Psalm 23 Virginia Style

I am the Lord’s little lamb,
He meets all my needs.

He walks with me to rest in green pastures,
He meets my most basic needs.
He encourages and strengthens my mind,
Because of His greatness.
He leads me in the right way.

When my path leads me to walk in scary places,
I don’t have to be afraid.
Because He is with me still.
His direction and correction
Bring me comfort not pain.

He puts a feast before me
While the scary people stand by.
He blesses me over and over,
I can’t contain all of them.

I can rest assured that His goodness and love
will be with me as long as forever lasts.
And I will get to dwell with Him forever.



Whatcha doing, doing doing?

Have you ever noticed humans are always doing something? Always.  Do you ever wonder why we’re called human beings instead of human doings?

Ever notice Christians lead the pack in doing? It’s true. We’re always doing. Doing things for the church, doing things for God. Doing things for our neighbor. Doing things because we feel guilty if we don’t do something every second of every day.

If the church posts a need for workers, we’re signing up. We’re overbooked, over-stressed,  completely cranky to everyone all the time. We suffer with health issues because we won’t just take a break and rest our weary souls and bodies.  We have no more time for anything and yet, oh look there is another need for nursery workers, we’re already teaching Sunday school, singing on the praise team and serving as a greeter, baking snacks for Sunday morning fellowship time, but we’re sure we can squeeze in one more thing because “they need me. God needs me!”  And off we rush to do one more thing for Jesus all the while thinking, “Man! God’s sure blessed to have me to do all this work for Him.”

We still find ourselves wondering if we’re doing enough. Are we doing enough to please Him? To prove to other Christians and the world that we are His disciple?  Are we trying to prove our love for Him, or are we trying to just love Him at all? Are we trying to force the changes we need in our lives by our service to Him?

Do we really think if we just do one more thing, take one more Bible study, lead one more small group, volunteer for that extra Sunday in the nursery, deliver meals to those who visited is going to make God happy?

How many times do we mistake our doing things for God for being with Him?

It is so easy to forget in our rush to get the next thing done that we don’t stop to ask Him what He wants us to do. We’re simply to busy with things for God we can’t stop to chat with Him.

I’m not so sure we’re really doing them for God at all. No, I think we’re doing them for self, so we will feel better about our sin. The sin we harbor in our heart and hope if we do enough for Him He won’t notice or if He does He won’t care. Because “look at all the wonderful things you’ve done for Me! Man, am I blessed to have you!!”

I’ll let you in on a little secret I’ve learned. Lean in close so I don’t have to shout. That is called idolatry. We’re making our schedule an idol, we use it to replace time spent listening to our Savior’s voice. We’re making an idol of our own self, we are choosing to serve our flesh over serving the one who died in the flesh for us.

In fact, He didn’t just die in the flesh for us. No, in the whole process He securely killed our flesh! And made us, by His very Spirit, alive to Him.

He did not make us alive so we could rush around, wearing ourselves out in service to Him. As if our doing things for God could ever take the place of Him! He redeemed us to live a life of abundance.

A life lived in abundance of Joy!
A life lived in abundance of Peace!
A life lived in abundance of Love!
A life lived in abundance of Gentleness!
A life lived in abundance of LIFE!

Because He is our life! He is MY life. The gospel of John tells me that apart from Him I can do nothing. (John 15:5)

I can do nothing. There is nothing I can do apart from Him living in me! Nothing. I can’t even make my heart beat one more time, or take my next breath apart from Him.

Last night I was pondering all the things I’ve been choosing to do of late to grow in Him. To grow up in Him. And I was a little teary because it is such a slow process. I am too blind to see the changes He is making in me, all I can see are the old behaviors I want so much to be rid of.

So I asked Him in a teary prayer if all the things I’ve been doing have worked to bring about the changes I need so desperately.

Want to know what He said?

“Virginia, your “doing” doesn’t change you. I change you.”

He changes me and He changes you one obedient step at a time. When we rest in Him and in Him abide, we will begin to listen to His heartbeat for us and we will follow His voice because we are His sheep.

