Monthly Archives: December 2011

Meditation Mondays – Ponder

I’m a girl who likes to analyze perspectives. I find a story far richer when I consider how each character must feel about the information to which they’re privy. I find real-life relationships more manageable when I follow Atticus Finch’s advice in To Kill a Mockingbird when he said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Reading the Christmas story in this way makes it fresh and sweet to me from one holiday season to the next. While I try to focus on a different character’s perspective each year, I can’t help but find myself wandering back to Mary’s point of view a few million times.

If any girl had a reason to feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, and inadequate, it would have to be the woman whom God chose to mother the Son of God. And the circumstances she endured while it all fell into place blow my mind. She is visited by an angel, goes through a pregnancy with all of its wonderful yet uncomfortable symptoms, and ends up with the ultimate insane birth story. Can you imagine being in her circle of friends, listening to her share how her poor, clueless husband-to-be had be the one to deliver the Savior of the world while they made do in an uneven pile of filthy hay and some rags as the donkey who had hauled her tired body halfway across the country awkwardly stared on?

I believe it’s safe to say she didn’t picture it happening like that when the angel broke the news. I don’t picture this woman as anything but humble; however, I can’t help but assume that she would picture the God of the universe, the Name above all names, arriving in at least some grandeur as she pushed through the judgmental stares and swollen ankles leading up to Jesus’ birthday. Instead, the first visitors were not her parents, but a group of strange men with their sheep crowding the manger. There was no Germ-X outside the door, but there were probably rats in the corner squeaking and clawing at their kernels of corn.

My personal favorite verse in the Luke 2 account of Christ’s birth is verse 19, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Something I find unbelievable about becoming a mother is the way it has of softening the bizarre and challenging conditions that surrounded the child’s arrival. One of my prayers as a mother is to always keep this perspective that Mary displayed in Luke 2:19.

I want to take the mundane, ugly, and beautiful days of motherhood and ponder them in my heart. (That’s why I started blogging when my little guy was born, to keep that record close at hand when I need to regain my focus. Perhaps this post better explains the title of my mommy blog that most of you follow, A Mother’s Pondering Heart.)

With the hectic schedules and overwhelming to-do lists that are inevitable with Christmas, I pray that I will be able to maintain this train of thought as well. How beautiful the lights on our Christmas tree look, how precious it is to hear my child talk about Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, how blessed I am to have what God has given me – so much. Nothing about our decorations and presents are fancy by the world’s standards, yet with a pondering heart, God gives me the gift of seeing true beauty rather than hustle and bustle.

What are you pondering this Christmas?

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Be sure to check in with me tomorrow as I share an opportunity for wives to participate in a month-long challenge to pray for their husbands this coming January!

My Journey Continues

Today marks the beginning of a new era for me. I embark on a new decade of life on this my 30th birthday. While aging is not always my favorite thing as I look into the mirror or feel my joints starting to stiffly send signals of wear, I am truly happy to have arrived at this milestone.

The past decade has been an incredible one – full of making friends, losing friends, traveling, earning a college degree, teaching hundreds of kids of various ages all kinds of things, learning even more from the same kids, reconnecting with old friends, falling in love, feeling the heartache of loss, becoming a wife, finding the incredible joy of being a mother, and obviously even more opportunities and disappointments than I have time to recollect in one blog post.

I could blush in embarrassment at the number of mistakes I’ve made in my lifetime, or even in the last 10 years of my life, but I’m choosing not to.

What I love about life is that it’s a journey that absolutely never stops. This side of heaven, I will never arrive at a destination that is to forever define me. Accepting this reality was not easy for me, but once I did, I’ve discovered such a freedom in knowing that God is continuing a good work in me, and will not be satisfied with my sitting around doing the same thing for a lifetime.

My sister and I were reminiscing the other day at some of the silly tendencies we had as little girls, and in that precious time of laughing and apologies, God gave me a clear reminder that we do not have to be defined by who we were as children. The apostle Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

While I am grateful for my heritage, humbled by my past actions spurred by insecurities, joyful for the accomplishments, and in awe of the love I’ve been given by so many people over the course of my life, I am responsible for upholding my reputation while trekking through my current season of life.

God has placed a desire on my heart to commit to memory a verse that is familiar to me, and I’m sure will be to many of you as well. Isaiah 43:19 puts forth a challenge that I’m feeling called (and more than a little intimidated) to live out in my life right now.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

It’s time to keep looking forward, pressing on to accomplish my current calling. While looking back gives me perspective and wisdom, I can no longer dwell there. It is time to accomplish my new work.

 

 

 

Genuine Gratitude

One thing I’m growing to appreciate more each day about my darling two-and-a-half year old is the genuineness that comes from his childlike mindset. I never have to worry about that little guy putting on airs. His true feelings are always evident in each moment of the day.

