Bible, faith, faithful, Family, family trips, God, hiking, moms, nature, religious, scripture, sin, trips, Uncategorized

Suddenly Spraying

We were on a family vacation one summer and traveled west to a dude ranch. My sister-in-law and I decided to go on a hike. We were heading back to the ranch following the dirt road when I grabbed something out of my backpack. As I swung my backpack around, I heard a thump on the ground. We both looked at each other wondering what had made the loud noise. Before I turned fully around it dawned on me what the item was. It sounded like a soda can falling to the ground. Only we didn’t have any soda with us. The bear spray I had in the side pocket had slipped out, crashed to the ground, and popped open.

As this realization dawned on me, I took off running and yelled for my sister-in-law to get out of there. When we were a safe distance away, we turned around and watched the can spinning in circles. Thankfully, somehow when it popped open it was facing down and sprayed the dirt road instead of into the air around us. We were extremely lucky to have escaped its harmful ingredients. Of course, after we were out of harm’s way, we looked at each other and started laughing. How in the world did that happen?

We went back later to pick up the can and dispose of it. We were grateful to have escaped the situation. I was a little disappointed I had used our one and only bear spray container.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The way my sister-in-law and I took off sprinting away from the bear spray is also how we Christians should run away from sin and temptation as if our life depended on it. The Bible says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

1 Corinthians 6:18 states, “Flee from sexual immorality.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Flee from idolatry.”

The Bible is clear about running away from sin. May we turn and sprint from these things. We are called to, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 5-6).

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Mortifying the Mint

One beautiful spring day, I was planting flowers in pots. My eleven-year-old daughter came outside and joined me. We finished planting all the pots and decided to tackle the beds which needed to be weeded. Someone who lived in our house prior must have planted mint and it has taken over. Every year we try to exterminate the mint, but it proceeds to come back.

My daughter and I headed over to the beds and started pulling the mint up. You can pull it out, but underneath there are more roots you must find. Mint sends out runners that spread above and just below the ground. It quickly takes over an area. We discovered groups of it growing up into other flowers. We spent about an hour pulling up piles of mint. My daughter commented on how fun it was. Thankfully the roots come up easy and it’s very rewarding to make a lot of progress quickly.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Mint is like our sin. It will continue to spread and reappear until we mortify it. We must keep digging and digging until we find the roots, pull them up and dispose of them.

Pulling up the mint from our beds was tedious, tiring, and overwhelming at times. However, it was worth the effort. I can now gaze at the flower beds and appreciate how pronounced the flowers are without the mint resting aside them.

Unless we truly mortify our sin, it will continue to reappear and cause havoc inside us, spreading to areas of our lives we didn’t intend it to impact.

Thankfully we have a loving Father who can help us and is there to forgive us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

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Cheerfully Chosen

My husband and my daughters submitted a video to be considered in a photoshoot for a hunting organization. My husband Jonathan loves to hunt so this was a natural fit.

I helped them take a few videos and pictures while dressed in head-to-toe camo, and Jonathan sent them off. A week later, he was told he had been selected and they also wanted one of our daughters.

My husband was out of town when he got the news. We called him and I put my daughter on the phone. She hung up the phone after speaking with him and had the most precious look on her face. Her smile got huge, she looked into my eyes and tenderly said, “They picked me.” She spoke with surprise, humility, and delight. She seemed shocked they had chosen her.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We all desperately want to be known, seen, and heard. My daughter’s humility spoke of her character. I was excited for her. It feels good to be chosen, and it was important for this pre-teen girl to be seen and selected.

The great news is God sees you and me every day! He loves you and never takes His eyes off you. Wow! That is hard to comprehend. If only we walked around with that confidence every day, letting the negative comments bounce off us.

God knows you and loves you. Getting that information into our hearts takes some work, and an enemy is trying to block that truth from penetrating. Psalm 139:1 states, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!”

If I could share her joy that afternoon, I would. That same joy felt by my daughter can be felt by you. You are known, loved, and cared for by the One that matters most.

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Flying with Freedom

How Christ’s sacrifice was meant to set us free from sin.

