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Just Say No!

no_porn_480-s480x480-33769Sweet friends –

Here’s the deal – I so do NOT want to write this post.

Not one bit.

I’d rather talk about sparkly stuff, confetti, summer fun, red-hot faith – anything.

But not porn.

And if you’d rather click off now before I begin another late night ranting session, I totally understand.

I wouldn’t blame you at all.

BUT I CANNOT TAKE ANYMORE.

My Monday morning started early with a heart-breaking, detailed email from a sweet friend from church. As she poured out her excruciating pain and anger and disgust into her written note to me, I knew where her story was going.

Yep, sure enough, she recently discovered her husband — a former church leader & dad to beautiful little girls — is smack dab in the midst of a porn addiction.

No woman ever wants to uncover filth and obscenities on their home computer.

Add to this the dreadful grief, shock, and horror we continue to process in West Michigan after the tragic findings and recent events that have rocked and shocked our conservative community.

How do we even begin to heal?

Lord help us all.  

And then I read statistics like this –

Christians and Pornography taken from Mind Armor Training Tools

  • 70% of Christian men admit to struggling with pornography in their daily lives.
  • 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women admitted to an addiction to pornography.
  • 55% of pastors admitted to visiting a pornographic site.
  • 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation.

no_porn_480-s480x480-33769Y’all, this makes me want to cry or scream or spit or something. You too?

What in the world is going on here?

It’s time we all come together and say NO MORE!

Now first, please know — if you find yourself today as one of the statistics — a man or woman struggling with pornography in your daily life – may I please remind you that this is not a guilt and shame fest.

Not one bit. Promise.

As a former drug and alcohol addict, you will never find me throwing stones your way.

Ever.

Jesus came so that you might have and enjoy life — in the abundance, more than enough, overflowing life (John 10:10) and I desperately want you to experience ALL that He has for you.  Life today — not when you give up the porn, or make things right, or just when you get to heaven.

Today.

But IT IS ALSO TIME — today — for us ALL to bring this destructive darkness into His light, and say NO MORE to these statistics.

No more ruined lives.

No more ruined relationships.

No more looking the other way while your spouse searches online.

No more deception and lies and secrecy and cheating and corruption.

No more.

May we NOT be ok with these shocking statistics, and quote and share them like we do the weekly weather report.

Friends, it’s time we come together and say NO MORE!

Now do I have all the answers?

Clearly no.

We know this, right?!

I’m just a mama on a mission to say I am NOT ok with pornography destroying precious kids’ futures and lives and our men and marriages and precious women and our church any longer.

Here’s what I’m declaring –

I will talk about porn in my home and read porn-proofing books and put strong filters on our computers and encourage personal accountability and pray like crazy to our amazing God — Who sees, Who knows, Who is in control.

I will look for ways my voice can count and I will NOT sit back idly and sweep it under the rug.

I will pray for darkness to be exposed, for healing to come, for God to do such a miracle in our midst that statistics would be drastically changed and there would be freedom and wholeness and life in homes and churches across the world!

I will just say NO to porn — for me, my family, and our whole family line!

Will you please join me? Pretty please?

Sweet friend, I’m not sure where my message finds you today — but please know, you are loved.

I may be fed up and frustrated, but I come alongside you as a trusted friend – a friend who knows the damaging and destructive effect porn has on our self esteem, our minds, and our hearts.

But we do not have to walk this journey alone. Promise.

We do not have to sit back and watch the enemy steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) any longer.

I’m declaring my life a “porn free” zone.

Will you join me?

With a fired-up heart,

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P.S. Here are some excellent resources to help you or a family member struggling with pornography.

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Coming this fall!

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Eliminating the “B” Word

Hey friends –

Can you believe we’re almost halfway into summer vacation? Wow is time flying by!

I’m wondering if you’ve you heard the “b” word yet?  You know how it goes —

“Mom, we’re bored! There is nothing to do!”

Thankfully, I have come to the healthy conclusion that my kids’ boredom does not equal my problem.

