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The World We Live In

By Cassie of Cassie’s Corner.

Join Cassie each month for a new heartfelt post.  To read more of her writing go to the Cassie’s Corner link on the side of the page.  

Blessings, The Midlife Domestic Goddess.

Insanity: the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind. Extreme foolishness; folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.

We live in an insane world. After graduating from college I entered the CassiesCornerButtonwork force as a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) Parole Assistant. My case load consisted of Level 2 and 3 Sex Offenders, young men aged 15-18, who were deemed the highest risk to re-offend. All I could think was, wow, when did kids start hurting other kids so horribly. I had taken numerous classes during my four years at the university but nothing prepared me for the real life events that I reviewed in the case files of the youth on my roster. When I started with the JRA I thought I had arrived at my dream career position and I was so excited to be able to start in the field I had always wanted to be in. That excitement was cut short when my job soon turned from trying to help these youth change their lives for the better, into trying to catch them doing something wrong, so I could locked them back up. After only three short months, I was able to determine that the JRA setting was not my dream job but a sad system setting kids up to repeat bad choices and make them feel like no one believed in them.

My second post college job was at a secured drug and alcohol treatment center for 12-17 year old boys. They were all locked in rehab as their last option, it was rehab or a juvenile institution. I loved that job from start to finish. The young men I worked with taught me so much about life and what it meant to be a real person. It was there I learned how fragile todayʼs youth really are. How the choices we make as parents form and shape the choices our children make. To those boys the definition of insanity was doing the same behavior over and over and expecting different results. I always thought that was such an interesting view on life because to me, if I made a choice and didnʼt like the outcome I would just make a different decision the next time. Each young man I worked with helped to shape my view of the world as I walked out my life from behind the fence that kept them inside.

As I prepared to leave that job and transition into another branch of youth social services, I began to pray and ask God to examine my heart and desire to work with At Risk Youth. I was loosing hope in the desire to have my own children due to the pain and anguish I saw so many kids and parents going through over ten years while working in my desired occupation. I prayed constantly for the kids that I worked with, petitioning God to save them and show them who He was through me. Alas, after getting married and becoming a mother in 2006, I decided that I needed a break from full-time work as a Youth Care Specialist in 2008.

Fast forward to the present; I am now a college educated mother of two that holds a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology. I now pray for my own children to know who they are in Christ and for what purpose they were created. I find myself struggling to separate my knowledge of how insane the world can be from being a fun-loving person who welcomes new people into the lives of her children. I send my daughter to school praying that there wonʼt be a mass shooting or some sort of attack. I observe every person who is waiting for a student to be released from school as a potential offender or threat to myself and my children. I am constantly aware of who is around me, what they are wearing, what car they are driving, and all the other aspects of my surroundings.

I am not paranoid. I do not live in fear. I live in the here and now, the realistic part of life and what may happen at the blink of an eye.

I have so much information in my brain that in the natural is overwhelming to think of or comprehend. The experiences that I had working with At Risk Youth have forever shaped me into the person I am today. As a mother I use those years of experiences to help protect and shield my children from the insanity of this world. I am proud of the time I was able to serve caring for other peopleʼs children, it taught how I wanted to love my own. I believe with all my heart that God allowed me to see just how horrible life can be, so that I would be prepared to be a parent in the world my children now live in. For that, I am forever thankful.

 

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Five Great Summer Activities for you and your kids

By: Erin Bishop founder of The Whatever Girls

I had a great childhood and even better summers. I remember hot summer days, grape popsicles, walking to the Giant T drug store for ice cream cones, running through the sprinklers, building forts, and magical weekends at our family cabin at Priest Lake. Summer was perfect.

Now that I’m a mom, I want to recreate those magical summer memories for my kids. But, I have a lot to compete Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 1.34.33 PMwith. Kids today are never far from a handheld entertainment center, and mine are no different. All this time spent on technology leaves my kids feeling entitled to entertainment and sluggish imaginations.

My solution? This summer I’m mandating a once a week mom’s choice activity. My kids are going to get a taste of what summer was meant to be.