This has led to hurt feelings and frustration on more than one occasion, but all in all, I’ve learned that, while we’ll work to season this character quality with grace as he grows older, it’s something I pray never changes about him.

While extended family have received the cold shoulder when he just doesn’t feel like giving them a hug and I’ve grimaced and wanted so badly to make him understand why that’s hurtful, I’ve come to see how much sweeter the bear hugs and kisses are when he’s ready to show them love. As I longed for him to say “I love you Mama” when all of his peers were, I came to understand that his actions of love were enough to get me by until the glorious day he decided to voice his feelings for himself.

When other kids sweetly and politely said thank you immediately after their parents requested they do so, I sighed while thinking I’ve failed as a parent because I can’t even get my kid to make eye contact when a gift is given, let alone say thanks.

In my heart, I continually heard the quiet voice of God nudge me each time my hurt or embarrassed feelings swelled, “Give him time. He’ll say it when he’s ready. Just keep loving him for who he is.”

So over time, I learned to let go of the comparisons to others and the sick feeling in my stomach that we’d offended someone. I began silently thanking God for the gift of my son, imperfections and all, and did my best to just let him be the toddler that he is.

Then last week, it happened. Dash and I were playing, and I did something to help him out. Out of nowhere, with no expectation on my end, he looked at me and said with a precious grin, “Fanks Mama!” (That’s “Thanks Mama” for all you less-than-fluent in preschooler talk.)

Ever since that first utterance, he continually puts himself in positions that require my assistance for the sole purpose of being able to say thanks. Isn’t that the marvelous thing about gratitude? Once we start trying to be thankful, we just can’t get enough of it.

I have to share a link to the video I caught on my phone yesterday when we were playing Thomas the Train. He kept purposely derailing his train, Gordon, so that my train, James, could rescue him. This was all so he could say thanks. I love that boy! I’m also incredibly grateful for the way his genuine gratitude has encouraged me to be the same way.

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Meditation Modays – My Purpose

Have you ever looked at the Bible, the endless shelves of theological books at the bookstore, listened to your pastor cite a slew of verses you didn’t even know existed and thought, “I’m missing something.”?

How can I ever be a woman who changes the world for Jesus if I don’t have a plethora of knowledge about His Word and all of the “isms” that people of faith seem to debate all of the time. I’m just too simple.

I’d say you’re in the perfect position to be used of God in an incredible way. But don’t take (or leave) my opinion and exit out of this post quite yet. See, I’m not one of those theologians either. I’m a simple girl myself who has all kinds of confusing thoughts and self-doubt bouncing around in this head of mine on a daily basis.

That’s why I’m thankful to my dad for his simple, compelling way of helping me see the truth about life, its purpose, and God’s Word when I start down the path of complication or self-doubt. Inevitably, I’ll hear his gentle, authoritative voice quote a scripture that seems to be overlooked far too often. When I’m sure life’s just too complex for me to handle, I’ll hear him say, “Kelly, what’s the whole duty of man?”

I answer in a quiet voice, “Fear God and keep His commandments.”

Remember. Those words came from the wisest man who ever lived. After he wrestled with life’s purpose for an entire book of the Bible, Solomon finally stopped fretting and listened to God’s expectations.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

It doesn’t say, “Successfully attain a degree in theology.” or “Become a missionary to the North Pole.” or “Teach a Sunday school class.” or even “Homeschool your children.”

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not downplaying the importance of any of these callings. In fact, in your quest to truly comprehend what it means for you to fear God and keep His commandments, you may very well come to the realization that He wants you to do one or all of those things.

But if God hasn’t called you to any of them, stop wasting your energy feeling like you’re missing your purpose. Your purpose is to fear God in everything you do each day. It is to live by His commands. Quite frankly, it’s a tall order, but that’s kind of the point.

You can’t do it without God, for you’ll need to have His strength to accomplish His purpose for you. Also, you must accept that your purpose will look different in various seasons of your life. As long as you’re focused on your two duties, it shouldn’t matter if your full-time ministry is to teach troubled teens, counsel alcoholics or inmates, or instill the truths of God’s Word in the lives of your own precious children.

The Bible isn’t full of superheros who did amazing things none of us could do. It’s full of scared, insecure, arrogant, or rebellious men and women whom God empowered to accomplish unexplainable things to bring glory to His name.

So stop the excuses. Don’t exhaust yourself with piles of books that do nothing more than confuse you and make you feel inadequate. Check out the ultimate authority of all literature – the Bible. Your calling is really not complicated no matter how hard you’re trying to convince yourself it is.

Fear God.

Keep His commandments.

It’s the whole duty of man.

