Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Lights

Here is a post that came from my work as Chapel Leader at our girls' private school. God has been showing me so much lately! I hope it encourages you. "Christmas Lights"

Again a post I submitted over at BraveGirlCommunity.com :)

This time of year, the winter blahs are heavy for most of us. The sun shines less, the weather is colder, and there is a general feeling of heaviness that settles on our Northern Hemisphere. (Merry Christmas in July, New Zealanders. I know you cannot relate!)

My favorite activity in the evenings is looking at Christmas lights as I drive from place to place. Especially the warm yellow glow of clear incandescent lights. Though the energy-efficient LED lights are becoming more prevalent, their glow is a bit reminiscent of Elsa’s ice palace—a cold beauty.
Does it bother you to see a strand of Christmas lights with a burnt-out bulb? It bothers me. I want to replace it and see all the lights shining!

How many times have you found that your light is dim or burnt out and you feel you don’t belong with those other lights around you? The good news for us, is that we don’t need to be replaced or discarded. We have a weak connection, or maybe we’ve become disconnected entirely. Just like the old lights where we had to be twisted into the socket, we need to be “all the way in” with our power source. This is not a lecture or a legalism or a shaming, but a beckon, a call to life, a cool drink of water on a hot day, and a warm cup of tea or cocoa or cider on a frigid night. God’s love was made manifest and predicted 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

You can read the rest of the post by clicking that Hyperlink up above.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Joy of Giving

I haven't been posting here at tammysincerity, but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing. :) This is my latest submission at BraveGirlCommunity.com, titled "The Joy of Giving".

Here's an excerpt:

I grew up in a home centered on generosity. My parents were gracious hosts and our friends were always welcome there. We rarely went over to their homes as it was so much fun to have them over to ours for bonfires, pizza parties, sleepovers, trampoline jumping, horse rides, etc.
I can remember after a gathering when I was college-aged, my father gave me some wise counsel. “Don’t be cheap when you’re hosting. Give your best. Offer the best sodas-not the cheap store-brand ones. Buy more food than you need so you don’t run out. Never give less than your best.

When my husband and I were married, we were broke, young, in love, and still in college. I had just graduated, moved 1,000 miles to his college town for his final year of school, and we both had part-time minimum wage jobs. Half our income went to rent. We were under-prepared with the food for our wedding reception and had to quickly cut the cake as people were leaving. His parents surprised us one night with yellow grocery bags full of food that they’d just purchased to stock our pantry. We were stunned, not knowing how to ask for this help, nor how to say thank you.

Inside, we longed to be generous, but we didn’t seem to have the ability. About five years ago, our relatives studied the Dave Ramsey financial plan and shared their budget tips with us. We no longer had to guess where our account would be when the bills came in, but had a spending plan. We were excited to be able to create a category for giving within the budget.

Click the hyperlink above to read the rest of the post over at BraveGirlCommunity.com


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Eleventh Hour...or Month

It's November 1st today.
I began a journey of "trust" this year. I chose one word to devote my entire year to, and that was it. That I would begin to trust God more; that I would yield control to Him in everything.

Wow. To say this has not been an easy task is barely scratching the surface of the deep gardening He has been doing.

There are areas of great progress in this dusty vessel, ones that I can now look back at in awe and wonder and say "I'm glad you did that, but I'm also SO glad it's over!"

There are areas He has not yet ventured into, however, and as they come to light, I feel like they're described best as Lazarus' dead body. "But Lord, He stinketh."

If you take a closed but infected wound and open it, the air combined with the bacteria is often described as "smelling like death". (Have you had your coffee yet today? I hope you're not losing your appetite) There are deep pockets of sin in my life that God is gently probing at, asking if I'm ready to let Him clean them. Ugh.

We don't like the word "sin". We don't like to admit that we are still sinners. Once we are redeemed, we're supposed to embrace our newfound forgiveness and identity in Christ. That's valid and necessary, but we cannot, at the same time, ignore the constant work of a Holy Spirit within us, transforming us through His righteousness into a living, breathing replica of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:8-10 "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."

I have an area of sin in my life that I am going to share with you, because it's important to be held accountable. There is a part of me that likes to hide things. I have a sneaky side. Usually I am hiding something that benefits me-but perhaps not the others around me. It's a selfish part, and leads to selfish decision making.
"Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Proverbs 28:13
As a child, I would sneak candy from the drawer in my Mom's first grade classroom when we were there after hours and she was still working. (I was in mid to late elementary at the time). The worst part is that I would not always confess my wrongdoing. I lied for self-preservation, though I knew I was in the wrong.

Years later, there is still a part of me that tries to hide the truth if I feel that I will disappoint or bring disapproval. In financial decisions, I am sometimes impulsive and then avoid discussing my spending (even if it were for a cause), because it was not something we planned for. I will allow myself to be pressured into on-the-spot, emotional purchase or donation, rather than logically and rationally thinking through a decision (or discussing first with my husband).

What this causes is lying by omission. It separates the joy and closeness that we have when we are completely honest. And? It is rooted in distrust, which also produces distrust of its own. Why, oh why, do I not trust the reaction of my husband to my spending? There is not one moment where we have had a fight when I have been up-front, so why would I still continue to hide and be sneaky?

I apologize that this is so...well...yucky. It's true and not easy for me to discuss, but how can I claim to be allowing God to work in me if I'm hiding these pockets of sin?
The tax collector prayed and beat his breast in the temple, ""But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'" Luke 18:13

This life will be over when God has done all He set to accomplish through Himself in me, but until then, I have to be molded and transformed.

I've not arrived at that place where I can sit and be satisfied, and never want to portray that image to you. This is tammysincerity, not tammyhypocrisy...and hopefully never tammysuperiority.
So, if you've stayed long enough to read all this, I'd appreciate your prayers as God works on me to trust Him, trust my husband, trust enough to be a full-disclosure person so that I will always be trustworthy.

I thought perhaps I'd be better at trusting than I am, eleven months later, but I'm thankful that He who began a good work in me is not finished. 

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6


Monday, October 13, 2014

Sticks and Stones...

As you know, I'm a regular contributor over at Brave Girl Community. Today's post is on forgiveness and reconciliation, and whoa! The Spirit is moving so greatly in this theme. Throughout my Facebook Feed today, Christine Caine, The Busy Mom, The B Note and others are listing verses about love and forgiveness over and over.
Here's an excerpt, click this link to read the entire thing.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but sometimes I’d prefer that.
I’ve never had a broken bone, but many words have hurt me.

I was born with a big heart and a bigger mouth. Though I love people, my delivery of love sometimes is jumbled and/or misinterpreted. How thankful I am for those who take the time to clarify with me. I’m grieved that something I express to them in love has caused them pain—I didn’t see the possibility of misinterpretation! And, I’m relieved that they care enough to let me clarify—they believe I have good intent.


Monday, October 6, 2014

As Old As Jesus

I just celebrated my 33rd birthday. And to tell you the truth, it was wonderful! I got to spend the morning doing something I love: playing the piano during our two worship services at our church. Especially when I'm just the quiet covering of music at the end of the service and nobody speaks, nobody sings, but the pastor is being sensitive to the movement of what God has been doing during the message. And? There's no script. No set composition of pre-ordained notes. Certainly, I have a structure of guided chords to follow so we can all jump in with the full band, but there is still freedom to worship through my hands.

This is the time where I commune with God best. I can recall as a child, slipping away into the sanctuary (second building on our property) where our home church met. The door did have red and blue stained glass. I would go into that place, and the silence was comforting. There was always that sense of "special". Even in our current sanctuary, I've been able sometimes to go in and play on the beautiful baby grand piano, savoring the reverberation of each string as it fills the air and seems to continue on into eternity. The white noise of the forced air system hushes any other sounds in the building and there is a sense of entering the Holy of Holies when you go into that place.