So all the things you’ve been doing to gain acceptance with God, stop. Just stop. Seek His face. Seek to hear His voice whisper in your dear ear, “This is the way, my child, walk in it!” (Isaiah 30:21).  And find in Him the rest your body and weary soul needs so desperately.

Toilet Paper Prayer

toilet-paperYou know some months are just harder than others, right? Some moments are just harder than others. At least that is true for me.

A few weeks ago I was in one of those hard months with plenty of hard moments. There were times I wanted nothing more than to cry UNCLE! every second of every day with every breath I took.

That was the time when my debit card was on life support, and I was out of cash. And we had three rolls of toilet paper and two weeks until pay day. I wondered if I would need to use some of my rationed savings to get more before we ran out completely.

I decided against it. Because three double rolls and two weeks, surely a little family of 4 could make it work, right? Especially since 3 of us were out of the house for the better part of every day.

Piece of cake.

But I have girls. Teen age girls. Girls who think they need to use a plethora of toilet paper. In less than a full week we had blown through all three rolls. One roll didn’t even last 24 hours.

This Momma wasn’t happy. At all.

I informed my family, mostly my offspring, that I would not be purchasing more toilet paper until Friday. Not going to do it. We have kleenex, use that. Momma isn’t spending another penny.

Thirty-six hours later I found myself praying for of all things, toilet paper. I listed out my needs to in prayer, and topping the list was toilet paper. Toilet paper that my children squandered. Toilet paper that is not a necessity of life, a nice feature don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of toilet paper. But it isn’t vital to my life, especially when we had other things we could use just as well.

But I prayed for toilet paper. I didn’t pray that God would supply us with toilet paper. I just listed it as a need. Along with cereal. And something equally mundane that now escapes my memory.

I somehow knew that this would be a monumental prayer and it would have massive consequences. I knew in some ways this would be a day of turning for me.

The day wore on and I occasionally thought about my toilet paper prayer but mostly I forgot about it. When it came to mind, I mostly thought what a dumb thing to pray about.

That afternoon, I picked up my leather jacket to hang it up when I remembered I had noticed a piece of paper in the inner pocket when I put my phone away  in there earlier. It was an old folded, receipt from Hobby Lobby. Curious I unfolded it to see what I had purchased and when.

That’s when I saw it.

A fresh, crisp ten dollar bill.

“Oh Lord! That is You.”

And God said, “toilet paper.”

And I said, “Yarn and coffee.”

God said, “toilet paper.”

Every time I thought of that ten dollars, I heard God say, “toilet paper”. I argued some more. Why exactly I’m not sure. Immediately when I saw it I knew what it was for. God kept just saying, “toilet paper.”

Then He changed, “Be faithful.” and I was reminded of the verse about being faithful in small things and I would be found faithful in big things.

If toilet paper isn’t a small thing I’m not sure what is. Talk about your mundane, small things. Not necessary. Not vital. Not a real need.

This taught me one very important lesson. One I had known before but not KNOWN. I knew it was true, but now I experientially know it to be true. This is one lesson I won’t soon forget.

God notices. God cares. God provides.

Why do we think something is too mundane to pray for? That God really doesn’t notice or care about that? Expect God to provide for something we’ve squandered, something we could have purchased for ourselves without a second thought but we chose not to?

Those are the very things we have to pray for if we ever hope to see God work in the big things. These are the prayers God loves to answer. Those prayers that say, “God, here is my need. You have the supply. I’m just going to sit here and watch You work on my behalf.”

He shows up big. And my faith grows big. And the next time I need toilet paper, I’ll know I can come to Him with my mundane need and find His supply.

Friend, if I can ask Him and trust Him for toilet paper, what makes you think you can’t ask and trust Him with the needs of your heart? Dear friend, He does the same for you! I’m not His favorite. He doesn’t show up big for me because He carries my picture in His wallet. He loves to show up for anyone who in humble boldness comes to Him with their need; leaves it at His feet, and watches in eager anticipation for His supply.

