I can do hard things

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

My friend Kate’s mantra is “I can do hard things.” I love this because it resonates with me. I too can do hard things. Now don’t get me wrong…I can count my blessings from here to the moon. I love my husband and have a happy marriage, I am the biggest cheerleader on the planet for my three wonderful sons. I have the absolute best friends that anyone could ever ask for. My parents live close by, are relatively healthy and we have a strong family bond in my nuclear family with my parents, brother, and sister. I love my job and am blessed by incredible co-workers that cheer me on, support me and get in the trenches of ministry with me…side by side. I have terrific volunteers, parents, and children in my ministry. Every day I get to think, plan and create opportunities to share the gospel…I am a truly blessed person!

Then there are the icky parts, the parts that keep me awake at night. The parts that keep me in constant prayer with my Heavenly Father. I have an autoimmune disease that rears its ugly head every so often and reminds me of my humanness. It’s tough for me to put down my cape and tiara and practice self-care in the form of rest. I have an extremely difficult relationship with my ex-husband. How this affects my children weighs so heavily on my heart. Divorce is hard. The ugliness of divorce is hard. The pain years later for my children is hard. Forgiving someone who has never apologized or asked for forgiveness is hard.

Parenting can be very difficult. I have said and done things that I could never imagine in my wildest dreams. We’ve been down some deeply challenging roads. I couldn’t be more grateful for the people who have stood in the gap to provide leadership, integrity, a strong moral compass and grace for my boys. Nothing has had me on my knees at the cross more than praying for my children. Someone once told me that when you become a mom, your heart lies outside your body. To that…I shout a resounding at the top of my lungs AMEN!

I’m reminded of the lyrics to the theme song of one of my favorite childhood shows. “You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life.” I hope that I’m able to enjoy the good things in life because I’ve experienced the bad. It definitely makes the good taste sweeter, seem more special and creates in me a feeling of gratitude for the good and thanks to God for providing it. This doesn’t mean that I can forget or blow off the bad…I hate the bad. I really really hate the bad. I will listen to my body and rest when it needs rest. I will continue to pray for healing in broken relationships. I will continue on my knees in prayer for my beautiful children. God sent me the world’s greatest advocate in the Holy Spirit (sent in HIS name) to be on my side. And when my wings are down or I feel hopeless I pray for a loud reminder of this and God reminds me of his peace and to not be afraid. I think this is really important. God is NOT giving me the peace that is of this world. We live in a world of sin that’s full of the icky stuff….but God gives us something even better. HIS peace. The peace of God. This is how I know I can do hard things. God is my Heavenly Father, he has prepared a place for me and I can rest in his peace.

I can do hard things.

Dust to Dust

“for dust you are and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19

Last night was one of those crazy nights. We hastily rushed through dinner. My oldest son was working, my husband took my middle son to youth group and I was left with my youngest son, Cooper. I needed help returning some things to my parents house and had asked for help from Cooper. He REALLY did NOT want to help. After much protest from him, helping became less of a suggetion and more mandatory becasue I wasn’t dealing with an attitude and in this family we help one another. He was sulking and angry as we took the items to my parents house. After some TLC from grandma, he found himself in a better mood. We got home and it was the two of us cozied up on the couch watching a Pacer game while I did my bible study.

I started talking to Cooper about Ash Wednesday and that Lent was fast approaching. Despite me working for a church for eleven years AND raising my children up in the church and a Christian home…you know what’s coming right? Cooper asked “What’s Ash Wednesay?” (sorry reader, if you’re looking for tips on being the perfect parent you should definintely switch to someone else’s blog). Despite my inital internal despair that I had failed (yet again) to sear the traditions of the church on the hearts of my children, I gave the brief summary of Ash Wednedsay being the start of Lent and the 40 days leading up to Easter. That this was a time of rememberance of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We talked about people giving things up for Lent…suggestions included Snap Chat, soda and candy. I told Cooper that I tried to look at this as 40 days to become a better Christian. How will I end this Lenten season being more like Jesus than when I began? Do I give up gossip? Foolish spending? Trusting in myself more than God?

Just as I am beginning to think that I’m losing Cooper on this topic, he surprises me. He announces that this year he is going to give up needless anger for Lent. This! Out of the mouth of my 13 year-old teenage son. His thougthfulness and understanding of the topic amazed me and I felt that he was understanding the concept of sacrifical giving during this time of Lent. I shared with him that was an excellent sacrfice during this next 40 days and told him I would pray for his success.