How privileged we are to be able to enter that place ourselves! And yet, it is not because of our own righteousness, but because of Jesus. He was in His final year of ministry at age 33. That's giving me a little perspective this year. I like to set goals on my birthday for the year ahead. If it were my final year, what is most important to me and what would I want others to know this year? What would I want their remembrance to look like?

I want to be like Jesus. I want to be so bathed in His presence that when with others, His love and teaching would linger even after we part ways. I am simply the cup. He is the Living Water, but I want to be a cup that is used often. It's okay if I am dented or scratched from all my trips to the dishwasher, because I'm in frequent use. I want to be one of His favorite cups, that He uses over and over to give His life!!

This song has been my chorus as of late, I hope it encourages you. It summarizes so well what I'm desiring in my heart of hearts.

"All I want, all I need, more of You, less of me.
Take this life, Lord it's yours, have my heart, have it all."

~"To Be Like You" by Hillsong (Glorious Ruins)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's Been A While

This Sunday was rich and full and to tell you the truth, I've really been listening lately.
It's funny how we can forget to do that. We think that reading our devotional and scrolling over verses on our Facebook newsfeed, "liking" and "sharing" them, that we're fed and spending time with God.

What a small portion we're limiting ourselves to if this is all it is.

Something very insightful our pastor shared this weekend was of a time when he was all alone on a hike and lost. He prayed, and God showed him how lost he truly was, but also that the dream in his heart was not the dream God had for him.

I've been pondering that. What dream have I been clinging to that is misguided and unfulfilling yet drives me constantly? Will I allow God to finally sever those ties that are holding me back from true fulfillment and satisfaction?

I met with a dear friend for coffee today, and I was so blessed! She listened as I shared this with her, and I identified my teenage dream of being famous. I know that it was a selfish dream and that it wasn't for my own glory that I was created.

The image in my head I'd had over the weekend was not to be a lovely ceramic vase in which I hide God, but a transparent clear vase that shows Him within me. If there are cracks in the clear vase, they don't keep you from seeing the beauty inside. If you are the ceramic vase, all people see is you and you cannot measure up to their scrutiny.

She stood still and with a serious but encouraging look on her face said that as I shared that, it was then given to her, "Make Him famous." "When you make God famous, then you will receive the renown you are wanting."

The more God purifies me, the more of Him that will be visible through me.

Make Him famous. As I turn 33, that is my goal for the year.

Always a pleasure walking with you on this journey together!!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #1

1. Today I am thankful for Miss America.
That takes some explaining. You see, ten years ago, I was young(er), fit, and in the running with 18 other amazing women for the crown in the Miss Nebraska program. My wedding plans were on hold until we finished the competition, as I had the 1/19 chance of being selected and going on to the Miss America competition from there.
I did not win. That was difficult, of course, because you put forth your very best effort and have nothing more to offer.
Still, the confidence and interview skills I gained there led me to the job I loved here in Klamath Falls at the Pregnancy Hope Center, speaking in public health classes about sexual decisions and why it's safest and healthiest to wait until marriage. I was privileged to speak to 4500 students with feedback (anonymous surveys after each week of presentations) about 85% positive.
What I find amazing is that people see so much more in us than we are ever able to see about ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a Mary Kay facial party. It was at a photography studio and we had the option of a business photo or glamour shot. I did not intend to have my portrait taken but once there I really considered it.
My critical self was not excited about the shots when they came up on the screen, but the ladies who'd also had theirs taken were all gathered around and we were helping each other select the "best" one.
Today, I received the finished photo in my inbox.
Though I'm ten years older than I was in my pageant headshot, though I have had three darling daughters and my body has definitely changed, I need to listen to others instead of to that negative inside me.
Because my beauty is not external. Because who I am is defined by what comes out of my heart.
And, we who know each other see beauty where it is hidden from the shallow sonar of the world.
And, the portrait looks so much better than I thought it would.
I know I was tired by the end of that night, but you cannot tell.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
I am thankful for a chance on earth to wear a crown and to be rewarded for hard work, but it is just a glimpse of Heaven, where it will not be a contest. We are all sons and daughters.
Let your light shine.
Tomorrow, I celebrate 10 amazing years with my husband.
And I conclude my 30 Days of Thankful posting.
Thanks for joining me!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #2

2. Today I am thankful for my two parents. This year is their 34th Wedding Anniversary year. Their commitment to each other through 34 years, five children, moving to multiple states, each challenge that they have come to, they have faced together.
It is rarer and rarer for people to stay together, especially after kids leave the home.
Both Dave and I are blessed in this manner, his parents celebrated their 40th Anniversary this year.
With their examples, we are more likely to also work together and stay together, and that is a blessing not only to us but to our children.
So, Deborah and Ronald, today I am especially thankful for both of you!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #3

3. Today I am thankful for my three daughters. Growing up as the oldest of four girls, I always thought I'd have four children. Well, when I was 8 I gained a brother (I had always wanted one! His name means "God has given").
My husband told me he'd always wanted three kids.
By the time my third pregnancy was past date, we were both quite sure we didn't have the mental and emotional stamina to take on any more of our combined DNA and questioned if the third one could wait a while longer to come out. :D
Truly, it has been challenging and more work to be a mother than I'd have ever dreamed, but the most labor-intensive stage physically has come to an end. Our girls are now all pottytrained, can dress themselves, manage their seatbelts, and can articulate clearly what they need and want.
We are really beginning to enjoy trips together as they are more able to play with each other. The older they get, the more they can see the entire picture instead of their little lens. And, as they are learning that it really doesn't matter who gets the pink cup, they have taught me so much about what is important and what I should just let go.
These girls are causing me to be less selfish, more gracious, to listen more instead of assuming I know what they want/need, and to show me those delightful things I've become to busy to notice.
I get a second chance to view the world as hopeful and precious and innocent and wonderful, and sometimes, it's nice to see it through that lens.
I hope to teach and protect them in a way that will preserve this sweetness for as long as possible, while still instilling compassion and respect for self and others.
And, as long as I'm their mother, I have three girls who find me unconditionally beautiful and remind me that marketing is not realistic.
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
-Proverbs 31:30-31
And this is why I am thankful for my three daughters.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #4

4. Today I am thankful for the privilege of being a wife. Not just a girlfriend, a roommate, but a wife. Of all women in the world, Dave has committed his entire life, heart, body to me and me alone. The depth of our friendship has grown to a point that I could not have comprehended on our wedding day 10 years ago.
We have had some tests and they have challenged and strengthened our commitment to working out everything. There is such security and trust, with transparency.
I have great confidence as a woman because he pours love into me. He prays for me and our girls daily, he sends me little messages during the day to let me know he's thinking of me.
He is the spiritual leader, but we work as a balanced team.
I love him with all of me and truly our marriage is richer today than any Disney fairytale I ever watched as a child.
Due to our relationship, I have a better understanding of Jesus' love for me and how to grow my relationship with Him and His unwavering love and acceptance for me.
(Loved me when I was 10 months pregnant and found me even more lovely!)
So many more I won't list but I am abundantly thankful today for the privilege of being a wife.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #5

