Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Adios 30s!

Well, this is it.  It's my last day in my thirties.  When I wake up in the morning, I'll be 40.

I was told by many more than a few that I would or should dread it. 
I thought I'd be a basket case and totally depressed, especially as I hit the second half of the 30s.

Almost like a signal that the "good" years are gone and that the years to come are to be a disappointment. 

Whoa....
Hold up.
Stop the presses.

I've got one thing to say and that is: this girl doesn't feel that way!

I'm as excited as a kid on Christmas morning! It's not that I'm expecting a huge celebration or anything elaborate because birthdays have never been a HUGE thing for us (though we do celebrate and LOVE doing so!).  It's not that I think some giant item from my wishlist is going to appear.  As a matter of fact, tomorrow will actually be quite stressful because we have a to-do list that appears too long and we have several stressful things going on at the moment. Celebrating a birthday in the middle of it actually feels a bit of a hassle. 

Why am I so excited if it's not about the gifts/celebration and why am I not depressed since I *should* feel old or that the prime of life has just passed by?

Because...

This is the time.

To be me.

And I couldn't be more excited.

In my thirties, I feel like I finally grew into my own skin.  I started becoming who God meant for me to be.  (Notice I said STARTED....far from the finished product!).  I finally began to shake off the chains of other's expectations or my own wrong expectations of myself. 

I feel like this new season of life is to be welcomed and embraced, not dreaded and moaned over!

I say, Bring. It. On!

This is the time that I can take the changes that the 30s have been bringing and truly let them shine.  Let the places that God has been refining and working on, truly take hold.  Open myself up to His handiwork and purposes. 

Sure---I may not be "young" as I once was---but thank goodness for that!  Wisdom and discernment, priorities, and learned lessons have GREAT benefit!  I may not be as physically young as I was and sometimes I do envy the things I took for granted in my 20s, but this body has lots of miles left!  Everything my sag and be floppy----metabolism may be slowing---joints and muscles may be struggling---and my hair may be VERY noticeably gray....

But...

It means I'm alive.  I'm human.  I'm still here.

So....

Bring. It. On.

Now, if you were to ask me how I feel about my daughter graduating last week and actually receiving a graduation card in the mail yesterday....now THAT may make me emotional and THAT may make me feel a bit old....and THAT may make me get all frazzled as I think of the days to come....

But 40....

Not. One. Second. Of. Dread! 

"Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” Robert Browning



The Song: Awaken Love A Couple's Devotional Journey (Review & Give-a-way)


It's one of those rare times that I get to share a back to back review and giveaway with you.  With some unexpected travel plans back home to middle Tennessee, I'm posting this one a few days early so that I don't overlook it in the shuffle.  The reason I don't want to overlook it is because it's FANTASTIC!

I've been a "fan" of Kyle Idleman for quite awhile, especially since "Not a Fan".  If you've been around my blog for very long or know me in person, you will know that something I'm quite passionate about is MARRIAGE. I'm passionate about God given and God driven marriages that are thriving not just merely surviving!  This newest review is a fantastic combination---a great author/pastor "speaking" about marriage. 

What excites me about this review/give-a-way is that when I was offered the opportunity to review, Kevin and I were already actively participating in a study using these materials! I didn't *need* to say yes just so I could receive the product, I already owned it.  I felt so strongly about how much of an impact it could have on someone's marriage that I wanted to participate so I could offer someone else the opportunity to read this incredible devotional written by Kyle and his wife Desirae.

 
 
Back in September, Kev and I went to see the movie that this devotional is based on, "The Song", and then last month we watched the recordings online of the sermons that Kyle and Dave Stone presented at Southeast Christian Church.  We've also been spending time for several date nights going through this actual six week long devotional and watching the DVDs that go along with it (DVD can be purchased separately, not included in this particular giveaway). 
 
The Song is an incredible marriage resource based on Song of Solomon.  It's designed to help you "awaken" love---and it can do just that.  The book itself is very short (only 86 pages), but it is packed full of great insights, prayers, and even some suggestions of things to do or talk about to help encourage you along the road of marriage.  What my husband and I both appreciate about Kyle is his style---he infuses humor and "real life" smack dab in the middle of the deep stuff.  He's not intimidating and is REAL (which I think might encourage more husbands to participate in a devotional---since many might be hesitant).  He doesn't come across as a "stiff" preacher.  I think that is what has drawn us to many of his other books as well.  It's much easier to "take" the toe stepping on and the conviction that might come from places we need to change when it's coming from someone that comes across as a normal guy!  If your spouse isn't a big reader---no worries!  The reading itself is very short and can be done in just a few short minutes.  Practical and not intimidating, but so powerful. 
 
I know that one particular activity suggestion in the first section really melted my heart when my husband unexpectedly actually followed through with it in a unique way.  We were encouraged to write out character traits that coincided with our spouses name.  I admit---and so does Kyle---that it was actually cheesy.  Honestly, we skipped this part.  Well, at least I did at the time.  I woke up a few mornings later, having actually forgotten about the "assignment",  with my mirror covered in dry erase marker with my name and the characteristics that coincided with each letter.  It was DEEP, thoughtful, FUNNY, encouraging and just a HUGE blessing to me to see what he had written!
 