I sat in Ash Wednesday service today and received my ashes. I feel deeply contemplative today as I think about the next 40 days and what it means to have a savior in Jesus Christ. I’m so grateful for this hope. I know how the story ends. I know who is victorious. I know who conquers death. I know that his sacrifice means something. Thank you God, that you sent your son to die for me so that I can have eternal life with you.

Go get your ashes….and remember.


The Dirty “D” word

Diet…most of us have been there done that…

Where for forty days he (Jesus) was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:2-4

I’m going to say it right off the bat…The Dirty “D” word is for DIET. I think I’ve tried almost every diet known to man. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, Mediterranean, Whole 30…I’ve been in (and out) of The Zone. And guess what? I think they all work! If you are determined and have committed to making the long term changes affiliated with these dietary plans then I think anyone can be successful. Then why have I failed? Why do I have a trunk full of weight loss books waiting to be sold back at my nearest neighborhood Half Price Book Store? I’m pretty sure this is because I have FOMO (fear of missing out…on the next food driven celebratory soiree) or maybe I just get lazy. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I did vow that I would look at how I approach areas of weakness in my life and how I could do a better job at being intentional in those areas to see growth and progress. I purchased the book Full, by Asheritah Ciuciu (I know. I know. Another book…I AM an author and will tell myself that this is for the great good of authors everywhere). The difference is that this isn’t a diet book. No quick fix, no easy meal plans for busy moms on the go and no diet. This book is about the connection to healthier relationships with food and a healthier relationship with Christ. Well, who wouldn’t want that?!? I read on….

I have a lot highlighted in this book so far but here are a few of the “big” ideas that have really resonated with me.

“No matter whether we’re eating healthfully or bingeing on comfort foods, we will not find the satisfaction we seek until we realize our cravings are meant to point us to God.”

“We don’t need another diet; we need the sanctification that comes by the power of the Spirit.”

“No comfort food can match the comfort I’ve found in Jesus.”

“Food cannot fix anything-God is the only one who can satisfy us because He created us to find our satisfaction in Him.”

There’s LOTS more in this book and it’s taking me a while to not only read but process what God is saying to me through this study.

I’ve decided to practice the discipline of self-control while I read this study. I’m doing it through IF (Intermittent Fasting). I fast for 16 hours and can eat during an 8-hour window. I take this one day at a time. I’m trying to really depend on Jesus for EVERYTHING and this includes finding satisfaction in Him. Living for Him does take sacrifice and it’s NOT easy. But His death for my sins wasn’t easy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say life will be easy. And I know that I can’t live on bread alone and word of God is the living word and I’ll serve that up on a platter any day of the week!

Mom-shaming

Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue! Isaiah 35:4

I often wonder why there are people in this world so quick to put others down? I read in Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing, that Satan is like that annoying guest at a pool party. They know they are going to get wet but they will try their darndest to reach out and grab as many people to take down with them as they possibly can.

I recently had an encounter with one of these types of people. I walked away feeling that I had been mom-shamed. I’m a pretty positive person and when in doubt, ALWAYS resort to kindness (because my mom says you can never regret being kind). I was surprised and discouraged by this conversation and decided that my first course of action was to pray about it. I asked God to reveal clearly what I valued (and be able to articulate) as a parent and raising three teenage sons and to remember my own identity in Christ (and not let some Debbie downer drag me into the deep end of the pool). Here’s my TOP ten list of values as a parent:

Love, love, love, love, love! Above all else, I want my boys to know that they are loved by me and a Heavenly Father that will never forsake them. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Grace. “Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of Grace.” Carly Fiorina

Work Ethic. “You can’t have a million dollar dream on a minimum wage work ethic” Unknown

Honesty. “If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it.”

Integrity. “Integrity is not something you show others, it’s how you behave behind their back.”

Same Team. “You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes and encourage them in their pursuits. when we all help one another, everybody wins.” Jim Stovall

Helping others. “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Barack Obama

Sense of Humor. “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” Maya Angelou

Identity in Christ. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you before you were born I set you apart;I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Gratitude: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

To my sons: I love you more than words can express and one of my greatest joys on this earth is to be your mom. I hope you’ve found me worthy of that calling.

