Merciful Mornings
May 11, 2016

There are seasons in life. I’m beginning to accept that there are times when I am flooded with ideas and topics that I want to write about, but there are also crazy-busy times when it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. It has been driving me crazy that I haven’t had the time or energy to update this blog in recent months! Then this past week hit – and I can’t stop thinking of things I want to write about and share! Every day is different, so I don’t dare sit here and promise that I will continue to update as regularly as I’d like over the next few weeks. But for today, here’s one of the biggest issues on my heart. I hope you’ll take a moment to read and consider it…

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I almost slugged a group of college-age kids this week. In church. Not my proudest moment, but the momma bear inside of me just almost took a few girls out right in the middle of a selection of worship songs.

We were at the back of the room, and my kiddos were singing right along with “10,000 Reasons.” They both love to sing, they both love this song, and I have always encouraged them to praise the Lord with everything they’ve got. Monkey #2 is 5 years old, and that boy loves to sing. Not only that, he’s pretty good at it! As he is praising the Lord with all of his precious heart, I notice that big sister is trying to quiet him down. She’s getting visibly upset, and I end up having to call her over so she will leave him alone. When I ask her what’s wrong, this sweet 7-year-old informs me that her brother is singing too loud. The “cool college girls” in front of them are turning around, pointing, and laughing. She’s getting embarrassed.

Let me take a moment to assure you that I know this is not the first or only time big sis will be embarrassed by little brother. I expect it will happen frequently, and I am sure it will often be justified. This was not one of those times.

I calmly let sister know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way her brother is singing, and that they should always praise God as boldly and as loudly as they want. We should never be embarrassed to sing praises, and I am sorry that those girls made her feel that way. I went on to let her know that I am so proud of her and her brother when I hear them singing these songs. She was still a bit reluctant, but she at least went back to her seat and left little man alone.

But then I notice that my sweet boy isn’t singing anymore. He’s looking at those ridiculous girls with the saddest expression on his face.

Y’all, I nearly lost it.

I pulled my sweet boy close to ask what is wrong and why he stopped singing. He says, “Mommy, I don’t think I want to sing anymore. Those girls are laughing and pointing at me. I don’t think I sound very good.” So after I reminded myself that we were in church and got right with Jesus so as not to attack anyone, I gave him the same speech his sister had just received. I let him know that his singing is beautiful to God, and he should never stop singing songs to Him. Jesus loves to hear us sing, and I’m sure those girls were just smiling because his singing was so lovely that they just couldn’t help but turn around and see where it was coming from. Thankfully, that was enough to soothe his precious heart, and he went right back to singing.

So there it was. My innocent baby learned what it means to get embarrassed. To feel shame in the presence of others. He was so confident as he praised God with every ounce of his being… until someone looked at him in a way that made him doubt himself. And how many of us get to that point? When does it begin? That moment when you start to be more concerned with how you are viewed by others instead of how openly and honestly you can worship your Creator…

I hope to always be in a place where I can encourage my children to give their all to the Lord, both with my words and my actions. And if you see a sweet child singing songs of praise and worship, please offer a word of encouragement or a quick thumbs up. Because other momma bears might not have as much self-control as I do. 😉

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

Photo credit: hiding by Alex Snaps (CC BY 2.0)

January 11, 2016

Monday

There are a million jokes and memes out there declaring the misery that comes with Monday. The weekend has ended, work/school is starting back, and everyone is already wishing Friday was much closer than it actually is. Gird up your loins, pull up your bootstraps, and drink all the coffee – MONDAY IS HERE.

Today has been no different for me and my crew. If anything, I have been fighting the Monday-ness of it all even more than usual. And I’m TIRED. Things keep changing, difficult situations seem to pop up every time I turn around, and I have no idea how everything will work out when it’s all said and done.

So now I will sit here. I will take a breath, I will say a prayer for all the things, and I will intentionally remember the blessings surrounding me. Life is changing, but that doesn’t mean the changes will be bad. Most of the changes are crazy exciting, and I am thrilled at how God has worked in my life over the past several months. Even when the future seems uncertain, He always knows exactly what I need next. In fact, I can look back and see ways that He was working before I even knew what was coming. He has prepared me for new relationships, and many of the people in my life now can see how God was preparing them for me as they look back on the time leading up to it. We tend to get scared and anxious when we can’t see what is coming next – especially those of us who like to plan and prepare for everything. Any other Type-A planners out there? I feel your anxiety in the unknown, friends. It can overwhelm us if we let it. But then I remember that it isn’t my job to control everything. My job is to be open to opportunities that God might throw my way and trust that He will work everything for my good. Not my happiness, necessarily. But He will give me exactly what I need. And there is great comfort in that.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Photo credit: 4/365 monday by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

October 12, 2015

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Y’ALL. What in the world is going on with everyone?? It has been way too long since I have been able to connect with you all, and I just can’t take it any more. I miss you, friends. Should I be working on lesson plans right now? You betcha. Are there piles of laundry to be dealt with? Absolutely. The list of “do all the things immediately” is eternal, but I just need a moment to say hi.

