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Bruises for the Brave

As we headed out of town one weekend, we stopped along the way at an apple orchard. My kids very much enjoy the whole apple picking experience. They also don’t mind the apple cider donuts they serve at the orchard. As a family, we filled up an entire box with delicious, fresh apples.

When our weekend came to an end, we packed our bags and prepared to depart. My husband loaded up the luggage cart and as he pushed the cart into the elevator, the front wheels of the cart got stuck in the crack. The full box of apples flew forward and went plummeting to the ground scattering all over the elevator floor. Gross!

For a brief moment, frustration and disappointment consumed me. The recently picked fruit would now be covered in bruises. I quickly moved on from that thought and chose to make the best of the situation. I decided if the apples were badly tarnished, I would cut them up and make them into a pie. A little cinnamon and sugar can fix anything.

When we got home, I thoroughly cleaned the apples. Even with the bruised outside, the apples were delicious and nutritious.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We stumble and fall and have the emotional and physical bumps to prove it. My blemishes won’t look the same as yours, but we all have them. These imperfections don’t make us any less capable or loveable. In fact, these tender spots are a part of our uniqueness and give us the ability to better relate to others.

Don’t let the bruises from your past get you down. You are a child of God and He loves you unconditionally. Your distinctive marks make you special. Never forget, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

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Computer Cleanup

As summer ended, my three girls headed off to school after a very long summer. Let’s call the summer of 2020 sprummer; the never-ending spring that merged into summer. I sat down one morning to begin the herculean effort of organizing my life. After six months of girls talking non-stop throughout my day, my house was silent. The non-stop chatter and fighting had made it almost impossible to complete a thought or task.

I sat excitedly in front of my computer; my to-do list at my side. I was ready to tackle as many items as humanly possible. As I flipped from website to website sending emails, ordering supplies for kids, or filling out activity registration forms, my computer couldn’t keep up. Its lazy pace was making me frustrated and stunting my productivity.

I decided maybe my computer needed to reboot, so I shut it down. When I powered the computer back up again, its speed was significantly improved. Whatever was causing the sluggishness had been cleared up.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Every morning is like a reboot.

Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God’s mercies are new EVERY morning! Not some mornings, every morning. What fantastic news!

We can experience a reboot every day. What does this look like? It means taking our good and bad from yesterday and giving it to God.

“You have been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:22). He gives us a new day, a second chance, and the ability to walk in all the ways He commands us with freedom. Because of His sacrifice, our sins are forgiven.

This glorious news means we don’t have to walk around carrying the burdens from yesterday.

Have you had a reboot lately?

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Facing our Fears

Facing our fears
Freedom over fear

When we reflect on our country’s history, there is a consistent theme of perseverance and courage. Our ancestors fought for the freedom we enjoy. We take our independence for granted because we didn’t live through those battles. Pages in history books aren’t the same as experiencing the struggle.

Our forefathers faced attacks, illness, droughts, and other opposition. They responded to these life and death situations with bravery and relentlessness.

Are we considering the long-term mindsets we are modeling for the next generation? Is our response to this virus preparing our youth for the trials ahead?

We learn best through doing or experiencing. We might disagree on a lot of subjects, but I think we all agree we want the next generation to make our country even greater. We want our youth to exhibit perseverance, determination, resilience, hard work, bravery, and more. You can’t will these characteristics; they must be learned the hard way. They are learned by facing each day’s obstacles, learning from them, and not giving up.

I’ve had a wonderful life, but it hasn’t been peaches and cream, and never will be. We have a choice to make every day. We either face each challenge or give up. The suicide rate in our country increased by 33% from 1999 through 2017 (American Psychological Association). Let’s reverse that trend and change the course of our country.

Our country gained its freedom and success through courage, not fear.

The coronavirus will not be the last hurdle we face. It’s how we teach our youth to respond to situations that will formulate the future. Do we want them filled with fear or equipped with confidence? Are we teaching them how to overcome hard things?

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Silence for the Steady

I am an introvert. I discovered this knowledge just a few years ago. It was extremely insightful in understanding why I get overwhelmed during the day while caring for my kids. One-third of our society are introverts. Susan Cain shares these details in her book called Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Introverts get recharged in silence and in our own thoughts.

Females tend to speak approximately 20,000 words a day and I have three precious girls (you do the math – that’s a lot of words being spoken). I relish the laughter, the conversations, and even the rollercoaster of emotions, but the last six months has proven extremely challenging.

I used to feel guilty and believe I should be able to force myself to handle the constant noise. However, when I ignore who I am, I end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood. I recommend Cain’s book even for extroverts because most likely you are married to an introvert, or have introverted kids. The awareness can guide you in making wise decisions.

For example, with my girls, I have two extroverts and one introvert. I make sure to encourage my introverted daughter to get some alone time during the day. If not, she gets overwhelmed and lashes out at her sisters. 

In the past few years, I learned techniques to prevent myself from becoming depleted. This spring and summer have proven especially difficult as most things were canceled. After Months and months of continuous noise, I found myself unable to concentrate and feeling anxious.

