Merciful Mornings
July 30, 2015

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It would be insanely easy to wallow right now. It’s been a rough week. No, that’s an understatement. It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, don’t-make-me-get-out-of-bed week. I guess life happens like that sometimes, but I am not a fan. So now what? Stay in bed all day and ignore the world? Oh, wait. There are two little monkeys who depend on me every day. Ok, Plan B – Suck it up. Get it done. I might not go so far as to don the apron right now, but I did manage to make my bed and get a shower this morning. We’re calling that a win for today, friends. The kids are crafting, we’re all in real clothes (except for the princess – she’s got her fancy dress and crown on today), and everyone has been fed and watered. In an effort to keep this positive trend going. we’re going to take a moment to speak life into our day. The best way I know to do that is by listing things I am grateful for. Praising God right dab smack in the middle of the storm. I’ll get it started, and I would love to hear your list in the comments. Let’s praise Him together today!

1. Family & friends who surround me and my kids with love, encouraging comments, cards, meals, and constant prayer.

2. Coffee. Always coffee.

3. My precious, crazy, funny, exhausting, fantabulous monkeys who give me a reason to get out of bed each morning.

4. Essential oils that boost my spirit & emotional well-being and support my tired immune system.

5. Music. My kids are currently obsessed with The Carpenters, and I love that. We also love the automated playlists of Christian music from iTunes and Spotify.

6. Food. All manner of food. I just really love food.

7. Quiet days at home. They will be few and far between when school starts in a couple of weeks, so I am soaking them up while we have them.

8. Being a child of God and all that this blessing means. The grace, the mercy, the hope, the love.

Ok, your turn! I could use the extra boost – what are you thankful for today?

Photo: Praise you in the storm by jubileelewis (CC BY 2.0)

July 28, 2015

You're Already Amazing book

I was given this book by a friend several years ago, and I wanted to share it with all of my lovely blog friends today (you’re still out there reading this, right?). It was so relevant to me at the time, and I am finding that I need to read it again. I don’t know what the deal is, but women are SO hard on themselves! What is that?! There is this constant self-doubt and thoughts of, “Am I enough?” that run through our heads. And even those who seem to have it all together will struggle with these feelings from time to time – they just might not let their crazy neurotic selves show as much as the rest of us do… Yeah, you know who you are.

Here’s a little blurb about the author from the Amazon website:

“Holley Gerth wishes she could have coffee with you.” (Side note–ANYTIME, Holley!!) “She’s the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of You’re Already Amazing as well as several other books. She’s also a licensed counselor, certified life coach and speaker who provides encouragement as well as practical insights for the thousands of people she connects with each year. Holley cofounded (in)courage.me, an online destination for women that received almost one million page views in its first six months. And her personal site, holleygerth.com, serves over 25,000 subscribers. Outside the word world, Holley is the wife of Mark and together they’re parents to Lovelle–a daughter they adopted when she was 21 years old because God is full of surprises.”

I think Holley and I could be great friends. (Call me, Holley!)

So there’s this book. It’s pretty much awesome, and I highly recommend it to every girl and woman ever in the world. It is based on scripture, and the basic idea is that you don’t have to work so hard to be amazing – you are already amazing because of the God created you and His purpose for you. I read it. I contemplate it. I logically know it to be true. Now I’m taking steps to convince my heart. Will you join me on this quest for realizing our amazingness?? I know it will be worthwhile. Blessings on your journey.

NOTE: I do not get anything from sharing this book with you. Holley Gerth has no idea who I am, and Amazon does not give a flip if I promote a product on their page. This is just me sharing the love. Because you know how I love to love.

July 26, 2015

Thumbs Up

I’ve discovered something odd about myself lately. Normally, I’m a very open and honest individual. I feel like I can share my life with other people, and I love it when others share their lives with me. I think God designed us to be this way, and it makes me sad when people close off and don’t share their lives with others. I just want to break through the hard shell and say, “It’s ok! You’re safe here! You are loved and free to be yourself!” I wish everyone could feel that way with the people around them who say they care. Which leads me to my current dilemma and realization…

Here’s the standard conversation between two people as they pass each other:
“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good, thanks. How are you?”
“Good, thanks!”

