Monday, December 10, 2012

Snow, Snow...Sand?!

White Christmas is my favorite holiday movie, but I'm not dreaming of snow in Vermont.  

It's December- fifteen days until Christmas.

But yesterday, this is where we were:
Playing at the beach.

Digging in the sand.
Tip-toeing in the waves.
Taking our lunch to the beach.
I'm sure we'll eventually wish for a real winter with mountains and the white stuff...maybe :-)

But I never did like skiing.

Friday, December 07, 2012

It's Just a Season

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens... 
-Ecclesiastes 3.3 

One of the best pieces of mom advice I have received is, "This is just a season."  Whatever you are going through will not last forever.

Every time I brought a newborn home from the hospital, I remember feeling like time draaaaaaagged.  It wasn't just the baby's nights and days that got mixed up.  I, the mom, was stealing winks whenever I could- sun up or sun down.  After the excitement and magic of this new life started to wear off, I began thinking,  
When am I ever going to sleep again?! 
This is it.  I have officially lost my sense of style- destined to live in sweat pants and ponytails forevermore. 
HOW do moms keep their house clean, get dressed, take care of the kids, AND manage to sit down for a meal every day?

The truth is, that this time will pass.  

Babies learn to sleep through the night, which means you start to regain some energy for doing other things besides washing bottles and changing diapers.  After some weeks, you wake up one day, out of the fog, and find an extra minute to fix your hair.  Mommy gets baby on a predictable routine and realizes how much she can accomplish during the morning nap time. Your old clothes start to fit, and you can smile at yourself in the mirror again.

As my friend, Karen says, "There is light at the end of the tunnel."  

This is not just advice for parents of newborns.  There are so many phases we and our kids go through.  I, myself, am watching another tough season end with my youngest son (almost 2 years old).  The flowers are pushing through the snow, and I am thrilled to see hope blooming in me again. 

He isn't screaming much anymore.
More importantly,
He loves me!  He really loves me!

By far, my most difficult child to parent, as friends already know, God gave me a son with one heckuva strong will.  Unlike me, he likes a good fight.  I have felt like a failure and wished for easier days.  I have learned to trust God in ways I never have before.  I had toWhile at one time, patience came easy to me, for months and months I couldn't find a morsel left without some supernatural help.  I felt like I had to get my helmet on and hunker down every single day.  My resolve and spirit felt battered and weak.

Then all of a sudden, a new season begins.  I see the sun peeping over the horizon, shining down to reveal the positives of my son's budding personality. God is graciously showing me the wonderful qualities He created in my toddler.

He is SO smart!  Already recognizing letters and numbers faster than my older kids.  Trying to use the potty like everyone else does.  When he tries something new and doesn't succeed, he keeps trying.  This little guy is on the fast track and unfazed by obstacles.  

Okay, these are things I can work with.

I am so thankful that each day is new and seasons come and go.  Sometimes they're extremely tough and discouraging and exhausting.  Other times they're exhilarating, hopeful, and filled with content.  If we didn't have to travel through some valleys and hike a few rocky cliffs, the mountain top view  wouldn't be nearly as impressive, would it? 

We learn so much in the middle of those dark, tunnel experiences:
  • That God never expected us to do it alone.  
  • We are more than we think we are.  
  • Not to give up, because you are doing a great work (even if you can't see it right now).
  • And that God will introduce every opportunity to bring us growth and community during these times.
 From one mom to another, here is a glimmer of hope to hold onto: You can do it.  This is just a season.

Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.
-Psalm 31.24
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
-Psalm 27.13-14

Thursday, December 06, 2012

When You Think You Have Nothing to Offer

Do you remember the holiday classic, The Little Drummer Boy
The wise men bring gifts to the baby Jesus, and there's a moment in the story, when the little boy realizes he has nothing to give to the newborn king.  Then, someone reminds him that he has a drum, his only possession.  So the little drummer boy offers all that he has, and plays a song for his holy audience.

I have often felt that I have little to offer.  When I compare my skills and talents to others, I doubt my own ability to help someone.  In a new town, I don't know many people, so how could I possibly gather a group of volunteers to bring about a Christmas miracle?

