1.31.2016

Can I Get a Redo?

January is one of those months where I feel like I'm setting the stage for the rest of the year. I begin the disciplines I want to keep up with. My plans for healthy eating, or working out, reading through my Bible, changing my perspective, so many ideas and changes. Some years flow with my plans, others fight back with a fierceness and every step towards my goal feels like an uphill battle.

It all began back with the beginning of the school year, which for a teacher and a mommy is a new year all its own. Nothing, and I mean nothing was as I had expected it to be. Talk about blood, sweat, and tears. I walked into January with the mind set that I would not allow the false start of the fall semester to affect what I wanted to do with this new year of 2016. Here am I at the last day of January to tell you, this is not what was in the plan for a bright new start.


There have been so many amazing things, new doors opened, new ministry opportunities, but there has been a lot of set backs and struggles. I feel as if i just started a new game and thought I had read the instructions, but now that I'm in the midst of it I wanna hit the reset button.

Wait a minute.

You caught me off guard there.

I wasn't expecting this....

Ambushed.

Stripped bare of all my lofty goals, I have to make the choice to keep standing. Keep walking forward. In our distress I find my mind cleared of the fluff, the extras, the unnecessary additions, and I can more clearly see what has been there all along. As God in His merciful kindness, peels back another layer and reveals more of my hidden self, I see where healing needs to come. Those things that I had swept under the carpet and tried to ignore or forget. As the wounds heal, and I try out this tenderer heart. I am reminded that God would rather have a whole me than all the sacrifices that I could give. He loves us way too much to allow us to keep going forward hindered by our past.

Healer of broken hearts.

Restorer of all things.

Lover of my soul.

The Only One who sees me as I truly am.


1.26.2016

Seventy Times Seven

Forgiveness. Its a powerful force that we humans wield, to hold someone to their wrongs or release them from the guilt.

In reading through the Gospels I always love the dialogues between Jesus and Peter. Peter had a mouth on him. Always putting his foot in it too. And Jesus would just lay down a boom on him, and walk away. How many times do I have to forgive, Jesus? Can you put a limit on it for me, just so I have some guidelines?

Then when He taught us to pray, and He leads us through, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Wow...so it is linked that my own forgiveness from sins is tied to my forgiveness of others.

Joseph in Egypt standing in all the authority of Egypt's royal house, with the power to keep food from the very brothers who had sold away his life for a pittance, faced the dilemma. To forgive or not?

We can come up with any number of reasons to keep back the gift of forgiveness. But what if they do it again? They haven't even said sorry. He did this and that and this and its so very hard to let go of the pain.

Think of it this way. What if those same things God said of you when you were asking for His forgiveness? How would those questions be answered?

Forgiveness brings freedom, both for you and the person you forgive. When you forgive, there doesn't need to be a long hashing out of all the things that went wrong and all the hurt that remains. Those things stand bared. God knows and He sees all. Just forgive. Over and over and over. Every time. No matter what.


1.25.2016

Seashell Sonata

When I was a little girl, we took trips to the beach in all seasons and I loved collecting seashells from the shore. I loved and still love, the sound of the waters crashing. For me the ocean is one of those special places where I feel God's presence like none other. The sea is so wide and wild and wonderful. I remember my daddy showing me how I could hold a shell up to my ear and hear the ocean roaring inside. Even when I went back home I could hear that little piece of the sea caught in my shells stored up on the shelf and I could remember the sound until next time.

Today I feel stretched thin. Slight and fragile. Tipping close to tears and then just when I think they're gonna fall, they slip back. Numb and yet feeling, electric eels pulsing through my brain. On days like this I'm grateful for the thoughts that flicker in and out trading places with my sad ones. Prayers answered, bad days lived through, victories won. Songs of hope brought to my remembrance. Favorite psalms and verses parading across my torn heart like banners waved high.


At times when its hard, when I'm tired and sad and I have a hard time remembering His sound, the way He speaks to me, I am thankful for these little bits of stored up promises. My personal collection of love letters from my Father. Snippets of the bigness that is my God, souvenirs of what He has done for me and reminders that He will get me through.

1.24.2016

Baggage Restrictions

We were living in the Dominican Republic during my fourth pregnancy when I first encountered "special treatment." The people of the DR respect their pregnant women. Long line at the utilities desk? Front of the line when you walk in there with a bun in the oven. Special parking spaces at the grocery store for expectant mommies. Don't even try going through customs and pushing your own baggage cart. I felt special by this treatment, revered and honored, by the sacrifice that complete strangers made when they noticed my condition.