To moms: You’re doing a great job! This is hard work. Build each other up and support one another. We aren’t competing against each other, we are working together to build up the human race.

Mr. Weaver

Have a you ever had an inspirational teacher? Meet Mr. Weaver…

Romans 12:6-7 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

Ninth grade, Environmental Science at Clay Jr. High…meet a less than motivated middle school student who could not care less about school. Surprise, surprise, I was at school for the social aspect. I was not a great student in the early years (actually until I was a junior in college), I was average at best. This was of my own choosing as I had more important things to focus on in my youth; boys, 80’s hair bands and spending time at the mall. Before ninth grade, I’d had good teachers but no one that saw “potential” in me or invested time in me or encouraged me to be more than what I was. I had typically been labeled “lazy” and spent most of my elementary years with my desk right next to the teacher. I missed a lot of recess for talking and not turning in assignments on time. I had yet to be inspired by someone in the school system. Little did I know that was about to change.

Meet Mr. Mark Weaver, a dynamic teacher, grades be damned, he was going to influence and inspire and love kids (all kids) to aim for the stars and reach their full potential. It was the first time I remember being excited to go to a class! His room was chock-full of weird things. Animals, Bee hives that had been evacuated, furs, papers, old projects. It was a cacophony of crap that to this 14-year-old was absolutely magical.  Mr. Weaver was always in a good mood, smiling and greeting students for another great day of ninth grade instruction. It was the first time that I had seen a teacher facilitate learning and encourage curiosity. I remember doing a huge project on Gorillas and it was fun, I learned a ton, and it sparked creativity in me that fueled a fire and I knew that people who were “outside the box” were from my home planet. I thrived in this class and it was all because of Mr. Weaver. I was so inspired that I became a teacher because of him. I like to think my brand of “weird” is a tribute to him and the passion for learning that he brought out in me.

I have had the enormous pleasure of seeing Mr. Weaver as I have grown into adulthood (advantage of staying in your hometown) and my oldest son, Connor, had him as a teacher as well! What a joy for my son to learn from a teacher that had such a profound impact on my life!

Mr. Weaver is retired now. My son reached out to him to interview him for a project he had at the high school. Last week, Connor and I got to sit down and share a meal with Mr. Weaver. I can’t describe how special I felt all over again as the memories came flooding back. Mr. Weaver had been part of a teacher study program in Japan and had heard a survivor talk from the Hiroshima bombing. As I sat there and listened to him share stories, I was the same 14-year-old girl who had been so privileged to be in his class and share his electric energy once again. I hope that I am half the teacher that Mr. Weaver was and is. I also hope I have the opportunity to continue to spend time with him. He has many more stories to tell and I have ears to listen. Thank you, Mr. Weaver, for being the best teacher I ever had!

Galentine’s​ Day: 13 Quotes to Celebrate Friendship

 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Parks and Rec…what a great show that made me want to move to Pawnee, IN. Leslie Knope was famous for her quirky yet extremely sentimental “holidays.” and coined the term “Galentine’s Day” to be celebrated with her gal pal Ann on February 13.  Over a decade has passed since the first Galentine’s Day and the concept has only gained momentum.
My closest besties call ourselves “Bakers Dozen” so here are 13 of my favorite quotes and inspiring words for all the gals out there making a difference!
1.  Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
2.  Empowered women empower women.
3.  A strong women looks challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.
4.  You can tell who the strong women are, they’re the ones building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
5.  Some women fear the fire…some women simply become it. (r.h. sin)
6.  There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise. (W.E.B. Dubois)
7.  If you’re searching for that one person to change your life, look in the mirror.
8.  “You always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” (The Wizard of Oz)
9. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” (Madeleine Albright)
10. “Uteruses before duderuses. Ovaries before brovaries.”  (Leslie Knope)
11.  Never make yourself small for anyone. Be your own person and try wearing a little lipstick. (Grey’s Anatomy)
12.  Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.
13.  The world needs strong women. Women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely, both tender and fierce. Women of indomitable will. (Amy Tenney)
To all the amazing women in my life (starting with my MOM)  I treasure you. You’re a gift and I honor you this Galentine’s Day!

