In Good Conscience

In Good Conscience

I had the music turned up much louder than necessary on my radio, the traffic was light, and I was enjoying my kid-free cruise. The fact that I was out of the house after dark was nearly unheard of, and I was soaking up every minute of it.

(Photo credit: A.L.)

(Reluctantly) I turned down the music and pulled into my driveway at an angle to back into my space as usual. I shifted to reverse and noticed how warm and cozy the house looked from the outside with the lights on and children playing, and- CRACK!

Oh no.

The drain pipe.

Pause: Now if you ask me, a professional, the drain pipe from our driveway is in the worst possible position mainly because it’s in the exact path I frequent to back into my spot. Sure, my husband would say it’s placed as closely to the house and landscaping as possible and I cut it way too close but, well, who asked him anyway? So because I know this pipe exists from nicking it a few times before, and because my husband has cautioned me so many times to watch out for it, I knew exactly what the crunching sound was as I grimaced and hit the brakes. 

Back to the story.

I paused and looked inside; waited for him to come out to see what the noise was. A minute or two went by and the back door never flew open. Sure he must have heard, I finally examined the damage and went in to explain myself. He asked how my trip was and went about his evening.

He didn’t know.

Should I tell him? My affinity for one vehicle fender benders had always been an inspiration for his humor (and everyone else’s). ‘Maybe I would just leave this one out,’ I thought.

Ultimately I busied myself in the kitchen for all of about three minutes before awkwardly blurting out “I RAN OVER THE DRAIN PIPE!” in mid conversation. His expression was calm. His reaction was mild. My sweet husband. He is never surprised by any of my antics or backing mishaps.

– • – • – • – • –

Do you ever have those cartoon-esque moments when you can almost listen in on your conscience trying to tell you what to do? Maybe a little angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other? For some of us the voice is clear, and for others its volume has diminished over time. Our conscience is one of God’s powerful tools in guiding our decisions and directing our steps. Paul spoke wisely to Timothy, a young leader, when he gave this advice:

“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Following the instructions of your conscience, or that inner tug that makes something feel morally right or wrong, will help you “fight well in the Lord’s battles” (1 Timothy 1:18). But disregarding what you know to be right and choosing otherwise will leave your faith shipwrecked. Destroyed. The actions we are meant to take for Christ, crippled. Or, more effectively as the Life Application Study Bible (NLT) states, “each time you deliberately ignore your conscience, you are hardening your heart. Over a period of time your capacity to tell right from wrong will diminish.”

That explanation struck a cord with me and made me realize why so many of us may have a warped sense of right and wrong, whether it’s in reference to what TV shows we think are acceptable, the kinds of relationships we allow, or how we treat others. Though connecting with your conscience seems so small, perhaps it’s why both great things and terrible things are accomplished by people in this world today. Their actions are results of a lifelong relationship with an inner compass.

So how do we keep our conscience clear?

“For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.”
“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭2:13, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 

  1. Listen to that gut feeling God is giving you
  2. Demonstrate what is right

Thankfully “our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:22‬ ‭NLT‬‬) To have that grace and forgiveness is an incredible gift, rather than an excuse to continue on in sin. It’s a hope and a fresh start to live a life in Christ, guided by Him through that sweet, kind inner voice that steers us in the right direction.

Have there been times you’ve felt your conscience at work? Looking back, how do you see God’s influence in that moment?

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Living With Less

Living With Less

I remember the threat well: “if you don’t clean your room I’m taking a trash bag and throwing away all your toys!”

Look out! Whenever my mama made a threat like that I knew it was time to get my butt in gear. I really didn’t want my belongings relocated to the local dump, but I looked before me at the mess and was overwhelmed to the point of making no efforts at all. I wasn’t enjoying the benefits of my tea set or my life-sized Barbie when they were buried somewhere under coloring books and Lite Brite pegs. Yet I just couldn’t muster the energy to even begin. I already felt defeated. The things I owned were owning my emotions and draining my energy. I half considered letting my mom follow through on just hauling it all away.

– • – • – • – • –

(Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

If I’m being honest, I’ve used that threat on my own child before.

It probably sounds irrational until there are heaps of toys, parts, and assorted junk spilling over in front of you. Any parent out there has probably at least thought as much. (Right?)