This morning I woke up in a funky sort of mood. Couldn't put my finger on it, but it was one of those, "nothing in the closet looks good on me, the dogs are gonna make a mess right before I try to walk out the door, nobody woke up on their own and if there was something that I could forget at home I'm gonna forget it" kind of Sundays. Have you ever been walking around with some extra baggage that you're not quite sure where you picked it up?

"I don't fit here. I don't know where my place is. I don't feel cute. Does anybody really care?"

Sound familiar? Inner dialogue. Extra baggage that will not fit in the overhead compartment and you're sure as heck not gonna pay extra to have it brought along on the journey.


I walked in the church door, for the second time this morning (because I had to go back for that thing I forgot) and was greeted by one of the smiliest faces I've ever seen. A hug and a smile. Even though I grabbed something from the back of my closet and nothing had turned out the way I wanted in my looks department, hubby leans over and whispers, "You look awful nice today..." Worship team is singing all about how much He loves us all during service this morning. And I came undone.

We need to be looking out for those who are struggling. Whether we think they got themselves into the predicament they're in or not, help, love, carry the burden. If you've been there, the place where you see another at, recognize and give them the help you wish you had had when you were there. Come alongside.

LOVE.

1.23.2016

For Your Own Good

Raising my kids I would often try to explain to them when my answer was "no." In this life, there's a lot of "stop that," and "don't" and "no, you can't," well at least in our house. Sometimes there's a "not yet," and other times there's a firm "not in this lifetime, over my dead body."

When Emari runs through the house and slides across the floor on her knees, that's a "no." I appreciate her aerodynamics, and she's actually doing a tiny part in keeping the floor swept and polished, but the real issue here is her school pants, that will get extra wear around the knees and then necessitate an earlier than normal return to the uniform store and a debit from my checking account. One of our children actually said no as her first word because that's what she heard the most. I used to feel bad about that, pretty guilty in fact, and then she got a bit older and I realized she was gonna need an extra dose of "no" in her life.

"Can I have a cell phone?"

"Can I wear this skirt?"

"Hang out until I feel like coming home?"

"Cut off all my hair and dye it rainbow colors?"

I find myself giving the negative to these requests. But why?!?! Sometimes I explain, sometimes I don't, sometimes I feel a little petty and throw in a you'll understand when you're old and boring like me and trying to ruin your kids lives...

I started a new book this weekend called, Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren Winner. Having read her books before this is turning out to be my favorite. Lauren was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity in her college years. Her perspective is a very unique one. In Mudhouse Sabbath, she goes through each of the major ways that Jews live their lives separately from the world and how Christians approach the same topics. Its a beautiful composite of God loving His people through His commandments. Its a step further into do this, don't do this, because its not really about the yes or the no, but its because I'm laying out the best kind of life for you because I love you so much.


1.22.2016

Glory in Broken Things

All of us has endured some form of brokenness. Whether in a relationship, a disappointment, a betrayal, the loss of a dream or of a loved one, we have all experienced hurt. We can forgive, but we can never forget. The memories linger and pour into our remembrances unheeded. Brokenness makes us tend toward closing down the area that was breached. We want to hide that place away, seal it off as in a tomb.

But God desires for us to live whole lives. He requires that we be surrendered to Him totally, with nothing held back or reserved. He longs to pour through us and heal every heartache, every sore place, every hidden hurt. He's not waiting for us to fix ourselves, we can't do it. Allow Him to shine His glory on your broken places.


1.21.2016

So Good

When I was in college there was a required course for all freshmen students. They covered a variety of subjects from date rape to time management. To get our attention, for an object lesson on stress, the professor took a handful of rubber bands and as she named a situation, she stretched a band and placed it around her forehead. Pretty soon it was a mess, all scrunched up and her hair sticky out willy nilly and her forehead lined with stressors. Its been over 15 years and I still remember that every time things start stacking up on me.

There are times in life when it feels as if all of the world has rested itself on your shoulders. It seems like I spend more time trying to find a place of peace in the midst of chaos more than I used to. But last week I came to a breaking point. I got in my car and started driving. Originally I had planned to belt it out to Alanis or what have you, but the only music in my car was an old Corey Asbury CD. So I turned it up and just kept driving. I drove around the edges of the city, out to the country, back to places I used to live once upon a time. I'd like to say I prayed, but it was more of a rant and then I really just waited for Him to talk to me. I had this picture in my head of when I was a little girl and I'd had a bad day and couldn't take it anymore, so I just went to my momma and let her know how sad and mad and disappointed I was and she would just stroke my hair and hold me.