About a week ago, God reminded me that He can use the little bit we are faithful with.

We had been promising the older kids that we would take them to see a movie over Thanksgiving break after our vacation plans were cancelled.  And since they cleaned their rooms and had an early release day one Monday, I managed to make good on that promise :-)  

On our way home, we noticed a giant plume of dark smoke behind the trees nearby.  We wondered what would have caused so much smoke.  Then, we watched as rescue vehicles zipped by with sirens and lights alerting us to the emergency.  At least a dozen screamed past us, and I suggested that maybe we should say a little prayer for anyone involved in the fire.  

My daughter replied, "I already did."

That evening, after the kids were in bed, I looked up the local news and found that an apartment building had went up in flames, and at least nine families had been effected. So that's what happened, I thought.  Curiosity satisfied, I went to bed.

The next morning, an acquaintance, posted a need on facebook for her friend who had lost her home in a fire.  Coincidence?  I asked her for confirmation, and found out that a single mom of three was indeed involved in the fire my family noticed after a trip to the movies and in the news article I researched the night before.  

God had placed all this at my attention on purpose.

Immediately, I felt involved.  Not because I knew anyone, but because my heart was somehow invested.  What could I do?  My connections are a state away.  I have very little to donate, since we had purged so much during our move.

It didn't seem like much, but I had a voice and a few new friends nearby. 

Turns out it was all God needed.  I mean, seriously, he's God.  Why did I even pause?

In four days, a band of moms I know, gathered up household items, food, and clothes for a stranger.  And another family happened to be moving away, leaving behind furniture to donate.  A moving truck was offered, as well as, volunteers with muscles and time to carry couches and tables up a flight of stairs to a mom's new apartment.  Every couple of hours a new detail fell into place, right up until she scraped up enough money for her first month's rent, and a group of unrelated people blessed an unsuspecting family just weeks before Christmas.

As I peeked through garbage bags and bins of donations before we left, I couldn't believe how the little things people had given were just what she needed: a shower curtain, lamps, a broom, toys for the kids, pots and pans, towels, sheets, Christmas stockings...God had known the needs and alerted a few hearts to offer whatever they had.

And just like that, a miracle happened.

It only took a few open hearts, open hands, and a little mustard seed of brave faith.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas and other seasons

Well, friends. Things don't always go as planned.  You get your bags packed, cross of those lists, then BOOM, the kids get sick and your trip gets derailed. 


Three visits to the doctor in one week, five prescriptions, and at least a half a dozen breathing treatments later, I think we're on the mend.  

As sad as we were to miss our Thanksgiving with family out of town, we decided to make the most of our vacation at home.  Cleaned the house, put up the tree, made this year's ornaments, watched movies, did some gift shopping, went fishing, and managed a Thanksgiving meal here in 24-48 hours.  How's that for spontaneous?

Here are some of the highlights:
We were bummed about not going to Virginia, so we thought some Christmas cheer would help.
Thankfully, one set of grandparents were around for the holiday meal.
Zingle made a comeback.
My husband and oldest son love to make things out of sticks.

Each year we add an ornament.  This is our Charleston sweetgrass basket.

The kids put their rock, leaf, and shell collections into this year's ornaments...with glitter, of course!
As the family recovered from our shared illnesses, we enjoyed a slower pace this past week.  Laughing at each other, getting out of the house so we wouldn't slug each other, finding new places to eat with waterfront views (and no dishes) with each other. We even walked on the beach!

And now, it's my favorite, favorite time of year.  After nine years as a family, we discovered we officially had enough homemade and collected ornaments to almost fill the branches on our tree and packed away the nice, but not as special decorations.

There's nothing like Christmas music, tree lights, scented candles, and coffee to start your day.


This season meets us in a time of transition.  This is not our house. We have to seek out new traditions to begin.  A lot of Christmas cards need to be mailed with a new address.  Meanwhile, the kids are learning that the heart of Christmas is about giving and having fun doing it, and their mom is remembering that this is right where we are supposed to be, and we're all going to be just fine.  

