When You Struggle to Spend Time with God

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Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

By the time my youngest son was born, my body was trashed. I had had 8 pregnancies total, and the last 3 children were born within 5 years. I had been exhausted during my pregnancy, and still felt incredibly tired, all the time. One day the scale scared me, and I decided I would let those numbers rise no more! The very next day, I took a walk. It was only 15 minutes, but it was something.

From there, I expanded my walk to 30 minutes, and then began jogging for one of my minutes. Each week I jogged another minute, and by the end of 9 months, I was actually jogging 20 minutes straight! …and I felt better than ever.

One of the things that was hard for me – besides learning to breathe – was the time it took to get back into shape. I am a homeschool mom, and have 7 children. That means a lot of laundry, and a lot of paperwork. But I needed to get myself into shape in order to better serve the Lord and my family, so I took the time, and I walked, ran and worked out.

And that’s the way it is spiritually. We can’t be in any sort of spiritual shape with just a wave at God in the morning, or a casual glance through the Scriptures on our way somewhere. It takes time to grow.

WHY WE NEED TIME WITH GOD:

We need His wisdom – “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light…”
We need His strength – “Without Me ye can do nothing…”
We need His presence – “If thou go not with us, carry us not thence…”
We need a relationship with Him – “When Thou sadist, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” Psalm 27:8

WHY WE DON’T SPEND TIME WITH GOD:

Busy
Selfish/Don’t feel like it
Perfectionism – if I can’t spend an hour, I’ll not spend any time at all…

Last week, someone asked me for some tips on having good devotions, because it was an area they struggle with. I know it has often been a struggle for me over the years, and it’s a common problem with many people as well. So I told them some of the pointers I’ve learned over the years, and things that have helped me.

This week, when I talked to her again, she excitedly told me, “I’ve grown so much this past week! I feel like I’ve actually been closer to the Lord than I’ve been in awhile, and I’m able to have good prayer times. And I’m so much less stressed! It’s simply amazing how a brief time in the Word of God and prayer energizes my day!”

Here are the things, plus a few others, that I shared with her last week:

WHEN WE’RE STRUGGLING TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD:

1. Decide that you WILL have devotions every day. It’s something non-optional in your day. It’s a decision already made. Not, “Do I have time for this? But, “I’m going to find time for this.”

2. Plan your day around it. Having a quiet time with the Lord before the day begins is the best time to do it. As Elizabeth Elliot says, If you can tell the Lord that morning just doesn’t work for you, He will help you find another time.

3. Prepare for it the night before. I’m a tea-in-the-morning person, so the night before, I fill the hot water dispenser with water, put a tea bag in my cup, and measure out the sweetener. I lay my spoon beside my cup, and cover it with a small wooden lid (it conveniently says “tea” on the top!) and I set my Bible at my table where I have my devotions. I even go so far as to get my breakfast ready the night before, because I’m usually so hungry in the mornings. It’s so easy just to pour my hot water, go to my seat and get out my Bible.

4. Plan your time. Strive to spend at least 15 minutes, if you’re just starting out. Soon you’ll find you want more!

5. Reduce interruptions. This is what kills the average Mom during Quiet Time. Notice I did not say “Eliminate interruptions!” If you have children, especially small ones, interruptions are a part of life.

a. But one way you can reduce interruptions is to simply get up 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the fam. That way you can have a bit of uninterrupted time with the Lord before having to face the demands of the day.

b. When the children get up, let them know you’re spending some time with Jesus, and you don’t want to be interrupted. We assume they know what’s going on, but I know when I was a kid, I was clueless to everything going on around me unless someone looked me in the eye and told me point-blank.

c. Use a Bible app that plays Bible out loud. That way the children know you’re having your devotions, and they’re less likely to interrupt you if they hear Bible playing.

d. For prayer time, try to go to a separate room, or assume a praying position (perhaps on your knees, with your eyes closed) so folks know you’re praying.

