30 Jul

The Last Place You Look

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Sometimes I just get tired.

I don’t want to do one more load of laundry or cook one more dinner. I don’t want to read one more book or teach one more lesson. I don’t want to write one more blog or encourage one more woman on the phone. I don’t want to lead a Bible study, support my husband, parent my children or even get out of bed.

Sometimes, I just want to do nothing. To do what I want to do.

The truth is I have felt that way for the last few months. I have tried to deny all that God has laid in front of me. Spouting out things like, “I would like to be the one people take care of now and then,” or “Why can’t someone else be the one to encourage others?”

And the more I stamped my feet and demanded to do what I wanted. The farther away from God I felt.

The farther from God I felt, the harder it became to do the things.

Until I couldn’t feel God. I was snarling at my life. I was joyless…is there a word for a joy deficit, cuz that’s what I had...I think I owed people joy. And nothing was getting done.

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I wrote those words a little under two years ago. In the wake of a season of difficult circumstances — death of loved ones, health crisis and God calling me to do something I just didn’t want to do.

I stumbled across those words tonight as I was cleaning up my blog. And I just stared at the screen.

Stared.

Cried.

And began to wonder who I owed joy to now.

All at once my life came into focus through the lens of my own words…my own life…and that’s just weird.

I am struggling with heartache. Pain. A season of loss and I feel lost.

Angry. Sad.  Tired. Joy-less.

In this season of  being glued to the couch and wanting to pretend life wasn’t marching on, God whispered, the Spirit blew through, and I knew. God called me to get up….the Spirit planted words in my heart. And it was time to move forward. But I sat on the couch, waiting for God to send me a sign (another one, a bigger one, one with red lettering that flashes!). I sat on the couch waiting to feel joy…waiting to get happy again.

My grandfather sat in his chair, his body weakened by age and life. I searched each drawer, cupboard and nook in his tiny assisted-living room. I found the paperwork he asked me for and laughed, “Isn’t it always the last place you look?” “Well, I should hope so…why would you keep looking if you found it,” he chuckled back.

These words ring in my head….my heart.

I’m waiting for joy. God whispers, why are still looking you have joy?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3

This season of loss and following God when I don’t understand is growing my faith in ways I never imagined. I’ve been able to tell stories of whispering Jesus’s name for peace and reassurance when nothing else would help. Stories of amazing provision and peace when nothing about our situations seemed like they would work out.

YES! My faith is growing. I am persevering. Jesus…the Word….the living breathing saving grace of God asks isn’t that enough? And I choke on my self-pity and egocentric behavior. If I’m honest with myself…nope. It hasn’t been enough. I keep looking for something else.

Truth is I want something tangible. Another candy bar. A funny movie. A good hair day. A phone call from a friend. A Target shopping spree.

I want to say the right Christian words. To hold up the facade that makes you think, dang she’s got it all together, but God girl to God girl…truth is I don’t live like God is enough.

I know that I know that I know, God is calling me to write. My blog. My story. His grace in my life. Bible studies. Words that pour The Word into a parched world of women who lose themselves on Pinterest and in junk tv in hopes of finding the secret to their joy. When I study my Bible. When I dig around and find meanings and phrases. When I ponder the infinite God in the tiny details of my life. When I pour out what He pours in….I am joyful. I am happy. And even though I know, I keep looking…and I can hear my sweet Grandpa’s words “why would you keep looking if you found it?”

So, here I sit today. Writing. In the office that my hunky hubby help me carve out in our home. My space filled with books, commentaries, precious treasures and the sweet-spot calling that Jesus whispers to me.

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Jesus calls each of us to pour out what He pours in. To give him away. It looks different for each of us, living out what He’s designed for us, but friend I can promise you this….being with Jesus….chasing Jesus….giving away Jesus is more than enough.  It is joy. It is everything. And I’m going to stop looking, because I already have my joy….

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

30 Jul

We WILL have fun

Sometimes I get it right. Like today.

Sometimes, I don’t. Like yesterday. {plastic pool + ice cold water from the hose = fun afternoon, right?? Add a bee sting on a tiny foot, a little girl attitude and a deflated momma ego and it becomes a fail. Fail.}

Today, I awoke with new resolve. We will have fun today. We will get it right. This summer camp at home thing will produce smiles and fun. It will.

