New Home for my Blogs

Hi.  I have a new place for you to find my blogs.   Simply check out my new website: http://www.victoriadunkle.com and click on the blogs.

Thanks for all of your support here.  I hope you like the site.

See you there.

-Victoria

I love surprises!

Hi Friends.   This isn’t my typical blog.   But I couldn’t wait to tell you about a bumper crop we hope to see shortly.   You know it is one of those harvests that are bigger, more amazing that anything you anticipated when you planted the seeds.

First, let me tell you about the seeds.  They come in the form of an invitation to a fun night out with your girlfriends.  We call it The Gathering.    It is Thursday, September 19.

thegathering13This year we are planting the seeds at The Market.

The harvest?   Well, we pray that it will be a bumper crop of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  That is the focus of our evening.   What does the heart of woman who is harvesting the Fruit of the Spirit look like?    We are going to delve into this beautiful promise from God.  He gives us the secret to seeing this harvest –  His Holy Spirit.   I get so excited just typing that.    As saved by grace daughters of God we have access to the Holy Spirit who can reform our hearts.  The Holy Spirit brings out the beauty of qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.   What a gift from God!

“So, Victoria – where does the surprise come in?”   I am glad you asked.   If you stop by our special welcome area at Biltmore Baptist Church on Sunday, August 18 or Sunday, August 25 to buy your ticket, you will get a special surprise.

The tickets are only $5.   Not bad for a night of farm fresh treats, music, testimonies, and messages from Sharie King and Kim Jaggers.

I can’t tell you exactly how this will play out, but I have even been asked to step outside my comfort zone and be part of a special presentation that involves interpretive dance.   Don’t let that turn you off… it will be worth the $5 just to see how little rhythm this girl has.

If you can’t make it to Biltmore Baptist on one of these Sundays (and I hope you do, so I can say “Hi” in person) you can buy your tickets online.  Here is the link: http://www.biltmorebaptist.org/thegathering/

Here’s an idea, buy more than one ticket and make it a girl’s night out.  Lord knows (He really does) that we need them.

I hope to see you there.

Godly Girlfriends – Ideas for staying connected

One of the biggest killers of wholesome, godly girlfriend-ships is life.  Our Crazy schedules make it hard to do much more than just survive.  But we must make cultivating a strong, supportive circle of female friends a priority.  Hebrews 10:28 tells us to not give up on these relationships, keep meeting together and encouraging each other.

There is no guilt in desiring to be around your girlfriends.   God created us to crave this connection.  Just like scheduling your hair appointments or checkups with doctors, schedule time with your girlfriends.   Put it on the calendar – in ink.  (Or to be more tech savvy – put in on the calendar program with an alarm to remind you.)

You can go with some of the basics:

-          Meet for Lunch

-          Grab  some Coffee

Coffee Talk

Coffee Talk

-          Splurge on a Special Treat  – fro-yo is a favorite among my girlfriends.

But I have to admit I can’t make those ideas work for my schedule very often.   So let’s look at some of my favorite alternatives.

Combo Catch-up Moments:

-          Meet  up for some exercise at the gym, a park, your neighborhood, or living room.

-          Meal planning/preparing.   This is a great way to ease the stress of figuring out what to make by sharing the recipes and the cooking time.

Make Meals Together

Make Meals Together

-          Play dates with talking time.   (This is a favorite for me and my next door neighbor, who is a dear friend.)  Not only do you get to have a conversation with your girlfriend, your kids get grow their own godly friendships.

 Plan a Girls Day/Night Out:

-          Look for coupons/discounts for special treats.  Manicures, pedicures, movies, meals, ziplining – get creative

-          Hiking, biking, crafting.   Set aside time to share a common hobby.

-          Girls’ Shopping night.  Check with your favorite boutiques.  Some offer a private shopping party.  They open the shop just for you and your friends.   In some cases they provide refreshments.

-          Karaoke.   Yes, I did go there.   And you should, too.   Don’t want a public audience?  Check out online options, rentals, or ask friends who may have their own machine.