 

Playgroup

Stand close to people who feel like Sunshine.” Anonymous

One of the biggest blessings in my life has been the best group of girlfriends that anyone could ever ask for. I have many people that support me, pray for me, encourage and love me. Truly, I am blessed beyond measure. I’ve also had the extreme privilege of raising my sons (three teenage boys currently) alongside a tribe of incredible women. How we met and formed a sisterly bond that will stand the test of time is a tribute to God’s goodness. There are four of us (Laura, Jane, Amy and yours truly) and as we navigate the adventure that is parenthood we are thick as thieves, stronger than the Ya-Ya’s and closer than traveling pants. In 17 years, I can’t recall a time when they weren’t by my side (and vice versa) raising our 13 kids in all. They are second mothers to my boys, women we can count on and I want to be like each of them when I grow up. Strong women of faith who give great advice, have the best shoulders to cry on and can make you laugh so hard there is a dribble of pee running down your leg (Amy). They are my Anthem for strong women, faith, trust, courage, and bravery to face the challenges of life. I would never want to do this life without them.

In the beginning, we called ourselves Playgroup. All of our oldest children are the same age. I remember going to restaurants where we would get out our recycled paper placemats (the table was way too dirty for our little darlings to eat off of) coat the kids in purell (because you know…germs) and order our organic yogurts and whole grain sandwiches for our angels (because of you know…preservatives). I remember getting to playgroup once on the verge of tears because my son had just measured 28 inches long and my car seat only accommodated a 26 inch long baby (for shame)! I was really jealous of Jane because her car seat had a really cool carrying strap and could accommodate darling Veronica until she was 29 inches long (what a great mom). I long for the days when we were only worried about making it to music class on time and where we were going out afterward.

Now we use the term “playgroup” to talk about a function or get together that includes the husbands and the children. When it’s just the four of us we are “Baker’s Dozen” ie: mom’s on the loose with 13 kids at home with the dads. Bakers Dozen doesn’t happen as much as I would like it too. As the kids get older we find ourselves busier which is funny because I always thought I was pretty busy taking care of three boys under the age of four. I cherish this time with my girls and when Playgroup gets together nothing warms my heart more than to see all 13 kids running, laughing and hanging out together. I’ve been able to watch my tribe grow up. Next year the “oldest” will be seniors in high school. So hard to believe…I’m so proud of them and could burst into tears simultaneously (time…you cruel beast).

Laura, Jane, and Amy- thank you for being my rock, my sanity, my soul mates. I don’t know what I did to deserve friends like you but I thank God every day for you.

Proverbs 27:9- A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

Indeed it does!

 

 

 

 

I have a Bully

1 Peter 5:8 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

High school was relatively easy for me. I was on the Varsity tennis team and very involved in theater. I had a great group of friends and on most days, loved my family. My only bullying experience was when I was a senior and briefly started dating someone. I inadvertently found myself in a teenage love triangle where the ex wanted him back. This was a quick relationship because I didn’t care that much to begin with and I certainly wasn’t going to put up with being bullied. She could have him. I was headed to college and had my sights set on bigger and better things.

Over the past couple of years, I have found myself in another bullying situation. Being a self-proclaimed Jesus girl and heavily involved in church, I have regularly used the “kill them with kindness” strategy. My mom says you can never regret being kind. While I won’t state my political views, I resonated with Michelle Obama saying “When they go low, we go high.” My wise grandmother also said, “never write anything down that couldn’t be read from the pulpit.” But what happens when kind doesn’t cut it? When kind bounces off and becomes worthless?

You may be asking why I can’t remove this person from my life? Trust me, like a cancerous tumor, I wish I could but that is not my current situation. So how do I handle this? How do I handle someone that spews lies, deceit, hurt, wickedness and immorality? I have had my closest spiritual mentors come around me and we have discerned an answer and it is found in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour.” I’m on the right track spiritually, in my home and with my family. I’m doing kingdom work and that really ticks Satan off! I know he sends easy targets my way to prowl and devour. Spiritual warfare is real and I want to say here and now that we are armed with the word of God as our greatest weapon. This is not the defensive move of someone tormented by a bully. This is the greatest offensive move! I believe in the power of prayer and victory claimed in the name of Jesus Christ. I ask you to join me… if you have a bully or any situation where the devil is prowling to put on your armor of God. Wrap yourself in the belt of truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Stand firm with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and take up the sword of the spirit. God is with you and he hears our prayers. There’s more to the story in 1 Peter 5:9-11 where we are encouraged to “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing to the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever Amen.”