An hour into filling water balloons I was smiling to myself. Oh, they are going to love this! Buckets full of birdie balloons at the ready. Just a few more to fill, some green pigs to draw on the driveway and we’d be ready to play.

A balloon springs a leak. I get wet.

Our son discovers the bucket full of balloons and gets excited about throwing them at his sister. When I try to explain we are going to play a game and if there are some left over they can have a war, he bursts into tears.

A balloon pops off the faucet spraying the kitchen and me. Mostly me. I get soaked.

Small boy continues to cry.

I fill another balloon, dry it off and draw a face on it.

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If we survive to play the game. We will have fun.

I give our son a choice. Calm down and play, and maybe have some fun or stay inside and be angry.

He opts for maybe having fun. Maybe.

Off to the driveway we go. Buckets of balloons loaded and ready.

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I grab the sidewalk chalk. I begin sketching boxes and round things.

I’ve got the lil man’s attention.

“Mom, that looks like a pig.”

“A green pig, mom.”

“Mom, are we playing Angry Birds?”

{if only I could insert the delighted squeals}

Now we’re all drawing pigs and scenes.

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And then it is time to play…

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{in order for a pig to “fall” it has to be completely wet….here the sun was a pig}

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{oh yeah, and some of the “birds” were real balloons filled with water…and sometimes they bounce}

IMG_7241{the final battle required team work and lots of balloons…and yes, the boy did play in his socks}

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{it took more of the actual water balloons then I thought it would so we took a break after level 2 and filled up a more balloons and re-hydrated the players}

Some days I get it right. And I just wanted to share {and well, maybe, brag a little too!}. But we had a great time…Daddy is jealous at work and the kids are ready to play again soon.

Summer camp at home is now 1-1. Never one who likes ties I’ll have to try again tomorrow. More water balloons (after all this week’s theme is water) and more games. I’m hoping for smiles, not perfection, and some fun memories along the way. {oh, and maybe, just maybe, a little family therapy session with balloons!}

{btw, we had lots of balloons left over and the lil man was able to get everyone soaking wet!}

10 Dec

Ultimate Christmas Gift Giveaway

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I wonder, sometimes, what His laugh sounded like. The One whose image we bear. The One who created us to love us.

Do you ever wonder what Jesus’ laugh sounded like?

I think of the smiles; the giggles; the side-splitting, tears-in-your-eyes laughter we share as humans and I think of God. Does He revel in the sound of laughter like I do when my sweet little peanuts get the giggles? We who love to laugh and smile, do we sound like Jesus when we laugh?

So many of us work hard or are struggling with so much right now and we take on Christmas as a thing to be managed. We forget that some of our greatest gifts are the people God allows us the opportunity to study with, serve with, minister to, and, yes, laugh with. And to that end, this year, for our Christmas party my hunky hubby and I set out to just enjoy our family of friends. We aimed for fun and laughter and reveled in the echoes of joy in our home. Thankful for the place and time to play and laugh, unwind with and draw near to those we hold dear.

We played “Minute to Win It” style games — quickly learning who had serious competitive streaks, who cheats (HA!!), and how much fun it is to let go and do the silly sometimes.

Toss the marshmallow through the Wreath (most in wins)

even the some of the littles played (and beat some of the adults!!)

well, there’s always one in every bunch….

The “Nutstacker” Game (use only the candy canes)

She might not have won the Cup Stacking with One Hand Game, but the face is priceless (ooh and she is color coordinated with the cups!!)

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening…the photo booth!!

Some of the incredible women I have had the pleasure of studying the Word with this year…my sweet, albeit crazy sisters in Christ!!

So as we celebrate this season of joy…looking for the grace and laughter God gives us…I am celebrating Christmas with a the

Ultimate Christmas Gift Giveaway!!

(Woot!! Woot!!)

I cannot think of a better Christmas gift than helping someone grow closer to Jesus…get deeper into the Word.

I am giving away the book and workbook “Living by the Book” by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks. It is a great resource for studying scripture, growing closer to God and unlocking the amazing, overwhelming mysteries of the Bible!! Book description from Amazon.com: “For every person who draws strength and direction from the Bible, there are many more who struggle with it. Some call it a long book with fine print and obscure meaning. Some call it a mystery. A chore to read. An undecipherable puzzle.

