About Becky Pliego

I am grateful because God, in His grace, called me out of darkness and into his admirable light. When I did not look for Him, He found me. When I was in a pit of sin, He rescued me. I am not walking this road alone, my family is always with me, and we love Him, because He loved us first.

Making a Beautiful Home by Rayia Soderberg

I’m always inspired by women like my friend, Rayia Soderberg, who make all things beautiful.  No matter where she goes, Rayia leaves a trail of beauty and inspiration behind her. So as you can imagine, I’m delighted to have her on the blog today.

IMG_8523

Making a Beautiful Home
By Rayia Soderberg

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work is our hands.”
Psalm 90:17

The Bible is filled from beginning to end with creation, design and beauty. God delighting in His people and expressing it through glorious creation. Gifting us with wonder and designs too amazing for us to comprehend.

Dwellings are important to God, as we see so clearly in the Old Testament when he gave very specific instructions for the design and building of his tabernacle and temple. Every detail and item not only served a purpose, but were made to be beautiful.

He gave Adam and Eve a garden as the very first home here on earth and Jesus said he is preparing a place for us in heaven. He has and is still creating home for us. Because of that, I believe creation, design and beauty is important work for Christians.

It is one of the many ways we can emulate our heavenly Father. As wives and mothers we have the privilege of creating a world within the world for our families. Each as unique and personal as the people in them. It is no small task. God created for six days and rested. He knows it is hard but good work. During the sunniest of times, this can be a challenging task. During difficult times it can seem like an impossible one. Right now the world is under quarantine. Everyone is home. Dwellings have become multipurpose, serving as school, workplace and the hub for all activities. Our worlds all just got much smaller. Many of us are stretched thinner than we are used too!

I think now more than ever the above verse is a very important one. We need the beauty of the Lord to be upon us and establish the work of our hands. The work we do now matters perhaps more then ever. We are creating memories and experiences for our children that will leave impressions for many years to come.

How many of us have grandparents that went through the Depression and have stories of their parents creating beauty, joy and memories out of next to nothing. The impression it made on their lives and the lives of their children lives on. Crepe paper flowers dipped in wax for Christmas. Sheets of Jello cut out in fun shapes because it made an otherwise uneventful birthday, something special. Every meal shared around a set table. Dresses and quilts made from flour sacks became treasures. The stories go on and on. Mothers creating as lovely a world as possible with whatever they had. What a wonderful example to us!

Following in their footsteps and giving our children sweet and beautiful memories from this historical time will be a part of who they are and how they see the world. Creating a peaceful and lovely home in the midst of worldwide fear and uncertainty, is a tremendous witness to our children and those around us.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she smiles at the future.” Proverbs 31:25

“She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27

Not sure where to start or even if you can? God delights to answer prayers!
Ask God to establish the work of your hands, and show you how you can create a beautiful home that glorifies him and blesses your family during these difficult days.

One of the many ways to create a beautiful home is with decor. I love decorating and creating beautiful spaces and would love to share some fun and practical ways for you to decorate, design and create beauty during quarantine.

1. Get the kids involved!
In my experience kids really enjoy being a part of decorating and creating. Rotate children on weeknights and have each one in turn set the table “all pretty.” Get out your nice things and enjoy using them!
Maybe let your preteen decorate the mantle. Or try decorating their own room. Now is also great time for kids to create art! Buy cheap frames and have a whole gallery wall of “quarantine art.”

2. Get colorful!
Bring out the colors and patterns. Color naturally brightens a mood and lifts the spirits! Now is a great time to experiment with new colors and go crazy in your space. For some, going crazy might mean adding one color to their neutral decor, and that’s just fine.

This quarantine won’t last forever so don’t feel the need to keep things bright and colorful if that’s not your natural bent, but I think you’ll find it helps for now.

And get flowers! As many as you can afford. They brighten up any space! Faux or real plants help bring the outdoors in and can keep a room from feeling stuffy.