THE END.

This is especially normal in a church setting as people pass by each other. But here’s the thing – we’re not all good all the time. It’s just not true! So why are all of these good, upstanding Christians lying to each other? (Side note: I’m not calling you all liars. I know you are “good” sometimes. Stay with me here.) I am not one to give out or accept the standard response easily. If you ask how I am, I’m probably going to be honest. (Hey, you asked! Don’t ask a question if you don’t want the answer.) And if you answer me with “good” or “fine,” there’s a good chance I’ll give you THE LOOK. You know, that look that says, “Really? Is that the truth?? SPILL IT.” It’s not because I’m nosy. I honestly care!

So now there’s all this LIFE happening. The kind that isn’t always filled with sunshine and rainbows. I want to be open with people who ask and care, but I’m feeling like a total Debbie Downer lately. It’s not that I’m sad all the time. My recent circumstances just aren’t all that fun to discuss, and it is what it is. Anyone else having a lot of LIFE lately??

So now I’m torn. There’s the old standard, “I’m good.” Or there’s the option of avoiding people altogether. Is this what happens? Is this why people resort to the standard response, regardless of what is actually happening in life? Is this why some people stop coming to church? Because that is NOT OK. But I’ve gotta tell ya, friend – I’m becoming the extrovert who wants to hide from the world.

This is not a pity party. This is a moment and place to say, I finally get it. Giving the standard answer isn’t always a lazy or cop-out response. It doesn’t mean people are being insincere. Sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. A protective barrier. Some people who say they’re good are really just that – life is good! And for others, it’s a strategic way of avoiding a meltdown or unpleasant conversation for the umpteenth time that week. And sometimes that’s ok.

Please love someone today. Actively show love. You don’t know how “good” everyone is, and the smallest act could make the whole day look brighter. Blessings, friends.

Photo: thumbs up by Sarah Reid (CC BY 2.0)

July 23, 2015

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Oh, social media. The blessing and the curse of this generation. There are SO many ways to “connect” with people now, and yet you can read article after blog post after tweet after Facebook post about how people don’t actually know how to connect anymore. Thankfully, this is not one of those posts. You’re welcome. This one is about a comment that I have seen popping up here and there on Facebook and Twitter (I’m sure it can be found other places–I’m not quite cool enough to have all of the social media platforms going.) So here’s the question I’ve seen that prompted today’s thoughts:

“What am I supposed to do when everyone’s (social media) posts make me struggle so much?”

For serious. This is a thing. And because it is a real thing, I feel compelled to address it with a few truths and suggestions. For what it’s worth, here we go.

Truth #1 – Other people’s comments/thoughts/opinions might not always align with yours. God did not make us to be carbon copies of each other who all think alike. You do not have to agree with everyone on every subject under the sun. You do, however, need to respond in love. On second thought, you don’t always have to respond at all. Just sayin’.

Truth #2 – Important conversations cannot be productive over social media platforms. Ever. Never ever ever.

Truth #3 – You will not always be in the same life situation as others. Is everyone and their dog going on vacation this year while you are stuck at home all summer? Are all of your friends celebrating anniversaries every blessed week while you struggle through a jacked up marriage/separation/divorce? Did 35 of your friends just have a baby while you’ve been struggling with infertility for the past 3 years? Is your father’s best friend’s daughter’s roommate training for a marathon while you go through chemo treatments? Life is hard sometimes. And unfair. And just plain poopy. And social media platforms are the perfect place to realize that.

So now that we have established these truths, here’s my suggestion to those who are struggling with too many feels as they peruse others’ posts.

GET OFF THE FACEBOOKS.

“What?! But if I quit all of the facebookery, I will miss ALL THE THINGS!! What a ludicrous suggestion!”

