Posted in Family

Thanksgiving: the way it looks

 

leaves

With the Thanksgiving holiday only a few days away, I’m curious if you’re doing as I am.  I’m scrambling about trying to decide what to cook and which ingredients I should add to my already long grocery list.  And then there’s nailing down the best time to avoid the crowd of people doing exactly what I’m doing, embarking on the dreaded shopping trip.  All to celebrate a special day with special people. A day when most of us eat way too many carbohydrates, leading us to desperately need a nap afterwards.

If you were eating Thanksgiving Dinner at my house this year, you would be served our traditional holiday staples: ham, turkey and dressing, broccoli cheese casserole, and baked beans.  You would also notice the sweet potato casserole prepared by my newly married daughter. I can’t wait to taste it!  Of course, there would be plenty of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Desserts such as brownie bottom cheesecake (my husband’s all-time favorite), coconut crème pie for my dad, and a pumpkin cheesecake we’ve never made before since it’s always fun to try something new.

After completely stuffing ourselves, some of us will probably give in to that much needed nap, while others will gather around the table for a friendly little round of game-playing. We will settle on one of our favorites, perhaps Monopoly, Chickenfoot, Yahtzee, or Farkle, and we will spend some wonderful time together. As a family. On Thanksgiving Day.  Oh, how I love that.

As I think about what this holiday means to me, I can’t help but wonder what your Thanksgiving Day will look like.  Will you be surrounded by immediate family, extended family, or by friends who equal family to you?  Will you be the one serving dinner, or will you be the guest?  Will you partake in traditional Thanksgiving food, or will you step aside and introduce something completely different?

The big question is this:  Will you truly enjoy your day with those precious people you share it with?   And will you be thankful? Thankful despite hardship.  Thankful even though all is not good and perfect. Thankful for a holiday that reminds us to slow down, to reflect on our lives. Thankful for another day to love, laugh, and make memories with those we love.

So, my friend, what’s on the menu for your Thanksgiving Day?

 

Posted in Friendship

If I Were Having Coffee with You Today

fancy coffee

One of my absolute favorite things is having coffee with a good friend at a local coffee shop.  I love everything about it.  The coffee, the company, and the cozy climate of the shop.  I could sit for hours catching up on the latest news, laughing together, encouraging one another, sharing burdens, and celebrating successes.  Yes, that would definitely be the high-point of my day.

If you were that friend and we were having coffee today, I would tell you how happy I am to be here with you. The opportunities to gather like this are few and far between.  Our days are so saturated with responsibility that the nurturing of our friendships is often pushed aside. Yet they are so important.

So believe me when I express my gratitude for you, and for this uninterrupted time to sit together and unwind over a cup of coffee. And if I’m a little too talkative and excited as we take our seats, please don’t be concerned.  I may need a sip or two from my cup, a moment to take a few deep breaths, and time to slowly transition into sitting mode.  I think you’ll understand.

If I were having coffee with you today, I would tell you how I’ve barely began Christmas shopping.  And that the mere thought of pulling decorations from the attic, sorting them out, and decorating my house tires me out.  I would tell you I think I’ve lost my desire to decorate, and ask you how I might get that spark back, or how to at least create some simple form of decorating that would delight my children and require only minimal effort on my part.  I would bounce ideas off you and wonder aloud how much I should spend on gifts this year.  And I would be relieved knowing you don’t think any less of me for feeling the way I do.

If I were having coffee with you today, I would ask about you.  I would inquire as to how things are going – your marriage, your children, your work, your daily grind.  Are you happy? Stressed? At peace in some areas? Frustrated in others?  I would encourage you to keep plugging along, trusting that there is purpose in every hard situation you face. I would take to heart your struggles, and make a mental note to pray for you, to pray you through every single one of them.  Because you’re my friend, and God caused our paths to cross for a reason.  Perhaps this fulfills one small part of that reason … you and me having coffee today.

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Family

Living this Life as Family

windows

Here we go again, heading out on a four hour road trip to watch our two oldest boys play basketball.  The time, effort, and money expended to participate in this sport seems silly to some people, but to our family it is anything but silly.

You see, basketball is about more than ballgames to us. It’s an opportunity for our children to become physically active, to form healthy, lasting friendships, and to learn important life lessons.  It also enables us to develop a common interest within our family unit, bonding parent to child and one sibling to another.

I must admit, there are occasions when a game is cancelled at the last minute and I, unlike my children, feel thankful for a night off.  But when it comes down to it, I honestly delight in these times.  I love watching my children on the court, supporting them in their finest moments, and encouraging them through each disappointment.

I am proud of my husband for coaching them and for choosing to be involved in their lives.  I am grateful to be seated on those not-so-comfortable bleachers, cheering them on.  And I’ve learned that whether we’re coaching or sitting quietly in the stands, our very presence speaks love to our children.