Here are five of my must do activities with my kids:

  1. A day at the lake: We are blessed to live in an area rich with beautiful lakes, parks and a river that runs through our city. There are endless adventures waiting to be had. We will pick a place we have never been, pack a picnic and spend the day playing in the water, building sandcastles and making new memories.
  2. Make a fairy garden: A fairy garden is a miniature garden complete with structures and actual living plants. It’s a tiny space created with love and imagination. All you need is a shallow planting dish, some dirt and some creativity. Check out my Pinterest board for some ideas.
  3. Go to a theme park: Each year my youngest earns a free ticket to a nearby theme park. We have yet to use it, but this year I intend to not let it go to waste. I like to avoid crowds, so I’ll have my husband take a day off from work mid-week and we will make a day of it. Be sure to pack sunscreen!
  4. Make s’mores: A lot of people have outdoor fire pits. We do not. We like to fire up our barbeque and go outside on a starry night and roast marshmallows by the fire of our barbeque.
  5. Backyard campout: I love not camping. But, for the sake of some late night giggles, special treats and fun times with my kids, I am willing to set up a tent in the backyard and go camping with my kids. Just remember to turn off the sprinkler system.

While these five things may not be a complete cure for summer boredom or our kids’ affection for handheld entertainment, I guarantee once your kids and mine, get a taste for what summer is really about, they will be anxious for the next adventure.

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When Life Gets Hard……

When life gets hard go shopping… No, that is not it. New clothes can’t make your troubles better, sure you may look nice in your new outfit but you are still the same hurting person underneath your new look.

Oh I got it…

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.23.48 PMWhen life gives you lemons make lemonade. No, that can’t be right. Once you drink it than what? There must be something else we can do when life gets hard?

There are so many self-help books out there with the authors answer to what to do to over come this or that. On Facebook someone posted when life gets hard punch it in the face? Um not sure how to do that exactly? Or how about this, I saw a sign that said when life knocks you down roll over and look at the stars.   Okay the stars are great and it I do love to lay on the dock at the lake and look at the stars but how is that going to help me face my troubles.

When life gets hard we need to pray!

Better yet,

We need to Pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17.1609822_620760681334589_459762485_n

In other words don’t stop praying! We don’t need to wait for life to get hard before we pray.  

Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us to: be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

There is power in prayer. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. What have you got to lose?

It is simple, Just say…Jesus I need you to help me right now. I am hurting, life is hard and I don’t know what to do. Jesus help me, Jesus give me strength, Jesus give me peace. Amen.

Today I want to encourage you to pray, to pray often, to pray big prayers and little prayers. To pray with the faith that God is hearing every word of your prayer. Hold on to the truth that there is not a prayer that is prayed in faith that God doesn’t hear.

If you can’t find the words just say, “ Jesus”. Sometimes just saying his name a few time with a true and open heart is all it takes to feel peace.

It is written in Psalms 145:18 The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth.

What are you waiting for? Call on Him…Pray without ceasing.

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Mom’s Day Out

Just recently I had a chance to go and see “Mom’s night out” with a woman from my church named Brittni.  I am old enough to be her mom and she has pointed that out more than once.  In February Brittni was married and I was honored to be included in her wedding celebration in a very special way. She had her mom by her side but she included myself and her mom’s friend as her extra two mom’s that day.

I try to meet up with Brittni once a week as my crazy schedule allows. She has been very sick for the last few weeks.  Her sickness comes just about every morning which means that just before Christmas Brittni is going to get the best gift she could ever ask for.  I wanted to get her out of her apartment for a bit.  On a whim I called and asked if she wanted to see a movie.

When we got to the theater we loaded up on popcorn and headed to our seats with non-stop chitchat. I had heard lots of women say it was a good movie but I still was not sure what to expect.  As they say in the movie Jerry McGuire, “you had me at hello”.  Being a blog writer myself the opening of the movie had me hooked immediately.

I don’t know how many times I have struggled with “do I really have something to say that anyone would want to read?”  During the opening scene when she was in front of her computer, it was like watching myself. Okay, maybe not really myself…. I have short hair, more wrinkles and I am a little thinker around the middle but; what she was going through in her mind was like watching my life was on film.  I found myself trying to push lump back down into my throat as I fought the tears because the reason she gave for writing her blog lined up perfectly with why I write my blog.  I turned to my friend Brittni and said,  “It is like they took the ‘My Heart’ section of my blog that tells why I write and used it for the movie”.

