Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Because of Grace List

If you’ve spent any time around me in the last year, you know I’ve been learning a lot about grace. While I’m confident I’ll never fully comprehend this invaluable gift from my LORD, the bits of understanding I gather from one life experience to the next brings me more and more freedom.

And I want you to experience an ever-growing freedom as well. Grace is essential for joy, hope, and a meaningful life. It’s deep, but it’s also present in the simple things. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, the simple things are the most tricky for me to claim grace over.

I get that my relationship with God is one hundred percent a gift from Him because of His grace. It has nothing to do with what I do or don’t accomplish, yet it seems that I often get stuck in a rut of trying to compensate for my inability to contribute to grace in that area by setting ridiculously high expectations for my day-to-day accomplishments. Then when I fail (which ultimately happens every single time) I spiral into a state of mentally beating myself up. The next thing I know, I’m spending all of my energy focusing on what I’ve failed to do that I’ve forgotten to bask in and share the grace-filled life that God intends for me to live.

I write this because I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve talked to many women who are right there with me in this battle to claim grace in ALL areas of our life. That’s why I’m issuing a challenge. If you relate with what I’m talking about, will you take a stand and begin a change in your life?

At the end of each month, I’m planning to list and share some of the things I’ve accomplished in the span of those days that made it up. They don’t need to be huge accomplishments, although I anticipate that some of them will be.

Going into January, I made an ambitious list of goals I wanted to accomplish in the new year. I believe it’s great to make goals, but I also know that there are times that life happens and I can’t accomplish them in the way I had hoped. Or, as is the case for me this month, I set too many goals to happily live in my current season of life.

I was beginning to feel discouraged about what didn’t get done until God gave me a reminder that His grace is enough for all aspects of my life. He has been good to me and has still enabled me to accomplish some great things this month. That’s something He deserves credit for. It is much more pleasing for Him to hear me utter thanks for His strength and presence rather than listening to me wallow in my self-centered frustration over what I left undone.

That’s why I’m making a list called my “Because of Grace List.” Because of grace, I did accomplish great things, mundane things, good things, happy things.

Because of Grace List

Do you want to join me? If you have been saved by grace, then let it define you – all of you! Write down some of the things God enabled you to do over the last 31 days. Even if you came short of the goal you set, write down what you finished.

Sickness strikes most all of us this time of year, and it may seem that you weren’t able to get anything done because of that, but I challenge you to think about what you were able to do when you found yourself spending extra time on the couch. Did you have a chance to pray more, spend more time cuddling your child, read a book, catch up on rest, or dream about the future?

If you are taking part in this challenge, don’t just do it quietly. Let’s be in this thing together. I mentioned earlier this month that I joined a community of writers who took on the My 500 Words challenge issued by Jeff Goins. I did something more than I usually do when I decide to participate in challenges. I joined the Facebook group, and that made all of the difference. I love the way that social media enables people with a common goal to encourage each other and stay accountable, so I am working out some way that we can come together to encourage each other in this.

If you’re ready to dive into this Because of Grace List challenge with me, then let’s start a community. Community is what keeps us going when we want to give up on our own, and I while I can make a list by myself, it could more greatly impact my life as well as your life if we have each other. So what do you say? We start right away, but you can jump in at any time. Stay tuned for details, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you if you’re joining me.

What I Learned from Listening to Whining

Mondays happen to all of us once a week.

Profound, huh?

Here’s another deep thought. Some Mondays are great, and others are Monday-type Mondays.

Monday

Around here, today was a Monday-type Monday. You know the kind. Everyone had to get up far earlier than they wanted to. All of those little things that seemed attainable when you thought about them on Sunday night turned into nightmares when you tried to accomplish them. It was too cold outside…again…you’d think it was winter or something! This was the kind of Monday where your children fought naps, your cupboards grew more bare in spite of the fact that your grocery list is still non-existent, and you may or may not have dishes still taunting you from the sink after 10:00 at night. But that’s just a general example. Any truth to the description just described is purely coincidental. 😉

One thing continually grated on my nerves today, and I’m convinced that it is both the primary reason that my day was a Monday-type Monday as well as the very part that is today’s redeeming quality.

It was the fit throwing of my two sweet children. The kind of fits that involve tears, and dramatic body lunges, attempting to somehow injure one’s self in the process for the sake of “proving one’s point” to the offending parties. The fits that are made up of whining, determination to keep it up for the long haul no matter how many times the parents step in to handle things appropriately.

It was quite pleasant, as you can imagine. My nerves were shredded like cabbage for sauerkraut.

It was somewhere in the midst of tragedy number 37 of the day that I really heard what I’d been saying and thinking all day long. “You’re spending so much time crying about how much you don’t want to do this and how hard it is that you are wasting the time you could be enjoying yourself.”

It was during the continued tears and objections of fit number 37 that I stopped inwardly rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was to cry about picking up a few little toys off the floor while baby sister cried at my audacity to think that putting her down for a nap would somehow make her less tired. Right then, God gently challenged me to apply the phrase I’d had on repeat all day to my own life when it comes to His plans for my life.

