Freedom vs Happiness

Freedom vs Happiness

In 2019 the world is all about having total “freedom” without limits or anyone telling them what’s right or wrong. The world wants to decide its morals for itself so people can do what pleases them. The hidden downfall in this is that the most they’ll ever find in life is happiness.

Happiness is just a feeling. It changes. It comes and goes. It relies on good circumstances and things we can’t control that can’t be counted on. You can’t hold onto it, and it’s not a solid foundation for any kind of life because it crumbles, and changes, and fails.

So many people brush off a life with God because they don’t want to be told what to do (believe me, I get it). But what they don’t realize is that God doesn’t give us instructions to make us slaves, confine us, or hold us down. God gives us instructions like a treasure map. He gives us instructions as a fool-proof guide to lead us to something greater than fleeting happiness. His instruction- and His alone- leads us to unfailing and unchanging love, peace, and a joy that only comes from Him. Living in that is real freedom.

So don’t get twisted up in all the things the world says are great. The world is just a bad boyfriend who makes a lot of promises and then doesn’t call or show. But hold onto the One who created you and never changes, who knows the exact path to real peace and eternal life, the One who is for you and not against you.

“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”

‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Time My Kid Took Up INTERIOR Landscaping…. Yeah….

The Time My Kid Took Up INTERIOR Landscaping…. Yeah….

(Photo credit: Deva Williamson)

One Easter when my son was about three, he received a basket from the Easter Bunny. It was filled with the usual things- candy, small toys, and plenty of loose strips of fake green grass. Now he has always been very content to entertain himself, but one day I realized that he and his new basket had been particularly quiet in his room.

Quiet. The “Q” word. In the parenting dictionary this is defined as one of two things:

1. an indication of sleep

..or, (and more likely)..

2. an indication of trouble

Any gamblers out there want to take a guess which one applied in this case?

.

.

.

.

.

Yep. Option #2 gets it.

(Photo credit: Debby Hudson)

Once I realized that he had been so uncharacteristically quiet, I crept down the hall and peeked into his room. What I saw can only be described as the beginnings of the most unsuccessful clean up effort of which I’d ever partake.

I caught his eye and he looked back at me, beaming with pride, and declared, “Mommy! Grass!”

He had taken each strip of plastic grass from his Easter basket, almost individually, and carefully placed each one in between the strands of the expanse of carpeting in his room. Hundreds.. perhaps thousands (probably not thousands, but it seemed so,) of bright green strips lay meticulously matted into the carpeting. He looked to me for a reaction, smile still spread across his innocent face as he admired both his new pretend lawn and me. I paused, then resigned in that moment to let him have his happiness.

“Looks great, buddy,” I said, a stiff smile stationed painfully on my face, silently dreading the cleanup to come. I vowed to myself in that moment that this Easter bunny would never again use the fake plastic grass.

That memory is still laughed over in our family. Even now, after nearly six years and a move to a new house I still, on occasion, find a strip of bright green plastic grass. It may be lurking in a storage container, the corner of a rarely used closet, or may have snuck its way in clinging to an old stuffed animal or wrapped up in an unused blanket. I don’t know how it’s managed to do it, but still it finds me from time to time. It has permeated my life in some strange way and I’ve forfeited trying to escape it.

– • – • – • – • –

(Photo credit: Debby Hudson)

I’m sure we’ve all heard that we’re to love the sinner and hate the sin. (#Goals.) But what happens when we end up being influenced by another sinner, rather than that person being encouraged by us?

Easter grass.

In our all important mission to bring others to all the good we experience by following Christ, sometimes we get too comfortable in the middle ground. Each and every one of us is also a sinner, so it can be easy to relate to a person who doesn’t know Christ. That’s where we have to be careful not to start making exceptions in our faith.

When we love people it becomes natural to accept each one as a person- but then it can get messy. Do we accept their sins, too? Do we let things slide because we know “her heart is in the right place,” or “he’s a good person underneath it all”? The next step then becomes that our loved one rubs off on us, permeating our habits and bents with their own. If you need some examples of the habits we pick up in friendship, let me assure you that I never really thrift store shopped, used cheesecake as a means of emotional therapy, considered contacting my pastor for guidance, or listened to 90s rock before my two closest friends came along. Some practices are good, some are questionable, but both became a part of my life at some point nonetheless. People permeate people. The grass gets wrapped around the fibers of the carpet. It all meshes together until you’re not sure if the carpet is green and the grass is tan, or if your opinion is yours or your friend’s.