i. When the little ones come up and start banging on you, “Mom, Mom, Mom!” look up from prayer & hold your finger up and tell them, “Mommy’s praying right now. I’ll talk to you in a few minutes.” Then proceed to ignore them, unless of course it’s an emergency. You won’t be praying for hours, so there’s no real danger of true neglect!

ii. Resort to hiding, if absolutely necessary. When we lived in a motorhome, we had all 7 children in about 320 square feet of living space, and it was completely IMPOSSIBLE to get alone. So I did the thing that Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, used to do – pull a blanket over my head. (She used an apron, but the principle is the same!) Funny how it is – it’s almost as if I disappeared!

6. Keep it Simple! We can easily complicate things by insisting that we have a journal with us and write in it daily, etc. but its best just to keep your Quiet Time as simple as possible. Last but not least, if you’re still having trouble…

7. Take a Media Fast – media may not be morally corruptive, but it does have a moral impact because of the things we could…& perhaps should – be doing instead.

One year in our travels, we were privileged to park our bus by a rather large church that had a gym attached to it. “Why don’t you come by the gym tomorrow morning? I’ve got a class I’m teaching, and you’re welcome to come work out with us,” the pastor told us after the Sunday evening service. I was trying to get more in shape, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I showed up early the next morning and joined their group. There were about 5 other ladies, all older (considerably!) and the pastor. He led us through a short warm up, and then we started the workout in earnest.

I know I wasn’t very much in shape, but I was quite a bit younger than those other ladies. I thought for sure I could do all those moves…but they showed me up! Those elderly energizer bunnies kept on going, smiling the whole time, while I slogged through the simplest maneuvers.

I went away from that workout sweaty, exhausted, and most of all, I learned something very important: never work out with elderly women! They work out like their very lives depend on it!

I talked with my elderly father about it a few days later, chuckling at my own lack of fitness, when he told me something that arrested my thoughts.

“They work out like their lives depend on it, because they really do!” he replied.

I thought to myself, My devotional time with the Lord should be like that…I should have my Quiet Times as though my life depends on them…because it really does!

What are some habits that you have learned that help you have good Quiet Times with the Lord?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

5 Must-Read Books!

I love to read, and lately I’ve read some really good books! God has allowed me to rub shoulders with some very wonderful people via their stories, and I’m so thankful to be able to pass along to you some of my very favorites!! (Side note: This post contains links to products that I have read, enjoy, and recommend, but they are not affiliate links. I get nothing from recommending them.)

 

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When I was younger, I read every single book on parenting I could find. Some were helpful. In fact, some were very helpful! But some were not. I remember particularly one book that made me feel like the worst parent in the world. I liked the cover, and the description looked like it would be very helpful. But reading the book made me feel as though I had not only made a ton of mistakes, but I my children would be ruined completely unless I did everything the book said! Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as that, but at the time, it sure seemed that way. After that, it was awhile before I picked up another parenting book.

I found that discouraging books cause me to expect more out of my husband and children than they are able to give. Friction ensues, and the whole family unit is put out of whack. I remember one book that said that a father should start a business, so he could teach his boys to work. Well, my husband is a missionary and we travel a lot, and he was unable to start his own business. I became frustrated with my husband, until I learned to accept him and his calling the way it is.

Contrast that book with an encouraging one.

An Encouraging book:

A) Gives you hope – You’re not alone, and you CAN do it! The author doesn’t come off as a know-it-all, someone who is “imparting his vast store of wisdom” to you – he is a human being, just like you, who has gone through the same things and has come out on the other side SUCCESSFUL! He tells us, not how we should do it and why we’re not doing it right, but how he did it, and how we can do it too!

B) The message from the author is not, “I’ve always been awesome,” but “I was born with certain weaknesses in these areas, and this is how I was able to overcome them.” He does what he does in spite of all his learning problems, communication difficulties, and financial setbacks.

