Contrast

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On a walk this week, a sight jumped out at me. I noticed the sky and trees and the glorious coloring. The question I kept asking myself is would I have noticed the sky if it weren’t for the trees? They bring out each other’s beauty.

Would I appreciate sitting in front of a sunny window with a cup of coffee if I hadn’t been out in the cold?

Would I enjoy quiet if I hadn’t been through chaos?

Do I embrace my health before it has been threatened?

Do I feel grateful for having enough or does that only come after it has been taken?

I think sometimes the only way we get perspective is to go through hard times. Our life has to be shaken up to see how blessed we are. Sometimes things need to be taken from us so we can wake up. They may be returned to us, or they may not. We have to learn to appreciate what we have or God may give it to someone who will cherish it and thank Him every day.

If your life is in order now, tell God how much you appreciate it and all He does for you.

If there is a dark situation in your life, remember to thank God for it. This is needed to contrast the good He will bring. He is creating beauty in you. When the dark time has passed, you will shine and reflect His light even more!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5: 18

 

 

 

Linking with Holley Gerth.

 

11 Things I Love More About My Husband Now Than 11 Years Ago

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This weekend we are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary. Here is a picture of us dancing to “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses at our beautiful beach wedding. Instead of doing a “11 things I have learned about marriage” type of post, this is what came to me. Besides, that sounded harder than bragging about my husband!

1. His face-Knowing that I get to look at his face for the rest of our lives is definitely not something I appreciated then as much as now. Not everyone will get the privilege of growing old together, so I am thankful.

2. His laugh-We were friends for a few years before dating, and he will always be my best friend. We make each other laugh, and sometimes that is all you need. (Well, that and patience.)

3. His presence-Sitting on the porch swing, in the car, or at a restaurant-really the location is not important. I just love being near him!

4. He calms me-I am the worrier and he is the anti-worrier. We balance each other. The times he has worried really freaked me out because I knew it must be bad!

5. His work ethic-For years, this man told me how lazy he is. But over and over again in his career, I have seen different. I can not express enough how grateful I am that he works so hard for this family.

6. Him as a Dad-This man with only brothers is an amazing Daddy to girls. They love to build with him and read with him. I know it is overwhelming to come home to 3 females, but he has perfected the art of nodding and at times pretending to listen.

7. His cooking-When we got married, I worked full time outside of the house. He did the cooking and I cleaned. Now that I am home, he still enjoys cooking on the weekend. He loves to put surprise ingredients into the burgers and have us guess what it is.

8. He makes me happy-He knows me and knows I try not to spend money on myself. He likes to encourage me to do things for myself. I guess he has learned the truth of “happy wife, happy life.”

9. He fixes things-I found a man who is handy. He fixes appliances and electrical when he can. He builds beautiful furniture. In the beginning I had no idea how much money this would save us!

10. Our journey-If someone had told me 11 years ago that we would teach elementary Sunday school together or that we would still be living in the house we bought then, I would not have believed them. This life is a journey and isn’t it a good thing we don’t know what will happen?

11. His support-My goals and life have changed over the years. Without his support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be who I am today or going in the direction I am going. We are a team and I am so happy we get to be together day in and day out.

For better for worse.

In sickness and in health.

For richer for poorer.

Happy anniversary James! I love you!

I am linking with the Saturday Soiree

Perfect Gift for Grads

A few years ago I was given an old Bible I didn’t know existed. When my parents were first married, someone gave this little Bible to Mom, but she only used it for a short time. Her main one she used for years is with my sister.

God knew right when I would start needing it-the times I started coming under attack. For years I wasn’t really doing much to challenge Satan, so I was off his radar. Once I began to grow, this Bible came in handy.

My Dad found it and sent it to me. Within weeks it was being used to comfort me. God’s timing is perfect!

One night after my first (and hopefully last) panic attack, I was too anxious to sleep. Even though I felt better, it still seemed like I might not wake up. I picked up the Bible and saw where Mom had marked Psalm 91. My strong, courageous, faithful Mom had fear! That astounded me! At this point, I can (and did that day) pick up the phone and call my Dad, but reading this also comforted me. I knew I would be OK.

