Age is a Privilege

Today is my 40th birthday! Many people dread birthdays, but why not celebrate being alive? We are all privileged more with each passing day that we have been given here. Each day and year is a chance to gain wisdom and peace, to learn what really matters, and to grow in patience and understanding. What’s not to love?

Maybe I feel this way because of my Mama. She had severe scoliosis and was told she would not have kids or live past the age of 40. She was told this in her early 20’s, right before marrying Dad. They decided to have as many kids as God allowed and live as many years together as they could. Mom had 3 healthy kids and lived to almost 55. I can’t imagine being told this and then trying to live a normal life, but they did it. They trusted that God had a plan for their lives and each of us kids.

Growing up, I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know the strength of my parents’ faith. I am in awe of them putting their future in God’s hands in such a complete way when they were barely adults. It must have been so hard some days, but they clung to God in a pure way.

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Old or young, rich or poor, kind or unkind-none of it affects how long we are here. We can leave the world in an instant. Since this is true, we should be doing what we can today for those around us. Living joyfully and without fear. Putting our hearts out there for people to love, or not. Making the most of what we have been given. Hopefully we will get to the end of a long life and know we have done our best. Even if my time here is over tomorrow though, I want to have done everything I was supposed to have done.

You are here for a reason, one that only you can fulfill. Live your life as a testament to that fact and be all here. Be you, and don’t apologize for it. Learn from mistakes and give grace freely. Smile more and lift others up.

It sounds cheesy, but I do know how blessed I am with all I have been given. I hope I never take any of my life for granted. The good and sometimes especially the bad have made me who I am. Tonight my family and I had chocolate fondue for dinner. We only live once, right?

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A Coke and a Smile

This post feels like one of my more personal ones, because God got all up in my emotions and false truths. He had to reveal how off I have been. Maybe you can relate.

Our local Christian radio station had a contest where you could create the fish logo however you want and post it on social media with a certain hashtag.  If they called your name at 3 specific times per day, you had 10 minutes to call the station and claim a $100 gift card. If you did that, you were entered to win the $10,000 grand prize at the end of May.

Well, I made a fish out of Coke cans. It took me a few minutes total and my name was mentioned 2 days later, so I called back and qualified. It was so exciting! It was fun to think about how great the grand prize money would be, but I almost didn’t want to win. The idea of winning when so many people need it more would have made me feel really guilty.

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My 12 year old was the one who reminded me that it would help with fostering needs that will come up soon. I nodded along as she talked. Yes, yes, I will need to devote more time to appointments and helping with homework than a job. Her words didn’t sink in too deep, but I didn’t want my guilt to rub off on her so I agreed.

Now, I am on the launch team for Kelly Balarie’s new book, Battle Ready, and happened to read a sentence that leaped off the page at me the night before the drawing. THE NIGHT BEFORE. God knew how badly I needed this. It said, “What if you actually started to believe God has good gifts for you because you are His beloved daughter?” The moment I read that I knew it was for me.

In my mind, I don’t deserve good things. Sometimes it is because others need it more. Sometimes it is because I don’t think I have earned it. I struggle with letting God give me a gift out of His love for me. I have a hard time thanking God and just being happy and feeling blessed.

Looking back, I started saying, “But wait. When James has gotten good raises or promotions at work, I am happy and not guilty. This must not be true!” Then I realize that in those times, I am proud of my husband for his hard work. It wasn’t up to me. When it has been something of mine, I feel unworthy of receiving.

Just to let you know, I didn’t win. The woman who won the $10,000 is pregnant with her seventh baby, and I am pretty sure she is happier than I would have been. God always blesses the right person at the right time.

What I am now working on is learning to receive graciously whatever God wants to give me. He loves me! Don’t we all enjoy giving gifts to those we love? He knew I wasn’t ready for this one, but I want to be ready next time.

Battle Ready is available for presale and comes out July 3. I have taken so many notes from it, but I can tell I will go back to it many times for more. It will be an amazing resource and refresher when God has a new message for me. If you want God to work on you and grown your faith and pull you closer, you need this book!

Linking with Holley Gerth

He Remembered

The story of Hannah and Samuel is a story of hope, perseverance, and God coming through. We can all relate to something in Hannah’s life: Her simple dreams, her unfulfilled longings, or maybe seeing every one else having what she wanted. Her humble life made a huge impact for the kingdom of God after all was said and done.