C) Points you toward a definite, reachable goal. It may even break those goals down into smaller, even more manageable parts. Many How-to books fit into this category.

Here are some of my faves:

1. Success despite setbacks – Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is the result of his filing for bankruptcy, and then learning a huge lesson on how to really handle money before it goes and handles him. It’s a boy-meets-money, boy-loses-money, boy-gets-money again story, with Dave owing his ultimate success to things he’s learned from simple folks and their common sense.

2. Survival against all odds – Marcus Lutrell’s Lone Survivor. (we downloaded in and used the “replace with” key to change they cuss words into more acceptable alternatives, since we read it out loud as a family.) The book follows his training all the way from his childhood to the incredible mission, in which he alone survives. The character of these men is inspiring and amazing!

3. Learning to Succeed Despite Flaws in Your Character – Frank Bettger’s How I Went From Failure to Success in Selling. This is my husband’s favorite book, because he can identify with Frank’s failures, and, although we are in the ministry, we are showing Christ to a hungry world, and we can’t afford to fail because of our own character flaws.

4. Losing Weight By Eating – Trim Healthy Mama, by Serene and Pearl. Their book describes how people have used their program to lose weight while not feeling deprived one bit! I’ve been using their program since January myself. I’ve wanted to shed the stubborn last ten pounds, and gain control over my hypoglycemia, which seems to dictate everything I do. Their book, and the program they use (and now I use!) has helped me tremendously! In fact, I am finally down to the same weight I was when I got married, and I get to eat chocolate cake every night! (If you want to know the recipe, ask in the comments section!)

5. And my personal favorite: Learning to Parent Despite the Way I was Raised. OK, so this is my own book, Lionproof: Keeping Your Children From the Claws of the Devil. Many of the folks I interviewed did not come from ideal homes, and yet they still are serving The Lord today, and are raising their own children to love and serve The Lord. These young people understood that their parents were not perfect, but they were able to sort through the bad to find the good, and then clung to the good.

I remember speaking to one parent of a godly second generation Christian. I knew she had had a very rough childhood, and struggled with confidence regularly. I asked, “What did you do that pointed your children in the direction of serving The Lord?” She looked puzzled, thought a minute, and replied, “I don’t know. Prayed??” But when I talked to her adult son, he was able to point to his mom and tell me, “Yeah, I know she’s not perfect. But she was real. She loves God with all her heart, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do, too.”

Don’t read books that make you feel like a maggot. Read encouraging books that will lift you up and give you hope.
And if you haven’t gotten your copy of Lionproof yet, you can get it today!

Question: What good books have you read lately? Why?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum
 

Travel Tips: Taking an Ounce of Home

Have a summer trip planned? We do – and I want to be careful not to forget anything! Here are some travel tips to help you bring an ounce of home with you.

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Got travel plans? We do.

We’ll be taking a two-month trip this summer, to do a little mini-furlough on the advice of our pastor. Praise The Lord He has provided someone to come and interim pastor for us while we’re gone.

Your trip may not be a two-month one, but if you’re taking a trip this summer, there are definitely some things you want to bring. In my mind, an ounce of home is worth a pound of away.

Here are some travel tips for you:

1) Bring something with you that reminds you of home – a pillow, a favorite blanket, a stuffed animal

2) bring a scent along that makes you happy and comfortable – every evening, my daughter gives me “my scents” and t makes me feel warm and cozy, ready for sleep.

3) plan your meals carefully – being away from home does not mean you have a license to binge. It’s not good for you or your family, so plan your meals carefully. If you have to go out, plan on eating real food, rather than junk.

4) If you need some essentials to help you sleep, make sure you bring them – if you haven’t noticed, sleep is a big priority. Perhaps it’s because, with 7 children, I’ve had my share of sleepless nights, but I’m not at all interested in miserable nights, and would do almost anything to avoid them. Fan, blanket, night light…you get the picture.

