Facing the Day Ahead

Have you ever had one of those nights when you wake up, wide awake in the middle of a great sleep?

I did that last night. I was sleeping wonderfully when all of a sudden a coughing fit and dryness in my throat woke me up from a beautiful sleep.

Since I was now alert and alive I remembered the cinnamon rolls defrosting in the fridge and decided to get a head start on the day and put them out on the counter to finish rising before morning.

I was only downstairs for a moment then I crawled back under the covers and was ready for sleep. However, sleep did not come.

My mind began thinking of previous times when I had made cinnamon rolls.

The memory from last summer when my family was coming for a reunion rolled around in my head. I thought about how much food I made in that 4 day period to feed some 30 people. I didn’t mind it. In fact, feeding and hosting friends and family is one of my favorite things.

But then my mind began thinking of another event coming up. It’s not mine to plan and execute yet my mind was worrying and filling up with all the details that need to be taken care of for this event to happen.

And there I laid wide awake worrying and planning over something that is not even mine to worry about.

How many times do we do this same thing? Fretting, stewing and flooding our minds with details and plans that we don’t need to think about or is not ours to take care of anyways. It’s not even our responsibility, yet we lose sleep and empty ourselves out of energy over events not ours to handle.

Jesus talks about this in the Sermon on the Mount.

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 our 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: 31-34 (NIV)

And as I laid in bed during the morning’s early hours I thought of these verses. I decided to put away the thoughts of worry and instead focus on sleep and the idea that rest was much more pleasant and needed. Rest is more beneficial than ruminating over events that are not mine to plan.

Sometimes it’s not that easy and our minds can be filled with troublesome thoughts and worries of the days. Yet, no matter the situation we can return to these words of encouragement. Our Father, who cares deeply for us, knows the circumstances that surround our lives. He knows our thoughts and the concerns that fill our minds and rob us of peace.

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May I encourage you today to place those things in the hands of our Father. Let Him handle what concerns you today. He already knows the outcome and what is ahead for you and those you love.

Our peace comes when we rest in God’s promises.  His thoughts are not our thoughts neither are our ways His ways. His ways are higher and His thoughts more than we can comprehend or understand. Yet even in our inability to comprehend all He does, our peace comes from knowing He works all things for our good.

We can rest and be at peace when we remind ourselves and remember that He knows our tomorrow even before we wake to face the morning that faces us.

Living Real through the messy and difficult ~ Five Minute Friday

Five-Minute-Friday-4It’s Friday and the first day of spring!  You would never know it by looking out my window.  The snow is still falling and the wind is blowing cold.  Yet there are good things in store for today like a lunch date with my hubby and our Five Minute Friday link up with Kate and the gang.  Our word prompt today is:  REAL

As a little girl I loved playing pretend. My baby dolls were perfectly behaved children and they always sat still in the church pew on my stairs. My preacher/husband spoke eloquently from the stair’s landing and I shouted out an appropriate “Amen” to encourage him along. Standing at the end of the service and holding my hymnal I would belt out “Power in the Blood” and then happily greet all the parishioners with a cheery smile and warm hug. Pretend land was easy and simple.

Real life is messy and difficult. The children don’t always behave and the demands of Sunday don’t always leave me with a cheery disposition.

Yet living real brings beautiful moments that I wouldn’t trade for any kind of pretend.

We’ve been in ministry long enough now that the little girls I taught in Sunday School are now married and have children of their own. Kid Christmas musicals have turned into wedding showers and baby dedications.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we live real with those who are journeying the tough road of Alzheimer’s and dementia. They don’t always remember our name yet they know there is something stronger between us then remembering who we are.

This week, Dave and I walked the road with a family saying goodbye to their father. As we looked through the pictures, viewed the home movies and listened to stories, we were reminded that real life is messy and hard. Even when strife and difficulty tear at the threads of family unity, the end of a life has a way of weaving those strong cords back together.

Living in pretend is easy and comfortable, as every 5 year old’s life should be; everything is good and everyone is lovely.

Real life is good and lovely as well.

Living real grows out of moments that stretch us beyond what we think we can do. It’s in the messy days and hard decisions that tear us up and drive us to places we don’t always want to go. Yet it’s in the messy and difficult we learn we are stronger than we ever imagined.

There are days I would love to go back to the simple days of ministry in my pretend church on the stairs where life was easy and my hair was always in place. But then life would be lonely and I would miss the adventure that real living brings.

When our plan doesn’t quite work out ~ Five Minute Friday

It’s Friday and we are joining Kate and the ladies over at Five Minute Friday for our free-writing fun.  This is where we all write on the same word prompt and link up together over here.  Today’s word prompt is:  PLAN

I remember as a little girl I had a vision of what grown up life would be like.  I would be the perfect little housewife with well behaved children, a handsome husband that would come home each evening to a perfectly put together Pinterest worthy home and life would be wonderful.

