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.

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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.

Guard Your Chocolate

Guard Your Chocolate

In my house, I have a secret, hidden stash. The chocolate kind. I cannot even speak its coordinates to you all because there are blog readers in this house who may or may not be trusted. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Photo credit: Jennifer Pallian

Let’s just say I have my reasons for keeping my stash undercover. You know- there are a million things I have and share in a day: my time, my resources, the food off my plate. And even though I would probably share my chocolate too if my kids gave me the puppy dog eyes, it’s better if I don’t. Those little pieces of Heaven create a moment in my day. It means more to me than it does to my kids and it’s something that keeps me going on long days (not to mention I’m avoiding sugared up kiddos.) I keep the location protected so my supply doesn’t dwindle, or get stolen away. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference for me, and so I do what I can to guard it.

But my chocolate stash isn’t the only thing in my life that is small and needs protecting. There is something else worth defending- (and it’s oddly synonymous with chocolate, if you ask me)- my heart.

We give so much from our hearts, and it’s easy at some point to find ourselves in a position where we’re giving too much, or giving to the wrong people or situations.

Proverbs cautions against wrongly depleting this precious resource:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have been guilty of an unguarded heart. I have at times felt that if God is leading me somewhere I need to sacrifice all of my energy and resources into that one place. Sometimes that is what’s asked of us, but sometimes we’re not being asked to tend and harvest the whole field- only to plant a seed. While it’s imperative that we act when God calls us to, the way we approach the situation is also very important and needs to be accomplished with wisdom and tact.

As it’s said, “everything you do” flows from your heart. What would that look like if you’ve poured out the last drop of that resource because you’d been trying to replenish what God never asked you to repair? An unbeliever who isn’t ready to hear the truth, a casual listener who refutes your every point, or a relationship not based on good moral ground could all be examples of heart-draining situations if God has not personally called you to those people for a purpose. Of course we will be led to encourage those who are distant from Him, but ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ are all details best left to the Lord. When we try to make up the details on our own without first seeking His will and guidance, we’re always left feeling drained.

I’ll put it like this: Have you ever left the lid open on the diaper wipes container? It doesn’t seem like a big deal. There’s a whole container of them so what does it matter if you get distracted and leave that top wipe free to dry out? If you leave them for a few minutes, no big deal. You pitch the top wipe. But if you keep leaving them unattended in that compromising situation, then before you know it the whole pack has gone bad.

Not guarding your heart dries you out.Little by little, when we devote our time and attention to the wrong things- or even when we are investing too much in the “right” things when we haven’t been led to do so- we end up feeling empty.

I can’t say I’m always an expert on the art of balance, but I can certainly admit I’ve left my heart unguarded and been drained a time or ten. In my experience, these are some things I’ve found to be helpful in that self-protection I believe Proverbs talks about:

Helpful Hints To Guarding Your Heart

1. Protect your time with the Lord. The task lists, the dirty dishes, the stack of paperwork- it will all still be there when you’re done. Don’t let those things steal you away from this time.

2. Make time for the Lord. Let’s backtrack a little. If you’re going to protect something, it has to be in existence first. One on one time with God in prayer is imperative to a God-filled, God-led life. Set apart time to be still and seek Him, and use this time to ask God for wisdom on all matters- big and small.

3. Take a step back and ask yourself- “Is this leading me closer to or farther away from relationship with God?” And act accordingly.

4. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Listen to Philippians 4:6-7 (emphasis added):

“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.”

While we can expect hard work ahead in our mission to be a light to others, I hope it encourages you to know that we are all equipped with God’s peace to guard our hearts along the way. I hope if you are feeling depleted today that your spirit will be renewed through Him and you will stay steadfast on the path He’s set before you.

Happy Monday, friends!

Ice Cream Sundaes… For the Soul

Ice Cream Sundaes… For the Soul

“Mom, my dinner belly is full,” my son used to say. His dessert belly, on the other hand, he always expressed as being quite hungry. In its sheer cuteness, this argument likely worked on his first attempt when my little boy was just a couple years old.

Over time however, it became a worn out excuse and he was reminded time and again how important his healthy dinner foods really were. (Though as his mother whose dessert belly is ALSO always hungry, I’d have to say you can’t blame the boy for trying.)