 

Party with a Purpose:

-          Bible Studies

women reading bible

-          Women’s Retreats

-          Projects for charities.   Some of my girlfriends just met to work on shoes for the Sole Hope program which works to get shoes to people in need in Africa.

-          Girl’s Getaway weekend.  I have friends who rent a beach house every spring.  The husbands hold down the fort with the kiddos and the girlfriends reconnect and rejuvenate.

Take advantage of Technology:

-          Skype Time.   This is great for staying linked to girlfriends who aren’t close enough for a coffee chat in person.

-          Texting .  This is one of my favorite ways to offer quick reminders that someone’s got your back.  Talk about an easy way to encourage.

What are some of the ways you and your girlfriends stay connected?   Reply to this blog so we can share the fun.

Mother’s Day Matters

I am amazed that we are less than a week away from Mother’s Day.  It seems to have arrived rather quickly this year.   As I am trying to write this I am encouraging Sweet Princess to channel her need to do a craft into a project we can mail to the Nana, the Mimi and the GrandMarlene.

We know we need to show Mom some serious love this coming weekend (and I would argue everyday).   It’s the least we can do.

I asked some of my friends to share their favorite Mother’s Day gifts.  (Feel free to borrow from the list if you need a little inspiration.)  The list includes flowers – both the blossoms in a bouquet and planting flowers for some longer lasting colors.

mothers-day-marketing-ideas-florists

A special meal.  A wallet or jewelry. mom necklace  A collage of pictures from the precious moments of motherhood.  That’s my personal favorite because it is what greeted me along with breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day morning.

You wouldn’t think that we would need a declaration to make us honor our Moms, but that’s exactly what set off the official celebrations in our country.
I went back a little further and found a few more details about the origin of Mother’s Day.   Depending on which school you belong to Anna Jarvis or Julia Ward Howe get credit for starting the tradition in our country.  But there are indications of celebrations of mothers that go back much earlier than the Civil War Era.  We can definitively say that on May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

pres.wilson
I went back even further than that, to the very first mother.  In Genesis 4 we read about Eve giving birth to the first baby.  While there are many reasons for us to take issue with Eve, you have to give her some serious props as the first mother, ever.  True confession, I could not have pulled off being Mama without the network of Moms who have shared their advice and demonstrated successful ways to raise children.  But poor Eve, she didn’t have a MOPS group to turn to.  She couldn’t log on and find the answer to why Cain wouldn’t stop crying.  So for pulling off a challenging job without the help of generations of mother mentors, she deserves major recognition.

Speaking of major recognition – I propose that, along with your own Mom, we take some time to show some love to the Moms who have helped make you into the Mother/person you are today.  There are so many women who live out 1 Peter 4:10-11 in my life.  They use the gift God has given them in a a variety of ways to serve each other. 

My list includes our sweet family friend, Sandy who touched many lives before God called her home.

Sandy & My Mom at my wedding rehearsal dinner

Sandy & My Mom at my wedding rehearsal dinner

Candy – who took care of me and my sisters when the folks had to travel for work.  Jennifer – who opened her home to me when I was expecting Little Man so I could see which “baby must-haves” I really didn’t need at all.  Meredith who offered a comforting voice of wisdom when we faced the question of when to put Little Man into preschool.

Thanks Moms

Thanks Moms

Another Amazing Jennifer – who offered a break for a tired Mama in the form of play date trade-offs.  Tricia – who encourages all Moms to remember to take care of ourselves or we’ll be no good to anyone.  I was hesitant to start a list because I don’t want anyone to feel left out, but just know this is a sampling not the exhaustive list.

And I will end with the gift of a Bible verse that helps me remember why us Moms do what we do every single day.   Ephesians 6:7.   Yes, we are meeting the needs of our children because that is what Moms do – but remember every moment of that work is for the Lord.

Thanking My Mom Girlfriends

Thanking My Mom Girlfriends

Thank you sweet Mothers and friends for blessing so many lives, including mine.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The Gospel In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

One of the repeated bits of advice I hear for parents trying to instill the Word of God in their children’s lives is – put it in terms they will understand.   But I never really expected that advice to play out in a Galaxy far, far away.