Toys aren’t the only culprit for that uncomfortable overwhelming feeling, either. I accumulate my own heaps and piles. One of the worst is the closet under our staircase. It catches everything. (Literally…. sometimes you have to toss items into the back because of the slope of the ceiling in there- don’t judge!) It’s perfect for wrapping paper, old paint cans, boxes of seasonal decor, and items I plan to return “someday”. You know what I’m talking about…. we all have that closet. I may go days without thinking much of it, but anytime I reach in there, the excess consumes me.

Over the years I have realized something very important whenever any corner of my home momentarily starts resembling my childhood room or that stair closet: it stresses me out. If I come home to clutter, my anxiety starts in. If I wake up and it’s there, my day can start to derail. It’s why so much of my day is spent tidying: ahh, peace of mind.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that property can penalize you.

But it can.

(Photo credit: Cheryl Winn-Boujnida)

“Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil,” says Proverbs‬ ‭15:16‬. And that’s exactly what excess eagerly gives me: inner turmoil.

After all, “what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mathew 8:36). I don’t want to forfeit my soul or what peace of mind I could have by eliminating the distractions that keep me from living simply in Christ. That’s why “living with less” became my number one resolution for 2019.

I’ve started this process in small steps, and I imagine it will be just that: an ongoing process. It took me years to accumulate my belongings, so it makes sense that it will take a while to weed out the unnecessaries among them. I started in the kitchen by pulling out every pot, pan, and gadget that I have no reasonable use for. Away to donate they go. I plan to continue on this way throughout the year one cabinet, closet, and cranny at a time. At the end of the day, my motivation to make these changes comes from four of what I think are the greatest benefits.

  • Why Live With Less:
    1. Less distracting
      Less costly
      Higher quality (vs. greater quantity)
      Less fuss

    If I don’t have my nose in my shopping apps I have more time for doing what matters. If my goal is to have less, then the intrinsic benefit is that I’m spending less. When I do purchase things, I then have the ability and the space to go for higher quality items which will last longer and not need replaced as often. I’m able to clear away useless items that do nothing more than take up space.

    Now I don’t think this has to be intimidating, and I don’t think it has to mean that you’re going to live in a plain house with a few walls and empty space in between. To me, the whole idea is to take a reality check on your heart and mindset when seeking out material things, and when observing what you already own.

    (Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

    These are some of the things I ask myself when deciding on a purchase or making decisions of what stays and what goes:

      Am I/Why am I attached to this?
      Is my attachment to this item making me loosen my grip on what God wants for my life?
      Do I spend time on upkeep or shopping for accessories for it and wasting time and money better spent?
      Does the cost of it leave me less inclined to give to church or charity?
      Does the storage of it cost space or money that I could use more wisely?
      Am I buying/holding on to this to impress someone?

    As I move down the list of questions, my motives for whatever item become clear. Sometimes I don’t even realize there’s more to wanting a possession than just wanting it, but there always is. Buying or holding onto things for the wrong reasons just tends to stack them in between me and my Creator until eventually I can’t even see Him over the pile. It blocks my view of what a calming and peaceful environment looks like. It’s not until I start eliminating the excess that I can start to see the blessings on the other side.

    Have you come across any great tips for keeping your home decluttered, or cutting down on unnecessary items? Comment them below!

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #10

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #10

    Son (8 yrs.): What is tofu?

    Me: It’s a food people eat instead of meat, why?

    Son: I always thought it was food made from toes.

    – • – • – • – • –

    I was a good mom and corrected him.. BUT if I’d had more presence of mind through the laughter I could have let him go on thinking that and had a pretty fun surprise meal waiting for him later…. 😂

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made you this!” These are often the proud words of:

    A. Anyone who has ever considered herself crafty, or

    B. Any child who has ever finger painted, paper crafted, or demolished his or her parent’s personal belongings and glued them into a new creation

    (Photo credit: Karly Santiago)

    It’s a highly anticipated moment to finally gift someone with a creation from your own hands, whatever it may be. The long hours and unwholesome- I mean loving words that go into making a special gift make that moment worth it. Bringing life to piles of stuff and making them into a fully formed and materialized idea is a special experience. Some may see it as a frivolous use of time or materials, but I see it as an opportunity to explore a characteristic of God- one we exhibit because we are made in His image.

