Monday, May 7, 2018

Run Through Sprinklers

There are sobering moments in life when everything shifts into its proper perspective.  It's easy to get caught up in our everyday hustle and bustle, our self centered-ness, our "woe is me" mentality when in reality, life is pretty sweet.  We feel lonely, depressed, hopeless.  And I am learning that often times it is self inflicted. We can't see past the end of our own noses.  The enemy puts blinders on us, distracting us from seeing all that's good and important and wholesome.  And the result?  A life that never meets its full potential.

I am seeing more and more how life is a vapor, a quick moment in time.  It's a precious gift that can be gone in an instant.  Our local community was rocked with a terrible fatal accident yesterday that claimed the lives of two innocent, precious, beautiful girls; one seven, one seventeen.  It makes you stop and think...that could have been me and my family. 

So what is one to do?  Do you go about like nothing ever happened?  You could.  Do you live in fear?  You could do that too, (But take it from someone who has learned from experience; it is crippling.)  Or you could decide right here and right now to really start living; to make your days count.

Run through the sprinklers.

Bury the hatchet.

Read one more story before bedtime.

Hug your mom and dad.

Spend quality time with your family.

Put the cell phone down.

Look to Jesus.  He is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Do something kind for your spouse.

Make everyday truly count.

Realize that the small things are actually the big things.

Focus on what is true, what is lovely, what is good.

 Walking with Purpose - Keeping in Balance 2 - Philippians 4:8 lock screen
Our days are limited.  Let's not spend them wasting precious time on ideals that don't really matter in the end.  Sometimes we need a reality check to remember what is truly important.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tearing Down Strongholds

It's hard to live this and it's even harder to write this.  Oh how my soul has been in despair for months now.  As I have been preparing to share this part of my story, the enemy continues to whisper in my mind that I'll be judged, I'll be ridiculed, people will think less of me.  Oh well, here it goes anyways.  I'm not letting him continue to have this power over me.

We recently had a health scare with our daughter that brought all of this to a head.  Praise God everything seems to be fine, but it was a scary week with so many uncertainties, questions, and thoughts running wild.  It gave us a small, small glimpse into the lives of parents of children fighting terrible illnesses.  My prayer life in this area will be forever changed.

On our way home from the hospital yesterday, Jared and I began to talk about what God showed us through all of this.  I feel like I could write a book on the many lessons I learned in a short amount of time, but one glaring theme that I've had to address in my own life is spiritual strongholds that I have let the devil have on me for far too long.  This is a message that's not only hard to write, but hard to receive too.  Lord, let their hearts be softened.

My struggle with anxiety began when I was 14 years old.  I can take you to the exact moment.  It was like a switch flipped in my brain.  Since then, I've worked through managing and learning how to deal with it without medication.  But many people are not as fortunate.  And since knowing Christ, He has helped me overcome many obstacles.  It's a silent "disease", if you will.  A person can look completely normal and content on the outside, but inside is a different story.  And I almost feel as if anxiety is so flippantly used today because the feeling of anxiousness is so widespread and felt by so many people.  So let me be clear.  I'm talking about anxiety in the sense that it is crippling and paralyzing to the point where it affects your everyday life; not just a case of the butterflies from nervousness.  You can't leave your house some days because of this anxiety.  Your relationships suffer because some people do not understand.  This is real and it's a stronghold that I have let control my life for far too long.

God's Word tells us in James 1:17 that, "Every good and perfect gift is from above..."  If something is not good and perfect, frankly it is not of God.  And as a believer, that points me to who it is from - the devil.  That may sound like crazy talk, but it's true.  The devil is real and he is alive.  He seeks to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).  He wants to kill my confidence in Christ.  He wants to steal my joy with my family.  He wants to destroy my testimony, my character, my relationships, fill in the blank. He has bound me in chains through the word "anxiety" so much so that he had convinced me that all of my fears would become a reality if I even so much as voiced them.  Do you know how crippling this is?  I couldn't even talk about worries I had because I was afraid if I even spoke the words, it would happen.  I know that sounds crazy, but I also know I am not alone in feeling this way.  That is why I feel so compelled to share.

The ways in which I've found the enemy to work in my life are through fear, isolation, and my introverted nature.  I buy into his lies that he feeds me, which then makes me fearful.  I'm already isolated as a mom of an infant and a toddler because I simply cannot go and do whatever I want whenever I want.  And because I'm a natural introvert, I will sometimes hole up and stay that way.

But...GOD.  He is greater and He is stronger than any of this.  And this week took me to my knees in ways I could never put into words.  And through this, I learned a few ways to break these strongholds.

