Monday, October 31, 2011

True Strength

Strength. Sometimes I strive for it in the wrong way. I try to muster up my own courage. I try to be stronger than I feel I already am, or squelch any fear I may be having. I try. I try. I try.

It ends up being all wrong. That’s why true strength can often elude us. WE are doing the trying instead of turning to God. True strength and power comes from the Lord. It is HIS might that helps us – never our own.

Isaiah 30:15 “Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me.”

So many things I get wrong when I do all the striving and trying on my own.

“I.” I do the trying. I need to lay down the “I” and instead replace it with “HIM.” I need to depend on the Lord instead of depending on myself. If that means I need to acknowledge my own weakness and humanness, then that’s what God wants for me! Sometimes He just wants me to realize that it’s not by my own doing that I excel. The glory goes to God alone for getting me through life’s battles and giving me the courage and strength I need to be victorious in them.

I need to settle down. Often we can become little whirlwinds of activity trying to control the circumstances in our lives. We spin into motion trying to solve this or that. God often wants us to settle down and be still. Letting Him speak to us or move on our behalf. Those are the times when we start to focus, energize and gain momentum because we’ve given ourselves the time to listen.

God’s been teaching me a lot about His strength in the past year. He’s been showing me that so often we go at it backwards. When you want to be first, you need to be last. When you want to be at the top, you need to start at the bottom, and when you want to be strong, you must admit you are weak. Only then can we create room for God to work in us and FOR us.

If we are feeling weak and needing His strength, then we must give Him our attention and priority. We must trust Him.  And trusting means laying down the “me” and letting the “He” work in us and through us.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Accepting Myself

Why does it seem like most of us have such issues with accepting ourselves? We often wave away compliments or bring up our own flaws as a protection mechanism in case anyone else should happen to notice them first.

We compare ourselves. Minimize who we are. Talk negative self-talk. And we even compromise what we think and believe in order to be viewed as more acceptable.

For me, I think one of the most freeing things about being in your 30’s and 40’s is the fact that you learn to be more comfortable in your own skin. A little bit of life is tucked under your belt and for most of us, we are somewhat wiser than we were 10 years prior.

I do find though, that accepting and truly LOVING myself is like an ebb and flow kind of thing if I’m not intentional about it. It is far too easy to see someone skinnier, more beautiful, and more eloquent than I am. Comparing only hurts the uniqueness of who God created me to be.  And talking down to myself, minimizing, and compromising, also hurt.

Who would intentionally hurt themselves?  We do.  All of the time.

The older I get and the more I travel around the world, the more I realize how beautiful uniqueness is. I love discovering a new friend who is totally different than everyone else. I love watching someone with a truly distinct “character.” They are so fascinating! I love the freedom that these individuals have to be quirky, odd, or even what others would deem “weird.” I often find it charming.

God made each one of us to be separate and distinct. Not one of us should be a replica of someone else. No, we are made to be “stand-outs.” And yet we are so afraid of it. So afraid that the masses will reject who we are.

How much time do we waste trying to fit in when we were so obviously created to be unique? 

The more I allow myself and give myself the freedom to be different – to be “me” in all my distinctness – the more I find that others are drawn to me. And honestly – the more I enjoy myself because I’m living life within the boundaries that God made for me, personally.

It will probably always be somewhat of a struggle for us to accept ourselves but the more we practice it, the easier it gets. And amazing things happen when we live within our God-given roles as people if we would just stop fighting against ourselves….and start loving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Beauty of Mothering

Do you feel beautiful? You know, once a woman becomes a mother she sometimes loses her sense of beauty.  It's no one's fault, really. There is a lot of drudgery, and messy stuff that comes with being a mom. And face it - there isn't always time to devote to pampering yourself or giving yourself extra perks to make yourself feel beautiful! In fact, it's just enough to sometimes get dressed and out the door - am I right? 

But there IS beauty in being a mom. Do you see it? Can you feel it? 

It might take some objective looking at other moms for you to see and feel the beauty that permeates the heart of every devoted mother.