3. Rearrange and refresh!
Keep things fresh and try rearranging your furniture and decor. Everyone is home all the time, so things can start to feel cramped and tired. A reset feels fresh and fun, even if you don’t keep it that way long term. Some ideas for furniture arrangements would be…moving your beds so you have a better view out your window when you wake up. I did this and love it! Arrange the living room furniture to maximize conversation space. Try putting a small table in your living room so there is always a space for creativity even if others are playing a game or watching TV.

Also remember to make room for the kids (and husbands) who are now at home. They don’t want to feel like they don’t have a place to work or play. Make sure there is space for them to be creative too. The only thing worse than being quarantined in your home is being quarantined in a museum!

4. Ask your husband!
This is probably something you’ve all done before, but now is a great time to ask again. If he’s home all the time now, he may have some new ideas or thoughts that would be a blessing to him. He may not, but I bet he’d appreciate being asked anyway. Designing/planning a master bedroom makeover can be a fun thing to do together!

5. Get those house projects done!
Not only will your homes look and feel better but you will love seeing the finished product and how great to cross things off your list!
Paint that room or deck you’ve been putting off. Sew some new pillow covers. Change out the curtains. Hang that gallery wall. Wallpaper (add or remove). Switch out the 90’s faucets in your bathroom. Refinish that piece of furniture. Or make your children something special just for them.

6. Start designing and decorating your home!
If you’ve been putting it off because you don’t have money right now to do the home the way you want to, stop letting that stop you. Your circumstances probably won’t change that much in the next few years, but your kids will. Start creating and designing a space right now, with whatever budget you have! Beautiful doesn’t mean expensive, new or perfect. A beautiful home is a home filled with love and care. Some of the loveliest homes I’ve been in are simple, but personal and thoughtful. They don’t look like they are straight out of a magazine, nor do they look like a giant yard-sale heap. They look like they have been thoughtfully created with love and everyone feels comfortable and welcome in them.

If you don’t know where to start, ask yourself how you would like your home to feel (bright, airy, fresh, cozy, warm, inviting). Then look for examples of different styles (traditional, modern, farmhouse, eclectic, Scandinavian, minimalist) on Pinterest and explore. If you are on a tight budget, search “decorating on a budget” and you will find a host a great ideas to get you started.

7. Have fun with it!
Don’t get caught up on decorating rules. Now is a great time to experiment and play around with ideas , try that thing you’ve always wanted to try and have a good laugh at any mistakes. Work hard, love your family and smile at the future. You are doing kingdom work!

I hope those ideas spark some inspiration and help keep you motivated during quarantine.

May the Beauty of the Lord shine upon you and establish the good and faithful work of your hands!

Love,
Rayia

Factoring out God by Lisa Leidenfrost

Lisa is a good friend, a good teacher, a servant of all, and faithful prayer partner. She has always been faithful to point me to Christ and to encourage me to keep my eyes on Him  in any trial.

Having Lisa Leidenfrost on the blog makes me happy because you will get to be encouraged by her wise words too!

IMG_8519
Factoring out God
by Lisa Leidenfrost

What is fear? It is waking up and finding out that you are surrounded by a ruthless gang bent on your demise. Israel was in such a position when Syria surrounded them.

“Therefore he (the king of Syria) sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elilsha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:14-17

When the army surrounded them, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, took a look at the dire situation before them and feared based upon what he could see and what he predicted would happen to them next. But he missed one vital part of the equation, in that when he assessed the situation, he had factored out God. Without God, yes it was a very dire situation and they were about to be slaughtered. But more was going on than Gehazi could see. There was an invisible army with them all the time that completely outnumbered the enemy. Because Elisha knew this, he told Gehazi not to fear. After this, Elisha prayed that God would open up Gehazi’s eyes, and he saw a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around that had been invisible. And that great army was on their side!