1.  PRAYER.  I battled in prayer.  The more I talked to people, the more anxious I became.  Why did the doctor have that frown on her face?  Why didn't he say everything would be okay?  Even with the best of intentions, most people in their reassurance made my anxiety worse.  And it's not their fault, they were only trying to help.  The only one I could talk to and feel a sense of calm from was God.  When I spoke to Him, I knew He was listening.  I knew He was working. 
Also, the prayers of His people are more valuable than gold.  When someone asks you to pray, it is not because they do not trust God.  It is because these battles are won in prayer and prayer is a lifeline to God.  There are spiritual battles all around us.  Read 2 Kings chapter 6 to get a glimpse. 


2.  MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE.  His word came alive to me in ways I have not experienced before.  I have not done an excellent job in memorizing scripture.  I am much better than I was, but I still have a long way to go.  I cannot tell you how powerful it was to be talking to God and reciting His word back to Him saying, Lord, you told me in Philippians that Your peace would guard my heart and my mind (Phil 4:7).  I need that right now, Lord.  Thank You for bending to hear my prayers.  Because of that, I will pray as long as I have breath (Psalm 116:2)!  You've told me satan is a liar (John 8:44).  He wants to kill, to steal, and to destroy (John 10:10).  But You have overcome that!  He bruised your heel, but you crushed his head (Genesis 3:15).  The power I felt in these prayers was like the force of a bulldozer uprooting a tree.  I could feel the chains breaking.  Memorizing scripture is now something I will be diligently working toward.

3.  SPEAK OUT FEARS.  This was the hardest for me to learn.  Even through the power of prayer and calling out God's word, I still felt choked down by fear that if I even voiced my thoughts raging in my mind they would somehow come true.  But as I began to realize I was buying right into satan's snares, I opened up and spilled it all out to my husband.  I could almost hear the chains breaking then.  All of these worries I've been keeping bottled up inside me for months came pouring out.  I could breathe!  I could talk!  Someone would listen and not judge me, not ridicule me, not make me feel stupid.  Why had it taken me so long to figure this out?

The answer was strongholds.  I had let satan plant seeds of doubt in my mind that grew into fears and sprouted lies.  And the more I kept silent, the more I watered his poisonous plant to the point that its roots became chains on my life.

That sign                                                                                                                                                                                 More

But...GOD.  He is greater and He is stronger than any of this.  My chains are gone, I've been set free.  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy rains.  Unending love, amazing grace.

I pray that any strongholds you have in your life will be uprooted, sawed in half.  It may not happen overnight, but God is faithful.  He is strong.  He is true.  Trust Him, lean on Him, learn from Him.  He will direct all of your paths and fill your heart with joy.  Even in the midst of struggles you can say, it is well with my soul.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Meal Plan Monday

Monday comes around all too quickly, doesn't it?  And's a doozy around here.  Mondays are always the hardest for my babies.  Maybe it's all of the fun we had over the weekend or missing their daddy, but we're riding the struggle bus most Mondays. 

We had a nice weekend at home complete with chores being checked off, visiting with some friends and meeting their new baby boy, and church on Sunday followed by some awesome Sunday afternoon naps.  Well, the kids took the naps.  J and I adulted; he fixed the garage door while I grocery shopped.

I absolutely loved your feedback from last week's post and I hope it helped you plan or stay accountable.  You also gave me some great ideas for new recipes to incorporate!  Here is what we will be eating this week.

Monday - Mississippi Pot Roast (Crockpot friendly) with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, and salad.
Tuesday - Mexican Pulled Chicken Stuffed Peppers with black beans. (Crockpot friendly)
Wednesday - Eating at my parents' house
Thursday - Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. (Crockpot friendly)  I've seen this recipe a lot floating around on Pinterest and several of my friends have made it.  We're giving it a shot!
Friday - Green Chile Turkey Burgers with oven roasted sweet potato wedges.
Saturday - Grilled Pork Steaks with grilled squash, zucchini, asparagus, and baked beans.
Sunday - Panko Pesto Chicken with sauteed green beans and roasted parsnips.

Food makes me excited and I'm really excited about this week's menu.  These are all "clean eating" approved with the exception of Monday's pot roast and the panko used on Sunday's chicken. Let me know what recipes you'd like to try and I'll do my best to get them posted.  Watch for the Springtime Chicken recipe coming sometime this week.

Here's to good food and sweet family time together around the table.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Meal Plan Monday

Alright, y'all.  I'm going to bring back Meal Plan Monday with the hopes that it will keep you and I accountable in staying organized and creating healthy home cooked meals for our families.  If organization and planning were love languages, they would be mine.