And my kids are coming to the realization that when they start whining and whimpering, I’m gonna either send them outside to be bored all on their own, give them a chore list, or pull out a list of ways they can put their boredom in action.

And that, my friends, can be a beautiful thing.

A few weeks ago, my kids were using the “b” word. I loaded them up and transplanted them to a beautiful lakeside library so they could be bored surrounded by books.

Thankfully we happened to bump into good friends at the library — including my sweet friend Jen Knapp.

I knew Jen and her family were preparing for an upcoming trip to Uganda, and it was helpful to hear firsthand the needs of these precious kids in Uganda.

photo1My kids caught Jen’s passion, and came home fired up to put their boredom/creativity/faith in action.

Before I knew it, the kids had put together – all by themselves – a bake sale/lemonade stand on our neighborhood corner.

Confession: I did donate Krispy Kremes for them to sell because #1 – I don’t bake. #2 – I didn’t have on any make-up and wanted to go through a drive-thru. Keepin’ it real.

Three hours later, my gang had $100+ to give to Jen to buy shoes for the orphans in Uganda. Yes, $100+ from a lemonade stand.

The good news: when my girls met with Jen to give her the $100+, Jen showed them a quick 2 minute Sole Hope video to see where there money would be going. (Thanks, Jen!) My girls decided to host another bake sale/lemonade stand to do it again so even more kids could have shoes. Woo Hoo!

Sarah, Jen, & Manda

Sarah, Jen, & Manda

And guess what? They raised $100+ again to buy even more shoes for the kids of Uganda! Way to go, gang!

The next time you hear the “b” word, or feel bored yourself — may I challenge you to look for ways to make a difference in someone’s life.

For a fun list to get you started, here’s a powerful list of ways to serve by blogger extraordinaire Kristen at We Are That Family.

Thank you, Kristen, for giving permission for me to share your list of 100+ ways for your family to make a difference with my *She Sparkles* friends. Enjoy!