Expectations and Nevertheless

Expectations have a way of causing a girl to spiral. At least this girl. And based on my interactions with other honest women, I’m not alone.

It all starts with a dream. The perfect wedding. The perfect husband. The perfect children. The perfect job. The perfect church. The perfect Christmas. The perfect house. The perfect life. All of these perfect dreams eventually turn into nightmares because in that dreaming process, we don’t allow reality to enter the picture.

Inevitably, heartbreak enters the picture when our imperfect selves meet up with aforementioned reality. We know no ones’ perfect, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Perhaps. And yet I wonder.

Instead of allowing the dreams to take over, what if we really put into practice the mindset of “nevertheless”?

“Here is my dream, God. Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”

I learned this beautiful challenge from a precious friend who waited over a decade for God to allow her to become a mother. When He miraculously placed a baby daughter in my friend’s arms through the most unique adoption story I’ve ever heard, she said she got it.

How much more bearable the excruciating time of waiting would have been for her had she just surrendered with nevertheless. When every last dream was seemingly crushed with each year that passed, God was gently trying to tell her that, in His own way, He was saying: “Just wait. Surrender. Stop spending so much time trying to fulfill your dream in your own way and give everything up to me.”

Jesus Himself had to face this breaking point on the cross when He set the example of saying nevertheless. As He probably pictured the perfection of heaven, of the beauty of a sinless life while going through the most humiliating, painful, lonely death, He let go of the pictures of perfection so that one day, we can live in perfection.

What is your nevertheless? I have a couple myself, and as I trudge through the waiting to reach a more beautiful perfection than I can even dream up in my expectations, I pray for wisdom to see a reality that is full of peace, hope, and joy.

Source

 

Oreo Truffle Recipe

We all have our favorite holiday treats. Fudge, cookies, cheesecake, cheese balls, the list is endless as you well know.

A few years ago while I was still teaching, one of my dearest friends entered my classroom just before Christmas and introduced me to one of the greatest reasons to throw diet rules out the window. Inside the pretty Christmas wrapping I discovered some chocolatey decadence nestled and sweetly beckoning me. Ever since my first bite, I’ve been addicted and look forward to any excuse to make my own Oreo truffles each holiday season.

Why do I love them? 1) Because they contain an insane amount of chocolate 2) Because they are so simple to make 3) Because it only has three ingredients 4) Because it doesn’t require baking

Here’s what you need to make your own:

  •  One package of Oreo cookies
  • One package of cream cheese – softened (I obviously used Neufchatel cheese because it’s supposed to be better for you so I could feel less guilty about eating more than one. It worked just as well as cream cheese.)
  • One half package of melted chocolate almond bark

Step one: Crush the entire package of Oreos (minus one used as Dash’s compensation for being my assistant) however you see fit. I find a food processor to be the easiest way. And don’t you love that my son’s fingers are stained blue from his snack of frozen blueberries earlier? I promise I washed them.

Step Two: Combine the crushed cookies and the softened cream cheese. Let me just make sure you understand how important it is to get the cheese nice and soft. I even stuck mine in the microwave for a few seconds just be be safe.

I have learned that for me, it’s easiest to just mix with my hands. It’s messy, yes, but so worth it, in my opinion.

Step Three: Form the mixture into balls of whatever size you see fit. I made two dozen and they looked like this.

Step Four:  Flash freeze the balls for about 20 minutes.

Step Five: Melt the almond bark and dip the balls until covered. Chill until hardened.

Step Six: Enjoy!

 

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Meditation Mondays – Joy in Full

I know that if you based your opinion of my current life’s situation on the last week’s worth of posts (or lack of posts), you’d probably think that my very life has been crumbling around me. I assure you this is not the case. In fact, most of my life is full to overflowing with enormous examples of God’s lavish blessings.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s just one thing that can take up residence in my heart and just gnaw away at me. Such has been the case for my most recent test of faith. In fact, the very origination of my faith was questioned, and it has opened my troubled eyes to the seriousness of false doctrine. I’m not here to debate such topics, but I can tell you this: it’s a difficult experience. In the process, I must guard my own heart, and not allow myself to harbor anything false.

My husband uttered a profound challenge to me as we were working through this together. “Don’t let it steal your joy.” In the quest for knowledge and guarding and day-to-day struggles, its so easy to focus on the tough stuff and take my eyes off the source of my reason for existing – God.

This whole experience has led me to my current memory verse, found in John 16:22. In this chapter Jesus is preparing His disciples for His impending departure from earth. He says so many comforting things in the verses surrounding the one I chose to memorize, I just have to include them all in this post. May your heart also be encouraged as you read this with a heart that may very well be heavy with a legitimate burden of your own.

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.  When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

~John 16:19-24