1 Samuel 1 tells about how Hannah was unable to bear children for years, while her husband’s other wife kept popping them out. (Yes, that is the technical term used by the author.) Hannah had her husband’s love, but her heart longed to also be a mama. It must have been sheer torture to see children running around that were not hers. When you think about the culture of the day, a woman’s purpose was to have kids. There were no fertility treatments available. She would have been looked at like there was something wrong with her for her to be punished like this.

Poor Hannah.

Many of us today feel forgotten and overlooked. Sometimes it is because we have a desperate desire for a spouse or child. It may be for a close friend or a fulfilling job. None of these things are bad, and yet they are denied to many of us.

Verse 19 is my favorite verse in the story. “The Lord remembered her.” Now, God had not forgotten Hannah in the years leading up to her conceiving Samuel. He knew everything about her and her heartache. He knew this time tested her faith and strengthened her for whatever may lie ahead. It also gave her a great story for when other people came up to her at the well with their own tales of sadness. She would be able to say to them, “I kept praying for a baby and God gave me more than I asked for.” Maybe she even dropped the mic after that. What more would need to be said?

The problem we often have is we give up asking for what we want or don’t even ask for it in the first place. Hannah didn’t give up her dream and she didn’t blame God. She didn’t decide God was against her. She simply kept pouring her heart out to God and trusting Him for the outcome. Samuel’s name literally means, “I asked the Lord for him.” She put it out there for all to know.

God gave Hannah the gift she had pined for. He didn’t hold back on her and He won’t hold out on you. Trust God and hold tight to His promises. When you do, you won’t be able to hold the blessings He pours over you.

Linking with Holley Gerth

All In How I Look

Society is more and more sophisticated, and I take more and more for granted. But when I look around my house, I see:

A cabinet full of dishes, so I don’t have to wash the same set over and over.

A dishwasher that makes it so all I have to do is rinse the many dishes I have.

A pantry full of food. So much food that it goes bad before I eat it.

A microwave so I can reheat a meal in seconds.

A stove and oven so I don’t need to start cooking one meal as soon as I clean up from the last.

A machine that just boils water so I don’t have to stand over a fire to make a cup of tea.

Lights that turn on when I flip a switch so I don’t have to carry a lantern around or go to bed at sundown.

A heater so I don’t have to risk burning my house down to stay warm at night.

An air conditioner so I am not sweltering in the Georgia heat from April until October.

A TV that has many channels that I can watch any time I want.

A washing machine that makes it so I don’t have to scrub my clothes.

A dryer so I don’t have to hang my clothes to dry all day.

Enough clothes that I can go a long time without having to wear the same ones.

A car of my own so I don’t have to walk miles to get groceries, uphill both ways.

A bed so my aging back doesn’t have to get sore from sleeping on the floor.

A phone that helps me look up useless information or send people messages that they receive immediately.

Many books, including the Bible, to keep my brain engaged.

Music to lift my spirits.

Thoughts that I can change on my own.

I am a blessed girl. How are you blessed?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Lesson During a Holiday Break

Some times you just need a break. Right now, that is me! The Friday before Thanksgiving I realized I had no words. I got a little panicky because I was already going to take the next week off and couldn’t take more! Right? Seriously, where did I come up with these rules? In the almost 4 years of this blog, I have only taken a week off at a time and very rarely. Well, when you make your own rules, you can break them.

In the end, I decided to take the rest of the year off unless I had ideas. Honestly, life is so busy there isn’t time to think. It has been good for me to not be so rigid with writing. If people lose interest in reading it, so be it. I can’t control it anyways!

Days after deciding that, we had family in town and my oldest got sick. Turns out she had pneumonia and is finally recovering. It has been a scary few weeks, but she is on the upswing. She is getting better just in time for her daddy to get something like the flu. He is now the one with a cough, no appetite, and no energy. Is it summer yet?

Speaking of seasons, it isn’t even winter, and we had 8 inches of snow between Friday and Saturday. The most snow in the Atlanta area since the blizzard of ’93! School got out early Friday and just started back up today. Thousands of people were without power for days. Ours surged a few times but never went out.

Yes, life is hectic right now. In addition to work, taking care of sickies, and keeping up with the house and children’s homework, there has also been Christmas shopping and planning. No pressure. Over and over I keep hearing people say how blessed they are. It is true, we are blessed, but I have heard it said when someone is talking about a good circumstance. No matter what, we are blessed. We are blessed whether we have power or not. We are blessed if we can buy our children Christmas presents or not. When life is good or life is hard, we are blessed. God loves us. He sees where we are and knows us fully. He provides for us in unusual ways and in His timing.