It's also a season to shake off that serious, too busy, frustrated attitude and enjoy the witty comebacks, the messy craft projects, and random questions that kids bring- inviting them into your world and entering theirs. Everything else can wait.

By giving, not just gifts, but time, we win hearts in the process.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Having to and Wanting to

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...- Ecclesiastes 9.10

I'm going to be honest.  When I see the dirty dishes crawling out of the kitchen sink and invading the counter tops, I just turn away and walk out of the room.  I straighten the pillows on the couch, organize some toy bins, rotate a load of laundry, check my Facebook, and make grocery lists.  When I'm thirsty and can't find my glass of water, I force myself to start the cleanup process.  Ugh.  I don't WANT to do the dishes!

Sure, I feel accomplished after the task is done, but I struggle almost daily with developing a heart to serve my family.  Am I alone here?  It's not that I don't love them.  It's the mundane rituals of making messes and cleaning up after them that I avoid like the plague.  I would much rather read stories than have to wash another sippy cup.  Coloring pictures with my kids is much more fun than sweeping up the crumbs on the floor. 

I  HAVE to do the majority of the housekeeping, because five people live here and only two are grownups.  Only one of those adults is at home all day, and the three small humans don't help as much as they should.  Every room turns into a catastrophe when a family of five lives, eats, and plays here! Again, anyone else feel me?

It looks like someone (ME) is going to have to put her big girl rubber gloves on and sing a little working song, because it's never good to expect another person to do the job that's sitting right in front of you- literally...on the kitchen counter.  Bad things can happen.  Bad smells happen.  Small animals may think the place has been deserted and start making themselves at home. Yikes.

So since I can't avoid the dirty dishes any longer, how can I change my HAVE-TO attitude to a WANT-TO perspective?

I was reminded the other day that we all have a "calling."  That's a churchy word for a heart-felt passion; a reason for doing something, even when it's not always fun.  Or, as Webster defines it, "a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence ."

Being a stay-at-home mom is a calling.  As with any job, there's going to be blah tasks that are purely necessary to our end-goal.  To push through the parts of this role that I don't like (the dishes, to be exact), I may have to recite,
Do your best.  Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. -Colossians 3.23
We're not working for our family, but for God, who calls us to serve one another.

So, Dani,
It's time to get those hands soapy and wash those dishes with HEART! 
Remember, this is your calling.  You didn't have to.  You WANTED to :-)

What do you HAVE to do that you don't always enjoy?
Can you see how it contributes to the big picture? 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Church Street

A few afternoons a week, I explore this new city with my boys while we wait on big sister to finish drama rehearsals.  This place is a photographer's dream, and the points of interest are endless...

St. Philip's Church

Ironwork decorates many buildings downtown.

The resting place of the 7th U.S. Vice President.

So far, we haven't gone in.

Pirates were here!

The Pirate House

The site of suspected pirate activity.
Before I moved here, I think I went shopping while waiting on kids to finish their after-school activities.  Investigating centuries-old buildings and strolling down cobblestone roads is much more fascinating...and cheaper too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Going Back

It's only been two months since we moved.

Only two months?!  
It certainly feels like longer.  It feels like a lot of 
getting lost and being late, 
stacking boxes and unpacking,
throwing away and donating, 
trying to remember routes and names, 
getting accustomed to schedules and the way things work here. 

So, I could hardly wait for the kids' fall break.   
Last weekend, with my oldest two buckled in the mom-mobile, I drove down familiar roads with excitement in my heart and tears on the brim.  
It's still fresh.   Missing the memories and knowing that life goes on.

In four nights and four days, we bounced around 
from house,
to van, 
to park, 
to restaurant, 
to another house, 
and another park, 
to our old neighborhood, 
and back.  

This trip was for the kids- to ease the transition from having dozens of friends to only a few.  This trip was for me too.  My heart is full again, seeing my kids happy and having deep, though brief, conversations with people I love.

Just a little dose of friendship to cure the loneliness.  
A little heart medicine for the homesick.  
A little more motivation to make new friends and learn new roads.   