Fast forward 20 plus years and my world is not quite that way on any day of the week.

Yes, I have been blessed with wonderful children who have taken a lot of work to get like that.  They don’t always behave and discipline is lots of work with many trials and failures along the way.

Yes, my husband is handsome, I can’t argue with that one but he definitely does not come home to a picture perfect home.  Instead it is often scattered with dirty socks, piles of papers, books and all kinds of randomness spread from one door to the other.

Our world of childhood pretend paints for us a world that only exists in our imagination.  And even as adults we have a plan of what our life should look like and we dream of it one day coming true.  Yet how many times are we disappointed by our own high expectations?

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. ~ Proverbs 19:21 (MSG)

In our own planning and expectations we may fail but God has a plan and purpose for our lives that so outdoes anything we could come up with on our own.  Let’s trust that plan, listen to His direction and in that, we find that He had the best plan all along.

(This pic just made me smile and thought it might do the same for you! ~ Happy Friday!)

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Getting back to healthy

For the last 11 days I have been sick!

In all my pride I last posted about how I was caring for all the other family members and keeping them all quarantined and hydrated…. and how in doing this I was keeping the sickness from spreading.

Well in the midst of all that, my now 6 year old had a birthday and I had to postpone his party. On his big day, he kept asking, “When are we going to blow out the candles?” “When are we going to open my presents?” And this mama felt bad because what 6 year old shouldn’t have fun on their birthday? So I took him and Jon out for the afternoon while the invalids rested in their rooms.

That turned out to not be the best thing. Matt and I both came in contact with something and it must have been the same thing because within 48 hours of our outing, we were simultaneously losing our tummies…. him in the toilet and I in the sink next to him.

Thus began my downward ascent into 11 days of not feeling well.

I have struggled with writing and keeping up on this blog. In fact, just having a computer screen open and shining in the room for more than 5 minutes sent laser beams through my eyeballs to awaken another pounding headache.

I am happy to say, I am doing better now.

I headed out a few days ago for some much needed grocery shopping. Emily came with me and that was a good thing or I could still be standing in some lonely aisle mumbling, “Why am I here? …. What am I getting?” Emily graciously took my hand and said, “Floss, mom, we are getting dental floss.”

On another note, the backyard is coming back alive.

I watched this morning as a pair of turtle doves danced through the trees; chasing one another as they flew from one tree to the next. A blue jay perched itself on my back step and showed off the seed he was holding in his beak.

Bird seed is scattered across the snow. Squirrels have discovered the filled feeders and are having a hay-day knocking out as much as they can.

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Our ice rink has melted.   It’s depressing to look down on from the upstairs window. It now looks like an abandoned football field with a stadium of snow surrounding it. Many hours of slap-shots and net crashing filled that area just a week ago.

Yet now the seasons are changing and spring is a welcomed friend!

The sun is shining and the clocks have been turned forward.

It’s always at this time of year, the sun is at just the right angle during my dinner prepping time that the sun beams into my kitchen and I’m blinded for 20 minutes each evening. Yet not once do I complain because I’m just so thankful that warm weather is coming and the days are longer and no amount of blinding sunshine is going to bring any complaining from this happy soul.

This blog post really has no point except to just stop in and let you all know I am still alive and kicking. I am feeling better and am back to writing and posting again.

I hope you are all well, healthy and happy!

I have missed you!

From Good to Grace {and a Giveaway}

Hoover_goodtograce_wSPine.inddToday we have Christine Hoover (@christinehoover), author, recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys guest posting with us. She writes online at www.GraceCoversMe.com and has contributed to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Send Network, and iBelieve. Her newest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, offers women biblical freedom from trying to “be good enough”. 

We are also excited to be giving away a free copy of her book.  To enter,  you just need to leave a comment below.  One person will be randomly chosen Sunday evening.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of her book.

I’ve been obsessed with being good and performing all of my life.

Hello, my name is Christine. I’m a goodness addict.

I was born with a list in my hand, or at least that’s how early I imagine it started. I came by it honestly—my mom’s response to everything my sister and I needed as children, whether shampoo from the store or help with a school project, was always, “Make a list!”

So I did. I made list after list—of library books for summer reading, of boys that I liked, of songs to record from the radio on my tape recorder, of necessities to pack for overnight camp, of must-haves in my future husband, even of outfits for the first month of eighth grade so as not to repeat and make a fashion faux pas of infinite proportion.

I don’t just make lists. I am that person, the one who adds a task to a list just to experience the satisfaction of crossing it off, the one who makes lists for my lists.

I’m a perfectionist.

There was a time when I would have said that with pride, but not anymore. Perfectionism has not been a friend to me. Sure, my house is organized and my budget spreadsheet is up-to-date, but when perfectionism is applied to the spiritual needs of the heart, it’s called legalism. And legalism is a fancy word for an obsession with goodness. It’s a belief that good things come from God to those who are good. And it’s a belief that you can actually be good enough to get to God on your own.