100 Ways for Your Family to Make a Difference

1. Babysit for a single mom
2. Teach compassion with a Family Giving Box
3. Write a Family Mission Statement
4. Bake cookies for your local fire dept.
5. Pick up trash at local park as a family field trip
6. Create snack packs for Ronald McDonald residents
7. Welcome a new family to the neighborhood with a dessert and introduction
8. Pray for the poor of the world
9. Color a Smile-print coloring page to be given to lift someone in need up
10. Make a baby care kit for a baby in need
11. Take time each week to unplug as a family
12. Donate your time or treasure to the Make a Wish Foundation
13. Appreciate your church staff in some small, tangible way
14. Do yard work for an elderly neighbor
15. Make a Life Book for a child in Foster Care
16. Read You Were Made to Make A Difference as a family
17. Volunteer to cuddle babies at the hospital (older kids/teens are often allowed also)
18. Read Christmas Jars as family
19. Save loose change in a jar and give to a needy family at Christmas
20. Take a family volunteering vacation
21. Stop and say thank you to grocery clerks, waitresses. Ask them how they are doing.
22. Become a monthly sponsor to help pregnant girls in Kenya
23. Make a birthday cake for an underpriviledged child
24. Serve at home: make each other’s beds, clean up someone else’s mess
25. Write thank you notes to people who serve you: postman, yard guy, doctor, etc
26. Sponsor a child monthly (cannot recommend enough)
27. Make relief kits for disaster relief victims
28. Sew a sleeping bag for someone in need (easy pattern)
29. Volunteer at a non-profit
30. Make up some Hygiene Bags to pass out to local homeless people
31. Take your family on a tour of Red Cross
32. Put a monthly date on the calendar for a Family Service Night
33. Take a meal to a new family
34. Create a card for Habitat for Humanity new home owner
35. Encourage your older children to be a Mother’s Helper to a mom with young kids
36. Fill a backpack to help give a homeless person a lift up
37. Make birthday cards and deliver them to a local nursing home monthly
38. Donate books to Africa
39. Take your kids to a local Food Pantry with canned goods to donate
40. Deliver food for Meals on Wheels
41. Pray as a family on a regular basis for the people in your life.
42. Donate your hair to Locks of Love.
43. Give blood. (Take your kids with you and explain the importance).
44. Donate nice toys to cancer ward at a Children’s Hospital
45. Buy a mosquito net and help prevent malaria
46. Randomly celebrate each other with a special treat, meal, time
47. Donate school supplies to a classroom in need
48. Compliment and thank the teachers in your life
49. Buy a soccer ball for a child in poverty
50. Give a used bike to a homeless person
51. Donate coloring books/crayons to hospital emergency rooms
52. Host a 40 hour famine in your home (fast something!)
53. Give clothes to a family in need (call your church/school to find one)
54. Read to a special needs child
55. Only drink water for 2 weeks, give proceeds for clean water
56. Buy a goat for a family in extreme poverty
57. Give a donation in someone’s name to an organization you believe in
58. Send your used shoes to Reuse-a-Shoe
59. Become Certified Respite Caregivers to give Foster Family’s a babysitting
60. Decorate a Christmas tree at an elderly person’s house
61. Hold a collection drive: makeup, lotions, etc for women at a shelter
62. Find a Food Bank near you to volunteer
63. Deliver popcicles to children at a homeless shelter
64. Offer your pet for therapy to the elderly
65. Decorate nursing home rooms of residents with homemade art
66. Have regular “family nights” with games, ice cream, time together
67. Visit the NICU with treats for the doctors and anxious parents
68. Write to unsponsored children
69. Read to patients at a local hospital
70. Plan a family missions trip
71. Bake cookies, host a bake sale and donate money to the poor or a cause
72. Volunteer at a local animal shelter
73. Plant a garden and share the produce
74. Hold a drive for lightly-used stuffed animals for police stations SAFE program
75. Write letters to servicemen
76. Give a micro loan and change a family in a third world country
77. Smile. At everyone.
78. Make care packages for children in the hospital
79. Instead of a birthday gifts, ask for donations for a charity or food for a food pantry
80. Shop fair trade
81. Offer to decorate hospital hallways during the holidays
82. Ask your city about volunteering to remove graffiti
83. Host a Lemon-AID stand and donate proceeds Blood Water
84. Make no-sew fleece blankets for Hospice
85. Collect pencils for African children
86. Send a care package to our military
87. Read the Bible together as a family every day
88. Collect shoes for Shoes for Kids (started by an 11 year old girl)
89. Let kids choose a charity to donate to for one of their Christmas gifts
90. Become a foster family
91. Pay for someone’s drink in Starbuck’s drive-thru. Make sure your kids enjoy the act of kindness.
92. Help your kids starts a neighborhood or school Bible Study with their peers
93. Volunteer to plant flowers for your school/church flowerbeds
94. Make a Care Bag for a child in need
95. Adopt a child
96. Welcome home a hero at the airport
97. Complain less
98. Start a Kindness Club with your family
99. Let your light shine!
100. Look for opportunities to be the difference in someone’s life
101. Host a virtual food drive
102. Start a KidzRap on your street!
103. Purchase gifts through families fundraising for adoption.
104. Make a quilt for NICU familes
105. Pay the toll for the car behind you
106. Invite friends to Vacation Bible School
107. Help keep families together
108. Take someone flowers from your garden
109. Participate in Operation Christmas Child

**For live links, view the original list here. What a powerful list, Kristen! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

Kristen has also given permission to print off this list. I’m posting it on our refrigerator so we can start highlighting the ideas as we complete them and/or for us to reference when I hear the “b” word. Anyone else?!

I’d love to hear from you, dear friends! What are other ideas of how we can make a difference? How has your family served recently? Share with us please! 

 Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Have a blessed 4th of July weekend! :)

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Vomit in the Sink

As you reflect on your life journey, do you have an event or a memory which would cause you to reply, “I can’t believe I actually did that?’

Now please know, I’m not talking about a “that” in a good way — like I can’t believe I ran that 25K race, or married that handsome guy, or had dinner with that famous author.

