As I stood in my kitchen last night, listening to the laughter of my little girl as daddy chased her around the living room, I was thinking about how much I hate washing dishes. They have to be washed, but it’s a chore without a reward because once they are dry someone still has to put them away. In moments like these I am increasingly tempted to embrace minimalism. Less stuff means less work, right? As my mind continued down the list of undone chores, I began thinking about how many things in my life I really don’t like doing. Changing diapers, cleaning up the toys for the umpteenth time, vacuuming so that I can mop, soaking stained clothing, putting away the clean laundry so that I can wash more clothes, paying bills, doing taxes, wiping muddy paws, pulling weeds, and the list goes on. My time is often filled doing things I dislike, but it’s surrounded by people that I love doing those things for.
This weekend we remember one of the greatest sacrifices and miracles in human history. I can not fathom what Jesus went through during the crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, as he pleaded with God for another way and contemplated everything that lay ahead of him I wonder if he felt the same way I did while washing dishes? His life was about to be full of doing things that he hated, but he was surrounded by people that he loved doing them for.
I am blessed by the people in my life and I am forever grateful that Jesus chose to sacrifice himself in my place. This weekend I am thankful for the opportunity to honor His death, celebrate His resurrection, but most of all I am thankful to be a recipient of His unconditional love.
Reflecting on joy, contentment and cultivating Mindfulness.
You know that feeling when life gets out the meat hammer and goes to town on your schedule, friendships, children, attitude, health and general exsistence? It’s been one of those weeks. Finding strength and encouragement despite your new, flattened state can be particularly challenging. Recently I’ve been spending time looking at scripture and reflecting on what it means to maintain joy and contentment despite the events of each day. Timely topic for reflection apparently!
Overcoming the emotions and gut reactions that accompany daily disruptions is the true test. How is this achieved? Take a moment to pause and step outside of your thoughts and feelings. I imagine it looks like one of the beginning scenes from Dr. Strange where time slows and you see his spiritual form being thrust out of his physical form. You mentally pause the situation, look around and try to identify the true source of angst. Then work on diffusing that instead of escalating the situation by adding to the fire with more words. The more popular term for this is Mindfulness.
Mindfulness takes time and practice to master. Breaking the emotional heatwave is the first step. I found myself, while in the middle of a toddler’s tantrum, making up a song about how I was going to be patient. My daughter found the high notes particularly amusing. Prayer is another useful tool. Talking through the situation with God mentally or verbally helps bring calm. Not only will you have spiritual reinforcements, the Holy Spirit helps reroute your mental attitude. Avoiding cellular devices is another positive choice when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed. Instead of jumping on social media or losing yourself in browsing take the moment to work on your mindfulness. Diffuse, reflect and look for ways to overcome the same struggles in the future. Think of it as emotional detoxing.
I look anxiously forward to the weekend and a cup of espresso as soon as my teething toddler relinquishes my lap. Offering words of comfort to his disciples, Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Overcome. He did and so can you.
Eight years ago as my mom and I waited for a shuttle, we sat next to a few fish tanks lost in the overwhelming news and reality of the moment. My cancer was gone. As relieved as we were to receive the news and be headed back home, the joy was hampered by relief and uncertainty. I was excited to be going home. Living out of a hotel while going through medical tests and surgery is not something I highly recommend. However, more surgery loomed in the future along with the possibility that the cancer could reappear.
Certain anniversaries since then have held special meaning. Three years in the clear was the first hurdle towards long term remission. Then I made it to five years and all my doctors breathed a sigh of relief. 10 years will mark the final nail in the coffin for medical insurance red tape. So what is special about eight years?
The number eight in the Bible signifies Resurrection and Regeneration. It is the number of a new beginning. Eight is 7 plus 1 and since it comes just after seven, which itself signifies an end to something, so eight is also associated with the beginning of a new era or that of a new order.
In the past eight years I have graduated college, worked a few jobs, married a pretty cool guy, got a new dog and became a mom. In the last month I made the decision to change my career path and focus on my adventurous toddler and develop my entrepreneurial skills. This is a new place for me. After nearly 7 years as someone’s assistant, I am taking a step towards a new beginning.
Pursuing opportunity is intimidating when there is more than one option, but never moving forward and embracing risk keeps us in stasis. Life is vastly out of our control, as much as we don’t want to admit or accept that fact. Living intentionally to intercept change and flourish despite of it is the goal.
Regeneration can be regrowth or reformation and both of those words seem applicable in 2017. As I celebrate remission, I look forward. Whether it was cancer or _____________________, it changes us. Let your blank be your motivation and live to the fullest with what God has given you.
For Such a Time as This,
If you are looking for a toy for your dog, but nothing withstands your furry friend’s destruction here are some suggestions! Our German Shepherd can destroy a toy in a matter of minutes. We timed her once. A “tough” stuffed alligator lasted a mere 3 minutes. Needless to say, stuffed toys and aggressive chewers don’t mix. Kong, which is known for its durable rubber toys that you stuff with treats, has a line of tough stuffed or soft toys. Don’t waste your money. We got the Wubba and the only thing that survived was the thin rubber ball inside.