God does the same with His children. Then, when I started to feel it all leaving, all the heaviness, all the disappointment, all the how's this ever gonna work out? the song, So Good to Me came on. In case you don't know the lyrics, check it out.


Its an old song, but my spirit responded to it. It was as if, by reminding myself of how good He has been to me I could rise up out of the mire I felt like I was in. Are all my problems whisked away? Nah. But He's still good. And when I look back at all the times He has brought me through I can breath a little easier knowing He's not about to stop now.

1.20.2016

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World-Book Review

Growing up my house was a comfortable one, meaning that we didn't go without, but we didn't have an abundance either. I learned the difference between needs and wants. When it came to my own children, I wanted to give them the world. All bets were off and I "needed" to give them everything they wanted. Fortunately, I didn't have the means to carry that out, and along the way I've been tempered by the lifestyle we have chosen to lead. Disaster averted.

In her new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch has really written a message of hope to us parents in the midst of realizing that we want to set the world at our children's feet, but we really shouldn't. My six children range in age from 22 to 6 years old and I've got to say that picking up a parenting book and gleaning something from it at this stage of my life is rare. Not that I've got it all together, mind you, I'm still in the midst of the battle. But I've learned a lot since i brought home my first baby 22 years ago and I'm still gaining insight on how to raise these rewards of the Lord. Kristen's book is refreshing for me because she is right there in the trenches as well. Still raising her children, and so she retains that perspective. Her insights are fresh and raw and still growing.

There were moments in the book that I remembered from past struggles and some that touched the place where I find myself now. Reminding myself to really stop and listen to my kids is probably my hardest struggle. Not that I don't hear them, they tend to have a way of making their voices audible to me. What I mean is shutting down my mommy sensors for a minute and stepping into my child's world and looking at the situation from his or her perspective.


Whether you are a new mommy or a veteran, this book is chock full of encouragement, hope, guidance and perspective. Grateful kids don't just happen, they must be shown through their parents how to live a life of gratitude. This book is an amazing tool for the journey.

1.19.2016

Cultivating Gratitude at Home

While our first three children were still very young, my husband and I sold or gave away most of our stuff, packed the rest in a small attic room at the in-law's house and heeded the call to foreign missions. We moved to Kenscoff, Haiti in March 2000 with a bunch of Rubbermaid boxes that held all our belongings and needs for the field. Our mountain top retreat from the heat of the city, had no working refrigerator, a gas stove, infrequent electricity (meaning that it mostly came on in the dead of night), and the city was repairing the water pipes so we had to funnel rainwater from our roof. The kids all shared one room and my babies crib was one of the old Rubbermaid boxes with the lid removed. Bath water had to be heated and the toilet had to be flushed manually. Beans and rice or rice with beans sauce were our dinner choices. We went to sleep with the sun and woke up with it and the kids loved every minute. Every thing we did we did together, from visiting a village, hosting a mission team, was as a family.

When we came off the field I prayed that those experiences would stay with my kids even with their young ages and as time has gone by we continue to look for ways to serve as a family. Whether it is giving of our time or our talent to our local church, we encourage the kids to find ways to serve others. Feeding the homeless, praying for our city, saving up to give to missions, every opportunity counts. Each of our children needs to see life through the lens of someone else's situation and perspective.

Ways we are trying to cultivate gratitude in our home:

  • A Bible is a luxury for some people. Every morning my husband does devotions with the kids and we pray for an unreached people group. They discuss if the people has a Bible in their own language and how many Christians if any are present within the group. Our youngest son, in his own prayer time took it heart and when praying even for our family members always asks if they have a Bible...the concept is reaching home. 
  • Christmas is for giving. At Christmas time, our small group gathered items for deployed soldiers and packed them into stockings to be distributed by another ministry. The children made cards thanking the soldiers for their sacrifices to keep us free. My son's class also collected and packed items for children in a village in the Dominican Republic that burned. For a countdown to Christmas we always make a paper chain with the names of people we want to pray for over the season. Each night we remove one link of the chain and pray for a family member, teacher, pastor, friend, the President, whoever's name we have written on the link.
  • Make a change. I purchased a vintage metal globe bank similar to the one we used when I was a little girl in Sunday School. As we find change lying around the house, or in the car, we all put it in the bank and once a month our church does a collection and gives the proceeds to missions. Over the years our church has raised the funds to build numerous churches in Thailand.
These are just a few ideas that I've tried over the years. The possibilities are endless, the key is to do something and get your kids involved!