Obviously, you get more out of something of this nature if you are willing to put in the effort and focus.  This is one that is worth doing the homework! :) 
 
To enter the give-a-way of one copy of the devotional book, just comment below.  How about telling me how long you've been married?  Or just simply comment.  Entries will close on December 3. (Be sure I have an email to contact you if you are the winner chosen at random at the end of the give-a-way!). 
 
 (Also not too late to enter the give-a-way for Small Talk HERE that ends on December 1.)
 
 
The Song:  Awaken Love 
 
About the author:
 
Kyle Idleman is the Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fourth-largest church in America. Author of the award-winning and bestselling book, not a fan., and presenter of eight of City on a Hill’s curriculum series, he regularly speaks at conferences and events around the world. Kyle and his wife DesiRae have four children.
 
Check out this resource website!
Check them out on Twitter!
Check them out on Facebook!
 
Fine print:
"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”



Monday, November 24, 2014

Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most (Review & Give-a-way)

"Sometimes God uses the smallest voices to teach the greatest truths..."
(Amen!!!!)
 
Friday night I finally sat down with this book I needed to read for review.  I really didn't have many pre-conceived notions about this particular book because it wasn't one I had heard of.  I just anticipated enjoying it just based on the information I was provided with the opportunity.

I totally enjoyed reading "Small Talk:  Learning from my Children What Matters Most".  It was a breath of fresh air after some stressful days.  It was nice to sit back and read something that was an excellent balance between "casual" and "deep".  Lately it seems that I've either been reading my favorite historical Christian fiction books or really deep Christian books on faith, parenting, and marriage.  Those tend to be a bit "heavy" and take awhile to soak in---leaving this introvert mind on fast forward mode for days!

What I loved about "Small Talk" is that it was a perfect balance.  The author is basically just stopping and narrating events and conversations with her children and how that little bit of "small talk" affects her heart...what she's learning about herself, the world around her, and faith.  I thoroughly enjoyed a glimpse into the heart of another mom that likes to see what her children can teach HER.  Isn't that VERY true of motherhood!  Many days I stop and wonder if I taught my children anything because in reality they seem to teach me more often.  (Sometimes what they teach and reveal about my own heart isn't always the shiny side!  Parenting has a way of revealing our deepest fears, weaknesses, and struggles.  Granted, it does occasionally also allow us to have moments that our strengths shine.) Though I do have some theological differences/different religious upbringing than the author, I still LOVED her spin on what she was learning from the little things----the little people in her life---that point her back to Christ.  Isn't that what many of us really want anyway---to see the world through our children's eyes and allow it to grow us in faith?!

Something I also enjoyed about "Small Talk" is that it's not one of those books you need to read through start to finish to "get" it.  The chapters are short and each one is independent of the others, meaning if you only have a few minutes each day to read or just have a few minutes while waiting to pick your kids up at piano lessons, ball practice, or the million other things....this is perfect.  Just a few minutes of a glimpse of her "Small Talk" is enough to open up your own thoughts and encourage you to see what God can teach you through your own children!

Though there were several snippets that really reached my own heart in the book, two REALLY sank in deeply.
  • "What I see as a failure she sees as an inconsequential oversight." (As moms we can easily make a mountain out of molehill when we make mistakes.)
  • "And I find myself wanting to see what my children see.  I want to learn how to see myself through the eyes of love."  (Pretty powerful words right there! Powerful indeed!)
I do have the opportunity to give-a-way one copy of the book to one of my readers.  Simply leave a comment (either directly on this post or on the Facebook link to this post) and I'll consider you "entered".  Be sure that I have an email to contact you if chosen as the winner.  Give-a-way will end on December 1 and winner will be chosen at random. 

From the publisher:

Every day, one of Amy Julie Becker’s children says something that prompts her to think about life in a new way. “Mom, does Santa love me?” William asks, after his mother explains the meaning of Christmas…In a chat with her dad about the children who died in the Sandy Hook shootings, Penny asks, “Did they go to heaven?” …”You was a jerk, Mommy?” asks Marilee one morning in the car.

These conversations deepen Amy Julia’s relationships with her children, but they also refine her understanding of what she believes and what God is doing in her own life.

In Small Talk, Amy Julia draws from the wisdom and curiosity of those young voices to reflect on beauty and kindness, tragedy and disability, prayer and miracles. As she moves through the basic questions her kids posed when they were very young to the more intellectual questions of later childhood, she invites us to learn from our own day-to-day conversations with the children in our lives.

This eloquent parenting memoir is about the big questions little hearts ask, the thoughts their words provoke, and the laughter and soul-searching their honesty brings—to adult and child alike.



About the author:


Amy Julia Becker writes about faith, family, and disability for Parents.com, the New York Times Motherlode blog, TheAtlantic.com, The Huffington Post parents page, Christianity Today, The Christian century, and numerous other publications. Her first book, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny, was named one of the Top Ten Religion Books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. Amy Julia lives in western Connecticut with her husband and three children.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFiRKM19JZY
Amy’s Website: http://amyjuliabecker.com

Fine print:

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


Friday, November 21, 2014

Facing Reality

There has been a theme pounding in my head for many days in a row.  MANY. 