My mom stumbled across the brand Jolly Pets and we have been impressed! Our German Shepherd started out with the Tug-N-Toss in the horse size. The horse version, which is 10″, was unintentional but she loves it nonetheless. They make multiple sizes of each of their toys so that all breeds can play.
Let me pause for a moment and talk about types of play and chewers. If your dog likes to sit down and turn toys into bones, then your options will become significantly limited. You should never leave a dog with a toy if they demonstrate this kind of behavior. Our German Shepherd has matured out of the constant chewing phase. Puppies chew continually as a result of teething and you just have to live through it. Adult dogs that sit and chew toys to shreds probably need more exercise and mentally challenging toys (this would be the perfect instance for a Classic Kong stuffed with peanut butter or plain yogurt). Also try new types of play for your chewer: frisbee, fly ball, agility, tracking or hiking. If returning a toy during fetch isn’t working, have you tried playing with more than one ball? Get creative! Research your breed and find out what makes them unique. Working dogs are popular house pets in the US, but they need to “work” in order to stay out of trouble.
Ok, back to toys. So in addition to the Tug-N-Toss, which our dog loves to tackle, we got a Push-N-Play. I was slightly dismayed when I got this ball in the mail as it was 6″ of hard plastic. I couldn’t squeeze it. I realized in hindsight that is meant to be chased, not picked up. German Shepherds are among the top 10 breeds for bite strength so this ball proved to be no issue for our crazy girl. She had that ball in her mouth in no time. It does wear her jaw out so we mostly chase it. The great thing about the Jolly Pet toys is that they are meant to be punctured and maintain form. So dogs can bite them over and over and it won’t destroy the ball (within reason, you will eventually need a new one).
Some of you may be familiar with the ChuckIt! Brand, best known for their plastic ball holder that helps you throw tennis balls. They make a variety of balls in addition the the tennis ball launcher. We have the Max Glow and Erratic Bouncer. These two thick rubber balls have been holding up very well, considering our Shepherd can split a tennis ball in two. The ChuckIt! balls have been perfect for her to chase, exercise her jaw and are much easier to wash off than a tennis ball.
Toys take a bit of experimentation to find out what your furry friend likes best. On a whim we got a $1 pink plastic frisbee from Target and our Shepherd has been obsessed ever since. So go pick out a toy and have some fun!
Third time is the charm came true for me this weekend when I had the opportunity to hear Bob Goff speak. Twice before Bob had stopped by Louisville, but a small person prevented my attendance. Bob wrote the book, Love Does, and if you have not had a chance to read it open another browser window and go buy it on Amazon!
Bob has so many amazing stories and as I walked hurriedly to my car in the frigid weather after the event, I began to think about what makes his life such an awesome adventure. Bob’s main message that evening was to do your work. Commit to where God has brought you, faithfully move forward, and in time God will begin to reveal his purpose. I had the honor to work for a veteran, lawyer and historian who put it this way,
“We have to get out of the way and let God be God.” – Colonel Ronald D. Ray
Regardless of what Bob has encountered in life from arranging meeting with Sultans on Twitter to contracting Malaria, his joy is made complete by following after God wholeheartedly. Bob has made his life about seeking out those that society pushes away and never saying no to opportunity. If this life is only a speck in the span of eternity, then what do we have to lose?
Bob ended his message with a dare to walk on the edge of our comfort zones. God uses desperation to draw us closer to Him. Examine your current situation, seek to understand the work God has called you to here and now and step out on the edge. Make 2017 about wholeheartedly jumping into God and go do your work.
I gave up on trying to make and keep New Year resolutions long ago. Instead I like to think of New Year aspirations. Each year I have a few hot topics that make the top of my aspiration list. Adventure and travel are always on the list. Hiking Red River Gorge and enjoying some country music, chocolate crepes, BBQ and pizza in a trip Nashville, TN are on the horizon.
Reading more is something I aspire to accomplish. After college I was so burnt out on books that I can probably name the books I’ve read cover to cover since. Inspiration is always a good way to start out a year, so I’ve picked Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Quiet by Susan Cain as my first two hurdles.
On my mind at present is my one year old walking. Each day she becomes more daring and ventures into the great unknown with tiny, wobbly steps. She also loves to climb everything and I can only imagine all the things that she is going to get into, but also all the things and places we will be able to go when she is confident on two feet.
After what seems like a decade (but is really more like a couple of years), I anxiously await my husband’s graduation and the precious time together that we will no longer have to give up. The last few months before graduation are going to be an intense challenge, but that will make receiving his diploma all the more victorious. I am also faithfully praying and seeking out the ability to quickly overcome school loans, to help keep my family as debt free as possible.
One of the best parts of marriage is having someone close to me to share big dreams with and work towards those dreams together. Proverbs 16:3 is a verse I was inspired to pray over my family this year,
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
I pray that the Lord will move in His way and that we will be able to accomplish mighty things.