5. Today I am thankful for Family.
It's the annual Tulelake Fair. Though I appreciate our local fair and fairgrounds in Klamath, it is a hot piece of tar surrounded by concrete buildings and not a lot of shade.
The Tulelake Fair is a beautiful venue with lots of shade trees, very mature, that are surrounded by well-maintained grass. For people with kids, this is a big draw.
Their carnival appeals to our children and they have many family-centered free entertainment "shows" hourly.
There are a wide variety of animals and 4-H exhibits, and we just enjoy the time of year it is held as well.
Today, my husband's sister and husband and their three kids are joining us (which means an extra bit of driving for them), but my girls were ecstatic to hear that "the cousins are coming!"
Truly, coming from a family of seven (5 kids), it is in my deepest need and longing to have people around. Sadly, our family, immediate and non, all live at least 90 to 100 miles away.
The blessing we have is that our church and school family are all so dear and warm and kind and loving. They have made the distance from blood relatives more bearable.
So, even if your relationship with your own relatives is less than warm and loving, the truth is, that we are all here together on Earth. That we can reach out and be that Aunt or Sister or Grandmother to somebody that will respond and fill that empty place of relationship!
I have many friends who have been as close as sisters (and then have had to move away, *sniff*,) and we catch up right where we left off.
In Heaven, I'll need to have a mansion just so I can host all of these amazing women in one place.
And I bet the coffee up there is amazing!
So today, I am thankful for family. For all of you!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-a Countdown: #6

6. Today I am thankful for appointments. There is something validating about knowing that there is a place for you-a reservation.
I was able to get in to see my chiropractor today because somebody cancelled their appointment. How thankful I was for that place, reserved for another, given to me.
Isn't this what Heaven is? Reserved for the perfect Son of God, and it has been opened up and given to us if we choose to take it?
My appointment with death for my sinful nature (eternal death) has been cancelled.
I truly cannot say how thankful I am today!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #7

7. Today I am thankful for selflessness. When I first married my husband, I was 22, about to be 23. I was a much more selfish person than now. We both were. Until then, we had been independent and self-sufficient and self-reliant. Suddenly, we had to think about somebody else and take them into consideration when making decisions. A quarrel that ended in me taking off for a walk in the rain caused great panic to him. I didn't tell him I was leaving, so he thought I had just taken out the garbage. When he called my cell phone and it was still in the house, he began to worry that perhaps I hadn't left of my own accord.
I didn't think about any of that. I was just mad and wanted to cool off. Over the last ten years, we have worked through a lot of our selfishness. We still have it. It will always be something we wrestle against, but the times of selflessness and sacrifice that communicate our love to each other, those are priceless.
When you know that somebody put you first in a decision, it honors you and your relationship. It causes tenderness. For us, it causes us to be more likely to reciprocate that selflessness.
My David is caring and kind and quick to help me. When we had children, this was even truer than before. Even last night when it was his turn to enjoy a shoulder rub (we take turns), he knew I'd been having problems with my right shoulder and worked on mine for a good while before having his time to relax.
I am thankful for the sweetness of the Holy Spirit which enables us to put ourselves aside and consider how we are affecting others before making a decision. This is something that in my thirties I believe I can see better than in my early twenties.
We both chose our designated household chore early in marriage. I detested laundry and he detested dishes, so we each chose the other. Three children later, our chores are more demanding, but we serve each other in love. Occasionally, we will surprise the other by completing their chore for them which is the one we detest.
The best part of it? That there are no strings attached, no obligation. Just a communication of love and a desire to help. Our children are watching. We communicate sometimes verbally to reinforce the thought of serving, but have high hopes that they too will want to serve others in love as they grow. :)
And that is why I am thankful today for selflessness.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #8

8. Today I am thankful for Closed Doors.
The last two years I have enjoyed leading worship time for the Tuesday morning Women's Bible study at our church. This year, they are going to try to have all the time used for Bible study without a lead-in worship time.
Having had that door closed, just a couple days later I received a phone call asking if I'd want to lead chapel for our kids' private school.
The last two years I've also been thrilled to lead the song/story time at our church's summer Vacation Bible School.
I told someone, "If I could just do this for a living, I'd be so happy."
Well, it may not be my living, but I'm doing it all year this year!!!
Oh today, the first day, was a fun, exciting day! I got to lead chapel at our school for preschool all the way up through the 5th grade. I was dressed in brown and khaki and spoke with an accent. (a mix of "Dr. Livingston I presume" meets "Crocodile Dundee")
(going with a Jungle theme for the chapel year)
We sang, we danced, we worshiped, we learned about the Fruits of the Spirit, we learned about the Helmet of Salvation, and why you shouldn't wear flip-flops in the jungle.
One of the best times I have ever had getting to use all that I was made to do to worship the one I love, and to get others to do it to! :D
So thankful for the opportunity and trust placed in me to lead a group of 90 and a smaller group of about 25 kids!
This year is going to be so much fun!!
Sometimes, a door closes so another can open. Instead of looking back, look for that next opening.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #9

9. Today I am thankful for time. I had time today. My girls got out of bed on time, got dressed on time, ate breakfast and we had time left to do their hair nicely for their first day of the school year.
All three of my girls were in their classrooms today and did okay with the separation, but I was at the school in case my youngest didn't do okay. This gave me time to help with some tasks that were not finished.
It is so nice to have time, to take time, it is a gift that we all receive daily. We all get the same amount of time, but we must choose how we use it.
There are days where I feel I have wasted my time sitting at the computer scrolling down the news feed and other days where I feel that my time on Facebook "instant messaging" a friend has been well spent.
An hour on the telephone with a friend or family member that I am separated from by distance is precious time. Webcam is even more valuable.
Though people told me to enjoy the little years because they go by so fast, I am relieved to be done with the infant stage. I'm now getting to enjoy all three personalities, to know them as people!
So today, I am thankful for time.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #10 (oops)

10. (again)
So, I underestimated my counting skills. I began on August 11th, thinking that there were 30 days until my anniversary. That 31st day of August goofed up my counting, so I'll do another #10 today as it's September 1st.
Today I am thankful for grace.
Grace in my mistakes.
Grace when I can't count thirty days on a calendar between two months correctly.
Grace when I'm lacking in people skills and overreact to something small.
Grace when I don't deserve it.
Grace when I'm less than gracious.
Grace when I'm doing well.
Grace that reminds me to love in ALL THINGS.
Grace when I act well.
You see, grace is not just in our error, but grace covers us so we also can show grace. We are reminded of what we have been forgiven and we can in turn extend that love and forgiveness to others.
Not a one of us deserve the blessed grace we receive, but we still rejoice in it.
Today is the first day of September, and in just ten days, I'll have my 10th Wedding Anniversary. Our marriage is a beautiful tapestry of grace woven through and through.
So today, I am thankful for grace.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: 10

10. (ten, oh my goodness! Hooray!)
Today I am thankful for the gift of presence. (not to be misread as the gift of presents). But presence is a present. An increasingly difficult gift to receive or to give in our rude, interrupted society. Rude seems a harsh term, but our children demand our attention, our computers demand our attention, our cell phones (texts, phone calls, social media updates) demand our attention, even my microwave demands my attention. In all this chaos, there is a sweet serenity of undistracted intentional attention. A gift, when given and received, that creates such closeness between friends.
Today I was gifted with such sweet time with a friend who has moved away to a different town. We have not been able to visit for over a year in person, she with a new baby, I with new commitments and two of my three young ones in school.
And? Our children played for the most part without needing our attention and we could be attentive and speak and listen and it was so wonderful!
The time flew by, and we edified and enriched and encouraged and empathized and all of this without checking our phones or the clock or the computer.
We were able to just "be" with each other in the comfort of my living room and catch up and share thoughts and ideas and dreams.
Truly, this is a gift that our older generations still represent much better than we do and we must must MUST not let it go. We need to model the gift of presence to this next generation or it will be lost in the demanding model of society today.
I am blessed to have several friends that are gifted in presence. My husband is well gifted as he does not have the habit of interrupting nor does he have a smart phone and he best expresses love in "Quality Time" (5 Love Languages).
I hope the next time I see you, I can present you with the gift of presence as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #11