I believe a mom is beautiful when she tenderly picks up her child after they have fallen and lovingly kisses their scrapes.  A mother is beautiful when she wipes her child's messy mouth, or laughs at their little antics. Do you feel beautiful when you laugh? You should, you know! For laughter makes a woman's face glow.

I think mothers are beautiful every time they caress their child's face, or hair. You can just see the love radiate from their heart. And mothers leave a trail of beauty everywhere they go. You can see beauty in a homemade meal, in lovingly folded laundry, or  in the clean streaks left on a window or mirror. Every time I smell cinnamon, fresh bread, home baked cookies, salsa, or any other kitchen scent - I know that a mom has done something she probably felt was mundane - but something that came across as beautiful to her family.

Are you JUST a mom? Not even! There is no beauty that can compare to that of a mother. Not even when you've been up half the night with a sick child, or when your clothes are wrinkled from wrestling, cuddling, cleaning, or playing with your kids. If you love your children, if you enjoy your children, and do what you can to nourish, nurture, bless, and guide them --- you encompass beauty in everything you do and in everything you are.

Don't apologize for being a mother. Don't feel "less" than someone else because you are "just" a mom. If you look for the beauty - you will surely find it... because it's everywhere and in everything you do.

*This post originally appeared on in Dec. 2006.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Not Leaving

Sometimes I just want to tell Satan to spend his time and energies elsewhere. Actually, I always want to tell him this. But some times, more than others, I feel like he thinks he can defeat me. I feel like he must think he will win my soul because the spiritual battle and warfare can feel sooo intense.

You can almost feel the heat on your cheeks.

When these times come, I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “I’m not leaving! I’m not leaving my God! So give up!”

I guess it’s the warrior in me. The rebellious part of me that refuses to become a victim. Sure, sometimes I whine and groan like one – but when push comes to shove, I usually end up with a fighting spirit somewhere inside of me. Some part of me that wants to engage and not lose whatever battle it is that is waging over my head.

I’m not leaving.

There is no “out.” No matter how you feel, you have to decide for yourself that whatever comes your way; you will still serve and obey your Lord. It’s the only way. It’s kind of like marriage. For better or for worse – you’re in it. Forever.

Sometimes yelling does some good. Some times things need to be said. Sometimes tears need to fall. But when push comes to shove, don’t let Satan think he even has a hint of a chance at gaining access to your heart.

Tell him you’re not leaving. And then tell God.

My guess is, if you’re anything like me and you get that determined mindset to take over and you just decide that you’re in the battle to get stronger (because you’re certainly not going to throw up your hands and give in to defeat) that you will find the war starts to recede. The attacks come less often or with less strength.

It’s because when you call upon the power of the Lord, when you decide to use your faith as a weapon and cry out “I’m not leaving! Bring it on!”  --- there are stronger forces at work than simply your own strength.  Sometimes God is simply waiting to see if we feel He is worth fighting for or not.

I hate battles. Even though they make me stronger with each one, I still hate them. They hurt and they leave me with scars. But there is no “out” for me, in my walk with the Lord.

I’m not leaving.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Choosing Happiness

How happy is your home?

I was thinking about this as I heard a song about happiness come across my radio station today. In a world that is full of frustrations, depression, bad news, and stresses – I was wondering how deeply it infiltrated our homes as we raise our children.

So… how happy is your home?

I’m not talking about the kind of “happy” that comes when you agree to let your child have ice cream or say “yes” to a friend sleeping over just so they won’t beg you anymore. I’m not talking about the kind of “happy” that comes when a child says ‘you’re the best mom ever’ because you bought them that most desired item at the store. I’m talking about deep joy. Contentment.  Sparkling eyes. Zest for life. Freedom and abandon that comes from feeling loved.  Feeling satisfied with who you are and what you have around you. Happiness.

Do you think your children feel happy? Do they know you love them unconditionally or that they are safe with you, no matter what mistakes they make or what happens in their social world? If life fell apart – if you lost your home, your car, and you had to move – would your kids be happy because they have something deeper inside of them and you are all still together and alive?

Let’s flip it around. Would your kids say you are happy? Do they hear you complain and whine a lot about your responsibilities and commitments? Do you smile more than you frown?