As the movie unfolded on the big screen and we laughed something happened to me.  I realized that I was in a new season of my life.  All of a sudden those nights when I was so tired and wanted nothing more than a night out, had now become something I longed to have back again.  In a blink of an eye, I had become an empty nester. What seemed so overwhelming at times when I was young mom was now something I found myself grieving about because, it was no more.  Isn’t it funny how we don’t realize how much we love something until it is gone?

I am a mom to the very core of my heart and I sat there with tears running down my checks more than once in those 2 hours we sat in the theater.  From the amazing words that were spoken by Trace Atkins in the jail scene, to the moment that Sondra, played by Patricia Heaton had a “come clean moment” with her daughter Zoe, played by Sammi Hanratty.  I found myself looking back at my life as a mom.  I have been there in those “come clean moments” in my 21 years as mom.  To me honest I have to say that some of my “Mom Moments” were good and some were not the kinds of moments I would have wanted flashed across the big screen.

When the movie came to a close I sat there thinking, the chapter of my life as a young mom is over but soon Brittni would be holding the baby that she was blessed her to be carrying. In that moment the teaching in Titus 2 about the older women guiding the younger women became clear to me and I knew that God had taken me to my next season in life. Sitting next to me was a young women who had told me that I was not just her friend but like extra mom figure she could come to. God was showing me that He is not done with me as mom. He still wants me to continue to guide my 19 and 21-year-old but, He also wants me to take what I have learned and walk out life with the younger ladies in my church. As I reached over and patted Brittni’s leg like a mom would do, she looked at me and said with teary eyes, “I am going to be a mom”.  Sitting there with butter on my fingers and a few pieces of stray popcorn in my lap I thanked God for this new season in my life. I thanked Him for the special gift of motherhood and I knew I was not to give up on my writing.  Even if only one person needs to hear something God has put on my heart than I have done His work and shared His love in my words.

“Mom’s night out” made for the best “mom’s day out”.  It did not matter the difference in our years, Brittni and I found our common ground in one of the greatest gifts ever, motherhood.  If you are an older mom like me I want to encourage you to take younger mom to see the movie with you.  Treat her to some popcorn and a word of encouragement that she has got this.

Take a peak at the trailer, I think you will like the movie.

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“Women In Worship” part 2 (Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom)

Welcome back to “Women In Worship”

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.33.35 AMToday I want to share with you another amazing woman of God. This post is going to be different from my others and soon you will see what I mean. Meet Kari who along with Whitney from yesterday’s post is on worship team at my church. She got her bachelor’s degree from Chapman University in Orange, CA, majoring in Music Therapy, with a minor in psychology and she has been married to her husband for 7 years. She says that her husband is, and I quote, “One of God’s very obvious demonstrations of extravagant love for me in this life”

Since returning to her walk with Christ 7 years ago, Kari has had the chance to serve in the worship ministry at Living Faith in La Mirada, CA. and she found time to serve at an outreach ministry to battered, abused, and homeless women and children at the Women’s Transitional Living Center in Orange County.  Now Kari serves on the worship team at City Life Church in Spokane, WA along with her husband Mark.

For now, her most important ministry is her children and you can really tell that her heart for worship is pouring into the lives of her kids. Just recently when Kari was leading worship my mom got my attention to look across the church. There in his aunt’s arms was Kari’s oldest who is almost going to turn 3 singing all the words to “Forever Reign” and he was not just singing the words you could tell he understood what he was singing. Kari by putting her family first she is serving God in the most powerful way and I think there may be a future ministry leader in her little boy. Kari shared with me that some day when her children are older and in God’s perfect timing she hopes to start an outreach for abused/homeless/mentally ill women and children, much like the one she served in during her time in CA.

This past Christmas our church had its first children’s program thanks to Kari. It is just one more way God has her serving his kingdom.Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 12.03.29 PM

As I wrote at the beginning of this, I am writing about Kari differently than normal. That is because Kari gave me such powerful words about the importance of worship that I don’t want to change a thing. She has a wonderful teaching that everyone can learn from so without further ado I am turning this over to Kari, my first guest writer within in a post I am writing. May her words write a new song upon your heart and give you a new perspective on the importance of worship.

Why is worship important to me by Kari Villarreal.