I’m talking about a “that” which still causes your stomach to drop, a “that” you would give anything to take back, a “that” which can still bring on heaps of shame if you are not careful and prayerful – even many years later.

Do you have a “that” in your memory bank?  

Personally, I often describe the day I accidentally overdosed on cocaine as my “bottom.” I still can’t believe I did “that.”

As a 26 year old single mom, I allowed the lure of the lie the cocaine offered — confidence, fullness, energy — to nearly rob me of everything — my life, my son, my freedom. Literally. The police made it crystal clear I was fortunate serious, life-changing charges were not filed against me.

Unfortunately – yet thankfully – it took nearly losing my life to cocaine addiction to bring my darkness to light — so that God’s healing and forgiveness could set this captive free.

But “that’s” not the only decision which troubles me, friends.

I’ve got a long laundry list of extremely poor choices, bad decisions, selfishly motivated moves which define the woman I was “before Christ.”

Including a night in a drunken stupor, as a twenty-something girl who knew better – I vomited all over my mom’s bathroom sink, only to completely pass out on her family room couch, leaving a less-than-lovely mess for my mom in the morning.

I’ve never shared “that” experience, nor did I ever plan to.

Why would I ever choose now?

This weekend I disclosed a secret opportunity I was invited to participate in. Friends, it’s an unbelievably God-sized occasion.

An international ministry I love and respect asked me to not only share my journey, but to join their panel of experts — experts including Joni Eareckson Tada and Ann Graham Lotz, to name just a few.

I cannot even stinkin’ believe it. Only God.

I’m not making this up. Promise. You can check it out here.

When I shared the news on Facebook, I wrote…

secret grief

 

 

 

 

 

A FB friend (& friend IRL) quickly responded…

Just curious Cindy, why do you say, “only God” so much? Isn’t it safe to say we “get you” and where your successes are rooted? How about if you just share and trust that we know? Your life is speaking and God is rewarding you. So I say, put it out there and don’t add any disclaimers.

I’ve thought and prayed about her questions for days. Why do I say “only God” so much?

Picture1Friends, here’s why –

  • Because I have not forgotten who I was “before Christ” — lost, hurting, broken, wretched.
  • I know of the many painful, selfish, foolish decisions I made on my search for love and acceptance.
  • I remember vividly the “labels” I wore every day — unloved, rejected, not wanted.
  • I truly believe if it was not for God I would be a living a wasted life of self-defeat and self-absorption, and chances are I would be in jail or a halfway house or dead.

But God.

Only God can give a woman with such a horrendous past —

  • new hope
  • new joy
  • new motivations
  • new life
  • a new heart, and get this –
  • a brand new reputation.

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Only God.

Can I get a woo hoo?!

 

 

Friends, when I share “only God,” please know I’m sharing it not only for you, but also for me.

I don’t EVER want to forget the pit of pain and purposelessness God rescued me from – nor do I ever want to stop celebrating and sharing God’s redemptive, amazing, unfailing, unconditional love for everyone.

Regardless of what you have done.

Regardless of what has been done to you.

God loves you, and wants to have a relationship with you. Today.

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John 3:16

Sweet friend, do you have a “that” in your memory bank?  

What if together we declared aloud, “That is NOT who I am!”

Instead, from this day forward, let decide our “that’s” will no longer define us, but in Jesus Name, we will allow them to refine us — making us strong, beautiful, powerful, and useful to Him.

And “that” is something ONLY GOD can do.

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P.S. To learn more of how Jesus set this captive free, you may enjoy this short interview –

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Lament

What a week.

Our hearts in West Michigan have been shattered, wrecked, ripped wide open.

We’ve wept.

We’ve prayed.

We’ve blubbered through more tears, wondering, “oh Lord, what next?”

Just when we think we can’t take anymore – new reports, new findings, fresh blows to our already anguished heart.

In the midst of our grief, a powerful video emerges capturing many of the emotions we are longing to communicate, while caught in a horrendous situation where there are simply no words.