Hi. 🙂

This has been a crazy year of LIFE for me and my monkeys, and I find myself still reeling to catch up and find some sense of normalcy for us all. God has sent the most amazing people into our little world, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It never ceases to amaze me when He reaches down to follow through with the promises that we often find ourselves doubting. He is so good.

In a moment of total honesty, I need you to know that this whole LIFE thing can be totally overwhelming right now. While I am dying to connect here and share my moments of crazy with the world, there have not been enough hours in the day to include all of the things that I love. I find myself wearing a million hats and carrying way too many labels these days, and I wonder when it will all calm down to a manageable level. First of all, this Single Mom thing is for the birds. It’s not supposed to be like this, and I am not a fan. Secondly, no one person should be doing the Single Mom thing while also attempting to juggle the Three Jobs thing. Can it be done? Sure. And when that is what has to be done, you suck it up and do it. Right?! Right. So I will continue to wear the hats and raise the kids and do ALL THE THINGS. And I will smile while I do it because God is good, life is carrying on, true friends are an amazing blessing, and I just really want people to see Jesus shining right out of my face.

Every day is different. Some days are much more manageable – they might even seem “normal” or easy. Others leave me wishing I could start the day over or add about 10 more hours so that the eternal list could actually have a dent in it before my head hits the pillow again. I am not sad, angry, or intensely grieving right now – I did that (to the highest degree), and I have graciously been walked through it to the other side. I am in a good place right now, and my current prayer is that I can find a good way to manage all the things that must fit into each day. And when the things don’t all quite fit, I hope I can grant myself the grace needed to move them to the next day or discover that they didn’t need to be there in the first place.

You might be glad to know that I do take a moment to come up for air every once in a while. Here is a recent moment I had with family at a craft fair… with my bucket of sweet tea. 🙂

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So what about you, blog friends? Are you in a season of peace right now, or do you find yourself treading water each day?? If, by some chance, I am not the only one out there attempting to keep my head above water, I would love to hear from the rest of you who can relate. Say hello, vent about your own personal craziness, or share a bit of scripture that encourages you through the rougher times. I know that this is a season that will pass, and I am encouraged by the glimpses of normalcy and peace that are starting to appear here and there.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5

Photo credit: I miss you! by Cali4beach (CC BY 2.0)

September 16, 2015

esther-4-14When life hits hard, it’s always interesting to see what changes and develops. Maybe “interesting” isn’t the best word. Scary? Unexpected? Exciting? I guess it’s different for everyone. However you look at it, difficult life situations bring changes – whether you like them or not. And we truly do have the option to like them or not. I’m not one to believe that your circumstances determine your attitude or demeanor for each day. The devil might have a hand in the events that occur in my life, but he does NOT have control of how I react to them. Remember that whole carrot, egg, or coffee story? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

And sometimes the changes don’t end up being so bad. Maybe the events leading up to the changes are awful, but have you ever been in a situation where the end results almost made it all worth it? People change, life stages shift, and relationships must monitor and adjust. But as you mourn those changes and wish things could stay the same, can you also be open to the new opportunities that present themselves? Maybe you have had to move recently. There can be such grief that comes with that if you are leaving precious friends and/or family behind. But are you leaving yourself open to the potential for new relationships? What if your new best friend is just waiting for you to arrive?

God has this amazing way of turning what we see as horrible situations into blessings and opportunities. And maybe it’s not even a blessing for you – perhaps you were placed exactly where you are because someone else needs you. What if God is positioning you perfectly to bless another soul in need? This “it’s not all about me” mindset makes all the difference in the world… when I can get my thick head back into the right place. It’s hard to step outside of ourselves, especially when there is hurt or grief involved. Can you make that mental switch? If you look around outside of yourself, who do you see? How could God use you today to bless those around you – even if you don’t feel that you are in a place to serve in that way right now? God has promised to give each of us what we need for each day. If your day has been covered, how can you be used to provide that peace for someone else?

Love God. Love people. Blessings, friends.

