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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.

Bible, blessings, bravery, challenges, courage, dream, faith, faithful, Family, forgiveness, fortitude, freedom, God, God's grace, God's will, Jesus, obedience, parenting, perserverance, pool, positivity, religious, scripture, spiritual, sprummer, swimming, water, women

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.

Bible, brain, challenges, courage, faith, Family, freedom, God, God's will, Jesus, moms, music, perserverance, positivity, religious, spiritual

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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Quizzical Questions

My six-year-old daughter is full of curiosity. My favorite question she asks she has been repeating since she learned how to talk.

At various points during the day, she will ask me, “Can I tell you something?”

I never know what will follow this question. She could spit out something totally random, or ask me questions about an activity we have coming up. It could be something profound on her heart. Or it could be a funny story about an incident in her kindergarten class. The topic always varies and so does the seriousness. As Forest Gump would say, “it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Although her thoughts are never the same, my response remains consistent. When she asks this question, I respond with one word… always. I always want her to come to me and feel comfortable discussing any topic. No matter how absurd, profound, or random her questions are, I want to hear whatever is on her heart.

This reminds me of our communication with God. He is always available, always interested, and always ready to listen to us. He never thinks our thoughts, desires, or concerns are ridiculous. He doesn’t want us to hide our joys, feelings, and worries from Him. He welcomes our voice, as often as we will share it.

Just like we embrace our children’s thoughts, God welcomes ours.

I communicate with my children to maintain a healthy connection. That same philosophy applies to our Heavenly Father. The more we commune with Him throughout the day, the more we can feel and recognize His presence. The more we share with Him, the lighter our burdens become.

Can we all go to God with the questions like my daughter asks me and say, “God, can I tell you something?”

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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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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).

Bible, coronavirus, faith, Family, freedom, God, Jesus, nature, religious, scripture, snakes, spiritual, Uncategorized, women

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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Ramble through Rocks

My fourteen-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Casey has acute arthritis. Knee surgery in both hind legs causes her to shift extra weight to her front. Over the years this has caused her front paws to splay. Walking on rough services is uncomfortable, especially our gravel driveway.

Casey could remain comfortably on the side of the house and avoid the rocky driveway. Instead she surges ahead toward a grassy island amidst the rocks. It’s hard to watch as she painfully struggles with each step. When she reaches her destination, the lush grass soothes her maimed feet.

This reminds me of life and our journey with God. We often find ourselves navigating rocky terrain. Walking on rocks in bare feet is painful. Who wouldn’t prefer a nice polished surface? God doesn’t assure us a smooth ride. Quite the opposite. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Am I saying life isn’t supposed to be smooth, easy, and comfortable? That’s exactly what I am saying! This is a harsh reality; however, God promises to be with us every step to help and guide us. We typically underutilized the superpower He gave us, the Holy Spirit.

The world will tell you you deserve a frictionless life. The Bible says otherwise. Look at Paul and Stephen in Scripture. They were men who faithfully followed Jesus and died a martyr’s death.

When you decide to be obedient to God’s plan, He may ask you to do hard things. As we step into these challenges, He molds us and prepares us to handle the next sharp rock in our path. The easy way isn’t always the best way.

Are you ready to step into the rocks?

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.

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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.