A huge note of thanks to creator John Pottenger for allowing me to share his video with you. This work has impacted many lives over the past few days. In case you missed it on FB, please take a minute to read John’s introduction and then watch his amazing video — Lament.

Here’s John –

In 2010 I found this old abandoned church and was compelled to capture it on video. At the time I didn’t have a reason or purpose behind the project, and it wasn’t until recent events that it became evident to me what to use this video footage for.

The experience filming this broken church was both exciting and somber. My creative juices were running at full blast, while at the same time questions about the history and story behind this once new church came to mind. What had happened here? The wind that day was incredible. Like it was guiding my shots, and in some cases literally pushing the camera (and me) into the space. It was like I was invited in, and life was trying so hard to emerge a midst the rubble. In the film anything that moves (doors, ropes etc…) was not manipulated by me in any way. I simply filmed what was happening.

Back in 2010 I edited the visuals together without any music track or voice over added. I even went so far as to ensure that there was not music or sound playing in the background of my office in an attempt to stretch myself creatively and let the images guide the edit rather than allowing music or sound of any kind influence the edit. There was no script, overarching message or story to drive the order or timing of the edits. In many ways you could say it was spirit led. Each shot lasted as long or short as it needed to be, and the order of each image was put in place with nothing for me to reference or match. It was a very different and very organic editing experience… something I’ve never done before (or since).

Back in 2010 It was very difficult to create this video without a known purpose or reference to anything, but in the end the raw edit of just the visuals was finished. At that point I was just waiting for someone to do something more with it. I had hoped that possibly I could share it with someone else who would see the images and be inspired to possibly write music for it, or a poem or something to go with the images I had captured…. sadly it just sat untouched… unfinished.

With some recent tragic events in my life, I needed to find a way to cope. After nearly 4 years of almost forgetting about this film, It suddenly hit me that the purpose of this video was for this very moment and situation in my life. I quickly found some music and poured out my heart to God using the canvas of the visuals in this video as a foundation. I didn’t alter anything in the original edit of the video. It remains as I edited it in 2010. Now in this completed version I added music which miraculously matched perfectly without any alterations to the song. And of course my voice was added as well.

So here you have it. My heart. I hope through this video, you will find healing and hope that can only be found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lament from John Pottenger on VimeoMusic licensed by themusicbed.com

Special thanks to Nathan Totten for his assistance on this shoot. He is to be credited for some of the shots that appear in the film.

Sweet friend, may I echo John’s desire – that we will all experience the healing and the hope that can only be found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

With a desperate heart for Him,

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Now What?! (I’m So Stinkin’ Mad — Part 2)

Photo credit http://bit.ly/1rwvn1z

Photo credit http://bit.ly/1rwvn1z

Another sleepless night for me.

You too, friend?

My mind is still trying to process the shocking news report from West Michigan radio (recap here), and given the response to yesterday’s blog post, my sense is you are too.

We’ve spent our family meal times discussing not baseball games nor summer family fun – but instead reintroducing vocabulary words to our middle school aged kids such as human trafficking, injustice, & modern day slavery.,

Oh Lord, help us all.

As I read and reread your many FB messages, blog post comments, and emails, the question that has preoccupied me all day came from this FB post —

I wanna know what to do next. I’ve been fuming all weekend, (went to school w JB) but what now? Seems like I want to do more than just be furious. I want to fight back somehow. Righteous fighting, of course, but something!

Oh Lord, what do we do?

Y’all know I don’t claim to have the answers — that’s His job.

But as I’ve been seeking God, asking Him HOW – how to move forward, to not become bitter, to stand firm in our faith and to shine for Him in the midst of darkness –

Here’s what is helping me to not stay stuck and so stinkin’ mad, but to move forward in His strength and security.

True confession: since everything in me wanted to EAT and numb this yuck, I couldn’t help but think of that Elizabeth Gilbert book, “Eat Pray Love.” Remember it? Well, what if instead we prayerfully and collectively decided to –

Grieve. Pray. Love.

