Thursday, May 21, 2015

Light in the darkness

We've had weird spring weather this year. More clouds and rain than usual have made for some pretty amazing sunrises. I never tire of is evidenced by the number of photos on my camera. My favorite place to steal away for my quiet time is the back patio. Coffee in hand, the view of the sun coming up over the mountains is the perfect backdrop for my chats with the Lord.

This morning the weather seemed to mirror my thoughts. Dark menacing clouds boiled behind me as I poured out my heart to the Lord. Tough stuff. Life stuff. Stuff that takes your breath away and leaves you clinging to Him. Over the mountains the clouds lingered, but as I prayed the sun suddenly burst from behind a cloud almost blinding me. What joy! There, in the midst of the darkness, was hope. As the darkness threatened to overtake, the light came flooding in. My prayers were turned to praise and I realized the Light is always at work in the darkness. This morning He painted me a sunrise as a powerful reminder.

There are reminders all around us. We just need to slow down long enough to take them in. To let them wash over us, reminding us that the trials we're facing are but a momentary blip on heaven's radar. All this will one day give way to an eternity with Jesus...where the Light will shine brightly and He will wipe all our tears. All the tough stuff will be nothing more than a memory. What a sweet promise that is my friends! 

Until then, enjoy the sunrise.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The thing about parenting when it's HARD

Life has sort of knocked me on my butt these last few months. Just being real. I'll sum it all up by saying parenting is hard. Not potty training hard...I mean raising teenagers hard. If you have teens I bet you're shaking your head right now. See, I use to say my least favorite part of parenting was potty training. It was the first thing those wiggly little humans really had complete control over and they would do it when they were darn well ready. Yeah, that was kinda hard.

Then they grew up and decided they would make their own decisions. Oy vey! Sometimes those decisions make me stand up and cheer, sometimes they make me cringe and sometimes they make me just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Yep, I've done all three. Good, bad or indifferent, they're learning all decisions have consequences and those consequences never affect just one person. They're learning how to live with consequences and make the best of them.

Me? I'm learning to pray. Oh, I knew how to pray before, or at least I thought I did. The whole "pray without ceasing" thing? It takes on a whole new meaning when your kids decide to find their own way. You wake up praying, pray in the shower, the car, while making dinner and then you fall asleep praying. Repeat daily for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. Yep, it's a whole new dimension of prayer.

Through it all here's what I know to be TRUE: God has a plan for each of our kids. We've known that from the start, but my little Pollyanna outlook had me believing those "plans" would be all rainbows and unicorns. It honestly never occurred to me that in order to fulfill the plans my kids might have to go through a whole lot of junk. Junk that will refine them to do exactly what He has called them to. Oh how that junk hurts my momma heart! We want to protect our kids from pain, but the pain is the sandpaper (or in some cases the sledgehammer) God uses to polish out the imperfections so they will shine for Him.

I may be knocked on my butt, but I don't doubt that God is still in control and working all things together for good. He's like that...faithful when we're faithless, sovereign when we fail and able to see the bigger picture when our eyes are so blurred by tears we can't see what's right in front of us. He'll pick us up, wipe our tears, dust us off and send us right back out there to keep fighting for these amazing kids he's loaned us to raise. 

And he gave us coffee...just one more proof he loves us dearly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

God - the ultimate hacker

We recently got a nasty virus on our computer. We didn't know it at the time, but woke up one morning to find our computer had completely reset. Wiped clean. Eight years of photos...our kids entire childhood...gone. The documents, while disappointing to lose, can be recreated. The photos cannot.

Desperate, we took it to a friend in our homeschool group who we are affectionately now calling our very own "computer genius". Yes he is. Turns out we had the same virus that took out all the East Coast banks last year. It's a savage beast that wipes your hard drive clean. While the virus had reset everything, the Lord sovereignly protected our data and photos and our resident "computer genius" was able to save it all! Yipee! He cleaned up the virus and restored what was to dear to our hearts. Now our kids won't grow up and accuse us of having no photos of them.