The good news is you can easily solve this problem. With over 300,000 sold, this revised and expanded edition of Living by the Book will remove the barriers that keep Scripture from transforming your life. In a simple, step-by-step fashion, the authors explain how to glean truth from Scripture. It is practical, readable, and applicable. By following its easy-to-apply principles, you’ll soon find yourself drawing great nourishment from the Word–and enjoying the process! TheLiving by the Book Workbook is the perfect compliment to provide practical application of lessons.”

This book is a wonderful resource and I have been  just fascinated as I work through it this year. Want to grow in Christ…dig deeper…discover God’s love verse-by-verse.

 

 

The contest runs all this week (Dec. 10-14) and each comment is an entry! Earn more entries by subscribing to the Common Graces newsletter (——->>>>> over there in the right margin), share on Facebook or Twitter (and let me know), and share this post on Pinterest (and let me know!!)! Winners will be posted on Monday, December 17.

Share with us how you are looking for Jesus this Christmas season. Parties? Celebrations? Volunteering?

Do you ever ponder the physical characteristics of Jesus?? What did Jesus (the man) look like? What His laughter sounded like?

Merry Christmas my friends!!

 

 

03 Dec

Wonder and Whispers

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The sky begins a faint glow…the horizon painted with yellows and pinks. The morning begins to kiss back the darkness with possibility and hope. An old song sung of new possibilities fills the trees as the birds announce the coming of the sun.

I sit in our nearly dark house, breathing in the stillness that dawn offers. A stillness steeped in mystery and possibility. A breath where sleep still lingers and the day unfolds, where to-do lists lie in wait, and the heaviness of yesterday’s sin has melted away. Hope rises with the sun.

And yet, here in the living room I sit in a pool of light. Oh how the Christmas tree glows.

These moments, these still, glowing, decorated moments of peace are perhaps my favorite all year. There’s something magical about a Christmas tree all lit and lovely. Each ornament a shadowy, glimmering tale of cheer, memories, love and Christmas.

It is here, in these moments I remember the wonder. The awe.

Christmas is mysterious and magical when we give it room to be. When celebrating Jesus grows and moves and fills the room around me, I remember what it was like to be a child with eyes full of sparkling lights and a heart full of Christmas wonder.

Here in the living room I sit in a pool of light. Oh how Jesus glows in me.

Beyond the horizon the world is waking. Coffee is percolating. There is bustling and hurrying. To do lists dictate and schedules overcrowd hearts. And even as the sky begins to grow light I feel the world pressing in, trying to crowd out the peace that dances here in a pool of light.

We do that, don’t we? We let life bump us and swirl us around like a twister with its own agenda. We fill up calendars and gasp for air. Christmas becomes a list of things to be done and people to check off. We fill the space around us with noise…lights…distractions…and we miss the glow of Jesus that beckons us to breathe in peaceful, heavenly possibilities.

And here we are in the this month called December. The weeks where retail shouts of good deals and time running out. The weeks where calendars fill up with obligations dressed in red and green. The weeks that are meant to build to a crescendo of love culminating on the day when Love came down become weeks that we rush through, surviving it all…barely.

Oh, will you pause with me? Will you set out to make this season different? Will you greet each day with breath??

Like those predawn moments that whisper of sun-kissed promises as old as our Creator, Christmas whispers too. The lights, the trees, the carols…they are all meant to remind us of the One who clothed Himself in humanity so that He could clothe us in righteousness. Reminders. That’s what the symbols we become numb to are…reminders of Christmas…of Jesus…of love.

My sweet sister, look for Jesus this December. Find Him in quiet moments. Whisper His name when your heart wrestles with busyness. Allow the things of this tinsel-covered, holly-decked holiday to whisper I love you.

16 Oct

A Weedish Offering

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The front door crashes open.

Little hands meet mine. Palms open I receive little flowers…broken, mangled, dry, crushed….beautiful.

I cherish those little yellow flowers, the clover, the grass, and whatever else finds its way into the little bouquets delivered by peanuts with sparkling eyes.

I trim them carefully and place them in vase, with all the loving care the florists use for the most expensive flowers and arrangements.

They look little, broken, dry…almost weedish…in their tiny vase. A vase salvaged just for small little, weedish bouquets. Every time I fill up the vase I wonder if this is the last time. Will they grow out of it next week? Will the somedays when little boys aren’t interested in kissing their mamas and delivering flowers come too soon?

His little love offering to me….

 

I begin to ponder these weeds. That no matter how they look, how clumsily they are delivered they bring joy to a mother’s heart.