Blaring.
Screaming.
Staring.
Demanding attention.

REALITY!

Face reality. Deal with reality. 

It's like those crazy numbers on the ceiling at night.  Kevin's vision has declined greatly over the years and mine is heading that way as well, so last Christmas I bought one of those atomic clocks that projects the time and temperature on the ceiling in large enough numbers that Kev doesn't have to scramble around to find his glasses to check the time on the normal display or on his phone.  In other words, lots less things get knocked off the nightstand now!

They stare at me with reality.

I hate winter.  I hate winter.  OK----I was taught not to say I *hate* anything.  So, I have a very great, exceedingly abundant disdain for the frigid, brutal months that are stretching out before us that have started earlier than normal.  Who am I kidding?  I hate winter.  I sometimes wonder what in the world Kevin must have done to convince me that we needed to move north when our requests with his headhunter had been to stay in TN or move further south when job searching.  Yep, God must have been laughing when that phone call came through that started the ball rolling to move us...north.  Now, I will admit that this time of year DOES have its perks (snuggles, fireplace, hot tea and hot chocolate, hoodies, blankets, and LOTS more snuggling).  I even do enjoy a BIT of the snow---it's beautiful when it's falling from the sky and when it blankets the world in a fresh new innocence.  It has its moments of joy and memories.  But....I still....hate it.  Sorry, Teresa, I'll rephrase that more apprioriately----I strongly dislike it. 

The numbers on the ceiling have been reminding me of reality.  Waking up and seeing that flash of 8, 10, 20....or whatever the way too cold numbers have already been early in November has been a HUGE dose of reality.

I want to hide from it. 

I want to unplug the clock so I don't see those projections. 

But....it's reality.

I can pull up another blanket or find another still warm spot on Kevin and wiggle in closer.  But...

Reality is still there. 

It's cold. 
It's going to be cold.
It's going to get colder.  Much colder.

This week as I've seen those numbers, God has been at work in my heart.

Reminding me that reality is sometimes hard, shocking, or not necessarily what we planned or hoped for, but it's reality and it has to be dealt with.

We've had some medical scares and wake up calls in recent months.
We've had the very vivid reality face us that time is moving on at lightning speed. 

We've seen multiple families facing extreme medical crisis in recent weeks.  We've seen countless friends be faced with heart-wrenching situations that are pulling apart their homes, marriages, and lives.

Yesterday, we got a phone call that a very precious family member is facing a very scary medical crisis.  A very vivid reminder once again of how very far away home feels when crisis hits.  A reminder of how important it is to make sure you love well, love deeply, and love without hesitation.  Just a realignment of priorities, focus, and a gut check of faith.  Reality that, once again, things are changing.

We've recently had to deal with some marriages ending with family members---and learning to navigate how that changes things and what our new roles will be, how to support and encourage all parties, etc...  New territory.  In other cases, some relationships have ended and in some others, new ones have started.  Shifting and changing.

Wednesday, after 13+ years of home education, our daughter completed her last final.  She's finished.  Reality is here.  There are more posts to come on that topic when my mind can wrap around the feelings I have about that! :)  But reality is this:  it's a new season.  It's going to be a beautiful and AMAZING season, but that doesn't negate the reality of the closure of another one.

The list of different "big" things going on could continue....

But instead of looking at those, I want to focus on what reality brings.

Truth.

Reality is facing truth.

THAT situation is here for a reason.  God is good and HE can be trusted.  I may not understand or like it---but there is no doubt that He has a plan and a purpose.  My limited vision just can't always see what that is.

THAT person may NEVER show the love and acceptance I desire (or support, or ask for forgiveness, or any number of things....).  Reality is this:  I am responsible for how I react and my own heart.  Not his/hers/theirs.  THAT person is responsible for his/her actions and truth is, many times they are clueless to hurt they are inflicting on others.  They are too wrapped up in their own pain, walking their own path, and are oblivious.  Reality may be that I will never measure up to that person, my choices will never make them happy, or I may never find acceptance.  Reality is this:  it's THEIR problem.  My reality is how I respond.  What I do with that hurt.  What I do with my reactions. 

THAT relationship may NEVER be fulfilling or meet the needs that we feel like we deserve to be met.  BUT...HE is the only one that can EVER meet every need and fill in every gap of our heart. Our spouse can't.  Our friends can't. Our parents can't.  Hurt is real.  Scars are deep.  Yet, He is the healer.  He is the strength.  He is the one that can hold a broken heart together with hope, acceptance, grace, mercy and UNCONDITIONAL love. He is the only one that can complete us.  Reality is accepting that. Looking elsewhere for that full completion puts way too much pressure on another individual and sets them up for failure.

THAT new situation may be scary.  It may be TOTALLY not what we expected.  Yet, He is there to walk the path with us. Leading. Guiding. 

THAT old situation may be frustrating and HARD.  Yet, He has never abandoned.  He never has failed.  He has never left us alone. 