So go ahead, take your mundane prayers and your big ones, to His throne and you will find grace to help you in your time of need.

Trust me.

Something holy.

Last week I posted about how often we think we are put in situations we didn’t plan on so we can bless someone else, but realizing afresh that sometimes God puts us in situations not to bless someone else but so they can be used to bless us. It’s like a special hug from God.

I’ve been pondering that throughout the past week. Realizing that we are blessed to bless, we are chosen to give, but we are also selected at times to receive. I don’t know about you, but it is always easier for me to be on the giving end of things.  Don’t get me wrong, gifts are one of my love languages. When someone gives me a gift my love tank just fills up and overflows.

When I was a child, I knew from March 13th what my birthday list for the next birthday would be. (Yes, my birthday is March 12). I knew from December 26 of one year what my next year’s Christmas wish list would be.  I am so happy to notice maturity in myself in this area. While I still feel loved when I am given gifts, I’m not consumed by them.

One thing I missed doing last week in the drive-thru lane was instead of smiling and driving off, I should have paid for the car behind me. A stranger. I should have told the cashier at the window to tell them “Jesus paid for them. And they should pass it on.” I wonder how far that would have gone? I’ll never know because I didn’t do that.

But today.

Today I had a chance at redemption. Not that I think buying someone’s meal at McDonalds to be redeeming. It isn’t part of the salvation plan. It’s not “accept Jesus and buy someone’s food at McDonalds”. It’s just believe Jesus. Believe He is who He said He is. Believe He is the only way to heaven. Believe Him. Period.

Today I was at the counter for the third time in my visit. I had a coupon for a free McCafe drink, and in looking at my receipt  I noticed I had been charged for it. I was wanting it corrected, either a refund or another coffee. I’m not picky. When I got back to our booth, my 13 year old said, “Did you see the (friend’s names)?” Of course I hadn’t. I’d been talking to an older woman in line, and then trying to get the coffee situation worked out. About that time my friend, who was with her children in the play area, looked my way and we smiled and waved at each other.  She came in, and we chatted a bit.

When she went back to her spot, I commented that it appeared they had only come to play at the play area because I didn’t see any food. My girls told me she hadn’t carried any through.

I sent my oldest child to the counter with my debit card, and instructions to order 5 hashbrowns, 3 small orange juices, and one large Pumpkin Spice latte.

My heart felt good.

I was blessed beyond measure.

I knew then why I was searching for our church directory, and found instead the McDonald’s coupons. It was so someone else, who was searching for a place for her children to play, would find rest for her soul, food for her tummy, and love in her heart.

There is something so awe-inspiring, so delicious, so wonderous, about meeting someone, and serving them like we have been served.

But it’s more than that.

It’s something holy.

Of all things cooking and coffee

Recently my youngest daughter and I were traveling to a nearby town to do some shopping. A few months ago the oldest and I went, and now it was her turn. Don’t get too horribly excited, we were shopping at Sam’s Club primarily. We did manage to get a couple of trips to Barnes and Noble.

Yes, I said a couple. Yes, we were only in town for a couple of hours. You see, I wasn’t going to purchase anything in the store because, well, because I review books and get them for free. And I have 4 I am in the process of reading right now. Then we left, and I glanced to the left and saw this:


Oh yes. It was marked down to $6.something. I skimmed through it, decided to think on it while we were doing the rest of our shopping. I waffled back and forth. I was going to buy it. I wasn’t going to buy it. I definitely was going to buy it. I definitely was not going to buy it. I most assuredly was definitely going to buy it. I most assuredly was definitely not going to buy it. And then I walked out of the store.

Yes. Dave Ramsey has ruined my life. Impulsive little purchaser that I am, I can no longer just on impulsive buy a $6.something cookbook.  While at Sam’s Club I made my final decision, if I managed to somehow spend less than I thought I was, I would go back and buy this little gem. I thought I was assured to spend over my “If I spend this amount or less, I will get the book” so I told my Beanie what I was thinking.

