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These are a few of my favorite things

Sing it with me…

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favorite things…

Some of our favorite things we may not realize are our favorite things until they are gone. For me, the song goes Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 8.50.33 PMmore like this:

Dirty diapers and crumbs on the counters

Bright mismatched socks and sticky little fingers

Trucks and dolls all over the floor

These are a few of my favorite things…

My 22-year-old son just pointed out to me that my version of the song does not rhyme. It’s okay, you get the point.

What used to bug me when my kids were little, I now long to have back again. It is funny how time changes your perspective. Too many times, I got upset over a wet towel laying on the floor because my kids seemed too lazy to hang up their towels.

That train of thought was turned upside down the first time my son came home from college. He ‘gave’ me some mom/son time and then out the door he went to be with his friends. Later as I walked into his room and grabbed some laundry, I found his wet bath towel on the floor. As I picked it up, my frustration took a 180-degree turn and I stood there in tears thanking God that I had a child to pick up a wet towel after. Sadly, it took me 17 years to realize that blessing.

We can so quickly get caught up in doing the work around the house that we miss priceless opportunities. We often forget to slow down and play with our kids.

My son’s girlfriend reminded me that you didn’t really have a childhood unless you jumped from one couch to the next to avoid the lava. As parents, we need to stop and play with our children from time to time. Those simple games like avoiding the lava are what our children will never forget. A spotless kitchen will not be their favorite memory.

As we run around the house cleaning up after our children, remember to count it is as a blessing and not a job. What small effort would it take to start looking at the mess of toys, the fingerprints, and crumbs as a gift rather than a job?  I have a few friends that have lost children and I know they would love to have the gift of a messy house to clean up. Stopping whatever pressing thing they were doing to play a game of hot lava with the child they have lost would be a priceless gift.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.06.37 PM

My son Tanner and Sam

Last weekend we had a sweet little boy named Sam stay with us. One of the first things he noticed was the different sizes of the tiles in our floor. Sam announced to everyone that the big tiles were safe and the small tiles were lava. As the weekend went by, and I got busy, I would remember what he said and quickly adjust my feet on the tiles to avoid the imaginary hot lava. Sam seemed so happy when I remembered his game.

Looking back, I see times I missed special moments with my kids. I thought I had to do the dishes right away rather than sit on the floor with them and play for a few minutes. To every new mom, my words of wisdom are, “don’t be too quick to wipe the fingerprints off your windows. You will miss them someday.” I know that I miss them. I was too quick to wipe off those little reminders of my kids. In time, those reminders were gone.

My family has now learned to humor me when I bring a young child over to my slider door and blow my breath onto the glass so we can make handprints and smiley faces in the steam. Sam and I did that last weekend. And today as I write this, the sun is shining on the marks his little fingers made and I am blessed. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I had looked at things that seemed like a job, a hassle at times, as a gift.

Wet towels on the floor

Fingerprints on windows

Laundry piled high and hugs from my kiddos

These are a few of my favorite things

For more of my heartfelt ramblings pre-order your copy “Simply Blessed” and help fight hunger. $1 for every pre-order between now and December 31 will be donated to Generation Alive and $1 covers the cost of 4 meals.

Simply Blessed is a 31-day devotional for women. The thirty-one light-hearted short stories tackle real life issues that all women face. From fear, control, gossip, their identity in Christ and for some women, abuse. Simply Blessed reminds us that God is not a God of religion, he is a God of relationship. He is comfortable like our favorite Saturday sweat pants. Grab your favorite warm beverage, curl up with a blanket and let the words of Simply Blessed bring you joy.

 

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Taking Him at His word

20140901_141537Guest Post by Kari Villarreal

 

“Then [the remnant of Judah] said to Jeremiah, ‘May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.’”       [Jeremiah 42:5-6]

So I read this passage a few weeks ago and cheered inside, thinking that God’s people had finally woken up to their sinful, disobedient ways. Here, they finally decided to seek direction from the Lord, and not only seek His direction but then vowed to obey whatever He would tell them to do, “whether it is favorable or unfavorable”! That sure sounded like renewed devotion to me! God responded quickly, speaking through Jeremiah and giving specific instructions to His people. He even went as far as to warn them of exactly what will happen if they did not follow His instructions. Pretty clear, no?