We were on the way to the grocery store.  The topic came around to Little Man’s love of making videos showing off his Lego skills.   I was paying him a compliment.   Then I went a little further and suggested that it would be great if you could work in some of the great things about Jesus into his Lego demo videos.

The puzzled look I saw in the rear view mirror made me realize I had some explaining to do.  And before I knew it we were making links between the Star Wars characters and the teachings of the Bible.   Before you start thinking “she has lost it” please keep reading.

We started with the Best Buddies Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.   I asked what they thought about the guys being as close as brothers.  They agreed, Han and Luke would do anything for each other.   Cue the quote of Proverbs 18:24: “…but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

Closer than Brothers

Closer than Brothers

They both chimed in that we couldn’t leave Chewie out of that friendship.

Little Princess then asked, “What about Princess Leia?”  (She is a big fan, because “Gorls Wule!”)  Let’s see.  The young Princess Leia led her people and loved them enough to put her life on the line for them.    Hmm.. sounds a lot like John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”   And didn’t a Queen named Esther do something very similar when God called her to follow His plan for her life?

Putting their very lives on the line

Putting their very lives on the line

We even took on the promise of salvation.   We saw how the evil Emperor tempted Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.  And then we saw the redemption that came at the end when Darth Vader was convinced through the love of his son Luke, to turn from his evil ways.  Granted – I had to take a little creative license here.   But what was really neat was the fact that the kiddos took over from there.   They went on to explain that the Emperor was very much like the devil.   He used evil powers to trick Anakin Skywalker into thinking that his way was better than the side of good.  “And Who is the leader of the Good side?” I asked.  They said “Jesus!”

Teachable moments come in all shapes, sizes, and star systems.   The important lesson for us grown-ups is to make sure we are asking God to point out these teaching times to us.  All we have to do is be open to them, God will do the rest.   So have some fun.   And let me know about your unusual but effective teaching moments like The Gospel in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Remembering the Reason You said “I Do.”

My wonderful husband and I just celebrated our 13th Wedding Anniversary.   It has been amazing to think that we have been blessed with these years together.  But I have been living a fairy tale thanks to God’s wonderful plan to bring us together.

My husband will tell you, he knew he loved me in the first week we knew each other.   It took me a little longer to openly admit that.  I had written off men.  I wasn’t looking for anyone.  Then we met… and my future husband filled in the blank.

I know… “Explanation, please?”

Here it is:  For several years I had this recurring dream. (I am talking since I was a little girl).    In it, I was married to this faceless man.   In the dream we had children and I could see them, but never the face of my husband.

Recurring Dream Before I met Dave

Recurring Dream Before I met Dave

The week after I met Dave I had the dream again, but this time my husband was no longer faceless.  Dave’s handsome, smiling face had filled the blank.  Talk about God giving me the message.

The Dream After I met Dave

The Dream After I met Dave

So what is the secret to success in a marriage?  I really believe it comes down to remembering the promises you make on the day you say “I do”.   I promised to take Dave as my husband.   I pray each day for God to help me be the wife that Dave needs me to be.   Notice I didn’t say I pray daily for God to make Dave the husband I need.  That is on purpose.   If we want our husbands to be the men we need them to be, we have to start by making sure we are holding up our end of this partnership.   Am I showing him respect and honoring him?  Am I submitting to him?  (Ephesians 5:22-24)  I know that can be a tough one for women in the 21st Century, but it is the crucial part of a successful, blessed marriage.

That is the basis for what helps make our marriage work.  Dave also fills his Biblical role as my husband.  He is the head of our home.   He loves me as Christ loved the Church.  I know that he would do anything to protect and provide for me and our children.   I never have to doubt that, never.

Building from that foundation – what about the practical ways we make our marriage work?   I am feeling led to share some of these ideas because I have been hearing about marriages that are crumbling and hearts that are breaking.  We get so busy we can take the blessings of marriage for granted.   The devil loves to see the beautiful gift from God – marriage – destroyed.

I realize we can’t go back in time to the moment when your heart first skipped a beat at seeing him.   But remember the promise of “I Do” implies some effort/action on your part.

