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:

Humble.

Humble.

Is there a word that can describe my life in 2018?

Sweet

Messy

Full

A word that can describe me?

Quirky

Loving

Loyal

A word that I want to permeate 2019?

Humble.

In a recent post from Esther Goetz of The Dolly Mama, I came across (perhaps for the first time) the notion of designating one word as a focal point for the entire new year (though it may be changed if one sees fit.) While I’ve made my short and sweet list of resolutions for 2019, I was very inspired by this idea as it focuses less on a pass/fail system, and more on an aspiration for personal growth. The suggested process for choosing your word encourages listing and researching several words and giving careful consideration to each. While I tried to follow the prompts, only one word came to me immediately and stood out most in my mind: Humble. I’ve spent time this month thinking over the importance of this guiding word, and this is what I’ve landed on.

Some definitions I’ve found of the word included “not proud”, “modest”, and “courteously respectful”. I mostly prefer the Biblical significance of this word.

Philippians 2:3 mentions this attribute as it says to “be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

Romans‬ ‭12:3-5 states: “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”‬ ‭(Emphasis added.)

James 4:7 says “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

And I define ‘humble’ simply as this: more of Him, less of me.

‭‭This is one sentiment that I want to carry with me in all of life, and one of my greatest goals: to be more Christ-like and less Jess-like, and to glorify Him in all things.

What is your 2019 Word of the Year?

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?

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!