Bible, brain, challenges, courage, faith, Family, freedom, God, God's will, Jesus, moms, music, perserverance, positivity, religious, spiritual

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.

Bible, blessings, communication, dream, faith, Family, God, God's grace, God's will, Jesus, moms, parenting, positivity, questions, religious, scripture, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

Quizzical Questions

My six-year-old daughter is full of curiosity. My favorite question she asks she has been repeating since she learned how to talk.

At various points during the day, she will ask me, “Can I tell you something?”

I never know what will follow this question. She could spit out something totally random, or ask me questions about an activity we have coming up. It could be something profound on her heart. Or it could be a funny story about an incident in her kindergarten class. The topic always varies and so does the seriousness. As Forest Gump would say, “it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Although her thoughts are never the same, my response remains consistent. When she asks this question, I respond with one word… always. I always want her to come to me and feel comfortable discussing any topic. No matter how absurd, profound, or random her questions are, I want to hear whatever is on her heart.

This reminds me of our communication with God. He is always available, always interested, and always ready to listen to us. He never thinks our thoughts, desires, or concerns are ridiculous. He doesn’t want us to hide our joys, feelings, and worries from Him. He welcomes our voice, as often as we will share it.

Just like we embrace our children’s thoughts, God welcomes ours.

I communicate with my children to maintain a healthy connection. That same philosophy applies to our Heavenly Father. The more we commune with Him throughout the day, the more we can feel and recognize His presence. The more we share with Him, the lighter our burdens become.

Can we all go to God with the questions like my daughter asks me and say, “God, can I tell you something?”

Bible, blessings, bravery, challenges, faith, Family, forgiveness, fortitude, God, God's grace, God's will, Jesus, positivity, religious, sin, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

Lessons from the Lost

I attended my grandmother’s funeral recently. She passed away 98 years of age.

We all have spiritual icons in our lives, and she was mine. As I came into my faith, I realized what a rich and deep spiritual life she led. She didn’t necessarily talk about her faith, she just lived it out.

My grandmother, Gerry loved like Jesus. I’m sure she was aware of her own sin, but as her granddaughter, she appeared unflawed. She loved others as I have never seen. She poured out her gifts and love on everyone she came in contact with. They became part of her family. She knew their stories and how she could pray for them. She gave generously to those that were struggling or gave them a ride to church if they didn’t have one.

Here’s the ironic part. Gerry didn’t have a smooth childhood. She lost her mom at a young age and was separated from her twin sister. Her past was filled with rejection, uncertainty, bribery, and instability. She had a lot of justification to be bitter and angry.

Instead, she asked God into her heart at eleven. He healed her wounds and taught her how to forgive and love. She learned to depend on her one true Heavenly Father, the one person who would never disappoint.

I remember having sleepovers at Nana’s house as a child. As we lay down for bed, she went on her knees saying her prayers (never forcing me to join her). I’m quite sure I can credit some of my faith to her prayers being answered.

What does this have to do with us? Well, it reminds me that we have a choice in life. We can choose bitterness, anger, and resentment. Some of us have good reason for all of those feelings. Or we can choose Christ. We can choose to put our faith in our Heavenly Father who can heal our wounds, comfort our tears, and mend our broken hearts.

I look to my Grandmother in awe of what she overcame. Her story is a testament to what God is capable of doing in someone’s life. He is a God of healing and never-ending love. Will you ask Him into your heart?

Bible, blessings, brain, coronavirus, faith, Family, flowers, freedom, God, introverts, Jesus, nature, Parks, positivity, religious, scripture, spiritual, Uncategorized, water, women

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).

Bible, coronavirus, faith, Family, freedom, God, Jesus, nature, religious, scripture, snakes, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

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?

communication, coronavirus, dog, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, journal, nature, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

Dialect with Dogs

My husband jokes that my dog and I have our own language.

Our Labrador retriever named Casey is fourteen and-a-half years old. What large dog lives that long? I’ve had multiple labs in my life and they never lasted much past ten. She is an anomaly and resilient.

Casey has survived six surgeries. She tore both back knees and underwent three stomach surgeries. The most recent procedure was to remove a massive growth protruding from her neck which started bleeding (gross). She was two when she had her first surgery.

In her seasoned age, she deals with arthritis, dementia (per the vet), and her vision and hearing are significantly impaired. That said, I walk her everyday morning. She has our morning routine down pat and continues to display enthusiasm during mealtimes and walks.

I hear Casey in the middle of the night, similar to a mom hearing her crying infant. I wake from a sound sleep when she stirs downstairs, letting me know she needs to go out. Recently, I went down, let her out, and crawled back to bed. Casey started barking. Not a loud bark, but brief and direct. My husband commented, “You just let her out.” I told him she wanted breakfast. I had gone back to bed instead of feeding her and she was letting me know she didn’t appreciate the change in routine.

This reminds me of our language with God. The powerful and all-knowing Holy Spirit lives inside us ready to be utilized… if we can learn to recognize Its voice. This is not easy, nor happens quickly. It took years for Casey and I to develop our way of communicating.

