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Traces of Thirst

How God is the only true way to quench our thirst.

This summer we cared for our neighbor’s chickens while they vacationed. My girls jumped at the opportunity. They love chasing the chickens around and I cherish the wonderful silly memories they will retain.

Our responsibilities were simple. In the morning we let them out into the run, at nighttime, we escort them safely into their roosting area. We also filled their water and food.

One morning I noticed the chicken’s water was empty. The water container had been knocked to the ground and was filled with grass and dirt. There wasn’t a drop of liquid remaining. As we brought fresh water to the coop, the chickens murmured in excitement and scurried over. They circled the water container and repeatedly dunked their heads until their thirst had been quenched.

I think we can all relate to this sensation of thirst. Our thirst could be physical, or it might look different. Either way, it’s a similar sensation.

Have you thought about what you are you thirsting for?

Some of my yearnings the past few months include a longing to feel in control, for things to return to “normal,” for the divide and chaos in the world to subside. Some days I long for peace inside myself and in my home.

There are many ways I have attempted to quell my various thirsts throughout my life. Ways such as alcohol, busyness, or complete denial have been my go to’s. While these solutions may provide temporary relief, the only lasting way to quench thirst is through Jesus.

“Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

God will quench our thirst if we let Him, if we ask Him. Instead of seeking temporary solutions for our thirst, let’s seek the only true solution. Take your thirsts to Jesus and let Him be your water.

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Fishing for Fulfillment

Sometimes it’s about the journey rather the finish line.

On a refreshingly cool summer day, a friend and I adventured to a nearby lake with our girls. The kids played in the water, rode boats, and ran through the sand. About halfway through the day, my friend pulled out kid fishing rods. I cringed. I have watched my husband spend hours untangling these rods. This was not how I envisioned my afternoon.

She took the rods out of the package and handed them to the kids. Typically, the next step would be to remove the plastic fish and replace it with a hook and bate. None of this happened.

The kids ran off. I observed them on the dock for about thirty minutes, I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore. What were they doing? They had no hook, no bait, and no tackle box. How could they be fishing?

I strolled to the dock and observed the production as the kids stuffed leftover lunch in the tip top (top ring on the rod). They rubbed food on the plastic fish. The rod wasn’t getting tangled because there was no hook. Turtles even swam up and ate the food! They didn’t catch any fish but they were using their imagination and having a blast.

My performance-oriented mind was astounded. I returned to my friend and reported back. She didn’t seem phased at all.

As I shared this story with my husband, he immediately understood my incredulity. His response matched what was going on in my head. “How can you win, how can you catch fish and master this activity if you don’t have a hook?” He was joking of course but understood my bemusement. The thought of fishing without a hook is beyond us.

I learned a good lesson that day. Sometimes the goal isn’t what you think. In my head, the goal of fishing is to catch fish. My wise friend knew better. In this case, the “winning” was in the journey, not the outcome.

This reminds me of our journey with God. We set goals and feel frustrated and defeated when they don’t happen. What if the goal was wrong? Maybe our end goal isn’t God’s end goal.

Maybe it’s not about catching the fish, but rather what you do with the rod.

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Dare to Dream

How saying yes to God’s ideas can show you His capabilities.

I tend to be a no person. I can produce about fifty reasons why something won’t work in about half a second.

My oldest daughter is an extrovert with big ideas and loves having people over. Last year she proposed the idea to host a back to school party inviting every fifth-grade girl. My head reeled with the work involved, but the learning opportunity was too great to pass up. We gave her the green light and ended up with thirty-two girls at our house one Saturday afternoon. Parents informed me they had to stay in town that weekend because their kids insisted they attend the party.

My daughter made invitations, created a schedule, decorated the house, prepared food, and was responsible for the entire cleanup effort.

This reminds me of our journey with God. We all have ideas and goals, yet we are experts at pushing them aside. I had a long list of why throwing a pre-teen girl party was a poor idea. Instead, we encouraged her creativity and she gained valuable lessons not found on paper. There is something about experiencing the life cycle of an idea. She brought an idea to life. She experienced the work involved, overcome obstacles, and could then reflect on what she would do differently.

God does not limit our capabilities. Why do we? Our ideas won’t come to fruition in a day, a year, or even a decade. They might not look the same when you are finished. While there is no certainty in pursuing a dream, it’s guaranteed not to happen if you don’t try.