No. Stop it. If you are struggling with unpleasant emotions and thoughts as your browse the life events and ramblings of your 947 Facebook friends, you need to get the mess off of your phone and computer. Take a break, friend. Anger, jealousy, sadness, greed… ain’t nobody got time for that. Who wakes up in the morning, opens up their social media mess, and thinks, “I wonder what I can find today that will put me in a really awful mood!” Because that’s ridiculous. So why would you continue spending time each day reading stuff that puts you in a really awful mood?? Ridiculous.

I do think it’s important to note that you can be in a rough life situation or have differing opinions and still survive this social media thing. Attitude and perspective make all the difference, and it does take some work to be in the right mindset. I also refer you back to Truth #2 for those of strong opinions. If you really feel the need to make your voice heard about a certain topic, please actually USE YOUR VOICE. Pick up the phone or go get some coffee with a friend. Typing up a response to argue with someone just because they are wrong/crazy and you are absolutely right is the least productive way to handle it. We are tired of your trolling. Get it together. To wrap it all up, I’ll just leave this here:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8

Photo by Niklas Hellerstedt (CC BY 2.0)

July 22, 2015

Junk food

Sometimes I eat my feelings. They taste good. I know I can’t be the only stress eater out there, right? Right?! Please say yes so I don’t feel alone in my gluttony. When the going gets rough, my pantry gets stocked with junk… and then raided. Why is that?? I can guarantee it’s not because the extra carbs and sugar have magical healing powers. Actually, I’m pretty sure my overall inflammation and pain from previous injuries/surgeries get worse when I eat this garbage. But it tastes so gooooood.

Is it worth it? And why is it difficult to break the cycle? Is it just a matter of self-control and I’m just a total slacker? We must FIX THIS. One of the silver linings of having that bone tumor (yes, you try to find them wherever you can) was losing lots of weight. I felt like trash and hurt a lot, but I looked great! Minor trade-off. So now that I’ve done the physical therapy and gotten my general health under control (because essential oils are awesome – stay tuned for more about that later!!), the pounds are starting to creep back up as I eat all the things. Those areas that I was so thrilled to watch shrink are slowly becoming more… jiggly. It’s not that I have anything against jigglyness, mind you. (Jigglyness is now a word. Roll with it.) I’d just prefer it not be a word used to describe parts of my body. Can I get an Amen??

So here’s my cry for help – share your words of wisdom! As long as those words don’t involve anything like exercise. Or effort. Or running – NEVER running. Pretty sure I’m allergic to running. Is there hope? Do you eat your feelings, too? Please share your food/health journey or pearls of wisdom with me. Maybe the group effort of it all will inspire me to GET A GRIP.

Photo: Junk food, grocery store, Houston, TX, USA by Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0)

July 21, 2015

I came across this fantabulous app while surfing the interwebs instead of folding laundry (don’t judge), and I am SO excited to try it out! I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not the biggest morning person in the world. Have I mentioned my love for coffee?? It’s a very real, very deep love, and it is strongest in the mornings.

So my waking-up moments usually consist of thoughts like:

“Do I really need to get a shower today?”

“Can I get away with a ponytail all day?”

“How many people do I actually have to see?”

“I think at least 15 more minutes of sleep will give me enough time before I have to be up.”

Please for the love of being semi-normal, someone tell me I’m not the only one struggling to drag out of bed every blessed morning. And then there are those blog posts, devotional thoughts, inspirational messages that come at you about needing your quiet time with God in the mornings, and the guilt comes at you like a sucker punch. My inner 2-year-old comes out when I’m faced with that possibility. “But I don’t wanna wake up early! I can’t read anything that early! What if I fall asleep while I’m supposed to be praying or reading my Bible?!” Two. Years. Old.

But now we have THIS. Have you seen it? It’s called First 5, and it’s being put out by Proverbs 31 Ministries (whom I love, btw). The whole premise is that your alarm goes off in the morning, and you are immediately faced with a devotional thought that puts you straight into God’s word for 5 minutes. Hey, I can do anything for 5 minutes, and my alarm is now telling me to start the day with God. This is what we call WINNING, friends.