11. Today I am thankful for well-child checkups. My daughter had her "7 year old" well-child exam yesterday. She's growing and staying to the same growth course she's been on for the past few years. 50th for height and weight. For many of us, we take these milestones for granted.
I have friends who have been through so much medically with their children and we have prayed with them, rejoiced with them, cried with them, and at the end of the day, you hug your kids a little tighter, knowing that life is a gift.
I am thankful that though we have had some medical reasons to visit the doctor apart from the normal schedule, that we have been spared anything major. Most of the time, our ailing is a virus that needs rest and fluids and perhaps a little fever-breaking intervention.
I also want to take this time for you still reading to lift up those children you do know that need extra care. Prayer for their parents who sometimes feel helpless to help them, prayer for the doctors to be wise in their treatments, prayer for the little bodies to respond well. Peace for the parents that they will not be exhausted trying to control the uncontrollable circumstances.
Prayer that those little boys and girls will grow up to be leaders, kind and compassionate, making the most of their lives.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #12

12. Today I am thankful for friendship. Dave and I were blessed to have some good friends over for dinner tonight. Their kids and our kids don't get to play together too often as we live on opposite sides of town and attend different churches, but every time we DO get together, it's wonderful!
We had the pleasure of two couples tonight as her parents also joined us. How wonderful to have multigenerational fellowship! We gain so much from each other!
Truly, just as "man was not meant to be alone", we, even as couples, need and long for friendship and fellowship. It was great to eat good food and just enjoy each others' company without need for any other entertainment.
Though Facebook is very helpful to me to ask for props for teaching or to organize an event, it does very little to help me feel filled.
Interacting over the internet does not satisfy my longing for company.
I prefer faces to facebooks.
And that is why I am thankful for friendship.
And recipes online.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #13

13. Today I am thankful for confidence. Not the confidence of secrecy, though that kind of confidence can be good as well. No, the confidence that allows for action. The "sureness" or resolution that says "I'm going to try!"
The ability to attempt success even if the certainty is not there.
Confidence is freedom. Freedom to move beyond the shackles of fear. Freedom to stand and say, "I'm challenged but I'm not giving up!"
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor 4:8-9)
My Dad, Ronald, took me and my siblings along with him on service calls in his early days as an appliance repairman. He would explain to us what he was doing as he took things apart, diagnosed, repaired, and reassembled. He encouraged us to try to do things for ourselves. My husband is also teaching our daughters this. He seems less bothered by the wailing and fussing of little girls who are challenged with doing tasks for themselves and will stand strong, knowing that they need to struggle in order to succeed.
Today I was able to go to a friend's house and take apart her dishwasher and remove a part, she's got it ordered, and next week I get to put in the new one! Hoorah! (She had already taken some of it apart herself, lest you think I am going to get her a steeper repair bill!)
Confidence can come through the knowing that you will not be destroyed, though you may be scarred. Past successes grow our confidence.
The question is, in whom do you trust?
For appliance repairs, I'm starting to trust a parts warehouse website with video tutorials and fast shipping. I'm just the laborer, not the "doctor".
For life's overwhelming challenges, my hope is in Jesus Christ.
And that's why I'm thankful for confidence.

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #14

14. Today I am thankful for protection.
I don't like feeling stuck or trapped. After bringing lunch to our school for the teachers in inservice today, a sheriff's deputy was shot and the suspect went on the run. The principal told us we were in lockdown-nobody could leave or enter.
I was with my three daughters and a friend who had also brought lunch had her sons there. We sorted through donated uniforms for our school for the better part of two hours until we were finally given permission to leave.
Though I felt trapped, I felt safe. All the teachers were at the school and I had time for a pre-conference with one. It was not how I'd foreseen my day, but it was time well spent.
Please pray for the deputy who was shot twice at close range.


The deputy is in stable but critical condition at the hospital in Portland, Oregon. The suspect was captured early this morning.
(And that is why this post was on my Facebook yesterday but I didn't get around to putting it on here. I promise I am posting these daily!!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #15

15. Today I am thankful for answered prayers.
Now, let's be honest, sometimes I haven't been very happy with the answer to some of my prayers. I prayed for a woman to either be healed or mercifully taken to heaven and the next morning she left the earth. That was not the answer I wanted. I wanted her to be healed, but she was eternally healed versus temporarily healed with death still looming as her exit from earth.
Today, a fierce battle had ensued at my home. A child was upset over a toy being taken away and a very loud assault on my ears had ensued. After she kicked my shin, she was in her room with the door shut, still ear-splitting shrieking.
Her younger sister came back into the house and said her sister "is screaming at me." I said "No, she's screaming at Mommy because she's upset."
That child then said, "Mommy can I pray?" (I thought she was going to ask a blessing on her breakfast) "Sure"
"Dear God, please help *my sister* to stop screaming at Mama."
(sister had been at it for over 5 minutes in that bedroom by now)
Within a minute, instant calm and quiet in the house.
*notices* "Mama, *sister* stop screaming."
"Yes, God answered your prayer."
*child sits there, letting it soak in*
I think there are times where we pray and the wanted answer is in line with scripture, and God gives us that quick answer to strengthen our faith in Him. There are other times we don't get that quick answer because He's working inside us and in our faith. Depending on ourselves is exhausting, and sometimes an unanswered prayer leads to desperation to complete surrender to absolute peace in His ability to handle overwhelming circumstances.
And the answer today? "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a
That is why I am thankful for answered prayer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown #16

16. Today I am thankful for life-saving skills. For centuries, people have had healing abilities and have trained others so that more lives could be saved. From proper hand-washing techniques, to covering our coughs and sneezes, to formal medical training, all these skills are taught and improved upon.
I had First Aid/CPR training today and learned a couple new things, but as we went through some of the emergency scenarios, I was reminded of each of my children and the life-savers that have kept my children alive.
My pain relief during labor and delivery was causing my daughter's heart rate to decline, and the doctors and nurses got her out of my body in a faster manner to save her life. My youngest was breathing 60 breaths per minute and the doctors and nurses in the ER were able to help stabilize her, administer medicines, and after a good 12 hours, we were finally at normal oxygen saturation for her. My second-born cut the top of her foot open while camping this summer, and we were able to get the bleeding stopped, drive her back into town and get her wound cleaned, stitched, and now she's back to her normal five year-old self with just a small mark on her skin.
For all my friends who are in the medical profession, I am thankful for your selflessness to serve others. It is not an easy line of work, but a noble one.
And, my husband has had many wounds and stitches in his life, so for each of these life-saving skills that somebody taught and somebody learned, I am thankful.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness:A Countdown: #17

17. Today I am thankful for teamwork.
It was our last outdoor worship service for the summer. There were 4 musicians working as one today and our combined talents made for such a pleasant offering.
Alone, music can be good, but harmony comes from working together: both musically and in general.
My husband is such a great team player when it comes to parenting. If not for him, I would be unable to serve musically on Sundays. He and I work together so well, that our 10 years have been very enjoyable. Our goals and values are similar, so our few conflicts rarely last more than a few hours.
Other than keeping a colicky infant away from him, we've not had to sleep "on the couch" as we long for that peace. He is my best friend and partner. Can't wait for our celebration!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: A Countdown #18

