January 22, 2014

YOU are the key.

When baby Moses was born, his mother was willing to do whatever it took to keep her child from being murdered.  She kept him quiet until she couldn't, and then she put him in a basket boat and hid him in the river.  He was one of the children of Israel and his mother understood the value of him growing into manhood.  She saw a future for him.  She had plans for him to serve her God.  All was going swimmingly until a princess scooped that baby out of the water and said, "Finders keepers".  Suddenly, a child of Israel became a child of Egyptian royalty.  Are you seeing what happened?  Moses didn't belong to the Egyptians.  That place was not his own.  But, God placed him there.  God intended for him to fully invest himself in Egypt.  In it's customs.  In it's traditions.  In it's beliefs.  Moses became a man in Egypt, but he knew that "his people" were Hebrew slaves under harsh Egyptian rule.  In his passion for his people, he committed murder against an Egyptian and then fled in fear of being caught.  While he was away, the Hebrew slaves were heavily burdened and they cried out to God.  He heard them.  "God looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act."-Exodus 2:25.

Are you catching this?  God's people cried out.  He heard them.  He knew it was time to act.

God. Sent. Moses. Back.  God wasn't finished with Moses.  God had a plan for his future, and it included Egypt.  It included Pharaoh.  It included Moses knowing how to approach a throne.

When you have a vision, a goal, a dream, don't try to force it into your current season.  Allow it to grow.  Prepare for it. Grow yourself into readiness.  If God places you in a place that is not "you", not "your own",  invest yourself fully in that place, because the future may bring you back and you'll need to understand the customs, the traditions, the faith of that place...to bring effective change.

What is your vision, your goal, your dream?  If it became real TODAY would you even be ready for it?  Have you prepared?  Have you studied?  Have you made room in your life for it, by getting rid of things that wouldn't compliment that achievement?

God gives us dreams and visions.  He has incredible desires for us.  He has miracles planned just for you.  But, His word says that "To whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 12:48)  If you are not ready to meet those requirements, God cannot trust you to be faithful with the fulfillment of that dream or vision.  Ask him to show you how to prepare.  Ask him to show you what you are currently holding onto, or storing up, that is actually cluttering your mind, your home, your relationships.  YOU are the key to bringing about change.  YOU are the answer to many of your own prayers.  You just have to be willing to show your faithfulness and commitment to that dream.

Say a prayer.  Take a step.  Be brave.  Do not fear if that vision seems to take you back to a place that didn't fit previously.  Take what you've learned and bring it to that place.  Also, don't be afraid to step into a place you've never been.  If you're preparing yourself, your season will change at just the right time, and you'll be ready.

Today's Prayer:
Father, I repent of holding onto seasons that you've released me from, and I repent of trying to force a season that is meant for my future into my "now".  Help me to put the past behind me, while holding onto the lessons learned and the relationships that I treasure.  Show me how to prepare for the time that will come to me.  Place the right people in my life, who will teach me, who will walk that path with me.  Remove obstacles and temptations and make my path straight.  Grow me in faith and maturity so that my mouth is filled with your words, and your kindness.  Cause me to be an unmistakeable example of you.  Thank you for the dream, the goal, the vision, that I cannot possible achieve without you.   I depend on you.  I know you to be true.  I love you.  Amen.

January 15, 2014

Rock on, my Friends.

"A friend loves at all times..." -Proverbs 17:17

You know that friend you have?  The one with the fiery red rocker hair and the unmistakeable laugh?  The one who will take over for you when you can't make it to the "Mother's Day Tea" at your kid's preschool?  The one who will come pick you up and drive you to the chiropractor because your neck has frozen and you can barely walk?  The one who will drop everything if someone mentions the beach?  The one who will take you to the Rainbow in LA, and the roller derby, and to coffee at the mall...just so you can sit and laugh while watching "the mall guy" in his classic rocker clothes power-walk by?  The one who fell apart, so you flew across the entire country to pick her up?  Oh, you don't have that friend?  I'm sorry.  How terrible for you.

I have a life full of friends, and I'm gaining more in this amazing season of my life.  There will be some who will be a casual acquaintance, there will be some who teach me lessons, there will be some who I will guide.  But, it's those who just walk beside you.  Those who you may or may not have a lot in common with.  Those who are just...there.  The ones who are loving you at ALL times.  The ones who you are loving at ALL times.  Those are the ones who really make your life different.

I want to be that friend.  I want to know that whatever the season, I have it in me to be light, to show love, to lend a hand, to laugh at the guy at the mall.

Isn't Jesus that friend to me?  His example beats even that of my very best friends.   (And I've got some good ones.)  I really want to focus in this new season on being intentional in my relationships.  It's so important that we are just PRESENT in the lives of those around us.  People don't normally need huge favors.  The don't need hours of conversation.  They don't need entire days of our lives.  But, the little help we can offer, the few minutes on the phone, the visit at the coffee shop...those times add up.  And when the sum total of it all comes together, not a moment has been wasted, and a friend has been gained.

"Sacrifice" some time and effort in your near future.  If it's a coffee date or a dinner out, or an entire party of people at your house, just go ahead and do it.  You won't regret the time you invest.  You'll find that every moment was part of God's plan to let you love and to let you be loved.