THAT situation may require us to step out in faith, make some hard changes, or require some things that terrify---but HE is there with an outstretched hand if our eyes are FIXED on HIM.

THAT situation may be brought on by our own sin, our own mistakes, or our own poor choices.  His forgiveness, grace, and mercy wash us clean.  Yet, we still have to walk in the consequences.  But...we don't walk alone and the things He teaches along the way are powerful.

THAT situation may be a result of refining.  Refining, chiseling, reshaping, purifying---they aren't easy places to be.  BUT---reality is that the final product is beyond our wildest dreams. 

THAT situation may leave us feeling alone, abandoned, or ostracized from the "world".  Yet, reality is that those situations are the ones that bring us closest to Him.

THAT situation may require some changes in us.  We may have to make choices for our physical or emotional health that aren't comfortable.  They may require us to do things that go against bad habits that we don't think we can break.  I saw a facebook or instagram picture this week that said: "The first step to getting anywhere is deciding you're no longer willing to stay where you are."  We're finding ourselves in THAT place on multiple levels right now and are beginning to take those steps.  Whether it be health related, something in relationships, or something on an emotional level. 

Reality is this...

Life causes us to have to confront some things we don't necessarily want to. 

I don't want to confront the winter that has arrived much too early. I don't want to see those negative numbers on my ceiling.  I don't want to deal with the brutal wind, the depressing gray days (yes, Dad----I'll be hitting up the Vitamin D supplements as I promised!), the inconveniences, the travel nightmares, the heating bills, etc....  BUT----I don't want to miss out on the beautiful things in life while I wait for the spring to come.  Life is going to happen around me whether I am buried under the covers or whether I'm fully engaged in life around me. 

Life ,with its situations and tough times, is the same thing.  Bury under or engage?  Let life pass by and hide....or face it square on with the power of heaven behind me? 

Many times I've taken the duck and cover approach.  I've slid into the darkness of despair or the chains of bitterness. 

The result...

Missed blessings. Missed opportunities. Missed moments of being at the feet of Jesus.  Many missed moments with being fully engaged and present in the lives of my children/husband. 

That's no way to live.  Because that's not living. 

So, I'm bundling up.  Turning up the heat (after all, I did concede and turn it on before my yearly quest to make it to Thanksgiving due to my frugalness---what choice did I have when the house was consistently below 60!).  Adding layers of warmth.  Just being brave.  :)

Time to do that with "life" as well. 

Digging into Scripture and His promises.  Surrounding myself with those that speak hope and truth into my life.  Allowing Him to work in my heart and chisel---even though painful.  Learning to trust more.  Seeking Him more. Trusting more.  Shutting out the negative voices.  Trusting Him more.  (Are you seeing a pattern....apparently I have trust issues...ha!) 

Facing reality.  Not hiding under the  covers figuratively speaking (though literally speaking, this is being typed from underneath a mound of blankets!).  Maybe I'll even venture out IN THE SNOW this year for more than just 2.2 seconds at a time.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Loss Brings Gain

THIS is the week that four years ago began what I now mark in time as BD and AD---before diagnosis and after diagnosis.  Earlier this week was the day that I got the message that something significant was wrong with my dad's health and tomorrow marks the day that we had the somber conversation of knowing just how advanced and how significant this battle was going to be.  Though from the first initial moment, God prepared my heart for the reality that Dad's healing very likely would only come in the form of heavenly wholeness---I was in no shape, form or fashion prepared for how quickly that would progress. 

Today, I still find myself very introspective as these days and "anniversaries" roll around.  Though the pain and emptiness has changed shape with time, it still is an ongoing struggle at times. Our family has changed dramatically in these years.  We've been blessed to add a new family member as my brother got married just over a year ago.  It's heart wrenching to know that in just this short year, she's also lost her own father to the same beast of a disease.  Daddy never got the gift of getting to know her or experiencing the joy of seeing my brother fall in love, marry, and start a life together.  In just a couple of weeks our daughter will officially be finished with her high school education and my niece will also graduate in a few months.  Grandpa won't be here to celebrate such a big milestone.  For me, I looked forward to the day of him seeing that we followed through with our home education plans from start to finish.  He wasn't quite sure about *this* way of school in the beginning (though he was supportive), but as time went along, he saw the difference it was making for our family.  In just over a week, I turn 40 and for some reason this milestone feels a bit empty without him around.  I think part of me always felt that at 40, I'd finally be a grown-up! Ha! 

Each one of us as siblings live in completely different states and very rarely ever find ourselves home together at the same time.  With different jobs and responsibilities, traveling at the holidays just hasn't been as easy as hopping up and going home. 

Life is just different. 

BD and AD.

I see now how amazing our lives were before BD.  We just didn't know it until AD. 

For my personal little family unit, our lives are good.  We're happy.  We're relatively healthy as a whole.  We've had incredible joys and our togetherness has grown exponentially. 