God puts us in situations where we need to exercise our faith, which causes us to grow. If we could see how a situation will work out, it is no longer faith. In a hard providence, when faith is at work, a person will see the unseen power of God that is our help and refuge. This causes us to have peace instead of panic. In faith, we believe that God hears us when we call out to Him and that He will bring the needed help even when we cannot see it. In faith we believe that God is not only all powerful and sovereign, but that He loves us and has our good in mind. Faith pleases God because it focuses beyond the trial onto the Lord in heaven.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 1:1

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11:6

We rest on God knowing He is really in control and that He is the unseen force that will help us in every situation.

Lisa
Note: This article was first published on Lisa’s blog They That Wait. It was reposted here with the author’s permission.

Fearful or Faithful by Nancy Wilson

I am again grateful to have my dear friend Nancy Wilson on the blog. Today she brings to us, older women, much needed words of encouragement. I trust that this good charge will yield good fruit in our lives.

IMG_8479Fearful or Faithful
by Nancy Wilson

During these troublesome days, we should consider how we can best turn a profit on our time in our homes while we wait for life to return to normal. Remember the ultimate purpose of trials in the Christian’s life is to bring glory to God by stewarding the trial with faith and obedience. Trials reveal how we are doing. Is your faith strong or weak? Are you fearful or faithful? Is your faith suffering from its own coronavirus? Has it gotten a little sickly? Or are you standing firm, undaunted and joyful in these trying circumstances? Would your husband describe you as fearful or faithful? Do you shrink back in fear or do you trust God and trust your husband to lead you through uncertain times?

Older women can either drift into fearfulness or they can grow into more and more faithfulness. We have the tendency of excusing fearfulness (in ourselves or in other older women) because of age or situation or health conditions. But our faith is not based on our own resources, situation, or condition. Our faith is based on the unchanging character of our Maker.

We all know that as we age, we grow physically weaker. We gradually get flabby and weak. There were those decades where we could coast on our youthful stamina and strength, but those days are behind us. No more coasting.

But there is another kind of weakness which can commonly come with age, another kind of flabbiness as we grow old, and that is spiritual flabbiness. If we are not being pressed to apply the Scriptures to our lives, if we are not being diligent to be obedient Christians, our faith and our obedience weaken. Much like our beauty, our zeal fades. We can indulge in a little cowardice or give our husbands less respect and sloppy obedience. If life gets too cushy, too comfortable, too easy, we become squishy soft. We can coast. We can spend too much time tracking our physical ailments and miss the signs of an ailing faith. This softness leads to fearfulness, and fearfulness leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to faithlessness and compromise. A soft fearful faith is a hard heart. So God sends us some trials to wake us up and strengthen our walk with Him.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). There is no reason for us to allow our spirits to decay like our bodies do! Paul says we are being renewed every day, so there is no sense in losing heart, even if our bodies are falling apart. The important thing is that our faith can grow and flourish, even in our old age.

In Romans 5:3-4 has the encouragement we need. “But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.“ When a trial comes, we must choose to glory in it. We must choose to rejoice in the opportunity God is giving us to trust Him. We know it is from His hand, no matter who brought it to us. And as we do this, God blesses us with the fruit of patience. We learn to endure trouble. And that gives us something money can’t buy: character. And with character comes hope. Verse 5 says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy spirit who was given to us.”

All our troubles and trials are working on our behalf because God is behind it all, pouring out His love into our hearts and causing us to become women of faith. We must cooperate with what He is doing, and we must have an eager expectation of how He is going to use it all to His glory in our lives. Our husbands should be able to call us faithful women. They should be able to benefit firsthand from our cheerful obedience to God’s Word.

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely doth trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Prov. 31:10-12).

A note in my Geneva Study Bible says a virtuous wife is literally a wife of valor. Are you a wife of valor, willing to face danger with courage? A virtuous wife does not shrink back in fear. She goes forward by faith, not trusting in her own resources, but trusting the Lord. We may be physically weak, we may feel very weak, but in Christ we are strong. We should pray that God will increase our strength and increase our faith.

