God Sees Us in Our Seasons

The thoughts were etched in my mind: When will I be useful again? I can’t ever help anyone or volunteer because I can’t take the girls. Am I wasting my life?

Y’all, those are just plain lies from the pit of hell! Satan loves nothing more than to make us believe his convoluted version of truth. He is so sneaky and knows just what pushes each of our buttons. You feel useless. You think God can’t use you because of your past. You think being somewhere else or with someone else will make you fulfilled. Well, you’re wrong. Satan tries to push us as far from our loving God as he can and will use guilt, thinking we have no value, or an affair to achieve that goal. We can’t let him!

I am learning more and more about seasons. The older I get, the faster time flies. I look back on that sweet, well meaning girl I was and at how fast those babies grew, and I am grateful I had all that time to be with them. A friend of mine pointed out that she had been there and that I could volunteer when they went to school. She was right and I had three great years volunteering and making new friends. At the time she said that, it seemed that would never happen. I was up to my elbows in diapers and that did not seem like meaningful work. There were days I despaired and wondered if God even saw me. Why would He? There were more Important People out there.

Don’t get me wrong- I loved my time with my girls. Being away from them felt like my heart was ripped out. But I would get an email every month about ways I could help in the community and they made me feel so useless. I could never do any of it, because even when I tried in the evening, James couldn’t get home in time or he would need me to help with a sick child. There was a war going on inside of me. I loved my life but felt like there was more I should have been doing.

If this sounds like you, let me tell you something: This is a short season. Oh so short. Enjoy it as much as you can (hey, I know it isn’t always fun). One day soon you will be able to get out and do more if you want to. I am now two seasons away from that time and back at work part time. I can’t believe how fast the years are going by.

Each time our life is going in a new direction, Satan will try to distract us. He will tell us we can’t do this or that we should be doing something else. Don’t let him steal any joy from your life. Know that if this is where you are, you are here for a reason. Make it count. It may feel small, but none of it is. Do your best and leave the timing up to God.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Raised to Walk in Newness of Life

In my last post, I talked about my Mom because this past Sunday marked 13 years since she went to heaven. When that date rolls around every year, it can be so difficult. I can easily wallow in all the things I wish she were here for. This year was different though.

My oldest, nine-year-old Lauren, was baptized on that date! Every August, our church holds a huge picnic and baptism at the lake, and about 100 people are baptized. We knew Lauren wanted the lake baptism, and God planned it for the 23rd this year. When I found that out, I couldn’t help but smile.

No, Mom wasn’t here for us to see and hear and touch, but her presence was greatly felt. Her legacy will live on and because of Lauren’s decision, she will meet her Mimi one day. I know Mom was up in heaven cheering on her grand daughter.

Over the weekend, our family shared many laughs and fun times. We rejoiced in Lauren’s new life as well as celebrated a few birthdays. It is indeed true that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

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While we were eating dinner, Lauren was hoping that our middle school pastor could baptize her. It makes me so happy that, while she won’t be in middle school for two more years, she already feels comfortable with Chris. I am confident that he will help her (and us!) navigate those murky middle school years!

She was thrilled and a little less nervous when it was Chris she waded out to. (It didn’t hurt that the water was warmer than she thought it would be.)

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My baby girl came up, dripping water, grace, and God’s promises for her future. He has so much in store for her and so many lives will be changed because of her. She already does everything she can to help others, and that will only increase.

I am so thankful for a church that we all love and for a staff who pour themselves into others the way ours does. Even more, I am grateful that God doesn’t let us stand still in our grief. He wants us to move on to all the new and wonderful things He has planned for us, and He draws us out of sadness and into joy. He loves us so deeply that He just can’t stop surprising and delighting us.

God gave us a breathtaking sunset in case we were wondering how He felt about us.

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People being baptized under a sky like that-it doesn’t get any better.

Linking with Holley Gerth

The Moon is My Rainbow

Congratulations to Kathryn Shirey for winning a copy of my book! The rest of you will have to buy it here.

Everyone has been making a big deal about super moons lately. Each time I go look though, I am slightly disappointed. Sure it looks a little bigger and brighter. I just keep hoping to see what I saw the night You took Mom home. I had gone back to my apartment on Wednesday, knowing it was a matter of hours or days. When I got a call early Friday morning, I dressed and drove the 45 minutes to the house to see her one last time.

The roads were empty and the usually hot August air was still and cooler. As I drove through Georgia, my thoughts were at war with each other. Of course I was sad and missed her already. Part of me felt relieved she was out of pain and with You finally. The rest of me was tired.