I suppose my life…my offering to God…is not much more than this handful of late season weeds.

This sin-wracked life is broken…mangled…dry…crushed.

But as I seek my God, who longs for me to come to Him, perhaps the light cast on my handful of weeds changes. Perhaps as I come to God…as I try to be the woman He made me to be…perhaps my weedishness softens.

In the light of Heaven’s grace…of mercy…of eternity…of a God who knows that my dirty hands clenched tight around this life are trying to learn to deliver all I have to Him…my handful of weeds looks breathtaking, lovely.

You see, nothing matters with out the light of God cast on it. If we are living only to survive, not to thrive and shine. If we are living to fill up on what the world offers, not pouring out what God has given. If we are clutching our lives, instead of offering them up for God to mold, direct and breathe life into. It is an ugly, sad bunch of weeds.

But, oh my friends, how does it change when we are willing to open our palms and hold it all to the One who says, Come!! I wonder does God’s heart swell like mine when little palms deliver little offerings? Does He kiss our foreheads with heavenly glory just as I kiss my peanuts?

I watch my little man run off. Off to find more flowers to deliver. Some will be dropped, lost along the way. Others will be bent, broken, mangled. Some were dry and wilted before they were ever delivered. But for my little man, it is never about the flowers or the run up and down the hill to get them. No, it is about giving them to his mama.

The lesson there for us is palpable….the lump in my throat is too…our life is meant to be lived full of joy and expectancy as we go about the business of living for our God who loves us. Who dotes on us. Who is the beautiful light that changes all we are and all we offer.

What handful of weeds can you offer to your Jesus today? Can you give Him control…trust that He is big enough for your circumstances? Can you serve someone in His name today? Can you tell someone about the Savior who waits open-handed for your weedish offering?

 

 

Father, thank you that see the beauty in my broken, that you receive my offering from grimy hands, that you loved me enough to give me Jesus. Thank you for little peanuts whose simple, unfiltered love teaches me about how I can and should come to you. Thank you for accepting my weedish life and help me to continue to offer it to You. Amen.

30 Jan

I’ll Have What He’s Having

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A song came on this morning that was popular when I was in college. It immediately brought me back to a life of dorm rooms and dining halls. And then I began to think of them…the friends I had that planted a seed in my life. A seed that would begin to grow many years later.

Shortly after I arrived on campus I became involved with a Christian student organization. We went to Bible studies, worship services and even a weekend camp with a group of people who would show me the first glimpse of a life that I would later chase. A life of pure joy that I couldn’t understand but, oh, how I wanted it!

I wanted what they had.

My entire freshman year I spent a lot of time with a group of kids from two universities that were living their lives for Christ. And they were fun!! (Imagine that.) They accepted me and loved me. And that wasn’t all that easy. Yes, I hung out with their group but I also had my other foot in a circle of friends that were less than savory…young men that were involved with drugs and other illegal activities and young women who sold themselves out for an imitation of love that left them unhappy and empty.

Sometimes those worlds collided. (any friends of Seinfeld out there?? Do you remember George screaming “worlds colliding”? Yep, that was me.) My Christian friends were polite and funny, even though my other friends didn’t return their grace and were often very uncomfortable. Years later I would look back and realize in those times, my Christian friends would show no signs of leaving or budging…guarding me, holding me…willing me safe, if only by their own presence.

I felt their love. Confused it for a while for romantic intentions, but learned that in their world you could be friends, great wonderful, fully invested friends with no sex…when Christ was at the center of your foundation. I still didn’t get complete get it.

But, oh, how I wanted what they had.

My life changed dramatically in the years that followed. I quit college, moved thousands of miles away and began a life that was all my own — no family, no friends, no God. Just me. And while I had fun and met some friends who would become lifelong friends, I continued to search. Search for love — an unconditional, all-encompassing, overwhelming love. It wasn’t in bars or clubs. It wasn’t in one night stands or long-term relationships with men who neither respected me or knew how to love me more than the highs they were chasing.

For years I would live this same pattern, different locations, different cast of characters, but empty, joyless life that was filled with a search. And if I can be completely honest, I am not sure that I knew I was searching for something…this pattern of moving on, changing and clinging to men and places in my life didn’t make any sense but I just thought that was my life.

Did you catch that, I thought that my life was just meant to be a string of disappointing relationships and broken situations. I knew that’s all I was worth.

