and wintry in much of the country.  It also includes the Lenten season, when Christians of many denominations encourage their people to devote themselves to fasting, abstinence, and penitence.

So if you’re looking for fun, Lent is not nearly as festive as Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, when most of the world seems focused on merriment.  But because Lent reminds us to meditate on the suffering of Jesus as He hung on the cross to pay for our sins, it prepares us to gratefully celebrate Resurrection Sunday, the most joyful event in the history of the world.  Jesus died so I might live.

Following the recent death of Billy Graham, laudatory tributes were made by notable people from all around the world.  One of my favorites came from Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, who said, in part:

When I heard this morning that Billy Graham had died, I said. “That’s fake news.  He’s more alive right now than he’s ever been.” And the fact is, that’s what he preached, that there is life beyond this one because of Jesus Christ, and his message never wavered from that.

When my husband, who was a columnist for the St. Cloud Times, was dying of cancer, he wrote this in one of his last columns:

I recently asked myself, “If this were to be my valedictory, what would I most like to say?” Just this: As I reflected on the resurrection of Jesus Christ during Holy Week, I was challenged anew by a most provocative question He posed during the days He walked on Earth: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

During my husband’s last weeks, the words of a hymn by Bill Gaither became one his favorite songs:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow;

Because He lives all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future,

Life is worth the living just because He lives.


Easter is not about bunnies and eggs, it’s about death and life.







Spring is Coming

Spring is coming!  And…I (Mary) am guessing I am not the only one who wants to “look and feel good” in my spring clothes. Most of us who are surrounded by so many food choices find it challenging to keep the pounds off and stay fit for life. Fifty-two years ago after giving birth to my son, I weighed two-hundred twenty-eight pounds. I can honestly say in my journey of keeping one-hundred pounds off, it has been more than answers, more than a prescription for a healthy life, more than a list of things to do and not to do, it has been Jesus Himself that has given me this wonderful freedom.  Yes, I have done the grueling foot-work and by God’s grace, love, and power we together, have accomplished more than I ever could alone.


Then the Lord said to me; “These things won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”   (Habakkuk 2: 2-3) TLB

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”   (Zephaniah 3: 17)


With God all things are possible!


A New Beginning for 2018


My name is Julie D, and I would like to share a personal journey my husband and I began in February, 2017. The reason I am so excited to send my message is that I hope my personal journey could help someone else who might be struggling with weight and trying to figure out how to “lose those excess pounds.” If I can help at least ONE person, then this blog will be so worth it!

A little background about myself: Growing up, I was as thin as a rail and eventually hit 100 pounds at age 21. There were never any weight issues that I had to be concerned with until I hit my 40s! A position that took me all over the country, which included business travel with all expenses paid, brought me up to 185 pounds.

In 2005, both my husband and I had started counting points with Weight Watchers and lost more than 85 pounds between the two of us.  We decided to add some physical activity, and purchased two bikes.  During that first year we rode a total of 300 miles. But 12 years later, we found that we had gained back 70% of the weight we had lost, and knew we needed to “do something” to drop the extra pounds and get healthier, as our health providers kept reminding us at every physical.

Last February, I was invited to a small fellowship of ladies who felt like I did about my weight. We agreed to gather and discuss some of our personal concerns and whether we would like to begin the journey to a better lifestyle. The 3 of us decided to gather weekly to begin evaluating our personal goals and desires to get healthier. This was not just a food strategy, portion control, weight loss program; but, more importantly, it would be an in-depth reflection on the true reasons we overate and what we could do to manage our habits. After 10 months, the good news is that, between my husband and me, we have lost more than 55 pounds.  But, more importantly, we have gained the tools and dedication we need to keep the momentum going forward!

Are you ready for the New Year?

It is always a challenging time of year for us to embrace the past and look forward to the future. I can’t tell you how many years I would have to brace myself for constant advertisements highlighting New Year’s resolutions and “Quick Weight Loss” programs that kept repeating and repeating. I thought if I heard about another stranger who lost over 90 pounds, I would scream!!!  Losing weight is NOT easy. If it were, few people would be in the shape that they currently are in.