Having one already graduated and another on the brink of it, I find myself reminiscing over years gone by.  At the same time, I am trying hard to cherish the moments that lie ahead of me.  I am very much aware of how quickly these days will pass, and I pray I don’t miss them.

So I run myself ragged at times, sorting through mounds of laundry, throwing a good deal of it into four or five separate suitcases, checking and double-checking that uniforms are clean and basketball shoes have made their way into the car.  And off we go on another adventure, enjoying life together as a family, and playing a little basketball along the way.

Please don’t miss the point here, my friend.  Basketball may never be your thing.  But family – now that’s something that always should be.  So do some searching, discover what your family is most interested in, and be intentional about taking part in those things.

As you do so, you’ll find yourself laughing, loving, and supporting one another, cultivating strong relationships between those special people who live within your home.  Relationships that may cause you to do something silly.  Like drive for hours to watch your kids play basketball.

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

Called to Homeschool or Just Plain Crazy?

 

I’ve been accused of being crazy many times. Crazy for marrying young; for purposely having so many children; for choosing to homeschool; and probably for a myriad of other reasons I’m unaware of.  But that’s okay, and I’ll tell you why.

When I first became a mother, I had no idea homeschooling was an option. God began to place several people in my life who knew a thing or two about this non-typical method of schooling.  More importantly, he began to prick my heart about the possibility of joining in.

Initially, I was reluctant.  It wasn’t the daily responsibilities I feared as much as my ability to teach my children to read, explain upper level math, and successfully make it to graduation.  I struggled with my thoughts and concerns.  But as I began to earnestly pray, searching out an answer, God began to clearly reveal to me that this was indeed His plan.

Although I lacked confidence, I came to realize that if God wanted me to homeschool my children, He would certainly enable me to do so.

So what’s a girl to do? I said “yes” to homeschooling. What I did not expect was the wonderful peace I found and the tremendous blessings that were to follow.

Other moms often tell me there is no way they could homeschool.  This is when I share with them that God called me to this task.  He took this young career-minded woman who had no intention of staying at home with her children and transformed her into a mother who wanted nothing more than to be at home with her children. That’s God.  He knew exactly what I needed and what was best for my little family, and I am so very thankful.

While living this journey, we’ve experienced many wonderful days and some fairly difficult ones.  But regardless of how our day –or our year-  is going, our commitment remains the same. We strive to live in obedience to Him, and He is faithful to bless our every effort, even those that fail miserably.

If you’re one of those moms I mentioned earlier, may I put your mind at ease?  Not everyone is called to be a foreign missionary, a pastor, or a teacher, nor is every mom called to homeschool.  As much as I would love for you to embark on this voyage with me, it matters more that you discover God’s will for you.

So my prayer for you, sweet sister, is that you find your calling and pursue it.  It may not bear any resemblance to mine, and that’s alright.  It may not seem the least bit logical to many of your friends or family. But when you know it’s God calling you, you pick up those feet and start walking.  You follow the One who knows what’s best.  The One who longs to give you more than you could ever imagine.  Follow Him.

 

Posted in Faith, Grief

Hope Within Tragedy

crowd in transit station

If you’ve lived long at all, chances are you’ve experienced tragedy on an intimate level.  You may have felt the terrible sting of a broken heart, shattered dreams, or unwanted goodbyes. It is no respecter of age, gender, or nationality.  None of us is immune to its blow.

It shows itself in many forms and can sometimes appear differently to each of us.  What you may see as tragic, I may not fully understand.  What horrifies me may not bother you as much.  But regardless of the situation, tragedy equals struggle for someone.  And if you are acquainted with it on a personal basis, you will most definitely understand the depths of it.

Then there are instances when tragedy strikes on a larger scale.   It takes place in countries we’ve never visited, and attacks hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met.  And although these people are strangers living in faraway lands, our minds will fix on them, our hearts will ache for them.  We will experience sadness for those affected.

Tragedy is the reality of the world we live in today, but it is not what God desires for any of us.  Thankfully, it is also one of those places where God meets us and pours His love out upon us.  How else could such a great showing of love exist in the midst of such adversity?  A love greater than we can fathom.  A love that strings together one human heart to another. A love that enables us to keep moving in spite of our hardships. A love that shouts hope in a setting which breathes hopelessness.

One of my favorite go-to verses for this is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Knowing that God will take all the rough spots in my life and use them for good is a huge source of encouragement to me. It comforts me to know that my tears, my mourning, and my anguish will not be wasted.  He will gather them up and turn them into sweet blessings.

So, my friend, if you are walking through that tunnel of darkness right now, don’t give up.  His grace is the light at the end of your tunnel, and with it He is creating something beautiful for you.

Keep trudging along, focusing on His light, clinging to the hope of the beauty that awaits you… just a few steps more and it will outshine the darkness.