Life had to go on AD.  Life even had to go on when the holidays were completely changed and haven't returned to "normal".  Can Christmas ever really be normal again when it becomes wrapped in the memory of making final arrangements on Christmas Eve, standing around in a funeral home on Christmas Day, and burial on the day after Christmas...instead of our normal holiday traditions?  So far it hasn't, but we are purposely seeking to bring that true joy back to this season this year. 

It's time. 

After you've been through loss or dramatic change (AD)---you realize just how beautiful and amazing life WAS.  We sometimes just don't realize how great it was until it's ripped away. 

I think every single one of us fails to see how greatly blessed we are.  We have more than we could ever say thank you for, but we fail to walk in the paths of sincere gratitude.  We fail to say the words we should have said.  We fail to see what material and non-material gifts we have sitting before us.  We take those around us for granted.  We're selfish and self-seeking.

Loss teaches you that. 

I think in some ways, I'm just now beginning to see the beauty of loss.  Though that sounds strange to type and strange to think about, loss did bring about some beauty in our lives.  Though the loss of Dad and the roller coaster of his illness and the picking up the pieces after he was gone was HARD and some days is still harder than I expected, I can see now the gifts that came with it. 

Loss teaches you to look at life differently----even if it takes awhile to get to that point because grief is a journey that takes you through some anger, bitterness, and depression.  Though I still fail many days to see how fleeting life is, I do have the lens of knowing it to be true.  I try to take each day with a new perspective that wouldn't have come had I not been forced to go through the valley. 

Loss can teach you about your own frailties, weaknesses and rough edges.  The ugly shows up.  No doubt about it. 

Loss can also teach you about the strength of faith, the support of family and friends, and can reveal a side of God you just couldn't really grasp until the valley has swallowed you whole. 

Would I rewrite history if I could and keep Dad here?  My heart would say yes some days, but the reality is my answer would be no.  God knows best.  Heaven is a reward.  Dad received the ultimate gift. It isn't an ending.  It's just the beginning.

That doesn't take away the fact that we feel his loss and I wish I had been able to have more "adult" conversations with him and gleaned from his unique wisdom.  I wish my children had been more able to etch him in their memories and experience countless things with him.  However, they have learned things through loss that are invaluable.  Conversations that we may have never had with them or not have had so deeply---pointing them to Christ, heaven, and faith---have been priceless. They've seen first hand how God can heal broken hearts through the deepest pain.  They've seen the hope of heaven. 

Though I still don't understand what God's plan was and how *this* fits in---I've learned a deeper level of trust and my faith has grown.  Though my heart broke, it also grew.  Though my heart has an empty place, it has filled in other areas that I didn't know possible. 

Thinking back over those days at this point now leaves me with great memories.  Some of the *harder* things have lost some of their sting as the BEAUTY has replaced some of the crippling sadness.  God really did reveal Himself to us many times during those days.  We saw glimpses of heaven that still just leave me breathless.  I find it a blessing like no other to see how my Dad responded to everything thrown at him and his final days/hours were evidence of his faith. 

Time sure doesn't heal all wounds.  (That's a lie!)  Time DOES give us a different perspective. 

I'm thankful today most especially for those final days.  Those days that allowed for some VERY meaningful conversations.  Times for God to show us Himself in ways we'd never experienced. 

Today, I miss my Dad and I think of the journey that we've all been on and how our lives are different.  I do think of what could have been and what I hoped for----but I walk in a deeper trust that God's plan is far beyond mine. 

Today, I'm thankful.

I'm thankful that loss does bring gain.

It brings us a deeper longing for heaven.  It brings us greater gratitude for what we had and for what we currently have each day.  It brings a greater perspective.  It brings the reminder of what we're living life for.  It brings us the reality of knowing just how much we need God in our lives and just how much of a gift His sacrifice was for us. 

Loss brings heavenly focus. 

For that, I'm grateful. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A New Look

New weather season. 
New seasons of life.
Changes going on all around.

New season on the blog.


Thought it was WAY past time to give the blog an update! 

My Choice

I eat *that* food knowing it's going to make me sick, but I just HAVE to have it occasionally.
I eat *that* food knowing it's not going to provide the nutrients I need, but instead drag me down physically and emotionally (and tip the scale in the wrong direction.)
I let *that* excuse keep me from getting up and moving and using exercise to improve my health.

I let *that* person's comment penetrate deeper than I know it should.
I let *that* person's attitude sour mine.
I let *that* person's lack of response shake my self worth.
I let *that* person's compliment wrongly inflate my pride.

I let *that* social media infection into my heart and rob me of my own joy and peace about my choices.
I let *that* pinterest infection interfere with my contentment.


I let *that* parenting issue shake my confidence.
I let *that* marriage issue drag up trust issues or resolved issues.

I let....

I let...

I let.....

It is a choice.

I let *that* insecurity cause me to not walk in obedience to something He has asked of me.
I let *that* slow to resolve situation rock my faith that God is in control.

I let....

I've made a choice.

I have the freedom to choose.  I make the choice of how I use my time.  Wasting it on things that are trivial and rob time from other things is my choice.  The food I put in my mouth is my choice. The way I react to situations is my choice.  I may not can control situations that happen in life, but I choose how I respond.  I have the choice to grow or stay the same, or even backtrack.  I have the choice to embrace joy or embody resentment.

