It's not quite a quiver full, but it's a start!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reinventing the Advent

The only thing I knew of the Advent (from the Latin word meaning "coming") growing up was that you get a little gift each day counting down to the really big gift you get on Christmas. Well, that's all really fun, but I think the last thing we need is another way to focus on what it is we are getting for Christmas. Now, don't get me wrong, my hubby and I just built our kids a wonderful advent house and we will be doing it with the kids every day. They will get a small ornament each day to decorate their tree to help them count down to Christmas. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts on Christmas. In fact giving is a very important thing to teach our children. And getting gifts is fun too. It makes us feel special, it makes us feel loved, it makes us feel appreciated. But what are we doing beyond that? Are we taking advantage of the holidays to make family memories, teach our kids about serving others, and remembering the true meaning of the holidays? Here are some great ideas I've found to incorporate into your holiday season to help focus on something other than just how many gifts we will get. For each of these you can use the traditional advent house or calendar or just make a paper chain with the information written on each link (one of my personal favorites). You can search Pinterest for some really fun and different ideas on how to make your own advent.

The Arts and Crafts Advent. This is a really fun way to make memories together (and is great for finding things to do while your kids are out of school). Pinterest, again, is a perfect resource for activities to do with your kids! Find my follow me on pinterest button on my left sidebar to check out my boards for ideas. Pick a craft to do each day leading up to Christmas. Your kids will love it, and you will enjoy the purposeful time spent together.

The Service Advent. Your kids are never too young to learn to put others before themselves. Whenever I think of families serving together, I picture them lined up in hair nets serving at a food kitchen. A great idea, but there are so many other options. And I'm sure there's some you can find that will be much more appealing to your children. It's not about forcing them to serve, it's about getting them to want to serve others and teaching them how to do it. Have them pick out a few of their own toys, books, or clothing to donate (Hint: make sure it's not just a throw-away they don't want anymore. Ask how they would feel if someone gave it to them.) and have them pick out a few new toys to bring to a children's shelter. Get them involved in canned food drives. Have them save up some change from their allowance or pay them to do little things around the house and have them drop it into the Salvation Army buckets in front of stores or into the offering plate at church. Help your kids make handmade cards and letters to deliver to a local nursing home or the elderly members of your church. Fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Once you start thinking of ideas, you'll realize just how much there really is you can do. Get your kids' friends involved too so your family can serve side-by-side with another family you have grown close to.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season Advent. We say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but are we really teaching it? Since Christmas is focused on Christ's birth it is an excellent time to teach your kids about things you maybe wouldn't know how to bring up during the year. Make a scripture chain with verses for your children to memorize. Do links with the story of Jesus's birth beginning when the angel told Mary she was pregnant. Put the Roman road on links. Or do a chain that studies the different names of God. There are tons of great ways to do this! This is a post I found a few years ago that has a great advent chain for learning the true meaning of the season through scripture. Or you can make advent ornaments as you study the names of God together like this mom did. And this is a great nativity story chain for your younger children (begins on Dec 11 rather than the first). There's not a lot of detail and it's very simplified so it's perfect for those first few years of teaching.

If you search you can find many, many, many other ideas! Way too many for me to post. Tomorrow is Dec 1! So get your Advent ready and begin a wonderful new tradition of playing, serving, and learning with your family. I, honestly, think the best advent is a combination of all 3 of these. I can't wait to begin this journey with my own family!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Beauty of Darkness

There's a reason evil lurks around in dark places. Pretending it's beautiful, masquerading as perfection, a promise of greener pastures. Wishful thinking, regret, what-ifs. Mocking, luring, destroying. We hold these secrets inside. Guarding them in the core of our being, protecting them as if our life depends on it. Reveling in the beauty, the seduction, the raw emotion. Oh, how beautiful these inner secrets seem. How precious to our sense of being. We become lured in and entangled, and we like it there. The way these secrets feel, the tingle up our spine, the promises they make. Oh, but these secrets, these beautiful, wonderful, glorious secrets that we curl ourselves up in, once exposed to the light are nothing but ugly, dirty, worthless lies. The way others feel about us that serve as our motivation. The secret pain in our hearts, the lust of the flesh, the burning anger. The wounds that we peel open, the desires that we seek, the flames that we fan. We keep them in the dark, because they are beautiful there. We hide them as far from the light as we can because we know, we fear, that once they are brought into the light they will be revealed for what they truly are. Brick walls built up around our hearts, chains enslaving us to another, a passionate fire destroying us from inside our own selves. Yes, it is beautiful, but only in darkness. Once exposed, we can try to pretend, but we know the truth. We can try to cover up, but it has been revealed. We can try to get the feelings back, but the excitement is lost. There is beauty is the dark, but only true beauty can survive when brought into the light. And the ugly is only uncovered once we recognize the darkness it's been hiding in. The truth that it hides behind. The true joy and pleasure that awaits us, rather than the un-fullfillment, the hunger that these secrets will bring. The ultimate lie that hides in the darkness so well, that there's really no beauty there at all.

These are a few of my favorite things...MUSIC

O Holy Night



Mary, Did You Know?




I Wonder As I Wander

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Here, It's Here, It's Finally Here!