She gleefully giggled as the cashier told me my total, and loudly proclaimed for all in the store to hear, “Yay, Momma! Now you can go get that cookbook and make us some GOOD food.”

Lord, love that child.

I kept my word, we went back and bought the cookbook. I have yet to make my family any “GOOD” food. But I did manage to save an additional 10% by using my Barnes and Noble membership card. Shoot. I even decided to spring for on-our-way-home-mochas.

My mocha…oh my word! We all know I don’t (normally) eat anything containing refined, white sugar, so it has been a long while since I have eaten chocolate pudding, but that, my friends, is exactly what my decaf, sugar-free, iced mocha tasted like.

Which really just means it tasted like a little slice of heaven. And it’s a good thing too. Because my mocha fund has been cut off for a few weeks. Except! I found money in my purse I didn’t know I had. Always a good thing, except when it comes to coffee money. I never know when to spend it. I’d love to have spent it yesterday. I know I’ll want to spend it today. But what if tomorrow or next week I REALLY need a sugar-free, iced, decaf, skim milk coffee drink?

Such is the quandary of my life.


I don’t think I pray enough. I know probably everyone says the same thing, even those who spend hours praying every day.  I wish I spent hours a day praying.

I hate to admit it but most of the time, I seem to forget about praying. Except at meal times. We always pray before we eat. Often as I fall into bed at night I’ll have two thoughts run through my head:

  • Did I brush my teeth at all today?
  • Did I pray at all?

I usually fall asleep praying. It used to bother me but then I thought it was the best way to fall asleep. I was concerned God would think I found Him boring, or that I found myself boring. That is not the case anymore.

I am not a fan of praying out loud anywhere, even with my family. When it is my turn to pray out-loud my mind goes completely blank.  Something about being in the presence of the Creator of the universe gets me all tongue tied.

Part of my problem is I am almost fully convinced the others in the room are judging me based on my praying ability.

Another part is I know satan can’t read my mind but he can hear my voice. I’d rather he not know what I’m praying about. He has enough ammunition to use against me without any help from me.

How is that for crazy?!

So do you have any tips for me?

Waking Up is hard to do

I am not the best at waking up. I do it every morning, don’t get me wrong, but it is a struggle. It doesn’t really matter how early or late I go to bed, waking up is hard.

I’ve never been especially good at rising early. By early I mean before 7. I’ve tried every gimmick in the book; all to no avail. I’ve tried going to bed earlier. I’ve tried setting my alarm for an earlier time so I can play the snooze game before getting up. I’ve tried praying God would wake up when I needed to get up.

Not to say prayer didn’t work; maybe God thought I needed to sleep in, but none of the things I tried worked.

Which is why it was so strange to wake up at 5 this morning.  I laid in bed trying in vain to go back to sleep for about 45 minutes. Most people when they wake up in the wee hours will get out of bed and eat, not me. I get out of bed to visit the “necessary room” because I am usually convinced my bladder woke me up.

That didn’t work this morning. I returned to bed and hopefully to sleep. Nope. I laid there for another hour. (An HOUR!) Before I gave up and prayed, “Lord, You woke me up and I can’t go back to sleep, what do You want me to do?”

Imagine my shock when almost immediately I “heard” the following response:

Get up and make coffee.

I shook my head in questions, “Get up and make coffee? Really? Then what?”

Get up and make coffee.

Over and over for a few minutes. So I got up and made the coffee.  I poured myself a cup and sleepily found my way to my favorite chair with my nook in hand. I started reading on facebook, while I sipped my coffee, still utterly confused as to why I had to get up so early just to make coffee. I felt God say:

I didn’t say read facebook.

Whoops. I opened YouVersion and began reading today’s reading in the plan I’m following.

And I felt God smile.

He had verses jump off the page at me like never before.  I sipped my coffee while my eyes followed the words on the page.

My spirit was restored.


Psalm 130

(from memory…you’ll have to trust me.)