If you want some really great encouragement on how to cultivate gratitude in your own home, check out Kristen Welch's new book here.




1.18.2016

Simple Rest

Resting makes me feel guilty.

I can't even recall the last time I allowed myself to do absolutely nothing. We live in a society where multi-tasking is enthroned. Audio books allow us to "read" while we run, drive, sit at our desks doing other work. I used to study spelling words, and Latin vocabulary and memory verses on our commute to school with my kids. E-readers allow us to bring limitless books along on vacations, appointments, what have you. An individual can surf the internet while sitting on the toilet.

There are no boundaries to what we can do with any amount of "free" time that is allotted to us. Not that there is anything wrong with using time wisely, but when was the last time that you allowed yourself to lay outside under the stars on a blanket and just listen to the night sounds? Must you have a plan for every moment? A soundtrack for every situation?

Have you ever gone to sleep with the sun and woke up with it as well?


There are natural rhythms to life that God has placed in motion to help to guide us and there are things He has commanded of us as well. He doesn't politely suggest that we take a Sabbath day. It is demanded of us.

Stressed out? Sabbath lately?

It takes some self-control to sit down and rest. You're going to feel lazy, you'll start to think of a gazillion things that you could do with your time. But there's nothing more freeing and refreshing than placing a punctuation mark on one week and allowing another one to begin.

Sabbath is that, period.

1.17.2016

Safe

Sometimes it feels like you're not safe anywhere anymore. Car accidents, natural disasters, school shootings, church shootings, home invasions, the list goes on and on. There is risk and potential danger everywhere you look. Fear can seem to surround you at times. Whether it is the fear of calamity or the reminder of what has happened before and could possibly happen again.

I've shared before about how my youngest daughter was in a car accident in December. I thought nothing of it putting her in the car and buckling her up to take her to the store with me again. We talked about the accident when it happened but it didn't seem to have rattled her too much. And yet, when the car swerves too quickly or we rumble over a bumpy patch in the road, she can't help herself but to cry out. It grips my mommy heart every time it happens because I see that she is still in the midst of healing. That fear that loomed up before her at the time of the accident envelopes her again and she has to push through. The bumps give way to smooth road and the swerve straightens itself back out.

Its not any different with me. I can allow fear to paralyze me and keep me from ever getting back out there. Or I can choose to stand up and walk back into the fight. There are so many times I just want to cover my head and pray that things blow over. I don't want to face the giant. I don't want to stand up to my terrors. But in it I have to remember that I'm not alone in the battle.

Psalm 139:7-12 says:
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
  In His hands I am safe. With my God as my champion I am sure of victory. This is the foundation on which I can stand without fear of the unknown.


1.16.2016

This Way

Growing up a military brat, I never imagined that I'd ever be in the same place long enough to establish a community. When I was a kid, my friends would move every few years or so and the cycle would begin again. But today I was privileged to be part of two very special birthday parties.

One was the 50th birthday party of a dear friend my family has known for over 20 years. We sat in her living room and celebrated another year with her and as I looked around the room it struck me that it was filled with a multitude of people who had played an integral part in my own life. They were older than me and much wiser and were definitely the people that Josh and I have looked to over the years for the encouragement to keep fighting towards the goal.


Later in the day we attended the birthday party of a dear sweet little boy who we have known all of his years and he's just in Kindergarten. Again the room was filled with special people to me, but this time I noticed that they were all younger than me, for the most part. They had little kids and were young marrieds and some of them I've known since before they were married, or had kids, or really some I've known since they were little kids themselves. And it hit me. I'm the example to them. I am supposed to be their encourager just like those others have been to me. Man....

That's community, guys. Its about a group of people, coming and going, growing and changing, but looking to those who've traveled before them to give them the details of how to proceed. I pray that I can be the example of God's love, how a godly marriage looks, how to raise covenant children without losing your mind, how to deal with what God sends your way with grace, and a myriad of other things that those others have been and continue to be to me.

1.15.2016

Full Capacity

I grew up on Star Trek television shows and movies. Whenever I start thinking about capability there's this little dialogue in my head that sounds like, "We need more power, Mr. Scott!" and the response, "I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!" This always when the Enterprise was in dire straits.