On one occasion, my husband took our son to a local restaurant. In my absence he decided to order an ice cream sundae for him to enjoy. Since our favorite waitress was working she made sure his was extra, EXTRA large. According to my husband, he ate and ate but eventually turned to him and spoke the unimaginable: “Dad, I can’t eat any more ice cream.” For perhaps the first time in my son’s life, his “dessert belly” was declared full. There was absolutely no room for anything else.

Photo credit: Flavio Shibata

Have you ever had that satisfied feeling after eating something you love? That fullness we experience deters us from searching for anything else. But whether we’re full on something healthy, or full on junk food, full is full.

The things we’ll settle for when we’re just starving can really get interesting. Have you ever went scavenging through the grocery store when you’re hungry? Anytime I stroll the grocery isles on an empty stomach I start making some baffling decisions. Nine different kinds of juice? Sure! Three different breads? Sounds like a good idea! Olives (even though I have no recipes for the week ahead that call for them)? YES. But eating before shopping keeps me guarded against straying from my shopping list. Otherwise I’ll grab at anything to fill my stomach and quiet my hunger pangs.

Don’t we do the same thing though when our souls are hungry for something more? Every person is born with that ‘something more’ need; a “God shaped hole” that only He can fill. But in our misguided searching we try to fill it with our own personal version of the next best thing. Shopping, eating, gossiping, gambling, drinking, working, relationships, social media scrolling- insert your “next best thing” here, whatever it is.

There is a Proverb that perfectly describes this search and cycle:

“A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When we’re hungry at the grocery store we’ll buy 27 donuts, pickle flavored potato chips, or 9 kinds of juice. But when we’re hungry for God, we will fill up with anything we can get our hands on that our hearts think might help- even bitter, destructive, or unproductive things.

On the contrary, “a person who is full refuses honey”. When we see our very personal need for God and fill it with Him and Him alone, we become full– of light, of life, of peace, grace, and love- and there is no room for anything else, however deceptively sweet it may seem. There’s no room for relationships that stunt our spiritual growth, for pursuits that leave us feeling empty, or for material things that we’ll grow tired of by this time next year (or even next week.)

God fills the need. He replaces our want for things He knows will tear us down. Being full of that relationship with Him protects us, and gives us unimaginable freedom from the “bitter foods” in our lives that taste deceptively sweet.

What’s your “next best thing” that you try to satisfy your soul with? How would your life change if you replaced it with seeking a relationship with God?

Things My Kids Say Thursday

Things My Kids Say Thursday

Me: What did you do at school today?

7.5-year-old: I got bored and Googled my name.

Me: Oh yeah, what did you find?

7.5 Y.O.: Just a picture of an old man with my name, so, I know what my future is going to look like now.

– • – • – • –

…………………….Seems legitimate.

What have your kids said or done this week that made you laugh?

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

(Photo credit: Alisa Anton)

I know the Bible talks about milk and honey being pretty great, but have you ever finished a hot coffee before your kids woke up for the day?

(Yeah- me neither! But a girl can dream!)

Coffee is one of the first things on my mind in the morning, and I like it a certain way: spoon full of sugar, enough creamer to make it just the right color, and piping hot. More often than not however, the day pulls me in different directions before making it too far into my favorite mug, and it ends up reaching room temperature before I can satisfy my caffeine craving. I end up popping it in the microwave once or twice (or five times) before I finally finish my cup and go about my day. But I always heat it up. There is just something about sipping lukewarm coffee that furrows my brow and turns me away.

My morning ritual seems to have something in common with scripture:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT

Lukewarm just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me in the mornings, and it isn’t enough for God.

Have you ever felt lukewarm?

A need arises within your small group from church, and you fill it. But you catch your older child disobeying and you snap at him. You volunteer in the children’s ministries on Sunday morning. But you indulge in trashy TV on Monday night.

It’s easy to do- to see our good deeds and believe it’s enough, or that it justifies the decisions we make that don’t quite line up with scripture. God created us and knows our humanness. He doesn’t expect perfection, but I do believe He intends for our motives to matter as we strive to live a God-filled life.

See, being a lukewarm Christian doesn’t just turn away opportunities for us to grow closer to God. Being lukewarm can turn others away from us, or worse yet, away from the Lord. Keeping alive that fire in your heart for Christ matters! Your temperature affects everything you touch.

