Bible, blessings, communication, Family, freedom, God, introverts, Jesus, journal, nature, parenting, religious, scripture, spiritual, women

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)

birthdays, blessings, faith, Family, forgiveness, freedom, Jesus, parenting, religious, scripture, spiritual, Uncategorized

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.  

communication, coronavirus, dog, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, journal, nature, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

Dialect with Dogs

My husband jokes that my dog and I have our own language.

Our Labrador retriever named Casey is fourteen and-a-half years old. What large dog lives that long? I’ve had multiple labs in my life and they never lasted much past ten. She is an anomaly and resilient.

Casey has survived six surgeries. She tore both back knees and underwent three stomach surgeries. The most recent procedure was to remove a massive growth protruding from her neck which started bleeding (gross). She was two when she had her first surgery.

In her seasoned age, she deals with arthritis, dementia (per the vet), and her vision and hearing are significantly impaired. That said, I walk her everyday morning. She has our morning routine down pat and continues to display enthusiasm during mealtimes and walks.

I hear Casey in the middle of the night, similar to a mom hearing her crying infant. I wake from a sound sleep when she stirs downstairs, letting me know she needs to go out. Recently, I went down, let her out, and crawled back to bed. Casey started barking. Not a loud bark, but brief and direct. My husband commented, “You just let her out.” I told him she wanted breakfast. I had gone back to bed instead of feeding her and she was letting me know she didn’t appreciate the change in routine.

This reminds me of our language with God. The powerful and all-knowing Holy Spirit lives inside us ready to be utilized… if we can learn to recognize Its voice. This is not easy, nor happens quickly. It took years for Casey and I to develop our way of communicating.

Learning to hear God takes time, practice, and effort. Reading our Bible, praying, and sitting in silence (yes, silence) are ways to commune with God. The Holy Spirit is present, waiting to assist you with every problem. God won’t yell over the noise of the world, we have to carve out time to cultivate a dialect with Him.

Casey has blessed our family for many years, and although my time with her will eventually cease, thankfully my steadfast communication with the Lord is everlasting.

blessings, coronavirus, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, nature, parenting, positivity, religious, spiritual, water

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?

blessings, brain, coronavirus, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, journal, nature, parenting, positivity, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

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.

coronavirus, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, nature, parenting, Parks, religious, spiritual, water, women

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.

coronavirus, faith, Family, Jesus, nature, parenting, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, water, women

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.

coronavirus, dog, faith, Family, Jesus, parenting, religious, spiritual, women

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.

coronavirus, extroverts, faith, Family, introverts, Jesus, parenting, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

Introvert vs Coronavirus

In my thirties I discovered I am an introvert. Before this realization I desperately tried to be an extrovert because who doesn’t want to be the fun, gregarious, life of the party? After swimming upstream for years, my body and soul eventually paid the price for trying to be something I am not.

Susan Cain wrote a fascinating book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain’s research illustrates a cultural bias towards extroverts, giving us a desire to exhibit such traits. Introverts have their own positive attributes when embraced.

After learning I was an introvert, I modified habits to create space for quiet in my day. Silence isn’t a bonus, it’s a requirement for me to be the best version of myself. Pre coronavirus I was doing a pretty good job of managing the noise. Now, we are home together all the time and a new routine must be crafted.

I am blessed with three beautiful girls. As you know females talk a lot, about twenty-thousand words a day. For me, multiplied by three, that’s a lot of words to absorb.

Introverts recharge with silence. This isn’t a selfish desire, it’s a fact. Constant noise drains me. I rejuvenate with activities such as walking, sitting in nature, reading, napping, writing, and being in silence. I struggle to hear God and my own thoughts amid commotion.

The coronavirus quarantine proves challenging. If you are an introvert with young kids you can relate. When the noise in the house reaches unbearable levels, I go for a walk or distance myself so I can re-enter and flourish the remainder of the day. These days are long and tiring, we must be aware of our needs to best take care of others.

On the other hand, extroverts are missing social stimulation. If I refuel, I am better equipped to fill the needs of my extroverted family members.

Carve out quiet, permit down time, and create healthy boundaries. I openly tell my kids mom needs a break and I sequester myself away from others. I recognize when the noise is overwhelming and give myself permission to walk away and regroup.

I get up early to absorb quiet and have time with God. I need Him to speak Scripture into my life. I fill my head and heart with the truth before the day begins.

Regardless of whether we are an introvert or extrovert, God crafted us this way, let’s embrace it and use it for His glory.

coronavirus, faith, Family, Jesus, religious, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

God’s Love Conquers All

Love
Birthday
God
Jesus

How do you celebrate a 40th birthday when it falls during a time of social distancing and quarantine? A party is clearly out of the question. My creative husband and family did everything they could to make my 40th birthday special.

The morning felt normal, at least our new normal. In the afternoon we went for a hike. The day was sunny and sixty-five degrees, a gift in itself. After arriving back at home, I relaxed while my husband prepared dinner and my present.

I sat on the couch while he streamed a video to the television. For about thirty minutes the screen displayed an array of special people in my life from childhood through the present. Friends and family relived memories, uttered kind words, shared thoughts about our friendship or how I have impacted their lives. I cried and laughed as I watched in awe.

It was as if I got to hear eulogies for my own funeral without having to die. People opened up and said things they may not have said in person. I watched the video twice and decided it was the best present ever!

The following morning during my quiet time, I processed the array of emotions I was feeling. Sadly we all question our worth and influence at times, myself included. On the morning after my 40th birthday, I had no doubt I was loved and accepted, I had seen the proof.

I sat communing with God, praising Him for a memorable birthday. Even though I couldn’t be with friends or extended family, I was given an amazing intangible gift, the gift of love.

The Lord interpreted something to me that morning. He said, “Katie, this feeling of love you have today, I love you even more than that every day.” That blew my mind. I felt so saturated with love, how could He possibly love me more?

I wanted to retain this feeling of love and carry it with me. I wished to share it with others.

I have been praying Ephesians 3:17-19 for months. Now I could understood the reality of this verse.

“That I being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

While my birthday wasn’t exactly as I imagined, God in His goodness, showed me His abounding love for us.

How can we go about our day and life with this knowledge? What would we do differently?