The countdown is on! Thanksgiving is over, so that means it is finally time to turn on the Christmas music, break out the decorations, and finish up all my holiday crafts! Although Christmas music at my house is kept to a minimum because I am such a bah-humbug about too many carols, don't ask me why because I have no idea. There is one thing that definitely gets me in the spirit...crafts!!! I mean, have you seem my "Amish at Heart" page? Come on, y'all, this is what I do! So, my project list is growing to enormous lengths, I have 5 days to finish the advent house I am building for the kids, and I am going to brave into making our Christmas ornaments this year (oh yes, I'm going to go there). And there will be no paper chains and posicle sticks (ok, there might actually be some paper chains). Confession time, I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I mean, hand painting for someone as OCD as I am has been a trial in and of itself, and it requires every ounce of strength to make myself love the not-so-perfect outcome of projects I pour hours into. Plus, I have expensive taste on the budget of a stay-at-home mom wife of a teacher, and I refuse to settle for less than what I want (why do you think we started building our own furniture anyway?) So here is my attempt to make Pottery Barn beautifulness and spend as close to nothing as possible. Pictures will be coming soon, but in the mean time check out this great free e-book  Handmade Holiday Decor at The Handmade Home! There's something in there for everyone, and I'm sure it will help to get you in the crafting mood!

Look for this logo to download your free ebook!

The Not-So-Perfect Life

God's sense of humor, or rather irony, seems to be a pretty on-going theme in the story of my life. His constant little "tests" to see if I'm going to practice what I preach. OK, so maybe that's not God, maybe that's just life doing what life does while God is preparing me for it, but doesn't it seem like every time you try so hard to master something, every little thing is going to start going wrong? I've been trying to "master" the art of Thanksgiving over the past 25 days, to truly be thankful for the hard things in my life. To pour the fruits of the Spirit into everything I do rather than living through my own strength. Well, the past 24 hours have been just one test after another (hopefully, I passed more than I failed, although I know there were times I could have done better...but, hey, I'm a work in progress!) It was one of those times when I could almost feel God's eyes on me, wondering "Is she going to have a pity party, or is she going to put into practice everything she preaches?"

I think the quote "Life's what happens when we're busy making plans" perfectly describes my Thanksgiving this year. While I had everything all planned out a certain way, while I had my ideas of how to make this Thanksgiving successful, life had other ideas. I've had an on-going migraine for 4 days now. We've had a difficult time juggling family schedules this year and, of course, no matter how hard you try someone's feelings get hurt. My house is a disaster zone and none of our projects have been finished. And, on the children front, my oldest got a stomach virus, while my daughter began having nightmares, and my baby is going through a growth spurt. All of this is a recipe for disaster for me. Not feeling well + already feeling like things are just not working out + a not-so-inviting and increasingly stressful environment + dealing with sick, cranky, non-sleeping children = perfect opportunity for me to completely lose it. Thankfully, I feel like God has been preparing me for this moment. From learning how to parent in the Spirit, to my gentleness and wife challenges, to learning the art of being truly thankful, everything God has been speaking to my heart is what helped me make it through this week with my sanity still intact. So, even when (or maybe I should say "especially when") things seem to be going perfectly in my life, I know that right around the corner are those not-so-perfect moments just waiting for the perfect time to ambush me and it's normally all at once. Luckily for us, as Christians, we are prepared, we can handle it, and we can make it through these times. And even though this Thanksgiving is probably the "worst" when I look at it from a situational standpoint, it has been the Thanksgiving of the most learning, the most growth, and the most opportunity for growing together as a family.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Close to a Wonderful Thanksgiving

At the close of the day, I am so thankful for such a Gracious Thanksgiving. For the ability to bring to God an offering of thanks for the hard things and for the hardest thing. Now I will continue on my Journey to 1,000 things because Thanksgiving is not just about the season. I will continue until I reach 1,000 and then I will continue on to one million. I will continue to live my life thankful in everything because He gave His everything for me.

"When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all
."


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for the Hardest Thing

I will praise you in this storm, and I will lift my hands.
For you are who you are, no matter where I am.
Every tear I've cried, you hold in your hands, and though
my heart is torn I will praise you in this storm.

We all have our testimonies, the things in life God has used to glorify Him. Some are triumphs, some are trials. Some are amazing blessings, but some come with unfathomable heartbreak. Today, on Thanksgiving, I praise God for the hardest thing: Tragedy. For the life taken before it really had a chance to begin. For a little boy, who glorified God more in his death than most ever will in a lifetime. In these moments when we cry out "Why?" but already know the answer.

My friend lost her firstborn son, Scout Russell Secrist, 3 days before her due date. Delivering him still on December 26, 2008. A beautiful life that some would consider lost, but that we know was purposed for the Kingdom. Jesus holds this little boy, loving him perfectly, until his mommy and daddy can finally hold him again and see his beautiful smiling face. And because of this little boy many new souls will enter into the throne room of God. Scout, I am so thankful for you, for your testimony, for the hope you brought to so many. I am thankful that in time of such devestation God showed up, God healed lives, and God brought life even through death.



Praise God for restoration, for healing, for life continued.
Rusty and Katye with their beautiful family,
Scout's loving siblings, Deacon and Charli Kate.

Half way to 1,000 things...journeying to one million

Thankful for the Hard Things

This Thanksgiving I challenged myself to truly think about what I am thankful for. For 25 days, to journal as many things as I can hoping to reach 250 things on my journey to 1,000, until I reached the point where I was truly thankful in all things. Along the way, I realized how awkward I felt lifting everything up to God, but found such freedom in the worship that came with vocalizing, journaling, and bringing all of my circumstances to the Lord in thanksgiving. I reached a point where giving thanks in even the hard things became more natural, where I learned to give thanks for the most precious gift God had given me but I had never brought before Him. And today, on Thanksgiving Eve, in preparation for my 25th Day, I will thank God for the one of my hardest things: Autism.


The journey through diagnosis and healing has not been an easy one, but who am I to be thankful for only the easy things? Who am I to discount the power, the testimony, the beauty, that comes from the trials? Who am I to tell God that when he created my beautiful baby boy that He made a mistake? In fact, if there's one thing I learned through this journey it's the perfection in His plan, including autism. If ever I was given the choice to change my son into the world's version of "perfect" I would not think twice. I would not think twice because the answer would be, "no." Why would I want to change who my son is? Just because it is difficult? Just because he's not "normal"? Why would I change the perfection that is my autistic son, just because the world does not see him as perfect?