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When Mom was growing up, she went to church every Sunday. However it wasn’t until she was grown up and went to Bible school that she really began to understand God’s love. I love seeing how she underlined and starred 1 John 3. It is like I can see a light bulb turning on. She got it!

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This Bible is not the only one I have, but I have been using it lately and underlining phrases and verses. Knowing how much it has meant to me, I am hopeful it will have meaning for my girls. When they go off to college, I will give each of them a Bible of mine. Being away from home for the first time after living with many rules has the potential to lead them astray. I pray that having God’s Word to turn to, as well as passages that gave me comfort and hope, will keep them going in the right direction. The times they are too embarrassed to come to me for advice I want them to look in here. Always look here first actually!

Carrying a Bible of a parent can give confidence to a young adult trying to make their way in the world. When my girls see that I went through something similar or felt the same fear, it can show them they are never alone in a way that they may not get from my words. Seeing that Jesus assured me may be just what their heart needs at that moment. If they hadn’t craved the Bible before, I have faith this will help!

Linking with Holley Gerth

When God Goes Dark

Am I the only one who occasionally wonders where God is? No? Good. For those of you who never have this problem, just nod politely and pretend you do. When I need guidance and answers, sometimes I am met with nothing but silence. I don’t feel Him and assume He must have left the room. It can really feel like the spot He was just occupying next to me has grown cold.

Well guess what? He is always there. I am just not trying hard enough or not listening. Oh sure, I pray. I do my Bible study. Sometimes that works. Honestly, I don’t do that sit-still-and-let-Him-speak thing. Of course I try, but my mind starts wandering to a to-do list. It questions what I said the night before. Truly sitting and just being present with God? Rare for me.

There have been a lot of distractions on my book writing time lately. I kept wondering why God wasn’t speaking. I had been getting thoughts and ideas from Him, but they seemed to be dried up. Then I felt the nudge that I was supposed to start reading my Bible. More than verses I am told to read for studies and devotionals. Read the Bible for fun!

Now it isn’t like as soon as I did this, everything started flowing again. (That would have been nice!) And it isn’t like I am good at it. (Sorry Lord!) There have been missed days. But I know I need to get into this habit. To dig in every day. To be excited about what will be revealed to me. To bind myself closer to Jesus every day.

That is the important part ins’t it? To learn more about God each day. To be entrenched in the Word and to have it pour into me. When it pours into me, it is more likely to come out of me and spill onto those around me. When I have God’s Word continually in my heart, I will live the right way. This world can easily dampen my mood, dull my senses, and distract me. To keep my God-fire burning bright, I need to have that steady stream.

Over all the years I have been a Christian, I have not maintained a Bible reading habit. As important as it is, I made excuses for the times I have been lacking. Time, already doing a study, it is boring, blah blah blah. The truth is that I have time if I make this a priority. Bible studies are great, but I also need to get God’s words directly from the source if I want to be effective. And really, it is only boring if I think it is going to be. If I go into it assuming I am going to get some truth with a capital T from it, and pray and ask God to speak to me, it is the furthest from boring. Like anything, reading the Bible is all about what I put into it and my expectations. I have learned to expect great things!

If anyone reading this has felt like God has been silent lately, I recommend picking up your Bible and letting Him speak again. That really is all it takes.

Linking up with the Saturday Soiree.

Be Someone Worthy of Respect

Think about someone you admire. What is it about them that stands out? Their good looks? Their witty comebacks?

Most of us look up to people who are struggling and still have joy. They are fighting a battle yet manage to keep a sense of humor. They don’t have it all together in their lives, but they love and encourage others. They have realized that life is not all about them and that looking outside of themselves bring sweetness to their days.

Anyone can be happy when life is easy, but we really stand out when the situation is tough and we can genuinely smile and show strength. When our first instinct is to get back in bed and pull the covers over our head, but instead we get up and do what we have to do. Without complaining.