And a reminder that one day, this will be familiar too. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Toddlers in Pajamas

I recently mentioned on Facebook that there's "nothing cuter than a toddler running around in his pajamas."  Some may argue that there ARE other things that are cuter, like kittens, or chubby baby cheeks,...or anything baby, really.

But seriously...

THAT is cute.  Whatever makes your heart smile :-)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Good Things

Somewhere along this path of parenting, my personality strings got wound up so tight that I find myself growling at my kids more than laughing with them; sighing, instead of engaging; looking for escape routes and not grabbing those little hands to skip down this road of growing up together.

We are all growing up, really- not just the little people.  Growing up is is parenting.  And it's all easier when we don't have to do it alone.
So, let's all laugh a little more and enjoy the seriously peaceful, happy moments (and maybe even a little of the crazy messy ones too)!

Coloring pictures.
Watching Saturday movies.
Eating popcorn and candy corn.
Teaching baton twirling.
Letting them sleepover in the playroom.
Giving them glow-in-the-dark baths.
Taking a trip to the pumpkin patch.

It was a hot, sunshiny day at the pumpkin patch!

Look at those rosy cheeks!
My big girl
These kids play hard!
Showing the other kids how it's done.
This post is to simply "mark the moment," as I like to say.  I had a really good weekend with my kids. I slowed my pace to watch them, have silly conversations, and make some fun happen!

How have you enjoyed your kids lately?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Monday- I'm Letting Go

This is a giant leap of faith.
I'm trusting and trying to embrace
The fear of the unknown
Beyond my comfort zone. - Francesca Battistelli 
This isn't a new song, but I find that it cycles through one of my Pandora stations often and speaks to the season I'm in right now.

When my husband and I decided to make this recent move to a new city, a new state, I went through a mental process of crossing off a list of all my previous plans.  I thought they were such good goals for myself and my kids, for what ministries I would be a part of, and the paths our family envisioned ourselves strolling down.

Unexpectedly, I had to let go of the life I had planned and move forward with the hope that maybe there was an even better future for us and even better dreams.

It means, though, that I don't know what's ahead.  I am sort of closing my eyes and taking a scary, but exhilarating leap off a cliff into strange waters.  A leap of faith.

But if there wasn't a little bit of fear, the jump wouldn't require trust or faith.  We don't often call on God when our feet are on the ground and the road is paved and predictable.

So what do we do when we're standing on the edge, afraid of what will happen next? I remind myself of the same thing I tell my kids:  God is with you wherever you go (Genesis 26:24, Genesis 31:3, Exodus 3:12, Joshua 1:5, 1 Kings 11:38, Isaiah 43:2...).

You don't have to leap alone.
We may have to let go of our plans and our fears,
but He will never let go of our hand.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pity Party Reality Check

The other night, I attended a party in my honor- with one single
It was my very own pity party.

Sometimes, it just hits me- what I sacrifice to be the mom I want to be.  I fixate on what I'm missing by choosing to stay home to raise my kids.  I'm tired.  I'm lonely.  I feel tied down.  Zeroing in on what I have given up, I forget to see how I am blessed.  I lose focus on how important my job is.

After a night of rest, I was reminded of a story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  He decided to take on the huge job of rebuilding Jerusalem's city wall that had lain broken for ages.  He did the fundraising.  He hired the workers.  He rallied the troops and defended the city.  It was his mission.  In the middle of all that determination, effort and sweat, people tried to pull him away from his project.  They didn't have the same passion that Nehemiah did.  They didn't think he would be missed or that it was very important.  But with conviction, Nehemiah refused to be distracted:
I am doing a great work.  I cannot come down. - Nehemiah 6:3 (The Message)
Tears dried, I remember that I am committed to this season of taking care of and teaching three young children that God has given to me.  I cannot let other people who don't share my vision pull me away from the job at hand.  I can't check out.  I can't run away.  I can't jet off to exotic locations and forget  the responsibilities I have here at home.  It's my job.  It just isn't as easy as it used to be to take a trip out of town or snag coffee with a friend.  But it's only a season...