Autism is the reason I love my son.  I do not love him in spite of his autism, I love him because of it. I love his Independence, his "engineer" mind, his quirks. Is it hard when he doesn't make eye contact, when he tries to hurt himself or others, when he didn't speak for the first 18 months of his life? Yes, but every parent deals with difficult behavior, does it mean they love their child any less?  Why would his behavior effect my feelings for him? Why would his autism make me love him any less? In fact, the things I love about him the most, the things that make him unique, are all attributes of his diagnosis. I love how he took my double stroller apart and I couldn't put it back together (what 2 year old knows how to successfully use a screw driver?) I love how he has such a teacher's spirit, spurred on by his therapies. I love everything about this little boy and everything he has brought to my life.
So today, as I thank God for the hard things, I will thank God especially for my son, for autism, for God's perfection brought to us in imperfect packages.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gracious Thanksgiving



Sunday as we did communion I was amazingly caught up in the moment. I always associate Christ's death with Easter, but remember the joyous resurrection. I don't know if I have ever actually lingered very long on thoughts of Christ's death. I do remember watching the "Passion of the Christ" and while He was hanging on the cross begging Him not to do it, begging Him to show His power, to come off of the cross, to not let the bad guys "win". Obviously, His death was the only way there could be true victory, but as I ate the cracker and drank the juice I was caught up in what His death meant in terms of Thanksgiving. His death is the reason why I can be thankful, the reason there is hope. Because of His grace I can be grateful. So this Thanksgiving, I will add to my list of 1,000 a few things that I have never found myself thanking God for...

I am eternally thankful for Jesus's body being broken for me,
for His humiliation,
for the pain and torment He had to suffer,
for His blood that was spilled with no regret,
for His flesh torn with such hatred from His bones,
for the holes pierced into His body,
for the sheer pain God faced as His beloved son, the flesh of Himself, was killed,
for the heart that had sacrificed to become man,
for the heart that was forced to stop beating all because of me,
for the victory that was won that day,
for the hope His death brings,
for the purpose rather than worthlessness He has given me,
for the joyous resurrection,
for the love He has for me even though it is I who forced Him onto the cross, that it was I who forced Him to die,
for His abundant grace,
for His gracious provision so that I can be gracious to others,
for the gratitude He has brought to my life,
for sacrificial love,
for everyday reminders,
for the God of the Universe to think more of me than He does Himself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith in Action

What are we as Christians doing to drown out the noise of the world? To protect others from the lies, the hatred, and the attacks that come from unbelievers (or as this video shows, those who claim to believe, but have no concept of God)? We should be rallying around each other, creating a physical buffer, and supporting our fellow believers when they come under attack. I pray that I do not just stand on the sidelines, or heaven forbid contribute to the attacks on my fellow believers, but that my faith would be an active faith. James 2:20-24 "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,' and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." Do your actions reflect your faith? Do they set you apart? Are your actions helping to spread the message of Christ, or are your actions, like so many others, bringing harm to the Kingdom?


Watch More Christian Videos on GodVine.com

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Biblical Blogging

On my blog hopping ventures, I recently ran across the blog of a man who stated, "The problem with Christian bloggers is that they all begin to think they are 'Billy Grahams'." And when several began to agree that it is a problem that many Christians are beginning to view themselves in this light, I say it is a problem that all Christians don't see themselves this way. What is it about Billy Graham that makes him more "capable" than any other Christian? As Bible believers we should all have the same message, and we all have the same call on our lives to share this message. The only thing that set Billy Graham apart is the sheer numbers that God drew into his path. Well, guess what, as a blogger God has the ability to draw millions into your path every day. You are literally preaching to the entire world! You are accountable to God for every word you preach, or don't preach. You are responsible for sharing the message of God, for sharing it rightly, and for sharing it with as many as God brings into your path. Your calling is the same as that of Billy Graham, and don't underestimate that.

...So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11)... If you share the message with the masses read this article and remember as you write that it is not about you and all about Him.
Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Journey Continues...

Have you been following along with my 25 Days of Thanksgiving? Where have you gotten on your journey to 1,000? Did you notice, like I did, the amazing (yet strangely difficult) act of worshipping God through giving thanks? I hope you have reached a point where giving thanks has become a natural part of your day, that it no longer takes much thought to remember what God has blessed you with daily, that you are able to give thanks in the good and the bad.

My confession is that I have not been journaling my list daily. It is so important for me to make this a physical act rather than a mental one so I have to focus on it while doing nothing else. Perhaps it's the fact that I got farther than expected so now I have the "freedom" to skip a day here and there and still reach my goal. I feel I need to hold myself accountable to a daily list, to make it about the time spent rather than the numbers reached! Maybe I should set a goal of one million things, so I don't have the excuse to slack on my list!

My encouragement about this journey is that I'm finding it easier than expected to thank God for everything. The recognition that God is in control of every detail, knowing that amazing things come out of hard situations, and feeling grateful for the trials has been an amazing revelation. In fact, this makes me linger on 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." How have I missed the message that it is God's WILL, His calling, for me to be thankful for every thing my life is made of? God has revealed to me that it is His will for me, not because He wants me to tell Him how great He is, but because He wants me to recognize His greatness. He wants me to have the freedom that comes when we are thankful for the bad things rather than overwhelmed and enslaved by them. When we recognize that God has a plan, that we just need to wait out the storm, we can thank Him for whatever it is He is doing. The focus is once again placed on God rather than ourselves. As I linger on my list, on #350 on day 20 of my journey to 1,000 things, seeing the thread of thankfulness God is weaving into my spirit, feeling the freedom of complete trust in Him, I can't wait to see what the day has to bring. I can't wait to add to my list. To make it to 1,000 and beyond.