This past weekend I found a quiet space outside (thank you God for cooler weather). I read, wrote in my journal, and had time in reflection. I felt reinvigorated. The alone time did wonders towards restoring my overall mindset.

Sometimes we push ourselves to the limits thinking we can will ourselves to be someone we are not. Instead, God gently reminds us who we are. He made us this way and He loves who we are. He gently reminded me this weekend that I need to carve out more space for quiet so I can hear myself think and hear Him.

When was the last time you found quiet in your life?

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Traces of Thirst

How God is the only true way to quench our thirst.

This summer we cared for our neighbor’s chickens while they vacationed. My girls jumped at the opportunity. They love chasing the chickens around and I cherish the wonderful silly memories they will retain.

Our responsibilities were simple. In the morning we let them out into the run, at nighttime, we escort them safely into their roosting area. We also filled their water and food.

One morning I noticed the chicken’s water was empty. The water container had been knocked to the ground and was filled with grass and dirt. There wasn’t a drop of liquid remaining. As we brought fresh water to the coop, the chickens murmured in excitement and scurried over. They circled the water container and repeatedly dunked their heads until their thirst had been quenched.

I think we can all relate to this sensation of thirst. Our thirst could be physical, or it might look different. Either way, it’s a similar sensation.

Have you thought about what you are you thirsting for?

Some of my yearnings the past few months include a longing to feel in control, for things to return to “normal,” for the divide and chaos in the world to subside. Some days I long for peace inside myself and in my home.

There are many ways I have attempted to quell my various thirsts throughout my life. Ways such as alcohol, busyness, or complete denial have been my go to’s. While these solutions may provide temporary relief, the only lasting way to quench thirst is through Jesus.

“Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

God will quench our thirst if we let Him, if we ask Him. Instead of seeking temporary solutions for our thirst, let’s seek the only true solution. Take your thirsts to Jesus and let Him be your water.

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Fishing for Fulfillment

Sometimes it’s about the journey rather the finish line.

On a refreshingly cool summer day, a friend and I adventured to a nearby lake with our girls. The kids played in the water, rode boats, and ran through the sand. About halfway through the day, my friend pulled out kid fishing rods. I cringed. I have watched my husband spend hours untangling these rods. This was not how I envisioned my afternoon.

She took the rods out of the package and handed them to the kids. Typically, the next step would be to remove the plastic fish and replace it with a hook and bate. None of this happened.

The kids ran off. I observed them on the dock for about thirty minutes, I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore. What were they doing? They had no hook, no bait, and no tackle box. How could they be fishing?

I strolled to the dock and observed the production as the kids stuffed leftover lunch in the tip top (top ring on the rod). They rubbed food on the plastic fish. The rod wasn’t getting tangled because there was no hook. Turtles even swam up and ate the food! They didn’t catch any fish but they were using their imagination and having a blast.

My performance-oriented mind was astounded. I returned to my friend and reported back. She didn’t seem phased at all.

As I shared this story with my husband, he immediately understood my incredulity. His response matched what was going on in my head. “How can you win, how can you catch fish and master this activity if you don’t have a hook?” He was joking of course but understood my bemusement. The thought of fishing without a hook is beyond us.

I learned a good lesson that day. Sometimes the goal isn’t what you think. In my head, the goal of fishing is to catch fish. My wise friend knew better. In this case, the “winning” was in the journey, not the outcome.

This reminds me of our journey with God. We set goals and feel frustrated and defeated when they don’t happen. What if the goal was wrong? Maybe our end goal isn’t God’s end goal.

Maybe it’s not about catching the fish, but rather what you do with the rod.

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Dare to Dream

How saying yes to God’s ideas can show you His capabilities.

I tend to be a no person. I can produce about fifty reasons why something won’t work in about half a second.

My oldest daughter is an extrovert with big ideas and loves having people over. Last year she proposed the idea to host a back to school party inviting every fifth-grade girl. My head reeled with the work involved, but the learning opportunity was too great to pass up. We gave her the green light and ended up with thirty-two girls at our house one Saturday afternoon. Parents informed me they had to stay in town that weekend because their kids insisted they attend the party.

My daughter made invitations, created a schedule, decorated the house, prepared food, and was responsible for the entire cleanup effort.

This reminds me of our journey with God. We all have ideas and goals, yet we are experts at pushing them aside. I had a long list of why throwing a pre-teen girl party was a poor idea. Instead, we encouraged her creativity and she gained valuable lessons not found on paper. There is something about experiencing the life cycle of an idea. She brought an idea to life. She experienced the work involved, overcome obstacles, and could then reflect on what she would do differently.

God does not limit our capabilities. Why do we? Our ideas won’t come to fruition in a day, a year, or even a decade. They might not look the same when you are finished. While there is no certainty in pursuing a dream, it’s guaranteed not to happen if you don’t try.

God gave me the idea to write down my story of a spiritual transformation and how He freed me from fear. I wrote a little bit every day for years. Now I have a manuscript. Who would have thought?

