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Skip the Song

I was working out one morning listening to a Pandora station. A song came on called, “Low Life” by X Ambassadors. The first line was “I’m nothing but a low life, thinking about my own life.” I was shocked at the defeatist lyrics. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at lyrics these days, but I was.

How was this song going to motivate me to complete my workout, or get me prepared for whatever the day might bring? It wasn’t so I quickly hit the forward button to skip the song.

The next song was called “Keep your head up” by Andy Grammer. This song recognizes the challenges in life but is encouraging and uplifting.

How could two songs on the same station being played one after the other be polar opposites?

It reminds me of the battle that goes on in our heads every day. We can look at something with a positive spin and can find something to be grateful for, or we can focus on the negative.

I had the choice to listen to the self-defeating song and fuel my brain with negative self-talk. Or I can skip the song and listen to something that is going to encourage me.

Skip the song!!!! What do I mean? When those negative thoughts start circling, skip the song. Tell your brain to move on.

Can’t do this? There is one part of the “Low Life” song I agree with. The line, “I can’t help myself from falling.”

He’s right, we can’t do it on our own. Reach out for help beyond ourselves. Ask God for help.

You will be pummeled with bad thoughts throughout your day. The devil’s job is to get you down, depressed, unconfident in who you are and your abilities. Don’t listen to his station, skip the song.

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Seeing Sin

When we moved this past summer, my husband ordered a dumpster to the new house. This was an attempt to clear out and throw away the old and battered items we were carrying around. A new home was an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to unclutter our lives.

A ginormous red dumpster stayed parked in front of our house for almost four months. A neighbor once asked me on a walk, “did you know you have a dumpster in front of your house.” I laughed and said yes, I was aware.

When the pest guy came to address our mosquito problem, he told me three things: 1. he had found no rodents in the traps, 2. we were eating way too much pizza, as evidenced by the boxes in the dumpster, 3. the dumpster was a breeding ground for mosquitos and needed to go.

When a massive truck began backing into our driveway (did I mention this was a commercial-sized dumpster?), I realized they had come for the dumpster. While having the dumpster there had proven convenient, it was time for it to go.

It’s funny how a massive bright red dumpster sitting out front can become part of the scenery, almost unnoticeable to us.

This story reminds me of sin in our life. It can be huge and red, but we might not see it, or choose to ignore it. We get comfortable with it. It sits there rotting in our soul, collecting mosquitos, unless we decide to turn it over to God and ask Him to clear it away.

Just like that massive truck hauled away the dumpster, God can clear out our sin. He can free us of whatever is holding us in bondage.

What sin needs to be cleared away in your soul? Is there a big red dumpster you might be ignoring?

With the start of a new year, take account of what’s sitting in your soul. If you find something that doesn’t belong there, get rid of it.

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Missed Moments

I wish I always hit a home run when it comes to parenting, but the reality is, I don’t. If I’m lucky, I make contact with the ball. My dad was a baseball player so pardon the references. We spent a large portion of my childhood at the little league field cheering on my brother, visiting the snack bar, or attending a Philadelphia Phillies game where I knew most of the players’ names.

One evening, my daughter was having a rough time. With three girls in the house, we have many moments where emotions get the best of us. I gave her permission to be excused from the dinner table, asked her to take a shower, and get ready for bed. She was tired and needed some space to gather herself.

I tend to be a very focused person. This proves effective when getting tasks accomplished but can prevent me from being present in the moment. I get so focused on completing the task, I shut out and ignore everything else around me, even my family.

At that particular moment, I was lasered-focused on getting the kids to bed. I headed to the other room and saw my daughter, who was supposed to be showering, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Instead of asking her what she was doing, I got frustrated and reprimanded her for not listening.

She tried to explain she had stopped to look at her baby book, which happened to be sitting at the bottom of the stairs. She was engrossed in the note I had written to her during pregnancy. I wrote one for each daughter. The letter highlighted the good and challenging times of their pregnancy, but also the special moments like when I felt them kick, or what was unique during the ultra-sound.

In my selfish desire to have the kids in bed, I overreacted and missed a tender moment God had teed up for me to connect with my daughter and remind her how special she is.

This reminds me of our faith journey. God loves us even when we strike out. Yes, I blew that moment, but I gained an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and share a loving embrace.

Even when we blow the perfect pitches He throws our way, He’s not giving up on us and He will give us another chance.

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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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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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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?

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Ramble through Rocks

My fourteen-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Casey has acute arthritis. Knee surgery in both hind legs causes her to shift extra weight to her front. Over the years this has caused her front paws to splay. Walking on rough services is uncomfortable, especially our gravel driveway.

Casey could remain comfortably on the side of the house and avoid the rocky driveway. Instead she surges ahead toward a grassy island amidst the rocks. It’s hard to watch as she painfully struggles with each step. When she reaches her destination, the lush grass soothes her maimed feet.

This reminds me of life and our journey with God. We often find ourselves navigating rocky terrain. Walking on rocks in bare feet is painful. Who wouldn’t prefer a nice polished surface? God doesn’t assure us a smooth ride. Quite the opposite. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Am I saying life isn’t supposed to be smooth, easy, and comfortable? That’s exactly what I am saying! This is a harsh reality; however, God promises to be with us every step to help and guide us. We typically underutilized the superpower He gave us, the Holy Spirit.

The world will tell you you deserve a frictionless life. The Bible says otherwise. Look at Paul and Stephen in Scripture. They were men who faithfully followed Jesus and died a martyr’s death.

When you decide to be obedient to God’s plan, He may ask you to do hard things. As we step into these challenges, He molds us and prepares us to handle the next sharp rock in our path. The easy way isn’t always the best way.

Are you ready to step into the rocks?

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Verifying Voices

It was a rainy Tuesday morning and I was headed to the bank to rummage through our safety deposit box. My mission was to find my husband’s passport. We were preparing to travel and were gathering the necessary documents to gain TSA approval.

Inside the bank, I requested access to our box. The employee informed me I was not on the account. I asked if we could call my husband and have him add me over the phone. I learned they could do this if an employee at the bank had enough encounters with him that they could verify his voice. I thought this slightly odd but anxiously awaited their response. Had he frequented the bank enough that his voice could be identified over the phone?

A teller spoke up saying she knew who he was and could verify his voice. We made the call and I gained access to the box. This incident affirmed my husband’s personality. His friendly demeanor and tall stature make him easily recognizable. While my attempts to find the passport were unsuccessful, the encounter got me thinking.

I thought about God and how He knows our distinct and unique voice. He knows the tone and cadence better than anybody. After all He is the one who created us. In addition to our voice, He knows our desires and our thoughts. God discerns when we are praising or protesting. He understands when we hurt so greatly we cannot even form words together.

God recognizes our voice but the real question is, do we know His? Are we taking time in our day to make space and learn His voice? He is not going to yell at us through the frenzy, we have to create stillness to hear Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)