There’s no joy in that….no joy in a life lived with the weight of insecurity that leads you into a pathetic pattern of being a doormat and/or a punching bag. There’s no joy in a life where “love” only comes in the dark and is denied in the light of day.

And then I began to work for a man who was Christian. He wore his faith proudly, and easily shared Christ with those around him. But what really drew me to him was his joy. He laughed easily, loved whole-heartedly, and everywhere he went people were drawn to him. Quick to help. Quick to listen. And quick to share the truth. This man’s every breath pointed to Jesus. And in a time when my life was in HUGE transition he was like the warm breezes of God-sized refreshment blowing over my soul.

Here was a man who taught me about the Bible and how it worked in his life, and I never felt lectured or like I was in Sunday school. A man busy with his own family and life that took time out when I was quitting drinking to spend time with me so that I would not hit a bar. A man who accepted the details of my life I shared and never cringed or judge…just pointed to a better way with his friendship and example. This man was Jesus to me when I didn’t know who Jesus was or how to find Him.

And, by now you know, I wanted what he had!!

My life would never be the same after working for that man. I went on to accept Christ as my Savior. I met the man I would marry and our lives would spin off into this incredible whirlwind of marriage, family, ministry and more.

This morning I have what they had. I have Jesus. And the lessons the Christians in my life have taught me are numerous, but one outweighs them all. Living your life full of joy, truth and love from  Jesus shines into a world that is desperately seeking them. We don’t need to beat people over the head or preach to them to draw them to Jesus…we have to live with them, among them, and be different. Live like Jesus works. (Because He does!) Live like our joy is Christ. (Because it is!) Live like our faith carries us through all. (Because it does!) Jesus will do the rest….we just have to be faithful to be open and real.

Because there are people out there that want we have!

 

25 Jan

Her Faith is Sprouting

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Uncomfortably perched on her chair she looked ready to bolt any minute. Not quite wanting to be there, but obligation kept her seated. She wasn’t one of “us” and everything about her body language and the way she answered questions said she didn’t want to be.

Yet, she came back.

Week after as we meet for Bible study this beautiful young woman sits among us. She’s heard the gospel. She’s been to church. But she’s not into this God stuff and doesn’t think she wants to be.

Yet, she came back.

Listening. Eyes wide and bright. She didn’t miss a word. Words her puzzle pieces. God is the picture on the box.

We are nothing alike her and I, and yet we are the same. Scarred by human hands and circumstances. Loving and timid. Scared. Hurting.

And in her I see me.

That girl the who wore hurt close to her heart. Hidden. A stranger to grace and divine joy I searched to fill my heart with love.

And so I looked for love in all the wrong places. In men who didn’t know how to love. In men never taught to value a woman. In food. In drink. In bars and old flames. Never finding this thing I wanted. This love I craved.

Instead I found hurt. Heartache. Disrespect. Loneliness. All wrapped up in counterfeit adoration and lies covered in darkness.

But Jesus changed that for me.

He showed me His love so that I could learn to love.

He showered me with grace so I could learn to pour it out.

He showed me my worth in Him so I demand it from those around me.

And here we sit opposite ends of the same couch. Opposite ends of similar walks.

Jesus between us.

Oh how I want for her to know Him. To breathe in the aroma of heavenly love.

I’ve seen her inhale these past few weeks.

And slowly she begins to grow. Like a tender plant just breaking through the soil her leaves small and bright. Her faith is sprouting.

How beautiful it is to watch a woman discover God. To fall in love with Jesus.

Now I am listening, her words grace and renewal to my parched soul. Her prayers of simple faith and unwavering trust teach me to pray in ways long forgotten.

As she grows. I remember.

How easy it is to let time and life erase your memory. Memories of the sweet scent of a Jesus like honeysuckle on a summer evening. Fresh. Delightful. Unmistakable.

And, oh, how I want other opportunities to grow and share with women. Sharing Christ with women is life changing…for them…for me. For us all.

Oh I can’t wait for the day when my Jesus is her Jesus.

When she is a tall, strong flower in God’s garden. Unique. Beautiful. Stretching heavenward for water and Sonlight.

Oh, Father, thank you for the opportunity to be in this Bible study. Thank you for allowing me to meet this beautiful sister and be a traveling companion on her road to you. I can’t wait for the day when she proclaims you as King and Savior! Amen.