Today's Prayer:
Father, help me to be a meaningful friend in the lives of those near and dear to me.  Keep me from seeing myself as too busy or too messy or not worth it.  Don't let my unkempt house or a fussy baby keep me from interacting and inviting people over.  Help me find ways to bond and get to know the potential friends around me, and guide me not only to those who need me, but also to the ones who I need in my life.  Thank you for being the ultimate example of a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  And, thank you so much for my friends.  Especially the one who names her dogs after rock stars.  Amen.

January 14, 2014

Girl, Wake Up!

There are things I expect when I'm fasting.  Hunger is obvious.  Prayer is an absolute.  Answers to prayer are certain.  Revelation and spiritual insight are profoundly exciting.  Being told to wake up and get it together?  Not so much.

I have been waking up early for a few weeks.  Not. On. Purpose.  I'd just wake up.  And lie there.  And stare at the sunlight beginning to creep in.  And turn over.  And force myself to go back to sleep. I like to sleep until about 7:30.  Or 8:00.  It just feels right.  I wake up and kind of feel like I can start my day.  Waking in the 6 o'clock hour feels like someone is being mean to me.  So, I didn't appreciate it very much when, a few days ago, I felt very impressed to begin setting an alarm and having a plan for the day.  You better believe I'm baby-stepping it.  I've been setting my alarm for 6:50.  That's all the courage I can muster, thus far.

However, I've also been drawn to the Proverbs 31 woman.

Proverbs 31:15  She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day's work for her servant girls.

I don't hate her.  Seriously.  I know plenty of women who do, but I don't think that they are seeing her in the right light.  I don't believe she's meant to be a standard of what every single day should look like for every woman.  But, I do believe that she is a reflection of a woman's lifetime, and the productive seasons we should be living.

My husband says that women have a built in thermostat for knowing the needs of her family and home.  I think that's true.  You know whether the kids' moods are off balance, whether the grades are right, whether your man feels neglected, whether the family nutrition is stable, whether a simple thing like a bookshelf with completely "fix" a room that just can't be kept organized.  You just know.  There are plenty of things that we can multi-task, but I think all of chapter 31 at once is a recipe for disaster...and failure...and guilt.

So, when the seasons change in my life, I always go back to that chapter for some review of where I've been and where I need to go.  Right now, I need to wake up.  I don't wake up and grab my Bible.  I can't even THINK straight that early.  But, I can follow a well-devised plan.  A plan that was not created in morning hours!  Without a plan, the people will perish!

I will now give a shout-out to an app I have discovered called: Any.Do
Got that?  Any dot Do
This "to do list"  app is helping me to be faithful during this season.  I type in all the tiny details of things that I might normally overlook or just get around to eventually, and it sends a gentle reminder to my phone so that I pick it up and go do that thing.  I make my list based on the schedules and routines I have learned on www.flylady.net.  You can check out her site for great ideas on getting started.

People, my list is D.E.T.A.I.L.E.D.!!!
-Make bed
-Get dressed
-Face/Hair/Teeth (I do let my phone read the Bible to me while I'm doing this part.)
-Wipe bathroom counters and toilet
-Wake kids
-Empty dishwasher
-Decide dinner
-Start laundry
-Breakfast & vitamins
-Bible time/school
-Afternoon routines
-Evening routines
-can you see where I'm going with this??????

Right now, I may look like a crazy lady to you, but I'm willing to risk it, because it's getting my life back in order.

It's helping me to be a P31 Woman.  I'm getting up and making a plan.  I'm owning my life instead of it owning me.  Our time is so valuable, friends, and we need to get the monotonous out of the way so that we have time for the crucial.  The crucial is instilling character in our children.  The crucial is being available to our husbands.  The crucial is having time for that friend who is hurting.  The crucial is even making time to take care of yourself.  Don't be afraid to say no to something that would over-commit you.  If you would no longer have flex time to do the crucial, then that commitment is too much for you to offer during this season of your life.  Don't wait for a catastrophe to remember what the crucial things in your life really are.

So, I hate to say it ladies, but, it's time to get up and get going.  After all, nobody says you can't schedule a nap in there somewhere, right? ;)

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for refocusing me.  Thank you for drawing me back to your Word and for keeping me centered on your will.  I know many of the steps that I should be taking, and I trust you to reveal others to me.  Help me to stay on track and to be disciplined as I work to be faithful to what you are calling me to.  Help me to find beauty in the simple, and help me to create beauty in this life you've given me.  Show me how I can serve those around me, and help me to find joy in the little things.  Amen.

January 10, 2014

I like my idea.

This morning, my son and I each made a cup of hot tea.  When his had steeped to a glowing amber perfection, steaming with the aroma of peppermint and begging to be tasted, he snatched out the bulging tea bag, dripped it across the counter and splatted it onto a saucer...all with quite a great deal of  enthusiasm.  This is the kind of behavior that would have made the younger me into a nutcase.  But not anymore.  I've birthed 5 children and done my best to chill out and roll with the punches...and the drips, and the splatters, and the enthusiasm.

I laughed a little and then said, "Hey buddy, what you should do, is lift the tea bag just above the cup, squeeze what's left of the liquid into the cup, and then place it on your saucer.  That way, it won't drip and splatter."

His response?