First5

NOTE: Proverbs 31 Ministries is not paying me anything to promote their groovy new app, and I get absolutely nothing if you go check it out, download it, or sign up. I just found something that made me happy, and we’re all about sharing the love here. Feel the love. Go be happy.

July 20, 2015

It’s been a few years since my bone tumor discovery & removal, and I’ve had some new friends asking about it recently. Summer usually brings out more questions since I carry a lovely scar on my right shoulder. It’s stinking HOT here in Arkansas, and I’m not about to be so vain that I can’t wear tank tops when it’s 100*+ outside! Besides, I’m kind of proud of my battle scar. The tumor came, it was removed, and I survived. So for those who haven’t heard the exciting story (or for those who might’ve forgotten), here’s the thrilling tale of how I broke my arm while attempting to kill a bug.

Monkey #1 was only 2 1/2 years old at the time. She was in her bed refusing to nap on a Friday afternoon, and she started yelling that there was something in her room. This was infuriating since she also shared her room with Monkey #2, who was almost 8 months old, and I would’ve paid a good amount of money if they would just go to sleep. I went in to tell her that she was fine and needed to go to sleep, but a HUGE bug crawled across the floor. Pretty sure that sucker had a knife. And guns. It took a minute to get my girl calmed down and into the hall, and then I went to grab the biggest shoe I could find so I wouldn’t miss. I’m not really sure what possessed me to use the arm that had been hurting and getting weaker over the past few weeks, but I did. (Side note: I had neck surgery a few years prior to this incident, so doctors were attributing all health issues to my neck at this time.) Holding the shoe in my right hand, I brought it up over my head and down towards the floor in an effort to annihilate the bug. As soon as the shoe hit the floor, I screamed in pain. My poor girl thought the bug had gotten me, bless her heart. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew I was in a LOT of pain, and it was bad. I managed to get someone to come stay with the kids and get a ride to the ER. At this point I’m thinking I must’ve done something awful to a muscle or dislocated my shoulder. Fantastic.

After several hours of waiting in the ER, I finally got an x-ray of my shoulder and neck. I was in shock when the doctor brought us back to see the x-ray and told us that I had a pretty big cyst in my humerus (upper arm bone). He said it had weakened the bone so much that I fractured my humerus when I tried to kill the bug… sooo…. I broke my arm by killing a bug. As one does. He said he’d already shown my x-ray to the orthopedic surgeon in town, and he said the cyst didn’t “look” like was cancerous, but he did think we needed to go in, remove the cyst, and possibly do a bone graft so my bone would grow back. So in a few hours, I went from a possible muscle strain to a hopefully non-cancerous bone cyst that needed surgery, a bone graft, and a broken arm that couldn’t be casted. After a consult with the orthopedic surgeon the following Monday, I was shipped off to the Orthopedic Oncology clinic at UAMS in Little Rock. The amazing oncologist there discovered that my “cyst” was actually a giant cell bone tumor, and we had it removed by the end of the month. The bone somehow managed to re-break a couple of weeks after the surgery since it was too thin to stabilize with a metal plate and screws (thanks, giant tumor), so recovery and physical therapy didn’t go quite as smoothly or quickly as originally anticipated. Recovery took FOREVER. This is what a goober looks like when she finally gets her hair in a ponytail after more than 3 months of not being able to move her arm that direction:

Ponytail

Don’t judge – it was a big deal. So here we are – 3 1/2 years later – and I am tumor free! I could be super positive and upbeat about it all by telling you how great it is to be on the other side of it all, but I think we’ve established that I’m a bit more open and honest than that. It was a horrible, scary, exhausting, debilitating period of life. Now that I am several years removed from it all, I am breathing a bit easier. The looming cloud of fear and doom isn’t hanging around quite as often, but it pops up every now and then when my arm starts getting sore or if I have a day where the pain level creeps up again. And you might think you are humble, but nothing shatters your pride like relying on strangers to change your baby’s diapers and clean your bathrooms.