 

23 Sep

Owning and Proclaiming Joy

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My eyes ached from night full of trying to sleep. Caffiene. Upbeat music. Nothing was working. I was just flat tired. And today, I couldn’t be. Today was a big day. Still there I sat, my eyes half-open (or half-closed?), wishing for sleep and trying to recalculate my day subtracting chores and adding in a nap.

Their screams echoed off the walls. Bouncing down the hall, around the corners on the stairs and into my ears. “YAY!! SCHOOL!!” The excitement in the house was palable. Kids screaming through the upstairs hallways. The dogs begin running from window to window barking and carrying on, because surely if the kids are screaming there is something out there to bark at.

It was contagious.

I ran upstairs, got dressed, and grabbed the camera. Time to start our school year. It is a time to be excited.

And as we began our year, full of excitement and chatter I was aware that my day had been salvaged by my children. That their attitudes changed my attitude. This breathing in and exhaling (oh, and screaming) of joy was contagious.

How often do I do that?? How often do I find the joy in the moment, not just to suck every last drop of its marrow, but to share it? To proclaim it? Probably not often enough.

Joy is not meant to be hoarded or hidden. Joy is love. Joy is light. Joy is God. Joy is manna. Falling fresh from heaven’s storehouses on a world caught up in the everydayness of live.

Do you know that the word rejoice appears in the Bible 155 times? (give or take depending on your translation). Rejoice an outward expression of joy. To show joy. To live joy. To show the joy of the Lord. To live the joy of the Lord!

Why rejoice? Because it shows an outward expression of joy. This is more than a smile in the mirror. It is smile that shines light into the sphere of others. It is a shriek of delight that moves a mama off a couch. It is a bright red, blinking neon arrow that tells the world to look up at the one who is showering His grace. Christians should be joyful. We have an empty cross. An empty tomb. A Savior sitting in heaven. We have the joy of Christ!!

That outward expression of joy that we share does something else. It is pure and loving worship of a Lord who came so that we would spend eternity praising and living in love. Love that is light. Love that is joy. Forever.

It is choice. This joy. Daily. Moment to moment choice.

People often say the rudest things to me (ask my husband, it is amazing the mean things I have heard from complete strangers), and I have had to learn to choose joy. Not just to not react or say something equally ugly, but I have to leave it there not carry it with me. Because carrying that ugliness lets it fester and boil until it becomes something dark and sinful. I don’t get my joy from what others think of me, my life, or my family…and I have to choose to remember that and live that way.

I don’t get my joy from what size jeans I wear (although, I must say a pair straight out of the dryer that slides on does add to my smile!), for God doesn’t care what size I am just the depth of my love and faith.

And hardest of all to live and grasp, my joy does not come from my circumstance. Whether it is just a day that goes badly or the trials of life that come in the shape of death, despair, grief, loss and more…joy doesn’t start there or end there. It comes from God. God’s love for me and Jesus’ hand on my heart…that is where joy starts and ends. And in the heaviest moments of life it is hard to find that light and live it. That’s where friends, family, and even small shrieking children come in.

If we are shining our light into this world it becomes a beakon, not only to the who are searching for or don’t even know they need God, but to those who know Christ and are mired in the circumstances that take our breath away. Our joy can remind them of His joy. And as Nehemiah said, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

So today, as I sit, still tired and trudging through the day that didn’t look promising from the outset, I am choosing joy. I am not sure I’ll be shrieking through the halls (but who knows the day is far from over), but I will choose to smile, remind myself of the Lord’s kindness and dwell in that happy thought. From there perhaps I can cast a happy light into the life of another…and another…and another.

Rejoice!

 

21 Sep

Naked in Orlando

Through my tears and frustration I could hear her crying on the other bed. In that second I knew I had one chance to redeem this trip. They were watching…they were feeling my emotion. This was a chance to teach them how to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

So, I took a deep breath. Willed away my tears and began to really look at our situation.

And then the strangest thing happened…I started laughing.

Here we were nine hours from home, one day into our whirlwind vacation that would reunite us with family and surprise the kids with day trips to Sea World and Disney World. We had van full of clothes, games, toys, homeschool materials, coolers, snacks, you name it. And somehow in the early morning rush to hit the road one suitcase had gotten left behind.

Only minutes ago we had discovered that my suitcase was still sitting next to our bed at home. I had thought my husband grabbed it and he had thought that the smaller matching suitcase (full of our daughter’s clothes) was the one I was bringing. Not 24 hours ago I had joked with my brother if I didn’t get packed I was going to be naked in Orlando…suddenly that was a real possibility.