"Well, your way is better, but I like my way more."

Sigh.  How many times have I done that to the Lord?  Proverbs 16:9 says, "A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  How many times have I let God know that I had it all under control, and that he could offer suggestions, but for the most part, "I got this"?

I'm learning to be not just a better listener, but a better follower of directions.  There are plenty of times when I know that I can "be still and know" what the right answer is, but perhaps it looks more exciting my way.  However, those directed steps would keep my life from leaving behind lots of drips, and splatters, and messes.  I've noticed from my kids that the enthusiasm is only evident while MAKING the mess...not while CLEANING it up.

How many times has my Heavenly Father noticed that from me?  So often I was sure things would still work out alright if I just did it my way.  I have shoved my way through some tightly closed doors, because it just "felt" right.  It looked exciting.  It was mysterious.  Here's the breakdown:  I. wanted. it.  Why shouldn't I push through and grab the thing that I want?

Well, because His way is better, even if I like my way more.  Following those directions, those ordered steps, has me meeting people I would never have known, learning from them, pouring into them.  God works through people, and we NEED each other.  In addition, following directions keeps me from wasting the precious time that I have been offered on this earth.  I make drips and splatters of mistakes that come from good intentions.  Those messes have to be cleaned up by someone, and if I leave them for someone else, then their time is being wasted.  I want to be effective.  I want to be efficient.  What I DON'T want is to stand before God and say, "I could have done more for you, but I wasted so much time planning my way and following my plan.  I wasted so much time dripping and splattering through my life.  I wasted so much time going back and cleaning up after myself in the form of apologizing, starting over, rebuilding relationships and trust."

Today's Prayer:
Father, help me to hear you.  Help me to follow your directions.  Let your still, small voice become louder in my Spirit.  Let the desires of your heart become the passion of my soul.  I know your way is better, and I know that by following it, I will be closer to you.  That's my ultimate goal.  Closer to  You.  Closer to holiness.  Closer to righteousness.  I offer myself to you, and thank you for the new mercy you offered me today.  Amen.

January 9, 2014

Here's the Truth

This morning I awoke with lots on my mind.  And the sound of my stomach growling.  My husband and I were discussing the budget for the year at 6:30 a.m.  Remind me not to do that again.  I hate the budget talk.  I'm not a frivolous spender, but I can't stand talking about money.  But I did.  I sat up in bed with my laptop and created a spreadsheet for our finances and grumbled about things to come.  Furniture.  Ballet.  Homeschool books.  Other classes.  New tires.  Braces.  The list went on and on.  That's why I hate the money talk.  It never looks right on paper.  I like to buy impulsively, yet with restraint.  I know how to stretch the grocery budget so that I can use some of that money to buy a new pair of shoes for my son...and the shoes likely came from the clearance rack.  So, when budget day comes, I feel stressed, anxious, caged...and today, I got to add to all of those...hungry.  The kids came in and piled on top of us in bed to lay all over us and hug us...and to ask for pancakes.  PANCAKES!!!  Jeff and I both groaned.  We would LOVE pancakes right now.  But, it's day 5 of our Daniel Fast, and we're making a grumpy budget and not eating pancakes.  Sigh.

I finished up the spreadsheet, staggered down the stairs, and made a mountain of pancakes.  I made enough to last for a few days so that the kids can just warm them up in the mornings and I don't have to keep standing over a griddle drooling.  It's rather unladylike.

After breakfast, our Bible time reading of Daniel 4 was great and the kids even made the cutest illustrations of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  We talked about how he was literally reduced from the palace to living in fields with wild animals and eating grass, and then promoted again to headship of his kingdom, with even greater honor than before.  I love how that chapter ends, with this quote "Now I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven.  All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud."

"All his acts are just and true..."  That phrase will get me through anything.  In fact, when I've been shaken by stresses in my life lately, I keep hearing myself repeat the phrase "You're my Truth.  You're my Truth.  You're my Truth."  You see, I've had to have an understanding with myself.  I've come to the realization that my "facts" are not my "Truth".

When my kids are straying, that may be a fact; but it isn't my Truth.  The Truth is that my children are taught of the Lord and great is their peace and undisturbed composure, and His Word does not return void, but prospers where it is sent.

When my finances look unbalanced, that may be a fact; but it isn't my Truth.  The Truth is, one of God's names is Jehovah Jireh, and it means He is my Provider.

When my son's body was born crippled, that was a fact; but it wasn't my Truth.  The Truth is, by Jesus' stripes, He was healed!

Nebuchadnezzar had it RIGHT!  All God's acts are just and TRUE!!!  Disregard the facts.  Just toss them out the window.  The facts have no bearing on an act of God.  Here's the truth...when you can cast your cares on Him, knowing that He cares for you, you've got it made!

So, make your spreadsheet, but don't let it depress you.  Advise and love your children, but don't let their choices give you chest pains.

Look your doctor in the eyes and say "Thank you for your opinion", but don't let that be the last opinion you accept.

He's your Truth.  He's your Truth.  He's your Truth.

Today's Prayer:
Father, forgive me for losing sight of Your Truth.  I reach now for the hem of your garment and BELIEVE You!  I believe you.  As I walk out each day, "Living the Good Life", remind me of how good it is, only because You are in it.  Thank you for the testimonies you've given me.  Thank you for all the testimonies I have yet to give, sharing your faithfulness to those who haven't yet known the Truth.  You are a God who leaves me in awe.  I love you.  Amen.