When was the last time you laughed together as a family? When was the last time you played?

Happiness is truly a choice. It’s not a condition or a circumstance, but a choice. And it’s our choice to make. We can choose to be happy even if we don’t have that job we’d prefer or we can’t buy the clothes we’d like to buy for our kids. We can be happy with getting free movies from the library even though we haven’t seen the inside of a movie theater for months. It’s a choice.

I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to remember that I was a happy person. I want them to feel the happiness and joy that I felt in being their mom. I want them to see how happy they make me… just by existing. 

I want my kids to see me kissing my husband and cuddling with him. I want them to see me laughing and having fun with him so that they know that I am happy to be married to their father.

More than that, I want my kids to learn how to be happy. When the day doesn’t go exactly like we’d planned, I want my kids to figure out a way to still be happy. I want them to make that choice. Not for anyone else but themselves. I know that they will feel the contentment and satisfaction in life that they seek; by simply choosing happiness.  And someday when they are grown up and talking to their own kids about their life and home growing up – maybe they will smile and remember the joy that lived there.

Friday, October 21, 2011

He's Calling

I know God has called me to something.

I’m an encourager. I always have been. Strangely enough – even though there have been times where, I also, have needed to be greatly encouraged.

He’s funneled hurts in my life and in turn used them in ministry for His name. I love that. I’m blessed through that.

He’s funneled my loves into His causes. My writing. My love of taking pictures on missions trips. My love for my family. My love for Him. My love for others. And He’s used them to inspire others.

Yet, I can’t help but feeling like that “goal” He has in mind for me, hasn’t quite been reached yet. That I’ve been in training all this time. He’s been molding me. Leveling me “upward” in preparation.

I’m not sure what it is out there that I’m being pulled towards. Maybe it’s simply God Himself. But I keep pushing forward. On a journey to be fulfilled and know that I am in the only spot in life where I belong. A spot where I’m gifted and God is using me fully in those gifts.

Yes. God has called me. He’s called my husband. He’s called my children. I pray that each day we simply get closer and closer to being all we can be for Him and in Him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sometimes Leaders Are Wrong

I’ve always been a very obedient person. I do what I’m told and respect authority. Yet in a strange way, I’ve also always had this innate “something” inside of me that has given me free will. Maybe it’s the Lord. Maybe it’s just common sense that is rooted firmly inside of me. But I always seemed to know when I shouldn’t do something.

Now, as a parent, it can be a challenge to teach my children to be obedient, respect and obey authority…yet at the same time – question it.  For when I was a kid, most of my leaders were moral and upstanding people. Only a few stand out in my mind as being what I would call “wrong.” They didn’t use their platform as someone to be looked up to, but abused it because of their own personal issues.

More and more today, we have leaders and people who are in charge of us who aren’t “leading.” They abuse their power, lack respect for the people they are in charge over, and generally get a power “high” off of their position. Sometimes they are selfish and insert their own agenda into their position.

It can be very tough when you find you or your child is in a situation where you know they are being led astray or not being “led” ethically at all!

I believe that the Bible tells me to obey those in authority that have been placed over me. EXCEPT when that authority goes against God. So if authority does anything that is against my beliefs, then I have the freedom (and hopefully the conviction) to disobey.

My God always comes first.

I don’t want my children to be like the blind leading the blind. I don’t want them to simply be sheep following the pack. I want them to use their intellect and their love for the Lord to discern when someone in leadership over them is abusing their position. I want them to know that it’s okay to say “no” and that they don’t have to submit to someone who isn’t worthy of submitting to!

So many people are abusing their high positions and ranks these days. Positions that were allowed into their lives by the Lord. He can give and He can take away. I pray that my children will learn to respect and follow those who don’t take their leadership positions for granted, but instead use them for good and love those whom they serve.

Just because you are a leader – doesn’t always mean you have the right judgment or mindset. And it’s good to remember that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Retro Commercials

How can they not make you smile? I seriously think companies should throw a retro commercial into mainstream viewing every once in awhile. I bet their sales would spike on sentimentality alone! :)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wanting the Odds In Our Favor

I have been reading the book “In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson.  I read something he said in there that I can’t get out of my head.  He was talking about our prayers and how most of the time when we pray about a problem, hurdle, or challenge, we ask God to reduce the odds in our favor.