There’s no room in our lives to hear and believe everything God says but then live how we lived before we knew His truth. If God’s way is hot and our old ways are cold, then guess what that would make us? Lukewarm.

Sometimes intentional sin can cause us to become that way- like dropping ice cubes in your hot coffee. But sometimes it’s not always willful acts that put the chill on our souls. Sometimes it’s just leaving our mug on the counter and getting distracted.

Whether you’re putting ice cubes in your “spiritual” coffee, getting distracted from that coffee, or just plain getting your real life coffee dumped on you by your wild little toddler, I have no doubt that God is working in you. As you gauge whether your motives and your soul are cold, or hot, or somewhere in between, know what God desires of you: He wants to be your priority, and for your soul to be on fire for Him and Him alone!

“Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.” -Romans 12:11-13 NIRV

I know our days are busy, friends! But instead of opening the next app or tab on your browser, try instead to take a moment and ask yourself:

1. What in my life is putting the chill on my soul and my desire for God?

  • Is it a social media addiction?
  • A difficult child or relationship that is stealing your peace or focus?
  • A friend that encourages ungodly talk or behavior?
  • Your choice in indulgences (TV, movies, books)?
  • Gossip?
  • Excessive worry?
  • Comparison and jealousy?
  • Lust?

2. What sets my soul on fire and nurtures my relationship with God?

  • Regular Bible time, or regular time in prayer?
  • Reprogramming every car preset to Christian radio?
  • Building a relationship with a Christian friend?
  • Joining a small Bible study group?
  • Praying about what worries you rather than just talking about it?
  • Deleting an app that distracts you from spending time in prayer or has ungodly content?

The lists are personal and go on for each of us. Wherever you’re at in your walk with God, I hope you will be encouraged and hold on to this truth today:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

P.S. Is there anything you can add to the lists above? Share your thoughts!

Minivan Rebel

Minivan Rebel

“Well, I can add changing a diaper in a princess castle to my list of things I never thought I’d do,” I thought.

I looked around at the flower-clad walls and down the purple tunnel. I looked behind me at the demolished bag of chips my toddler had stolen from the pantry, with its thin plastic folded and wrinkled every which way. I mentally accepted all these things as normal and thought briefly about scanning the classifieds for a nice used minivan. “I will not do the stick figure family stickers on the back though….. or maybe. Whatever, I won’t rule it out,” I thought.

There are a lot of normal things in my life these days I never thought I’d find myself doing.

I never thought I’d go from listening to angry hard rock bands to having K-Love as my go-to commute music (all whilst transporting sticky-fingered, Hot Wheel throwing sleep stealers from A to B.)

I couldn’t have imagined laying in bed on Saturday night (at a reasonable hour no less) looking forward to church service the next morning (and even driving almost 40 minutes to get there.)

And I certainly never thought I would be writing a faith based blog.

But here I am. And in some remote corner of the world I imagine pigs are probably coming in for a landing.

So today, know this: God changes things. He changes the hearts of His people.

I fully admire people who were raised in the faith and never strayed from it but I openly admit that I am not one of those people. Although I was raised with a strong religious background, I’ve always had a restless and rebellious spirit. I believed in God but didn’t feel like I could relate to the life of Jesus. That is, until I came across this one single verse:

“He was counted among the rebels.” -Isaiah 53:12

We always think of Jesus as being perfect- and he was– but have you ever stopped to realize that he was so radically different from the norm of his day that he was actually considered a “rebel”?

Needless to say, the first time I came across this line, I connected. If Jesus was a rebel, he could know and understand my own rebellious heart. If he could navigate life as an outsider, he could teach me how to walk the less traveled path I’m meant to walk.

And if Jesus was a rebel, he could show me how to be rebellious in a different way.

These days my idea of rebellion comes largely in the form of saying no to friends, situations, and world views that are widely accepted but are misaligned with God’s truth. Rebellion doesn’t always have to be loud and intrusive. Sometimes rebellion looks like teaching Sunday school, or packing your husband’s lunch. Sometimes it’s zipping the lip instead of sharing the details of someone else’s personal business, or offering to help even when it doesn’t fit into your schedule. Sometimes rebellion looks like scattered Lego’s, purple princess castles, and a quiet life- lived well in the light of God’s grace.

Be rebels, my friends. ❤️