This is the kind of older women the church needs. Think of how our children and grandchildren will benefit if we are women of valor! So let’s determine to pray for boldness and wisdom. Let’s demonstrate faithful and cheerful obedience to God. Pandemic or not, let’s lift our voices and sing hymns.

Learning to Say “Amen”

Screen Shot 2019-12-31 at 10.53.05 AM
This year was like no other. It was a year in which grace abounded and the mercy of God found us at every turn of page in our calendars. This year, like none before, I learned how to say a robust “Amen!” to all the Providences of God in my life and the life of my family. It was not easy, we were tested in many hard ways, but learning to say “Amen and Amen” each day caused me to turn my eyes to the Lord and submit to His perfect will for us. And do you know what helped me most to say “Amen” to the circumstances that were crushing and that I didn’t understand? Being in the Word and practicing saying “Amen!” to what the Scriptures say.

“Amen to Your promises, Lord, yes! But amen also to the warnings, to the admonitions, amen to what You call sin, amen to what You hate and amen to what You love. Amen to Your mercy and grace and amen to Your righteous judgments. Amen to the things I understand and amen to the things I can’t explain. Amen to Your will being done on the earth -in my life!- as it is done in heaven. Amen when You give me ‘no’ as an answer. Amen to the dealings of the spirit in my life. Amen to receiving a cascade of gifts and undeserved blessings with open hands. Amen to the needs I have that draw me closer to You in prayer and remind me of my dependence on You. Amen to the songs You have put in my heart. Amen to the Psalms – all of them. Amen to Your Word working in my life. Amen to the tears and amen to the laughter. Amen to all things that in your good Providence you bring to my life to grow me. Amen to the the Winter, to the Spring, to the Fall, to the Summer. Amen and amen.”

May 2020  be year be a year of “Amens” for all of us. May we quickly learn not to complain and murmur and let unbelief take root in our hearts, but with the help of the Spirit, may we learn to submit ourselves to the Word of God and the work of the Spirit in our lives. God is good and He is at work, we cannot forget that.

Practice saying “Amen, Lord!” in the little things, in the little inconveniences of life, in the big events that turn your life upside down. Practice saying “Amen, Lord!” in the smallest and greatest joys,  say it in the kitchen and in the hospital.  Practice as your read the Word of God each day. Practice at the dinner table after saying grace, practice at church, let your “Amen” be always robust, heartfelt, from the bottom of your heart.

Under his sun and by grace,

Becky Pliego

Note: I wrote something along these lines, but more concise,  in the last weekly email for the Bible Reading Challenge, which you can find  here.

Faithful Obedience by Heather Lloyd

When I think of my friend Heather Lloyd, a member of our church, the image that comes to my mind is always of a woman who is never idle, but always on the go. She is clothed with strength and determination is what she wears on her feet. I often times think that maybe she is the one woman in the world whose days are made of 48 hours! Our teenage daughter has spent two summer camps under her direction and she says, “Mom, I love her, she inspires me in many ways, especially on the way you can tell she loves the Lord.” So as you can imagine, I’m grateful to have Heather share with us in our series of Faithful Obedience.

Unanswered Prayer
By Heather Lloyd

A famous country song by Garth Brooks talks about unanswered prayer. It tells the story of a young man praying for a certain young woman and God, seemingly, doesn’t answer. Years later, this man and his new wife run into this “old flame” at a football game, who isn’t the “angel” he remembered. Brooks sings:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care… Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”

Sadly, this is often how we view prayer. When God is seemingly silent, or things look awry in the circumstances of life we hold to the idea that God will clearly reveal why He “didn’t answer.” And, we are certain that this revelation will be an “aha” moment, one where we see exactly why God waited to answer our prayer.

But, sometimes we want to think it is simply “unanswered prayer” when really God is saying a firm “no.” By all appearances, there is no reason insight and years later no “aha” moment has come. Sometimes the “no” doesn’t make sense — think Job. It is in these times that we are forced to sit in the hard place of “why Lord,?”

