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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.

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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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Silence for the Steady

I am an introvert. I discovered this knowledge just a few years ago. It was extremely insightful in understanding why I get overwhelmed during the day while caring for my kids. One-third of our society are introverts. Susan Cain shares these details in her book called Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Introverts get recharged in silence and in our own thoughts.

Females tend to speak approximately 20,000 words a day and I have three precious girls (you do the math – that’s a lot of words being spoken). I relish the laughter, the conversations, and even the rollercoaster of emotions, but the last six months has proven extremely challenging.

I used to feel guilty and believe I should be able to force myself to handle the constant noise. However, when I ignore who I am, I end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood. I recommend Cain’s book even for extroverts because most likely you are married to an introvert, or have introverted kids. The awareness can guide you in making wise decisions.

For example, with my girls, I have two extroverts and one introvert. I make sure to encourage my introverted daughter to get some alone time during the day. If not, she gets overwhelmed and lashes out at her sisters. 

In the past few years, I learned techniques to prevent myself from becoming depleted. This spring and summer have proven especially difficult as most things were canceled. After Months and months of continuous noise, I found myself unable to concentrate and feeling anxious.

This past weekend I found a quiet space outside (thank you God for cooler weather). I read, wrote in my journal, and had time in reflection. I felt reinvigorated. The alone time did wonders towards restoring my overall mindset.

Sometimes we push ourselves to the limits thinking we can will ourselves to be someone we are not. Instead, God gently reminds us who we are. He made us this way and He loves who we are. He gently reminded me this weekend that I need to carve out more space for quiet so I can hear myself think and hear Him.

When was the last time you found quiet in your life?

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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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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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Willing the Wonderful

How we try to bring our predetermined plans to the Lord for His blessing.

Pets astonish me. I am starting to think my fourteen-year-old Labrador Retriever Casey has a wristwatch hidden somewhere in her fur coat. The same time every day it goes off notifying her it’s mealtime. When the alarm goes off, she plants herself directly outside our mudroom. You choose to either step over her or end the protest by feeding her.

As I enter the mudroom where her food resides, she excitedly walks over to her bowl. At that point, she is no longer watching me as I prepare her medicine and food. She begins a long and intense focused stare on her bowl. It’s as if she stares hard enough at the bowl, the food will magically appear. Of course, we know this is not the case, but I find her fixed gaze adorable. She is not distracted by my motion about her. Nor does she even get out of my way so I can access her food. She remains steadfast on the prize!

I get a kick out of this everyday occurrence. It reminds me of how our relationship with God can become transactional. Are we like Casey and desire to stare something into existence? If we will it hard enough, will it happen? Are we trying to dictate every step of God’s plan for our life? Or are we trusting in His greater plan?

I know for me relinquishing control is an everyday struggle. I am your typical type A, functional first-born personality. I will sit in my quiet time and like Casey, I will stare at my prayer list requesting Him to bless all the people and items on my list.

Beware, the culture will tell us we can control everything but that’s simply not true. Instead of trying to dictate my future, I am striving to say, “God, whatever you want to put on my plate today, I will praise and thank you. Oh, and please help me handle the obstacles that come my way because I can’t do it alone.” That is not easy when your default is control.

Casey has no choice but to wait while I get her food ready. She doesn’t know exactly when the pellets will hit her bowl.

Can we wait enduringly as God reveals His plans with His timing?

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Bringing the brightness. Are you struggling to find or provide the joy in your day?

Two of my three girls were about to get tonsil surgery and I knew the next 14 days would involve ample time at home playing nurse. I purchased two empty flower baskets to hang just outside my kitchen window. Just like you, I spend quite a bit of time at the kitchen sink.

I wanted to fill the baskets with bright and beautiful flowers so I could gaze at them when I needed a moment. I was hoping their allure would help give me an energy boost.

The flower pictured is a common lantana. It’s my new favorite flower. When I spotted it in the nursery, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Orange is my favorite color and I was enchanted with how one flower could encompass so many gorgeous colors. I learned later it even repels mosquitos. Bonus.

As new blooms sprouted, they emerged solid yellow. As my daughter and I examined the blooms, we wondered what happened to all the beautiful colors? Within days the orange surfaced, and eventually pink and purple hues appeared.

This flower reminds me of our faith journey. We all bloom in God’s timing and our petals look slightly different. We are unique and special yet made in God’s image by the same Creator. He disperses us all over so our blooms can bless others.

Because God created us, He cares for our every need including fertilizing our soil. His living water refreshes us so we can grow and bloom. Sometimes we present colors we didn’t even know existed.

Are you looking hard enough to find bright spots in your life? Or can you provide beauty to someone else?

Seek Him who made you, so He can be your living water (John 4:13-14).

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Be On Guard

We recently moved to a more rural area adjacent to deep woods. While I relish the scenery and sounds from nature, an unwanted guest welcomed me.

The morning hadn’t started great, I was sleep-deprived from being up with the kids the night before. Then I dropped a gardening tool on my big toe. To top things off, I opened the front door to a four-foot-long black snake sprawled out directly in front of me. My screaming woke him from his sunbathing, he scrunched up and slithered away. I slammed the door as quickly as humanly possible.

I turned to my husband as he gazed at me with inquisitive eyes not understanding my reaction. With tears of exhaustion and defeat in my eyes, I explained my distress. My nature-loving husband ran outside to find the snake and explore his habits. Everyone keeps telling me it was a “good” snake who keeps away copperheads and rodents. Is there such a thing as a “good” snake?”

I generally adore animals, snakes excluded. Something about their slithering ways gives me chills. Shouldn’t I be leery of snakes when Satan chose this animal to tempt Eve in the garden?

Coincidentally, in the past few months, I’ve had multiple encounters with snakes. Was I being forced to face my fears? Was God trying to tell me something? Or was the enemy tormenting me? Even the neighbors had advised me to keep my eyes peeled when walking around so I wouldn’t accidentally step on one. This advice was sound but not comforting.

This reminds me of a verse in the Bible, “Be on your guard.” This verse is cited in various books such as 1 Corinthians, Mark, 2 Timothy, Acts, Matthew, 2 Peter, and more. Why do we need to be on guard?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

Be on guard for the enemy, liars, people, or things which draw you away from God. Be on guard to protect your family, your marriage, your brothers, your church.

I have new eyes when opening my front door. They are alert, ready, and on guard. Should we have the same set of eyes for the world?