I have the choice to drink alcohol or not.
I have the choice to watch movies that include immorality, inappropriate language, nudity, violence, etc...or to watch only things that are free from the previous list.
I have the choice to read a variety of countless books.
I have the choice to dress modestly or immodestly.
I have the choice to listen to song lyrics that are worldly or those that uplift the name of Christ.
I have the choice to put my priorities in proper order or not.

I have the choice to walk in forgiveness or bitterness.
I have the choice to reject His leading in my life or accept it.
I have the choice to respond to my children with grace and patience or anger and frustration.
I have the choice to encourage. lift up, and respect my husband or to cause division.
I have the choice to spend money selfishly or give generously.
I have the choice to listen to the truth of Christ or the lies of satan.

Oh, how the list can go on and on.

I have a choice.

1 Corinthians 10:23 is a vital verse in my life and in my spiritual growth.

"I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything," you say---but not everything is constructive.  

Yes, I can do most anything....but....

Is it beneficial?
Is it constructive?

I am free to make a choice, but I'm not free from the consequences of those choices.

Is that choice I make going to benefit and contribute to my growth or destruction? Is it going to draw me to Christ or is it going to cause me to be distracted or drawn from Him? Is it going to build up or break down?

Taking that verse a step deeper in study, I looked it up in different versions (mine is quoted from NIV) to see what other ways it was presented.

Words such as permissible, lawful, legal are used to describe the "freedom" of choice.  Not much of significance in those words beyond my initial reading in NIV.  All in all, they bring freedom.  They say "go for it". Life your life.

However, the other words are the ones that remarkable change the way I look at the choices I make.  Other versions say not everything is:

  • good for you
  • helpful
  • builds up
  • profitable
  • edifies
  • expedient
  • advantageous
  • encourages growth
  • builds others up
Those words change everything.  

Verse 24 goes on to say: 
"No one should seek their own good, but the good of others."

Backing up to chapter 6:12, it says the same basic thing, that "I have the right to do anything", but I will not be mastered by anything.

Do the choices I make lead to addictions of any kind? on any unhealthy level? 

Addictions don't have to be illegal to be wrong and not beneficial! Addictions can be in countless forms. 

It all comes down to this: 

Today, I will make COUNTLESS choices.  Those choices are either going to build someone up or bring someone down. It may happen slowly or quickly.  That person may be me.  That person may be my child, a friend, my husband, or a stranger.  But one way or another, my choices either build or destroy. 

My choices are either going to bring me better health or take away from it.  Not necessarily 100% talking only about physical health. 

My choices today will bring me closer to Christ and allow me to hear and see Him more clearly.  Or my choices will cloud my vision and distract.  

My choices today will either allow Christ to radiate from me---or not. 

My choices matter. 

Each day brings about many failures in making the best choices. I may have failed in my own weaknesses and flesh, flat out walked in sin/disobedience, or just not measured up. Thank you JESUS for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Each day brings about countless opportunities to grow, even if by the smallest little step.  Each day brings about an opportunity to start fresh and try again. Thank you Jesus, for loving me in the middle of my mess,but loving me enough to not leaving me there.  

My choice is to follow hard after Him.  Even when I fail.  Even when it's hard.  Even when it doesn't feel as if it's making a difference.  Even when it's hard to find Him in the chaos.  



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Janice--A Quiet Servant

It's no secret that I'm getting more sentimental, introspective, and memory driven as of late.  I'm a sap.  There I said it.  It's out in the open.  As if that's a great shock.  :)

Today, I find myself lost in memories once again.  Thinking of what was and what a gift I had.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of Kevin's mom's heavenly homecoming. My mother-in-law for too short of years.  I like to rephrase that to say, mother-in-love.  I like those words much better.  It wasn't until a couple of years that I began to hear that term of endearment and I believe Janice lived that out.

Though Kevin and I have had to face countless struggles and obstacles throughout our 20 years of being together, perhaps the most bonding to us has been the loss of parents that had great impacts on our lives.  It's not the path one wants to take to find deeper bonds, but none-the-less, it's reality.

I could share COUNTLESS memories of Janice or write pages about what an impact she had on many individuals and what she meant in our lives, but there is one specific I want to focus on.

Today, November 12---is a Wednesday.

Wednesday doesn't mean much to many people, but it makes Kevin and I remember her more often than any other day of the week.

I think Kevin and I have moved over 13+, but honestly we've lost count and stopped counting.  However, there were a few months of time that we were blessed with literally living across the street from his parents.  We had just moved home from Arkansas and I was just a couple of weeks away from the birth of Peyton.  Having lived away for a couple of years meant that we were enjoying being able to have family around when he was born and having everyone catch up on quantity and quality time with Adriana.

But...