My prayer for you is that you feel that blessing from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You are never alone. You are never forgotten. You are loved with an everlasting love and it won’t be taken away. May your days be cheery and bright, not because of your surroundings, but because of the peace that comes from knowing you are loved no matter what.

Parable

 

A man invested in Home Depot and Apple stocks early on. Some people called him lucky-they were just jealous. The man was really smart and knew these companies would be successful.

Pride began to take over. He didn’t need help from anyone, and he was not about to help others with his “hard earned” money. If he had done this, they could too.

After a few years, the man quit his job and thought he would just take it easy. He deserved it! It was tough work managing his money and cashing those dividend checks. That was a full time job itself!

People would ask him for money, but he just scoffed at them. Everyone wanted a hand out. Well, he was no sucker! Slowly, he cut off the rest of the world.

The man decided to buy some land in the country and build a big house. He put a big fence around it and changed his phone number. He even stopped speaking to his family. They acted like they were concerned about him, but, really, they just wanted his money.

Over time, the man left his house less and less. He had groceries delivered. He ate all his meals alone at a big table meant to be used by family.

There was no laughter, no tears. There was no human connection, only silence. When sadness crept into the man’s heart, he pushed it away and reminded himself that people would just want his money.

After living like this for years and years, the man died and no one knew. All that money he worked so hard to keep was wasted.

Another man also invested heavily in Home Depot and Apple stocks. When it payed off, he realized how much he had been given and wanted to make the most of it.

This man helped out friends and strangers who needed it. He understood that this was a gift and he must be wise with it. He was given this opportunity to bless others.

He worked hard for many years and volunteered his time for causes he felt important. His family always knew they could count on him and knew he loved them.

This second man built a modest house for himself and kept investing in the lives of others. The whole community ate dinner at his house at one time or another. There was always room for one more at his table.

He had a wife who felt appreciated, kids who knew their father would always love them, and eventually, grandchildren to spend time with. He made them each feel like they were the most special person in the world.

When he died, thousands of lives had been touched. His funeral was full of hundreds of people who admired and respected him.

Which do you want to be like? Start now.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Linking with Holley Gerth

 

What Distracts You? Plus Giveaway

Two years ago, we were in the thick of intentional spending. I was cutting back on spending so we could give more. One of the things I gave up buying was books, but I couldn’t resist a deal where a book I had been wanting went on sale for $.99. My Mama didn’t raise no fool who would pass that up!

The book I bought was Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan. It is a great book that grabs you and changes the way you see the world and privilege. Shelene is very open about her struggles and the process she went through to change and give more freely. I read this book two years ago, and a story still goes through my head now, especially lately.

Shelene was in Peru and visiting the poorest members of a church congregation. Her group was getting to know families as they passed out packs of food. They ended the day at a house with 4 generations of women living in it. The hostess allowed them into the shack and introduced them to her mother, daughter, and newborn granddaughter. As Shelene is feeling sorry for the group, the woman asks Shelene if she can pray for her. When Shelene asked why, the woman responded, “Because you have way more things to distract you from our God than I do.”

Wow. Just wow. This nugget of wisdom has been on my heart for two years. Almost all of the things we own and much of what we do are superfluous. We do our best to justify “needing” them when really we just want them. There is always something new out there and we focus on wanting it and not concentrate on how much God has already blessed us with. He gives us all we need and much more, but it can seem like it is still not enough when we let it consume us.

This woman was so wise in her words. Her life was simple and she relied on God to supply her needs. Do we rely on God to supply all of our needs? I am not talking about picking and choosing when to rely on Him, but all the time. “Oh, this is something simple. I can do it myself. Thanks anyways, God.” No, we have it all wrong. We owe everything to God as He is the One who brings it all to us. Every bite of food. Every day of work. Every article of clothing. This woman had a dirt floor in a one room house and appreciated it. She focused her energy on God and His goodness. Do we? Or do we take our beautiful and blessed lives for granted?

Did I step on your toes? I hope so, because this should mess us up. Rearranging our priorities is uncomfortable and messy. It won’t always feel good, but it does the most good.

I have an extra copy of Love, Skip, Jump and want to give it away! Leave a comment to be eligible. But be warned: you will not be the same after reading it.

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Thank You

God, I thank You for my life. I thank You for the simple things I take for granted. Thank You for waking me up each day and giving me purpose. Thank You for opening my eyes to the truths You put in front of me. Thank You for my family and that we love each other enough to get on each others’ nerves from time to time. Thank You for the support and friendship You have placed around me to guard me and build me up. Thank You for all of the times my country has experienced turmoil so we can be where we are today. Thank You for my freedom and that I can choose to worship You. Thank You for the Bible and that I am allowed to read it. Thank You for the men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives for me, even though they never met me.