I just couldn’t get that comment out of my head because it’s so true! We ask God over and over again to solve things for us instead of believing that He can help us overcome or conquer despite the odds!

And what kind of faith is that?

Yes, God can most definitely reduce the odds of a situation and put them in our favor. And my guess is, He does do that on occasion. But how much better would it be for Him NOT to reduce the odds – us STILL believe – and then see Him do amazing miracles on our behalf?

Which one would you choose?

Of course, I don’t like to be stretched outside of my comfort zone. One scenario would certainly stretch me more than the other.  There are times where I just don’t want to have to “fight.” But then there are those times when I look back in hindsight and I see how answered prayer (despite how difficult a season of warfare may have been) has been so sweet. Felt so victorious. And my faith has been bolstered and renewed because of what God has done for me – DESPITE having to go through something hard.

Both can feel really good, at times.

I do know that I’m going to try not to ask God to reduce the odds in my favor all of the time. I know that not everything in life can be in my favor and I want my faith to be strong enough to believe in the power and might of my Lord despite odds stacked against me.  Just like in the Narnia movie when they are about to go to battle and they see the numbers are not in their favor.  One of the warriors states, “Size and numbers don’t win a battle.” And He is so right. God wins a battle. Our faith in God wins the battle. Not size. Not numbers.  Not odds.

We need to learn to see things not through human eyes, but with eyes that know what our God is capable of. The only real issue then becomes – do we believe?

My God can help me conquer anything if I just believe in Him. And oh what glorious things I will see.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When You're Not Chosen

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all experienced that “moment” when we realize we were not chosen for something that we had set our hopes upon. Maybe it was a job, a spot in an exclusive women’s “group,” or simply an invitation to a party. It could be that we felt overlooked to hold a privileged position or that we felt more gifted than someone else in an area and yet – we were not chosen.

It always stings. Always, doesn’t it? We can pretend sometimes that we are okay and that it doesn’t bother us very much…but it usually does. (If we’re honest with ourselves.)

And I wish I could give you some really sage and wise advice on how to handle it. But I’m right there with you. I struggle with it when it happens to me. It doesn’t seem fair and sometimes it’s just plain discouraging.

So what’s a girl to do?

I keep coming back to the fact that I simply have to trust in my God. I may not understand. I may feel like a reject…but I have to trust in my God. It’s the only thing that can possibly shed the proper perspective on something that feels so wrong.  And when I lift my chin up to God as my Heavenly Father and I feel like that small, little girl – I somehow know that He is cradling me in His arms and holding me until I can get my own determination and courage back again. Courage to be myself – even if and when I feel rejected by others. Determination to continue hoping; knowing that I risk getting hurt again. Yes, my God fuels those traits in me time and again.

It occurs to me that God often, is not chosen. He knows how it feels to want something so much and yet not see it happen. And yet He still loves. He still gives. And He still opens His heart and arms to us. Time and time again.

Maybe we’re not chosen because someone truly doesn’t like us. Maybe we’re not chosen at times because it is just not God’s will. Or maybe we’re not chosen because of simpler logic and reason – someone didn’t realize we wanted something or that it mattered so greatly to us. But whatever the reason, we have to come to the point that we can say, “I will keep trying. I will keep hoping. I will keep wanting.” For when we grow hardened and cold and don’t have the stamina to “keep on keeping on” then that is when we truly lose – not just for a moment, or occasion – but for forever.

Everyone is rejected at one point or another. Everyone is overlooked, taken for granted, and ignored. It happens. It’s never fun. But we are more than what others “rate” us as.

Trust God. Let Him love on you through the tough moments and let Him show Himself to you in a way and time like never before. He’ll be extra tender and He’ll know just how to renew your heart – if you let Him.

Remember – He knows what it’s like not to be chosen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Forgive Me

There is beauty all around me. And for different reasons, sometimes I just don’t see it. Sometimes I willfully choose NOT to see it.

Pride does that to a person. We dig our feet in and think of where we want to be. Where we could be. And we snub what we currently have.