    The first five words of the Bible are these:

    “In the beginning God created…”

    God was a creator. It’s easy to remember that He made the heavens and the earth and so on, but have you ever stopped to think how plain and boring He could have made each thing? The sky could have been white and the earth could have been shades of gray, and so on with every creation in between. He could have created one food with one flavor for us. (Thank you God that you gave us good food, amen!) But stop and take a look around- God…. was a creator. He created purposeful things and beautiful things, and countless combinations of the two.

    (Photo credit: rawpixel)

    This is an exciting observation for an artistic person like me because Genesis 1 gives another truth not long after this first inspiring verse. It says that human beings are made in God’s image. So if God is a creator and He made me to resemble Him, that means that there is some creative power in me, too.

    Somewhere along in life I stumbled upon this perspective-changing quote from Leo Buscaglia:

    “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

    Maybe you’ve talked yourself out of creative pursuits, either believing they aren’t worthwhile or that they won’t sustain you. It’s certainly not unheard of for a person to do this, but I’m here to encourage you to make wise use of the gifts God gave you! I believe that there is a way to honor God with every skill and talent He gives us. And what’s more- I believe they are connected to how you pursue your purpose. Our purpose in this life is to love God and love people, but the beauty is that God has blessed us with so many ways to do those things. He made no mistakes when carefully deciding what skills to give to each of us.

    If you sew, make items for those in need. If you are useful with building, help an unable neighbor with some much needed home repairs. If you paint, make a beautiful piece for someone who needs cheering up. There is always a way show love through your own personal God-given skill set.

    What are some of your skills and talents? How have you found ways to use them to “gift back to God”?

    And A Happy New Year!

    And A Happy New Year!

    (Photo credit: Brooke Lark)

    Hey friends- guess what! December marks ONE YEAR of Jess Kidding– and what a fun one it’s been!

    Throughout this year I’ve written a little, and learned a lot. I’ve met countless wonderful people through this online space, and have even been remembered by some of you for a few fun award nominations. I’m so grateful to each person who has taken the time to explore this blog, and I’m thankful that God helped me remember one of my true passions in writing.

    – • – • – • – • –

    Come On, 2019

    Well, you know what they say about accountability and reaching your goals! It’s important, or something like that. 🤷🏻‍♀️ So why not share a few hopes for 2019?

    The idea of setting goals for a new year has always been exciting to me because there is just something about making a list that makes my little Type A heart so happy. It’s such a great way to set an intention and bring about the hope and excitement of a positive change. Plus, sharing your goals with the ones you love usually means they can help you along, nudge you when your resolve becomes stale, or well, tease you when February comes and you’ve forgotten about a few of them.

    (Photo credit: Georgia de Lotz)

    So here’s a few small things I’m hoping to conquer in 2019:

    1. Live with less

    • I have been so captivated by the idea of minimalism. I’ve read and researched the intentions behind it and how to go about making decisions and taking action to declutter your life. I am a person who loves organization and wide open spaces, and am looking forward to taking steps toward living with less and filling my heart with more of what matters.
  • 2. Quilt
    • (Any quilters out there?!) I’m a crafty being at heart. Creating makes me content and over the last year I have come to love sewing. I’ve been studying quilting at the good old school of YouTube and just bought my first true quilt pattern and supplies. I’ve made blankets and rag quilts but can’t wait to get started on a real quilt.

    3. Choose 3 unhealthy foods to eliminate from my diet

    • That’s right. I’m not looking to lose a bunch of weight, or committing to running 5 miles a day. I just want to make a small change to make my life a little healthier.

    4. Maintain my morning Bible time

    • Being the first one up when the house is quiet and spending quality time with God has made an extraordinary change in my mood, my attitude, and my life. It’s my goal to keep this up!
  • – • – • – • – • –
  • There you have it! I try not to set goals that are so big that they become discouraging or impossible. Instead, I like to focus on just a few things that will bring a little more peace and happiness into my life. I think each of these things can also help me to bring peace and happiness to others as well. If my space is less cluttered, it can become a better space to show hospitality. If I become a successful quilter I can have something meaning to gift to people to show them love. If I’m healthier, I teach my kids to be healthier. And if I stick close to the words of God, I can live by them and help others to do the same.