***When I found this blog post this morning I was so excited! Knowing this was my scheduled post for tomorrow I had to edit it so I could link the post in here. What a great idea of worshipping with song...It especially spoke truth to me since I recently began singing through my gentleness challenge. Take a moment to read this post when you have a chance Living To Please God: Responding to Trials with Worship.***

Friday, November 18, 2011

Completion of the Bedroom Makeover: The R&R is back!


When I saw this challenge I said, "Bring It!" Well, let me tell you, it has already been "Brought-en!"  I hope you all saw my original post about bringing back the RandR and were following along with me at AMothersHeritage but if not here's your chance to catch up and do your own Master remodel!


Do you remember my awful BEFORE picture? Well here it is again...

YIKES!!!
 I am so proud (and my hubby is so thankful) to be able to show such an amazing after...

TADA!

I re-arranged the furniture, made some new art work, and found some extra accessories laying around to complete this for a grand total of $0 and a lot of hard work! I can't wait to spend some time relaxing in our room for the first time since we moved into our home a year ago!

Here are Jenny's instructions for accomplishing your master make-over! I hope you enjoy as much as I did! Follow along with her as you Declutter, Deep Clean, Color Coordinate, Accessorize, and Enjoy and Maintain your haven (just 5 simple steps)!






          Mommy Teaching for the Non-Teacher Mommy

          I'm so excited to be guest posting today at The Mommy Teacher!


          The Mommy Teacher


          There are some mommies lucky enough to have the experience of teaching, some blessed with the gift of teaching, then there’s some who just throw a bunch of ideas at their kids and hope that just one will stick. None are wrong, although some may be easier and work better than others, but when it comes to being a mommy teacher the only rule is to keep kids engaged!
          continue reading here!

          God's Masterpiece is Mother


          God took the fragrance of a flower,
          The majesty of a tree,
          The gentleness of morning dew,
          The calm of a quiet sea,
          The beauty of the twilight hour,
          The soul of a starry night,
          The laughter of a rippling brook,
          The grace of a bird in flight.
          Then God fashioned from these things
          A creation like no other,
          And when his masterpiece was through
          He called it simply – Mother.

           Herbert Farnham

          Thursday, November 17, 2011

          They're All My Favorites!

          When I first became a mother, I had no idea it was even possible to love someone so much. I have loved much in my life, but nothing compared to the true, unconditional, pure love I felt that started the very first moment I saw my little bean during my first ultrasound at 7wks. Before he was even fully formed, before he had taken his first breath, before I even saw his face, I loved him. The moment I held him I felt like I could never love anyone that much...ever. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was ecstatic, seriously over the moon! I knew I would love her, I felt I could love her just as much because she was a "she" so it would be different than it was with my son. At the same time, I still worried that I just wouldn't have enough love to go around. The amazing thing was when she was born the "seperation" of my love that I had been trying to prepare myself for never happened, in fact, it was the exact opposite. I not only loved her, but I loved her just as much as I had loved Maddox that first moment, and I never "lost" any of the love I felt for my son. In fact, as they grew the love I had for both of them grew as well, not only because of them, but because of how they were together. Watching them interact, seeing the love God had knit into their hearts towards each other, I loved them even more than the very first day. My love just continued to grow. And with the addition of Kason, I felt my heart might burst from too much love. I worry, not that I may not love them enough, but that I may love them so much that I won't be able to stand it. That with each addition to our family, my heart will become so full, that I just won't be able to continue.

          I heard a lovely woman speak today about her children, and I pray that as my children grow the words she spoke about her children will be woven into the fabric of my own family. She has 5 children and recounted an amazing moment when some friends had asked her which was her favorite. I've gotten this question from people who don't have multiple children, who worry, the same way I had, that with each additional child your love for the other children changes. She told them, as I would have, that she loves them all equally, that she loves them all in their own way because of who they are, but she does not love any of them more than the other. That is obvious to me, but what she said next is what I will claim for my family, what I will pray I can instill in my children as they get older. Each child, one after the other, came to her privately and told her, "I know that I'm your favorite. I know you couldn't say it in front of the others, so we'll just keep it between us." What a precious, precious moment for that mother. To know that she is raising her children in such a way that each one feels they are her favorite. That none feels left out, that none feels less important, that they not only feel "equal" but that they each see themselves as "the best". Praise God. So how do we do this? How can we accomplish this sense of importance in our children?

          It's another "complaint" I've heard about the Duggar family. That there is "no way they can give enough attention to all of their chldren equally." But what does this accusation stem from? The amount of time there is in a day in relation to the amount of children? What does time have to do with how our children feel? What does having siblings have to do with how our children feel about themselves? NOTHING. If we are instilling in our children the truth about who they are, they will never feel unloved, abandoned, left out, or less important. Our children, no matter how many we have, are loved. They are loved unconditionally, purely, and intentionally. They are a blessing, they are a miracle. They have a specific calling and purpose in their life that God has given them. If we raise them to believe this of themselves then how will they ever feel less than "the best"?

          There are things we can do to actively make them feel special. If you pay attention to your children you know the littlest thing makes them feel important, that all it really takes to make them happy is to be involved with them. Let them help you "make" breakfast (even if it ends up doubling or even tripling the amount of time it would take you to do it yourself, like it always does in my house). Have a special one-on-one date with them that you build up for the several days before. Let them pick the "activities" so they feel like it's a special day all about them. Do crafts with them or read them a special book, anything they show interest in spend time doing that rather than watching TV. We send our children to school for 8 hours a day and children watch TV for an average of 4 hours a day (this number jumped to 7hrs 38min by the age of 8)...that is at least 12 hours our children spend not engaged with us. If they sleep for 6-8 hours a night that leaves 4-6 hours a day that our children are spending with us. That means if we follow this model they spend at least 83% of the day with influences other than us. Mommas, it is no wonder we feel like we can't give our children enough attention. I know not every mother feels called to homeschooling, I know some mothers feel called to work outside of the home, but we need to seriously evaluate what we are doing with our time, where our priorities are, and what we do with the little time we have with our children.