“We all know there are many ways to worship God. We worship Him with our lives, our work, our finances, our devotion, our time, our relationships…we can commit anything we do unto Him as worship! The value and importance of worship through music has several facets. My pastor in California always reminded us as we would begin corporate worship that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV). What an amazing thing!

The definition of ‘inhabit’ is, “to occupy as a place of settled residence or habitat; to be present in or occupy in any manner or form”. So when we praise Him, His very Presence actually takes up residence in those praises! Worship through music is one way we welcome His Presence into our places of worship…and there is nothing greater in this life than being in the very Presence of Almighty God! I love to imagine, as I look out over a body of believers united in praising God as they sing worship unto Him, seeing His Presence dwelling there in the room as the words and music are lifted up to Him. Jesus actually “hangin’ out” in the words that leave His people’s mouths and float just above them…maybe it sounds kind of strange to some, but that’s just a way that I visualize this very cool truth.

The other important aspect of worship through music that I want to address here is related to the first. So, God inhabits the praises of His people…and where His light is, darkness is driven out. I was in a season for several years of battling depression and anxiety. Part of this is biological/hormonal, but it is certainly spiritual as well; ‘darkness’ is how I have described it (and I’m sure anyone else who has walked through it could say something similar). During this season, God has shown me in many times and in many ways how worship to Him is a weapon against the darkness that fights to consume me. Most days, in order to keep my heart focused on Him as I go about taking care of my husband, my 3 ½ year old, my 1-year-old, and my home, I keep worship music playing and am singing along with it. I have found it keeps my mouth and mind busy at the same time I offer praise and indeed, my God inhabits that praise, driving away the darkness that pales in comparison to His glorious light.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.51.40 AM

Photo credit to Tricia Marker, City Life women’s retreat

It is difficult to give any kind of abbreviated writing about worship for me. Worship through music (one of the many ways, of course, to worship God) has been such a hugely important element in my walk with Christ and is so multi-faceted. In my short life I feel like I could already write a book on worship—not of all that I know, but of all that He has done through it and in me. One of my pastors used to say, “Worship is a response.” A response to Jesus who He is, what He has done, His love for us…(the list goes on and on). When our lives are personally touched by the Creator and Savior of mankind, there is a response that comes genuinely; that response, in whatever form it takes, is worship. The challenge for some Christians (myself absolutely included) is to always be in that state of awe over who Christ is, so that our lives become a response—worship. He has done for us, we respond in worship. We love because He first loved us!

The bible talks so much about praising the Lord with song and instruments, singing and shouting, crying and bowing, dancing and kneeling. I think this ties right in to worship being a response. As God has created us each so uniquely, He has opened the door for our worshipful responses to be unique, genuine, and true to how He has created us to worship Him.

There’s a trap we as believers can fall into, that says worship should look a certain way. That certain way varies from church to church and denomination to denomination. We’ve all been in different types of worship services. Maybe it was a little too conservative for your taste. Maybe to the contrary, you thought people were too “free” in their expressions. Maybe it was a simple acoustic service with only a guitar, a singer, and a djembe. Maybe it was a full on 15-piece rock band. I’ve been there too. You’re out of your comfort zone or preference for worship music. The amazing thing is that when His people are gathered in spirit and truth to lift up and exalt the same God that dwells in each of them, His very Presence is there! When He is present, not much else matters. Not that when we worship Him, it is at all about us, but in His fullness, as we pour out and offer sacrifices of praise and adoration, we can fully expect to receive because that is the heart of God. Our hearts have to remain humble, open, and in awe of our God in order to genuinely worship and to receive.

This is a lesson that I am continually learning—letting go of my comfortable worship and seeking to exalt Him above ALL, regardless of the song, the surroundings, the volume, or the instrumentation. From the little progress I have made, I encourage you to step out on a limb and offer your life as a response—the response that He is desiring from you!

I came across a quote the other day that said, “When we worship the Lord, we release the emotional or mental burden that weighs us down. It is swallowed up in the awesomeness of God.” Yes! I thought. This is exactly one of the many reasons that worship is important. When I go before the Lord God Almighty to exalt Him to His rightful place, my burdens become so small in the view of His glory and majesty! –Kari.

I hope you take these powerful words of Kari’s to heart and worship God without holding back. “Step out on a limb” as Kari said.