January 8, 2014

got milk?

No, seriously?  Do you have any?  Would you believe that the only thing I feel that I'm missing out on during this fast is MILK???  Last night I wanted it so badly that I felt the need to start stalking a herd of dairy cows.  Can you imagine?  I didn't think that I should have a piece of cheese or a cup of yogurt or rob a dairy.  I felt that I should violate a cow!  So...that's how day 3 of this Daniel Fast was for me.  When you think of me, you should pray...for cows.

When my 13 year old sat down to a bowl of cereal with MILK today, I suppressed the deep desire to growl at him.  I actually asked God this morning, "Why do I want milk so much?"  In His infinitely frustrating wisdom He replied "Do you want the milk of the word?"  Ouch.  That meant sitting down to look up those "milk of the word" scriptures that I've not read in a very long time.  There is one in particular that stood out to me.

"So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness." ( 1 Peter 2:1-3)

Well, thanks, God, for making it all SO simple.  Just get rid of all evil behavior.  Basically, whatever I'm doing, stop that!  Isn't it funny how we can read a passage of scripture like that one and think, I'm not doing so bad.  I'm not deceptive, I'm not a hypocrite, I'm not very jealous, and I'm pretty kind.  Then I think a little deeper about the few extra things I'll purchase here and there, that I don't mention to my husband because he's asked me to be really careful about our budget that week.  (Is that REALLY deception?)  Or when I tell the kids that they have GOT to get over this obsession with screens, while I keep my Facebook app on speed dial.  (Is that REALLY hypocrisy?)  Or, when I see another family who looks really put together and has the best instagram photos and travels to the best places and eats the most beautiful foods and I think, "Ugh, why can't I...".  (Is that REALLY jealousy?)  Or, and this one hurts the most, when I'm very sarcastic to my child when a time for discipline and correction comes.  (Is that REALLY unkind speech?)  

Ok, Lord, Ok. O.K.  It's plain to see that YES!!!  It is all REAL and it is all ME.  I've got some things to work on.  I've got more than rough edges...I'm thinking, let's get some dynamite to blow out the issues that are deep within me.  But then, there's another issue.  God doesn't really have a "dynamite" mode.  He works through progress, through promotion, through easing out the old by building up the new.  He counts on me to do the active working on my actions and thoughts, while he works on my heart attitude.  

I must crave pure spiritual milk.  Crave it.  Cry out for it.  Because I have tasted His kindness.  Because I really do want to know what it means to "grow into a full experience of salvation".  What is that full experience?  Do I know anyone who has achieved it?  I want to.  I want to be surrounded by women of faith who are fully experiencing what it means to live in His salvation.    I want to experience it myself so that I can lead the way.  I'll take it step by step.  Sip by sip.  His kindness is so extravagant, that just one taste will never do.  

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for your guidance.  Thank you for the quiet words that echo deeply in my spirit.  Make me thirst for you.  For your righteousness.  For holiness.  Keep me from deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech.  Let me not be satisfied until I have grown into a full experience of your salvation.  Show me what that means.  Guide my hands, cleanse my thoughts, strengthen my character, give me wisdom.  Let me be a daughter who you are proud to call Your own.  Amen.

January 7, 2014

My Brother Makes Me Cry

I have an advantage over those of you who grew up with brothers.  All those of you got beaten up, shot at, hung in trees, fought constantly, competed about everything…I’m the winner.  My brother and I grew up together, apart.  In different states.  With a 10 year age gap (I’m the big sister.)  I remember the exact spot I was standing in when Daddy called me to tell me that Alex had been born.  I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get back to 5th grade the next day to tell my friends ALL about it.  I was FINALLY a sister!!!  He didn’t see me cry tears of joy.  Our Daddy worked for Delta when we were growing up, so I flew for free.  So, we still saw each other often, but because it wasn’t an everyday thing, we overlooked all the bad stuff and were just THRILLED to see each other!  When he was little, I always stepped off of the plane with gifts for him, and between trips, he would mail me drawings and letters, written in crayon.  

Like all brothers, he eventually grew up and became a moron.  I, thank goodness, was always the perfect child.  Ahem.  (Don’t believe that.)  But, when Alex grew up, he grew quieter.  It was harder to find common ground because I didn’t know how to talk football, baseball, fast cars…guy stuff.  I just hung in there and talked about what I could, and prayed for him.

Then he got REALLY crazy.  He piped up one day and told the family that he had decided to join the Marines.  The USMC.  I asked him not to.  He flew to Camp Pendleton.  He deployed twice.  I cried.  I sent care packages.  The very rare phone calls were full of me forcing a smile and laughter and assuring him that he was loved and prayed for.  He didn’t see me cry tears of worry.  

He called me from California when his wife was in labor.  He was scared and worried and felt helpless.  He didn’t know what to do, so he. called. me.  I was walking through Garden Ridge looking at patio furniture, coaching Alex, telling him how he could help her.  “Give her chapstick”.  “Give her ice chips.”  “Let her hold you and sway.”  “Be strong, brother, you can do this.”  He didn’t see me cry tears of pride.  He also didn’t see the tears that soon followed when he texted me a picture of my perfect, gorgeous nephew…the little guy who made me an Aunt for the first time ever!

