Best Dad Ever

Best Dad Ever

Every once in a while I catch a case of wanderlust and sneak onto a travel site. I check out different locations and see how many mortgage payments it would cost to go to my dream location. I wonder what it would be like to slip on some giant sunnies, board a plane, and step off of it in a Mediterranean paradise. Or what it would be like to take an Instagram-worthy photo of the best foreign food- assuming my camera was faster than my fork.

(Photo credit: Shifaaz shamoon)

While I’ve never been overseas, there are countless pictures, personal accounts, and even movies to tell me what it must be like. It seems so different from what I know, but it becomes easy to imagine and wish for. Even with all the information I can find online, having never experienced it, I don’t really know what it’s like in those distant countries I admire.

(Photo credit: Zach Ward)

Sometimes there are aspects of our relationship with God that can be difficult to experience or understand because of lacking elements in our earthly relationships.

One aspect of our connection to God that I’ve always loved and held dear is our relationship with Him as a father. Understanding who God is as a father is a crucial part of understanding His importance in our lives. But how can you do that if you’ve never had a right relationship with your own earthly father?Understandably, it’s difficult.

How can I know what a fresh cannoli tastes like in a mom and pop Italian bakery if I’ve never been to Italy? How can I know what it smells like when it rains on the streets of Paris if I’ve never walked them? And how can I experience God’s fatherly love and the consistency of His presence in my life if I’ve not had that from my human father?

(Photo credit: Derek Thomson)

For starters, know that this is a place for your faith to grow.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It’s said that there are things concerning how God works that we’re not meant to know or understand in this life, and this may be one of them for some of us.

But if you peek into the lives of others, you’ll see that you are not singled out- that there are opportunities for faith to grow in them, too. For those who struggle with addiction, their opportunity may be in the long recovery process. For those who are limited due to illness or inability, their opportunity may be in their limits. And for some of us, our opportunity for faith to be grown may be in a hurt or missing parental relationship.

If we lack these things- sobriety, physical ability, emotional stability, etc.- how do we fill the space they should inhabit? What a beautiful empty room those things create to be filled with God’s presence, beauty, and great ability to provide.

(Photo credit: Philipp Berndt)

If you don’t know what to expect from God as your father or how to identify Him in that way because of a lacking relationship, Psalm 145 gives great representation of our Heavenly Father:

Fatherly Characteristics of God (According to Psalm 145)

God is……..

  • Merciful (v. 8)
  • Compassionate (v. 8, 9)
  • Slow to anger (v. 8)
  • Filled with unfailing love (v. 8)
  • Good to everyone (v. 9)
  • Promise keeper (v. 13, also Psalm 146:6)
  • Gracious (v. 13)
  • Righteous (v. 17)
  • Filled with kindness (v. 17)
  • Protector (v. 20, also Psalm 144:2)

In His grace, God has planted in His Word all the information we need to have a clear picture of who He is as our father. Though we may not have the chance to experience these qualities in our human relationships, God is faithful and fulfills them all- not just some! In the emptiness a broken relationship can leave behind, God fills the space and overflows from it with his abundance of loving qualities. We can relate to Him because we learn through His Word who He is, and we build trust by relying on Him consistently.

Some of us may never get the social media-worthy photo of extravagant travels or Norman Rockwell family moments. (Even if we did, surely we’re wise enough by now to know that there is always production magic going on behind the scenes to make those things appear better than they really are.) But there are no special effects in the image scripture gives us of God the Father. It’s cut and dry- a candid depiction of the constant qualities of the only unfailing parent we will ever know.

And what’s more, God is eternal and omnipresent. That’s forever. That’s everywhere. That’s never waiting on the front porch in disappointment realizing He isn’t going to show, or living life after He’s gone. He is always with us, completely constant in all of His perfect qualities.

If you’re left wanting from your earthly parental relationships, take heart in this scripture from Psalms 27:

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:10 NLT

What great encouragement it is to know that we are never alone, even if our most foundational relationships in this life fail! God is always close to us, and always able to supply His perfect peace if we are faithful to ask for it.

What quality of God as a father are you most thankful for?

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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!

Quarrelsome Wife, Lonely Life: Allowing God to Change My Attitude

Quarrelsome Wife, Lonely Life: Allowing God to Change My Attitude

Have you ever read your Bible and come across one of those kick-in-the-gut verses? The kind that makes you say ‘yep, that’s definitely meant for me….’? That happened to me a couple weeks ago when I was reading through Proverbs, one of my very favorite books:

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The conviction is real, y’all. I felt that one in my bones.