18. Today I am thankful for thoughtfulness. I'll candidly tell you that though it was a fun summer and that it flew by, it was a different summer. I am a homebody at heart and enjoy routine and seeing good friends regularly.
This summer had a lot of traveling and short trips and seeing friends I hadn't seen in years. (honestly-over 4 years for two of them!)
It meant that when we were home, however, we were fairly isolated.
Still, I have had friends recently that have sought me out and made time for me and made me feel welcome. That means more than I can say. To feel wanted, to be made to feel valuable-that you have something to offer in friendship and these people feel you are worth the time and energy and effort it takes to maintain a friendship. Well, I hope that I reciprocate and initiate and cause others to feel valued as well.
It can sometimes take just one sentence to make a week's difference for a friend. So, if you really like their photograph or statement on Facebook, would you take the time to comment and actually tell them?
Thank you for taking time for me. Your thoughtfulness has filled my heart with worth and value!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #19

19. (eeek! in the teens already! yaaay!)
Today I am thankful for truth.
It is easier to be bombarded by opinions now than ever before, as we have made ourselves accessible through phones and computers and the internet to all sorts of voices. Some of the voices are positive, some are negative, some are all true, some are not true at all.
But, in the din, the noisy din, (Phantom Tollbooth, anyone?)
there is still room for that still small voice of truth.
"You are fearfully and wonderfully made."
I wrote a post on BraveGirl Community today that was difficult to write. I didn't want to put myself out there like this, but it's not about me. It's about God and His Holy Spirit is working in my heart and in the world today to spread the truth. The glory goes to Him and Him alone. If my words touch you, know that it's not me, but my God who loves you and enables me to love you too.
Many are capable of lying, but it takes strength to speak the truth.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #20

20. I am thankful for failure. I am glad that we have to work at things and are not instantly successful at all things. For the mastery of skill comes out of multiple attempts. A piano piece committed to memory can be lost if not kept in practice-as can a foreign language.
Trained muscles lose their tone when not kept in training.
Few things will be "always", but working at something until you get it brings a deep satisfaction that has no external value. It's not available on Amazon. I am helping my husband on our Project Touring Barracuda, and our brake system is still working out its bubbles.
I am getting time with him while we tackle the challenge together. We have understanding of a shared foe.
Our teamwork is part of our success. We have to problem-solve our many parenting challenges/failures, and our bond is deeper because of it.
This is why I am thankful for failure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #21

21. Today I am thankful for independence. This is funny as I like to be in control, but as my three daughters grow and become more independent, I find our relationship changing from one of dependence to one of balance.
Today I got out of bed hastily when I heard the beep of our toaster announcing the hot contents were ready to be removed. What I discovered was my responsible seven year old with both halves of the bagel already on the saucer, preparing to butter them. "Mom, these ones are for you and me. I already made Jaelle and Naomi's."
They can all open the refrigerator now and grab a yogurt (and know how to open them carefully). The oldest will also open yogurt for her sisters if they have trouble.
So, beyond independence, I am thankful to see fruit of our labor beginning to appear.

This also gives me hope that we'll be more punctual this school year. A challenge as all three are in school for three of the five weekdays, but knowing they can do some of the breakfast work themselves gives me more time to help the youngest if she needs it!
I am thankful they can all work their own seat belts, toileting, clothing, and well, I'm just enjoying their independence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown #22

22. Today I am thankful for separation.
I really don't like good-byes. Not in the least bit. I don't like being apart from those I love. But that is why I am thankful for separation. Because it's in those times of being apart that you realize what you have. What you miss. What you may have taken for granted when you were overwhelmed with the stress of being in the same space for long periods of time.
Truly, I miss and appreciate my parents and siblings so much more today than I did when I was a self-absorbed high school student! I would love to live in the same town with them, but the separation causes our intentional reunions to be that much richer and fuller, and we value quick resolve to conflicts as our time always seems too short.
Though I may never get the privilege of having all my family live in the same town (again) until heaven, I cherish the time we are together and use it more meaningfully than I used to.
I also love the weekends because we get my husband at home all the day instead of those brief three hours between dinner and bedtime (for the kids). During the week, we eagerly await his arrival after work because we feel his absence during the day. And, David has something to look forward to when he's done with work. His own personal fan club!
And all of this is why I am thankful for separation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown to my 10th Wedding Anniversary: #23

23. Today I am thankful for perseverance/not giving up.
I am organized and really get bothered when the kids receive a toy and we're missing a piece. We've been able, due to my quirkiness, to keep track of basically every part to every toy they've received for the last seven years.
You can imagine, then, my dismay when the summer began and one of my daughter's flip flops lost its mate. We went to the ocean in May, and after that trip, I could not find the twin. Last summer we'd spent "more than $5" on pairs of flip flops for the older two in hopes they'd last another summer.
I thoroughly searched their bedroom as the solo "sole" was found under their bed.
Today, after three MONTHS and the purchase of a larger pair (that will last next summer as well), guess what turned up in an odd place?
I told my friend JoAnn that God is a great finder of lost things. Here is just another example.
I debated many times if I should just throw away the shoe, but I did not want to admit defeat. "What if it shows up and I threw away the mate?"
I believe God also does not give up on us, though many times others choose to throw us away, not willing that our second chance should ever manifest.
And, we can similarly choose to keep holding on to that promise, that hope we've clung to, though it seems we'll never see it in our lifetime.
He'll never give up on me. " And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A countdown. #24

24. Today I am thankful for teaching. One of my first piano students dropped by before leaving town for college. She was nine and received lessons for Christmas/her birthday.
I have learned so much through teaching and love the mentoring I've had one-on-one with so many bright young people!
Group teaching is rewarding and challenging in different ways and I enjoy it as well.
I love being able to affirm people and to help them see value in themselves and their abilities. To be able to solve problems and the satisfaction of grasping a difficult concept or skill--and the reward of perseverance and mastery!
Oh how rewarding to see parents at a Christmas recital or concert and show them what their student was capable of!
And that is why I am thankful for teaching

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown: #25

25. I am thankful for change. I actually do not enjoy change much at all. I feel safe when I have a plan, a routine, something marked out on my calendar three months from now. But, I am THANKFUL for change. I cannot remain the same. I must grow and change to become more like Christ and less like the selfish, helpless infant I was when I entered the world.
It was so hard eleven years ago to drive cross-country without a plan and arrive in a tiny town in Oregon, with one friend from grade school waiting for me.
But, the result of that choice and change is that I am about to celebrate my 10th Wedding Anniversary with my best friend.
Having children has changed my life and it is so much more challenging than I could ever have imagined, but I am learning about grace and about how God sees me and there are things I'm letting go of that have needed to be gone for years and He's prying them out of my hands and I'm getting freedom!
Getting braces caused a gap in my smile the size of a front tooth as they were spreading my jaw....I had a definite "ugly duckling" period and yet at my heaviest, with a full mouth of braces, my sweet Dave saw the beauty inside me that won't change when my body is deteriorating!
So, though I detest the process and feel so unstable when change is happening, I look back and I am thankful for change.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown to my 10th Wedding Anniversary #26

26. Today I am thankful for help. I often want to be independent and find it difficult to ask for help, but I really enjoy helping others. I believe others enjoy helping me and slowly I've been able to accept help when I'm desperate.
I also feel that God is trying to get me to give up control-especially things I could not control but want to-and so I am at a point where I have asked for and am receiving help in a great void of control in my life.
It is through helping others that we receive intrinsic rewards-the kind that will not be taken away from us when we die.
I hope that I help others when they need it, instead of shrugging my shoulders and walking away. That I will always be available if someone should need help. That Dave and I will manage our resources of time, energy, money, in a reasonable manner so that we can help to the best of our abilities. Others have been at that point and have helped us.
So yes, I am thankful for help.
"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Psalm 54:4

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-A Countdown. #27

27. I am thankful for dreams. Last night I had a dream that I was at a conference and people were praying and I began spontaneously singing a new song.
One of the overhead lights became brighter and more intense than anything in the room and almost blinded me as I sang. I had such awareness of God's presence!
The Bible speaks of old men having visions and young men dreaming dreams.
Though my bad dreams are also vivid, I have received great peace in my sleep and am thankful He communicates this way!