Then I saw it. You placed the most amazing thing in the sky that night. This was no super moon- it was breathtaking. The moon was larger than life and lit up the sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! Then and there my heart was calmed and peace settled over me. You, in Your sovereignty, gave me just what I needed. It felt like You came down out of the heavens and comforted me. I instantly knew that You truly understood my sorrow at losing someone I loved so. Knowing You sent Your Son to earth to pay for my sins became real to me in that moment. You comprehend grief because You were the first to feel it. You created this perfect world with beings in Your image, and we destroyed it. You were devastated at man’s betrayal and the subsequent downward spiral that has been happening ever since. Knowing how we treat You never makes You see us as anything less. We are still in Your image and You love us with every fiber of Your being. No matter what.

After that night, the moon has become a rainbow for me. A symbol of Your love and promises. It reminds me of Your presence. That night, seeing Your glory light up the night sky, was one of the first times I had felt Your presence in a tangible way. It felt like I could reach out and touch You. You knew I needed reassurance. Many times since then, I have wondered if I imagined it. I knew I was awake, so it wasn’t a dream. The night felt very dream-like, but it was so real. At first I liked to think having that moon was Your way of greeting Mom. But something tells me what she got was somehow better!

The rainbow after the flood in the Bible was a covenant You made to Noah, and to us as well. You said You would never flood the earth like that again. Even if (when) people become lost and evil again, You are not going to bring that much rain. When You gave me such an amazing moon that night, You wanted me to know that although a situation looks bleak, You are in the middle of it. You are full of power and mercy. As long as I keep looking up, I will see Your presence. Nothing can take that away from me.

A full moon tells me that no matter what is going on in my life, You see it. You care. You promise to always be with me, especially when life is challenging. Nothing happening in my life slips by You-even the seemingly small stuff. When I see a moon now, 13 years later, I still get that feeling of love and security. Warmth takes over from the inside out and I can’t help but smile. My God, You love me enough to show Your affection and wrap Your arms around me. Nothing reminds me of Your presence like a moon, and that is something that will stay with me until I can see You face to face. It all started on a sad night, but You began immediately to take that sadness from me. Little by little, You stayed true to Your promise that You would always be with me. I did not know the full extent of the importance of that moon at the time. Over the years, You replaced a tiny bit of grief with a little more hope when I would see the full moon. I will never stop missing my Mom, but the sadness began to overwhelm less and less as You washed it out of my soul.

As much as I want to see Mom and others I have lost, You want to see me MORE. One day that will be fulfilled, but until then, You will display Your majesty for me to enjoy. As long as I see these things, truly SEE them, You will keep showing me what You can do.

Maybe when I get to heaven, You can show me how You did it.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

If Only

This weekend, we were discussing time in the car. I was trying to explain how, to God, a day is totally different. For us, a day can seem to take forever. When we were kids, the school year NEVER ENDED. We were NEVER going to be old enough to do the things we wanted.

Now I look back at the years that flew by. Shouldn’t I still be a kid instead of having them myself? I certainly am not old enough to have kids the ages mine are!

Life goes by in the blink of an eye. It is a shame that it takes us so long to realize this. If only we could know then what we know now.

If only I could have just relaxed about the condition of my house when my girls were younger, I would have enjoyed it more.

If only I had realized that they will not always wake up in the middle of the night, I might have grumbled less.

If only I had treasured the days when they were my little buddies, I would have more memories.

If only I had let them get sticky and dirty more often, they would have learned more about the world.

If only I had cuddled with them more when they wanted to, I could have soaked up more of their sweetness.

Right now I am savoring the days and moments they still want to be with me, as I know that will change soon enough.

Each phase brings new challenges as well as fun times, and I want to be able to find the good in each age. I know I want to have a full collection of memories-the good, the bad, and the ugly. Soon enough my girls will be in high school, driving, dating, and then moving out. While they are still with me, I want them to know how loved they are. I need them to remember I am always here for them, no matter what.

Whatever circumstance we are in at the moment, we should savor it. Sometimes the only thing worse than a situation is looking back and seeing the good for the first time. We tend to want to move on to the Next Thing as fast as possible, so we don’t look at all the beauty that surrounds us. We don’t take the time, while we are in this moment, to enjoy this time in our lives.

God doesn’t rush and neither should we.