Learning to hear God takes time, practice, and effort. Reading our Bible, praying, and sitting in silence (yes, silence) are ways to commune with God. The Holy Spirit is present, waiting to assist you with every problem. God won’t yell over the noise of the world, we have to carve out time to cultivate a dialect with Him.

Casey has blessed our family for many years, and although my time with her will eventually cease, thankfully my steadfast communication with the Lord is everlasting.

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Blessings for the Brain

During the coronavirus era, I have my good and bad days just like you. Some days I love the fact I don’t have to put on real clothes and leave my house. Other days, I feel like a hamster running on a wheel surrounded by walls closing in on me. In reality, I am super blessed to have my health, a home, and food in the fridge. However, in the midst of groundhogs day, it’s understandable to pass over the positives and focus on the negatives. It can be a struggle to find the blessings.

The first week during quarantine was one of the hardest. I grieved the loss of everything I wouldn’t be doing. I knew it was critical to continue my morning routine and get up early to read my Bible and have time with God. Most mornings I went through the motions without feeling filled with the Spirit, but I did it anyway. I decided to utilize a tool I learned at a class on anxiety, gratitude. You can shift your brain’s patterns by giving thanks.

To shift my mindset to a positive place, I committed to journal every morning five blessings from the day before. Five things I could point to and give appreciation to God for. The first week was tricky. I struggled to come up with five. I reached and grabbed for anything and everything I could call a blessing; reading to the kids… blessing, dinner on the table… blessing, no bloodshed… blessing, everyone alive… blessing.

As weeks progressed, the blessings were easier to uncover because I was looking for them. As they occurred, I spotted them and was excited to write them down in my journal the next morning. Oh how this has helped my mindset! Now, I see them everywhere because I have trained my mind to seek them out. 

It’s easy to identify the difficulties in our day, but can you spot the blessings? Try writing down the good things that occur. Call it a blessing and give the Lord thanks. If you do this daily you will be amazed at the transformation which can occur. You will also have wonderful memories recorded from this time to look back on.

coronavirus, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, nature, parenting, Parks, religious, spiritual, water, women

Step by Step

This photo was captured at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA. This 100-acre estate is complete with rolling hills, picturesque gardens, and plentiful wildlife making it the perfect Friday field trip while homeschooling. 

As we sauntered along the Japanese gardens, my children found much joy crossing the stone steps. They exuberantly leaped from step to step. 

This reminds me of our journey with God. God wants us to take one step at a time, humbly submitting to Him along the way. On the other hand, we want to reach the other side without actually having to carefully land on each step. We want to know the ending without actually having to experience the pain and suffering. We often discount the importance of each step even though it has been strategically placed there by our all-knowing Father to teach and mold us.

Each path looks different. Mine might veer right and yours to the left. I need to remain on my stones and not try to hop over to yours. Sometimes we end up going backward or sideways and kerplunk into the water. The good news is, God is there with His outstretched hand, pulling us out of the water, drying us off, and putting us back on the path. “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” (Psalm 37:23)

We have a desire to control life and predict the future. We want to feel confident it’s all going to work out. We thirst for assurance that the story will have a happy ending. 

God will often bless us with a preview or a vision of what’s to come. Other times, He gives us just enough information to see the step ahead. Occasionally, there is no sneak peek and He asks us to tread blindly and trust in Him to land safely.

The great news is, He is with us the entire time. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) 

Worry not about the bend ahead, seek Him for wisdom and guidance and He will show you the way.

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Transformation through Paint

We recently painted my daughter’s room from pink to blueish gray. There are so many activities we can’t do now, this is one thing we can. 

We moved into our current home when our oldest daughter was six. At the time, she requested a bright pink color for her bedroom. This April she turned eleven and her tastes are maturing.

When there was a small patch of pink remaining on the wall, my middle daughter said, “The pink is almost gone, that’s sad.” After this statement, I got nostalgic and realized my little girl who loved pink all those years is growing up. It was kinda sad.

When the room was complete, we remarked how one can of paint completely transformed a room from bright and youthful to calming and serene. The ambiance of the room had morphed.  

For the most part, the room was new, remade, ready to take its owner into a new season of her life. Even though the room took on a new persona, the pink still remained underneath. It existed behind the blue, and maybe along a few edges.  

This reminds me of God and how He transforms and renews us just like we modified my daughter’s room. God doesn’t wipe away our past, it will always remain just like the pink paint will always be there even if it can’t be seen. Our past is a part of who we are and where we came from.

We get to bring the difficult parts from our past to God and He makes us new again. I tried to hide and ignore the hurt and pain I felt from losing my mom to suicide when I was twenty. When I finally transferred the baggage I was carrying around to my Heavenly Father, He restored me. He gave me a fresh coat of paint and a new passion for life. I can’t change my past, but I can accept His love and grace and use my story and grief for His glory.

The previous version of me will always remain. My mom is still gone and that will never change, but He is using this part of my story to transform me into the person He created me to be. I have a new paint color, a renewed spirit.