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Dilapidated Buildings

Note: This isn’t the actual building. The building we were looking at was in much better condition.

My husband drove us by a building once and pulled in. He told us about the vision he had for the structure and corresponding lot. He desired to buy the building and turn it into an area where people would congregate.

He saw a revived shopping area for folks who lived nearby; complete with a coffee shop, lunch spot, etc. He shared the extensive vision; sidewalks, stores, outdoor space, and how it all worked together. He saw the big picture. He saw a building with potential.

I saw an old, dilapidated building. I saw a structure in such bad condition they were using it as a haunted house during Halloween. I spotted rotted boards and old paint. I saw a shabby neglected building in need of ample repair, or a bulldozer to tear it down and start new.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Sometimes we can feel like that building. We can feel worn down, isolated, left alone, as if not much good is coming from us.

God sees potential in us. He sees the big vision with us thriving and fulfilling His plan.

We might have a past we aren’t proud of. We probably dealt with hurt and pain. We sometimes feel like that run-down building – not sure if we can be used for anything.

We have to remember our boards are never too rotted for Him. No matter how beat up and battered we are. He can tend to our cracks. He sees a beautiful vision of His making. He never abandons us even when others might.

Just like my husband saw possibility where I saw shambles. God sees potential in you. He sees the wonderful creation He made. Never forget you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) God’s works are wonderful.

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Diving In

I recently took my kids for swim lessons. With summer approaching and swim team on the cusp, I figured it was the perfect time to refine their skills. It had been a while since they had been in the pool.

I looked up to see one of my kids diving in. The first dive of the season is always a little awkward. By the end of the season, she is a diving fool. The first dive is full of reluctance. It’s more like a jump with her head tucked and arms arched forward. She lands vertical, feet hitting the water first.

You can see by her form she’s intending to dive and after a few more practices, she enters the pool headfirst and exudes more confidence. The jumping dive is quickly replaced by a real dive.

This reminds me of our faith journey. When we ask Jesus into our lives and start reading our Bible, we nod our head at what it says. We agree with the words. We understand what to do, but when it comes to diving in, we are kinda like my daughter diving for the first time that season. We are awkward and not sure how.

We have our heads tucked and arms out, but we can’t plunge in headfirst. We do the same thing my daughter does, some kind of dive/jump. Or we don’t get in at all and just stand there reluctantly on the sideline wanting to get in, knowing we need to, but not able to take the plunge.

One dive at a time we get more comfortable. As we continue to seek God through prayer and Scripture, He continues to fill us with His plan, His courage, His will. Our first jumps are uncomfortable, but we do them anyway.

As we act in obedience, we see His presence with us. The dives become easier. We don’t stand on the sideline anymore; we dive in knowing He will take care of the rest.

The first time I sent out my first blog (in obedience to Him). I closed my eyes and cringed as I hit the publish button. It seemed so official. I hope I wouldn’t get rejected.

Now I hit submit, knowing if I mess up, I can go back and edit. If people don’t like what I wrote, they can delete it.

It’s not about me, it’s about Him. The more I practice obedience, the easier it becomes and the more I can be a vessel used by Him in this world.

Oh, our loving Father is so amazing.

Don’t stand on the sideline anymore. Take the dive! God won’t push you in, but He will show you the way once you take the plunge.

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Set Free from Sin

Your childhood probably looked different from mine, yet most of us will agree that we made plenty of foolish decisions and experienced some sort of loss. Trust me I made a plethora of mistakes, just ask my high school and college friends. Better yet, don’t.

The great thing about our loving and forgiving Father is He does not hold our past against us. We can turn our sin over to God, say we are sorry and ask for His help going forward. That’s it. It’s that simple. His sacrifice on the cross made a way for our sins to be washed clean.

You and I have experienced much loss. My mom took her life when I was 20 and I denied myself from grieving for 17 years until the weight of it finally took me down. Thankfully, my loving God was there to catch me and help me turn over my pain to Him.

We all have sin and pain in this life. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to let it hold you back and keep you from moving forward.

The Lord’s transformative power freed me to share my story today. The heaviness of my sin and grief was preventing me from becoming who God made me to be. I thought I could handle everything in my own power. I was wrong.

As I learned to turn everything over to Him, He gave me freedom beyond words. I am free to write, to put myself out there, to take risk. I am motivated to be obedient to my Heavenly Father and trust that His plans are better than mine.

I am concerned with pleasing and praising God, not the world. I am thankful He loves me more than anyone on this earth, for His love is never fleeting.

Don’t let your past hold you back from the wonderful plans God has for you. Don’t deny yourself the freedom and peace that comes only from believing in Jesus.

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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?”

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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?

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Finding the Fun

We recently went away on a family vacation to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. The weather was cool yet sunny and we spent a good deal of time outdoors. Before our trip ended, my daughter wanted to check out a hay maze.

As we reached the maze, instead of walking through the hay, she climbed atop of the bales. She assured me she had seen others doing this earlier that day and encouraged me to join her.

I hesitantly found my way on top of the hay bales and started walking around the perimeter getting my bearings and footing. The rest of the family soon joined us, and we all had a blast walking, running, or jumping between the hay.

I’m not sure why this spontaneous activity was so enjoyable. Maybe it was because we followed the prompting of a child to find the fun. Maybe it was because it put us out of our comfort zone.

The more time we spent atop the hay, the greater confidence we gained. My youngest daughter started off timid and scared. By the end of the activity, she was jumping, falling off, and cracking up at herself as she got back up. It was encouraging to watch her fear and anxiety be replaced with conviction and delight.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We start off slow with much trepidation. Can we actually believe there is an unseen powerful God in heaven? Does He really love us the way the Bible proclaims?

We take one step at a time believing this knowledge, unsure at times where we will land when He asks us to jump. We learn to do it anyway. When we fall, He helps us get back up.

Sometimes we find ourselves running gracefully along the journey He has set out for us. Other times we stand in between two options not sure which route to go. Either way, He is with us and for us cheering us on, delighting in our attempts to glorify Him.

We could have sat and watched from the perimeter as our kids enjoyed the maze, but we would have missed out on an opportunity for adventure.

Are you standing on the perimeter? If so, jump in and see what God has planned for you.

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Missed Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Water for the withering

These impatiens have been sitting in front of my home for the entire summer and fall. Their longevity might have something to do with an overdose in plant food. I may have neglected to read the instructions and instead of diluting the powder, I sprinkled it directly onto the plant. given Regardless, I love how the flowers welcome me home.

The intensity of the sun, combined with my occasional lack of watering causes the flowers to wilt. Their delicate little petals droop and appear lifeless. They seem damaged beyond repair, however; when I douse them with water, they magically rebound back to life. They stand strong and healthy as if their struggle to survive never happened. It’s actually quite amazing.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Some mornings I wake up looking a lot like that plant. I am unmotivated, tired, and lifeless. I drag my sagging petals to the couch with my journal, morning devotional, Bible, and a chai tea.

During this time, He nourishes my soul. After my much needed time with the Lord, I leave my quiet time more awake, renewed, and reminded of His love. His living water helps me stand a little taller.

In order for the impatiens to share their beauty with others, I have to continue to provide the necessary water.

In order for us to love others in a healthy way, we need to be filled with His truth over and over again.

As each day closes, I am like that flower scorched by the sun. The great news is we get to return to God to be strengthened. His mercies are new every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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Computer Cleanup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you had a reboot lately?

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Facing our Fears

Facing our fears
Freedom over fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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