When we are kind and patient with people who continually set our nerves on edge. With a smile.

When our plans fall apart and the life we have created seems to be crumbling around us, and we turn to God. With praise and no hesitation.

When someone we love is sick and we just want to cry, but we keep trusting that everything will work out. With peace in our hearts.

The world is longing to see peace, love, and joy, and they need to see it in us. They need to see the blessed assurance we have in Jesus. The world needs to see that no matter what happens in our lives, it is well with our soul. The world needs to see that our soul can sing in difficult times because of how great God is. The world needs to see us cling to the old rugged cross, because we will exchange it some day for a crown.

Not enough people are modeling this, but people need to see it. We should remember the words of James, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” We need to keep in mind that when we come out on the other side of this trial, we will be better and stronger. Our faith will be deeper and our joy greater.

If we show the world how to act in difficult times, it will draw them to God like nothing else will. They will want a relationship with a heavenly Father who loves them. They will see that when they cast their burden on the Lord, He will sustain them.

Be the example the world needs to see.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Intentional Spending: A Family Affair

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What’s the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren’t proving it by helping others? James 2:14

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him-how can God’s love be within him? 1 John 3:17

Ouch. The Bible has plenty more verses where these came from.

Hard to believe it, but our family has finished the first three months of spending money wisely so we can give more. If you would like to catch up, the vision of intentional spending is here. The first month progress report is here, and month two is here. It sure has been an eye opening ride.

This month we spent much of one weekend cleaning out and donating. Clothes, toys, and things we don’t need got donated to MUST Ministries. So many toys the girls HAD to have were in the give away pile. On our way to deliver a trunk load to MUST, we stopped at Walmart and bought non perishable food items they always need. After deciding to support a missionary family and sponsor a Compassion International child, our other monthly give will be food to MUST. I think it is important for the girls to see it and experience the giving when possible.

When I started this, the three month time period was an arbitrary number. However, it was the perfect amount of time. I said I would give up my splurges of makeup and books. What I learned is that I don’t really want makeup. It had become a habit more than a desire. I told myself that I deserved it, but so many people can use that money in life saving ways. Books are another story. While I have not run out and bought any yet, I am not giving them up. Just limiting myself from now on. I think we have to step back from things we have a compulsion to buy for a reasonable amount of time. Three months was long enough to break habits and think about why I buy these things. Also, giving things up for a good cause can help us stick with it. When I imagine a little girl in Africa getting more from the money than I got from fancy mascara, it becomes a no brainer.

If anyone is reading this and feels like they want to try it, do it. God is speaking to your heart. Please don’t worry about people’s opinions or that your family won’t want to. People will think you are crazy and most likely your family will be somewhat resistant. Often God puts an idea in one person’s heart first. He puts passion in them and brings the others around more slowly. We aren’t all going to wake up one day wanting to give everything away. But when you start, your family will catch on. Honestly, for the first two months I felt like my husband James was humoring me and would at some point tell me to stop giving our money away. It wasn’t until this past month that he really got into it. I have done my part in giving and praying for my family.

Speaking of my family, here is what they had to say about things so far:

Kaitlyn, age 6: They need stuff that we don’t need.

Lauren, age 8: It feels good to help others. It is better to help the poor than the rich.

James: The hardest part has been breakfast. I have been moved to a different building at work, and now I pass a Chick-Fil-A. Every day. One thing that has helped me spend less has been to not look at magazines with ads of things I would want.

We have now started a lifestyle change, because once you start this, why would you stop? We have given up a little so someone else can have a lot. When we give that little to God, He adds it up to so much more.

I urge everyone reading this: think of something you buy often and give it up for three months. Use that money in the way God shows you. I promise you, you won’t be sorry about the items you didn’t buy, just the fact that it took you so long. When we start seeing our money as a tool to use wisely, our eyes are opened to the needs around us.

If it is just you at first, spend less and give anyways. It won’t be long until your family notices and joins in.

Just be obedient and keep praying.

Linking with Saturday Soiree and Holley Gerth.