God gave me the idea to write down my story of a spiritual transformation and how He freed me from fear. I wrote a little bit every day for years. Now I have a manuscript. Who would have thought?

What are the ideas/goals you are putting off?

Instead of pushing aside your dreams, push aside the reasons you are unable to do them. What steps can you take today or tomorrow towards that goal?

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Verifying Voices

It was a rainy Tuesday morning and I was headed to the bank to rummage through our safety deposit box. My mission was to find my husband’s passport. We were preparing to travel and were gathering the necessary documents to gain TSA approval.

Inside the bank, I requested access to our box. The employee informed me I was not on the account. I asked if we could call my husband and have him add me over the phone. I learned they could do this if an employee at the bank had enough encounters with him that they could verify his voice. I thought this slightly odd but anxiously awaited their response. Had he frequented the bank enough that his voice could be identified over the phone?

A teller spoke up saying she knew who he was and could verify his voice. We made the call and I gained access to the box. This incident affirmed my husband’s personality. His friendly demeanor and tall stature make him easily recognizable. While my attempts to find the passport were unsuccessful, the encounter got me thinking.

I thought about God and how He knows our distinct and unique voice. He knows the tone and cadence better than anybody. After all He is the one who created us. In addition to our voice, He knows our desires and our thoughts. God discerns when we are praising or protesting. He understands when we hurt so greatly we cannot even form words together.

God recognizes our voice but the real question is, do we know His? Are we taking time in our day to make space and learn His voice? He is not going to yell at us through the frenzy, we have to create stillness to hear Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

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Sprinkled by the Spirit

When it comes to sprinkles, they are loved and used liberally in my house, especially during birthday season. Birthday season spans from April through July where we celebrate eight birthdays between immediate and extended family members. That’s a lot of cake and balloons.

When my youngest daughter, who is five, is in charge of decorating the dessert, you can expect a generous application of the sprinkles, utilizing every variety we have in the pantry. As part of the celebration, we unintentionally began a tradition of eating breakfast in bed. This typically involves waffles or pancakes topped with sprinkles. The sprinkles transform a somewhat conventional breakfast into a special treat.

I recently read Hebrews 10:22. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

As I read this verse, the word sprinkled jumped out at me. I don’t know about you, but most of my life I let self-inflicted guilt weigh me down. Guilt used to filter into all areas of my life. I would experience guilt for lack of productivity, decisions I made, or beating myself up for missing out on something. Carrying guilt around is exhausting. 

Hebrews 10:22 delivers the assurance that God provides freedom, not guilt. While we are all guilty of violating His commandments daily, He already made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and therefore we get to be free! Free to relinquish our guilt. 

Steven J. Cole says, “Guilty Christians are not joyous Christians.” 

Guilt can weigh you down. Let God sprinkle His love, forgiveness, and grace upon your soul so you can walk freely into the path He desires for you. Don’t let guilt hold you back.  

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Pandemic brings Perspective

Oh, how our perspective and mindsets have changed due to the endless ripples of the coronavirus. We have been humbled and become thankful for the little things we used to take for granted like eating out, gathering with friends, and school being open. 

As life outside our home begins to open, we took a trip to the beach to celebrate the conclusion of school and gain a much-needed change in scenery. We were all craving a change of pace.

We drove 7.5 hrs south to Tybee Island, GA, a drive which normally would have included much grumbling, fighting and plenty of “when will we be there?” While the car was full of beach towels, chairs, luggage, and a guinea pig, it was absent of any fussing and complaining. We were so excited to be going somewhere… anywhere. 

Everyone’s summer plans have been altered. We had an epic trip to Alaska planned this June with my family which was canceled. It’s amazing how our perspective has been modified. A trip to the beach hardly seems comparable to an Alaskan adventure, yet somehow it was.  

We were elated at the crashing waves, gritty sand, and open restaurants. Our kids were grateful for the beach getaway. They didn’t care where we were or what we were doing, they were thankful not to be at home. 

In today’s society, it’s challenging to raise children who aren’t entitled. It’s not our intention, but rather a byproduct of our current culture. Our schedules revolve around their activities, how can they not be slightly self-centered? 

God uses all things for good including the coronavirus. While I can name many disappointments and frustrations about this timeframe, I can also list surprise blessings such as enhanced gratitude and appreciation. What a good, yet painful lesson we are all learning.