I don't ever want to regret doing what I felt was the right thing to do.

We all have different callings, different circumstances, and different goals.
I will not feel guilty for saying, "I'm sorry.  My work is too important to stop now."
And I cannot lose focus on why I am here and what I am doing.

After all, I'm the only mom Bella, Brody, and Boone have :-)

So, in whatever season you are in or whatever your mission, set your eyes on the prize- even when you're tired:
You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win! Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last, but we do it for a crown that will last forever.- 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (CEV) 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Say it with me, 
"You are doing a great work.  Do not lose heart."

Pity party over.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Giving Up

Wait a minute.

When did anyone ever tell you to, "Give up, why don't you?" or, "Stop trying so hard, already!"

Possibly, never?

That advice contradicts most of the mentoring, parenting, or teaching we have experienced.  We have been told to: Get back on the horse. Try, try again. Never give up. Dust yourself off. Just keep swimming...

 But the Bible says something differently when it comes to doing some things on our own.

  • GIVE UP WORRYING.  We worry about our safety, about our future, about anything.  However, the Bible encourages us to give up trying to micro-manage every outcome and stressing over the things we cannot control.  Why?  Because God knows how it's going to work out and the best way to get you to your destination:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? -Matthew 6:25-34
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7
  • GIVE UP CONTROL. Obviously, making plans is wise when we consider how God would like us to instruct our children, how we manage our finances, or how we can minister to a world in need.  But sometimes, plans change and we feel like we're spinning out of control.  God wants us to remember that He is God, He's in charge, and He's got your back:
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.-Jeremiah 29:11
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. -Proverbs 16:13
  • GIVE UP TRYING SO HARD.  Trying to be better on our own, apart from God, is futile.  We just don't have the capacity to be patient enough or loving enough by ourselves.  If they sold vitamins for joy, peace, kindness, self-control, I'd be all over it.  But Jesus didn't ask for our money- just our time and our trust.  His help and his grace is FREE, but trying is tiring.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:30-31
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10

So, give yourself permission to quit!  Give up trying to be strong and wise enough on your own.  Surrender.  "Throw in the towel!"  Let your shoulders relax and loosen up your white-knuckled grip on life and let go, so that you can open up those hands and catch the freedom, peace, and grace that Heaven showers down in abundant quantities.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. -Matthew 11;28-30 (The Message)

I don't know about you, but I miss being carefree.  I give up, so I can be less uptight and more lighthearted; less stressed and more excited; less me and more Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Keeping the rust away

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. 
-Proverbs 19:21 

For a couple of weeks, I tried not to look any of my friends in the eye, because just the question, "How are you doing?" brought me to tears.
I was grappling with this whole idea of moving away from where I was comfortable.  I faced a long-distance support system of friends and an immediate playdate-less future.

Dramatic, I know.  Maybe that's where my daughter gets it.


While my friends offered words like, "excited" and "jealous," I was thinking about all of the strings that tied me to home- daunted by the amount of cutting and starting over I had to do.  Saying goodbye was like carrying a heavy pair of scissors around, snipping one beloved thing at a time.

But when the hardest part was over, the tears became less frequent.  The work at hand replaced the power of regrets. Events kept falling into place, confirming we were making a good decision.  Moving forward became a more intriguing idea.

Dramatics over.

Instead of cutting strings, I stretched them out a few hundred miles- until the next phone call, text message, or visit.

The happy news is that moving away and starting over is the perfect solution to not getting rusty in life.  Sometimes, without realizing it, we all get set in our ways.  We drive around on auto pilot and get crazy over-involved in our little self-revolving worlds.  It's hard to be objective when we do and see the same things every day, isn't it?

So I AM excited about the opportunity that God has given my family to learn new things and grow in new ways.  It's a chapter where I have to trust Him to show me what's important, where to go next, and how He can use me here or wherever.  He's a God of surprises!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flipping Pages

Upon graduating high school in my birth state of Virginia, I took the road to Georgia, calling it my next home.  In doing so, I closed the cover of my book on adolescence and ventured to write my first novel of adulthood.