I became a Christian at age eight. From that point, or more accurately from the point in middle school when I started having “quiet times” according to my youth minister’s instructions, until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving—striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

At an early age, I fell for perfectionism’s lie that I could be good enough to win God’s heart and the approval of others. I sought joy, peace, and love through being good and, instead, found myself miserably enslaved to my own unattainable standards.

This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn’t true and biblical Christianity. On the outside I appeared to be a good Christian, but on the inside I felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about my inability to please God.

Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self. Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, responses from others, and results. It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior. Goodness required that I control my environment with military precision, hide my weaknesses, and compare myself with others or my own arbitrary standards. Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation and kept me relationally isolated.

The other part of a goodness addiction, I discovered in my twenties, is a faulty understanding of who God is and what he expects from His children. I only saw God through perfectionism’s filter. He was gray. He had no patience for my mistakes, forever glaring at me with a scowl on His face. He sighed a lot. If I was extra-good, He might manage to crack a smile. He was one-dimensional, disengaged, unaffectionate, and I absolutely feared him.

I knew nothing about grace.

I knew nothing about forgiveness.

I knew nothing about the true gospel, because a goodness addiction completely overtakes the heart and mind, leaving no room for truth. It enslaves and cannibalizes itself. It becomes an all-encompassing religion, closing tightly around one’s soul. It led me down paths of depression and despair.

And it became my gospel.

I lived according to that gospel–what I now call the goodness gospel–for far too long, precisely because I didn’t know the true gospel’s reach. I believed that faith was effective for salvation but only self-effort could produce my sanctification. Now I know differently. God has taken me on a ten-year exploration of grace and sanctification and faith, and I am not the girl I once was. I live in the freedom that Christ was won for me.

Now that I know differently, I also have eyes to see the goodness gospel covertly worming its way into hearts of believers, and I see its destructive effects.

In the Christian culture, there seems to be great confusion and even pressure that we women feel about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. The confusion touches decisions about education, family, eating and drinking, work, hobbies, community involvement, and even whether one should volunteer when the sign-up sheet is passed around again at church.

The pressure grows when choices are wrapped in spiritual or more-spiritual terms. We see it everywhere: Do something great! Follow your dreams! Make a difference for the kingdom! Be missional and in community! For the gospel-confused, that too often translates into: I’m not doing enough, what I’m doing isn’t making a difference, and I’ve got to create my own and my neighbor’s own and my children’s own and everyone’s own life transformation.

(You can read the entire chapter here.)

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is a book for women like I was, who long to please God but fear they never will. It’s for the woman drowning in self-condemnation, the woman afraid to be vulnerable with others because she’s so fully aware of her imperfections, and the woman who craves but can’t seem to grasp the freedom and joy that Jesus promised His followers.

Instead of asking “What does God want from us?”, From Good to Grace asks, “What does God want for us?” The book illustrates how we confuse being good and trying hard–the goodness gospel–with the true gospel, which is really about receiving the grace and love that Jesus offers us and responding with our lives by the Holy Spirit’s help. It’s my prayer that through it you discover it’s possible to know God’s love, live in peace and freedom, and serve others with great joy. Because God has something so much greater for you than trying to be good enough.

Don’t forget we are choosing one person to win a copy of Christine’s book.  Leave a comment and enter to win.

You can purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Christian Book, or iTunes and discover the gospel’s reach in your own life.

Today’s Front Porch ~Five Minute Friday

Today I’m late in getting to this Five Minute Friday with Kate and the gang.  I’m still nursing sick people in our house and trying to keep the healthy from going stir crazy… but enough of that.  Here’s our word prompt for today: VISIT

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I lived in the same house until I left for college, and in fact, my dad lived in that home until just a few years ago. I love that house with its wrap-around porch and shady front yard.

I have many memories of sitting on the front steps, talking of the neighbor news and all those who drove by. The front porch stairs were the “home-free” for our late night kick-the-can games and in the hot summer months, mom would sit in her folding lawn chair snappin’ beans and swattin’ flies.

We had a neighbor across the street who would sit on her front porch as well.

She’d rock in her chair with a damp dishtowel draped across her shoulder. She’d wipe sweat from her brow and over the years she would holler to us yonder, “I see you’re home visiting your mom! How long ya back for?” And Mom would say, “Go talk to Betty… she wants to see you.”

Countless times through the years, Mom and Betty would wander across to one another’s front porch visiting and sharing the news of the day.

There’s a solid bridge that can be built from one front porch to another. In my growing up years, Betty was a solid friend to my mom across the street.

Nowadays, we might miss that front porch feel. I don’t live on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood and my neighbors have no front porch with chairs for visiting. But even though those days are gone, a new front porch has taken its place. It’s this keyboard I tap away on.