Paul talks about “unanswered prayer” in 2 Corinthians, “a thorn was given me in the flesh.” But he finishes with the reason, and it isn’t a glorious revelation it is simply sanctification; “so he wouldn’t be conceited.”

What does our faith do when God says “no?” It either grows or reveals deep-rooted sin like conceit. It is in these times that we either die to self or reveal our innate selfishness. It is in trials that we realize that the Master Conductor isn’t conducting an audience of one, but it is us performing for an audience of One. We aren’t the center, God IS.

We are not pawns in a game of chess but we are members of the orchestra, we are subjects of the King of Kings. God is directing and orchestrating and sanctifying. So these moments (moments that may last a lifetime) are revealing, but they are revealing of our own need for sanctification and may not necessarily reveal to us the plan that God is unfolding.

We live with relatively benign “no’s” compared to our predecessors. Think of the martyrs of the Church. They pleaded with God as they were tortured. The answer to these pleading saints was a firm “no.” Some gave in to their selfishness and renounced Christ and others lived faithfully to the end.

Blandina was a woman whom God gave a firm “no” to, a martyr of the faith that Eusebius speaks of. Once she realized the answer to her pleading for life was “no” she began to have a distinct fear that she would renounce Jesus when tortured. She asked her fellow saints to pray that she would not, she prayed to die well. Eusebius talks about Blandina facing more torture than any other martyr of the faith and yet through the entire ordeal she cried out “Jesus.” She clung to Jesus while she herself was void of any “aha” moment until she stood “Coram Deo” (before the face of God).

Our trials may seem small compared to a martyr, but we are no less at risk of renouncing Jesus through them. When we pray “thy will be done” we need to really understand what that means. God isn’t going to ignore our prayers. There really aren’t “unanswered prayers” as Garth Brooks sings. The character in that song actually received a “no” but this was a “no” with an easy reason clearly revealed — that isn’t always the case. The Lord will answer. The answer may be “yes.” The answer may be “wait” for a “yes.” And, the answer may be a firm “no.”

What we need to do when we plead with God is follow with “Lord keep me faithful should you answer no.” This is praying in God’s will. This is a prayer knowing that He sees what we need, that He sees what the Body of Christ needs, and He sees His kingdom unfolding from a perspective that we will never have. This is trusting Him, and this is faith.

We must never forget that God’s own son received a “no.” Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup from me” and the echo of that “no” is eternal. It is a “no” that started a Kingdom. The “no’s” we receive are growing that Kingdom.

Faithful Obedience by Rayia Soderberg

Rayia is a friend that has the gift of making everything beautiful and glorious. She is a gift to our local Church and I am specially grateful to have her share with us about this trial she has been going through and the faithfulness of God in the midst of it.

Please, dear reader, be encouraged as you read this testimony, to look up to Christ and be reminded that cheerful obedience to a faithful God is always possible for the children of God.

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 7.04.55 PM

When Becky asked me to write a post for her blog I was humbled and nervous. I am not a writer, the medications I have been on this last year can make it difficult for me to formulate thoughts well and I know there are much more qualified women who have written on this topic, Becky being one of them. So please bear with me, dear sisters, as I ramble about and share with you one of the ways the Lord has been teaching me faithful obedience.

May the Lord bless and keep you!

Rayia

Learning Faithful Obedience in the Desert of Chronic Illness

This last year the Lord has asked our family to walk through the desert of chronic illness. This has been a very real and life alerting cross. We are not victims of circumstance or bad luck. We are children of a living God who is writing our story and we know it is good!

So we step forward in faith and ask the questions…

What does it mean to be faithful in the midst of chronic illness? What does faithful obedience look like when God removes health and strength from the picture? How can we turn a profit on this and give it back to Him with interest?

One of the biggest challenges in chronic illness is often the loss of consistency and stability. Making plans must always be tentative and dependent on your heath that day. Your life becomes a balancing act of flexibility, fast acting and holding everything very loosely.