I’m admittedly a little Type A; the (wo)man with the plan. Organization and order put my soul at ease, and disorder always leaves me feeling anxious and stressed.

(Photo credit: Laura Mitulla)

My husband couldn’t be more different. Always easy going, calm, and collected, nearly nothing ruffles his feathers. I often hear him say “it’ll all get done,” and it’s always spoken truthfully, without a hint of concern in his voice. His laid back nature makes it difficult for him to understand why I run around like a crazy person with my bright red rubber gloves and messy bun flopping around the day before a holiday or big life event- I just can’t relax or enjoy it without my house clean and in order.

(Photo credit: rawpixel)

It’s really no surprise though, that in a busy household of two adults, two kids, and a dog, life can fall into a category that no one would label structured or orderly. It’s in those times that I sometimes become the quarrelsome wife that Proverbs talks about.

I get an attitude. I reprimand my family members for offenses I know I’ve warned against in the past. I might even toss a misplaced shoe as my lazy lab watches without surprise. These sorts of instances came to mind as I was reading that verse, and I began to feel my perspective shift from details to Deliverer. (Scriptures like this have a way of doing that; of redirecting our focus from the petty things fueled by the values of this world- to the more important bigger picture that God Himself has painted for our lives.) I already knew that my quarrelsome moments weren’t serving anyone in my family well- myself included. But I felt a tugging on my heart from that verse to be more mindful, more intentional, more grace-full in my interactions with my family, and most especially with my spouse.

That one simple verse became a call for me to put down my bright red rubber gloves and open my eyes to see how God blesses, even in the messes- and allow it to change my attitude.

Oh, and if that line didn’t say enough…. You can always count on repetition in the Bible where a message is of special importance. (You know how you’re always repeating instructions to your kids? Yeah, God has to do that, too.) A little further on in the wonderful book of Proverbs comes this:

“It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Ouch. A desert. The Bible says it’s better to live in a literal desert than with me a complaining wife. Pack your canteen, honey.

And I wasn’t kidding about repetition being a powerful tool in scripture, because then there’s this-

“A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. Stopping her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greased hands.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Okay, okay we get it!

Now. Can we mentally replace “wife” in these verses with “husband” sometimes? Of course we can. But we all know it’s usually us as wives who run the household, leaving us more vulnerable to daily challenges which can spur on an argumentative response. (These scriptures weren’t aimed at wives on accident.) 🤷🏻‍♀️

It happens. Stress manifests differently for all of us, and that’s where God’s grace (and hopefully the grace of our loved ones) comes in. These little gems in the book of Proverbs serve as a healthy reminder to keep a check on our attitude, which is always a reflection of the state of our hearts. As it’s said in Proverbs 4:23, our hearts should be guarded above all else because “everything you do flows from it.”

So put down the gloves and let out the messy buns, ladies. Be still and take stock of your precious world around you. Let’s pray for a gentle spirit, which is an attribute pleasing to God, and eyes that see past the mess and the stress. After all, “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps”- and there’s no arguing with that!

– • – • – • –

Encouragement For A Humble Heart, Gentle Spirit, & Kind-Hearted Attitude:

Philippians 2:12-16

“….Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life….”

(My Bible’s comment section says: “A transformed life is an effective witness to the power of God’s Word. Are you shining brightly, or are you clouded by complaining and arguing? Don’t let dissensions snuff out your light.”)

1 Peter 3:4-5

“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 3:10-11

“For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”‭‭

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)

What You Do Is Not Small

What You Do Is Not Small

An open letter to stay-at-home (and all) moms:

I know there are times you feel like your skills could be better used elsewhere, but What You Do Is Not Small.

I know you may feel invisible some days, lost in piles of laundry and mountains of dishes, in the stacks of homework and bills, and in the bedtime routines that flow seamlessly into early morning wake up calls. But your efforts are seen by the One who created you.

YOU are seen by the One who created you.

I know you sometimes see the success of others and feel fear that you’re missing out- that what you’re doing is unimpressive and falling short of your capabilities. But your impact within your own four walls Is Not Small.

I know there are a thousand unnoticed tasks a day that are accomplished when no one else is looking. I know that no one you are serving really knows the extent of what you do in your many, many waking hours. I know that you often give more than you get.

I know there won’t be any awards won in this life for getting your kids to school on time, or wrapping your arms around your crying child. But the reward waiting for you at the end of this life is anything

But Small.

– • – • – • –

As some of you may or may not know, aside from being a stay-at-home mom and blogger, I am also a nurse.

