Bible, blessings, communication, dream, extroverts, faith, Family, freedom, God, God's will, ideas, parenting, positivity, religious, spiritual, women

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?

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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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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.

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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.

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.