As the reader I’m thinking, “Okay people, how can you possibly ask for anything more? God answered your specific questions with specific directions and promises attached, to boot!” Apparently, their ‘renewed devotion’ was quickly thrown out the window. The answer they received from God through Jeremiah wasn’t the answer they wanted, so they chose to ignore it. Not only that, but when warned AGAIN about the idol worship that was angering God Almighty, this was their stubborn response (just two short chapters after vowing to obey whatever the Lord spoke to them through Jeremiah):

“‘We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord. We will certainly do everything we said we would: we will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.’” [Jeremiah 44:16-18]

Anyone else exasperated by these crazy people?? The two passages above sound like they have come from two completely different people. This was their arrogant response: ignoring the Word and warnings of the Lord, they chose to look with eyes of flesh at their situation and draw their own conclusions (i.e. ‘we were so much better off when we were worshiping this idol’). How easy it was for me to sit back and scoff at the arrogance and ignorance of God’s people…but then there was that gentle and loving, yet firm and convicting stirring in my spirit, and it hit me. How many times have I done the same thing? Too many to count. In many different areas and contexts of my life.

Currently my struggle is with bitterness and un-forgiveness. It’s absolutely toxic. I didn’t even realize the extent to which it had begun to consume my heart until I asked Him back in June of this year to search my heart and reveal to me the things that were not pleasing to Him. May I just say, be careful and be ready if you ask God this question? Because He will, and when I did I was not at all prepared to see the blackness that had grown in my heart that I was mostly unaware of (or maybe just deep down, unwilling to give up). So for almost three months I have spent time digging deeper into His Word and praying through what He revealed to me. Seeing not much progress, I became discouraged and confused. “Lord,” I prayed, “I’m asking You each day to please remove this ugliness from my heart! It’s going to eat me alive! Where are you? Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, I just want this gone!” (Sound at all familiar?) Looking back, I realized there have been times in my life when some things were “easier”, yet at many of those times I was spiritually dead or asleep-or worse, jut flat-out disobeying Him-ignoring His very Word, the bread of life, to worship my own idols (again, sound familiar?).

Then I came to chapters 42-44 of Jeremiah in my Bible reading plan and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “My Word says that if I have forgiven you, what can you possibly hold against anyone else? It also says to get rid of all bitterness […] along with every form of malice. It ALSO says that love does not envy and keeps no record of wrongs. Haven’t I spoken? And I have spoken clearly and specifically. It’s all in my Word, you have the choice to heed it or ignore it.”

OUCH!

So I suppose I’m really not all that much better than those ‘crazy people’. Was this revelation an immediate fix to a deep issue that the Lord was (and still is) working out of me? Wish I could say it was, but this time the answer is no. Does God sometimes work that way? I definitely believe so. Ultimately, I have made the choice (through His strength alone) to let go and trust that this very painful, humbling process will bring me closer to my Jesus than miraculous deliverance in a moment of revelation. I believe that is always one of His priorities, along with bringing glory to His name and building His kingdom. My hope in sharing this personal internal struggle and the revelation through His word that He so graciously imparted to me is that it brings glory to His name. He is so incredibly patient with His kids!557_10202467181544508_1797414666_n His correction is accompanied with His gentleness and His loving kindness. He is always, always good. I know the outcome of this process will be worth the (delayed) freedom, versus ignoring it or putting it aside until I feel like dealing with it.

If there’s a heart issue you know the Lord has been nudging you to deal with, I encourage you to dig into His word and hear the specific instructions He has already given us, and ask His powerful Spirit to breathe those words to life and penetrate them deep into your heart. It will probably be difficult, but will be worth the outcome because He is faithful and completely trustworthy.

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Clean your own closet

By Cassie of Cassie’s Corner

CassiesCornerButtonSo often we find ourselves as parents scolding our children for behavior that we see as wrong, unruly, or down right disobedient. Sadly, we discipline our children for simply being a child. I recently had a conversation with my daughter regarding her behavior and lack of respect. When I asked her why she kept acting out and would not listen to my directions to clean her room she answered soundly, “Daddy doesn’t put his laundry downstairs. Daddy doesn’t put his shoes away.” And on she went with a ‘laundry’ list of behaviors my husband and I do that we should not do, things we say that we should not say, it was a brutal list of our behaviors as parents that were rubbing off on our children. I listened to her speak and I silently wept as I realized that I had become a ‘Do as I say, not as I do” type of parent.