So it goes with me.

I'm giving everything I think I can give, and He requires more. But the supremely awesome thing is that as I allow trust Him to push me beyond what I think I can stand, to stretch just a little further, He increases my capacity to hold more of His goodness.

As I poise myself to hear His voice, I hear Him more clearly and realize He never stopped calling for me. It keeps going on and on in a cycle of stretching and pouring out. Trusting and obeying. Listening and carrying out the instructions.


1.14.2016

Absence

The Goodman and I have been together for awhile now. Yet, it always strikes me as funny how it does us a whole lotta good when we take a few days apart from each other. Sometimes he goes somewhere, sometimes its me, but its healthy.

I remember when we were newly married and people would tell us we were such a cute couple. And I'll absolutely never forget when my father-in-law strolled over to my car and out of the blue told me that he had had his doubts about me at first, but he was convinced that I was the right one for his son. To this day I don't know what made him tell me that, but I've held it close. But yesterday somebody told me that he had used Josh and I as an example of what a godly marriage looks like to his students. These kids see my husband and me every day at school, so I kinda shuddered under the weight of that. But all said and done, that's such an awesome compliment because we've worked really hard at this thing.

Over the years, we've learned what works for us and as I said, short absences from each other do the trick. Its being thrown head first into what that person means to your 24/7, 365 existence. At home its spreading the work load out so that every body carries a little bit of what daddy does. Cooking breakfast, reading devotions, and what have you. The kids really appreciate daddy's cooking, because mommy's food is not so yummy and daddy cooks like a chef. There's an empty space next to me as I sleep, discipline the kids, make daily decisions. I come face to face with how much I rely on him. The appreciation is so much greater when he comes home.


And it gets me to thinking that I over look how much I need my God. When things run smoothly, its good, but throw me a bad day and I feel deserted. I feel let down. I feel alone. But the crazy thing is, He never leaves. He never goes on break. At times like that I have to take a step back and begin looking for Him in the every day things.

1.13.2016

False Impressions

A couple of days ago I read a blog post where the writer was talking about her true self. You know that person you are inside, the one that doesn't get out much because you're too busy making excuses for her.

It really struck a chord with me. I spend more time than I'd like to admit rehashing what I could have done, what I could have said differently, what I wish I would have allowed myself to enjoy. Over the years a girl can accumulate a laundry list of items that we shouldn't like, shouldn't do, shouldn't say. Now of course I'm not talking about being rude or sinning or any such craziness. What I am talking about is what you have squished down inside of yourself because someone somewhere someday told you that you shouldn't. Those things that you truly love and enjoy and thrive on when you get to really embrace the truth.

We've been talking about Jubilee and how its the year where the things we've lost or traded or given up are returned to us. This year, I want to remember to enjoy life the way God has blessed me with it. Through the lens of these two eyes and with these two hands. No more hiding who I am or what I like, but really being free to be who He made me to be.

1.12.2016

Nothing

This year I'm reading the Bible chronologically. In all the years and ways I've read through the Bible, its my absolute favorite. You go from creation, Cain and Abel, Tower of Babel and then straight to Job. That's where I'm at right now. Its crazy to start the first month of the year in Job. Talk about tough stuff...

What's even crazier is that for two years now I've taught class across from the 3rd Grade who systematically learns Job 38 every year. Third graders aren't quiet, and they always go to reciting their memory verses when my classes are at a lull. Top that with my child is in 3rd Grade this year, so guess what we practice at home?

The funny thing about it all is that Job is probably one of the most relatable books of the Bible. I mean we start in a typical "once upon a time there was a man named Job" scenario. This guy was awesomely blessed in every way and on top of that he was upright before God. In fact, God was showing him off to Satan. Check out my boy, Job, he's incredible!

And then the bottom drops out and he loses everything. The Bible says this, Job 1:22 Not once through all this do Job sin; not once did he blame God.

Unbelievable! I freak out when my car breaks down and wonder why God deserted me in my time of need...

The poor guy has lost everything, he's covered in sores, his wife is encouraging him to curse God. Then his friends show up to "encourage and comfort him." We all know how that goes and I think we've all experienced similar situations where those we could look to before for encouragement just aren't handing that out. I mean, to be in this bad of shape he had to have done something wrong. But the Word of God insists, he was an upright man before and through it all he did not sin. His friends all sit around trying to figure out just what Job did to deserve this kind of treatment. They're all arguing about it and taking turns trying to make sense of it all and Job is defending himself.