Purpose to be aware of him.  I try to remember when I walk into a room where Dave is to think – There is the man of my dreams.  I seek him out, I try to catch his eye and give him a special smile that is only for him.  It may sound “shmoopy” to quote a Seinfeld moment… but it works.   I sometimes even start to feel overcome with a wave of love for this man who loves me so much.   Try it.

Here comes the Touchy Feely part.   When you are walking by your husband… reach out and touch him.  Brush his arm, give him a little hug, let your hand rest on his for a moment.   A little PDA is definitely called for in a healthy marriage.   Think about it.   When you first started dating you couldn’t wait to hold his hand.   This PDA should be an overflow of the personal affection that you share privately.  I am not going to go into details here.   But let’s just say that intimacy is a vital part of a healthy marriage.  So make it a priority.

What about the little things?   I am not bragging here, just repeating what Dave has said to me.   He considers himself a lucky man.  You see he married a woman who is all about dedicating weekends to football every fall. (College on Saturdays, NFL on Sundays).  I even will fix the snacks for the NCAA Basketball.    While I like to watch these sports with him.  I also see this as a time when I am focusing on what he enjoys and showing interest in it.

He likes to drive Race Cars

He likes to drive Race Cars

Dates are important.  I am not talking about remembering our anniversary – although that is crucial.   I am talking about going out with your husband – without the kids.   Sometimes we include some of our other friends.

Catching a Concert With Friends

Catching a Concert With Friends

But it is also vital to have time just for the two of you.   And it doesn’t always have to be out on the town.   Get the kids fed and in bed early, get yourself looking pretty… and enjoy a candlelight dinner at home.  Even if it is hamburger helper, the added touches that show you put some thought into it speak volumes.   They shout, “I Love You.”

Cheerleading 101   Don’t worry you won’t have to do any back flips and pom poms are optional.  I am talking about you being your husband’s biggest cheerleader.   Remember – God has called him to lead your home, provide for you, and protect you – even to the point of putting his life on the line for you (Ephesians 5:25-31).   So it is no wonder that our fellas can feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  That is why we are to be their biggest source of encouragement.  We should never tear down our men.   It is easy to do, especially when challenges come.   But remember the reason you said “I do.”  I have a quick tongue – it can get me into big trouble.   But I pray Colossians 4:6 so I know how to speak before I even open my mouth.  I never want to be the source of pain for Dave.  He is the most amazing, patient, helpful, honest person I have in my life.

THE True Secret for a Successful Marriage: God.   I am wrapping this up with THE true source for success in your marriage.   Even if you are struggling, if there is hurt and pain – this is the way to find healing.  Put God at the center of your marriage.   He must be the head of the union.   If you and your husband are each focused First on God, then it will become easier to focus on each other.  You see – God created marriage.  He said it is not good for man to be alone.  He created a helpmate for him.   They leave their families and join together as one.   Since God created marriage, He is the only One Who can perfect it.

To Have and To Hold From This Day Forward -  I Do

To Have and To Hold From This Day Forward – I Do

Crazy Busy is Just Plain Crazy: We can always have time for God.

When I am speaking to women’s groups I often get the question “How do you make it work?”   And truth be told, it is the very same question I have asked my friends, who are busy women and moms.

We seem to be stuck in this extremely dangerous realm of thinking.  It tells us if we aren’t operating in a chaotic frenzy that is just one step away from implosion we are doing something wrong.   But thank God He is showing me that being Crazy Busy is just Crazy.   God is a God of order and peace.  Confusion and chaos are not from Him.   They are from the devil.   They did not exist in the world until after the devil tempted Eve in the garden.

So keep that in mind as I go on from here.

Busy Moms have 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else.   For us, we have to divide it up with caring for the kids, making meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, exercising, etc.  working mom with childAnd that great big list is exactly what the devil wants us to focus on completely.  If we are looking all the stuff we have to do we can easily think I don’t have time for the one thing I truly need to survive.  That would be time with God.

“But Victoria, how am I supposed to find time to be with God, reading His Word and praying?  I can’t even get my ‘to do’ list done each day.”