It was a hard time.  I was physically struggling.  We were financially in some of our darkest times. We were facing battles and obstacles from multiple directions.  Every aspect of our lives were struggles.  My pregnancy with Peyton was difficult since it was my first one after having my lupus diagnosis.  It was uncertain and it was scary. The last six weeks, including the time period we moved, I had only about 25% of my hearing due to an infection that we couldn't treat effectively until after delivery.  Delivery itself went well, but my recovery took longer because of the drastic flare up that came immediately upon delivery and massive amounts of medications they had me on.  At that time, the learning curve of treating different aspects of lupus and pregnancy were still being experimented with.  All in all....it was a TOUGH time.  It was happy because of new life, being back home, and such....but oh so hard!

But...

Wednesday nights brought relief.  They brought connection.  They brought memories that become more priceless than ever.

For us it always has and continues to be that Wednesday nights are the hardest to balance as a family and church.  We have ALWAYS valued Wednesday night Bible study and children's programs as vital to our family's spiritual growth.  We've felt that is where the best relationships have grown and the deepest study of scripture has taken place.  It's where the biggest impact has been made on our children.  But....  to get out the door is WAY harder than a Sunday morning and the person that wrote "easy like Sunday morning" was obviously not a parent or didn't attend church! :)  At that time, our drive to church was 30+ minutes and that made the time crunch even greater.

Back to Janice.

We were always welcome in their home.  Always. However, she decided to provide dinner to us EVERY Wednesday night.  That meant, all I had to do was walk across the street.  No meal planning.  No cooking.  No cleaning.  Just get myself and the kids dressed and across the street.  That's it.  (Granted, that did seem hard and overwhelming many days.  Moms of newborns understand that!).  We often had other meals together on weekends with the rest of the family, but Wednesdays it was just us.

It was a line of sanity.

See, if you aren't from the South you may not understand what the power a meal brings.  Yes, food is important everywhere and it can be considered a universal language.  BUT....there's a whole other level of dimension in the south! It's a love language! Really.

That time spent around the kitchen table in just those 30-45 minutes felt like they packed in MUCH more time.

You see, she was a quiet servant.

She wasn't a bold woman that screamed "look at me", "look what I'm doing", or "recognize me."

I mean that in a way of honor---not in a derogatory way.

She was His servant.

She served Christ by taking care of others.  That is the number one trait she passed along to her son in abundance (and perhaps moving slow----he picked that one up too----ha---sorry Kevin---had to throw that one in!). She took care of her family's needs and those in the community, quietly without fanfare.

I believe that is exactly one of the ways the Bible teaches us to serve.  From the heart.  Without drawing attention.  Without expectation of recognition.

It may to her have simply just been an excuse to have company, to see the kids, to spend more time with her son that had been hundreds of miles away for the last several years as we lived in multiple states.

But...

It was more.

It was a life-line to THIS broken mom.  This mom holding on by the thinnest thread.  This mom that was ready to throw in the towel on multiple levels.

Sitting around that table, over a simple but amazing bowl of chili or stew, brought hope.  It brought enough motivation that to just "simply" get my little family across the street to open the door for taking another step and another step.  Returning back to normal.  Getting back to myself.  It was a chance to sit and talk, to hear Kevin's Dad offer prayer over the meal and our lives, it was a time of connection.

Though my memories and thoughts are wrapped up in her today, it also reminds me that we have more power to make a difference in someone's life than we realize.  It was a  SIMPLE meal.  It wasn't an elaborate gesture,  Yet, it made a greater impact than just providing nutrients.  We sometimes forget that our little gestures can have a great impact on others.  What we see as no big deal at all in the scheme of "big" things may actually hold more power than we realize.  We may have friends going through VERY trying times physically, emotionally, and financially  We may not can alleviate the big picture problems, but we don't need to discount how a small gesture may have a bigger impact than our eyes can see.

Go ahead and send that card.
Go ahead and make that phone call.
Go ahead and make that meal or cookies.
Go ahead and drop off that small little token of "your're in my thoughts".
Go ahead and leave that anonymous $10 even though the need may be 1,000s of times greater.
Go ahead and do that little task behind the scenes that you never get credit for (my daughter is GREAT at that).

Go ahead and humbly serve.

It makes a difference.
You may not see it today. You may not see it tomorrow.  You may not realize your impact until you are standing before Christ.

But the impact is there.

Be a quiet servant.

I know our lives were significantly blessed by a MIGHTY one that we greatly miss.  (Extra tid bit: I've always found it quite beautiful that she also shared her birthday with the day we celebrate Christ's birth! Pretty neat birthday for a precious lady.)



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Single Letter

As a homeschool mom of more than one, with many years under my belt at this point, I've now had the pure joy of teaching each one of my children to read.  I'm currently enjoying sharing the earliest foundations with my "littles" that I care for.  Though it will be a few more years before they really start putting it together, I'm thoroughly enjoying partnering in setting the stage for a love of reading and learning (and their parents are phenomenal at it as well!).

One of the many stages of learning to read includes word families.  Building fluency through showing how words relate by just changing one letter.  If you can read cat, you can read bat, hat, mat, etc..  A much later progression of that is how changing a single letter can drastically change a word.  We talk about that often in prefixes and word meanings.  Just adding an s to a word takes it from a singular to plural. We also talk about how just the reversal of  single letters can completely change a word. 