Linking with Holley Gerth

My Book Has Arrived! plus Giveaway

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After all the blood, sweat, and tears, my book is finished! It feels surreal to say that. Earlier this week, I got the first copy in the mail and started crying. It looks so beautiful! I had it edited and had a cover made for it but published it myself through Createspace.

The moment I hit “Publish,” my girls were on either side of me on the couch and James sat across from us. We are going through the intentional spending experience together, so I loved that they got to be with me at the beginning of this journey.

In case you haven’t heard about our intentional spending, I began to write about it last summer. This is my first post. For three months, I gave up buying things I didn’t need. Splurges I gave up included books and makeup (funny that I now sell makeup!) The money our family saved began to go to others. We now sponsor a little girl through Compassion International and support missionary families every month. When I see a need, I help without hesitating. The changes have really lodged in our hearts, and I thought others could benefit from this experiment. Thus, Intentional Spending: Spending Less So Others Have More was born.

The writing process taught me so much. I learned that I can do anything with God. None of this was in my power-HE gets all the glory. The words, the ideas, the chapters. I would be sitting there staring at the computer wondering what to type if I hadn’t prayed each time I sat down to write. The only proof of my work would be a puddle of drool.

I learned that while I love writing this blog, one book is enough for me. The amount of hours I spent alone, (no, the dog doesn’t count until he can tell me what to write), writing about one topic day after day was excruciating for me. Unless God taps me on the shoulder again, I’m out y’all. I still get to call myself an author after one book ;)

I learned that all the work was worth it. Tears come when I think about our family’s book, and I think about our story changing other people’s lives. That is what God does-He put us here to make a difference. I affect others and they go on to change those around them.

A book about giving wouldn’t be the same without part of the proceeds going to a good cause. Two dollars from every sale will go to NorthStar Church’s BOLD fund. We are raising money to pay off the remainder of our mortgage. Once it is paid off, we will be able to do so much more for our community!

To purchase a copy, click here for the book version and here for the Kindle version. I know God will put it in the right hands.

I am going to give away a copy! In the comment section, please tell me what you would give up so someone else could have more. I will pick a winner next week!

Linking with Holley Gerth and Faith Along the Way

August Changes

As it is August, my life is changing again. From volunteering to writing a book, God has been bringing something new to me each year. Some years I search frantically for the wrong thing. This year, God got ahead of me for a change!

Since we have some big expensive home repairs that need to be done, I once again pondered a job. In my mind this summer, I tried to figure out what days I could work and wondered about what I would do all the days the kids have no school. And would I need after school care? My thought was to get the girls in school last week and then start looking.

Well, a week before school started, I was talking with my friend for a minute and told her I decided to get a job. She had just heard about one that morning. I had an interview the next morning and was offered the job. I started this past Friday!

It was totally God. My new boss told God, “Bring me someone who loves You and loves kids.” He brought us each other. I pick up lunches and take them to a school. I serve those lunches, clean up, and bring the dishes and leftovers back. It is four hours a day when my girls are in school. (This is good because my second grader asked me who was going to take care of them if I work. Bless her heart.) I get holidays and summers off!

This job is such a blessing and was dropped in my lap. I didn’t hunt and stress myself out. It came at just the right time.

I am beginning a new stage in my life. While I will miss my volunteering days (and volunteer buddies) terribly, I need to be around people more. I am thrilled to be able to contribute financially again (and so is my husband), but the best part is feeling I am right where I belong. Right where God wants me.

If you are in a time of waiting and praying, know that God has the right thing planned for you that will be revealed when you are ready. Don’t push for it sooner so you, too, can be right where God wants you.

It is the best place, after all!

Linking with Holley Gerth

When You Have Cried Your Eyes Out

My body is so heavy, I fall to the floor.

Tears flow freely and I don’t try to stop them.

Every few minutes, the sobs subside until a fresh wave hits.

Crying can be cathartic, but sometimes it leaves me more tired, with swollen eyes.

Sometimes I don’t feel better at all.

Once I am spent, I go wash my face.

What now? Where do I go from here?

When it feels like You are far from this situation?

When praying and reading Your word didn’t bring comfort?

I find Your creation and sit in it.

I go to people You made to love me: the family and close friends You put in my life.

I do a task to distract myself from the heartache or I read a book.

I soak in all the goodness You placed in my life, for there is a lot.

There will always be terrible days, terrible moments.

But the sun still shines.

Children giggle as they play.

The moon rises full and bright.

Chocolate melts on my tongue.

You taught me long ago there is always good with the bad.

Maybe I have to look for it harder some days.

But it is there, like a shiny penny.

