Settling in, Paying attention, Giving thanks

It’s 8pm on move-in day and I am exhausted. There are boxes everywhere, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward all the wonderful people that helped us throughout the day… We own a lot of stuff. So I take a moment and step outside. I look around at these new surroundings and everywhere I turn I see houses. A far cry from the wide open spaces we just left behind. And then I look up and thank God for the little love note He sends me in a window of blue sky peeking through the forest of trees. Wide open spaces of a different kind.

It’s 7:15am and I am late for work. I may live 5 minutes closer, but it’s only day 2 and I still can’t find the right shoes, or the snacks to pack in my lunch, or which drawer we put the silverware in. I rinse my coffee cup (I can always find one of those) and look out my kitchen window, and there is my first wildlife sighting in the new home. And I stop and just grin big at the deer. I will never get tired of the deer. “Won’t HE do it!”

It’s 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, and we are just returning from a long walk around the neighborhood, getting to know the area. As we come around our front/side yard (we live on a corner and I can’t figure out what’s front, side, or back), I notice ivy everywhere, and a splash of Queen Anne’s lace. And once again I am in awe of God’s creation, the way He meets me where I’m at, and how He connects my growing up memories of flowers and my love of ivy (first married kitchen theme) with present day.

It’s 5pm and in between the sounds of the evening traffic, I suddenly hear church bells ringing. And I smile. Year two of marriage found us living practically in the backyard of an Orthodox Church. I remember those bells. And once again, I am almost in the backyard of a local church, and the 5 o’clock bells are just one of the many blessings I’m counting in this new, unfamiliar place. And as these bells play familiar hymns, I thank Jesus for the gift of music.

It’s 6:30am, I am settling into routines. I take my coffee to the front room to enjoy with some morning Psalms, and the window view shows a soft misty fog and another deer sighting…. This time a doe and her fawn.

It’s 1pm and as I’m gathering pizza ingredients and prepping for Sunday lunch with friends, I look out the window again (I love the windows) and spot a chipmunk finishing his Sunday brunch. Various shells, seeds, and nuts scattered all over the stone steps, remnants of the way my God cares for the little creatures, too.

It’s 8:30pm Labor Day weekend and we settle around the Solo Stove on our new patio and light the fire, enjoy the view, and of course, roast marshmallows, and I smile and give thanks for the little things. The things that are different and the things that stay the same. The way that life is what we make of it and we can choose to focus on the blessings because they are abundant and overflowing and when I focus on the good stuff, when I shout His praises, when I pay attention to the ways He is present in every moment and area of my life, I just can’t believe how much my God loves me.

And how personal He is. Trains rumbling by in the background, sunrises and moonrises through the trees instead of over the mountain, wind chimes, shops in walking distance, the ever present squirrels and chipmunks, the list goes on and on and I give thanks.

#hopewriterlife #Hope #JesusOnlyJesus #justwrite #amwriting #chasingoutthedark #1000gifts #theministryofpayingattention #theministryofordinaryplaces #writeyourheartout #change #skyappreciationpost #startwithhello

10 Things that are saving my life

In no particular order, here are 10 things that are saving my life right now.

1. apple slices and peanut butter. This needs no explanation. It’s the perfect snack and it’s healthier than Reese’s peanut butter cups. And it’s easy to eat at my desk at work.

2. afternoon or evening walks: I live for warmth and sun (I hear Florida calling me). I know fresh air and exercise is good for my physical and mental health. Some weeks I get 5 walks in and other weeks I have to fight to make myself take just one.

3. counseling, therapy, whatever you want to call it. Talking through situations with someone who knows how to ask the right questions, gives good advice, pushes me out of my comfort zone with suggestions, and encourages me when I think I’m losing my mind has been so helpful.

4. Psalms. It is always my go-to when I open my Bible. David’s example of prayer and processing through his struggles has been life giving to me. And no matter how bad it gets, he always circles around until he comes back to proclaiming the goodness of God. I pray I can always do the same.

5. Nature: flowers, trees, skies, and clouds. Sunsets, birds, rivers, and all of God’s creation is so full of beauty, so full of color and variety. Our Creator created us to enjoy all that He has given us, to live life abundantly, and that includes green grass, yellow daffodils, bluebirds, rainbow tulips, white clouds, etc.