Chair #4

Tomorrow I go for the first of four infusions to treat Cryoglobulinemia. This is a super weird and rare disease where I get into trouble in my blood drops below body temperature.  My husband says I’m part of the Legion of Substitute Superheroes which is code for this disease is lame. I’ve been on steroids and immunosuppressants since April. My head is the size of a basketball…it’s not cute and I’m feeling pretty yucky. However, God has definitely allowed me to see HUGE blessings during this time and I’m super grateful for that! I’m hoping a positive attitude and winning smile make up for the fact that my glasses don’t fit on my head anymore and no amount of eyeshadow is going to hide my moon face (Prednisone…you are the devil).

I’ve been treated for kidney disease for 4 years and now (thanks to the world’s best neurologist) this “cryo” thing has emerged (I can also use slang like “cryo” because that’s how the peeps in my support group talk) we need to up our game and take care of this because as I like to say “winter is coming.” Enter infusions…goal being to kill my B cells and reboot my system and get my body to stop hating me and attacking itself.

I received a text confirming my appointment and was surprised when the text added my seat assignment, Chair #4. I’ve been thinking all day about who will be in Chairs 1, 2, and 3. Will I see them? What are they in for? Do we all start at the same time? Do we all end at the same time? Will I have to talk to these people? Will I WANT to talk to these people? I’ve had some nervousness over doing this infusion for 2 reasons. First, I don’t know what to expect and I don’t want to have an allergic reaction to the medicine. Second, my husband thought it would be reassuring to show me a YouTube video of someone receiving this infusion of medicine.  I’m pretty sure he picked the world’s worst case scenario to show me because after watching everything that could possibly go wrong happen to this poor person, I must admit that I was completely terrified.

Today, thinking about the occupants of chairs 1, 2 and 3 has really allowed me to take the focus off of myself and think about these other people. I’ve been praying for them and through prayer felt much calmer about the experience and what will or won’t happen. God’s in control. I trust my doctors with this course of treatment. I believe that I’m in Chair #4 for a reason.

I’ve got my book and a new season of Call in the Midwives loaded on my iPad. I hate those cliche sayings “let go and let God” but some reason, cliche is on the brain and that’s what I’m thinking…

The Squirrel Family Acorn

I’m a reader. I’ve always been a reader. It’s a joke in our family that I never saw anything on road trips growing up because I sat in the back and read the entire trip.  This is true. I missed the whole Pacific Coast Highway on a trip in high school because my nose was in a book.

I attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and decided to become a teacher. I went to become a weather girl but once I found out all the first year classes started at 8 am, I switched to education (no, I was 18 and a ding dong…I didn’t think through teacher hours). While I was there and receiving a GREAT education, I found out that I could add “endorsements” to my teaching certification making me more desirable to schools while they were hiring. I decided to pursue a reading endorsement which required an additional 18 credit hours. I soon found myself in classes where books and the importance of literacy and language were front and center stage!! These were my people!!! I clung to my professors, started my own professional library (thanks mom and dad) and studied best practice. I loved every second of these classes and am very grateful for teachers that made a difference in my academic life and supported my love of books, valued my thoughts on literacy and shaped my strong opinions that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.

Toward the end of the classes required for my reading endorsement, one of the larger projects was to write a children’s picture book. This was much harder than I thought it would be. However, I persevered and wrote (what I thought) was the greatest children’s picture book to have ever been written. I finished the class, put the book in a drawer and forgot about it. Last year, it resurfaced and I read and thought it was TERRIBLE. Good bones but content???? Lacking. What I had on my side now (20 years later) was experience. Experience as a classroom teacher. Experience in children’s ministry. Experience as a Christian woman and a deeper walk in my faith and knowledge of who Jesus is. Mostly, experience as a mom, I thought about what was important to me for my own children to learn, not only as emerging readers but to help them grow in their faith. Nothing like this existed in the Christian market so I took my little book and revised, and revised, and revised. Then I left it alone for several weeks and then I revised some more. Now what started as a book for college class has turned into something for parents, churches, preschool, grandparents, caregivers, and anyone else wanting to share the love of reading while working on pattern development, sigh words and spiral language within the framework of sharing the good news!

The Squirrel Family Acorn is a 20-year work in progress that is now available!  I hope you consider adding it to your library to share with the children in your life.

Keep reading friends! Always KEEP reading!

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