Out of the depths I cry to You,O Lord
O Lord, hear my voice
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness
Therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits
and in His word I have put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen wait for the morning,
more than the watchmen wait for morning.

Oh Israel, put your hope in the Lord
for with Him there is unfailingly love
and with Him is full redemption

He Himself will redeem Israel from
all their sins.


Welcome to Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series – a week long
celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of
today’s best writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Sheila Walsh, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Bonnie St.
John, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on
Mother’s Day.

AND … do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted
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short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in

the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering
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And to all you MOMS out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

Priceless Treasure by Cindy K. Stiverson

We’ve heard it said and often find it true:

You don’t know the value of a treasure until you’re without it. 

We take for granted the things in life that seem so readily available.

A paperclip or rubber band, to hold things together.

A tissue or napkin, to wipe our nose to clean our face, to absorb our

A Bible to speak words of wisdom and instruction and life and

And a Mother, who is all these things and more.

She is readily available.

She holds things together.

She wipes our nose, cleans our face (and our fingers, and,
well…everything else!)

She absorbs our tears and calms our fears.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
(Proverbs 31:26)

She loves.

Within hours after my mother passed into the gates of our heavenly home, I
was missing her. Her quick wit…humor…charm. Her warm smile and melodious
laughter, which served her well to the very end, as did our Lord Jesus Christ, who so
graciously allowed her to slip quietly and peacefully into His arms.

She simply stopped breathing.

As I stood at her bedside in those priceless moments after her passing, I wanted
to touch her skin as much as possible while there was still warmth in her body; to
nuzzle my nose against her head and breathe in the scent of her hair while she was
still there. Priceless treasures I was guilty of taking for granted, clouded by unmet
needs. I was so consumed with what she was not, that I never fully appreciated who
she was. It’s like I was blind, but now I see!

I see her strength, her commitment. Her perseverance…sacrifice…her unspoken

love. I see how much she meant to me, how much she did for me, how much she
taught me, and how much of the good in me was modeled by her.

She was a virtuous woman, as described in Proverbs 31 of the Bible.

“Her children stand and bless her… a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly
praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise
(vs. 31).”

This last verse of the poem serves as an epitaph for the woman of virtue. It speaks
of the legacy she leaves in her passing. It spurred me to write a personal epitaph for
my mother, which I read at her funeral.

We publicly declare your praise today,
and in the days to come,
for you deserve to be praised and blessed,
“We honor you, Mom, for all you have done!”
In my earliest of memories,
You worked so hard, striving for the rest.
You persevered through great trials
and did your very best.
I know you are being rewarded
in ways far beyond our reach.
We honor you now by practicing what you’ve taught,
and even what you preached!
You’ve stood for us for all these years,
Today, we stand for you!
I pray that our applause on earth
will reach your heavenly ears.

With the reading of this poem, I asked everyone to stand. We clapped our hands in
celebration and praise of the life of my mother, Margaret Alice Stiltner.

Imagine our surprise to discover that she had left a poetic epitaph for us! She had
clipped it from an old magazine and framed it. I found it when I was cleaning her
home, on a nightstand by her bed. My mother was never versed at expressing
emotion. This was her sweet way of kissing us good-bye: a priceless treasure to
remember her by.


Cynthia (Cindy) Stiverson is a speaker, writer, and artist.  In 1998, she
founded Woven: Women of Virtue Network, a spiritual formation and friendship
ministry. She pastors the women at Newark Church of the Nazarene in Ohio.
She is currently working on her fourth Woven Workbook, and also a book for
mothers and daughters on the subject of sexual abuse. Cindy considers
raising her daughter, speaker/author Nicole Braddock Bromley, to be her greatest
achievement. She loves the men in her life, hubby Mark, grandbabes Jude and Isaac,
and son-in-law Matthew. You can find more of Cindy at and

Exciting News – the latest Pearl Girls book, Mother of Pearl: Luminous Legacies
and Iridescent Faith will be released this month! Please visit the Pearl Girls Facebook
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