The most difficult step I had to take was the first one: Facing the accountability to go to that first get-together with the ladies who were also suffering with excess food and fat. For the next month, we collaborated weekly to discuss personal struggles, strategies, and successes. After 4 weeks, I wasn’t like all the weight loss commercials promised, and I had barely dropped one pound!! It was not the idea of losing excess weight quickly that motivated me (I didn’t think a woman in menopause could lose a pound), but the friendship and faith-based meetings that allowed me to think much deeper about food and control. Believe me, consuming food is a MIND game, and changing your habits and attitudes is half the battle.

I do not have any secrets or magical schemes for weight loss and lifestyle adjustments. Most weight loss programs offer some sort of come-on that implies you will get slim fast and furious, and then you will be set for life! This is only a fantasy!! It is proven that most plans will work initially, but then the weight will eventually return if you have not made a deeper commitment.

After 10 months of success and still on track, I want to share some key principles you may want to consider for your own individual lifestyle and New Beginning:

* Be honest with yourself.

* Maintain a 2,000 calorie plan every day, knowing you will have better days and worse days. It is OK to “cheat” every so often, but you must be mindful of what you are eating and stay on plan consistently.

*Never refer to your new lifestyle plan as a “DIET.” It is right next to the word “die” in the dictionary, and if there is any one word that is a complete turnoff for any normal human being, it is this word. Ask yourself when you purchase food, “Is this a need or a want?” You will be surprised at how much food is not necessary and a poor dietary choice.

*Eat REAL food. Stay away from processed foods. Select food that is “colorful” and rich in nutrients and vitamins. (And, yes, this should include fruits and vegetables.)

*Limit your portions. Get to know what an actual portion should look like.  (You will be shocked!) Most restaurants serve guests 3-5 portions per plate! If you dine out frequently, make sure to recognize your (1) portion, place it on your plate, and immediately request a To Go box to be brought to the table before you devour it all! Remember, you can eat just about anything, but you must be aware of the fat and calories you are eating.

*Don’t get hung up on a “number” for your actual weight loss. I try to stay away from scales and numbers. My pants will tell me where I am each day! Be aware your weight loss may not be immediate, but consider your overall measurements. When you decide to start your new plan, make sure to take all your measurements and keep them for future reference.

*Think LONG-TERM goals. This will take patience and planning. This should be a realistic goal (one year or even longer). I continue to look at the “future goal,” not a finite date when I can return to my old habits!

* Try to find some sort of additional physical exercise. It might be as simple as lifting a few weights, walking, biking, or anything that you might enjoy!

*Don’t take it too seriously, and try to enjoy the new foods and benefits you will discover if you stay on plan.

You can do it! Dedication will bring amazing results that can last you a lifetime.



Countdown to Baby Griffin!

Countdown to Baby Griffin! By our favorite financial blogger,

Mr. Jamie Griffin      Holy Cow!  Baby Griffin is almost here!

Becoming first-time parents is really a rollercoaster ride.  We have no baseline of what to expect, so any strange pain or feeling Jenna experiences gets us concerned about something going wrong or the baby coming early.  I’m sure we’ll be much less sensitive for Baby #2.

(In case you haven’t noticed, we really like to plan, so I have a Baby app that tracks our pregnancy to the day.)

Our Crib is Fully Assembled!

Baby Griffin has a place to sleep.  Our crib is beautiful.  It was also free, which is my favorite price for anything.  Our friends gave it to us only asking that we never give it back.  45 minutes with an allen wrench and our beautiful crib is ready to hold our adorable bundle of joy.  Not bad, huh?


I can’t believe how unbelievably expensive daycare is.  It’s insane!!!  It makes me wonder if I went into the wrong career.  In our city, daycare ranges from $800 a month to over $1,000 for just one kid.

Luckily, we got a jump on this and found someone we know and trust in the lower price range.  Some have waiting lists until August of 2019!!!  With Baby Griffin due to arrive in March, that leaves us with about 7 weeks left of the school year, when Jenna’s 6-week paid maternity leave expires.  Here’s the plan:

Part 1:  Use our own sick time to extend maternity leave.  Jenna and I each get 8 sick days a year, and they carry over if we don’t use them.  I have about 40 days and Jenna has roughly 35.  She can extend her leave by taking sick days.  When she goes back, I’ll take 2 weeks of sick time to get one-on-one Daddy time.

