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…

hiding

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 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)

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 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 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 14, 2015

Because sometimes the day hurts too much.

Because sorrow can make you feel like you’re drowning.

Because sometimes the people you want to talk to aren’t there for you anymore.

Because relying on your own strength will never be sufficient.

Because there is no way you can do it all alone.

Because anything and everything you could possibly need is found in HIM.
Philippians 4.5-7

Psalm 145.18-19

Psalm 18.16

Psalm 27.13-14

Psalm 27.1

Photos: Philippians 4:5-7 by Tyler Neyens (CC BY 2.0)

My Light and my Salvation by Art4TheGlryofGod by Sharon (CC BY-ND 2.0)