May I live each day as if I appreciated everything. Every breath, every smile, every hug. May I even appreciate the hard times because they bring me closer to You and closer to who You want me to be. You have put me right where You want me to and planted me around abundant streams to nurture me. May I stay right where You placed me and help others grow. May we be fragrant and pleasing to You. Amen

Linking with Holley Gerth

Just to See You Smile

During Spring Break a few weeks ago, the girls and I cleaned their rooms. (We know how to have a good time. Who needs the beach?) Of course, things could be heard, like, “I’ve been looking for that!”

While cleaning Kaitlyn’s room, Lauren found a compact that Grandma brought her from Canada a few years ago. Kaitlyn became sad because she suddenly realized she wanted one. Do either one need portable mirrors? No, but you know how it is when someone else has one.

The next day, I was so excited when I saw the sparkly, jeweled compact I had gotten from our makeup company. Kaitlyn will love it! I called her down and asked if she wanted it. She did indeed love and want it but still looked kind of confused. Poor child went and got a dollar to pay me. She couldn’t understand why I would give her such a treasure.

It took me a while to convince her that the compact was hers free and clear. It is a gift because I love her. She doesn’t have to pay me or clean her room. I expect nothing in return.

Nothing in return. That is a hard concept to grasp at any age.

Maybe this is just me, but when something good happens, I think I will have to pay for it. I make the assumption that God wants something from me. In reality, sometimes He just wants to see me smile.

God is love struck. He woos me. He pursues me. He shows me how much He cares, but I seldom pay attention. How much am I missing because I don’t just accept the gift? I try to figure out what I am going to have to do to earn it or deserve it. If I take it graciously, I can enjoy it all the more.

This applies to all of life. Of course, Jesus gave me the ultimate gift of life when He died for me, but there are gifts every day. A job fell in my lap last year. I have recently seen one child start to love to read and the other one learn to ride her bike. Not much can bring more joy to a parent than seeing their children love life. I still get hugs and kisses willingly from them. I adore spending evenings on the deck with the man I love. These are all gifts that I don’t owe God for. I am not expected to scrape up some amount that would be big to me but piddly to God. He does things because bringing me joy gives Him joy.

Just to see me smile.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Christmas Memories

A few weeks ago, we put up our Christmas tree. Old and new decorations that bring a smile to my face as well as remind me of where they (and I) come from adorn its branches.

The couch I sit on just happens to be next to the tree. Many nights lately, my break after work and homework but before dinner finds me reading. At 5:30, a timer turns the tree on. I hear the click and my heart leaps. Peace, love, and joy surge through me as I look over and admire the beauty.

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The silver bells and balls with the year engraved. We get one every year, and I have half of Mom’s. While I was taking them out of the box this year, I would tell the girls what happened that year. 2002-the year Mom died. 2001-her last Christmas where we skipped the Christmas Eve service and held one of our own. My sensitive Lauren patted my back and asked if I wanted to hang that one up. 2003-the year we got married. 2006 and 2008-the girls’ birth years. Then there were others and I would tell the girls how old Mommy and Daddy were then.

There are cradles for each of them from their first Christmases as well as a heart from our first Christmas married.

We have Georgia football ornaments as well of course. There will never be a Florida one!

Delicate snowflakes that make us ooh and ahh every time we see them.

My uncle Bill makes us an ornament every year and we look forward to seeing his creation every time. The talent and thought that goes into each one astounds me.

And who can forget the hand made ornaments? The girls are only 7 and 9, and I already look back and marvel at how tiny their preschool hand prints were.

Our Christmas tree tells the story of us. It is magical and beautiful and sad. There are memories attached to each ornament, even the generic red balls we got our first Christmas so the tree didn’t seem bare. Just like life, the tree makes me laugh and cry. Sometimes I see it and am amazed at its brightness and am flooded with wonder.

No, we can’t keep the tree up year round, but the good news is that all of it is in our hearts. The memories that inspired each ornament are to be savored, even the bittersweet ones. Maybe especially those. To be bittersweet, they had to have been sweet at one point. Those poignant memories help us enjoy what we have now.

This Christmas, may we all look at our lives and see how far we have come and celebrate what we have now. Let us hold on to the memories of years past, but remember who we have at this moment. The people in our lives now need to be cherished, for one day this Christmas will be a memory too.

Let’s make it a great one!

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Linking with Holley Gerth