And suddenly God himself shows up and starts asking Job questions. Enter Job 38. He lays out all the amazing creations and His orchestration of it all. When He finishes laying it all out, Job has the opportunity to speak and his realization astounds me. Basically, "what was I even doing trying to act like I could figure out what you were doing in my life, God?"


I absolutely love this story. Its scary thinking about all that can go wrong in life, its hard to have "friends" that don't speak life to your situation. But God showed up in His timing and set everybody straight. He restored what Job lost, He sent the friends packing, He brought people into Job's life that would celebrate and comfort him.

Over the past few weeks, my husband has been preaching a series of messages about "What's in your hands?" Its truly awesome and inspiring and encourages me to pick up the tools God has placed in my hands and use them for His glory. But Job reminds me of this one thing: when it all settles down, I have nothing in my hands, that God has not placed there. Any gift I can build up, any service I can render, any tool I can utilize, its all His already.

1.11.2016

Slow Mo

Its a new week! After a busy holiday season, and then last week just trying to get back into the swing of things, it was great to just have a quiet Saturday at home this weekend. The college kids are back in their routines as of today, and aside from one very low maintenance visitor, we're basically back to "normal" here at the hacienda.

I breathe a little contented sigh of relief when things flow. I like routine and order and step by step instructions that work. The problem is, life is rarely that way. Most of the time it feels like I'm swimming against the current and it just plumb wears me out. Just when I feel like I've got things down pat, something comes along and lays me out with one blow.

I've got to focus on what really matters and just let the rest go. It is not possible to make everybody happy with me all the time. I can't do everything that I'd like to, or everything that everybody else would want me to. There is a whole world out there, a laundry list of things to accomplish, try out, test drive. I could drive myself absolutely crazy thinking about all the possibilities. The key is doing the thing that I can do that no one else can.


I want this year to be less about the gimmicks, and more about the process of improvement. I want to see a lasting change, because it has a sure foundation. I want to learn to ride the waves, not fight them, and maybe just take in the scenery a little bit.

1.10.2016

Good Gifts

My son got a dinosaur robot for Christmas. It was a frivolous toy, but we told Emari she could pick a gift for her brother and the price on the shelf said something different than the cash register did. Daddy couldn't tell her no, sweet man that he is, so Zi got a more expensive gift than we ever would have purchased for him knowingly. Its funny that the treat was more that Emari got to give her brother something than it was that Zion was getting the gift, in daddy's eyes.

She was so excited about this present. Placing the gift under the tree, watching him open it, was almost too much to bear for this little girl. The real kicker came when Zion announced that he didn't want the dino, "it was too scary." Daddy was thinking about where the receipt was since he'd spent more than he wanted, and Emari was thinking that she'd take it if bubby didn't really want it. All I could think of was  just wait and he'll change his mind.

That dino has been in its original box, untouched, since Christmas. Just today Zion decided he was ready to open it. We pulled it out of its secure wrappings and read over the instructions. The toy has to charge for an hour. Oh my goodness! You'd think Zi would implode. After all this time of letting the gift just sit there, another hour just my make him go insane. Why an hour mom? Why can't I just play with it now?

Everyday adventures with my kids get me thinking about bigger and more important truths. How many gifts from my Father have I shunned? Set to the side? Forgotten about? Then when they are rediscovered I want them to be "ready" for me to use right away?

Deep stuff can come from a simple story of a boy and a dino robot.

1.09.2016

What I'm Reading: January

This month's a little different in my book selections since its the beginning of the new year. I enjoy having a variety to choose from depending on the mood I'm in.

1. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are
 



I actually picked up this wonderful devotional last year, but being that I started in May or so, I wanted to go back and read the book in its entirety. Shauna Niequist is a favorite of mine and I read everything that she publishes. Each day has a scripture, a short essay from Shauna and a closing question of the day for application. Peppered throughout are recipes to help you become more hospitable within your home and to encourage the reader to truly savor life.


 

This has been a book long on my to-read list, but honestly I was a little worried that it might bore me. It seemed so simple and unassuming. From the moment I first opened the cover and dove in, I've found it hard to put down. Each chapter is devoted to a form of prayer, taking the reader through the steps to begin using it in daily prayer life and then ending with a written prayer. The book begins simply and builds toward more developed prayers. Examples from the Word and from the lives of saints throughout history liven up the text. My prayer life will never look the same again.