6. Hope: Hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that hurt I have experienced can be redeemed, hope that God is working all things for His glory and for my good. Hope for deeper relationships, better community, iron sharpening iron friendships. Hope that I can be a better human, be more like Christ, full of compassion, courage. Hope that some day I’ll make time to write consistently, to live out the gifts God has given me.

7. My kids. Yes, my kids are saving my life right now. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me think, and they make me so proud. Each one of them is amazing in their own way. They can be so sweet and so annoying. I think as they get older and I realize my time with them is so short, I panic that I haven’t done enough, I’ve made too many parenting mistakes, I’ve pushed too hard and not hard enough. but I do know that I am doing my best and I love them so much it hurts, but also I can’t wait to see what they will do as they grow up and move out and begin the next phases of their lives. I’m so thankful for my kids!

8. my morning cup of coffee, almost always made by the best husband. Some may call it an addiction, I prefer a ritual, tradition, a morning liturgy.

9. Writing in my local coffee shop. I don’t get to do it often enough. My schedule and budget do not permit, but when I do get the opportunity, it rejuvenates me. It gets me away from the to-do lists and undone, and gives me a new perspective. It reminds me how much I love writing, how much I need writing, how beneficial writing is for my soul and my mind. The coffee is great too!

10. anticipation… looking forward to upcoming activities gives me joy, helps me to survive the daily crazy of life right now. We are just over one month from the end of middle school forever, so I’m looking forward to 8th grade celebration day. I’ve also already preordered my fresh Georgia peaches from @thepeachtruck and I can’t wait to enjoy those in addition to my local fresh fruits and veggies from farmer’s market. Summer trips planned to visit our families are also on the anticipation list. Travel stresses me out and sometimes relationships (even those that share our genes) can be challenging, but they are still important. And making memories is worth the effort.

I’m a slow processor and life is extremely busy. @emilypfreeman shared what’s saving her life right now on her podcast over two weeks ago and I’ve finally gotten mine down on paper.

What is saving YOUR life right now?

#HopeWriterLife #1000gifts #bestkidsever #myhusbandrocks #writeyourheartout #amwriting #JesusOnlyJesus #Hope #writeitgirl #mynextrightthing

Clouds —God With Us

The sun was so bright this morning, I was blinded on my way to work. I feel like it’s been a long while since I’ve seen the sun in the morning on the way to work. I was almost too distracted to notice it. I mean, my eyes sure noticed it when it struck the windshield and I lost my bearings briefly. But my heart didn’t soak it in. My mind forgot to appreciate the goodness of the sun, the beauty, the benefits.

Like so many things, I quickly focused on the negative, I dwelled in the depths of despair, even in the overwhelming presence of the light.

On the way home, the sun was in a much better position and I caught glimpse of the clouds. I’ve been reminded lately to look at the clouds… to pay attention (I think it was @kaitlyn_bouch, or @shannanwrites —I looked, it was both). So I snapped a quick picture because I want to remember.

Pictures, even quickly taken ones, help me remember. I remember that the sun will shine again. The clouds are a part of creation and each one tells a story. Today may feel like the storms (the hurricane, the conflict, the battles, the pain, the grief) are never going to cease. And while the fall-out and clean-up from each unpleasant situation cannot be avoided, the sun is still going to shine. The blue skies are going to display the glory of God. The white fluffy clouds are gonna show up and show off.

God shows up in the clouds. Time and again in the Bible we see where God shows up—in a cloud. Clouds represent His presence and his faithfulness. He is coming again, in the clouds.

“Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; And your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭36:5‬

And we just need to keep looking up, to notice the beauty, to keep our eyes on Jesus, to hold an eternal perspective. To remember that we all live under the same beautiful sky. We live a hard and beautiful life and it’s better together. And He is with us.