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-Day 28

28. Today I am thankful for people. I was delighted to wake to sounds of laughter and helpfulness (vs quarreling) amongst my 3 girls.
I crave relationship and fellowship and am so glad not to be alone on an island, though I do appreciate times of quiet.
And, if you are reading this, I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-a countdown. #29

Thirty Days of Thankfulness-countdown to my 10th Wedding Anniversary

29. I am thankful for pain. Not that I enjoy pain. Quite the opposite, but I am thankful that there is something out there to teach me. That I can continue to grow. In light of pain, then I am ever more aware of its opposite: pleasure.
If you have ever tasted fruit that is not ripe, and then you get a good piece, well, you know what I am getting at. I am grateful that we can learn from small amounts of pain and be prevented some of the larger amounts out there.
It is during times of pain that I have also received great comfort and love from others, and had I no pain, I would not have the depth of appreciation from those persons.
Once we have experienced pain, we are better at reaching out to those in similar pain.
To me, pain causes us (if we allow it to) to become more compassionate and caring and appreciative in life.

Monday, August 11, 2014

30 Days of Thankfulness

Many of my friends on Facebook are posting challenges and tagging names to encourage us to spend our time reflecting on the good in our lives. This is a great exercise, but I really don't like guilt and obligation in general. Much like chain letters of the past, you feel negativity overwhelming the good that is trying to be accomplished.

So, I will be instead counting down to my tenth wedding anniversary.
These will be short posts, but I am going to post for the next 30 days one thing that I am thankful for as I count down to the celebration of one of the best changes of my life-from fiance to wife.

30. I am thankful for life. I will be turning 33 this October and truly, my thirties have been so full and rewarding (and not without challenge, of course.) Just before my 30th birthday, we welcomed our 3rd daughter. Just before her pregnancy, I was pregnant for a week before losing the pregnancy. Life will always become more precious after the experience of loss.
Each girl we have been given has been a joy and a blessing and a challenge and an opportunity to be less selfish.
So ultimately, I begin my thankfulness with life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Color of Light

I've been educating myself on the primary colors lately.
If you research the primary colors of light, they are related to what our eyes see. The primary light colors are red, green, and blue. They are called primary additive colors.
When they are mixed, they produce the primary colors of pigment.
Pigment colors are called primary subtractive colors.
Here's a link with a more scientific explanation: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/primaryhome.html
I chose not to quote the three initial paragraphs, but they are well-written and informed me well.

It had recently occurred to me that the Holy Trinity could be like the Primary Additive colors. You need all three to make light, but they are each unique. Red is very different from green, which is also different from blue. These colors all stir different feelings within me.

And, how different to have additive colors than subtractive colors.
In our world, we cannot live without the sun. We cannot create the sun, though we have artificial light.
We can mix paints and try to capture the beauty of the colors of light with the colors of pigment.

However, our palette is not true to light. When you mix all the subtractive (pigment) primary colors? You get black. We cannot artificially mix the colors and create the original colors of light.


So, in our counterfeit world, we try to replicate what God has created, but our best efforts are dark, whereas His mix of colors produces pure white light!

I don't know that I can really explain the way the Trinity functions, but I can point to the Father, the Son and the Spirit using the colors of light.

And? In pigment, we create green from yellow and blue. In light, green exists with blue and red. You cannot create it for yourself. Yellow is only a color of light with the absence of blue from the mix.
If we were to equate God the Father with Red, Jesus with Green, and the Holy Spirit with Blue, how could we tie this to the counterfeit colors of pigment versus light?

Man wants to believe that salvation is something to be had by all of our own effort, not depending on Jesus.
So in light, with the absence of the Holy Spirit, we can see yellow for the first time.
In paint, Yellow becomes our source of salvation. We mix it with what we think is the Holy Spirit and we get our self-reliant form of salvation (green).

We create our own Jesus in our pigmented world, because our color wheel is counterfeit and not true.
Our eyes have cones and when all three colors are balanced and present equally, we can see the true white light. If there is an imbalance, the light will be tinted to whichever side is out of balance.
In paint, we take out whichever colors we want until we attain the color we desire.

Also, if you try to lighten a color with black or white paint, it alters the color. Warm red becomes cool pink and loses its warmth and vibrancy. Black creates murkiness rather than simply darkening a color.

As followers of Christ, let us not look to ourselves for salvation, but to our Father who art in Heaven who sent His Son who lived, died, and rose again, and ultimately the Holy Spirit within us. With the three in balance in our lives, we will have a clear perspective of what is important, rather than trying to save ourselves with our own perfection (which is unattainable).


Friday, August 1, 2014

"Let's All Be Brave" Book Review

I'm sure that other bloggers are much more together than I am. That they take a book, receive an entire media promotion kit online and are savvy at all that beautiful photography that I admire.

Instead, this is an arm's length shot from my cell phone that I took to tell others I had received the book! :D

I'll be sincere and tell you that I did not get paid to read this book (which made the experience all the more of a pleasure!), but I did receive the book for free. I am a part of the Brave Girl Community and we were given the opportunity to receive this book electronically or in paperback if we'd be kind enough to read and review it.

Anytime I can hold a book in my hands and turn the pages, I make a deeper connection. Something about that ink on the paper that is permanent is more easily seared in my mind than simple pixels on a screen.

Enough about paper books and on to the contents!

If you are wondering why a book on being brave would appeal to you, just keep reading. You see, Annie, in her memoir-style writing, invites you into an intimate setting. She speaks so easily from her own experiences that afterward, you feel as though you were there for each of them.

Each chapter deals with a different aspect of bravery, whether it's the courage to say yes or the exact opposite, the courage to say no. Although each chapter left me with a great thought and a stirring in my heart, it was her chapter on "the why" that really spoke to me most.

She speaks about our purpose in our exact position.
"You know why we have to be brave? Because courage changes lives. And eternity."
I have never felt that staying-at-home with our three daughters was an act of bravery. Surely my mission field of junior high and high school teens was a greater cause?! Yet, she spoke to me from this book and said,
"You, my friend, married or single, female or male, you are blazing a trail with your life for the younger women and men behind you. They will have their own overgrowth to challenge them, and they will lead the way for others.
Because you are making a way for them, saving them some pain that your bloodied arms prove is real, and honoring their footsteps by providing a clear path.
Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer.
Someone is watching...

...seeing you be brave may be all they need to be brave. That may be all it takes."

So, this is just a taste of the many chapters of encouragement and life that will stir your Spirit and cause you to break free from the dullness and drudgery and dissatisfaction that you have been currently struggling against.

By the time you finish this book, those dreams that were once your greatest passion will no longer be distant regrets and memories, but the fires will once again be lit. You will again feel stirrings of greatness within you, for God has numbered your days and has set you in this exact time and place and town for a reason.

If I ever have the pleasure of meeting her in person, I hope only that I am as transparent and sincere as she has been and that I'll have the depth of friendship I've already experienced in reading this book.

I hope you will take the time to read this book. It is so easy to read that you could take it chapter-by-chapter, or read it in its entirety as I did.


Friday, July 18, 2014

And Like A Consumer...