When Alex returned from his first deployment, his wife asked my oldest daughter and me to meet her at Camp Pendleton to help take pictures of his return.  My baby nephew was now walking and too much time had passed.  I jumped at the chance.  We waited for hours.  We saw thousands of Marines walk by and searched every face for those big green eyes and every walking pattern for that characteristic swagger.  I took a short walk around a grassy area.  I saw him across the path.  Big guy. Big swagger.  Big green eyes.  That’s my baby brother.  I ran at him.  He scooped me up and squeezed the breath out of me.  I let him see me cry.

Alex, you being a Marine has nothing to do with you being my hero.  You’ve always been good and kind and loved me.  You’ve always had my eyes.  You’ve always had my heart.  You’ve always been a little crazy.  But then look who’s talking.  I’m thankful for the adventures we’ve had.  Parasailing over Hawaii, walking through Gramps’ corn fields and Mesquite trees, playing checkers, listening to your ridiculous music on the radio, you hobbling on a broken leg at my wedding because you insisted on ushering, Las Vegas and the chka-chka-chka laughs bellowing through the night, Hollywood, Austin and one tiny blue star, befriending your beautiful and amazing wife, watching your baby grow up.  You’ve given me lots of great memories.  You made me a “Seester”.  You’re pretty much the best.  Next to me.  I love you.  Happy Birthday, bro.

January 6, 2014

It's been an Intentional Day

Today is Day 2 of our 21 day fast.  I got hungry.  I even told my son that the brown leather couch looked a little like a Hershey bar.  I ate a rice cake and moved on.  I'm ok.

It was back to homeschool for us today.  This means being intentional.  I taught my four shorties and it. took. forever.  Ok, well, we finished at 3:30, but let's be honest...when you're doing Algebra, it's forever.  During our Bible time, though, I read and discussed Daniel with the kids.  It helped them to understand why they are giving up sweets and screens for 21 days.  I must say, I'm really proud of those kids.  When the craving showed up today (as it does every day around 3:00), they asked if they could put honey on a tortilla and roll it up to snack on.  Nobody even asked for candy or doughnuts or anything!  That in itself is proof that God still does miracles!

It was good to get back to our school and chore routines now that Christmas break is over, but the fast is not yet routine for us.  I knew that Jeff would come home from work hungry, and I knew that he would've had Mexican food for lunch (he had a lunch meeting and he ALWAYS wants Mexican food).  So, I tried not to duplicate that for his dinner.  This meant being intentional.  I boiled black eyed peas, made a pot of brown rice, steamed broccoli and chopped some fruit.  It was fine.  That's about all you can say about rice and peas and broccoli and an apple.  Fine.  Who cares?  Well, Jeff cared.  He LOVES black eyed peas and was sincerely grateful for the effort, so that was nice.

After dinner, we had another intention for the day.  We gathered our kids in the living room and pulled out an envelope that has laid at rest for a solid year.  It was the petitions that we asked of the Lord at the beginning of 2013.  We passed them out, asked each child to review what they had repented for and what they had asked God to change.  It's always amazing to see how faithful God is to a child.  Their faith is strong and they aren't afraid to ask BIG!  They enjoyed seeing the tangible proof of their prayers.  We then met with each child individually to help them fill out a new petition for this year, discussing what they felt that they still needed to work on, and what new requests that had for this year.  It's always a special time, because their ages are so varied and their requests are so suited to each age.  One child even piped up, "I've got some pretty good ideas in there!"  Haha!

In all my good intentions for the day, our petition time this evening reminded me of something, and it was bittersweet to me.  When Jeff handed out everyone's petitions, there was one in every hand...except mine.  There wasn't one to hand to me, because I didn't make one last year.  I was there, sitting with my whole family that day in January, 2013, but I didn't fill it out.  I couldn't.  I absolutely could. not. do it.  I was living in a dark and helpless place in my soul.  I stared at that piece of paper and couldn't even form the thoughts to ask God to help me out.  I couldn't imagine setting a single goal.  I could't bring myself to even write the words "Help Me."  I mentioned in a previous blog that I've known hard times, and, seeing how far we've come as a family, I cannot believe that it's only been 12 short months since I felt that way.  Since life looked like that.  Since I wanted to disappear.  It feels like an eternity ago.  That was the bitter portion.  The sweet side of it comes when I know that God answered the prayers of my husband and children, and he just let me lay limp in His arms while He walked my family down the steps He had ordered for us.  He's a Daddy, you know.  I remember riding in the back seat as a little girl and arriving in the dark at home, pretending to be asleep so my Daddy would carry me.  I'd make by body as limp as a rag doll, and hang there in his arms.  It felt safe.  It felt right.  I knew he'd get me to my room, to my rest, to my home.  God did that for me last year.  I didn't intend for life to get dark, to feel alone, to lose hope.  But I serve an intentional God.  Somehow I knew that it would be ok to just lie there are let Him carry me.  I knew that I was in the middle of an ugly chapter, but not at the end of my book.  I knew that He intended a very real, very large future for me, and that if I needed to be a rag doll for a season, He would just carry me to my room, my rest, my home.

