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)

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

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.

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. ❤️

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