As I began to laugh, the kids just looked at me. My husband went from rubbing my back to shaking his head.

“Are we going to get you some new clothes, mom?” our daughter asked.

I nodded. And then added I had packed extra sunblock so I wouldn’t get burned if I was naked in Orlando. Now everyone joined me laughing.

As my husband and I began to concoct a plan. I just kept giggling and saying, “this is the dumbest thing.” Within seconds our four-year-old son had picked up the refrain and was saying it too. His little voice cracked us up and the laughter increased.

After a quick trip to the mall I have  a couple of new shirts, pants, undergarments, sweats, socks and shoes. I try not to shop for myself so this was actually kind of a splurge for me. Thankful that we will have laundry facilities where we are staying, I was able to save us money by getting enough to wear a few times.

In all truth, of course, I would rather have my clothing with matching accessories and broken in shoes. I would rather have several outfit options, not just plain t-shirts. That is what my tears were over earlier in the evening…not having what I wanted, what I had packed, what I had planned.

After our trip to the mall the kids sat up on the bed and watched me lay out what we had purchased. “Oooh, I like that color,” our daughter said. “I like that sweatshirt it is soft,” our son added. And as their happy chatter about the evenings events filled our room, I knew that all was well.

Isn’t it so easy to get caught up in our wants and our own plans that when life goes sideways we lament. We don’t chose joy. We choose whining, crying, frustration or anger. But these moments are important. They are important for us, they are important for our children to watch and be part of, and they are important to God. Life is full of unmet expectations and messed up plans, and if we choose to get caught on those speed bumps we’ll miss the blessings down the road.

Last night as I tried on clothing at the mall, I listened to my kids and my husband giggling and playing games in the store. I smiled in the mirror as I tried on my new t-shirt. We had planned on a quick dinner and finding a place to get their energy out. We hadn’t planned on a big ole Italian dinner — stuffing our kids with pasta, bread, and salad — great conversation, fun games and time to just sit and look each other in the face. We hadn’t planned on them walking through the mall (getting their energy out) and playing with daddy or helping me pick out clothing. They were precious moments we didn’t plan and we could have missed if I had chosen to pout my way through last night.

It comes down attitude, doesn’t it? Whether we chose joy in the moments that frustrate us? Do we choose to redeem the moments for those around us even when inside we want to stomp our feet and cry?

Today we’ll finish our road trip toward our weekend of fun and family. I’ll be the one in a plain t-shirt and yesterday’s capris. And the last 24 hours will become a thing of family trip legend — remember the trip when mom didn’t bring her suitcase?? Well, at least it won’t be known as the trip where mom was naked in Orlando!!

02 Mar

A Reminder to Laugh

On Facebook this morning there was a picture that reminded me of belly laughter. Of laughing so hard you cry. Of joy.

And today, I choose joy.

Even though the laundry is piled up.
Even though my children are arguing, again.
Even though this week is insanely busy.
Even though so many around us are broken and hurting.

Even though…

Isn’t it easy to even though ourselves right out of love, life, and joy. We find so many things to focus on that our BUTS become larger than our lives.

But Christ did not come so that we could live in defeat. He does not bear His scars that we might mark our days with sadness. He did not beat death for me…for you…for us that we would trudge through the dailyness of life and not look for His love, His joy all around us.

let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. 
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 5:11

So, today…I choose joy.

I choose to belly laugh when I can. To smile instead of losing my cool over life’s little messes. I’ll turn on the music and dance my way through chores, school and   errands. 

Oh…and the picture that inspired my smiles this morning…

me, Susan, and Lee 
our mini-reunion at She Speaks 2 years ago.
Susan was trying to take a group pic with her new camera on a timer…many, many shots later non were perfect but this one was “perfect” to express the moment

Father, today I ask you for joy. Just as the spring rains come to refresh the land, bring the showers of Your love in fun and laughter to your daughters. Remind us to belly laugh and truly live the life that Christ came to secure for us. Amen

Have a belly laugh on me today….Read Dog Doo Dance (a page right out of my everyday life).
21 Feb

Swinging Practice

Swing.
Miss.
Swing.
Miss.
Swing.
Miss.

I’d pitch. The ball would go by him. Then he’d swing.

Over and over again.