Waiting for me to notice it and pick it up.

To hold onto it and cherish it.

You delight in hidden treasure.

You want me to smile again.

To see the gifts as from You, not as coincidence.

For they are strategically placed for my benefit.

You wait for me to hear a song I need right then.

Or receive a hug from the right person.

I just need to open my eyes and really see.

And if all else fails, there is always a new day coming.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Stand Strong

You know how sometimes you read a very familiar verse so you kind of gloss over it until you get to the next one, and the next one smacks you in the face? Yes? OK good. It’s not just me.

Reading 1 Peter 5, I read verse 8 and then verse 9 grabbed me. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Peter wrote this book of the Bible as a letter to believers in the early ’60’s. They were being persecuted, and he wanted to give them guidance and hope. He wanted each of these small cities in Asia Minor to know the others were going through hard times, and none of them were the only ones. It can definitely make things a lot easier to keep going when you know that your family is there with you, suffering along with you. The book of 1 Peter is kind of like an email blast to keep the early Christians updated. There was no internet or even phones for these remote towns, so they had to rely on this method and take Peter’s word.

Y’all, I don’t know about you, but this verses brings me shame. I do know that Christians around the world are being persecuted, but it is definitely not the same sufferings as me. They are fighting for their actual freedom, not the perceived rights I think are being taken from me. They are fighting to keep their lives, not their taxes. I complain about the most minor of things while people don’t have a Bible or easy access to a church (or seven churches.)

The truths in the Bible still apply today, as evil is still here. It may take different forms, but we need to stay alert and stay firm in our faith. My suffering may look different than people on the other side of the world, or even yours, but we must hold true to our beliefs. Today my persecution may look like being rejected by a friend for being a Christian, but that doesn’t mean it will stay like that. If I can’t stay true to my relationship with Jesus through a small issue like that, there is no way I could hold up under worse.

Maybe all this sounds dire, but we must not forget that Peter pointed out that we aren’t alone in this. We have God to help us, but we also have each other to lean on. Remember Satan may be prowling around, but he is looking for the weak and alone. We need to strengthen our resolve now, before his attacks grow stronger.

Peter left us with hope in the very next verse. “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Amen!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Reach Out and Pull Others Up

Everywhere we look these days, there is negativity. It seems that when someone does a good thing, it is overlooked or cynical people tear that act to shreds. Why are we like this? Why don’t we try to see the good in people and in this life? We should be lifting each other up and encouraging those who need it. Instead we go on witch hunts to boost our own ego. This happens with parents, in jobs, and in our communities. (Don’t get me started on politics!)

As Christians, we are here to bring glory to God. With that in mind, here are some verses about being positive.

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.”

I have a challenge for you: this weekend, focus on being a positive voice to those around you. You never know who needs a kind word. Look for the good in them and say it out loud. To their face. Make eye contact and tell them what they mean to you. Tell them how great they are doing. Or just remind them it is going to get better, and truly mean it.

We get one life, but many chances at making a difference. Maybe this feels trivial to you, but it won’t to someone who is feeling like a failure. It will have meaning to someone who is holding onto hope by the tiniest of threads.

God puts people in our paths for a reason. He wants us to reach out and share His love. Are we really living that out? It is never too late to start!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

Vacation From Blogging

My family was on vacation last week. We spent many hours on the beach, reading or in the water. We had discussions with my husband’s family and lots of good seafood. The ocean is always my go-to for peace and relaxation and figuring out my place in this world.

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I decided ahead of time that this would be a break from the blogging world. I would not write in mine or read others. Complete break. Of course I was nervous. After writing a few times a week since January 2014, what would happen if I didn’t? Would people lose interest? Or worse, would anyone even notice my absence?

Half way through the week, I realized how badly I had needed a vacation. I brought a notebook with me, in case I got the urge to write. Do you know what happened to it? It stayed in my bag all week. I never once had an idea or urge to pick up my pen.

After a year and a half of non stop writing, I was dry. My poor brain needed to rest and probably had for some time. I tend to push so everyone will know I am busy and pulling my weight. Whose approval should I be seeking, those who are on the fringe of my life or God’s? God knows my heart and my schedule. As long as I am doing what He asks, I am on the right path. (And honestly, do those other people really judge me? Probably not. We are all consumed by our own day to day!)

Now I know the truth: when I feel weary, I should rest. Even when it is from sitting at the computer, I can still be worn out. After a week completely away, I feel recharged and ready to go.

Once I get all the laundry done.

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Linking with Holley Gerth