I love to meal plan and I have ever since I lived on my own.  Now it is even more critical for my growing family.  We are on a tight budget (thanks, Dave Ramsey), and eating out is expensive!  I make my meal plan every Sunday, with input from my family, and usually do my grocery shopping on Monday.

Here are some helpful tips when making your weekly meal plan:
1.  Look for sales on meat at your local stores that week.  Plan meals around that (if your family eats meat).
2.  Buy produce that's in season.  It will be much more cost effective and in-season always tastes better.  This is a great resource to check if you're unsure about what is and what is not in season.
3.  Be realistic.  If you know you have a meeting that lasts until 6:00 on Tuesday night, chances are you need to prepare something ahead or pick something up on the way home.  Don't wait until you get home to decide.
4.  Be flexible.  If you have tacos planned for one night and your family is just not feeling it, switch it with another night.
5.  Don't be afraid to add variety.  Of course we all have our favorites, but branch out!  Cooking can be a lot of fun and the more you do it, the more comfortable you become with it.  I say try just one new recipe a week.
6.  Involve your family.  Ask for their input.  And then sit down at the table and eat together.

Here is what we will be eating this week:

Monday - Mushroom chicken with brown rice and steamed asparagus.
Tuesday - Tacos with refried beans (I usually plan a different Mexican dish for Tuesday nights).
Wednesday - Church/leftovers.
Thursday - Springtime Chicken with sauteed zucchini, squash, and carrots over brown rice.
Friday - Lumpia with fried rice.
Saturday - Pizza night!
Sunday - Greek chicken with sauteed green beans and baked sweet potatoes.  You can find the recipe here.  Shared by my sweet friend, Erica, this is fast, easy and healthy.

I make my own taco seasoning.  It's SO simple and I always have these spices on hand.

Homemade Taco Seasoning:
  1. 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder.
  2. 1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder.
  3. 1/4 tsp. Onion Powder.
  4. 1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.
  5. 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano.
  6. 1/2 tsp. Paprika.
  7. 1 1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin.
  8. 1 tsp. Sea Salt.

I'd love to hear what you're planning for this week!  Please leave me questions/comments and I'll be sure to respond.  Have a wonderful, blessed week.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year, New Goals

As another new year gets started, I always like to reflect back on the previous one and think of what I'd like to accomplish during this year.  For 2018, I have two major goals.  They are choosing joy and being intentional.

Choose Joy Printable Art Inspirational Print by PaperStormPrints
Joy is a beautiful word that has tremendous power behind it.  Joy is not about what happens to you, but how you choose to respond to what happens.  It's a mindset.  I feel like learning to practice joy is an ongoing life lesson and one I really want to focus on this coming year.

Our family will be growing any day now with the addition of our baby boy. I know and I've been told numerous times that two under two will not be easy.  But I don't want to see it that way.  I want to find so much joy in the hard days when all I've done is wipe booties, bathe babies, clean up various messes, and calm crying little ones.

But how do I do that?  I choose joy right here and right now.  I choose to look at trying circumstances as a blessing rather than a nuisance.  I choose to see that these babies of mine are only babies for such a teensy amount of time and the abundance of hugs and kisses I receive on a daily basis will soon be fewer and far between. I choose to remember that there was once a time that I didn't know if I'd ever get to experience motherhood and I keep that at the forefront of my mind.

Becoming intentional is something else that has really been on my heart for several months now and I know it needs to be a major focus of my life.  I want to be intentional in my relationship with Christ, with my husband, with my children, and with family and friends. In a world where I feel pulled in a thousand different directions with everything vying for my attention, I have simply realized that it's not possible to be involved and efficient at every single thing.  I am having to become intentional in what matters.  This will take work and a lot of prayer, but I know the Lord will lead me and help me as long as I seek Him during this journey.

I pray that 2018 will bring you tremendous blessings as you set out with your own goals in mind.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's Time for a Wardrobe Transformation

I need a wardrobe overhaul.  It's not because I'm 9 months pregnant and my selection of suitable options is quickly dwindling.  It's not because the clothes I have hanging in my closet are out of style or becoming too worn.  No, those are much more surface issues.  I need a wardrobe transformation because I have been clothing myself with pride.  It's time to take that off and clothe myself with humility.

IF:Equip                                                                                                                                                                                 More

I have been praying for some specific things and people in my life and the Lord has constantly laid the word pride before me.  Not something I wanted to hear.