          If your children overheard someone ask you, "Which one is your favorite?" what would their answer be? Would they come to you with a smile and say, "I know it's me!" or would they be left wondering. What obstacles are standing in the way of your time with your children? What things are keeping your children from feeling like "the best"?

          Wednesday, November 16, 2011

          Living upRIGHT in an upside-down world

          It's especially hard in this day and age not to notice how like-minded Christians and non-Christians are becoming. Obviously, if we as Christians are to have the "mind of Christ" how can our standards line up so closely with those who have not chosen to follow Him? We immerse ourselves in this culture. Watching the same movies, reading the same books, listening to the same music, going to the same places. We quote scripture to back up these choices, "to be in the world," claiming that that is what we are doing, that we are in the world while denying that we are really of it. So how can we really be in and not of? It really is all about denying ourselves, and accepting the mind of Christ. Dying to ourselves daily, and picking up our cross to follow Him Luke 9:23. So how can we use Facebook, a website that in even the best of times promotes vanity, Pinterest, a website that promotes greed and envy, and Google, which provides so much information at the click of a button with no filter to sift through it all, with the mindset of Christ.

          These sites, like money, are not "evil" in and of themselves; rather, it is what we choose to do with them that sets us apart. Do you see Facebook as an opportunity to witness or to show off? Do you use Pinterest as an opportunity to be creative, find fun activities for your children, enrich your life, or do you use it as a way to think of all the things you do not have but wish you did? Do you Google with a filter of Scripture, or do you accept whatever information you find as truth? Do you rely on your self-help books or do you rely on THE Book? Do you need advice on finances? Did you know there are over 800 scriptures covering the topic of money? Trouble with your marriage? Why not seek what the Creator of marriage has to say about it? And there truly is no better guide to parenting than the one written by our perfect Father. What book can better tell you what to do with your life than the book written by the One who is the meaning of life? Not to say we should not listen to the godly counsel of others. God intended for us to encourage, teach, and hold each other accountable, but He did not intend for us to worship each other's opinions, to seek first our friend's experiences, or to keep our Bible on the shelf while fervently studying someone else's opinion of the Scriptures.

          The only way we can live upright in an upside-down world is to take captive every thought, turn over the desires of our heart to God, adopt the mind of Christ, and seek Him in everything that we do. And we need to hold each other accountable as the Scriptures tell us to. We need to allow grace for those who are not yet mature in their faith, but we need to make sure that these claims of "Christianity" are not damaging the Kingdom of God. We need to grow each other up in the Word, and we need to separate ourselves from the teachings of this world. We need to immerse ourselves daily in the study of Him. We need to start recognizing the difference between upside-down and right-side-up.

          Tuesday, November 15, 2011

          When is Trust not Enough...

          What is the #1 thing we value most with our relationships? The one thing that, if it were to be compromised, would cause the most damage? If I were to take a poll I'm positive the overwhelming majority would answer TRUST. A marriage torn apart by poor decisions cannot be repaired until trust is restored. Feeling damaged by harmful words said by someone we thought we could share our hearts with, friendships lost, all because we have lost the ability to trust. So how can we expect to have a fullfilling relationship with our Heavenly Father if we do not trust Him? How can we claim to be believers if we try to take our lives into our own hands because we don't trust the God of Creation to do it for us? If we trust ourselves and other men, but not God, who do we really worship?

          What reason do we have not to trust God with our future? It reminds me of God's plan for my own family. With endometriosis I was told my junior year of high school that it may be difficult for me to conceive or carry a child. When we were married we immediately wanted a family, but didn't believe it would happen any time soon. However, 3 months later we found out we were pregnant with our precious Maddox. At my first appointment we discovered I had pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. Praise God for this pregnancy because that was what brought this to light (I honestly don't know if I would have gone in for a routine pap smear anytime soon had it not been for the pregnancy. I was only 21 and had no reason to even think about cervical cancer.) I was very concerned about what this meant for the future, but praise God the cells were completely flushed from my body with the delivery of my precious baby boy and I have had negative pap results for the past 3 years! After the birth of our daughter I began having serious pain that we felt was related to the endometriosis. After a procedure, it was revealed that I have a prolapsed uterus. She told me I may be able to still carry a child, but because of the severe pain I needed to have a hysterectomy as soon as we made a decision. I was so thankful for the precious blessings of my son and my daughter and was completely satisfied with my life. I was put on the strongest birth control available as we discussed what we were going to do. I decided it was best for my children if I had the procedure so I wouldn't have to miss out on their lives because of the pain. I had called my doctor to schedule an appointment to talk about having a hysterectomy, but it turns out I really needed an appointment to check on our newest precious life. During the first trimester with Kason I began having severe bleeding, and they found placental lakes (where the placenta had attached to my uterus). It was a very scary first 20 weeks. Every night I would sit in the shower and cry out to God. This meant I would need a cesarean hysterectomy, which I wasn't scared of since I had already mentally prepared myself for a hysterectomy before, but it also meant there would be a chance of significant bleeding for me and my life would be at risk. With 2 children it's hard not to think that I may have only had 9 more months to spend with them. Miraculously (after already having 5 separate ultrasounds to check on the placenta issues) my 20 week ultrasound was clear. The placental lakes were gone! This is not something that happens. It was a completely mind-boggling moment for me. I was finally able to breathe and enjoy the rest of my pregnancy delivering a healthy baby boy the way I had wanted with no surgery and an in-tact uterus. She even checked my uterus after delivery and said everything felt great as far as prolapse goes and I have had no further pain...With such strong evidence of God's power and provision how can I NOT trust Him?