What are the ideas/goals you are putting off?

Instead of pushing aside your dreams, push aside the reasons you are unable to do them. What steps can you take today or tomorrow towards that goal?

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Willing the Wonderful

How we try to bring our predetermined plans to the Lord for His blessing.

Pets astonish me. I am starting to think my fourteen-year-old Labrador Retriever Casey has a wristwatch hidden somewhere in her fur coat. The same time every day it goes off notifying her it’s mealtime. When the alarm goes off, she plants herself directly outside our mudroom. You choose to either step over her or end the protest by feeding her.

As I enter the mudroom where her food resides, she excitedly walks over to her bowl. At that point, she is no longer watching me as I prepare her medicine and food. She begins a long and intense focused stare on her bowl. It’s as if she stares hard enough at the bowl, the food will magically appear. Of course, we know this is not the case, but I find her fixed gaze adorable. She is not distracted by my motion about her. Nor does she even get out of my way so I can access her food. She remains steadfast on the prize!

I get a kick out of this everyday occurrence. It reminds me of how our relationship with God can become transactional. Are we like Casey and desire to stare something into existence? If we will it hard enough, will it happen? Are we trying to dictate every step of God’s plan for our life? Or are we trusting in His greater plan?

I know for me relinquishing control is an everyday struggle. I am your typical type A, functional first-born personality. I will sit in my quiet time and like Casey, I will stare at my prayer list requesting Him to bless all the people and items on my list.

Beware, the culture will tell us we can control everything but that’s simply not true. Instead of trying to dictate my future, I am striving to say, “God, whatever you want to put on my plate today, I will praise and thank you. Oh, and please help me handle the obstacles that come my way because I can’t do it alone.” That is not easy when your default is control.

Casey has no choice but to wait while I get her food ready. She doesn’t know exactly when the pellets will hit her bowl.

Can we wait enduringly as God reveals His plans with His timing?

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Bringing the brightness. Are you struggling to find or provide the joy in your day?

Two of my three girls were about to get tonsil surgery and I knew the next 14 days would involve ample time at home playing nurse. I purchased two empty flower baskets to hang just outside my kitchen window. Just like you, I spend quite a bit of time at the kitchen sink.

I wanted to fill the baskets with bright and beautiful flowers so I could gaze at them when I needed a moment. I was hoping their allure would help give me an energy boost.

The flower pictured is a common lantana. It’s my new favorite flower. When I spotted it in the nursery, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Orange is my favorite color and I was enchanted with how one flower could encompass so many gorgeous colors. I learned later it even repels mosquitos. Bonus.

As new blooms sprouted, they emerged solid yellow. As my daughter and I examined the blooms, we wondered what happened to all the beautiful colors? Within days the orange surfaced, and eventually pink and purple hues appeared.

This flower reminds me of our faith journey. We all bloom in God’s timing and our petals look slightly different. We are unique and special yet made in God’s image by the same Creator. He disperses us all over so our blooms can bless others.

Because God created us, He cares for our every need including fertilizing our soil. His living water refreshes us so we can grow and bloom. Sometimes we present colors we didn’t even know existed.

Are you looking hard enough to find bright spots in your life? Or can you provide beauty to someone else?

Seek Him who made you, so He can be your living water (John 4:13-14).

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Be On Guard

We recently moved to a more rural area adjacent to deep woods. While I relish the scenery and sounds from nature, an unwanted guest welcomed me.

The morning hadn’t started great, I was sleep-deprived from being up with the kids the night before. Then I dropped a gardening tool on my big toe. To top things off, I opened the front door to a four-foot-long black snake sprawled out directly in front of me. My screaming woke him from his sunbathing, he scrunched up and slithered away. I slammed the door as quickly as humanly possible.

I turned to my husband as he gazed at me with inquisitive eyes not understanding my reaction. With tears of exhaustion and defeat in my eyes, I explained my distress. My nature-loving husband ran outside to find the snake and explore his habits. Everyone keeps telling me it was a “good” snake who keeps away copperheads and rodents. Is there such a thing as a “good” snake?”

I generally adore animals, snakes excluded. Something about their slithering ways gives me chills. Shouldn’t I be leery of snakes when Satan chose this animal to tempt Eve in the garden?

Coincidentally, in the past few months, I’ve had multiple encounters with snakes. Was I being forced to face my fears? Was God trying to tell me something? Or was the enemy tormenting me? Even the neighbors had advised me to keep my eyes peeled when walking around so I wouldn’t accidentally step on one. This advice was sound but not comforting.

This reminds me of a verse in the Bible, “Be on your guard.” This verse is cited in various books such as 1 Corinthians, Mark, 2 Timothy, Acts, Matthew, 2 Peter, and more. Why do we need to be on guard?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

Be on guard for the enemy, liars, people, or things which draw you away from God. Be on guard to protect your family, your marriage, your brothers, your church.

I have new eyes when opening my front door. They are alert, ready, and on guard. Should we have the same set of eyes for the world?