I connect with more neighbors from all different walks of life, living in different states and even different countries with a click of a few keys and a Wi-Fi connection.  My front porch is now more than a simple wrap-around.  My world is wider and my ability to build a strong bridge with many neighbors is easier than ever.

Some might say it’s impersonal but I have found it quite personal. I write emails, texts, private messages and comments to many throughout the week. I’m encouraging and sharing life, love and Truth through the tapping out of the keys. It’s the way we connect now and build those bridges to our neighbors far and near.

One of my favorite all-time movies is “You’ve Got Mail.”   There’s so much in that movie that I love, and today’s applicable quote is when Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is talking about email and she says this wonderful line:

“The odd thing about this form of communication is that you are more likely to talk about nothing than something but I just want to say that all of this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”

And when you think about the front porch of yesteryear wasn’t it just that — a bunch of nothings that you chitchatted about for snippets of moments over many-a-days. Yet you knew when the tough times came and you needed a friend that neighbor would step out and over to your front porch, bringing a cup of coffee and a warm smile. All those nothings turned into a beautiful something of friendship and community; building a bridge and spanning the years.

So today, I encourage you to visit with those neighbors near and far. Connect and reach out to old friends and new acquaintances, build bridges and open up to community. You never know the life giving connections you’ll find on the front porch of life.

The Ramblings and Nothingness of a Normal Shopping Day

Normally when I write to you there’s some kind of encouragement or meaning behind what I’m writing… but tonight it’s a different case. I have 2 sick people in the house and so my normal conversation patterns have been stifled. Two of the people who usually listen to all my ramblings are both feeling under the weather so I decided to just share my ramblings of the day with you.

See, I normally shop on Tuesday; getting all of my errands done on one day, but because of some other events yesterday the shopping was pushed off to today. And normally I have a shopping “somebody” with me. I like to have a ‘tag-along’.

I know some moms like to go it alone but I actually love having an extra somebody with me. I like having someone who will wait in the line while I go back for something else. I like having someone to pack up the groceries and put the cart away in the parking lot. Someone for me to share all those quirky items out there that someone is trying to sell me.

Emily is my normal shopping ‘somebody’ but with great sadness I must inform you she’s not feeling well today.

And in my household when one does not feel well this mama drops into hyper-germ mode. I immediately quarantine the ill-feeling body to their bed. There’s no going out or going in… similar to the city of Jericho… it is tightly shut up. The invalid gets assigned a bathroom and no healthy person is to venture into that abode until the sick person is well and that facility is cleaned. I’m the only one allowed into the ‘sick’ room and I diligently wash my hands with soap and warm water along with drying my hands on a paper towel upon each exit from the room.

It’s been pretty effective. Very rarely does the illness travel through the house or from person to person. But today I ended up with two sick people, with different symptoms, picked up at different places. The same rules previously stated apply to them which means I’m just washing my hands a lot more and traveling the stairs more frequently.

And because they were feeling under the weather and there was no one shopping with me to share in my ramblings of the day I’m sharing them with you.

On shopping day I always ask the family, “What do you need?” and today one of the requests was deodorant.  I like to choose my own but I’m at a loss to choose for others.

And what is this?deodorant

(HINT:  The lower left hand corner of this product label?)

Who seriously needs “96 hour protection” for deodorant? I was always taught this was a daily application, and sometimes more frequently if needed, but really 96 hour protection!!! That is 4 days, people!

Who thought up this advertising scheme? “Yes, this is so potent and effective you only have to apply it every 4 days.” Can I just tell ya, I have 3 teens in my family and I have never told them, “Here, kids, this one you only have to apply on a 4 day rotation basis!”

Are the advertisers trying to say it’s a stronger smell or is this product for profuse sweating? Because the 96 hour protection statement says to me, “Hey, this will make me smell good for 4 days!”

There were differing hour protections you could buy if you wanted more options than just every 4 days.  You could pick 72 hour, 48 hour or 24 hour protection as well —whatever fits your stink expiration time schedule.

I can imagine the inventors of this deodorant calling up their mother and saying, “Hey mom, I know you were trying to teach me basic hygiene 101 when I was living at home but now I’ve invented a 96 hour protection deodorant so people don’t need to practice basic hygiene on a daily basis. They can now stretch it out to every 4 days!”

I tried to share my little discovery with my cashier but she didn’t find any humor in my thought process. She just rang up my purchase and handed me the change.

I would have shared this with my shopping ‘somebody’ but there was no one with me, hence the “deodorant selfie.”

This is just a sampling of my ramblings and nothingness that you miss in my life on a daily basis. If I would have had a shopping ‘somebody’ today, you might not have ever heard this story or known that there is now deodorant out there that need not be applied daily!

This is big news and I thought you should know!