Today's Prayer:  Daddy-God, thank you for allowing my humiliation to turn into a story that proves your faithfulness, your comfort, your peace and your restoration.  Thank you that your mercies are new EVERY morning and that you NEVER leave me lying on the ground, to move along without me.  Your touch is precious to me.  Your arms uphold my very life.  Your joy is evident in the eyes of my children.  You never leave me.  You never forsake me.  I cannot keep from knowing you, loving you, sharing you.  I'm forever yours.  Amen.

Isaiah 46:4  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

January 5, 2014

God has a Stealth Mode

It's day 1 of my 21 day fast.  I had a smoothie full of fruits & veggies for breakfast and after church I came home to a few black bean chips dipped in roasted red pepper hummus, with a mug of hot peppermint tea.  I'm totally fine, and not hungry.  I know it's only day 1, and I may have some struggle days, but today is not that day.  I'm determined.

Daniel 1:8  But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.

Daniel took issue with the food and drink rations offered to him because they were unacceptable in God's sight.  He spoke with the chief of staff about getting his menu adjusted.   The chief said, "No can do.  Eat your dirty meat and have a goblet or 2 of wine or I'll lose my head."  (Trust me.  That's what he said...kind of.)  So, Daniel spoke to his personal waiter.  See?  He really was determined.  He went first to the boss and then he brought it to a more personal level.

"Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said.  -Daniel 1:12

Apparently, the waiter was feeling 10 feet tall and guillotine proof, because he agreed to try out the revised meal plan for 10 days and then to see how Daniel and his 3 besties were feeling.  As it turns out, they were feeling just fine.  In fact, they "looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king".  So, they got to keep their diet of vegetables and water...for the next 3 years.  Lucky them.  Yuck.  (Can you tell I wouldn't have been the best candidate to have lived during these times?  Pass the Krispy Kremes and a cheeseburger, please.)

Let's get back to business here.  These 4 men from the tribe of Judah knew what it meant to serve God.  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were already strong, healthy, good-looking, smart men of good character.  That's why they had been chosen by the chief of staff.  However, that same chief of staff was not aware of some other things that these 4 guys knew.  They knew that the faithfulness of men was always honored by the faithfulness of God.  They had learned that favor follows genuine sacrifice.  (Read more about that topic here.) So, Daniel was unafraid to ask, twice, for meals that would honor God.

God noticed.

Daniel 1:17  God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom.  And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

These young men, within a 10 day period, were rewarded with even more good looks, and an uncanny deeper understanding about the literature being presented to them, AND greater wisdom.  At the end of 3 years of training, the king met with all of the men who had been selected for his service.  He didn't know that 3 years before, there had a been a period of 10 days of 4 certain men being tested.  10 days, people.  However, those 10 days of testing led to the king finding these 4 men to be 10 times better!  10 times more capable.  That's a pretty good amount of favor for 10 days of eating veggies.  But wait, there's more!!!  Daniel was also given an extra serving of God's favor...in the ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.  Awesome!  Except...he didn't even know he had it.  You don't know that you can interpret dreams or visions until somebody has a dream or vision, right?  I love it when God does something in stealth mode like that.  He goes ahead and empowers us for a time to come.

Daniel didn't know that in just one more chapter,  his very life would depend on that stealth move that God had performed as an act of favoring Daniel for his faithfulness to His commands.

The king had a dream.  And it was big.  And it was scary.  And he needed to know what it meant.  Daniel visited the king, asked for some time, asked his friends to pray, and then went to sleep.  During this sleep, that stealth seed that God had planted in Daniel blossomed into the interpretation that would keep Daniel and his friends alive.

Another reason I believe in this 21 day fast I'm doing is that I'm counting on God to make some stealth moves on my behalf.  It will be amazing for Him to answer the petitions I'm seeking from Him for my current circumstances, and those particular prayers that need a quick answer.  However, what will be even greater is when a time comes in the future, when I'm facing a crazy battle and suddenly look down to see that the exact weapon that I need is already in my hand.  That's what God did for Daniel.  He gave him a weapon before He sent him to battle.  Dig in with me.  Fast something.  Anything.  For any amount of time.  Make a genuine sacrifice.  And then, wait and see what God has prepared you for, and prepared for you.

Today's Prayer:  Dear God, grant me the courage to be in the midst of chaos and to find enough peace to sleep deeply.  Deeply enough to have dreams in which you answer my prayers.  Favor me with weapons that are exactly what I need for the battles that I don't even know I'll be fighting.  Don't let me settle or compromise when I know that your reputation is at stake.  Grant me wisdom and understanding.  Make me 10 times better than my worldly peers, so that they see that it pays to serve God.  Oh, how you love me.  Oh, how I love you.  Amen.

To read more about this story, open your Bible or app to Daniel 1 and 2.

January 4, 2014

Daniel...and Fast Food

Daniel had it easy.  Yeah.  I said it.  Daniel. Had it. Easy.  I understand that he had that whole "lion issue" and a few other challenges, but the Fast?  Oh the Fast.  The way he makes it sound is that he did lots of praying, alone, and when he got hungry, he went and grabbed a salad and then got back to praying.  For 3 weeks.  No meat.  No sweets.  No wine.  Only organic fruits and veggies.  Bless.  His.  Heart.