    If you’d like to hear more about my progress with decluttering, quilting, or any of these resolutions, let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to hear what some of you are resolving to do in this new year and be a source of encouragement for you!

    Until next year….

    I hope 2019 becomes a year of many blessings and easy lessons for you all. I hope that the changes you make bring you closer to Christ and closer to each other. And I hope that you are led on the path that God has set for you, and never stray from it.

    Happy New Year my friends!

    (Photo credit: Lauza Loistl)

    Waiting is Hard

    Waiting is Hard

    “JUICE!” cried my tiny boss, when asked if she would like her purple butterfly cup refilled. Her little feet stamped and stomped, rambunctious with anticipation.

    “BOD#%ZTX!”*

    *(Translation: ‘bottle’.)

    The volume of her demands was rising, as if controlled by an internal radio knob. She was almost in full meltdown when at last- the bottle of juice was in plain sight. Her whining turned to giggles when she realized that I had not made her any false promises and the object of her desire was just moments away. Suddenly the waiting for her became bearable, and she became content knowing that she would receive what she’d asked for.

    (Photo credit: Brooke Lark)

    – • – • – • – • –

    Man, I can be a toddler. Waiting is hard, right? Whatever my proverbial juice bottle, I tend to want it when I want it, especially when it’s something big. I bow my head to pray about it, and then open my eyes half expecting it to already be before me. Even when I pray for God’s perfect timing, I still hold out hope that His timing might fit my schedule.

    Our wish lists aren’t always fulfilled on the “Christmas Day” that we have imprinted on our minds when we ask for them. Sometimes the wait even dampens our faith or enthusiasm for our prayer life. It’s so much easier to hold onto that prayer of perfect timing when we see the juice being poured into our bottle right before our eyes because patience is just easier when a reward is promised and visible.

    (Photo credit: Annie Spratt)

    The comfort in waiting is that regardless of your request, God does promise a reward:

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

    ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT

    1. Give your worries to God
    2. Pray- tell God what you need
    3. Express your gratitude

    God’s peace- His perfect peace- is our promised reward when we do these simple things.

    I myself am in a season of waiting. I stumbled into a closed door recently, mostly because I had a mask of expectation obstructing my vision. It made me realize that sometimes the blessings sneak in through the window, or the back door, or heck- parachute down from the sky. We don’t always see where God’s answer is going to come from or what it’s going to be. We can’t always expect to see someone filling our order and handing it to us. When we wait, sometimes the answer is an easy ‘yes’, sometimes the answer is ‘not yet’, and sometimes the answer is something even better, though we may not fully understand the entirety of that in this lifetime.

    “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    God is planning something big for your life. His plans are above yours or mine and so we have to keep an open mind for what our answer may look like.

    (Photo credit: Annie Snow)

    If you are in a season of waiting, I’m praying that this time develops your vision for blessings, and that you may see God’s goodness and answers all around you. I hope that your wait is made as short or long as is necessary for God to develop patience and perspective in you.

    Good Morning, Proverbs Woman

    Good Morning, Proverbs Woman

    I came across a great post recently with tips on how to start your morning like a Proverbs 31 woman. ‘Teach me your ways, oh blogger,’ I thought to myself as I clicked on the link. In true millennial form, I skimmed through the bullet points first to determine if it was worth reading through- ‘I have a busy day, after all. Projects to sew, baby to chase.’ You get it.

    (Photo credit: freestocks.org)

    As I skimmed I realized a couple of things. First, I caught myself wanting more. More information, more reading on this topic, more Proverbs 31 traits applied to my life. Oh to be this super hero woman the Bible talks about!

    But the second thing I noticed surprised me. ‘Wait a minute,’ I thought. ‘I already do some of these.’ With each tip I reflected on my own habits, which to my surprise were aligning nicely with the advice in the post (though there is surely much room for improvement.) Let me just say that I can’t take credit for this though, as my morning routine has most definitely been shaped and helped along by the Lord who knows I need Him before I tackle my day. As the months have gone on I find myself getting up earlier and earlier, eager to sit with Him each morning. The increasing contentment I find in this has not been lost on me, and is undoubtedly God’s way of shaping my morning habits and my heart.