I hate that.

I hate looking back and seeing when I’ve been that.

So today, I’m asking God to forgive me. Forgive me for ignoring the blessings and beauties He’s placed in front of me – today. Now. Forgive me for acting as if what I have isn’t good enough and for failing to choose joy, contentment, love, and living to the fullest when I’ve been given so much.

There might be great things out there for me. But there are also great things around me. And there might be dreams to be fulfilled in my future that bring me overwhelming happiness, but I also know there are dreams that I’ve already lived out.  There might be better situations to be a part of than the ones I currently battle, but I also know I will look back and see how God touched me so personally in the ones I’m in now.

No part of my life is a mistake. No part can’t be turned into good. There is no moment that I live in that can’t be formed into a blessing.

So, Lord, please forgive me. Forgive me for not seeing what it is that you have laid in front of me. Open my eyes and my heart to learn what you want me to learn, love what you want me to love, give what you want me to give, and grow how you want me to grow.  

Help me see beauty through the storms, blessings in the trials, and joy amidst the pain that life so often brings. Give me wisdom and keep my heart soft.

May I be your humble and obedient servant – finding favor in your sight, strength in your power, and joy in your love. 


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes (Giveaway)


**This contest has been extended till this weekend. Make sure you leave an email or contact info in your comment.

I'm not one who likes to do a bunch of reviews on my blog. Mainly because I don't want to bombard my readers with "pitches" on products. So, occasionally, when I do do a review - you'll know that its' something I truly love, stand behind, or believe in.

This children's book, called "The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes" is something I wholeheartedly love.

This book - albeit a children's book - also has important lessons for us as adults.

Moms, especially are so caught up in the need to get everything "right." Whether it's our houses, our children, or ourselves...we feel we have to maintain a certain image. I think in part, because it's something we can control. We don't often know how we can deal with a world that is out of our control!

This book highlights "Beatrice Bottomwell" and her ability to never make a mistake. It shows how she does everything right and avoids anything that she might stumble at. But in the process, she doesn't allow herself much freedom to try things that might be messy or something she potentially is not good at.

The book continues to show how one "almost mistake" consumes her. And then a BIG MISTAKE happens and it ends up not being nearly as terrible as she'd always feared.

What a FANTASTIC lesson to teach our children at impressionable and young ages! To think we can give them the gift of freedom in not having to be perfect all the time - well, that's something that will release so many unnecessary stresses, burdens, and obligations from their shoulders!

I love this book. I'm keeping it for myself - as a reminder of the joy that is mine to grab onto in life - if I just allow myself and give myself the freedom to be imperfect.

And -- I get to give away a copy to you as well! Just leave me a comment below and tell me how you struggle with being perfect or how you want to free your children from the inner demands of perfection.

I will select a winner on Tuesday the 11th at random.

*(I was given a free copy of this book)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Everyone Wants To Be Heard

I love to read other people’s blogs. I love to see how they are navigating life. I get spurred by their creativity, renewed by their faith, and encouraged by their love. They share their heart.

That’s why I try to take the time to leave a comment if something has touched me in one way or another. Because everyone likes to know they’ve been heard. Everyone needs to be encouraged and uplifted. Often, it’s the ones who give and invest of themselves the most – that are the most malnourished for encouragement.

Just as in “real life” we want to know someone has heard us when we share our hearts with them over a cup of coffee or a meal, so do the men and women who share their hearts in words. Whether it’s a blog, an article/column, or a status update – the words uttered were done so with the hopes that someone out there was listening. Someone heard.

We can take from others without even realizing it. Take their knowledge, take their experiences, take their insight – and let it fill us. Let it nurture us. Yet we leave a well that is slowly emptying. Needing refilling. And who is there to refill it?

You are. I am.

So even if you think it’s a waste of time or you don’t have anything profound or brilliant to say – comment. It’s love and encouragement left in the form of a few words or sentences. It’s validation or much-needed advice. It’s support.

Let someone know you heard them.