In the twenty minutes of our front yard baseball game Paxton never once connected with the ball. Not once. Every time it rolled down the driveway he ran after it. Laughing and galloping all the way. His smile never faded.

He found joy in the process. Joy despite his repeated failure (in the worlds eyes…in my eyes). Joy.

As we were putting away the toys he turned to me with a big grin. Those baby blues were just sparkling. “Mom, did you see how good I’m getting at swinging?” “I sure did buddy. You’re getting really good at swinging.” “Yeah, maybe next time I’ll hit the ball. That would be fun too.”

In that moment my baby boy taught me a HUGE lesson.

Every time I pitched the ball, I had hoped and prayed he would hit it. That it would go somewhere off the tip of that blue plastic bat. And every time he chased it down the driveway I silently lamented his failure. Worrying about frustration or disappointment.

He never worried. He never got frustrated. He wasn’t disappointed.

So often we spend time learning, preparing, gearing up for the big moment. That moment when we connect. When the crack of the bat echoes into the stands and we watch the ball head for the wall as we trot to first base. Looking for the home run on the horizon we miss the game we are playing.

What a sweet reminder to be present in our lives. To find the joy in “swinging practice”, to look for laughter in the little moments, to share a smile and love along the way. Enjoy the moments of “failure” and know that next time you might succeed and “that would be fun too.”
31 Mar

A Sunday kind of Christian

Okay, can I just tell you about my day…it was awesome. My sweet fairy-god-mother-in-law came to watch my precious little monsters so I could take the afternoon to hang out with a great friend, learn about dogs & dog training, and just be Wendy for a while. Hmmm…throw in the incredible weather and you have the recipe for a great day….great day!

And while I bask in the glow of a day off there are words lingering in my heart. God pricked my heart this morning and spoke into my life in a way that was unexpected but very necessary. My normal praise and worship music station faded out on me most of the way through my drive; I station hopped for a bit until I found another and was kind of disappointed when it seemed the songs were unfamiliar and the djs did A LOT of talking. But then, they aired an interview they did with Max Ludado this morning about the "Saturday of Easter".

He spoke of how as we focus on the events of this week we tend to focus on Friday and Sunday. While it is for good reason, as the suffering of Jesus for our redemption and forgiveness on Friday and Jesus beating the specter of death worthy of our celebration on Sunday. We don’t often pause in the silence of Saturday. Saturday was silence…the apostles hid, Jesus was dead…there was doubt, pain, fear, loneliness…silence and waiting.

Fascinated by the thought I began to ponder Saturday…what must it have been like to miss Jesus? To grieve the man they had come to love, believe in and follow? And just before I could take another breath or think another thought Max floored me.

He went to explain that he thinks many people live in Saturday. They’ve accepted the forgiveness of God through Christ, but they aren’t living in the joy of the resurrection, of life with the Holy Spirit, of Jesus in us…the joy of Sunday. That so many are suffering still in doubt, pain, fear and silence.

(Whoa.)

I sat in my car at a traffic light with tears in my eyes…joy…something I’ve been missing lately.

I don’t want to be a "Saturday Christian". I want the joy of an empty cross, an empty tomb and a full heart.

How great is God’s timing. Holy week and He opens my eyes to the lack of celebration of the gift of Jesus in my life. He continues to nudge me and say I am your joy quit looking for it other places.

As I think about how my children will perceive God and what a relationship with Jesus is I am very aware that my faith will have much impact. I want them to learn to study the Bible, pray earnestly and shine His light to draw others heavenward. But I also want them to live in the joy that is Christ. I want Isabel to grow up knowing the security that is a God who made her exactly how she is — that no magazine, boy or silly girlish clique defines her. I want Paxton to stand firm on faith that urges him to work diligently and be a kindhearted man in a world that tells him at every turn that you are entitled to anything you want no need to work hard for it and why think of anyone but yourself. I want them to remember a mom who reveled in Scripture, who prayed over them and with them, who danced in the kitchen to praise music while teaching them what it is to make a joyful noise (and sometimes it is nothing but a noise let me tell you!), and who was so in love with her God that she couldn’t hide…or wouldn’t.

I’m so thankful for my day off. I was blessed by a good friend who falls somewhere in the friend-mentor-sister realm; the ability to talk about God and do dog kinda stuff is a great day in my book. But most of all I was blessed by a sound bite on the radio that rang in my heart all day.

Tomorrow is Thursday and I am going to strive to be a Sunday kind of Christian.

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