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

Are You Thankful?

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say, ‘Thank you’”?  – William Wardsingle flower

Most nights we rally our children together, each of us sharing our “thankfuls” — the one thing we’re most thankful for that day. I must confess this is not something we’ve always done.  In fact, we introduced this routine of thankfulness only a few short months ago.   It has been an excellent addition to our family prayer time, so much so that I regret having not started it sooner.

Our youngest child especially loves this time.  He thinks hard about his day before deciding what one part has made him the most thankful.  We are often pleasantly surprised at what he comes up with, and consider ourselves beyond blessed to be privy to what our children hold as the dearest piece of their day.

Some of our thankfuls may appear small, casual, or seemingly unimportant. They may include a sudden stop for ice cream or a much needed cup of fancy coffee.  These are small-scale, yes, but we are blessed by them just the same.  Some are much bigger and more important.  Those such as our sweet grand baby recovering from a major surgery and finally arriving home after a two-month hospital stay. Yes, that’s one of those huge thankfuls that is difficult to wrap into words.

But whether trivial or magnificent, it is crucial that we recognize and reflect on these happenings before turning in each night.  We must push ourselves to consider all that has occurred, and to hunt diligently for something we can be grateful for.  We need to realize that even on the most difficult days, there is always goodness lingering about, hoping to be discovered.

What a beautiful concept!  What a wonderful way to close out each day.  And what better way to live a life full of meaning and purpose than to live daily with a heart filled to the brim with thankfulness.

Thankfulness.  Appreciation. Gratitude.

So tell me, friend, what are you appreciative of today?  Does your answer come quickly, or is it tough to find?  If you’re having problems pinning it down, don’t give up the search. It may be buried deep beneath the day’s troubles, but I promise you, it is there. Pursue your hidden gem.  Refuse to say goodnight until you have settled on the one thing you can be thankful for today.  And don’t stop there.  Continue your quest, day in and day out, and you will also encounter the sweetness of life where thankfulness abounds.

Posted in Family, Friendship

Our Words

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14journal

This verse has become my prayer each time I sit down to write.  I carefully ponder what to say and how to say it in a way that breathes life and encouragement to those who hear.  This is so very important.

You see, when our writings are just words on a page, with no consideration for those who will read it, we end up leaving a trail of hurt, anger, and disappointment behind.  Just as words spoken verbally can cause harm, so can words hastily written on paper, through email, or by social media.

Sometimes we need to stop, and be still, and calm down before we speak or write.  We need to take our issues to God before we jump into battle.  We need to allow time for God to align our hearts with His goodness, to help us see the other person as He sees them, to realize that those unlovely people in our lives oftentimes do not know any better.  Possibly even to remind us that we are sometimes the unlovely ones.

When I stick close to God, I find I am often able to forgive and move on without the need to voice my opinions or to defend myself.  Other times when an issue must be addressed, it is wise for me to lean on God for the proper timing – and the proper words.  To ask Him to prepare my heart, enabling me to focus on reconciliation rather than on what I deserve or don’t deserve.  This is so hard, but it is possible with Jesus leading the way.

Have you ever been so aggravated with someone that you decide to “pray” for them in that tattle-telling kind of way?  I hate to admit it, but yes, I’ve done it.  I’ve taken my complaints to God and listed them all out, only to hear Him whisper back, “but what about you, child?” He calls to my memory the occasions when I’ve acted much the same way.  Yet, I am forgiven, and I know I must forgive.

So rather than spewing ugly words back at those who have offended me, I start praying.  I pray for myself.  “God, how do I deal with this?   What should I say?  How do I show your love to this person?”  Eventually, I begin to pray for them.  “God, draw them closer to you.  Help them to truly know Your love and blessing in their life.”  And a funny thing happens, my heart begins to change.

Maybe not overnight, or even within a week or two, but over the course of time, my heart does change.  It begins to love more, to forgive quicker.  The meditations of my heart become more acceptable to God, not because of anything I have done, but because He is my strength, my Redeemer. Likewise, as my heart more closely resembles His, so will my words.  I will choose them more carefully, not only in my writings, but in my daily conversations as well.  And I will be quicker to ask forgiveness when my words depict a heart that is not so lovely, as it most certainly will.

Friends, may we commit to look past our tough exteriors and take a peek at what lies beneath.  May our words to one another be affectionate, extending the grace we so desperately need.  We’re all in this together.  Let’s hold one another up, build one another up, and breathe life into one another with the words we choose.

Posted in Fear

Struggling with Fear

window pane and rain

Fear has always been a struggle for me.

I don’t recall when we first met, but I do know that being shy and introverted provided ample opportunity for fear to show up and take root.  So many occasions, in fact, that it became a regular companion of mine.