Part 2:  Family has volunteered to help.  Both of our families are amazing! Jenna’s brother called randomly and asked if he could fly down from Alaska and care for Baby Griffin for a week.  Seriously, you can’t make this up!  We were blown away and obviously said yes!  Jenna’s brother is awesome and will take our little tyke for all kinds of hikes.

Jenna’s mom is planning on traveling from southern Illinois to watch the baby for a week.



My family has also offered to come up for a week or two.  I have 3 sisters, and all of them said they would love to come and hold the baby for hours on end.

What’s left?

  1. Pack hospital bags.
  2. Work out daycare in case Baby comes early.
  3. Call insurance company to make sure everything is in order.
  4. Write out birthing plan:
  • Avoid epidural if possible
  • C-section only as a last resort
  • Nobody else in the delivery room but Dad
  • Dad gets to announce gender and present Baby to Mom


It’s the Final Countdown!


With only a few weeks left, we’re so close to meeting our little guy/girl we couldn’t be more excited.  I get all giddy and smiley just thinking about it!






Love?  Who needs it?  Psst…we all do! 

Love?  Who needs it?  Psst…we all do!   By Sharon Sheppard

I have a treasure chest—actually it’s a photo box I bought at Target, but it’s covered with colorful hearts and roses and cupids—and it holds treasured reminders of the years my husband and I spent together.  Each time I open the box, strange things happen to me.  I smile and I cry.  I’m filled with wonder and joy, and also with longing.  He is the only guy I ever dated, and we married when I was 19 and he was 22.  We went to college together, raised a family together, started a business together, taught together during 3 short-term missions in Latvia, traveled to 31 countries together, and so much more.

I was in high school and he was in college when we started dating, and the treasure box holds every letter we ever wrote to each other during that time.  Always the aspiring writer/English teacher, I also kept a diary of all our dates.  (He didn’t know this until many years after we married, when I typed up the diary, added photos, and gave it to him for Valentine’s Day.)  The diary is filled with stories of where we went, who we saw, what we had to eat, what I wore, what he said, what I said…You get the picture.

My husband is with the Lord now, as I sift through the box of assorted memorabilia from long ago.  The diary is there, cards we exchanged, along with a receipt for the first month’s rent on our first apartment together ($45).   And tonight I’m remembering how we laughed and cried as we read the diary together that Valentine’s Day I first gave it to him.

The following year on Valentine’s Day, he said, “Can we read the diary again?”

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with a loving marriage, but there are many kinds of love, and we all crave the closeness of meaningful relationships.  It’s the way God made us.  And love is one of God’s best gifts to us.

So no one goes unloved, because God is Love. And He “so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

That’s true love.

Legal Wrangling

LEGAL WRANGLING    By freelance writer Joyce Ellis . . . I’ve always loved legal wrangling. Growing up, watching TV shows such as Perry Mason, I quickly learned legal-battle terminology.  District attorney Hamilton Burger frequently rose to his feet and objected to questions on the basis that they were “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”

Unlike many people, I’ve jumped at my two opportunities for jury duty and, as foreperson, I’ve read the verdict for my fellow jurors. The tension of a courtroom battle and the struggle for justice have equipped me for spiritual battles.

It seemed a little thing at the time, and I was only a child. But I took something that didn’t belong to me, knowing it was wrong. The details aren’t important. I’ve come to this type of battle with other sins as well. At first I tried to rationalize it. But having already committed my life to Jesus, I became angry at myself for giving in to temptation. With God’s prompting, I confessed my sin and claimed His promise that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9 nlt).

I believe that’s when the legal wrangling in the heavenly realms intensified. Over and over, my thoughts returned to what I did. How could I, a believer—even a child-believer—well-taught in the Scriptures, do such a thing? Circumstances prevented restitution, but I asked God repeatedly to forgive me and erase the painful memory.

Amazingly, the guilt haunted me into adulthood and resurfaced often as I tried to follow the Lord’s calling on my life. The Enemy, like a prosecuting attorney, accused me of being “incompetent” to serve God. The battle raged on.

Then one day, a courtroom phrase came to mind. Sometimes, when an attorney questions a witness and receives an answer, the attorney will come at the same question from another angle, trying to trip up the witness. At that point, the opposing counsel typically jumps up and says, “I object, Your Honor. Asked and answered.”