You know what he DIDN'T have?  He didn't have 5 children, a working spouse, a homeschool schedule,  volunteer schedules, a new house and a BLOG to maintain!  And you know what else he didn't have, dragging him away from his faithfulness to the fast?  Girl. Scout. Cookies.  Samoas, to be exact.

My baby girl is a Brownie Scout for the very first time this year.  It's all new to us, but there's one big thing we've been waiting for.  The. Cookies.  Sales began this week.  The fast also begins this week.  Oh the irony.  I understand that we won't actually have the temptation of EATING them during this 21 day fast, but we have to think about them every day! Like it's our job!!!  (Because it is.)

Take a deep breath, dear reader.  I promise not to leave you with a blog full of me whining...about cookies.  I also promise to be very real with you.  I'm a little jealous of Daniel sometimes.  I'd like to think that I could actually get 30 minutes alone to fast and pray.  I could do it.  You know?  I'm really devoted to the things that I set my mind to.  The problem comes when I'm the ONLY one committed to that thing.  My kids won't stop being hungry...for hot dogs and spaghetti and pizza and teeny tiny cheeseburgers.  And the 5 bags of candy still leftover from Halloween.  (Shame on us.)  My teaching schedule and planning time won't ease up for 3 weeks.  My Girl Scout's cookie sales can't just wait it out.

So, this is one of those times when I remind myself that "it's not about me".  And, it is certainly NOT about the food.  My friends are literally joking with me that they'd prefer a "Danielle" fast, because they know it would include pretty much only baked goods covered in chocolate.  It's just how I roll.  The truth is, my life is abounding with blessings.  We've just taken down our 3 Christmas trees, we drive away from our new house in our new van to our new church which doubles as my husband's new job.  I do not know lack.   I have known it in the past.  I know about doing without.  I know about being a single mom.  I know about moving my party of 7 into the home of a family member because there was no work to be found for my husband.  I know about bankruptcy.  I know about surrendering vehicles.  I know about food stamps.  I know about suicidal thoughts.  I know all of that and more.

I can do a fast.  I can rock that fast.  I can Pinterest my way into the best recipes that make it seem like I'm not even fasting.  But if I do it that way, then my focus is the fast.  My focus is the food.  My focus is what I'm missing out on.  Daniel wasn't focused on the fast.  He wasn't thinking about his food.  He was focused on the matter of his prayer.  The mourning for his nation.  He had received a vision that deeply distressed him, about "times of war and great hardship" that were on the horizon for the nation he loved.  Any of that sound familiar for our world today?

Maybe you haven't seen a vision of what's coming for your nation.  Maybe you've already been living in times of great hardship, or perhaps you can tell that due to job losses or poor decisions or completely uncontrollable circumstances, 2014 is gonna be a tough one.  Hear me:  You are NOT alone.  And, taking a spiritual breather to fast and pray for 21 short days out of the 365 you've got this year, is really not so bad.  Don't make it about the food.  If you enjoy cooking and baking, as I do, go ahead and do it with your revised restrictions.  Make it simple, make it you.  But don't let yourself feel that you're missing out.  Acknowledge what you're gaining in the supernatural realm by laying down some simple pleasures.  Make it about Him.  Make it about worship.  Make it about gratitude.  Make it an opportunity to beseech the Lord for the things that ABSOLUTELY MUST change this year.  Give him room to do it.  Thank Him for doing it.  Expect to see the answers this year.  You'll see some of the answers within the fasting period.  I think a 3 week turn-around time for a miracle is worth it.  How 'bout you?

So, I'm not gonna eat a few things that I wish I was for the next 3 weeks.  I'm gonna fast, and pray, and humble myself, and magnify my Maker, my Master, my Friend...because it's right.  Because He's faithful.  Because, at the end of it all, I'll have some supernatural answers for my life...and several boxes of Samoas.

Today's Prayer:
Father, as I embark on something that stands as a physical struggle for me, give me the strength to resist temptation.  Allow me to see my weaknesses and allow your JOY to be the strength that carries me through.  Show me visions of what is to come.  For me, for my family, for my church, for my nation.  Help me to see as you see.  Give me discernment and peace.  Amen.

To learn more about Daniel and his fast,  open your Bible or app to:  Daniel 10.

January 3, 2014

New News!

There are some updates around here and I'm thrilled about them! My amazing sister-in-law, Hannah (you can visit her blog here) has helped me to completely reconfigure and update my blog space that had previously felt stale and uninspiring...to me. In the midst of this blog makeover, she also managed to do a couple of other tiny little things...like giving birth to my very first niece!!! At home. In a kiddie pool. In her bedroom. See that cute baby in the picture up there? She's the one. Sweet Ruthie. Uh-mazing. I got to be there for that. I've coached both of Hannah's deliveries and I consider it such an honor to participate in the miracle of my nephew's and niece's births. So, thank you, Hannah. For the blog. For the babies. For the everyday love that you allow to seem casual when I know fully well the sacrifices you make. I love you.