The strength to do ordinary, everyday things is not guaranteed. But the Lord providing always is!

I am reminded of the Israelite’s in the wilderness and the daily mana God provided. He didn’t give them bucket loads of food they could store up and know they had a pantry full of food for the lean times. Instead, He gave them each enough for that day only. He supplied their daily needs and asked that they rely on Him each day, trusting He would keep his promise and there would be food the next day. This daily bread, this food, was gathered and shared every morning. If someone didn’t gather enough, a neighbor shared the extra that they had. This is something I have seen and been blessed by time and time again. Those with more, giving to those with less.

Each day God gave his people what they needed, enough to be faithful. Each day I know and trust that the Lord will and does give me (and my family) enough. He will always provide the mana (strength) I need for that day. My job is not to make sure the mana shows up. My job is to be faithful with the mana that has been given.

I am learning that while there is always enough, there are days when I am asked to be faithful with little and days when I am asked to be faithful with much. Days when the strength is full and I am able to serve my family that way I love to with a clean house, fresh laundry and an oven full of good food. And there are days when the strength is so small that faithful obedience looks like having a cheerful heart and giving my family as much love and affection as I am able from bed.

I really enjoyed grocery shopping, but now give thanks for grocery pick up services. What a blessing!

Baking for my family is one of my favorite things, so I give thanks for prepackaged cookie dough, ready-to-bake pastries and frozen cinnamon rolls because there are days/weeks when that is as close to baking as I can get. I used to sneer at prepackaged pie dough in the grocery store. Ha! Now I rejoice over it and the blessing that it is. Canned soup, boxed mac and cheese and diet soda. All things my overly health conscious (self righteous) past self would never buy unless absolutely necessary, have become cheery reminders that all food is a gift from God to be given thanks for!

I am learning to be faithful on sick days by using them as days of prayer. Spending the day praying for the prayer requests on facebook, for family, my children and grandchildren and our community, both locally and globally. They have become sweeter days. Faith days. Days of deep seed planting. After a day like that it can be hard to feel as though anything was accomplished, but my days are not my own, they are His and He gets to decide what they best used for. I am learning to plant seeds in the rich soil of adversity. I am living in hope of a good harvest.

Not knowing from day to day how much strength the Lord will provide comes with it’s own set of temptations. The temptation to try to “save it up”. We all know how well that worked out for the Israelites and their mana. Ha! His provisions are not to be meagerly divided, hoarded or preserved. They are to be used up, fully spent and shared!
The temptation to become lazy or discouraged and not be faithful with what He has provided is also very real.

A fussy heart can sometimes feel justifiable and self soothing. But the problem with self soothing is just that, it’s about self. And we are called to mortify that self.
It’s temping sometimes to complain because I want more. “I want to give more, Lord. More to my family, friends and church! I would serve you so selflessly if you would just give me what I want, when I want it.” How easy it is to lie to ourselves. Deceiving ourselves into thinking that we would be faithful with more when we struggle to be faithful with less. What a blessing it is to know and be known by a Father we can not deceive. He knows our hearts. He knows our sins and He took them to the cross so we walk fearlessly before Him, loved and resting in His mercies. Hallelujah!

There are day when I grow weary of this wilderness and weep for the life I had hoped for that did not include this cross. I long for a land flowing with milk and honey. But then I am reminded it is here in this desert I see God doing great things in my heart, life and family. Building His house. Writing His law on our hearts. Conquering the enemy. Teaching us to trust Him for our every need. This wilderness is a hard one, but is is good one!

I am so thankful that as His daughter I can know and trust that He will continue to do a good work, because He is faithful and His faithfulness is not dependent on me.

“Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” -John 12:24

P.S. Books I highly recommend if you are going through a desert.

Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl and Death by Living, both by N.D. Wilson.
Psalms for Trails, by Lindsey Tollefson.
The Clouds Ye So Much Dread, by Hannah Grieser.
Beside Still Waters, by G H Spurgeon