Happy New Year and may you aspire to do great things in 2017.
The title of this blog post is how I feel about 2016 as we approach its closure. I did get to travel some, but the majority of my time was spent helping my husband progress through his degree while I maintained life and relationships. There have been plenty of days where I’ve been frustrated. Yet, as I watch my little girl grow, I am deeply reminded of how quickly time passes even when it feels like I’m moving through a week at the speed of molasses.
Some days I find myself staring in the mirror and thinking how I strived to achieve this place in life, but it is definitely not how I envisioned it. Outside influences effect every aspect of our lives, which make it easy to doubt our purpose, direction and choices. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who guides my heart and mind in these moments of self analysis. It’s easy to let discouragement creep in and cause feelings of doubt and regret, but it is important to remember that the best things in life often require the most work.
Romans 8 is a wonderful reminder of the Spirit at work within us. I encourage you to read the whole chapter. Here is a little excerpt,
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I so often read Romans 8:28 and think about how things will work out according to my definition of good. They mostly don’t, but I am ok with that because God has a way of things working out so much better. It is mostly little things that I see coming together after the worst of the storm has passed. As I am clinging tight to my life raft, the clouds begin to clear and I can see shore, a check comes in the mail from an escrow overage that covers the new tires for the car or a friend drops by with an unexpected gift that is a reminder of how much my friendship is appreciated.
There are no doubt plenty of challenges ahead in 2017, but it is also a year of possibility. “For who hopes for what he sees?” May you have hope and patience in the year to come.
It’s easy to want to be super mom when you combine holidays, family and children. Doing all the activities, attending all the events, making everyone happy. Even with super human powers, I don’t think it would be possible to do it all. Learning to find the balance between a positive amount of activity and a negative amount of attitude due to expectation is a challenge.
As an introvert it is naturally easier to want to satisfy everyone by saying yes while secretly dying on the inside with the thought of adding one more thing to the calendar. It’s important to learn to say no, which definitely gets easier with kids. Between my dog and my very curious one year old, no gets uttered in a variety of iterations throughout the day. However, it’s also important to not worry so much about the perfect and embrace opportunity. Like when you find your child contentedly eating mini chocolate chips that they have just dumped all over the floor. Sometimes you just have to sit down and appreciate that smiling chocolate covered face.
Tomorrow we take time to remember an imperfect situation. A baby, in a feeding trough, surrounded by the stench of animal stalls and who knows what kind of dirt, pests and insects. I don’t know about you, but as a mom with a newborn that would have freaked me out a bit. Yet, I have a feeling Mary embraced opportunity and chose to treasure the moment by enjoying that little, perfect face.
In the quiet and the chaos, be thankful for the moments and the one who gave us the chance to embrace opportunity.
I love buying gifts for people. It’s one way that I express love. I enjoy getting to know someone and then thinking about the kind of item that would hold great meaning, evoke a laugh, cause their eyes to light up or even muster a few tears. I also very much enjoy wrapping presents. As Maria von Trapp sings, “brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!” Though I usually expand my horizons past brown paper wrapping on most occasions.
Having a one year old who loves tissue paper has made this Christmas a wrapping adventure. I finally succeed in completing my present wrapping this week and now each item sits beautifully under the tree. I usually like to get my wrapping done with a few weeks to spare so that I can sit and admire all the festive colors and ribbons. As my eyes move from one present to the next, I think about the treasure inside and what the person’s reaction might be. Sometimes the reaction is quite amusing and very unanticipated. Then my mind travels to the memories that I have shared with that person and I eagerly await the opportunity to share time together again.
As someone who is not very open or transparent, gifts are my way of connecting and expressing. This is an area I hope to grow in, as I learn to get outside of my comfort zone. Gifts are a great relationship building tool, but they don’t always need to be tangible. The gifts of service, encouraging words and time, often mean more than a gift in pretty wrapping.
I was reminded today by someone’s wise words that one of the best gifts of Christmas is family and being grateful for the time we get to spend with them. Enjoy all the crazy, happy, messy moments this weekend as you celebrate and say a little prayer of thanks to our Heavenly Father for an opportunity to his sons and daughters.
I love how kids get right to the point, there is no beating around the bush. During one of my niece’s visits, she came through the door with great emotion and announced that she heard the story of how I almost died! Makes my life sound so epic.
This visit came to my mind as I spent time reading loving comments written about a young father who passed away unexpectedly from an infection. I didn’t know him or his family, but I can only imagine the pain. God never told us that life would be fair or easy, but that doesn’t make the unfair moments any easier.
James, Chapter 1 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It has so much truth and encouragement packed into one chapter, especially when navigating the tough times.
James 1:2-4 (HCSB) Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
As the end of the year approaches and we face stresses and challenges, remember that life is a work. We rise and we overcome – we grow. In order to grow we must face the risks, the pain and the obstacles. I have described cancer as staring death in the face and walking away. When I get to celebrate my growth and smile at the impact of my story, I am thankful for the work being done in me.