#HopeWriterLife #theministryofpayingattention #cloudappreciationsociety #HeavenComeDown #GodWithUs

Waiting for the storm

I waited for the thunderstorm to roll in this evening… I’m still waiting. I love the way the sky changes color as a storm rolls in. I love the lightning flashing, the thunder rolling (I much prefer gradual thunder rolls, to startling thunder cracks). I love listening to the rush of rain from the safety of my front window. But I’m not sure the forecast was correct tonight. Some days we are waiting for the storm to roll in… and some days we are waiting for the storm to pass.

I’m not always good at waiting. I try to distract myself. I like to plan and prepare, and know what the next step is and when it should be taken. I don’t like last minute, surprises make me nervous. I like to keep moving forward. I want to make progress. Waiting gives opportunity to rest, which I’m not great at. Waiting reminds me I’m not in control.

We aren’t talking about thunderstorms anymore.

Sometimes in the waiting we get distracted, we get discouraged, we try to convince ourselves that we aren’t waiting. We rush ahead when we should wait. Maybe you’re waiting for marriage, a baby, healing in relationship, a health diagnosis. You might be waiting to finish that degree, or get a new job, buy a house. We wait for answers. We wait for deliveries, the brownies to finish baking, the light to turn green. Or perhaps it’s the wayward child we want to come home, the uncertainty of a housing situation, the reunion of friends and family (on earth or in heaven).

Does anyone ever say that waiting is fun? But it’s in the waiting that our faith is strengthened, our hope is renewed, our love is deepened. So I look out my front door view, I remember that God is in control. I search the Scriptures to remind myself that there is hope in the waiting, strength in in the waiting, salvation in the waiting.

“but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬

“I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, And in his word do I hope.”
‭‭

Psalm‬ ‭130:5‬
“I waited patiently for the LORD; And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:1‬

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, To the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly Wait for the salvation of the LORD.”
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:25-26‬ ‭

What are you waiting for?

#HopeWriterLife #Waiting #Onceamonthspot #juliesmonthlyspot #frontdoorview #hope #JesusOnlyJesus

Vent your Joys, not your Problems

Psalm 113:1-3  

Hallelujah! Give praise, servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be blessed forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.

I’ve been struggling with being a complainer lately. I also feel that I’ve been surrounded by complainers lately. It is so easy to vent and whine all about the problems and everything that is seemingly going “wrong” in life. And we feed off each other. When one person complains to us, it makes it easier for us to complain about our problems right back. And while there is a time and a place to bear one another’s burdens, I also believe that we would benefit by rejoicing with those who rejoice and continue to give praise to the name of the Lord… because He has done great things for us.

I’ll go first. He has given us great things. I have a job that I love, even if it’s sometimes overwhelming and I sometimes have to deal with cranky people (hello, supply chain issues). I have four wonderful children that are not perfect, but they are mine and that makes them the #bestkidsever. My husband works hard, loves me, serves others, follows Jesus, leads well. #myhusbandrocks

I’m bragging on God because He never fails to meet my needs. I have a roof over my head, we are in no danger of going hungry, (even if the teenagers in my house there there is nothing good to eat) and I have clothes for every occasion. I have a church family that loves Jesus, loves people, and is doing the work of God’s Kingdom here on earth. I have a friend who is not local, but our drive to work is the same time as mine and our almost daily conversations are just another way God spoils me. They’ve  been a lifeline and remind me of the faithfulness of God.

He showers us with sunrises and sunsets, changing of seasons and wild life. He give the gift of thunderstorms and rainbows. So far, this summer I’ve seen the rolling hills of Western New York, the mountains of West Virginia, the Potomac River, zoo animals, a little strip of Amish country, and the flatlands of Ohio. And always, I am thankful when I come back home to the mountain God has blessed me with, with a view of our little city.

He speaks to me through His Word, music, nature, other people’s victory stories. He pursues me when I’m wandering from Him. He shows me He cares about me through bird songs, crickets and peepers, the wind rustling through the trees.

Bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits.

If He had only rescued me from sin and given me life eternal in His presence it would have been enough. But daily He surprises me and overwhelms me with good gifts and spiritual blessings.

How can you vent your joys today? How has God met your needs today? How can you praise the name of Jesus? Let’s encourage one another with good news!