          The Duggar's announcement of a 20th child has stirred up a righteous fire in me. I am heartbroken to hear Christians say leaving their family in God's hands is "selfish", a "cop-out", "a way to keep from making hard decisions", "irresponsible", and on, and on, and on. Well, I say to them, what makes you think you know better than God? Where in the Bible does it say God needs our help in making His decisions? God places personal convictions in every one's life. Frankly, the only irresponsible thing in NOT putting EVERY decision in God's hands. The only selfish thing is chosing Our way over GOD'S way. And who are we to tell someone they are being "irresponsible" for following the call God has placed on their life. How can we have any sort of relationship with God if we don't TRUST in Him and instead we continue to rely on ourselves?

          Monday, November 14, 2011

          The Beauty of the Inner Spirit: Anti-Feminists

          Sometimes I come across a post that I just have to share, a post that stirs my spirit. Women, remember the calling God placed on us from creation. Are you trying to be super woman or an abiding woman? Are you mothering out of yourself or through God's powers? Keep all of this in mind and click on the image below to read how we are called to be Anti-Feminists! Hopefully this challenges you the way it did me. Even if you don't agree 100% I hope it helps you to get a better picture of who you are as a woman of God.


          If a man's home is his castle, then a woman's home is her kingdom

          In a society that so undervalues our calling as mothers sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong era. Getting pregnant within 3 months of marriage and having children very close together used to be considered a blessing, it used to be envied in a wife. However, now it is almost a sense of embarrassment. People seem to have no boundaries when it comes to sharing their views of my children. Comments range from my apparent lack of hobbies to questions about our personal finances. It was hard to handle at first, but now that I know how great this calling is that I have on my life, how glorious a blessing this is, I can't do anything but stand in awe that God chose me for this.

          I found such encouragement from this quote off of A Wise Woman Builds Her Home...
          A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home
          Home is the true wife's kingdom.

          Very largely does the wife hold in her hands, as a sacred trust, the happiness and the highest good of the hearts that nestle there. In the last analysis, home happiness depends on the wife.

          Her spirit gives the home its atmosphere.
          Her hands fashion its beauty.
          Her heart makes its love.
            And the end is so worthy, so noble, so divine, that no woman who has been called to be a wife, and has listened to the call, should consider any price too great to pay, to be . . .
          the light,
          the joy,
          the blessing,
          the inspiration,
          of a home.

          The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies.

          A true mother is one of the holiest secrets of home happiness.
          God sends many beautiful things to this world,
          many noble gifts;
          but no blessing is richer than that which He bestows

          in a mother

          who has learned love's lessons well,
          and has realized something of the meaning
          of her sacred calling.


          ~ J. R. Miller, "Secrets of Happy Home Life, 1894" ~

          Sunday, November 13, 2011

          Amazing Grace...or Unworthy Excuses

          God's grace truly abounds every day, but are we allowing ourselves grace or just providing excuses? When we are adopted into the Kingdom of God it is not merely an acceptance of the "gift" of salvation, it is sacrificing my old self and becoming a new creation in Christ. It is picking up my cross daily to follow Him. It is not about heaven, but about my life here on Earth. If becoming a Christian were only about spending eternity with our Creator and Savior then don't you think we would be taken from this life into the next the moment we become saved? Time and time again scripture calls us to put aside our old selves, to not act as the "natural man", to abide in Christ. So why, when we find ourselves getting caught up in the patterns of our flesh do we simply continue in it expecting God's grace to cover us? God provides grace to cover our weaknesses, but so often we use His grace as an excuse to continue in our old behaviors. A lifestyle is a choice. If we continue in our weakness time and time again, expecting grace to cover us, but doing nothing to change our behaviors we are missing out on the fullness God has called us to. If we have the ability in Christ to be transformed, then why do we choose to cover ourselves in excuses to continue our old behaviors? Is it because we do not trust that we can change, or is it because we do not trust that God can change us? How can we set aside our old way of life, but continue to live in it at the same time? What does it say to God and to others about our relationship with Him if there is no change in us, if there is no belief in us, if there is nothing to set us apart from those in the world? Live your life in such a way that you do not have to share your faith with others, but others will notice it in your actions and will ask you about your faith. Accept God's grace in the moment, but don't cheapen your life by making excuses. Grace brings change, but excuses bring nothing but an unfullfilled life.

          Mommy Confessions

          At the end of one of "those" days this is the list of things I wish I could tell my kids...



          No, a granola bar probably isn't the "ideal" breakfast, but it will keep you full long enough for me to wake up, peel myself out of bed, and drink my coffee.

          It doesn't really take me that long to use the restroom, I just needed a break.

          Facebook is not more important than you, but I need a little "adult" conversation before I can answer that question for the 80millionth time.

          I know you aren't tired and don't need a nap, but I do so time for bed.

          I really wish that you knew how to read by yourself, so I don't have to read the same book to you over and over and over and over...

          Yes, I was excited when you pooped on the potty, but only the first 15 times.

          You are doing a great job, but can I just do it for you so we can get this over with.



          But even at the end of "those" days, the one thing I want my kids to know the most is, "I love you and even if tomorrow is the same as today, I can't wait to wake up and do it all over again."

          Saturday, November 12, 2011

          When was the last time you challenged your beliefs?