August 30, 2015

Noah's Ark

Control is a tricky thing. Some people love to have it, while others want nothing more than to give it away. I’m one of those freaks who feels the need to be in control of all the things all the time. How can I do it right if I’m not in control? Better yet, how can you do it right if I’m not in control?? LET ME FIX IT.

So here’s a list of things I have discovered over the years that I have no control over:

1) Other People

2) Bone tumors

3) My children (similar to #1, but much more frustrating)

4) The weather

5) Anything. Seriously, it’s all an illusion.

We can make ourselves think that we’ve got it all under control, but let’s get real for a minute, friends. It’s ok – you’re safe here. Take a moment to admit to yourself that even when you think you’ve got it all together and things are going exactly as you planned them, it could all blow up in your face at any moment. And there’s not a blessed thing you can do about it. Not One. Blessed. Thing.

I see your tears. This is a sad realization for many of us. And here’s the even sadder part: Even after you have come to this truth in your own heart, you still need a reminder from time to time. For some of us, it’s more like from DAY to DAY. I’m not the only one, right?? Solidarity, sisters.

When you look at the story of Noah, that man had a crazy task and responsibility put in front of him. Everyone thought he was totally nuts, and the instructions he was given by God were insanely specific. Do you remember how he handled it?? Here’s a basic summary:

“And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” Genesis 7:5

That’s it. Obedience. No micromanaging, back-talking, rearranging, or second-guessing. Just faith, trust, and obedience.

So today, I challenge you to let it go. That’s right. Sing yourself a little ditty from Frozen and BE FREE. Take a moment to pray over all the things, and have faith that it is resting in the hands of the One Who Made IT ALL. Because there’s no one else who can handle it better than Him.

August 25, 2015

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I was blessed by others today. It wasn’t the most amazing day, but it wasn’t a bad day. It was a Tuesday. A Tuesday that was intermittently sprinkled with people who took time to be the hands and feet of Jesus in my world. I think that’s worth sharing with the interwebs, don’t you?

The day started with Monkey #1 realizing she forgot her lunch as soon as we got to school. Oh, I packed the lunch. I even reminded her to grab the lunch as we were leaving. Such is life. So here were the options:

– Let her suffer the natural consequences and make her go without food all day (while also expecting her to be able to focus at school and have energy)

– Allow her to buy crackers and chips off the snack cart to fuel her day

– Give her the lunch I packed for myself since I teach at the same school and will also be there all blessed day.

Yeah, I’m a sucker. Girlfriend totally got my lunch. It’s much better for Mom to live off of crackers and chips, right? My brain relies more on caffeine than nutrition these days, anyway. So as I’m getting ready to munch on some “peanut butter” crackers and a chocolate covered granola bar that I scored off the school snack cart for lunch, in walks our secretary’s husband with each of their lunches. I’m not talking about Lean Cuisine, friends. This was two containers filled with homemade Italian chicken, tomatoes, onions, and broccoli – one for the secretary and one for her husband. (Because they are precious and eat lunch together when they can. Doesn’t that just make you smile?? LOVE.)

As he walks in, my lunch options are immediately questioned, and I explain why I am being sustained by the snack cart. Bless the man, he warmed his lunch in the microwave and then gave it to me. Because LOVE. He insisted he could get food for himself once he got to work, but that was his wife’s home cooked meal, friends. And I am here to tell you that it was delicious.

For those who might be thinking that I’m a bit overexcited about some chicken and broccoli, I hope you see that it’s not just about the food. There was service, sacrifice, and a loving heart that went with that meal, and I feel blessed to have been on the receiving end. I firmly believe that God sends us hugs through His people, and I felt that one today.

Gift #2 came in the form of fresh, hot coffee from the local coffeehouse right as I was finishing off the cup I had brought from home. I don’t know who brought the vat of coffee into the school office today, but I’m thankful. Coffee is a hug from the inside. Every. Time.

My 4-year-old has a cough. We had to miss karate class today. I have a to-do list that could make the most productive person want to crawl into bed for a week. There is all manner of LIFE that must be dealt with right now.

But I’m ok. I’ve been hugged – inside and out – and I am sustained. Because LOVE.

Photo: Love by Bryan Brenneman (CC BY 2.0)

August 19, 2015

As I wrap up my day and peruse The Facebooks this evening, I am blown away by the number of people who are bemoaning their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Seriously, did your FB wall look like that today?? Everybody and their dog is asking for prayers and hugs and chocolates and coffee (totally understandable under normal circumstances, FYI) and Sonic drinks and comfort foods. Get that girl a donut!!