In the back of our house, we have a screened-in porch. The screen is starting to show signs of aging but there are no huge obvious holes. There are a few small slits, but it should keep out larger animals, or so we thought.

One day my eye caught motion inside the porch. When I went out to examine, I found a bird flying around fluttering from one corner to the next, obviously very distressed. I opened the door to the outside and walked at an angle towards the bird to entice it to fly away from me, towards freedom.

The first time this happened it took us by complete surprise. After the third one, my husband and I now take turns freeing the birds. I still don’t know how they make their way in, but I’m thankful we have been able to help them find freedom.

This reminds me of our faith journey. A lot of people find themselves like those birds, stuck inside four walls, not being able to find the exit. They fly around stuck in their sin not seeing a way out. Satan is good at helping us find this spot. He likes us here, convincing us we don’t deserve otherwise. God says something very different.

Jesus has ALREADY made a way out for you and me through His sacrifice! You don’t have to wait for someone to come open the door and let you out, He took care of that when He died on the cross. He made a way out for all of us! It’s pretty incredible if you think about it.

Are you ready to accept the freedom waiting for you outside those four walls? Are you ready to experience the path God has for you? Are you ready to turn over your sin to Jesus and follow him?

“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

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Rapidly Running

One brisk fall morning, my girls and I were on an early morning walk as my husband was leaving for work. As he began to pass us, my middle daughter who is ten started picking up speed and took off running adjacent to his truck. In our leisurely walk, I wasn’t expecting her to take off so suddenly.

Without looking back, she ran with all her might to keep up. When he stopped at the stop sign, she also stopped and leaned over to catch her breath. I was impressed with her stamina and determination to keep up with him. I admired her drive and joy.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Oh, if we could run our race like my daughter did that morning. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) 

What if we could run after God with the same intensity as she ran beside my husband’s vehicle? What if we did not grow weary of doing good for Him? What if we pumped our arms with enthusiasm and a huge smile on our face?

Imagine if all Christians chased after God with such veracity and drive? Maybe we all need to strap on our running shoes and be ready. Maybe we need to get out there and start walking so we will be prepared and ready as He leads the way.

We will need to occasionally stop and catch our breath, just like my daughter did. We need to constantly replenish ourselves in Christ and the truth the Bible shares. Then we can get back out there and continue the race.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

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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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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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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?

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.

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What Do Faith & Skiing Have In Common?

Learning to ski reminds me of my faith journey with God. When you first learn to ski each turn is uncomfortable and forced. The more you practice, the more natural it becomes. All of a sudden you aren’t analyzing each micro turn and you find yourself at the bottom of the slope gazing up realizing you don’t even know how you got there. 

This resembles my relationship with God. For years I wanted to deepen my reliance on Him. I fumbled my way through a morning routine trying to 1,2,3 step my way to a better connection. I believe God delighted in my attempts, awkward as they may have been.

After taking my soul through a car wash removing the guilt, lies, and grief I can now accept His forgiveness, love, and grace. I now delight sitting in His presence as He fills my heart with love and peace. 

My turns down the slope can still be shaky and I occasionally encounter patches of ice and bumps along the way. Regardless if the slope has been groomed, I keep my eyes on Him. Instead of using my own strength to complete a turn, He helps me lean on my edges for a smoother ride with less effort. I cover more ground when utilizing His strength.

When I fall, He picks me up and encourages me to proceed forward. He helps me determine the safest path down, the proper course for me to take. God guides my every turn to avoid collision with other skiers.

Some days the slopes are sunny, warm, and smooth and I absorb the glory of those days. Other days are cloudy, cold, and windy with low visibility. No matter the weather, nor if my fingers are numb, He is there to aid me in reaching the bottom, never abandoning my side. When I get off course and find myself lost in the trees, He shows me the way back.  

Now, I can’t imagine getting down the hill without His help. Before I didn’t know how to rely on His assistance, determined I could do it on my own. My pride and sin were preventing me from accepting His love and help. Why would I not lean on the one who created the mountain in the first place? If I keep my eyes fixed on Him, He will bring me safely home. He might even have a big cup of hot cocoa awaiting my arrival. Who knows?