          "My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes - many times - my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens - and it happens every day in some measure - I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.”
          ― John Piper, Finally Alive



          "If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t, it's not the gospel you believe, but yourself." Augustine



          “Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It's a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.”
          ― John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself




          “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world, that is not intended to make us rejoice.”  John Calvin
           



          “Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved… Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.”
          C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain




          “I [God] am what some would say 'holy, and wholly other than you.' The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn't much, and then call that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I'm not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.”
          ― William P. Young, The Shack




          “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”    Matthew 10:34



          “We...sin not because we want what is evil, but because we want what isn't good enough.”
          ― Scott Hahn, Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession




          “Never think that you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshipping an idol.”
          S
          tanley M. Hauerwas




          “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little.” William Gurnall




          “If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable.”
          ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain




          “Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?”   John Calvin


          “In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians.”
          Karl Barth



          "Choose... this day whom you will serve! Joshua 24:15 Remember, any day not surrendered to the Spirit is virtually surrendered to the flesh by simple default!" -Beth Moore


          I found this today and it touched my heart so much I had to share! I'm so thankful for the women who have answered the calling God has placed in their lives to encourage, uplift, and challenge others!

          "Women of God can never be like women of the world.
          The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.
          There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.
          There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.
          We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith.
          We have enough greed; we need more goodness.
          We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.
          We have enough popularity; we need more purity."
          -Margaret D. Nadauld

          Friday, November 11, 2011

          Where Do We Go For Inspiration?

          One of the things I love about Facebook is noticing the trends among my friends' posts. It amazes me the "familiarity" they all have! One of these trends is the new "inspiration" quotes people have been posting. I look at these and think to myself, "What in the world do they think is inspirational about that?" But over and over and over these get posted on people's walls. These quotes are "touching" lives, "changing" opinions, "making a difference" but they are all so...WRONG...some more obvious than others, some great on the surface, but one thing they all have in common is they fall so very, very short. Here's the one that really made my heart cry out inside of me

          What if the words we find so "inspiring" are wrong?


          Oh, how I wish everyone had the freedom to realize the deception of these words. Perhaps the reason I had such a strong reaction to these words is because of the recent events surrounding this blog (esp my first post). The personal attacks for my beliefs, the rift it has caused in certain relationships, the fact that it has shed light into areas that I had been able to keep covered in darkness and ignore. But through all the harsh words, the tears, and perceived truths that were being revealed as lies, God began to reveal this falsehood to me. The lie that had been planted who knows when. The lie that what others feel or think about me should effect my beliefs, my happiness, my view of myself. Enduring weeks of constant attacks from someone who felt my beliefs were "harmful to mothers" who felt it was a sign of "mental instability" who took it as a "personal attack on her" was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. Then to have certain other "Christians" in my life side with her had cast me into a state of insecurity. This lie that had been planted in my heart that if someone is "hurt" by my words then my words must be wrong, the lie that if others "disagree" with me then I must be wrong, the lie that my beliefs should be influenced by others opinions of the "truth". Lies, lies, lies. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5.


           Here is a small snippet of one of the countless messages received and how God was able to use it for postive in my life...
          "You just aren't using your gifts. No one will hear your message if it's oozing with judgement and condemnation...you are turning people off left and right. Have you received any positive feedback on your blog--at all? I am positive you are totally lying. I know several women that have told you that parenting is hard and that it's not okay to say it's not -- strong Christian women that are devout. And your blog has five followers as of today. I'm a mental health clinician and when you're ready to admit that you need help, I hope you seek it. Lying (even to strangers) is not only an unhealthy habit, but being untruthful is preached against in the Bible. I really can't say anything else to you, but I am terrified of people on the edge like you and I'll continue to watch you in order to protect my family."
          It makes my heart race and tears well up in my eyes to even read this again, to think about the other messages, to think how she (whom I have never met) and others (some of whom I have) have tried so hard to not only change what I believe, but put an end to my sharing it. The accusations of judgement are the worst since anyone who knows me, knows that my heart is so far from that. But as my pastor helped me to realize these attacks had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my actual content, there was no truth behind the words that were being thrown at me. It is all about their feelings, their problems, their misconstructions and defenses, their misunderstanding of the truth. I pray no one has to endure such criticism, such personal attack for sharing their beliefs, such pain as I did through this, but if you do I pray that you can remember what it is that God was able to scream through my pain...My beliefs are not dependant on your view of the truth, my opinion of myself is not based on what you think about me, my happiness is not dependant of how you treat me! I know that this was God speaking into me because it was the last thing that was going through my head at the moment. Do not listen to the world when it tells you that your "attitude is based on how others treat you." Cling to the promises we have in Christ, hold on to His truths, use Him as your source of inspiration and you will not be led astray.

          My Real-Life Fairy Tale Ending

          1 Peter 3:1-4, 7"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
          I grew up hearing the fairy tales, dreaming of my Prince Charming, and writing out my list of "Characteristics My Future Husband Must Have" which always seemed to bear a resemblance to whichever guy I had a crush on at the time. One thing I never really believed was that God would bring me "The One". I brought onto myself a marriage with someone I was not equally yoked to. I entered into a marriage with a man I loved, but wasn't aware until after we were married the difficulty that would come with a marriage between two people in two totally different points of faith. The first year was hard, harder than I could have ever imagined, but we were IN it. Divorce was not and will never be an option for us. When we made our vows it really was forever for everything. During year 3 (which was already 2 babies later) I made a decision that I was going to turn every aspect of our relationship over to God, including my husband's faith.

          My husband is my everything to me and I never would have imagined there would be someone who could complete me in every single way. I'm an English brain, he's a math brain. I'm very outgoing, loud, and spunky while he is the very definition of laid back. I'm the designer and he's the executor. In every single way we are total opposites, but in a way that makes the other whole. When we're watching competitive shows on TV we always say to eachother, "We can totally do that." But we both know that the only way we could do it is together. There is such freedom in a relationship with a person who doesn't require me to be everything, but to only be what I am. He brings everything else to the relationship, but it wasn't until I put "me" aside and gave everything up to God that it all started to become clear. It wasn't until I put "me" aside that God could shine through. And God loves when we give it up to Him to He can show His power. God loves to turn the ugly and dirty to the beautiful and priceless. God took a marriage of hurt, jealousy, pain, and expectations, and turned it into a marriage full of joy, freedom, love, and partnership.

