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Deliberate Dolls

What a children’s book and our faith have in common

One evening I was reading to my six-year-old before bedtime. We were reading The Doll People by Ann M Martin & Laura Godwin. This children’s book tells a story of a doll Annabel and her family. They live in a dollhouse but can walk and talk. They only move about when their human owners are asleep or not home.

In the first book of the series, Martin & Godwin informs us how the dolls are created and made “real.” The dolls decide if they want to be a regular doll (giving up human abilities) or a doll person (can walk and talk). If they choose a doll person, they must take an oath.

Annabel is informed right before taking her oath that being a doll person is harder, it comes with great responsibility. It also comes with fun and adventure.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The Christian life is not easy. Although we don’t take an actual oath, we do commit our lives to Christ. We promise to live for Him instead of ourselves. This is no easy task.

In the book, if humans catch the dolls moving, they are thrust into doll state where they can’t move or talk for 24 hours. There are also rumors of a permanent doll state for serious offenses.

As Christians, when we mess up, thankfully we aren’t thrust into a paralyzed state like Annabel. Instead, we repent of our sins to our loving Father in Heaven. He doesn’t reprehend us, but rather washes our sins away. He doesn’t chastise us and shake His finger in our face. He accepts our burdens and mess. He cleans us off, and helps us get back up again. What an incredible Father we have!

Just as Annabel forgets, or chooses to ignore her oath on occasion, we sometimes forget who we are living for. Or we choose to go our own way knowing it’s not God’s plan.

Being a Christian comes with responsibility and risk. It also comes with a great reward.

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Rest for the Weary

Last year I had a medical procedure done to treat the varicose veins in my legs. Genetics and three pregnancies had taken their toll.

I was on day two of my four-day treatment. The physician assistant Katherine told me to lay back on the bed, I agreeably listened, delighted to lay still for the next hour.

She chuckled as she noticed my enthusiasm at the idea of laying down. Katherine told me they have noticed how moms come into the office and are so elated to lay down and put their feet up. The fact they are getting poked and prodded with a needle is inconsequential.

I was paying for someone to poke my legs with needles and strip out the dead veins (gross, I know). Yet I was thankful to have a reason to rest. You would think I was at the spa.

This speaks to our weary state. We tend to go, go, go not paying attention to our internal barometers. Some of us are physically tired, others are emotionally drained, the rest might be spiritually empty. Or if we are really lucky, we feel fatigued in all those areas.

If you are like me, you put undue pressure on yourself. You wear yourself out from self-inflicted high expectations.

Jesus says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

Do you feel burdened and tired? Thankfully God is there to receive the heavyweights we were never meant to carry. Turn them over to Him, and He will provide rest and freedom.

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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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Skip the Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Seeing Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.