Up until reading through this prayer manual, I had never done liturgical prayers. I always thought that in my prayer life, spontaneity was best, but between this book and the one above, I'm learning to broaden my horizons when it comes to my thoughts towards praying. This manual is seasonal and part of a trilogy taking the reader throughout the year in morning, midday, evening, and bedtime written prayer. I especially have enjoyed the section geared toward Advent.


This book won't be released until January 26, but its worth the wait. I'm part of the launch group so I received a pre-release copy and have been enjoying every chapter. It tackles parenting struggles with relevancy and hope, without succumbing to the run of the mill hype.

 

My sister encouraged me to pick up Agatha Christie again and I've been working my way through the Hercule Poirot series. I like his character so much more than Miss Marple, though I couldn't tell you why, I just do. I've always loved mysteries and Christie is truly the master writer. Each time I finish a book I celebrate by watching the episode on Agatha Christie's Poirot on Netflix. These books are a fun escape.

Here are a couple of books that I have waiting in the wings to begin on once I've polished off a few of the above.


 


 


 


 

I discovered that Goodreads is a great source when I find myself in the "what do I read next" quandry. It is full of reviews and suggestions and if you decide to venture on over there make sure to "friend" me. I've embarked on a challenge to read 52 books this year and I'm looking forward to sharing my literary finds. Happy reading!

1.08.2016

All Terrain

It might have been my second trip to Haiti. I was making the harrowing 12 hour trek to Jeremie, a town on the southwestern edge of the island. The distance from Port-au-Prince was a measly 180 miles or so, but these roads looked like the kind from a Jeep commercial. Rocks the size of my boot made up the roadway and the 4x4 trucks that we had rented for the mission jostled and bumped along at a snail's pace. There were places where I thought it might be more productive to just get out and walk.

This is the memory that comes to mind when I think about the past school year and my Emari. I was equipped with the proper tools, I had the right motivation to arrive at the destination, but the way was rocky. Everyday there was a struggle to get her through the study material. She would ask me why it was so hard for her to do school and that she didn't want to go anymore and my heart broke every time. I knew that it was my job to help my baby in this endeavor, but I must admit that I got to the point that I dreaded coming home from work. We studied and we practiced with flash cards and I found spelling apps for the Ipad. There was some extra reading that we did and the two of us had some head butting moments for sure.

Just this afternoon, I had the extreme pleasure of watching my baby confidently stride up to the front of the auditorium and accept an award for Honor Roll. The look on her face pushed all the hard work and tears to the side. It was sunlight through the clouds.


I share this to encourage any of you who are bumping along the rocky path and wondering if and when its ever gonna get easier. These journeys are rough, they carve out character, they reveal hidden symptoms of complacency. Don't despise the road you're on. Hard times help to forge us into people of quality.

1.07.2016

For Reals, Though

Right now, for me, things are all about perception. I see myself as looking through a keyhole and I'm doubled over and uncomfortable looking at things on the other side of the door. The view is limited and I realize that.

Last year was a lot of work and it paid off. And then I tripped up and started babying myself a little bit, okay, a lot, and things got out of hand. So much that I had set my hand to went back to the way it was. I don't like that.


Now, in retrospect, I can see where things started to go south and I'm starting up again. I've gotta make time for the important things. I need to push the negativity to the side lines. The excuses have got to stop.

On the other side of the door, there are unfulfilled dreams, goals, gifts I haven't even opened yet. I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, instead of looking through the keyhole, I should try to turn the doorknob and just walk right in...

1.06.2016

Terms of Service

Our church issues challenges every month. In addition to that, this year we are positioning ourselves to find ways to serve others. I love pushing myself to rise to these challenges and become a better servant. The thing I'm noticing in myself is that I enjoy serving others. Yay me! But I like doing the service under my own terms. Gasp...

Maybe I'm the only one. I'm facing situations in which I'm staring dead in the face of my nasty heart with good intentions. Yuck! I set my servant's heart to help my husband out every week by picking out his Sunday clothes and make sure they are ironed and looking good. But heaven forbid he need me to iron a shirt any other day of the week. I start feeling all grumbly inside and some of that pours over and he realizes quickly that I really don't want to serve him. I'm really serving me and how good it makes me feel on Sunday to see him get compliments on his tie or what not. Ugliness.

My terms of service, not a true servant's heart.

So starting today, I'm making adjustments. Is it really service or is it self-service? Am I feeding the poor or my own ego?