Tumors are stupid. Cancer is dumb. No one should have to go through the physical, mental, and emotional roller coasters that come with that type of disease. I do not know how people manage difficult times without church family to carry them through. You people know who you are. Those who took shifts at my house to care for my children, do my laundry, clean all the things… those who cooked our meals and drove me to physical therapy appointments. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole, but God used His people to wrap me up in His arms and show His love through the garbage of it all. I will never forget that, and I pray that I will constantly be given opportunities to show that love to others. If you are going through the trenches now, you do NOT have to do it all by yourself. It is hard – it is humbling – but you have to let people in. We weren’t meant to do this whole life thing by ourselves, even when it feels like no one could possibly understand or make it better.

So there’s my story. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I’m taking it all one day at a time. If you have a story to share, send it my way via the Contact button at the top of this page or leave a comment here. Love and blessings on your day, friends.

July 19, 2015

Candle quote

What I LOVE about this quote:

1) The reminder to shine the light of Christ to anyone I see (or talk to, or message with, or blog to, or breathe air with… you get the idea). More lit candles = More light. I love light. Yucky stuff hangs out in dark corners so I’ll choose a bright spot over darkness any day.

2) The idea that sharing any light I might have doesn’t mean I lose that light. If I’m on fire about something, it’s easy to spread that fire and energy to others; it’s contagious! Don’t you love being around someone who is over-the-moon excited about something? It’s so much fun!

3) The knowledge that just because things feel dark and desperate doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. Ok, this one is HARD for me sometimes. I hate feeling alone, but I also don’t want to ask for help. It’s not a pride thing anymore. God made sure I got over that one a long time ago. It’s more of a “I’m sure they’re already busy with their own life/stress/business/family/craziness” thing, and I don’t want to add to their overflowing plate. I’m thinking of others, right? This is me being considerate! But here’s the flaw there: No matter how busy/stressed/crazy MY life might be, I always want to know if those around me could use some help. Actually, I get frustrated when I find out that someone near me has been struggling but not telling me about it because they didn’t want to “bother” me with their problems. What?! Not acceptable. And as I come to this realization about myself, I have to consider that it might be true for others around me. When you have a heart focused on loving others, there is JOY in having the opportunity to serve.

We’re supposed to take care of each other, friends. Get out there this week and SHINE.

Find yourself in Service

Photos: Illuminating by brett jordan (CC BY 2.0)

Mahatma Gandhi The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others by BK (CC BY-SA 2.0)

*Shared at Fellowship Fridays

July 17, 2015

Burning Building

After finishing yesterday’s post, I realized something very important was missing. Anyone can give you tips to help you get stuff done. Seriously, just do a google search (if you’re into that sort of thing). There are all manner of posts with tips, tricks, steps, lists… you name it, the interwebs will have it. But there’s something missing from this whole equation that no one can give you. A missing link that we each have to come up with on our own.

WHY??

That’s it. One little word. There are things do be done, people to be helped, daily tasks to be accomplished… but why will do you them? If you don’t have a “why,” then it’s tough to follow through with all of the lists and steps and hokey pokey dance moves that are required to get it all accomplished. Why are you doing the things that need to be done? If you find that you lack the motivation to do all the things, chances are you’ve lost your “why.”

Another component to the “why” part of your daily equation is its intensity. How big is your “why”? I heard the best explanation for this the other day as I was completing a business training session. She called it the “burning building why.” In an attempt to share that illustration without butchering it, here goes…

If I put a beam on the floor – not raised, just sitting there – and told you I would give you $100 if you crossed it, would you do it? DUH. Hello, free money!! What if I raised it up 20 stories and suspended it between two buildings. There’s no safety net. No ropes or bungee cords. Is it worth crossing that for $100? (I see you out there, you thrill-seeking crazies. Get it together.)

Ok, last scenario. The beam is still crazy high in the air between the two buildings. But now the building on the other side is on fire – and your kids are over there (for those who don’t have kids, imagine it’s your spouse, parent, sibling… you get the idea). Do you even need the $100 reward anymore?? HECK NO.