    (Photo credit: rawpixel)

    One of the biggest things that struck me about this post (linked below) was a simple truth the writer shared:

    “Work with willing hands. We have been created to work. Even in the Garden of Eden, Mankind was given the task of caring for the land and animals. Stop treating your work as the enemy and start working with willing hands.”

    Oh! Would you like a slice of humble pie with that big dish of tough love? Am I the only one who honestly appreciates being served hard truths like these?

    “We have been created to work.”

    “Stop treating your work as the enemy.”

    Sometimes you don’t even realize the state of your heart on a matter until someone comes along and reveals it for you, which is what I felt these statements did for me. It’s not difficult to make your work out to be an enemy, especially when it’s tiresome, you feel unappreciated or unseen, or you lack a sense of purpose in it. My attitude toward my workload has definitely changed for the better over the past year and a half since I’ve been home, but still, I know my heart needs work.

    Nevertheless, I’ve slowly developed my own helpful morning habits and thought I’d share with you all today. Below are a few things I do that help to keep my path straight throughout the day and plant in me a positive attitude toward my work.

    1. Be the first one up

    Yes, this one took a while for me. I’d tried to sneak in my Bible time in other ways, but found that it wasn’t as productive as it could be. And what’s more, being flexible about that time turned into skipping it entirely when other needs came up. By starting my day early I ensure that my quiet time with God is not compromised, and is a non-negotiable part of my day. What I’ve found is that I’ve been waking up earlier and earlier over the last months and am even happy to get out of bed in the mornings. The Lord leans in to help (and boot us out of bed) when we take these steps of faith!

    2. Practice Gratitude

    Before any other words come between me and God, I thank Him for what I already have. Giving praise has a way of resetting your heart and setting the course for your attitude.

    (Photo credit: Gabrielle Cole)

    3. Be intentional- set a plan for your day

    As the stay-at-home mom of a toddler, I make sure to allow as much flexibility as possible in our schedule. I do however like to make a ‘To Do’ list that I can work through during the day. Having a plan doesn’t necessarily mean that every moment is mapped out, but more so that there is a clear intention for my time. If I am intentional I can fill my time in a meaningful way, rather than let the enemy fill my schedule with meaningless distractions.

    4. Pray for strength in your weaknesses

    We all know our weak spots, and so does God. But do we bring these to Him? I know that as I sit and plan my day, the enemy plans right alongside me and tries to trip me up. My weaknesses make an easy target for him to get me off track. But if I’m diligently praying for the Lord’s help and provision in these areas, I am doing more to set myself up for success than any list ever can.

    5. Make your beauty routine minimal

    I don’t know about other women, but I’ve definitely gone through phases with this. In my teens and early twenties it was more unusual for me to put on makeup than it was for me to go without. Somewhere along the way however I got caught up in watching the social media circle of beauty influencers and became very interested in makeup. This not only became an expensive habit, but a very time consuming one. On top of that, it was also costing me self-esteem in a big way. The more I altered my appearance with makeup, the more I felt I had to. This has been a hard habit to let go of, but wise words from 1 Peter have made this transition much easier for me:

    “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.”

    ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    Knowing your identity in Christ and letting Him make you beautiful from the inside out is key!

    (Photo credit: Raphael Lovaski)

    When you are firm in your understanding of your true identity, you will find that your beauty routine begins to lose its purpose. Steps and products begin to disappear from your regimen, and become replaced by confidence as a woman of Christ. This allows more time in your day to spend with Him, and more space in your heart and mind to be filled by Him.

    I definitely find that anytime I start making changes and forming habits that strengthen my faith, the Lord meets me where I am. It’s said in Philippians 2:13 that God works in us, giving us not only the power, but also the desire to do what pleases Him. This is definitely true, especially when we start taking the baby steps.

    I hope this little post will help you to consider your own morning routine and what you can do in those early hours to set you on the right path for the day.

    I would love to know some of the things you do in the morning to worship, study, schedule, or get closer to God. Let me know in the comments below!

    (To see the post which inspired this one, visit The Thin Place.)