I most tightly claim the 1990s as my decade.
Born in 1981, I was too young to understand the 80s, Reagan, Bush the first, the remnants of Carter's legacy, but my memories begin with the Gulf War. Clinton's first and second terms, and then, my eligibility to vote came in the year 2000.
My musical flavor palette is also mostly seasoned with the 90s and the early part of the 2000-2010 decade. (Although it pains me to hear my high school favorites as "classic rock" now. That term was reserved for the janitor listening to his 80s hair bands while mopping the halls after school.)

When I began college, I was a decent piano player, had played flute in band, and I was a voice major. I had been dabbling in songwriting for a few years and was swept up by some bands you may have never heard. One that was folksy and mostly acoustic-driven with great harmonies was Caedmon's Call. A friend of mine who is in Nashville and such a great musician performed one of their songs at a talent night. She played guitar and sang, another young man sang, and another young man played guitar and sang.  The song was "This World".
"This world has nothing for me and this world has everything. All that I could want and nothing that I need."

Another song by the band is "My Faith Is Like Shifting Sand".
That one has been really resounding in my head lately.
"And like a consumer, I've been thinking if I could just get a bit more.
More than my fifteen minutes of faith, then I'd be secure."
In the busyness and distraction of our ever-connected society, there is a lot of room to feel guilty.
People will share their successes to encourage others, and yet we take those messages as guilt-inducing testimonies to our own failure to measure up.

So-and-so has five kids, a home business, blogs for ten different companies and a perfect devotional life. And 1,000 followers on Twitter. And her Pinterest pages are repinned at an astronomical rate.

Who are we trying to please?
Can we admire her for her seemingly faultless life and then get back to our own?

The truth is, our life will always have room for insecurity and comparison. It may be thrown in our faces more than the last few generations, but it is nothing new.

Instead of thinking that we just "need a little more prayer", "need a little more Bible time", let's stop making it a contest or a quota.
There is no formula for contentment. Your heart needs rest. Peace. Quiet. Zero distractions.

Is that easy today? Definitely not.

But is it worthwhile to pursue it when the opportunity advances?
Most definitely.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

"I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope." Psalm 130:5 (AMP)

Instead of experiencing frustration at what others are doing that you cannot seem to do, do what you can. Think of the widow who could barely offer a dime to the Lord. "She gave all that she had."

It's the willingness of your heart that pleases God. That you are seeking Him whenever you think of Him. That you are thankful for each little thing that you notice or that you pray about and He answers.
When joyful praises become as natural as breathing, your joy and contentment will rise and you won't listen to that consumerism whispering "you need more Jesus". "You need more of the Holy Spirit".
It may sound nice, but it's not Biblical.
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

God wants all of me and has given me all of Him. That is enough. :)
The chorus to the song states
"My faith is like shifting sand, changed by every wave. My faith is like shifting sand, so I stand on grace."
Though my efforts won't always get an "A", my attempts will still please God and He doesn't have a "to do" list that measures up with the task lists we make. His list is full of fruit, more like a garden.

22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Don't Feel Sorry For Me

Before I even get into this post, please don't feel sorry for me. This is not an effort to boost my self-esteem. This is about knowing what to do versus actually doing it.

Having said that, I'll begin with Thanksgiving of 2012. I was at an unhealthy point in my fitness level. I set a goal to lose 10lbs in 10 weeks and began in December. It was not a fickle "new year's resolution", but throughout Christmas and all the sweet fests that followed, I was able to stick to my exercise and eating goals and actually lost a little more than that. By Valentine's Day I'd lost 15 and since my sister's wedding was in May, I said, well, I'll shoot for that extra few pounds and get back to my wedding weight.

I did it, got some smaller clothing, and after the wedding, I relaxed. After all, the goal was attainable, but not maintainable. In July I began training for a half-marathon race. (12 week training)
As my workouts increased, so did my muscle gain and appetite. I gained weight, but didn't mind as I knew where it was going. When I finished the race, my muscles were finished too and I had to stop cold turkey with my workouts.
This says "start", but I was running through the finish. This is after 13.1 miles.
My final statistics

I consoled myself with the loss of exercise, the loss of daylight, the loss of endorphins, by making delicious treats and sharing them with others as well as with myself.

Each winter tends to cause me to struggle, so this isn't a new battle, just a more difficult one this year.

By the time spring came, I was looking back at my fitness goal I'd reached last year and I saw that I was back to the starting point nearly a year later. That was discouraging. I had a small burst of energy and started to eat well in April, but the end-of-school busyness and stresses that come from part-time teaching and being a stay-at-home mom confounded my plans to eat well and exercise. Also discouraging was the realization that none of my spring/summer clothing from last year's smaller body would fit me. The pants I almost rid myself of because they'd barely stay on were now barely able to fasten.

Still, we can find multiple justifications and excuses for "why" we don't change, even when we know that we need to. I am not going to justify my bad choices.

This isn't about a particular weight or a particular clothing size. I have my range that is healthy for me, and you have your own. This is about making choices that make your body happy and ultimately, you feel better about yourself.

I'm goal-oriented, but without a deadline or something to keep me going, I have zero motivation.
It finally came down to my dear husband. Two years ago, when I was more "fit", we purchased some jeans that he really liked on me. This spring, they wore out on the upper thigh. (very discouraging feeling, by the way) I recently placed an iron-on patch inside them and wore them to a dinner. When I tried to wear them again a couple days later, he gently broached the subject. "I noticed the other night that..."
I recognized the approach and cut to the chase. "Yes, honey. Your wife is too big for her britches."
He was still tiptoeing and trying to tell me that "we just need to get you some pants that fit", in his very kind way. I told him, "No, I just need to actually start exercising again."

I like to eat. There is nothing wrong with eating delicious food. I recommend it! The problem lies in the input to output ratio. If I'm not burning an adequate amount of calories, and I'm eating a more than adequate amount of calories, my clothes simply cannot fit my body because it's not going to stay "fit".

I turned my calendar to September, my tenth wedding anniversary. I then counted the weeks backward and came up with 12. I don't actually know what I weigh right now. But, I have a goal. I am going to exercise two to three times a week for at least 20 minutes (or longer if I can't jog the whole two miles). This means twice a week I'll have to rise early and go before he leaves for work, but I remember doing that in the fall and I actually had better days and more energy!
I'm hoping to lose about a pound a week, not because I have any set number to reach, but because my inactivity is causing me to either gain or keep me at a non-clothes-fitting "weight".

Two weeks after that, my brother is getting married. It would be nice to have my "nice clothes" wardrobe fit me.

To conclude, please don't feel sorry for me. I don't "think I'm fat". But, I do know that I'm not living a healthy lifestyle. This knowledge doesn't help with the internal pity party. Truthfully, to get away from my stress, I like to physically work it out of my body. My internal and external health are often related, so when I'm looking and feeling fit, my emotional balance seems better too. I'm looking forward to some success. According to the myfitnesspal app that I have, my goal will have me five pounds lighter by July 20th. That seems very far away, and doesn't seem like much progress, but in that time, I think I'll be making better food choices and I'll feel like celebrating!
After I finished, I posed by the "finish" side of the gate.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Love Story

This May will mark the tenth anniversary of my college commencement ceremony and the fifteenth anniversary of my high school graduation.

In between those two milestones, a more significant milestone occurred. My love story.

You see, I had been courted for my entire childhood. Told of a love so deep it surpassed all other loves. And? My insecurities, especially in my non-perfect-skin pre-teen and teenage years caused me to despair that I would never really know love. This other love, though, TRUE love, still enticed me and beckoned to me.