Pride is a funny thing.  It rears its ugly head in the most cunning and devious of ways in my life.  It never comes out and flaunts itself as being proud or having high self esteem.  Instead, my pride manifests itself most often in the form of anxiety and insecurity or wanting someone else to feel the freedom that I have experienced since meeting Jesus, which can then cause me to be critical.

Wait, those are characteristics of pride?  Yes, they are.  They show a lack of trust and faith in the One who made me.  They show me focusing more on others than on myself and my own heart.  As I've been praying through this over the last month, the Lord has continued to place people, obstacles, sermons, and scriptures before me that reiterate the fact that this is definitely a problem I need to deal with.

This morning I listened to an excellent podcast that was divinely placed in my path, no doubt.  The title was "Pride & Humility".  Well, that caught my attention.  It's not like I hadn't been praying for that specific thing for the last month.

The Pastor began by asking these questions:

Are you anxious?
Are you critical of others?
Are you defensive when someone points out something wrong?
Do you constantly seek others' approval?
Are you insecure?
Do you take advantage of God's grace?
Do you feel shame or think your sin or brokenness is bigger than God's grace?
Do you believe that you're worthless or unforgivable?
Does a particular sin define you more than God's claims on your life?
(Questions taken directly from The Porch Podcast on Pride and Humility)

I answered yes to more of those questions than I'd like to admit.  Maybe you did too. 

Every single one of those questions points to PRIDE.

Here's what the Lord laid on my heart to share with you as He brought me peace and revelation about this topic that has been plagued me:

1. Pride (and all that goes with it) is the devil's playground.  

Again, for me, pride certainly manifests itself as anxiety.  Anxiety is something I've struggled with my whole life, or at least as long as I can remember.  My panic attacks started when I was thirteen and I found myself frozen in fear, heart racing, hands tingling, unable to swallow or breathe. I have learned to cope with it through the years, especially since coming to know Jesus, but it doesn't go away.  It's a daily battle.  And I had never seen it as a pride issue. 

It's pride because it is the doubt of God or not believing what He says to be true; not believing that He really will provide, protect, heal, defend, etc.  Satan knows this and he feasts on where I doubt God.  As long as I keep feeding him with my worries, doubts, fears, and problems by talking about it with other people or letting it distract me from how I'm called to act as a Christ follower, the vicious cycle continues because the appetite increases.

I remember when we were struggling with infertility all I saw were pregnant women.  They were EVERYWHERE.  They were in the grocery store, on the billboards I passed daily, on my Facebook newsfeed, in my Sunday school class.  And instead of praying against it, I fed it.  I continued to check for pregnancy announcements, I looked for the pregnant ladies in the store, I even dreamed of maternity clothes and how I would put together outfits.  All this did was increase my doubts and fears.  I learned Google was not always my friend and sometimes you just need to shut the social media down.  Maybe you can relate to this because you're in the same boat, or you're single and long to find your person, or you don't think you'll ever make enough money, or you don't think you'll ever accomplish your goals.  Or-or-or-Fill in the blank.  We all have vices.  But when I stopped feeding into those vices, they began to disappear.  And when they'd try to resurface, I could shut them down a lot faster.

2.  Recovery starts with humility.

We have to get to the end of ourselves.  A.W. Tozer said, "The reason why so many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves.  We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us."

We have to get to the point of realizing we need help.  Ask for it.  God helps the humble.  His Word tells us over and over again that He loves a humble heart, He will exalt the humble.  Start doing all the things you say you are going to do.  Feed on sermons, educate yourself on God's Word, talk to Him.  He will meet you there in your humility and the recovery will begin.

You see, pride and humility are polar opposites.  One cannot exist where the other one is.  I want to rid my life of the pride that steals my joy and makes me focus on the negative.  I want to be humble in my heart and spirit.  The only way I can do this is through Jesus. Humility is a beautiful thing and if we're honest, we all love a humble person.

The self awareness that is now right in front of me is definitely humbling and I pray some part of this post will resonate with you too.  It's not easy to admit our downfalls, but thank God it's not my defeat.  The Lord will lift me back up from where I've fallen.  And I will choose to wear the garments of humility.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Long Suffering

I'm sure this title jumped right off the page at you and you just couldn't wait to read such an encouraging post, right?  You might be in for a surprise.  Today I was reminded how beautiful long suffering can truly be.  I needed this encouragement and I pray maybe it will fill you with the same hope it did for me.

Long suffering means to show abundant patience in spite of troubles.  Other familiar words we use instead of long suffering are patient, tolerant, forbearing, perseverance, but to me, long suffering gets the point across in a much more descriptive way.  Don't you think?