I went to college in the "Peach State," met my husband, started our family, and bought our first house.  Over 13 years, the chapters developed, seasons at a time-- friendships coming, going, and growing; having babies and raising kids; sharing life with loved ones; and becoming members of a community.  This is where our kids started school, celebrated their first birthdays, and made their first best friends. 

I thought that this parenting thing would be my main adventure- keeping house, volunteering, helping with homework, relating with other moms, and way more than I can list.  It wasn't hard to imagine how the story would unfold.  I made plans and set timelines, but I never expected what would happen next.

As I flipped the pages, a week ago, I found

What?!  The end of this chapter.  The account of our family saying goodbye to the familiar and preparing to meet something new.  A fresh beginning in a strange place.

It's a plot twist, and I'm in suspense.

The next part of this family's series will be set in South Carolina.  I am anxious to read ahead to see what's in store for us, but I suspect I will only uncover the mysteries one sentence at a time.

And so another adventure begins...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just Start

I was a runner...once.  I wanted to be like my dad.  He ran track in high school and after.  So as soon as I had a chance to enter a meet, I did too.  I was in middle school and filled with dreams of the Olympics.  And I did okay.

After a few years, I learned that my heart wasn't really in the sport though.  My stomach was a mess of knots and dancing butterflies at the starting line.  This energizes some athletes, but it terrified me to be alone- to be running in circles with everyone watching me win or fail.  I hated that responsibility.  The fear held me back, and I lost interest after my freshman year of high school.  In my spirit, I quit.  However, I kept returning to the sport, because how else would I cure my after school boredom?

This is our girls' third year district track & field championship team.  I'm obviously so tough & serious.

So each spring, week after week, when the announcer called my event, I met the competitors on the track.  We listened to a coach go over the ground rules and assign our lanes.  I know I wasn't the only nervous kid out there.  We each joked with each other before the gun went off, in an effort to push aside our common fears.  There was always a fleeting thought to fake sick or injured and run to hide until the race was over. 

Then, the signal sounded. 

Who wants to be left standing like an idiot on the starting line while everyone speeds forward on their mission towards victory?

Not me.

So the decision to put my feet to the pavement, despite my insecurities overruled the temptation to flee.  What's the worst that could happen?  I could lose.  I could make a fool of myself and trip over my own feet.  True.

But I could also finish.  I could beat my best time.  I could place in the top 3 and score points for my team.  I could surprise myself.  I could win.

So why not try?  Why not just start...and see what could happen?

If you're a procastinator like I am, there a few things that I have realized keep me from starting:
  1. I'm afraid to fail.  I'm worried that it won't work out the way I hope.  
  2. I don't think I'm qualified.  I think someone out there can do this better than I can.  
  3. I wait for the perfect time to try.  Unfortunately, life is always full of interruptions.
So how do I overcome these self-defeating thoughts?

I remember the possibilities.
I anticipate a learning opportunity.
I hope for a wonderful outcome.
I pray for strength and courage.
I put my blinders on and look straight ahead.
I set a goal.

Then, I just start.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

True and Lovely

I LOVE this verse, and you have probably heard it before (It's posted on my refrigerator door):
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. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)


This verse is valuable for so many reasons. When my daughter went through a period when she couldn't put scary images out of her mind, I said this to her over and over, "Bella, is this real? Does God want to scare you? Think of something lovely- of all the wonderful things you have or the amazing things God has made..." 

When I choose what movies my kids can watch or what music I allow them to listen to (yes, I do that), I use Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Is it noble? Is it pure? 

When I hear the buzz of a new book hitting the scene that EVERYBODY is reading, I ask around, seeking to find out first, whether it's dark or if it's uplifting. Basically, my benchmark is, "How will I feel after reading this?" 

I even read reviews on movies that I, myself, am interested in seeing. I've pressed the stop button or turned the channel more than a few times, when I felt the prick of the Holy Spirit telling me this isn't something that's praiseworthy. And when I haven't turned away, I usually felt like I had wasted a good portion of my life on worthless entertainment.