#HopeWriterLife #1000gifts #CountYourBlessings #ChasingOutTheDark #EncourageOneAnother #JesusOnlyJesus #writeyourheartout

Practicing Rest

I spent my weekend doing just about nothing. I read three fiction books and it was glorious. I sat in the sun, and on the deck, I lounged on the couch, I laid in bed, and sat on a swing. My body aches from lack of movement, but my brain is praising me for the rest I’ve given it.

We spent time with family… listening to the cousins having fun (and also fighting). We feasted on party foods, picnic foods, take-out, desserts. I sat alone, I sat in groups. We went to church. I went to bed on time. I slept in. I rested.

I’ve been thinking a lot about rest and sabbath and how God created us to rest in Him and I haven’t really been doing that lately. Perhaps reading 3 fiction books in one weekend isn’t quite resting in God, but I believe that God did make us for enjoyment too. Psalms and Proverbs have been a part of my resting weekend, too.

I consider this weekend a “practice” in rest. When you try something new it’s not always going to be perfect. We practice as we work toward improvement. This is true in writing, art, baking, education, sports, even in friendships. Life takes work and life takes practice. And so does rest.

So this weekend I was given the gift of time and I used it to practice rest. Next week will be overwhelming again, the to-do list is already growing but for this moment, I breathe deeply and I give thanks for rest.

How do you practice rest? I’m learning that it is something that needs to be intentional… scheduled. And while we may not have time for a 24hr period every week, we should aim for moments or hours each week. How are you intentional about scheduling rest in your busy life?

#HopeWriterLife #Rest #Sabbath #amreading

In the middle of the messy story

The story is this… I thought I wanted to be a writer. I think I may still want to be a writer. But some days I can’t figure out what my story is, I can’t figure out why I want to share it, how, where, and when I want to share it. I can’t even figure out who needs to hear it.

When we tell our stories—humbly, authentically, with the intent to glorify God—it can encourage others. I always want my story to have a happy ending, I like it when it wraps up neatly with a bow. But tonight, I’m smack dab in the middle of messiness. And that’s not usually the best time to share. But here is what I do know.

Always, I want my story to remind myself, my kids, my circle of influence, that God is good, God is love, and God is in control . I know that when I have a breakdown, I can respond like David and go to the loving arms of my Father. Sometimes I ask Him, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?”  Or “why do the heathen prosper?” Or “why is my soul cast down?”

And I ask these questions until He reminds me, that … “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul” and I can experience peace because “You LORD, make me dwell in safety” and “He rescued me because He delights in me.”

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭‬‬

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭‬‬

What story are you telling? How do you combat the questions and doubts with truth? What encouraging truth in your story can you share with us today?

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #Psalms #JesusOnlyJesus

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

We all have a voice. We’ve been given a circle of influence, our family, our community, our social media following, our church or neighborhood. How are we using our voice in that circle of influence? Are we speaking life into those with whom we come in contact? Are we using our voice for good or for evil? To build up or tear down? To encourage or cause harm?

I don’t think many would say they are intentional in being harsh and critical, in causing heaviness or anxiety to those around them, but out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What do your words, your actions, your social media posts promote?

Sometimes I go silent on my blog and social media because I don’t know what to say, I’m too busy to sort out thoughts, or I just need a break. But sometimes, it gets quiet because I’ve been taught—“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Often it’s my heart that needs a readjustment, some hope, the truth of God’s Word, a good dose of Jesus.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 
Proverbs‬ ‭12:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The grass grows where it’s watered, the plants that are fed are the ones that prosper, and the thoughts you rehearse in your head are the ones that take root and grow and repeat. So when I feel the negativity taking over, when I find myself easily irritated by the little things, when I can’t seem to find the beauty in my everyday, I go back to the Psalms, I go back to the words of Jesus, I write the words of encouragement that I need to hear and I share it with others in hopes that I’m not the only one.

I plant my feet in the grass. I look at God’s creation. I beg Him to show me His daily presence. I give thanks for the wildflowers, I find beauty in the sunrises and sunsets, I marvel at the cardinals and bluebirds in my yard. I immerse myself in the Psalms and Proverbs, processing my emotions like David and seeking wisdom like Solomon. And then I use my voice to praise my Creator. I give thanks for the way He carries me. I believe and shout like Peter… “where else would I go? You, Jesus, have the words of Life.”