1.05.2016

Simple Prayer

I'm trying out something new this time around. I'm praying through fixed-hour prayers and using a written format. I thought it would be so rigid and methodical and BORING. But I'm happily surprised that its not.


Being raised Pentecostal, prayer to me was always lively and spontaneous and more like a conversation. Then a few years ago we jumped into the 24 hour prayer movement and participated in prayer vigils and prayer walks and prayer everything. It was warfare and adoration and thanksgiving and so much more. I love walking into a room that has had prayer going on round the clock and literally feeling the "atmosphere" of the place.

Prayer has always been very central in my life since I was a little girl. I talk to God a lot and about a multitude of things and in conversation or petition or what have you, but I wanted to stretch a little bit. So here I am trying out something different and loving the simplicity of it.

It feels quiet and serene and just right for this moment, here.

1.04.2016

simple

Life was very simple when we lived in Haiti.

It had to be.

We had electricity very rarely, so we had no refrigeration, no television. There was bottled water for drinking and no running water in our house, but we collected rainwater for bathing and dishes and laundry.


Meals were delicious but very simple as well and lately with all the hub bub of our frantic lives Joshua and I decided to cut a few corners and just keep it simple for a minute. We aren't giving up internet or Facebook or fasting or detoxing or any other number of things that to me often just create more work when you're a working mom with little people to take care of. We wanted to stop having to come up with a daily menu and also cut back on our unnecessary spending. Its funny what things you realize you're wasting your money on when you take a minute to just consider.

There's a lot more going on than just food planning and money spending, but this is where we are starting. Just catching our breath and mapping out what really matters. Life doesn't have to be as complicated as we make it.

1.03.2016

Lost Things

I am more than stoked about this new year. I am definitely one of those people who feels renewed by the change of seasons and new beginnings get me excited about what God's about to do. I've really been feeling though that this time around, its not enough to just be expectant. I spent last year working toward some goals and then towards the autumn, when you would think I had caught my stride, I really tripped over a few things and felt disappointed by my lack of resiliency.

This year I'm looking back and noting what I want to do differently and also looking ahead to what is expected in this new season.

Last week one of my girls lost a special ring. We looked high and low for that treasure and it was nowhere to be found. Being that it was not my possession, I encouraged my daughter to pray that the Lord would help us to find it. Two maybe three days had gone by and it seemed hopeless, but she prayed. The very next morning I went to the dryer to switch out some laundry and clink-clink-clink....there it was shiny and beautiful. My girl's much sought after ring has been united with its owner and a powerful lesson learned.

Some of us are giving up, some of us aren't asking God for help, some of us aren't even looking anymore. Let me encourage you to keep looking for your lost treasures.

1.02.2016

Begin Again

I don't know about you but this year for me has been about facing up to some difficult things. This morning I woke up from a pretty interesting dream, and through it I felt encouraged to keep standing up. There are things, precious things, that have been birthed through each one of us. But somewhere, somehow, before the opportunity was even allowed to start moving forward and growing that dream further, an assumed authority came between you and the newly birthed gift. You stepped back and relinquished your rights to that thing, that precious, special dream because you were intimidated. But now is the time, it is high time to stand up and go back and take up what you started. I'm not talking about things you feel are owed to you, I'm not talking about what you feel entitled to, I'm specifically talking about those things that you have set your hand to, grew from a teensy tinsy God-given dream, and then walked away from because you were bullied, or scared or too weak to stand up for what He placed in your heart to do. Don't let those dreams die from neglect. The blessings of God are worth fighting for.

1.01.2016

Story Telling

Each of us is in the midst of a story. It may be an adventure, a drama, a comedy, a tragedy. People tell us we are writing our own story but we are just the main character and we don't even have omniscience. We don't know how its going to end really, and truth be told we don't even know what the next chapter is gonna be about.

I've been scared of my story. Elements are embarrassing, certain parts are boring to the point of tears. Just the sheer mundane, day to day, week after week, stupid surprises and speed bumps ugh! But I'm slowly learning not to fear the routine. Not to hide from the "normal." My life is a gift, maybe sometimes it feels like I only got socks for Christmas but hey its all mine baby, custom made tailor fit socks.


I'm on the look out for the glimmers of hope, the plot twists, the beauty in washing dishes and folding the laundry. I've got grand dreams for the coming year but faithfulness and perseverance are gonna be the keys to moving forward in this story.
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