That was it—my answer for Satan, our “accuser” (Rev. 12:10).

I determined to listen no longer to Satan’s accusations.

The Bible says we all sin. We all have things in our past—maybe in our present, too—that the Enemy delights in using to accuse us and make us feel—even believe—we are “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”

But “we have an advocate [a defense attorney] with the Father,” the Apostle John reminds us, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2 niv, brackets added). And I have accepted His payment for all my sins.

So Satan can accuse me all he wants in the courts of heaven, but Jesus actively advocates on my behalf and gives me the authority to say, “I object! Asked and answered.”


© 2017 Joyce K. Ellis

This blog is adapted from an article by Joyce K. Ellis, which originally appeared in Indeed magazine. Ellis is the author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and Write with Excellence. She speaks for women’s events across the country and often speaks and serves with missions teams in Guatemala. Contact her at her website: Her books are available on her website and on



January: a Time of New Beginnings

January: a time of New Beginnings . . . But what kind?  By Sharon Sheppard

It can be more than a little overwhelming, but if we’re ever going to get it together, we tell ourselves, January is the time to start.  (Never mind the old saying about the road to you-know-where being paved with good intentions.)

So we make resolutions, start diets.  We promise ourselves we’ll tackle all those things we’ve been putting off: clean out the closets, eat healthier, finish those incomplete projects.  Our cupboards and desk drawers will be tidier, we’re sure.  And we will exercise more faithfully, floss more often, etc., etc.

But today I’m asking myself a different set of questions:

What will really matter if 2018 should become my last year on this planet?

What would I wish I had done?

Will the way I spend time this year have an impact (positive or negative) on others?

What might I do that will have eternal consequences?

Heavy stuff, right?

Rather than making a staggering list of things I think I should be doing, I’m asking God what He wants me to do this year.  (I notice that He and I often have different ideas about such things.)

He won’t ask me to do more than I am able (by His grace) to do, and I pray that I will be a good listener and an obedient follower to pick up on what He is trying to show me.  You can pray for me, too, if you think of me…

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Blessings on your NEW YEAR!

Enjoying Everyday Life

I, Mary, just received my winter edition of ENJOYING EVERYDAY LIFE, by Joyce Meyer. The first thing that caught my eye when I opened the magazine was an article entitled, The Ultimate Stress Reliever. Seems we need such wisdom in our troubled world today.

The article reads, in part:

               “Trusting God is the greatest stress reliever in the world.

Joyce Meyer goes on to say…  “We cannot rely on our own insight and understanding, endlessly thinking about our problems, trying to figure everything out ourselves. Worrying is caused by not trusting God to take care of the various situations in our lives.”

In John 14:27 Jesus says, “My (perfect) peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”  (Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.)

The truth is, God knew about your problem before you ever got it, and He already has a plan for your solution. In the meantime, you can choose to enjoy your life while you wait. With God’s help, you can trust more and stress less.

For complete article go to:  Joyce Meyer Ministries,

Killer Kale Salad

Are you ready for some “Greens”?  Not more Christmas greens, but beginning the new year with a huge delicious salad?  I, Mary, turn to The Pioneer Woman, Ree, after the Christmas bulge. Her recipes are quick, nutritious, and easy. Enjoy!

Killer Kale Salad

Prep: 10 Minutes Level: Easy
Cook: 25 Minutes Serves: 6


  • 4 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into Bits
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 whole Medium Red Onion, Halved and Sliced
  • 8 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Sliced
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces, weight Goat Cheese Crumbled
  • 3/4 cups Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch Kale



Fry the bacon bits until slightly crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

Pour out most of the grease and add the butter to the skillet. Add the onions and cook them over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft. Remove them to a plate. Add the mushrooms, stir, then add the wine, and salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the mushrooms for several minutes, until most of the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms are soft. Remove them from the heat and set them aside.

Add the olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper to a mason jar and shake it to combine.

Remove the kale leaves from the stalks, then roll them up in batches and slice very thinly. Place the kale in a bowl. Add half the dressing and toss. Then add mushrooms, onions, and bacon and toss again. Finally, add the goat cheese and more dressing if needed, and toss. (Reserve extra dressing for another use.)

Serve it up and enjoy!

Ree | The Pioneer Woman