I experienced fear as a young child over things that seem silly now.  Fear as a teenager concerning things that weren’t quite as silly, some of which would probably still frighten me today.  Fear as a new mother, and sometimes as the seasoned mother I am now.

Fear, fear, and more fear.

Sometimes it is very subtle, only a random thought passing quickly through my mind. Other times it consumes me as a pounding reality, causing me to squirm and panic.

I don’t like fear. It makes me weak and vulnerable. It hinders me from thinking clearly.  It robs me of sleep and steals peace from my day.  It is a monster, working hard to shut me down.

But something amazing happened in my life. I began to realize fear could be bridled.  Courage could be found. Help was available.  All I needed to do was grab hold of the power accessible to me through my relationship with Jesus.  Somehow I knew this power would enable me to overcome the debilitating effects of fear.

By digging into the word of God, one verse at a time, I learned that God’s people knew a thing or two about fear.  So I memorized a few scriptures such as Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, and Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid… ”

And do you know what I discovered?  The truth and power of God’s word is tougher than fear’s grip.

Yes, fear still rattles me from time to time, but it doesn’t paralyze me.  When it begins to get the upper hand, I unleash my go-to verses, and fear must back down.  After all, it is no match for the One who created me, and loves me, and wants His best for me.  No match at all.

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

A Poem About Life

sunrise

Deep in thought as I sit,
Pondering this life as it is.

It’s often not easy; sometimes not fun.
Yet it’s what we must do until our time here is done.

I wake up each morning, head into my day.
May I never rush on without taking time to pray.

So many decisions lie waiting for me.
How will I choose rightly if Him I do not seek?

So I spend time with Him as my day begins,
And I keep right on with Him until it’s at its end.

I pray for my husband as he guides our way.
I pray for my children, that they will not be led astray.

I pray for extended family, and for my friends too.
For those who are sick; for those who know not what they do.

For my church family, those we are called to serve.
May I point them to Christ with each action and word.

May I never forget what He has done for me.
May I always remember it’s His grace that sets me free.

I am not worthy. I am not good.
I am sometimes broken, other times misunderstood.

Yet I am here, day in and day out.
A vessel for Him, with a message to shout.

A loud voice, no, but a voice just the same.
Telling others of His love, speaking His name.

Still deep in thought of what is to come;
Of life after this…  A victory won.

Beauty. Delight. Days filled with peace.
Like a perfect vacation.  A day at the beach.

No worries. No sickness. No more goodbyes.
That’s what awaits us when we meet in the sky.

So in little ways and big may I reflect His love,
Because when this life is over, it has really just begun.

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Faith

Don’t You Worry

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.    Matthew 6:34

It seems we never cease thinking about tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and then the next one.  We are a driven people, always planning our next move. Whether it’s big plans such as college, career, or marriage, or it’s small plans such as what’s for dinner or what movie we’ll rent for the weekend.

Unfortunately, worry often runs alongside those plans.  Will we snag the right guy?  Will we land the perfect job?  Will we birth healthy children?  Will we encounter happiness and, if so, will it be ours for the keeping?

I can’t help but cringe a bit when I read Matthew 6:34. “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Yikes!  Isn’t that so very true?  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty to deal with today without fast forwarding into tomorrow.  Yet that is exactly what I tend to do.

I rush through the moments of my day, looking straight into tomorrow’s twists and turns.  Particularly when my tomorrow has the potential to terrify me.  That tomorrow which requires me to say goodbye to a precious loved one.  Or to face a risky medical procedure or tough diagnosis.  Or which bears the possibility of losing a source of income or the weariness of a strained relationship.

I don’t like those tomorrows, but sometimes they are our reality.

So how do we push through those worries and truly focus on what lies before us in the here and now? How do we spot the flowers sprinkled throughout the weeds?  The sweet blessings scattered about our lives?

The only absolute I know is this:  We must turn to the One who is acquainted with all our tomorrows. One who is never surprised or unprepared. One who is there to catch us, to carry us, to bring us through our hardest of days. One who loves us. Oh, how He loves us! One who desires to mold our anxious hearts into peace-filled vessels. One who fills us with hope that at the end of difficulty, pink flowersthere is an abundance of beautiful.

Learning to depend on someone other than yourself. Someone greater than yourself.  Learning to trust. Learning to lean. Learning to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

This is the key to a life filled with so much peace and joy that there is simply no room for worry in your delicate heart.  It is attainable.  It is possible.

And when that stubborn worry tries to wiggle its way back into your heart, call on your prayer warriors to stand in the gap for you.  United in prayer, we will conquer this thing called worry.  We will remind each other to count our blessings.  We will point out those hidden flowers to one another.  We will laugh together and sometimes cry together.  Yes, my friend, I’ll pray for you and you’ll pray for me.  And the worries of tomorrow will fade into peace today.