Until next time on “The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom”, may you be blessed by the Love of Christ.

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Women In Worship – “The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom” series

Welcome back to the real housewives of God’s Kingdom Today I want to introduce you to a couple of women who have a talent that I have do not possess, Whitney and Kari. Just ask anyone who has sat by me in worship, they will tell you I cannot sing but these two ladies can.

 “Women In Worship” is the theme of this 2-part episode.

Meet Whitney. This newly married young women went to Southwestern Assemblies of God University where she got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Church Ministries, an Associate of Arts degree in Bible, and an emphasis in World Missions. She is a blog writer and has blessed my page with a guest post and I have to say for someone so young she is full of some great wisdom.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.44.47 AMWhitney has been blessed with the gift of singing and she makes a beautiful noise to the Lord unlike myself. I think I sound more like an animal in pain when I open my mouth but that has not stopped me from worshiping as Whitney and the rest of my church’s worship team leads us.   I asked Whitney to share with me something God has shown her during her time on the worship team and I love what she shared with me,

“Something God has shown me during a worship time and continues to show me, something that I am learning to make a habit to be joyful. God shows me that joy is dependent on what happens inside of our heart, not our lives. This is huge. Everyone faces tough times, sometimes-tough days, sometimes-tough weeks, and sometimes-tough years… God asks us to leave all of those burdens and hardships at the altar and, depend on Him, and trust Him fully to take care of those burdens. He asks us to not worship with our mouths, but with our hearts. Everyone can read lyrics up on a screen, anyone can stand in front of a congregation and sing words but it takes a true follower of Christ to worship the King of Kings with all of our heart, and to lead others to do the same. The joy of the Lord really is my (our) strength and he daily reminds me (us) of this, but only when I (we) TRUST Him and LET Him!”

This is so true. We are all going to face some hard times but when we can worship God with our whole heart not just following along with the words on the screen God comes rushing into fill us with His joy. In the middle of our pain a tear cried in worship, a raised hand to the Lord when that is all the strength we can muster up is the most beautiful gift of surrender to Him. He is not listening to the notes we are singing he can only hear the cry of our heart in our worship to him.

When Whitney is not leading us in worship or at home with her new husband of less than a year she can be found serving as a Nurse’s Aide for Horizon Hospice where she helps with the terminally ill. Whitney says that for some clients she is just a hand to hold in a very difficult time, both for the patient, and for their family. For others, she helps them with all of their activities for daily living. Something she said has really got my attention and I am going to back the bus up for a moment. She said for some I am “just” a hand to hold.  “JUST” a hand to hold?  Whitney’s hand is not just a hand to hold. It is in those moments that I believe God is using her to be a reflection of the love, peace, comfort and strength to someone who may not know the love of Christ. Have you heard the expression, “Christ with skin on”? That to me is exactly what she is. In her flesh, her skin, she is the extending the hand of Christ Himself.

Whitney also helps with the Youth in the church and when you look at all her ways of serving The Lord they line up perfectly with her favorite verse. Colossians 3:23 ” Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

She says, – I’m not doing “this” for me, whatever “this” may be, whether it’s leading worship, or anything for Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 9.06.20 AMthat matter, this verse always brings me back, it always points me to God, and is a wonderful reminder that everything I do is unto Him, is to glorify His name, is to make Him known, it has nothing to do with me!”

It was that verse that also carried her though the most physically intense time of her life, riding 450 miles in 5 days on a bicycle to raise money and awareness for the organization Blood Water Mission and people in Africa who are in desperate need of clean drinking water wells. She apparently is not overly fond of bike riding but did this anyways to raise awareness and her story about this can be found on her blog post “Bike for Life”

This amazing “Real housewife of God’s Kingdom” plans on continuing her education and would like to be an Elementary teacher someday which will be yet one more way for her to shine the light of Christ. Until it is time for her to head back to school she will continue to bless many with her gift of worship. Those hands that she raises to Christ as she sings will also continue to be the same hands that she extends to those who are terminally ill.

Thank you Whitney for your amazing service in the kingdom and the worship you lead others in. You are truly one amazing “Real Housewife of God’s Kingdom”.

Just click here to read Whitney’s guest post about being “Picture Perfect” and I’ll see you back tomorrow where we will get to know Kari, another woman in worship.

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