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

How does being grounded in truth help you find your voice?

What good word can you share with others today?

#HopeWriterLife #Voice #JesusOnlyJesus #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #YourWordsMatter

Processing and Praising Jesus

I am a slow processor. Sometimes I overthink things, sometimes I avoid thinking on all the things, sometimes I’m just procrastinating. But one can only procrastinate for so long before the words just need to come out.

I’ve been reminded time and time again this week (and last week) that my God is a personal God, a personable God, and a Sovereign God. Salvation does not lead us to need to do more, but it is an opportunity for God to shower us with even more gifts. My relationship with God is not based on anything I do right, or wrong. It is based on His faithfulness, His righteousness, His goodness and mercy.

And while my life sure has not been perfect this week (hello, parenting teenagers… hello, selfishness… hello, over-scheduling… hello, anxiety), time and time again, Jesus shows up and shows off. It started with these random flowers in the middle of a pile of dead weeds in my yard, blooming way in advance of any of my purposefully planted daffodils, and completely different. Showing off in their tiny size and stunning, two-color display, just smiling at me. I don’t know where they came from, but they sure put a smile on my face and reminded me of my Creator, who loves me and gives me good gifts—He created all things and holds them together, even in a seemingly random way in my backyard.

When I look back on my week, I see the gifts in abundance and I am reminded of the importance of remembering and giving thanks. I’m thankful for a walk with a friend, for a view of the city, for trees in bloom in the valley, for a perfectly timed sunset, wild turkeys up close and personal, for homemade iced coffee drinks, for endless supply of books (libraries are a wonderful thing), for hugs from my kids, good conversations, hard conversations, loving correction from my other half, homemade pizza, fellowship with the body of Christ, the opportunity to pray on behalf of others’ needs, Jesus—always Jesus.

My friend encouraged me to “Stop and smell the flowers,” so I picked up a $4 bouquet at the grocery store. One of the great podcasts (#HumanHope with @loswhit) I listen to reminded me to “Lower the volume of life,” so I’ve chosen silence while driving more often these last few days.

And when I make space, and read God’s Word, and pay attention to the gifts around me, I give thanks. I give thanks for the the way God is gracious. And faithful. And holy. And just. And full of loving kindness. He gives His children many good things, we just need to keep our eyes open to see them.

So when I’m overwhelmed by my sin and by the sin of the world around me, I run to Jesus and I rest in His forgiveness. I look for the ways He shows up. I count my blessings. I repent. I accept His grace. And I shout His praises to those around me.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.

Psalm 119:132

#HopeWriterLife #SoulStruggle #amwriting #writeyourheartout #justwrite #JesusOnlyJesus #1000gifts #ChasingOutTheDark #TheMinistryofPayingAttention

Write my way to Truth

When I write, I am a better me.  When I write, I take the time to process the hard stuff, to acknowledge what’s right and wrong, to remind myself of truth, and to pay attention to the good God gives. When I stop to write,  my mind does what David’s did when he talked himself out of the stinkin’ thinkin’ and talked to God in prayer.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him”. ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭42:5‬

The weather has me down in the dumps today… it’s a lovely, dreary, gray March day. Tomorrow’s forecast doesn’t look much better. And it’s easy for my mind to focus on the negative, and when I keep it mental that is exactly what happens.

However, when I take the time to write down and name the negative stuff, I naturally shift toward taking the time to combat the negative with truth. I can’t explain it, it just happens.

So I remember that my soul is cast down, but it doesn’t need to stay there. I can hope in God. I continually use foggy days to remind myself that God came down. He came to earth to walk among us, to show us The Way, to pay the atonement for our sins. I can find the pictures on my phone of last week’s sunrise and remind myself that the sun rises every morning and God created all the seasons for our enjoyment.

I can remind myself and you that Jesus laid down His life for my sins and I don’t have to live in defeat because we already have the victory.

Sunday’s coming!

#HopeWriterLife #HolyWeek #Godwithus #HeavenComeDown #ChasingOutTheDark #writeyourheartout