Overall, I value what I allow into my head and heart.  Many things stick, and I'd rather it be the good stuff :-)

I'm completely aware that not everyone has the same levels of tolerance for violence, or cursing, or gossiping, or whistling at shirtless men at the theater. What bothers me, doesn't always bother my husband, and my daughter's always been more sensitive than my son.  But we all know what we feel is appropriate, even if we feel it AFTER we've sat through something uncomfortable. 

So what actions do we take when our conscience taps on our shoulder? Do we ignore God's nudges or do we accept His best for us? Do we turn away from what is false, what is lowly, what is wrong, what is corrupt, what is repulsive, what is shameful...even if it borders anything dishonorable? I hope we choose whatever lifts our spirits, never what pulls us down. So many of our attitudes and beliefs are shaped by our most common influences- good or bad.

Do your friends, that book you're reading, the websites you frequent, or the TV shows you record make you a better mother?  Do they inspire you to help someone or push you to do something daring or brave?  Does your playlist encourage you to love unconditionally or to respect those around you?  If not, I'd recommend looking for something that changes you and those around you for the good.  It may not be popular, but it will make you happier.

Take a minute to soak in the surrounding verses in Philippians 4. God always laces His instructions with beautiful promises of how He will take care of us.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:4-9 (MSG)

The radio voices, news writers, and even the best-selling book lists can't be trusted.  They have an agenda.  God promises us peace, when we focus on HIM and what He believes is best for us- not because he's going to get paid.  He just loves us, and He is always good.  That's the truth, folks.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

God at the beach

My family just returned home from a week long vacation at the beach.  It was long, wonderful, memorable, and more.  My in-laws came along, so there was no shortage of kid entertainment and arms to hold my little toddler- thankfully.  Even with a power outage on our first night at the beach house (no phone chargers, no sound machines, no fans, no AC); a loud thunderstorm halfway through the week that stirred up the waves and water for the rest of the week; and a baby consistently waking up way too early on vacation; we enjoyed a week of less responsibility and more unstructured playtime.

As always, the bigness of the ocean draws me to its shore.  The never-ending roar of the waves smashing into land make it impossible to think about normal everyday worries.  Even my oldest son, on his first sight of the clear blue water from the car, blurted out in wonder, "I could just die to be here!  I am going to be so sad when we have to go home!"  Each morning, sleepy-eyed with a wide-awake baby on my hip, I opened the back door first thing to catch a glimpse of the empty beach.  I strained to see a dolphin or two in the morning quietness.  Nothing.  But beautiful still.

Do you ever wonder if God hears you? Even though I feel like a speck of sand next to His enormous creation, I find myself feeling closer than ever to the One who made that immense ocean and all of the living treasures it owns.

Maybe it's because I'm out of my element, out of routines, and into God's side of life. I feel like a child. I hunt for the perfect seashell hiding underneath sea ripples. I sink my bare feet into the wet sand until they're trapped there. And I look for dolphins.

On the seventh day, early in the morning again, I stood on our balcony in expectation. Hoping I wouldn't mistake a wave for a shiny fin breaking the surface, I whispered a prayer. "God, will you please show me a dolphin? It's our last day," I half-asked, half-wished.

Like a parent who loves to see their children's faces light up with joy, my God answered my silly little question. Directly in front of me, a few yards from the shore, a single dark blue-gray dolphin road out of the water. Nobody was there to see it but me. I stood still and watched for a minute, stunned and afraid to ruin the magic. Quickly though, before it disappeared, I ran to tell my husband, since he knew I'd been looking for that precious animal every single day of our vacation. He joined me until the dolphin was too far away for our eyes to follow, and I felt supremely happy.

No cup of coffee could have waken me up more than that simplest moment of joy. An answered prayer made me feel completely heard, accepted, and loved, like one good, long, necessary hug from a dear friend.

With an irrepressible smile on my face, my husband turned my attention to the skies at our right. We both gasped, because what would have normally been a pleasant sight any day, seemed even more impressive in that moment. A rainbow. Not just a rainbow over the beach, where we just caught sight of the long awaited sea mammal. But a double rainbow.

A sweet, beautiful gift from our Creator.
Mark the moment.