How Delightful!

How Delightful!

The room was dimly lit with the sleepy light of a late summer day of rain. The rocking chair I’d settled into was neatly angled from the corner of our comfortable living room, and in close proximity to the fresh country air pouring in from the wide open window. The sound of water up against the porch awning was gentle and unobtrusive, more comforting than any lullaby.

I rested my head on the back of the rocker as it glided back and forth. I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I was thankful that my husband was off working at a job that provided for our family, that my son was sitting in classes he enjoyed, and for the bliss of being nestled beneath the weight of a sleeping baby.

(Photo credit: Danielle Dolson)

“This is Heaven,” I thought. I knew even then that it was one of the best moments I had ever, and maybe would ever, experience in my lifetime. I was deeply contented and my heart was truly delighted.

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Oh, those traveling verses! Have you ever come across a line of scripture that begins to follow you around? You start to see it on wall hangings, on a passerby’s t-shirt, or maybe more subtly in a book you’re reading or in conversation with a stranger.

This Psalms passage has been making itself known and as I read it again, a line jumped out at me: “take delight in the Lord”. Do you ever find that there are some common phrases in the Bible or church setting that we kind of take for granted and may not have spent time figuring out? This line occurred to me as a “taken for granted” kind of line, particularly because of what is said next: “take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” Well sign me up! The last part peeked my interest because of course, who doesn’t want to be granted their heart’s desire?! It’s like the Bible is saying- God will give you whatever you want, just follow this simple instruction! So naturally you backtrack to examine the instruction more carefully, (and while there is more to it) its true meaning becomes clearer.

(Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska)

To get a better grip on the phrase “to delight in”, I tried to plug it into my own life. Here’s what I came up with:

  • I delight in peaceful rainy days with the windows open like the one I described earlier.
  • I delight in funny cat videos.
  • I thoroughly delight in long slow walks through Joann Fabrics with a hot coffee in my hand.
  • I delight in seeing my kids play well together and not push each other into piles of Lego’s.

The phrase begins to take shape. “Where is your heart?” it seems to say. Now I could edit my post and put “I delight in doing God’s will and studying His Word” at the top, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The little joys in life- which are certainly supplied by God- were my more immediate thoughts. Of course there is delight in living a God-led life, but it’s often His blessings that catch our attention first.

While it’s good to enjoy what God has given us, we shouldn’t allow it to replace our delight in the Lord. As the passage says- take delight in the LORD and he will give you your heart’s desires. The gifts in this life are to be enjoyed, but soon pass away. Our heart should find its happiness in the One who never fades or ends or changes, because then our joy will be unwavering, too. If we delight in the Lord, our desires will naturally evolve to ones that are good and pleasing to Him, and I believe He will in turn grant them.

(Photo credit: Lesly Juarez)

“He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So what does God delight in? He delights in us- our hearts devoted to Him! There’s no need to get caught up on figuring out any more than that. Just as we delight in our children, so God delights in us. Psalms makes sure to rule out the unnecessary as well:

“You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand — you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God doesn’t need us to check serving, attending service, or activity in a small group off of our list- even though those are things that often come naturally as a result of a devoted heart. He just wants to be the priority on our list. When we study His Word and really grasp what it is to have His Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we will find delight in Him and doing His will becomes a natural side effect.

“I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart. [Heb. 10:5-9.]”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

It’s the beginning of what I hope is a delightful holiday week for you all! Enjoy your many blessings as you reflect on them this week- and feel free to share a little about them in the comments below!

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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!

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?

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

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.

Changed

Changed

My prayer for today:

Lord, I want to be changed! I don’t want to live like this world lives, but I want to live like Jesus did. I invite your Holy Spirit to dwell and work within me, and change me from the inside out.

Please don’t let me cave into the pressure to be a woman of this world. Don’t allow me to think it’s OK to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, use inappropriate language, or develop habits that do not align with the principles you call us to live out just because that’s what others are doing.

Help me to be encouraged by the friends I trust who are also seeking to live a life led by you, but ultimately, let your words be the words I live by, and not the words of others.

I don’t want to look, walk, talk, or act like the norm in this world. I want my words and actions to set me apart and point the world to You.

I love you and thank you for this beautiful life! Amen.

Inspired by the song Different by Micah Tyler