Divine Interruptions

Just when I think I am becoming more flexible, BAM! Something comes up that I have to deal with. And I don’t always handle it with grace and dignity. *Ahem* Maybe one day…..

Last week we missed church with my youngest and I being sick. I hate missing it, but there was no choice. You just hope and pray these sicknesses end there, but do they ever?

Monday came and my husband got on a plane to go across the country. With him out of town, I knew there would be hiccups. I knew I would miss adult conversation in the evening. But after two days of being home writing all day, Wednesday was my chance to get out! Bible study and a hospice visit! I was in party mode.

Until right before I was leaving, and the school nurse called. Y’all, that is never a good call. Sigh. I had to pick up a sick child (the other one) and take her to the doctor. No adult time. No freedom. Just me cleaning up and airing out the house. Pity party ensued.

I am ashamed to admit that after getting my baby girl settled and the house cleaned, I didn’t take the time to be with her. The guilt over being home and not writing got to me. I plugged away not getting much done. But it didn’t occur to me to watch Swiss Family Robinson with her (on a separate couch of course.) I didn’t take the time as it is flying by. This is time I can’t get back, moments I should be cherishing.

Yesterday we all overslept, so the girls had to be driven to school. I started worrying early if I was going to get everything done. Then God pointed out to me how I have been acting. He doesn’t want me to go around in crisis mode. His goal is not for me to assume the worst in everything that changes.

Maybe God is trying to tell me something when these things come up. If He can’t get my attention another way, more drastic methods might be necessary.

Gulp.

When did I get this way? Why do I fret about the day to day like this? I know I can trust God. I know He will take care of us.

I want to start looking at things that come up as divine interruptions. God is probably up there saying “Hey I am here. Remember me?” He may have something for me to see or learn. He may want me to slow down and take a breath. I tend to fixate on what is in front of me. I would not say obsess, but someone else might. At times I keep pushing when I really need a break. If I can’t see it, God sends an engraved invitation. Apparently I don’t pick up on subtle hints.

Next time my plans are broken, I pray I look to God for what He wants me to see. I want my eyes and heart to be open to an interruption from God. And I will pray the same for you.

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Keep Pedaling

We have a recently opened bike trail and decided to teach our 6 year old to ride without training wheels. Her sister learned a few years ago by circling the parking lot across the street from our house (and falling into a bush. Hy-sterical.) With this child being the more reckless of the two, who would have thought this would not work? Not us!

She was terrified and at one point kept yelling “training wheels” like they would suddenly be back on.

But I was given a jolt when my husband told her one thing: keep pedaling. See, he was holding her up the whole time.

The. Whole. Time.

She was never in danger of falling with her daddy by her side. She could never get past her fear of getting hurt, even though all she had to do was trust and keep going.

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She kept using excuses like “I’m scared” and just plain “I don’t want to.” She wouldn’t keep trying and push through the uncomfortable part to get to the fun.

My husband used brilliant motivations such as “look up!” “Don’t stop!” “I got you-you won’t fall!” All to no avail. She never dropped her defenses and let him help.

As frustrated as I was, I also felt sad for her. If she doesn’t learn to ride a bike, she will miss the freedom it brings. She won’t experience the exhilaration and the wind blowing her hair back. When her sister got her bike back, she had the time of her life. Her whoops and hollers could probably be heard for miles. She is learning new things like how to stand on the pedals and how to ride with her legs out to the side.  It is pure magic to watch!

How often do we act like this with God? You know those times He has something extraordinary planned for us? All we have to do is keep moving ahead. Look out and focus on what is out there. “Trust Me, I am holding your life in My hands,” He says.

But we look down and get scared. We think too much and stop in our tracks. We forget God is merciful and loving. He wants us to do amazing things. He wants us to have exhilarating experiences that change our lives. He gives us pure joy even when we try to push it away.

There are even some of us who don’t take off the training wheels. We don’t realize we have outgrown the baby bike, and God has something bigger in mind for us. How sad if we keep going and accept that this is how it will be forever.