Some would say that as a child, my “sweet-face” should not be allowed to tell us Mt St Helens(her parents) how to act or what we are doing wrong. They are welcome to their opinion as we are welcome to parent our children as we see fit. In our home our children are free to communicate whatever they are feeling as long as they do so with respect and at the appropriate time. Our daughter was holding up a mirror and revealing to us how her and her younger brother view my husband and I as parents, as examples.

Proverbs 22:6(NIV), “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

All I could think about as I listened was the above verse. I kept asking myself what kind of legacy am I teaching my children. I wondered, how do my children view their father? I wondered how our son and daughter viewed God, if we were a reflection of His love for them while on earth. My heart broke. An innocent conversation about being good stewards of what God has blessed us with (clothes, toys, beds, a home), turned into a self-reflection that was seriously ugly.

Thankfully, our children forgave us for being poor examples in some areas and thanked us for being great parents in others. We asked them for forgiveness and they asked us to forgive them. We prayed as a family and asked God to look at our hearts, to search us and to know us and to reveal himself to us. The night ended with us listening to worship music and being grateful for open communication.

Once the children were asleep my husband, Geoff, and I processed the conversation and how it made each of us feel. I reminded him that the whole thing started over a mandated instruction for our 8-year-old to clean up her closet and put her clothing where it belonged. Then, I said, “As parents, we need to clean out our own closets before we reprimand our children. I was referring to examining our own behavior before we react to our children living as we have shown them. As parents, self-reflection is always a good thing. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s down right nasty. We were both very sad and pondering how we had allowed ourselves to be so consumed with life that we had forgotten our most precious positions; living as children of God and being parents to our most priceless gifts from our father above.

I laid in bed that night asking God to make me the kind of mother that my children could be proud of. The kind of mother that they would want to have at school and around their friends. I asked him to open my eyes to areas in my life that need Him the most and to start a work in me that would filter into my children and their children after them. He is so very faithful to answer our prayers.

Exodus 20:6(NIV), “but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Gram H Legacy 2My hope is that every person that reads this article will stop and think about the example they are to the next generation(s). Parents or not, we are all examples to someone. What type of LEGACY do you want to leave?

 

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You can’t control everything….

By definition to “Control” means to have the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events. Authority, power, sway, dominance, rule, sovereignty, management, and direction are just some synonyms of the word “control”.

We can easily slip into the trap of trying to control everything. Because of past hurts we can go through life trying to control everything as a way of protecting ourselves. We micro-mange, direct, and sway those in our lives. The need to control can cause a sense of panic when we are faced with something that we can’t control. This can become a very unhealthy place to be. If the need to be in control is controlling you it is time to make a change. God can help you but he needs you to be willing to let go.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 7.25.19 AMMy hair is a funny reminder that I am not the one in charge. I have short hair and sometimes I wake up with it going EVERYWHERE. It is my flock of seagulls’ hair. If you were a product of the 80’s you will know what I mean. On those days my hair is a simple reminder that I can’t control everything. It has a mind of its own at times and there is nothing I can do about it. Life can be the same. No matter how hard we try to control it, we can’t.

God is the only one who is in control at all times. He is the only constant that we can count on. When I let go of things I had no control over and gave them to God I began living in victory and not panic. The same can be true for you.

Now take a closer look at some of the synonyms of “Control”

  • Authority: God is in CONTROL there is no authority higher than God.
  • Power: God is in CONTROL all power belongs to Him. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: 
that power belongs to God, Psalm 62:11 NIV
  • Dominance: God is in CONTROL and he has dominance over all nations and all kingdoms. He has got your life handled also.
  • Rule: God is in CONTROL He will rule and reign forever.
  • Sovereignty: God is sovereign. “If you were to look up the word “sovereign” in the dictionary, you would find words and phrases like superior, greatest, supreme in power and authority, ruler and, independent of all others in its definition. But the way I like to explain God’s sovereignty best is simply to say, “God is in CONTROL.” There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations” -Chip Ingram, Walk Thru the Bible

I hope that these synonyms of the word control help you to see that God is ultimately in control. To keep trying to control what you can’t is just going to waste a lot of your time.  If you can’t control your hair on a bad hair day what makes you think you can control life better than God himself.

Originally written for Living Better 50 magazine. LB50ContributorSQ

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