5) Remember that bugs are everywhere, so bring bug killing spray! I couldn’t sleep if I knew the place was full of roaches!

6) Bring a candle, and make sure you have soothing music on your device before you leave. Did I say soothing? How about romantic?

7) something to do – an interesting book is a must, plus any devices you enjoy. For me, I also include pens and paper for writing, or note-taking, since I enjoy an odd mix of paper and electronics.

8) Don’t forget your workout clothes and some gear! Unless you actually PLAN on not working out at all, or if you’re only gone a few days, plan on working out! Don’t let a trip make you flabby. In our trips, I spend enough time in the car that I begin to stiffen up like a dead fish, so I’m going to throw some exercise bands in my suitcase.

9) The kids will need their own version of all of the above. The very worst of the worst is when you forget that beloved blanket and lil Margot simply refuses to go to sleep without it….AND you’ll be away for a whole week! Don’t let this happen to you!

We may not be leaving on our trip for another 5 weeks or so, but I’m already starting to plan. You can be sure I’ll be working on these and other travel tips!

Do you have any travel plans this summer? How can you “take an ounce of home” with you?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

De-Lurking Day & GIVEAWAY!

It’s De-Lurking time…hat time of year when those of you who lurk around will finally reveal yourselves and let us all know you’re there. As a birthday gift to me, I ask that you comment below, letting me know you exist! One of those of you who comment will receive a free copy of my new book, Lionproof: Keeping Your Children from the Claws of the Devil!

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Well, folks, it’s been a special time for me these past few days. Last week was my birthday!! But it wasn’t just any birthday, mind you – it was my 50th birthday!! (Did I really say that?? Online??)

I guess I must say that, though I easily breezed into my 40’s, I’m not really very fond of turning 50. I know it’s just a  number, but it’s a BIG number! But I can tell you that I feel much healthier and better at 50 than I did at 40. For some of you that have read my fitness story, you know that after I had my youngest child, my body was in terrible shape, and I was a real couch potato. Finally, a few years after he was born, I decided to start getting myself back into some sort of shape so I’d be useful to my family and the Lord.

So I slowly began first to walk, and then to run. I tell folks now that I’m a endorphin junkie! I praise the Lord for the ability to run.

I’ve also added weight training, something which I do about 4 days a week. I can tell you that it sure has helped this old girl stay sane and injury-free, for which I’m very thankful.

The eve of my birthday, I did something I’ve never done before. I laid in my bed and very ceremoniously “turned the page” in my mind from my 40’s to my 50’s. I’m entering a new chapter in my life, and I wanted to thank the Lord for His goodness to me in my 40’s, and dedicate my next decade to the Lord. It was a special time, with just me and God.

I’m also entering my 8th year of blogging! I think it has helped me grow as a person, and enabled me to express some things that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do. Hopefully somewhere along the line it has been a blessing to you, as well.

This year, for my birthday, I’m asking everyone who reads this blog, even occasionally, to comment and let me know a few things. Tell me who you are, how old you are (approximate) and a topic that you really enjoy reading about. If you want, I would love to know what country you live in, as well.

And this year, I’m going to do something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do: I’m going to do a GIVEAWAY for my birthday!! One of the commenters will receive a free copy of my newest book, Lionproof: Keeping Your Children from the Claws of the Devil!!

I’m so looking forward to reading your comments, and getting to know who you are!

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

Goals for 2014: The Messy Middle

Goals Check-up Time!

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My most recent long run was a run of 7 miles. I had run that distance before, but it had been about a year. This time, I’ve been working myself up to running longer distances over the past few months, so I had run 6 miles on my previous long run. It was time to up my milage and continue to stretch my wings – I mean, legs – by running 7 miles again!

