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.

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”?

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.

Things My Kids Say Thursday #8

Things My Kids Say Thursday #8

My 8-year-old son is such a trooper!

Early last month he broke his arm (his left arm- and he’s a lefty, of course.) There were no tears in the ER or even at the office when he was having his cast put on. The weekly X-rays he had done afterward were looking good for a short time- but then one revealed healing wasn’t happening quite as it should and so we scheduled a procedure to have the issue corrected.

He kept his cool as the medical team prepped him, but I could see that the IV was nerve wracking for him. After all was said and done, (and the procedure went well,) he recapped his experience with his dad. Since I was the only one able to be with him in the prep area before his procedure, he was telling Dad all about what they did to get him ready. He then explained his stress at having the IV started:

Son: When they started talking about an “IV” the first thing I thought of was poison IVY!

– • – • – • – • –

In all my careful explanation before taking him in for his procedure, I had apparently failed to explain just what an IV actually is. This poor kid- no wonder he was stressed about it!

What are things your kids have misheard or misunderstood that have made you laugh?

Things My Kids Say Thursday #7

Things My Kids Say Thursday #7

Sometimes my son says things that come out of left field and make me laugh. But sometimes he speaks wisdom without even realizing it.

The other day he had taken note of all the long hours my husband had been putting in at work, and his observation really showed his heart.

Son: “(Dad) works so hard everyday and all he gets is money.”

– • – • – • – • –

When we work hard we think, ‘yes! What will my paycheck look like?!’ But my young son reminded me with this one comment that money of any amount is of minimal value. I love how he looks at his dad and sees a man he believes should be rewarded with so much more than money, and also that he sees there is greater reward to be had in life than money.

Thanks for the fresh perspective, Bubby!

(Photo credit: NeONBRAND)

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!

Things My Kids Say Thursday #6

Things My Kids Say Thursday #6

I am a homemaker and I take pride in that! I enjoy the tasks that come along with it, but sometimes I also enjoy giving my family a hard time.

Apparently, they have their own ideas about what it takes to keep things running smoothly in the kitchen….

Me (to husband): When was the last time you cooked?

Son: It was May! He cooked you cereal for Mother’s Day.

– • – • – • –

Good to know this is all the culinary skill it takes to impress my child! 😂

(In fairness, my husband is the man of the grill because to be honest, I cannot be trusted there. 🙅🏻)

What are some of your kids’ ideas of a lavish home cooked meal?

Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

“No, no!” I shouted as I looked up just in time to see my toddler inch toward the open outlet, fan’s cord in her hand. (How smart she is, I thought, to understand where that goes.) I took the cord from her and wrapped it up, then went back to my laundry.

“No!” I shouted again as I looked up to see that she’d moved on to other interests- in this case, unfortunately, the toilet bowl. I picked her up and took her immediately to the sink to scrub her hands. Then back to play for her while my heaping pile of laundry waited patiently to be hung and folded.

After a few short seconds of sweet silence, I looked up again, this time to see my 15 month old daughter running around with a bra on her head, her daddy’s shirt being dragged behind her, and an array of dish towels and socks scattered around on the floor. “Oh,” I sighed. This parenting thing takes patience.

(Photo credit: Chloe Skinner)

There’s a passage in Mathew that reminds me of my persistent child. It goes like this:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever prayed for something you really wanted, and didn’t get it? That thought is among the first in my mind when I read this passage. I didn’t let my daughter stick her fingers in the outlet even after she kept going back to it, and there have been some things I didn’t get to have even after asking God countless times. So what gives?

First of all- there is truth in these words. If what we are seeking brings God’s peace, wisdom, and knowledge into our lives and inches us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven- I’m confident God does provide those things after our persistent prayer and ongoing reliance on Him.

But what about when we don’t get what we ask God for? I think it’s no coincidence at all that the very next lines in Mathew are these:

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When my daughter wants to play in the toilet I’m not going to let her because I know there are germs in there that cause sickness (and are the stuff of my anxiety-fueled nightmares.) When she wants to use her tiny, sticky fingers as a science experiment and see what happens when they get crammed into an electrical outlet, I stop her. When she wants to dine on dog food, I (usually) redirect her. And when I ask for things that God- in His infinite knowledge- knows are not good for me or derail me from my path in life, He pulls me away from them and sits me in front of something better.

We wouldn’t give our child a snake if they ask us for fish to eat (as the passage from Mathew says,) we would give them fish to eat! But sometimes- often unknowingly- we actually pray for snakes, don’t we? So when we feel our prayer isn’t being answered the way we thought it should, sometimes we have to consider that God may be preparing the fish instead of letting us get wrapped up in the snakes. If even I know enough to withhold things from my children that don’t serve them well, then I can certainly trust that God does the same for me.

I remember a kindergarten lesson from my favorite teacher where she once told us that God answers every single prayer, some just not in the way you’d think. If we pray for a bicycle but He knows we’d be in an accident and get hurt, then His answer may simply be ‘no’ because His perspective is so much greater than ours. We may end up with a different blessing instead. God is patient with us when we make mistakes, and He’s also patient with us when we’re running after the wrong things. No matter the circumstances, we can trust that if we’re praying about it, He’s working on it. We just need to be patient with Him in return while He prepares the blessings we can’t yet see coming.

(Photo credit: Brian Harris)