 So, back to the topic at hand. I'm so glad you're here reading the words that I feel compelled to share. Prepare yourself that this blog isn't for those who need to come only to read about a specific topic. There are lots of those out there in blogland, and I follow lots of them, and I'll be sharing some of my favorites with you as we go. I can't offer you one of those one-topic blogs because I don't have just one passion. I'm a woman of many thoughts, a mother of many children, a lover of organization, a confused teacher of homeschool, a fearless baker, the list goes on and on. However, I am mostly inspired by what I read in my Bible and what I hear taught in sermon form...by many teachers/preachers/pastors/parents/friends. I pray that this blog is as spiritually inspiring to you as it is funny, or creative, or challenging.

 Take a moment to navigate this blog and see that you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and please subscribe to this blog via Feedburner (that's the little icon that looks kind of like a speaker). I'm pretty much everywhere. My kids hate that, but since when has that stopped me from anything?

 I'll leave you now with 2 of my favorite scriptures.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:10 May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.

 These are my faves because while I'm "Living the Good Life", when the bad times come, I need those reminders that He's got this. Whatever I'll give Him, He's got it. And, He's aware that I have times of suffering. He never turns a blind eye to me. And He wants me to see myself as righteous and perfect...the way He sees me. I love knowing that because of my relationship with Him, I can choose to go from suffering to settled.

 Today's Prayer: Father God, whatever feels like suffering to me, in this moment, help me find the courage to throw it to You and allow You to perfect, establish, strengthen and settle me. Help me not to reclaim those cares or to try to fix things myself. Help me to leave 2013 in the past. I humble myself before you, trusting you as my Creator and the One who knows me best. I love you. I trust you. I give my future to you. I call myself perfect, established, strong and settled. Amen.

Notes from an Organizer

My organization thoughts may come to you in the same way that they come to me...in short, sweet bursts at just the right time. Here are a few of my most recent organizer notes, to tide you over until the next one comes along!

 Notes from an organizer: If you're planning to do any de-cluttering/cleaning/organizing this weekend, go ahead & purchase the supplies for a hearty crock-pot meal so that dinner will be waiting for you after a long day's work!

 Notes from a Mom: I'm not big on keeping things that most people throw away, but these little silver lids are an exception. They come inside the Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll tubes and serve as the lid to the frosting. The last time I got ready to throw them away, a thought popped into my head: Barbie trays. Julia-Kate loves them and they're sturdy and just the right size!

 Notes from an Organizer: if your kids have memory work for school, church, or just something you want them to learn, drop it into a ziploc bag & use painter's tape to secure it to the shower wall. It will stay until you're ready to remove it, but leaves no residue! We've done this for years! The memorization gets done and my kids are a little cleaner too!

 Notes from an organized mom: when raising young men, take advantage of gift-giving opportunities. Give tools, not toys. At an early age, we gave our boys tool boxes with screwdrivers, mini flashlights, pliers, etc. I look for sales on power tools like small drill/screwdriver combos, etc.  It's empowering to a young man to hear a lady ask for help and for him to know that he has the right tools for the job.

January 2, 2014

Trust Me

I have this thing about my kids trusting me.
I don't play pranks on them, I don't lie to them, I don't sneak a bite of their food if they leave the kitchen during a snack time. I just want them to trust me...to always know that our relationship is solid. And in return, I expect to be able to trust them. However, they play pranks on me, they occasionally lie to me, and if I walk away from a piece of cake, I can probably kiss it goodbye. But, it's because they're KIDS! They're still working on things, figuring out life and trudging along toward their futures. There are 5 of them, so a LOT of trudging goes on at our house!
This morning I was chatting with God while I scrubbed a toilet (sometimes entering His throne room is a bit more literal than others) and I was telling Him how I just want our family to be in the center of His will and that I want to be able to trust Him. I want to be able to trust without asking for a wet fleece, dry fleece, purple fleece, chocolate covered fleece (still considering that one), etc.
We all want to sit back and shake our heads at the story of Gideon (Judges 6-8), thinking how ashamed Gideon should be to ask the God of the Universe, (who just sent a real live angel, by the way) to prove Himself to Gideon. But did you notice, God didn't strike him with lightning or curse him with plagues, or change His mind and use someone else as leader of the army. God simply honored Gideon's requests and easily soaked one fleece and then dried another. Gideon could have continued asking God for signs, waiting and watching and wondering while his own people starved and suffered under Midianite rule, but he knew he had a choice to make. And he chose to trust completely.
I wonder why it is that I sometimes don't trust Him completely. Has he ever played a prank on me, lied to me, stolen from me when I least expected it? No! Yet, here I stand, in the midst of trials and struggles and way too many decisions and somehow I'm afraid to let it go, afraid He can't do a better job than I can, with this life He's given me. My favorite verse of scripture, that applies to EVERYTHING in my life (and yours too), is 1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you".
So I look at my choices, I look at my God and I think, can You trust me? Can You trust me to blindly obey, the first time You ask something of me? Can You trust me not to try to manipulate Your will until it matches up with the things that I like best, and that make me the happiest?
He's so very aware of who we are, of the decisions that lay before us, of the choices we will make, even that ones that break His heart. Yet, he continues to hold my hand while He's thinking, "Yes, she disobeys and gets confused and tries to hide from me and thinks too much and hangs onto too many things, but...she's my kid! She's still working on things, figuring out life and trudging along toward her future...and when she just trusts me, she's gonna LOVE seeing what I can see now.