1. Grieve

If I’ve learned anything through walking through my valley of grief it is this — we must go through it.

We can’t go around it, we can’t ignore it, we can’t numb out on our favorite false comforts for a few days and then hope it’s gone — we must mourn this heart-breaking devastation.wecantselectivelynumb

As Brene Brown says,

“We cannot selectively numb.”

Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way. If we try and stuff and sedate our emotions – yes, even our anger and rage —  we’re gonna numb out the peace, the love, the joy.  Let’s not live numb.

Together, we can journey through this grief. (We can do hard things, remember?)

Let’s share — appropriately — our feelings.  (I recommend a trusted friend or a journal, not dialoging with internet trolls on a newspaper comment section.)

Even ask God, “Why?” if we need to.

Because, let’s be honest –  this is not fair. Our hearts are broken and overwhelmed for the victim(s). It doesn’t make sense. We don’t like any of this one bit, and we are mad and disgusted by it all.

God can handle our pain. He can handle our emotions. He can handle the grief. He can handle our anger. We just need to give it to Him.

Oh friends, we cannot selectively numb. We need to grieve.

2. Pray

How desperately we need God to show up in this horrendous situation. Let’s invite God into every part of this mess –

  • Victims & their healing & their freedom
  • Family members, including the DJ’s new wife and stepson
  • WCSG staff
  • Listeners
  • Our West Michigan community
  • Our world
  • the DJ
  • the Battle Creek man
  • ALL involved would be caught
  • the police, FBI, & others who have to work in this field day in and day out. May God remove the horrific images from their minds and give them His perfect peace.
  • Justice
  • Redemption

What am I missing, friend? How else are you praying?

Together let’s turn our anguish and pain into prayer, and ask God to show Himself strong and mighty and powerful and redeem and HEAL and restore and rebuild and reclaim. Only He can do this.

Oh Lord, we are desperate for You!

3. Love

Lastly, may we exchange our heartache and anger and disappointment for a fresh infusion of His unconditional, unfailing love — and may we spread His love everywhere and anywhere we go.

Jesus shared, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”        –John 13:34-35

Maybe that’s part of the answer to my FB friend’s initial question, I wanna know what to do next…. Seems like I want to do more than just be furious. I want to fight back somehow. Righteous fighting, of course, but something!”

feed4soul_love-people_mtWhat if we all rallied together and began “Operation Love” or “Operation No More” (or whatever you choose to call it. I’m sleep-deprieved, remember?)

Regardless of what we called it –

What if we fought back with love?

Imagine if we each made a commitment to spread Christ’s love in specific, tangible ways in our home, neighborhood, workplaces, grocery stores, churches, and summer family gatherings?

Here are some ways to get started —

1. Avoid the internet discussions and instead use social media to share posts of hope and encouragement.

2. Educate yourself on child trafficking and put your faith and love into action Tons of ideas here

3. Introduce yourself to your neighbors (even if it’s been years!) and spend time getting to know them.

4. Investigate ministries that are fighting for freedom (like Women At Risk) and lovingly offer to help.

5. Come alongside the DJ’s family and in love make a contribution to help financially. Fund details here

 Grieve. Pray. Love.

Sweet friends, this story is not over.

Although this is NOT how any of us would script it, not in a million years — we know the Author, and He specializes in taking big messes and mistakes and wickedness and immorality – and doing a judo twist and bringing good from evil, and hope from despair.

Let’s allow God to make us better, and not bitter.  Sweet friends, we have a choice.

Grieve — with hope.

Pray — with persistence.

Love — with compassion.

It’s time we turn this world upside for Jesus sake. There is a lost and hurting world watching us to see how we will respond in the midst of this horrific mess. May God find us faithful as we grieve. pray. love.

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P.S. In case you missed it, the WCSG station manager was on the Chris Fabry Live radio program, and shared a wonderful message of hope in the midst of this mess. You can link to it below –
http://www.moodyradio.org/radioplayer.aspx?episode=136652&hour=2

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