A single letter. 

It can change everything. 

My heart has been soaking in for several days now a very popular word this season and changing just one single letter.  I've been a bit in a whirlwind in the last couple of weeks and "off track" so I've not had as much time to read my favorite inspirational and spiritual blogs as often, but I do continuously see this "new" word pop up and seeing it is what has sparked my heart to really be soaking it in.  I've not had time to sit down and read to see how the "single letter" change has been described amongst those blog writers, but it's still had my wheels turning. 

Thanksgiving. 

It's this month. 
It's this season (though it seems to get lost in between Halloween and Christmas more and more every single year). 

It's a holiday.
It's a day.

Yet, it's more than JUST a day if we allow our hearts to meditate on the COUNTLESS gifts God gives us on a daily basis.  I GREATLY focus as a parent to foster gratitude in our children and try to steer them away from the DISEASE of this world: expectation and lack of gratitude.  I seek to make sure that my own heart operates in a state of thankfulness.  Let's face it:  we could begin to write out things to be thankful for and if we are honest, the ink should run out of our pens before we could finish.  Many post throughout the month of November a daily thankful status of one thing they are grateful for. (However, I'd venture to say that in comparison to last year, I am only seeing less than 10% participating.)

Thanksgiving. 

What if? 

What if we changed a single letter. 

What if we exchanged that first G for an L?

Instead of just thanksGiving we instead were thanksLiving.

ThanksLiving.

Living thanks.

Would it change us?

Giving thanks is important.  It's vital.  It can change our hearts in such a way that makes an impact.  It changes us in powerful ways. 

But...

What if that single letter changes everything.

Instead of just saying we are thankful, we lived out our thanks. 

What if we SHOW our thanks.
What if we WALK in thanks.
What if we BREATHE thanks.

What if?

What if we LIVE thanks.

Thanksliving.

What that looks like for you may look totally different than what that looks like for someone else, but what if?

What if instead of just saying we have gratitude, we truly ACT like we are grateful.  I've often said "actions speak louder than words". 

You see, I think we  I am guilty of saying things with my words, but not actually living it out as often as I should. 

I say I'm grateful for ________, but do I treat that something, someone, blessing, gift, etc... as if I am?

If you are truly thankful for something don't you treasure it? Don't you take care of it? Don't you not take it for granted?

Ouch.
Ouch.
Ouch again.

It's easy to say we are thankful, but to LIVE thankful is very different. 

I think sometimes we can be pretty petty with our gratitude.  Hang with me, don't tune me out.  I'm speaking to myself just as much as anyone that might be reading.  We can attempt to be trendy with our "thankfulness".  Our thankfulness is too often centered on trivial things.  I may say I'm thankful for my chocolate (and my family may be thankful on the days that it sure changes Momma's mood!).  You may say you're thankful for your Starbucks or some other "fancy" drink I know nothing about.  We may say we are thankful for a specific item or brag about our frugal deal.  We may say we are thankful for a parking place, for not being late to appointment, etc...

But...

Isn't that just really petty and trivial?

It's almost a flippant use of the word.

Our "thankfulness" too often tends to be directed to so many things that really aren't of importance. 

We are shallow. 

We say we're thankful for our homes, jobs, etc..

But...

Do we live that out?

Ouch.

Just the simple exchange of one letter changes everything.

What if we made the switch and truly began to live it out?

How would our lives look or be different?

I think it would bring our focus away from worldliness and more to a spiritual level.  I think it would allow God to flow more freely in our hearts.  I think we'd be less worried about what others have that we don't.  I think we'd be less dissatisfied and finally truly become grateful.  We'd stop being discontent. We'd truly value EVERY day as a gift.

I think if we were living out thankfulness---we'd begin to change our marriages, our families, our communities and our world.

Because to SAY we are thankful---to simply offer thanks---though important, isn't quite enough.

If we are thankful for homes and the amenities that we take for granted, we'd be more concerned for those without if we were living out thankfulness.

If we are living out thankfulness, we'd wrap our arms around the hurting, the ones in need, and the ones that are broken or alone.

I believe that if we switch from thanksgiving to thanksliving---that we will DO something with our gratitude. 

And...

That is to be truly grateful. 

Today, what can YOU do to live out thanks?

What is God calling you to do that you've been afraid of, pushed off, or run from?
What is God nudging in your Spirit?
What gift has He given you that you aren't living out?

Who do you need to wrap your arms around and say let me walk with you on this journey?
Who do you need to stop and TRULY say thank you to?  Not just a "thanks", but a heartfelt, heart-given thanks.

If we are living out thanks, I think it becomes harder to hold grudges, anger, and bitterness. I think it causes us to value grace and mercy. I think it becomes harder to focus on self.  I think it draws us closer to God and opens our eyes to see Him and our ears to hear Him.  I think it stirs our hearts to get up and DO SOMETHING. 

I think it takes our focus from ourselves. 

Isn't that what thanksgiving is about.  Whether we are giving thanks or living thanks---it should be about Him.  He gives us more than we can ever say thank you for----so our lives should be a reflection of our gratitude.  Giving or living thanks.