I used to struggle with that very same feeling.  I knew that God wanted my undivided attention on a daily basis.   But I couldn’t see where it would fit into my busy schedule.  Then I had that “Ah-Hah!” moment.  God showed me the secret to successful quiet time with Him.  Just Start!

I had spent so much time trying to figure out how I was going to fit it into my hectic schedule.  But then I realized (thanks to the Holy Spirit showing me) all that time could have been my time reading God’s Word and praying.   It’s like a group of people standing around planning the best way for all of them to get onto a bus and it takes so long that the bus leaves without them.   Don’t miss the Bus!

God blessed me with some inspiration from other busy women.   They shared what worked for them, kind of like I’m doing with you right now.    Can I tell you I was a hard sell at first?   But one of the first great suggestions came in the form of a starter program for Bible Reading.   Did you know that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters?   Hmm… that seems very close to the length of a month.   The idea:  read one chapter a day.  Not sure what chapter you’re on, check the calendar.   That was a simple way to start the habit.  Simple and yet so helpful.   Proverbs is the book God inspired after Solomon asked for wisdom.

There was a lingering frustration for me.  Almost everyone said she started her quiet time early in the morning.   But my day already starts at an incredibly early hour.  I go to work at 4:00 a.m.   I looked at my time and thought, maybe I would get my “start with God” before I closed my eyes for the night.   Stay with me here – I spent time talking to God, asking Him to bless me with rest so I could be fully in line with His plan for the new day.   It was a good plan.   And it worked for me for awhile.

The quiet time advice included daily Bible reading.   But there are 66 books in the Bible where do I start?  You can find some great Bible Reading plans.   I also like the “Change Your Life Bible Daily” with Becky Tirabassi.  My friend and mentor, Lori Frank, shared it with me.  It is a great way to make your way through the Bible in a year.

Some of my Favorites

Some of my Favorites

Another great tool is to find a 30-day devotional to get you started.   Research shows repetition is the secret to making a habit stick.   Some say 21 days is the secret, others 28 or 30.  Here’s how I looked at:  I would give this “daily devotional” idea a month.  If I saw some changes I would stick with it.   The book I happened to use was “The Frazzled Female: 30 Days to Finding God’s Peace in Your Daily Chaos,” by Cindi Wood.   That brief monthly investment led to changes in me.   I wasn’t looking at life in the same way.  I saw my Husband in a different light.  Same thing with my son (Little Princess hadn’t arrived yet.)  I had stopped making excuses and started giving God what was already His – my time.

A couple of my other favorite devotional writers include: Lori Frank, Elizabeth George, Lysa Terkeurst, and Sarah Young.  I know I am leaving some out.   But this gives you a few names to explore.

As life has changed I have had to change when I meet with God.  I was able to shift my wake up time and have my quiet time with God before work for a couple of years.   Then, the schedule shifted and I had to shift it to another part of my day.    I will tell you starting the day with the quiet time with God is best.  And I still read over a brief devotional and have prayer when I first wake up.  At least 10 minutes to get my heart and mind in the right place for the new day.   Then I spend more time with God diving into His Word and offering up praise to Him in our special time.   Ultimately, I don’t want you to beat yourself up if you can’t pull off the quiet time exactly the way someone else does.   Just take the very deliberate step of putting God at the top of the To Do List for your life.  Keep Him at the center of all you do.  You will soon find out that the idea that you are too “Crazy Busy” is just plain Crazy.

Update:  Since I wrote this blog for the Oodles World website God has been working.  He knew I wanted to get back to the connection in the early morning – before work.  So He started waking me up 10 minutes before my alarm.  I said, Lord if this is your way of saying I can manage losing a little more sleep, I’m in.  (Keep in mind we on a good night I was getting about 6 hours 20 minutes of sleep).  But the change has been great.  So when you tell God you want to get connected and have that intimate time with Him – trust that He will make it work.  I am no more tired than I was before I started getting up a little earlier.   But I am feeling so much more in tune with my Heavenly Father.   Thank you, Lord for teaching me that “Crazy Busy” is just plain Crazy.

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