Everything went fine for the first couple of miles. The weather was perfect – about 50 degrees with a slight breeze. After awhile, however, my legs began to feel like they were made of heavy iron. I know it didn’t help that I was running at a park, doing 0.6 mile circles. How boring is that? All that energy going out, and I was really going nowhere. The only thing worse is a treadmill! 😉

Somehow, I’m still not sure how, I survived (couln’t guess, right?;) I can tell you that it’s a lot better to be on the other side of that run – the DONE part – than to be in the middle! Oh, how good it is to be done! But I learned a very important lesson here.

Many of us have written down goals for 2014. It felt so good to get down on paper the things that we want to accomplish, by God’s grace, over the next year. But let’s face it – it’s mid-March, and a lot of us have lost contact with our goals already.

Here are some thoughts I have about How to survive the messy middle:

1. Keep moving. In a race, especially a half-marathon or marathon, the goal is merely to keep moving toward the finish line. There is only 1 winner in a race, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to give up; we can still put one foot in front of the other and reach our goal just fine.

2. Fuel up! When I get a few miles into a long run, it’s time to break out the fuel, or the long run becomes a short run! When it comes to the Messy Middle of the year, it’s important to fuel our hearts with the Word of God and good, encouraging words. If God is the original source of your goals, then staying in touch with Him will be your source of inspiration.

3. Concentrate on the end. When I was running, I watched the cars driving by and thought, “how nice it must be to sit down – even in a car!” I worked on concentrating on the “joy set before me” – a wonderful yummy smoothie when I got back home! With our 2014 goals, it’s important to remember the end result we’re trying to acheive, and why we want to achieve it.That can go a long way to pushing us forward!

4. Finally, you’re only one step away from heading the right direction. If you find yourself doing NOTHING that you had planned, it’s ok. It does you no good to beat yourself up over lost time. The only thing you really need to do is Turn Around. In other words, just look at your list, find one thing that you need/want to do, and think of your next action item for that thing. Do that one action, and it will help you get moving in the right direction.

How are your goals coming along? Mine are moving along slowly, but surely. But with God’s help and some “running inspiration,” I know I can get through the Messy Middle.

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum href=”http://www.growinginhisglory.com”>Growing in His Glory

3 Things That Make Your Hubby LOVE Coming Home!

 

Being in military ministry, we work closely with young military families. Megan and her husband Mark had been married about two years, and had the cutest little 14 month old boy, Josiah. Megan was the typical young army wife, who married with stars in her eyes and ended her marriage with daggers in her hands. But at sometime between the stars and the daggers, we had the privilege of working with them for a few months.

I stopped by Megan’s house one day to visit. Brushing the crumbs off the couch, I sat and began to talk about the Lord. I tried not to notice, but toys and trash mingled together on the floor, and the coffee table was a mountain of who-knows-what. Her boy walked around clad in typical Tarzan fashion, in a diaper – a very smelly diaper! That was in itself not too bad, except after a time it started to bother me that no effort was made to change the boy. But the dog was very interested in the contents of the diaper, going up to little Josiah and licking the edges of his diaper at every chance he could. Of course, the family pet turned and licked the boy’s face!

Though that was disgusting enough, soon the boy found a long-lost bottle of mysterious liquid (complete with floaties of unknown origin!) and walked around drinking it!! While Megan’s back was turned, I relieved the boy of his bottle and took it to the kitchen sink, where I’m sure it remained for quite some time.

No wonder they were having marital trouble!

Someone once said “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” and after that experience, I began to believe it!

Want a happy marriage? Keep your home in order. Or at least WORK on it. Never just “let it go.” I’m preaching to myself here, because these things are a real challenge for me. My sister, who grew up sharing a room with me, could tell you how horribly messy I am/was, but the Lord has done great things for me. Here are some things I have learned:

Keep your home CLEAN! Or a semblance of clean. Divide your home into 4 zones and clean each zone during its week. That way, your whole house gets a good cleaning at least once a month. And if you don’t get to all of it this month, no worries – it will come around again. For ideas for creating your own house cleaning schedules, see HouseCleaningTips.com, and for a template and printable, see this great article from Money Crashers.