Lately I've seen the Lord working in similar ways. A virus invades our lives. It wreaks havoc on our systems - emotional, physical, spiritual and leaves devastation in its wake. Dreams are erased, Hopes altered. Much is lost. Maybe the virus lays dormant for awhile. We don't even know it's there until one morning we wake up to its destruction. Or maybe the damage is done a little at a time, but with the same devastating effects.

However it works, it has but one source and purpose. The purpose of this computer virus was to wipe out information. It was created by evil people, with an evil intent. Satan is the creator of the viruses that threaten our lives. His purpose? To steal, kill and destroy God's people. But thankfully God is the ultimate computer genius! He is able to hack the hacker, saving what was meant for evil and restoring it for good. The virus, engineered to destroy, doesn't have to be life altering. Instead it can remind us of what's important and of who is really in control. 

We're so grateful that our photos were saved and the virus removed. Even more grateful knowing God is able to restore our lives when things get hacked.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Four reasons Elf will never sit on my shelf

This whole elf on the shelf thing...I'm not a big fan. Not that he's not cute and all. His funny antics can be seen on social media posts throughout the holiday season. People are so clever! He's certainly a naughty little thing, but I can see how his mischievous escapades would delight children and parents alike. Me? I'm not so delighted.

Four reasons Elf will never sit on my shelf:

1. Failure people...failure. 

Every single day of December this whole elf thing would set me up to fail. Coming up with something cute and comical for him to do on a daily basis would leave me completely stressed out. I'm the mom who who rushes in all ninja like seconds before my kids wake up to replace the tooth with the money because I forgot...again. Four kids and Lord knows how many teeth and I STILL forget. After a few days of forgetting to move the little thing I would probably just have to tell the kids that he met with an unfortunate accident and was no longer with us. 

2. He makes a mess! 

I already spend the majority of my life cleaning up after five other people and a dog. Why would I knowingly add another member whose sole job is to make messes and get into trouble? Nope. Not gonna do it.

3. Expectations. 

When our kids were little I came up with this great idea for hiding their Easter baskets. We tied a piece of string to their bedposts and had them follow their colored string to find the hidden surprise. Sounds like fun doesn't it? Well, apparently it was a little too much fun because now they are teens and it is their FAVORITE tradition of the year! Heaven forbid we should miss it. We skipped the year Dad had knee surgery and they've never forgiven us. Do you know how much time it takes to intertwine four skeins of yarn all over the inside AND outside of the house? Trust's a long time. Traditions are great, but just make sure it's one you're willing to continue until the cherubs move out.

4. It doesn't make sense. 

The premise is that Elf is checking up on kids to see if they're being naughty or nice so he can report back to Santa. But from what I can tell most of his antics would certainly fall into the naughty category. So the elf is going with the "do as I say, not as I do" theory of parenting? Nope. It doesn't make sense.

Now don't get me wrong. If you are a parent who has welcomed Elf into your home with open arms then great...kuddos to you. I'm just glad he's busy making messes at your house and not mine because I'm pretty sure if Elf were on my shelf he just might send me over the edge of Christmas sanity. Just bein' real people...just bein' real.

So, is Elf hanging out on your shelf this year?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pioneer Woman U-mazing mashed potatoes

As I write today the doors and windows are flung open and the sun is shining.

It's November. The day before Thanksgiving.

We live in Idaho...where it's cold.

Do you see the significance of this for my Texas lovin' heart? Yes, it's a big deal.

My fridge is stuffed to the brim with all my Southern Thanksgiving favorites just waiting to be popped into the oven tomorrow. It's all I can do to keep my fingers out of the cornbread dressing and chocolate chess pie. Oh my!

I've been at it all morning, but just had to stop and tell y'all about the Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. I seriously think they have changed my life. They are U-MAZING!! Of course they are made with copious amounts of butter, a whole brick of cream cheese AND half & half. Yep, they're that good. The best part is you make them ahead, add more butter to the top and bake them on Thanksgiving. No more last minute stress trying to get the potatoes finished, make the gravy and carve the turkey all at once. Yah for me!