If you are about to reject God’s plan, keep pedaling. Pedal your legs for all they’re worth and soon you will look back and wonder why you didn’t sooner!

 

 

 

Linking with the Saturday Soirée!

Celebrating Mom’s Birthday in Heaven

Sunday my Mom would have been 67. Until a few years ago, I would mourn the day she went to heaven 12 years ago in August. Each year I wouldn’t really think about her birthday, at least not without sorrow. Three years ago a wise person suggested we celebrate that she lived.That opened my eyes! It isn’t that I miss her any less, but now I take the opportunity to to be happy she lived, on the day she came into this world.

So we started buying a birthday cake, which thrilled my girls. They were at ages of starting to understand that I had a Mom that they never got to meet. Sometimes they are sad and ask me questions about her. Honestly, it makes me sad too, but seeing how excited they are to have a birthday party for her makes it easier. Here is this year’s cake:

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Last year we started another tradition. The girls make her birthday cards. Yes, my 6 year old told her Mimi she “licks” her. She obviously did this on her own. :)

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Then we send the cards up to heaven with balloons. There is something special about watching those balloons rise, even though I know they won’t actually get to heaven.

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Now that we have a birthday party for Mom, I see that August date differently. I don’t have to mourn and cry. I am more excited that she lived and was my Mom instead of somebody else’s. I have always known I will see her again one day, but now it is because of her that we have discussions about what it will be like. (We are convinced there is Chick-Fil-A in heaven!)

Looking at and choosing to focus on the happy makes the sad more tolerable. We all have choices to make in our view. When we lose someone we love, we can continue to mourn or be glad for the time we had. I think society tells us to stay in mourning forever, but that isn’t how God wants us to live! Psalm 30:5 has been a great comfort to me, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Everyone’s grief has a different time table, but God wants us to have joy again. He doesn’t want us stuck in the past but moving to the future.

If you are in a place of mourning someone you love, take heart. God doesn’t want it to last forever. You may be in the night, but He will bring you to the joy of the morning.

Maybe cake is just what you need!

Linking with Holley at her Coffee For Your Heart!

Stop Comparing

Comparison is a joy thief.

We start out happy for a friend buying a big house, and then a thought creeps in.

“Why do they get to move when I am stuck in this dump?”

Or a family member gets a fancy car.

“I work just as hard, so I deserve nice things too!”

That excitement for someone else’s life just came to a screeching halt. The joy was genuine, but now so is the indignation. Suddenly everyone else has the life we want. And we. Are. Ticked.

“Come on God. Am I invisible? Do You just love them more?” (OK maybe we won’t admit to being so juvenile, but we sure think this way!)

It has taken me until the middle of my thirties, but I am starting to see things differently. I see a God who loves me enough to give me what I need. I feel His eyes on me, working things out ahead of me. I will have or experience the things He prepares for me at the right time, and no sooner. I know I have it better than I deserve.

Did you get that? We have it better than we deserve. That’s the part we conveniently forget. If we are going to compare, we have to compare our lives to our neighbor AND to the poor. Sure we may not have extra bedrooms, but our children have beds. We have one or more cars while many kids have to walk miles a day to get clean water. Water. That stuff that comes out of our faucets, hot or cold.

We start to have tunnel vision and only see who has it better. The jealousy that emerges takes our joy and replaces it with bitterness. This is a self righteous anger that assumes a friend got what we deserve.

Umm, no.

We don’t deserve better stuff when a mom is working 3 jobs to barely put food on the table. We don’t deserve brand name clothes when there are kids who don’t have jackets. They wait for the bus and shiver against the wind and snow.

God does not have to bless us any more than He already has. But you know what? He wants to. Despite our whining and complaining, He loves to pour out His blessings on us. How cool is that?

Maybe the next time we start looking to our left and right and what they have, we should stop. We should look up and thank God for all He has given us and will give us.

There is no comparing how much God loves us. We are all the same in that way. When we see it like this, the indignation fades away and the joy returns.

Linking with the Saturday Soiree.