          This past Valentine's Day I received a handmade card from my Beloved. A card was all I have asked for every year since we were married. Most wives want jewelry or chocolate, but all I wanted was to know my husband's feelings for me in his own words. Inside this card was the words that changed my view on my marriage forever. Inside was the proof that God has done a miraculous work in my life. Inside the card my husband (who is a man of so few words) wrote:



          "Let me start by saying the very reason for everything I do is you! There was no real drive in life before I met you. There was no real God, there was no True love. There was no light when the sun rose and no comfort when the sun went down. How lucky was I to get all those things in one package of You? Only I will know! And everyday I think about you and your gifts of Love to me, I thank God for being who he is and for letting you be who you are! I look forward to our kids everyday. I know you prepare them for me while I am away. And of course I look forward to all our projects you plan. I Love You."

          I will cling to the promise I found in these words for the rest of my life. I will cling to the promise that if I turn my marriage over to the Lord, and follow God's commands to me regarding my role as wife, God will do His work...and do His work He certainly does! God has brought to me my real-life Prince Charming, but it took me getting out of the way for the fairy-tale ending to come true! Wives submit to the role God has for you as a wife, follow His commands, and turn it all over to Him. Then sit back and watch what God has in store for your life.

          Ephesians 5:21-28 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

          Thursday, November 10, 2011

          Semper Fidelis; Always Faithful for 236yrs








          It begins with a single step...the culmination of a dream...
                     a journey of honor, of freedom, of sacrifice...




               

          into the unknown...where few have gone before...
          where few will follow after...



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       leaving those you love...          to defend those you will never meet...      to protect the rights of those who will trample on them...



                  sacrificing the moments others take forgranted...missing out on the memories you will never get to make...losing a piece of who you are...hoping in the end you survive with even a small part of the life you had before...                                                             


          hoping that in the end you are one of the lucky ones...in the end blessed with only losing most...in the end praying you're not the one to give it all...
          OORAH! 

          Happy Birthday, Marines! And thank you to all the Marines in my life I love and to those I have never met who still choose to seve. Thank you for blessing my family 
          with your strength, with your service.

          This Is What Happens...

          He did most of this all on his own!

          There's something that happens when you learn to be a "YES" mom. When you quit waiting for later and start to do it now. When you learn the joy of playing with your children. Something happens when you learn to just make a mess, go with the flow, and choose to learn from your children rather than just teach them. Today I was able to expand on my list. Today I realized how much time has gone by, and I praised God for the time I have left for my children (even though I don't even know how long that may be). Today, my son showed me something I never thought he would be able to do at his tender young age of 3. My son surprised me because I gave him the chance. I couldn't wait "until" he got older, but somewhere along the way, he already has. And if I don't take the time to just sit, be still, and savor these moments, they will be gone in the blink of an eye.

          Wednesday, November 9, 2011

          Responsible Toddlers

          Two words that probably don't go well together are "responsible" and "toddlers" but we have found an easy way to begin instilling in them early the art of giving, working, earning, and saving (and the good things is, it really didn't require any extra work on our part! There were a couple of things that led to our "idea". 1) We drink a lot of canned drinks. We don't have recycle where we live and I hate to throw them away, so we had a huge pile we were planning on bringing to my parents house so they could recycle them there. Rob would smash them up to keep the clutter to a minimum and Maddox loved to "help". 2) My niece was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago and we started collecting coke tabs for her to take to the hospital. For every little "house" that we filled a child could receive a treatment (St. Jude's does not turn down children just because they cannot afford treatments, and the tabs are one way the hospital can get money to cover these treatments). These two simple steps provided us with the perfect idea!

          Maddox and Eden help me collect all of the tabs off of the cans. They know that these tabs help get sick children the treatment they need and is an easy way for them to understand giving. Then, Maddox and Eden work by helping Rob smash up the cans. Rob then takes the kids to a recycle center where the kids sell their cans and learn that their work of smashing the cans has led to their earning of this money (it's been so much more effective than just having me or Rob pay them because they get really excited knowing someone else is paying them for what they did). Finally, we take their earnings home and place it in a glass jar on the counter (right next to the glass jar filled with tabs) where it is saved until they get enough to do something fun with it. Teaching your toddlers (or even older children) about finances doesn't have to be difficult. Find creative ways to teach them the value of working for their money, giving to others, and saving what they earn. If you have any great ways you have taught your children about money feel free to share!

          Be Still

          Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10


          Today was a crazy day! It was my "YES" day (which I'm striving to make happen everyday), I found a wonderful challenge that really encouraged me to bring the R&R back to my life (but also required hours of work to get our bedroom even remotely out of the "war zone"), and I still have to manage to live my life in The Spirit, be a purposeful wife, and maintain my position as manager of our household! Whew! The great thing is that this is all becoming more and more natural as I continue to practice it. Less and less overwhelming with each passing day. But when I really stop and think about what it is I'm trying to do, I start to feel like I'm trying to accomplish too much. If I look at this list of things I'm trying to do with my life, changes I'm trying to make, and goals I'm trying to reach, I start to feel like it will never happen. That was when I walked outside to pick up the endless trail of toys my children had brought outside and left out in the rain. In the midst of the chaos I looked up and saw this. I saw the sky, dark from the rain that had just passed; trees turning the most beautiful shades of red, something we don't often get in Louisiana; and this beautiful space God has blessed us with. I immediately felt peaceful, calm, encouraged. It wasn't until I was still, for just a second, that I was able to remember that God is God. That what I am trying to accomplish is not about me, but Him. And in that moment of stillness He said, "I AM, AND I WILL." Praise God for the moments of stillness, no matter how short. Praise God for bringing pause to our hectic lives to remind us that He is and that even though we cannot, He will!