The book of Jude was pretty eye opening on this for me:

“They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.”

‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:18-19‬ ‭NLT

I don’t think all non-believers purposely try to derail you from a life of faith. As Jude says, “they follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.”

Sometimes we hold on to old habits because we are still trying to navigate a new life with God’s Spirit in us. For me, bad language can be difficult to let go of. It was normal in my “B.C.” life, and it was normal around certain friends. Now when I slip, I feel an instant uncomfortable twinge- a guiding instinct of the Spirit living in me, directing me toward godliness and eternal life. This is my hope for my loved ones- that they may experience that guidance and eventually, eternal life in Heaven.

(Photo credit: Aaron Burden)

To help our friends and family get there, and to preserve our own faith in the process, Jude says:

“But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:20-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Build each other up, pray, and wait as God works. Show love to every person who crosses your path, and especially those close to your heart. Just take care in building relationships- and let your relationship with God be above all. After all, He is the only one uncontaminated by sin, the only one not tangled up in the messy plastic grass that clings to the rest of us.

A very Happy Easter to you all!

The Season of ‘No’

The Season of ‘No’

“We don’t swim in the toilet!” No.

“Don’t feed your breakfast to the dog!” No.

“Don’t eat MY breakfast!” No.

“Don’t pee on the floor!” No.

Whew! You guessed it: these are some commonly overheard phrases in my home. Life with a toddler- what a season! Some days I feel like all I do is utter the word ‘no’ to her in one way or another. It’s a frustration to constantly speak it, but I can, in fact, accurately imagine that it’s frustrating to be on the receiving end of that word as well.

But why do I tell her no, or forbid her from doing things? Is it because I’m a big ol’ bully who just wants to be boss? Of course not. I don’t let her splash in the toilet because, germs. I don’t let her feed the dog because she needs the fuel herself. I don’t let her steal my food because, well, some things are meant for Mom. And I don’t let her pee on the floor because other people need to use that part of the house, too.

Hmm. Sounds like some of the reasons God may tell us ‘no’. Sometimes things are bad for us. Some decisions take away something we need. Some things are simply not meant for us, and some bad choices make messes for other people.

God is compassionate. Despite how it feels, and despite our limited understanding, He doesn’t ever tell us ‘no’ or take away simply because He can. For every ‘no’ there is a reason. Like I tell my kids- I don’t ask them to do/not to do things for nothing. There is always a purpose! Sometimes it’s to their benefit, and sometimes it’s to protect the interest of others. God sees the whole picture; so far beyond what we could even imagine. He knows every detail and all that is to come. Even in our doubt or disappointment, let’s choose to trust His ‘no’s’.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What’s In It For Me?

What’s In It For Me?

“I can fit in that closet, and maybe I can fit a comfy chair in there, too.. and snacks….”

“If I shower for ten minutes, then today I’ll have had exactly……. ten minutes of quiet time.”

“Maybe I can fashion a mannequin to look like me, stand it up in the kitchen, and sneak away to take a break somewhere…..”

These are some of the bizarre and unfiltered thoughts of a stay-at-home mom. I mean I don’t know WHICH stay-at-home mom.. Just, you know, what I’m GUESSING a stay-at-home mom might think….

….

We’ve all been there. I have worked a couple high stress and big responsibility jobs in my adult life, and can I just say- raising kids is the hardest of all.

There. I said it.

Being at home with my kids means that I am on call every hour of every day and night. There are no lunch breaks, no vacations, there is not even the luxury of clocking out at the end of the day. My ears are constantly perked up for the sound of my name. I am responsible for on the spot problem solving, disciplinary action, cooking, cleaning, cuddling, re-cleaning all the things I cleaned five minutes ago, transportation, and so much more. It brings immeasurable joy to my heart, but oh at the end of those hard days- the really hard ones- there are moments I truly wonder, ‘what do we really get for all our hard work? What’s in it for me?’

(Photo credit: rawpixel)

How grateful I am then for this reminder in Ecclesiastes:

“What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:9-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We get to enjoy the fruits of our labor here on earth, and then one day we get a priceless and eternal vacation with God our Father. And really isn’t every toil, and trouble we go to in a day just wrapped around a treasure; a blessing God has given us?