When deciding what life was to be like after Baby #2’s arrival, I was informed that part-time wasn’t an option within my company. In my particular position I was no stranger to 40 to 50+ hour work weeks at times with a great deal of travel during my days. The relationships I was able to build with my patients were rewarding but I knew the relationships I could be building with my children were where my purpose lied. With much prayer and the support of my (really awesome) husband, I made the leap into SAHM-hood.

In many ways it’s been one of the most rewarding years of my life. I’ve seen my children grow and had so many great experiences with them that we wouldn’t have shared if I were spending my long days away from our home. There are so many benefits to being in my position for which I’m deeply grateful, but in my quiet moments there have been times I’ve wondered if my other skills were being wasted.

If you have ever wondered the same, know this: life is made up of seasons.

There was a season of my life I struggled to put myself through nursing school as a single mom. During that time I learned that I am capable of more than I ever dreamed. (As are you.)

There was a season I worked as a nurse when I learned I’m tougher (and softer) than I ever seemed.

And now I am living in a season when I am able to focus fully on my family and I am learning that being a strong woman is not one dimensional. Strength comes in so many different forms for different people.

If you are feeling frustrated or run down on this Monday, Mama, know this- you are not alone! You are part of a sisterhood of women who are living this experience right along with you, and we see you. Your hard work may be lost on some, but it isn’t lost to others like you. So “let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews‬ ‭12:2 NLT)

You got this.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭127:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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!

I’m THAT Neighbor….

I’m THAT Neighbor….

The outside of my house, if you can see it, gives the impression that we grabbed only our most precious belongings and fled in a hurry with no intention to ever return.

See, since the birth of my tiny princess last summer, some things have been neglected around here. Landscaping is a pretty easy thing to put off to the back of your mind. It doesn’t fall out of the cabinets when you open them. It doesn’t clutter your countertops when you’re trying to work. You don’t trip over it when you’re trying to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There are just other things that come before getting to it, and by the time I get to those other things I have one of two kids making a bee line for me, and alas! The landscaping waits.

Photo by Quanzhao “Ari” He

As the state of things has gotten unruly enough to catch my attention, I decided to enlist the help of a green thumbed friend of mine. She asked for pictures so I went around the house snapping away, surprised at every turn just how wild it had really become. It became apparent that when I let this task get away from me it didn’t just affect the things that were already planted- but new, unwanted things had begun to grow.

Photo by Kelli Tungay

Tangled. Messy. Wild. Out of control. All words I’d use to describe the overgrown mess just beyond my front door. There are plants growing from between the branches of other plants; the wanted and the unwanted twisting around each other until the untrained eye is unable to decipher where one begins and the other ends. Complicated.

The truth is though, if I look behind my front door and in the mirror, sometimes things look messy there, too. When I neglect my time with God and am not careful where my thoughts are running off to I get twisted up, tangled, complicated. Negative thoughts sprout from the good and take on new life. The good and the kinda/sorta bad things that I start letting my guard down to get intertwined. Half truths I start to tell myself become whole lies. And before you know it, I’m struggling to feel connected to the One I can’t live without.

Our thought life, which directly affects our behaviors, seems to be its own living thing. The tasks and ‘To Do’s’ we chase after often keep us distracted from seeing that it requires care and continual maintenance, too. 2 Corinthians stresses the importance of keeping an eye on this:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can take down the obstacles that keep us from connecting with God by taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ. From good thoughts flow good actions, right? So that means that from bad thoughts…. You get it.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking “is this really that bad? There are worse things….” and talking myself into the gray area of sin. But when I catch my thoughts and hold them up to the Truth to compare, right and wrong become more apparent. The thing is- I can only do this by knowing- REALLY knowing- God’s word. And that can only be accomplished by dedicating time to be spent with God and His Word on a regular basis. Maintenance. Pruning. Trimming away the unwanted, making room for the good to grow.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s a snowball effect- a tower of building blocks. When you add perseverance, godliness grows, and mutual affection, and the golden virtue- love. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t get caught in the thinking that you can control your thoughts or actions without laying down the groundwork of faith, goodness, and knowledge first.

It’s a lot to realize there are other factors that control our actions behind the scenes. But knowing how to get to the root of these things makes it possible to part the messy vines and start to see what’s growing underneath. It makes it possible to see how the Holy Spirit can work within us when we cling to our connection with God regularly– and it can lead us toward squashing bad habits and changing behaviors. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it casually- it takes perseverance.

So before my neighbors try to machete their way to my house to check on us, I’m going to go and get on the landscaping. And while I’m at it, I’m going to work on a little mind and soul maintenance, too- trimming away, and making room for the good to grow.