The past two months have been rough for a number of reasons.  I am sleep deprived, I've suffered the loss of my grandpa, we're working through temper tantrums, I am trying not to lose heart and patience with certain people, I am working on getting over having my feelings hurt, blah blah blah.  Cry me a river, right?  But I'm sure you can relate.  I don't mean to be Negative Nancy, but let's be real...sometimes things are just tough.

Today my darling daughter was refusing her nap (which has been a common theme these last couple of months thanks to sleep regression, moving rooms, sickness, and now no more pacifier), and I was about to snap.  She was beyond exhausted and so was I. I had been trying to get my usually perfect sleeper to nap for an hour and a half.  We had things to do today and this nap NEEDED to happen.  She was in her room whining, jumping in her bed, evicting her stuffed animals one by one in a desperate attempt for me to return to her room once more and place them back in her bed, and I could feel my blood pressure rising.  I've been trying to be very intentional and look for God in the daily chores of everyday life, so as I started making my bed, I began praying and having a really honest conversation with Him.  It went a little something like this:

Lord, I am TRYING to find You in the mundane and everyday and make this time holy, but I'll be honest...I'm having a REALLY difficult time.  How are You in this?!  I can't focus over the whining, I don't know what else to do - we've read numerous books, we've rocked, we've sang songs, I've tried ignoring her, nothing is working.  What the heck is her deal?  Why can't she lay down and go to sleep?  That is what's best for her.  I know that and you know that so why can't You help me out here?!

Have you ever had a conversation like that with God?  If you haven't, I encourage you to do it because He already knows your thoughts.  Be honest and be real with Him.  He'll always do the same for you.

When I was finished talking and ready to listen, there in the midst of my pity party the word long suffering came to me.  Humm...I hadn't expected that.  It took me by surprise when God spoke right to my core and reminded me about the beauty of His long suffering for me.  

 “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NET‬‬

How often had I pitched a little fit, cried, whined, all to get my way.  And He sat there patiently loving me while I carried on like a little toddler.  He didn't get angry and raise His voice.  But He also didn't come swoop me up and save the day immediately.  You know why?  He ultimately knew what was best for me...just like I did with my daughter this morning.  I knew she needed rest; that's why I continued to hope that she would settle down and fall asleep.

But God's long suffering for me has much more depth to it than a missed morning nap.  His long suffering for me and for you is life saving.  His Word in 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  His long suffering gives us eternal life, if we choose it.  From this, I want to lift out several truths that were laid on my heart during my little moment of revelation:

1.  God is in the everyday and the mundane.  He cares about us right where we are.  And He wants to meet us there.  He was there with me this morning while I was making my bed and doing my own fussing and whining.  He was there all of those years when I continued to run from him and try to ignore the tug in my heart to turn to Him.  He was there when I thought my world was falling apart.  He was there when I went on that first date with my husband.  He was there during my agonizing years of infertility.  He was there in my daughter's first cry.  He was and He is always there.  He loves you and me so much; more than we can comprehend.

2.  Prayer is powerful.  I know we hear that and we often times even say it, but do we believe it?  As Shaun Pillay, our Minister of Evangelism & Discipleship, said yesterday morning, "Prayer engages the Lord of the universe!  It does not equip us for the greater work, it IS the greater work."  Now I am far-far-far from righteous, only by Christ alone, but this was actually a moment when I was engaging the Lord in prayer instead of calling my mom or husband to complain.  And you know what?  He answered!  Had I not been praying in that moment of frustration, I would not have heard His voice and felt this message in my heart.  This is such an encouragement to me because often times I fall short.  I feel like God gives us these moments to reaffirm His truths and encourage us along this journey of life.  

3.  I should count it a privilege to experience long suffering towards someone.  You can re-read that if you need to.  Do you know how hard that is to actually live?  I am willing to bet that you do.  I don't often see it as a privilege because most often I want to whip whoever is putting me through troubles into shape.  And this very concept is actually something I've been praying about for a long time now.  The Lord has continued to show me time and time again that the only person I can change is myself.  And the only way some people see Him is through me.  Every irritating, seemingly annoying person placed along my path is an opportunity for me to grow in some aspect and to do what Christ did and love them through it.  Like I said, this is not easy.  And I often fail, but I am thankful for this reminder and I pray I will continue to come back to this moment and gain strength to push forward when I'm feeling defeated.
Fruit of the Spirit Printable - Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness Goodness Faithfulness Gentleness & Self Control - Galations 5:22-23 Print Etsy

Maybe you needed this reminder as much as I did today.  The Lord is good to hear us when we call for Him.  We just have to be sure we're ready to listen.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).