(Photo credit: Mel)

Our work is not just a service to our family, or boss, or community. It is a way to serve God, to grow His kingdom, and to glorify His name. If we have the right attitude it’s an act of gratitude and love and a way to give back to God as thanks for what He’s given us. And while we work, things are happening. God is using our actions as seeds planted in the soil. He is growing new and great things from every word we speak and job we do, though we may not see it in the moment or by the end of our lifetime.

God has indeed made everything beautiful in its own time, so what a blessing it is to have eyes that see goodness in even the struggles. I mean, when we’re old and weary won’t we look back and long for the days when we had the ability to jump up from our seat and chase the children or mop the floors? And when our kids are grown, won’t we look back and see the beauty we witnessed in watching them grow? Won’t we long to hear our names called at bedtime for one more hug or favor?

God put us on this earth with much work ahead of us. But even so, there is so much beauty in the ability to complete what’s asked of us, and in sharing our life’s work with the ones we love. With each task He grants us the fruits of our labors whether it be a clean house, a full belly, paid bills, or a happy child.

(Photo credit: Daiga Ellaby)

Lord, may we never grow tired of doing the work before us! Please give us eyes to see the beauty in our work and enjoy the fruits of it. Thank you for the ability we each have to complete the tasks before us. May we be your hands and feet in this world. We love you! Amen.

Pieces & Promise

Pieces & Promise

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NLT

– • – • – • – • –

Guys…. Something happens to me when I walk into a fabric store.

I don’t know if I can quite explain it, really. It’s an emotional mixture of calm and giddy, paired with a sharp decrease in logical reasoning. I suddenly forget all of life’s problems and get excited for every new line of fabrics that come out. Then, I forget all about the other beautiful fabric I have at home and begin rationalizing the purchases I’m about to make with reasons that aren’t very rational at all:

  1. “Someone is bound to have a baby sometime, somewhere- this adorable print will be perfect for that!”
  2. “I know I don’t NEED another sewing notion but this coupon makes it too good to pass up!”
  3. “This fabric would look great with the other stuff I have! (Even though they won’t be going into the same project. 🤷🏻‍♀️)

And the list goes on of course….

There is just something about the process of creating that seems to put all things into perspective once the cutter starts rolling and the machine starts buzzing. The sounds of my sewing room alone are enough to put my spirit at ease. It’s interesting, isn’t it, the way a quilter looks at piles of broken fabric pieces with stars in her eyes? It seems fundamentally true that someone with a heart to mend and create can always look at brokenness and see building. They can spot fragments and see a future. They admire pieces and see promise.

That is how God sees you, and sees me. He looks at the pieces of us left behind by our own sin and by the sins of others which have affected us, and I imagine He is both calm and giddy; both confident in His perfect skill to mend us, and thrilled by His almighty power to create newness in us. He isn’t the one to have caused our brokenness, but He is eager to begin a good work in us and carry it to completion when we come to Him. He looks at our disassembled state with great plans to give us hope and a bright future. What a comfort it is that our God is one who mends and loves all our broken pieces- and refuses to leave us incomplete!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

– • – • – • – • –

UPDATE:

If you read my New Year’s post, then you know that taking up quilting was one of my resolutions for 2019. I’ve (finally) recently finished my first quilt and thought I’d share with my craft-loving readers. I’d love to know if any of you quilt or craft, so feel free to share in the comments below!

My first quilt, made in crib size for my daughter:

Pattern

Pattern

“Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What would happen if you told your children, friends, family, or even a stranger to pattern their lives after you?

That’s a big statement, right? I imagine Paul must have been very confident when he said this to the Philippians because of the incredible changes God had made in him. Personally, if I told my family to do this, I think we’d have a lot of early rising coffee drinkers wandering around who are constantly looking for where they last placed their phones, and turning parallel parking into a 10 minute job. But my hope, as was Paul’s I would guess, is that they see the good stuff, too- and that the positive values stick along with the quirks.

Sometimes we forget that we are walking examples of Christ’s love and will for the world. On my best days I hope I embody that. And on my worst, I just hope that others can see where God’s grace fills the cracks of my worldly brokenness; that when I’m falling behind, He’s walking ahead.

Lord, let us never forget who we are to you and our purpose in this world. Thank you for the power we have to lead others to you and to the incredible life you have planned for each of us. Let your light shine in this world today through each and every one of us! We love you. Amen.

(Photo credit: Alexandra Seinet)

Love is….

Love is….

I hope you all spend this day being reminded of God’s great love for YOU, and sharing that love with others! Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! 💕

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