In the past, a trip to the beach might have been viewed as normal and maybe even mundane, suddenly it became anything but. It brought us back in touch with our Creator and the beautiful world He designed. 

What have you learned to be grateful for during this time?

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Blessings for the Brain

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

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

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

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

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

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Step by Step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How God Smooths Our Rough Edges

We all have a new normal these days. Now we work from home, homeschool our children, and social distance from others.

On day two of homeschooling, it was a gorgeous day outside and two of my three kids had a nature walk in their lesson plan. Their assignment was to sketch signs of spring. One child had been learning about wetlands and we decided it was a perfect day for a field trip. 

We headed to Pony Pasture. †his outdoor gem is a stretch of property running adjacent to the James River in Richmond, VA. The area is filled with rocks you can climb or sunbathe on and the wildlife is plentiful.  

I was reminded of two important lessons on this field trip.

First, kids can’t sit still and be quiet. I encouraged my children to close their eyes, be silent, and absorb the sounds around us like the rushing water. Less than a minute went by and they were asking me questions, throwing sticks into the water, calling out mommy, and eventually fighting with each other.  

I have spent the last four years learning how to slow down, be present, and hear God in the stillness. The surroundings were luring me to sit and be. My children, on the other hand, were not feeling the moment. Rather than go against the current, I decided to get up and keep moving. 

As I briefly reflected on the beauty of the rushing water, the rocks reminded me of our walk with God. They were all so different, each unique. As I gazed at a smooth oblong rock, I presumed that particular rock used to have sharp edges. Over time, the water had gradually smoothed over the rough areas, just like God does for us. When our past and sin create acute borders, He slowly washes His love over us and smooths our jagged parts.  

God’s love is consistent, always flowing just like the water I was noticing. The water bounced off the rocks unaffected and proceeded on down the river. It reminds me of how we ignore God’s advice for us, letting it ricochet off because of our hardness and stubbornness. Are we going to let our jagged edges hurt others, or will we let God slowly transform us?

God will smooth our bumpy patches if we let him. Just because we can’t see His hands molding us every day, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. He washes away our sin and cleanses us if we run towards Him and not away.

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All Kinds of Mess

As a mom, you find yourself knee-deep in all sorts of messes. With young kids, you are changing diapers, cleaning up spills, and picking up endless toys. If you have a dog like us, you are constantly vacuuming dog hair, putting away pet toys and other destroyed objects, and scooping up poop from the yard so kids don’t step on it.

Most of the time I don’t mind cleaning up after my loved ones. However, one particular morning I was at my wits’ end. In addition to being a prisoner in my home and homeschooling, my dog was having digestive issues. It began as vomit and eventually shifted to diarrhea. 

I heard our dog Casey moving about downstairs in the wee hours of the morning. I debated whether to get up. If I lay in bed like I wanted to, I would surely pay the price. I stumbled out of bed and hurried downstairs. She was doing the potty dance, as I opened the front door she dashed in the opposite direction into our den and proceeded to diarrhea all over the one mostly white rug in our home.

Typically animal messes don’t phase me. This particular morning I was not in a mood to deal with this type of mess. As Casey soiled the rug, a cuss word fell out of my mouth. While technically the word properly depicted the substance coming out of my dog, I had not planned on waking one of my children with profanity.

The diarrhea was the worst smelling thing I ever cleaned up. No, I take that back. The worst smelling odor I experienced was emptying a utility sink filled with sewer backup. I’m not sure anything will surpass that stench.

As we sat around the dinner table that evening discussing our day, my husband commented on how I spend quite a bit of time cleaning up poop. I laughed because sadly it was true. Maybe I should contact the television show Dirty Jobs.  Is there an opportunity to profit from cleaning up dung, hmm…?

The talk of mess reminds me of our sin; big mistakes, little mistakes, endless sin. However, our amazing God continues to forgive us over and over again. God never loses His patience with us! He lovingly draws closer to us and washes us clean. He never stops loving us regardless of the turmoil we create.

While my dog may have ruined our carpet, it’s just a carpet. We, on the other hand, hurt others with our words and actions and yet God still forgives us.

What an amazing God we have who helps us mend the broken pieces. As we honestly and humbly confess our shortfalls, He transforms our heart.