There it is. Your “burning building why.” What is it in your life that gets you revved up like that? I’ve got a couple of them that I don’t mind sharing with you. We’re all friends here, right? Right.

WHY #1: My two kids. I love my cheeky monkeys like nothing else on this earth, and it’s my job to make sure they’re taken care of. They need a (relatively) clean house, clean clothes, food to eat, a house of some sort to live in, and all the love I can give them. So when the laundry is piling up and we need clean clothes for school? Suck it up. Get it done. When it’s raining cats and dogs outside but I know there’s nothing in the house to cook for dinner and PLEASE don’t make me get out of this house with two kids to go grocery shopping!!! Suck it up. Get it done. Burning. Building. Why.

WHY #2: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). That’s kind of a big deal. Anything I do is to be done in the name of Jesus – no pressure, right?? Not only that, I need to be grateful while I do it. Confession time: I’m not always feeling thankful while I sweep the sand and play doh and crumbs and I-don’t-even-know-what off my floors. It’s not impossible to do, but that’s not my first reaction. So serving the God who created me and gave me all that I have while I’m doing the daily tasks? Burning. Building. Why.

I’m trying to apply this in every aspect of my life right now, but some days take more effort than others. If all you accomplish today is finding a “why” for getting your rear out of bed and putting on real clothes, WAY TO GO!! If you’re finding your “why” for giving your business the boost it needs, DO IT. Find your lists, find your tips, and find your simple steps… but don’t forget to find your WHY.

Photo: metropolis burning by Ryo Chijiiwa (CC BY 2.0)

July 16, 2015

Kids baking

You might’ve noticed from the “don’t judge my dirty house” post that I struggle a bit with being super productive every day. I know we’re allowed to take breaks and rest and find peace and all of that stuff, but I just really want to do that every. blessed. day. Here’s the thing, though–if I can manage to pull up my big girl panties and get started on all the things, I can dominate this whole life thing. It’s taking some time, but I’m slowly finding things that give me a push in that direction. In an effort to help you get over the slothfulness of your morning/afternoon/evening, I’d like to share some of those things with you. Because I’m just giving like that. And I love your face. And I wish someone would come kick me in the rear sometimes.

So here’s your kick.

– When you wake up in the morning, MAKE THE BED. I’m really sorry, Mom, but this is one chore that I just didn’t keep up with over the years. I have discovered, however, the purpose for pulling up those covers and piling on the pillows every morning. That bed has magical powers. It’s like a friggin black hole, and every time I walk past it, it tries to suck me back in. And if the covers are still turned down in the afternoon, I feel that I must take a nap. I mean, the bed is already prepped for it. It would be rude not to, right? NO. Suck it up. Get stuff done.

– Put on an apron. Ok, this might not be the most manly suggestion for those who aren’t of the female persuasion. (Are you out there, men? Is anyone reading this?) If there are dishes to be washed or food to be prepped, I am much more likely to stick with it all until it’s done if I just put on that apron. What is it about that little piece of fabric? It’s like a backwards superhero cape that turns me into Suzy Homemaker, and I feel like I can conquer the world! Or at least my kitchen. I did it this morning (after making my bed, of course), and I finally dealt with all of those “hand wash only” dishes that have been staring at me for days. I even baked banana muffins with the kids! What?! Not a common occurrence in this house (don’t judge me, Martha Stewart-type people), but it was fun and we had breakfast when it was all said and done. WIN.

– Coffee. This needs no explanation. Just do it.

– Make a reasonable list. This is not a list of all the blessed things that need to be accomplished in your house to thoroughly cleanse it. This is a small list of things that you know you can actually accomplish before going to bed at night. If you need to get the stress of ALL THE THINGS off of your mind, make that huge list and tuck it away somewhere. Each day, pick a couple of those things to add to your “get it done today” list. Just a couple. Don’t be an overachiever, friend. We’re taking baby steps here.

There are a lot of other things I could add here, but that might be another post for another day. If you have suggestions for more ways I can suck it up and get it done, please leave them in the comments. I can use all the help I can get! Blessings on your day.