Let someone know you care about them and that you value the time they invest into giving you a gift - in whatever form it comes (faith, creativity, parenting advice, experience in a hobby or subject matter like homeschooling.) Someone is giving you something. They are investing into you – even though they haven’t met you. Because they know what it feels like to be in shoes similar to yours. They care. They hope. They dream.

Just like you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Because You TRIED

I love movie quotes. I’ve written about them from time to time because a really good movie quote and the imagery that accompanies it hits home with me for a long time. It resonates and communicates something powerful inside.

Recently, I watched “Soul Surfer.” I love this movie. I love it for many reasons. One, it’s in Hawaii and the scenery and locations are beautiful. I imagine myself being there soaking in the warm sunshine among the palm trees. Sorry, I digress. Two, I like it because it’s the story of Bethany Hamilton – the young surfer who got her arm bitten off by a shark. Three, I love it because there is so much love, honesty, integrity and HEART behind the outer story of triumph. God’s in the midst of it all.

There is a scene in the movie where Bethany comes home to find thousands of letters for her. She had recently been very discouraged after trying to re-enter a surfing competition only to get frustrated by her new challenges.  She is amazed by all of the letters and asks her mom why they were sent to her; seeing how she didn’t win the competition. Her mom looks at her with the love and insight of a mother and says, “Because you TRIED.”

I loved that.

How often do we get it wrong? How often do we think that to be examples, leaders, or successful in the eyes of another…..we must come in tops, first, or be the best? How often do we delude ourselves by thinking we can only be loved by doing well?

Sometimes, all it takes is for us to simply TRY!

It doesn’t matter if we fall down, make mistakes, or even mess up in front of many eyes watching us. It doesn’t matter as long as we’ve done our best and TRIED. Because as long as we are trying – we are doing more than most people. Most people are too scared to even try at all. They don’t want to wreck their image, be seen as a failure, or embarrass themselves. And yet when we watch someone try with authenticity and a genuine heart – something in us relates with them. We understand. We know where they are at in their journey even if they don’t reach the place they want to reach. They are us and we are them. Because we’ve all been there.

I don’t know what you are facing today. I don’t know how big the hurdle seems in your life or how far off the dream. I don’t know how scared you are to look foolish in front of others. But I do know that you’ll never be okay with yourself until you at least try. TRY.  There is no shame in trying. It doesn’t really matter what the end result is because you TRIED.

And that counts for a heck of a whole lot.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Joy In My Heart

 “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” (Where?) Down in my heart (Where?) Down in my heart to stay!”

I sang that song back when I was a little girl in Sunday School class. I grew up in the church so many of the Sunday School classic songs come back to me now and minister to my heart – just when I need them. I love how God does that.

Some things are just timeless. Their lessons –albeit simple – are resounding.

I’ve been thinking about joy lately. How it seems to escape so many of us when it’s right at our fingertips. And this simple Sunday School song came flooding back to my mind and to my lips, reminding me of just that fact.

Oh, how confidently a child can sing out that they have joy! They don’t shoulder so many of the burdens that an adult does. A little child doesn’t have the cares and burdens of a life filled with responsibility, hurt, and hard decisions that need to be made.

But deep inside every adult heart – still lives that child. And still lives that joy. That joy sometimes has been pushed down deeper inside, but it’s still there. For I don’t believe God can exist in a heart aside from joy. It is a part of who He is! It’s one of the biggest blessings He gives us – aside from THE biggest, which is salvation.

Joy. Joy gives us our strength. It helps us laugh through pain. It brings us hope. Love. Peace. Perspective. Focus. That’s joy. It reminds us who we’re living for.

I’m on a journey. A journey to dig down deep and grab hold of that joy that gets pushed down underneath all the other “stuff” of life. I’m determined to set it up on top of everything and let it lead me in life. Let it fill me.

How about you? Where is your joy? Where is your joy when you struggle with money issues, relationship issues, health issues, or simply emotional issues? Has it been pushed down too deep inside of you? Is it time to bring it up out into the open again and let it fuel and guide you?

Joy.  Remember and recall it. Let those old Sunday School songs fill your heart and pull the joy back up to the surface. Let joy flood you with courage, strength, and peace. Use the gift that has been given to you. The gift of joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7