Since the Pioneer Woman takes such great pics of every step of the cooking process, here's a link to her's. I promise you will thank me. You may even stop in the middle of your Thanksgiving dinner to drop me a note of gratitude for such an amazing recipe.

You're welcome and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May your turkey be moist, your gravy without lumps and the desserts plentiful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Losing the art of reflection - a major disadvantage of technology

Technology has its advantages, many of which I admit are helpful. Information at our fingertips, keeping up with far away family and friends and giving the average person a voice can all be positive if used correctly.

One serious downside I've noticed is people's seeming inability to just be still. To be alone with our thoughts for even a moment. Sitting at the dentist office recently and I looked around to see every other person in the waiting room with their noses stuck to their phones. What use to be a few quiet moments to catch your breath between appointments, to close your eyes and reflect or pray or even strike up a conversation with the person next to you - these moments are gone; swallowed up by electronic sound bytes vying for our attention.

There are many things wrong with this scenario, but what hit me that day was how our love of technology has caused us to lose the ability to think introspectively; to take a look at our hearts, or better yet, allow the Lord to do so. Hopping on to play a round of Candy Crush, or text a friend about weekend plans is far easier than trying to think through what's been bugging us. It's easier to lose ourselves in the world of Facebook than to ask tough questions about why we responded the way we did to our spouse that morning. Technology at our fingertips is stripping us of the ability and desire to just be quiet. For some of us quiet is scary, so we keep our minds busy with the unimportant.

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

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Psalm 139:23

Stillness and quiet reflection is a difficult discipline, but one we must not ignore. No matter how hard we try to deflect, ignore or downplay, the junk in our lives is still there. The only way to get rid of it is to walk through it. Maybe it's time to put down the phone and listen to the One who already knows our hearts and is waiting to walk us through all the messy parts. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giving thanks through trials

This time of year "thanks" is all the buzz word. We're reminded of the importance of thankfulness, of turning our hearts toward gratitude in an effort to refocus on the important. We try desperately to prepare our hearts for the upcoming holiday season, wanting this year to be different.

Listing our thanks, putting pen to paper in an effort to recognize our blessings certainly makes us more aware. Some things come easily, no effort required to give thanks. Family, friends, a job we love, a home to share, a full pantry. These are easy. Smiles on our faces, we lift our hands and say, "Thank you Lord!"

But what about the "blessings" that don't come so easily? What about the ones that look nothing like blessings at all, but instead come wrapped in messiness and pain? Lamentations 3:37 reminds us that nothing happens unless the Lord allows it. If we believe the Lord's plans for us are for good and not for evil and that nothing will happen to us that He will not use, then isn't it safe to say that the pain is also a gift? A messy blessing bestowed on us by the Giver of all good things? Is it possible to move from viewing our struggle as simple a source of pain to part of His plan to show us more of himself?

I don't want to simply thank Him when it's easy. To stand before the Creator of the Universe listing off my thanks like a Christmas wish list, but to kneel in reverance in the midst of pain. To stand, hands raised and tears streaming because I know nothing we experience is ever wasted. Nothing we go through cannot be used by the One who allows it to happen. 

The only way I've found to live out this type of gratitude is knowing where to keep my focus. Eyes on my circumstances leads to fear, worry and despair. In a moment's time it will suck me under. That's all it takes and before I know it I am consumed with everything but thanksgiving. Eyes on my Savior means there is no room for despair, no time for worry. How can I marvel at his faithfulness while allowing fear to consume me? The two can't exsist together. Focusing on God's goodness opens my eyes in a new way to my circumstances and I begin to see Him in it all. In every single ugly, gut wrenching detail. And I give thanks.

Thanks for the niceties makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Thanks for the heartbreaking, the unexpected, the stuff that leaves you reeling...that type of understanding brings you to a whole new level of gratitude and allows you to see God in ways you never expected. Warm and fuzzy is nice, but hearing the heartbeat of Jesus and feeling Him holding your hand trumps warm and fuzzy any day.

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