Keep your home NEAT! Work on organizing and putting things away. All of these points are a struggle for me, but especially this one. I am the Queen of Clutter. My son told me once that I was the most “organized dis-organized person” he knows! But through systems such as the Flylady system, the Lord has helped me to make a lot of progress. In fact, I really got a blessing the other day when we had a bunch of people over for Memorial Day and my daughter commented, “You guys are so organized! You’re doing such a good job making this huge meal for a big crowd!” I would never have been able to do it pre-Flylady!

Keep your home nicely DECORATED! It doesn’t have to be a Martha Stewart home, but there’s a lot you can do with thrift store items if you know what to buy and where to put it.

I am Decoration-Challenged, so I try to get some help for this one. My oldest daughter is really good at it, as are some of my friends, so I ask them for help. Generally, I just let them come up with ideas and I do it, knowing that I know nothing of decor! But you probably don’t have that problem. Maybe you’re really good at it, so here’s your chance to let your creativity shine!

Pinterest is probably your best place to get decorating ideas! Though I’m not on myself – I know I’d be swallowed up and never heard from again – I’ve stalked it a few times myself!

I didn’t mention this before, but your body is another “house” you need to take care of. Even the smallest effort to eat right, get some exercise, and dress up for your honey will be appreciated. Check out these posts here for some pointers, as well as some ideas from Trim Healthy Mamas and Crossfit Mom.

Beware perfectionism – don’t turn into Mrs. Law! I can hear it now: “What??!?” (voice rising) “You left your COFFEE CUP ON THE END TABLE??!!!??!” No, no, no! This is to be an IMPROVEMENT for your family, not a DESTRUCTION! Get the kids in on the clean up, and sit and enjoy your nice place, but let The Man be The Man. Believe it or not, he will eventually see the effort you are making, and begin to clean up after himself.

Don’t let your stars become daggers! Make the extra effort to work on your home and marriage, even just a little bit each day, and you’ll see tremendous benefits!

Don’t just take a journey…take a COURAGEOUS journey!

What systems do you use for cleaning and organizing your home? Do you have any decorating pointers we can use? How about some ideas for better fitness and nutrition?

Also, check our Facebook page for “Destinations” (assignments for the day) to pump up your journey!

Linking up with: Monday: Alabaster Jar, The Better Mom, and Moms the Word,
and Happy Wives Club

Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, Mercy Ink Blog, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage

Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

Help for Planning a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

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In preparing for Thanksgiving this year, I was reminded of the need to plan some special things for my husband, who in intolerant to gluten. Some years I forget (like last year – sorry, Honey!) and he misses out on some good things like stuffing and pie! Poor, poor man!

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But this year, that won’t happen. I’m planning ahead to bake some gluten free bread which I will make into stuffing, and to make one of the pies crustless. It’ll take a bit of extra work, but if I plan it right, it will work great!

If you have folks coming to your Thanksgiving table who are gluten intolerant, The Better Mom has a great website with many resources for planning the best gluten-free Thanksgiving ever! In fact, there’s a giveaway there, too!

Planning and preparing a Thanksgiving meal is lots of fun, but let’s not forget those who have special dietary needs…it might make the difference between a good meal and a GREAT one for someone special.

Couch Potatoes, Arise!

My daughter Sharon has updated our family’s motivational/fitness blog, and it looks wonderful!!  Since half the problem with getting out of our chairs is lack of motivation or support, her quotes and inspirational sayings are tremendously helpful.


You may not be able to start a couch to 5K program, but all of us can do a little something to “bless” our hearts.  Take a gander over at her blog, enjoy her progress, and watch out – you may become inspired to move a little more.

 

Look up her motivational quotes here:

 Yes, she designed them all herself.  If you like her design work, contact her at contact.SharonJoy [at] gmail [dot] com!

 

May your weekend Journey be an exciting and wonderful one!

 

Lisa