Once in college, I was surprised and flattered at the attention I began to receive, feeling as though I'd finally passed my ugly duckling phase. Infatuation led to heartbreak, however, as those short-term relationships flickered and then fizzled, leaving me less than satisfied.

In the spring of the year 2000 I had been in a relationship where I'd compromised my standards, believing this was true love, and ignoring all the other signs pointing to infatuation. I longed so badly to be special and cherished and loved, that I threw everything I could into a doomed relationship. (He had recently broken up with a long-term girlfriend and I was the rebound)

I had been avoiding church to spend time with this boyfriend, so I sheepishly returned on a Sunday just after our break-up. The pastor was speaking on The Prodigal Son.
Oh how that message was different to me this time. God weeping with joy and open arms that I had returned! No lectures or shame or judgment, but simply LOVE!

I went for a drive after the sermon, my mascara most likely wiped all over my face, and pulled off to the side of the road. In Nebraska, where I attended college, there were many open fields. And in that field, I made a promise to a God who had always loved me, that I would never again pursue a relationship without Him.

The next year, after a 6 month "courtship" that was long-distance and also ended in heartache, I felt that perhaps my dream of being a married mother of four was not going to be fulfilled. That caused some grief and anger in my heart. I again bared my heart to God and demanded that, "If this is what you have for me, help me to be okay with it! Because right now? I'm really angry!" (Angry and sobbing at the same time. I had always dreamt of being a mom. I thought I would make a good mother.)

For two years, I wrestled with God to allow Him to replace that need for a husband within my heart. Slowly, I began to accept my destiny. I still had small infatuations but I never put energy into them. One of my younger sisters got married. Shortly after, another of my younger sisters got engaged. There was a lot of doubt in my mind, and coupled with that, I had braces on my teeth for the first time and had gained some college weight that wouldn't seem to leave despite my best efforts!

Just before my fifth year of college I was in love with Jesus. I could pray, and His thoughts would interrupt my own, reassuring me or confirming something I'd just read in my daily Bible readings. That summer I drove 1,000 miles away to my grade-school best friend's college town for a summer job.

To make this shorter, I ended up becoming deep friends with one of her friends, and we eventually pursued a relationship. I again had a deep conversation with God, "What are you doing?! Don't screw this up! I don't want a relationship! I am perfectly happy with you! How will I be able to have room for you in my heart if I let him in?!!!"

Because a husband was no longer my idol, God used Dave to show me that it was my heart that was beautiful. As my self-confidence soared, my depression lifted, I was caring better for myself, and got back to a healthy weight. I got my braces off that fall after I returned to college for my final year.
By Christmas time, though we hadn't seen each other in over three months, we were fully committed and had spoken every other day for hours on the phone. He proposed, I said yes, and four months after graduation, we were married.

That love story I was speaking of? The one I always wanted? Truly, it was that ever-satisfying love that I first developed with my Jesus.
"but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

And today? Almost ten years after I said "I do" to my husband, and 14 years after I said "Your will be done" to God? I am more in love than I ever could have imagined. That God of the Universe that created me also cares for me and stirs my heart to compassion. Consoles me through some of the darkest days I've ever experienced (a lost pregnancy), and ultimately waits while I wrestle through extreme emotions until I'm spent and ready to be held and loved. He fills my heart with joy even when I am choosing to let my circumstances overwhelm and stress me.I am so thankful He allowed me to realize my dream of becoming a mother, but I underestimated how much I would need His help to navigate these uncharted waters.
Through it all, it is becoming more about Him and sharing His love with others, and wanting everybody I know to experience their own beautiful love story.

I am glad to be journeying together with you!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wife After God

This post will be short, but I was so excited! If you recall, in January, the Wife After God devotional study on Facebook was something I participated in. On Day 8, I had been exploring trust and understanding that our husbands, our kids, even our own performance will never satisfy us. I wrote about that experience here.

This April, Jennifer at UnveiledWife.Com is going through the Wife After God devotional again, but she chose to have wives share on each day, giving a personal story to illustrate the lesson.
And? I was chosen for the Day 8 "Confident Worthiness" chapter.
What an honor!
I've included the YouTube link so you can watch the video if it doesn't properly imbed itself on here.
Chapter 8 Wife after God

And, I am so thankful to Jennifer. Somebody asked if I had a blog, and she linked me in the comments there.
May God receive all the glory. I don't know any of this on my own, but through His patience with my faults, He is teaching and showing me many things. I hope to always encourage others!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Frozen-The Ugly Side of Unforgiveness

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
And, verse 24 reads "And see if there be any hurtful way in me" (NAS)
It's said that "hurting people hurt people".
This is true, even if you are silent in your pain, you can cause pain to others.

This is a difficult post to write.
It's raw, real, and very ugly.

We try to present our best to people, fearing what they'll do if they see us at our worst, but my personal blog is titled "Sincerity and Hope". So, I will be sincere and at the same time I have hope that God is working in me and that my transparency will somehow cause others to experience freedom in Him.
This blog is on the "Brave Girl Community". I sure hope this helps somebody because I don't feel particularly brave typing this.

A simple Disney movie that my daughters love ("Frozen") has really brought a lot of truth into my mind lately. Hans Christian Andersen's original story of "The Snow Queen" has a lot of Biblical truth, if you have time to look it up.
I am personally feeling God cleaning house. I've been upset over the way I was treated by a friend.

Facebook has put me in touch with people I haven't seen for years. A friend asked me for forgiveness after years of harboring feelings of pain, bitterness and unforgiveness.

But, so much time had passed between my original offense and her apology, that it created a wound in my heart—while she felt healing. Due to the pain in my heart from a missed opportunity for reconciliation, I spent too much time thinking on it.
Truly? I was unaware of the pain I had caused her, and had it been brought to me immediately, I would have tried to right it then.
Faced with it now, all I could see was that my "friend" had been false with me. It stung and I reacted bitterly.When, through recent events, I realized I had been guilty of the same offense, I initially wanted to confess my wrong to her for letting it go for so long.

After discussing the situation with my husband, we both concluded that it would wound her the way I'd been wounded. If a person wrongs you, and you do not let them know they have hurt you, you fail to give them a chance to right that wrong.
I believe this is part of the admonition in Ephesians that states, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger."
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 4:25-27

I can recall a time in college where a "friend" began acting cold and distant toward me. I asked her if I had done something wrong. "Well, if you don't know, then I'm certainly not going to tell you!" For a peacemaker like myself, that was pretty hard to hear. It was evident that she did not desire peace.

In other situations, especially in our digital age when communication lacks inflection, words can be misinterpreted and "read into". I am so thankful for persons who have asked for clarification on my words in the last few years. Immediately I have been able to clarify my intent and explain what I said!

There is also another factor. The "in your head" factor. Maybe you're still bitter at them, or jealous, or anything you want to insert here.
Jesus taught that our ugly thoughts are just as sinful as our actions, and that is true. But, if you never spoke to the person about it and they are blissfully unaware, then you can actually cause great pain by "asking them for forgiveness". They asked forgiveness and you granted it. You've been smiling and friendly and yet inside, there is something else going on. It's all in your head. Telling them won't help them. It will hurt them!

If all the offense and wrestling has been in my head, then I need to get it out of my head. Write my apologetic letter, pour out my soul, and then ceremonially tear it up, or burn it, but let it go. That person is at peace with me now, and there would be a great wound caused by knowing I had harbored anger without giving a chance for reconciliation.

Unforgiveness is ugly and can destroy all that is beautiful.

Do you have unforgiveness in your heart?
Is your heart frozen?

Only an act of love can melt a frozen heart.
It may take sacrifice.

Your pride, most definitely, needs to go.
Let love take its place!