I admit: My day was not quite so rough. It was exhausting, but it was productive. My house is a wreck, but school work got done and everyone was fed when it was all said and done. We call that success in this house. SUCCESS. I’ll take it in any little form I can get it.

So for those who are thinking it’s time to move to Australia (please tell me you’re getting the Alexander references here), I have this little token for you. I keep this image on my phone at all times. It is referenced often. By me. Because LIFE.

Rough Days(I don’t know the source of this photo, so please feel free to share if you know it’s creator.)

You’re still here. Keep going. Blessings, friends.

August 16, 2015

Bronchitis is the devil.

No, really. I’ve been sick with this mess for entirely too long. Add the illness to minimal sleep, throw in the first week of school, and shuffle in all the stresses of LIFE. Mix it all up really well, and you end up with this sad little neglected blog.

I’ve missed you, friends. How are you? Hopefully you have managed to avoid the “summer cold” that seems to be going around. Drink your liquids, use your essential oils, and get lots of sleep because I promise you do NOT want any of this mess. I did manage to get more sleep this weekend, so I’m praying it’s all uphill from here.

As I attempt to rejoin the land of the living, I just want to jump back into things with this little picture I came across the other day. It sums me up pretty well, and I was glad to see that someone else made something pretty out of these words.

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While I look at these words and think, “YES. Amen!” I also discover a twinge of guilt and regret. One of the hardest things for me when I’m sick or exhausted is that I feel guilty for not being on my A-game. If I’m too worn out – if I have allowed my body to get so tired that I’m barely holding it together – I can’t be this woman that I desire to be.

Holley Gerth had an amazing post the other day about staying strong and avoiding burnout. Confession: This is not my strongest area. I’m loading my plate, doing all the things, and finding myself totally fried at the end of the day. And where do I end up? With weeks of bronchitis. Not exactly the best position to be actively loving the people that God puts in my path, is it? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m not just dying to be loved on by someone who’s hacking up a lung all the time. So what’s the solution?

REST.

Rest in Him. Rest with His word. Rest in knowing that I am one person who must take time to recover and unwind. Jesus took time to go sit alone and pray. To recharge. Who am I to be stronger than the Son of God? It sounds completely ridiculous when you put it that way.

So as I take time to allow my body to rest and heal, I want to encourage you to do the same. You might not be struggling to breathe or hacking up a lung, but I bet there are others ways that your body and spirit are yelling at you. Stop and listen. Take time to rest. Just breathe for a minute. Blessings, friends.

August 5, 2015

coffee

I have read this story before, but I came across it again today and couldn’t pass the opportunity to share it will all of my blog friends. If you’re new here, you might not know about my coffee obsession. If you know me well, then this should come as no surprise to you. This is just another reason why coffee is so wonderfully awesome. Don’t just drink the coffee. BE THE COFFEE.

So here’s how the story goes…

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose. 

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The granddaughter then asked, “What does it mean, Grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor of your life. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you changed by your surroundings or do you bring life, flavor, to them?

ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

~Author Unknown

Photo by trophygeek (CC BY 2.0)

August 1, 2015

Budget

Some of you out there are number nerds. You know who you are. Those who secretly (or maybe not so secretly) get enjoyment from working on a zeroed-out budget each month. You crunch the numbers until they work just right, and then you know exactly where each dollar is going. I envy you people.

I admit there is some satisfaction in giving each dollar a name before the month has even started. Are there others out there doing this, or am I all alone over here?? I didn’t used to function this way. Ahhhh, the good ol’ days of credit cards and overdrawn accounts. Wasn’t that fun? The answer is NO. It was not fun, and I will never go back to that way of living. Thanks to my good friend Dave and several months of figuring out how the budget plans can work for my personal situation, I have finally perfected my method of maintaining a monthly budget. AND IT FEELS GOOD. But this post isn’t meant to be all about budgets and crunching numbers…

As I was working on my money mess tonight, I started spiraling. Some of you who live paycheck to paycheck know what I’m talking about. Those of you who aren’t on a consistent monthly income definitely know what I’m talking about. You can work on this month and try your darnedest to make it all fit. Shelter, food, gas, clothing (if there’s room for that this time), utilities… it all has to squeeze in there somewhere. And as you start adding and subtracting and erasing and changing and adjusting and screaming and wailing (get it together, man!), you start wondering if there will be enough next month. Will the income be the same? Will the bills be higher? How will that all work out???

STOP.

I’m just gonna leave this here:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

Photo: Budget by GotCredit (CC BY 2.0)