The thing is, God has placed dreams in my heart. I know they’re what He wants for me, and I do want them too, but sometimes I get kind of whiny when it comes time to do the work. Like writing this blog post at 10:42 P.M. when I’d rather be catching up on “The Next Great Baker” on Netflix. However, part of His dream is for me to write, if only for an audience of One. While I oftentimes want to put my thoughts into the written word, there are many times when I whine myself out of the time to get it done.

I want to do it, but I’m too tired to move.”

“After a day like today, I can’t think clearly enough to get anything into a coherent sentence.” (Let the records show that sometimes, this excuse is legitimate, but not as often as I use it.)

I don’t feel inspired enough to write anything worthwhile.”

“No matter what I do to organize quiet time to myself so I can write, one of those munchkins wakes up, refuses to sleep, or needs my attention.

The list grows the longer I whine, and the next thing I know, I lose my chance to do what I love. It’s not because of anyone else; it’s because I chose to not focus on the positives, be creative, and buckle down to do my work.

It’s true that finding something to be thankful for in every circumstance – even Monday-type Mondays – will make your day better. It’s also true that even wailing children and piles of laundry can teach you something about yourself.

So let me ask. What God-given dream are you having a hard time accomplishing because you’ve inadvertently given in to the whine-monster?

Linking up with Jen Ferguson.

A Birthday Letter to my Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Will you ever know the gift you’ve given me this past year? Twenty short days into 2013, you pushed your way into this world. Those first weeks that followed are a fuzzy yet strong memory within me even still. You were delicate and beautiful, intoxicating me with your charm as I began the process of realizing yet again that my life is not all about me and what I want.

You helped me begin to see more clearly my need for grace instead of my desires and my agendas. You brought brightness and warmth to winter instead of wishing away the drear that was outside.

And as one season led to another, I found new joy in being the one who got to introduce you to the cheery robins of spring and the treats that cool off summer’s heat. You started showing how strong you are in the summer, when our family’s season of bliss was met with trials. As I rocked you in the night and felt the enemy attack all that was within me, you somehow knew how to snuggle closer and remind me that I have such worthy reasons to keep on fighting, to not succumb to fear or depression or bitterness.

When those ugly feelings continually knocked on my heart, you gave me smiles of adoration, and I thanked God for His divine gift of perfect timing. Your becoming a part of our family was the greatest gift we received all year. You gave each of us hope, and you still do. You challenge me to keep pushing for my dreams with your determined spirit, already so evident in your life.

Daisy Bday Post

I thank God for giving you such a powerful name, one that assures victory. While following our Master’s plan for our days, He will work everything out for our good, and we will be more than conquerors.

People often tell young children that they can’t wait to see how God will use them in big ways when they grow up. Since being a mother to you and your brother, I’ve decided that God doesn’t wait until you’re older. He’s using you in big ways in my life right now. I pray you continue to follow His plans for you throughout your life, but never discount your value in each season of your life, including the one you’re living right now.

With all of my love,
Mama

The Guaranteed Way to Change Someone’s Life

My daughter turns one this coming week, and in preparation, she’s been practicing her walking skills quite a bit. While she definitely has a sense of adventure and determination that is all her own, one of her biggest inspirations to accomplish milestones is her big brother.

He encourages her multiple times every day, “Come on sweet baby! Follow me!”

And she does. When she takes a few steps on her own, he excitedly exclaims, “Mom! Look at what she can do!” When she falls, he claps for her and says, “Good job baby girl! Try again.”

She sees him running around, imagining that we are all superheroes or Star Wars characters, and she follows along with the biggest smile she can muster. When she gets up before him in the morning, she will stand at his door and cry because she wants to see him. Why? Because he’s one of God’s greatest gifts to her. He makes her believe she can do great things because he encourages her every day both by his words as well as the way he lives.

Taking Steps

When I saw this week’s prompt for Five Minute Friday was “encouragement,” I couldn’t resist participating! Encouragement is crucial and one of my passions. It’s one of the main reasons I have a blog. Greater than that, it’s one of the reasons we are put on this earth. My mind is boggled by how much of a difference a little encouragement can make in a person’s life. I have pursued things I would have never pursued if I hadn’t been encouraged by someone who believed in me. I have had countless days transformed from bad to good because of one uplifting conversation with someone.

Want to start a revolution? Encourage someone! Here are some of the various thoughts I had during my five minute free write on the word encouragement.

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  • There are few things more powerful than encouragement in this world.
  • Encouragement is what takes someone who is ready to give up and inspires them to keep going.
  • Encouragement only works when we use it. It’s like exercise. It does no good for anyone if we think about doing it when we have time; it only works when we put forth the effort to do it.
  • Sometimes it’s as simple as sending a text that says, “Hi! I hope you have a good day.” Other times it means being there for a friend going through a fiery trial.
  • All the time it means being intentional about thinking of others. Loving others. Pushing aside our agendas, insecurities, and assumptions to make someone else realize their worth.
  • The people in this life I look up to the most, and would even consider my heroes are the ones who have taken time to prove to me that they believe in me. They don’t just think nice things about me. They don’t only say nice things about me to others. They take time to express encouragement to me. The greatest way to repay the heroes who encourage me is to pass it along to others.
  • Encouragement is one of my passions. No matter how much I try to do it, I can’t do it enough because it’s vital to everyone’s success.
  • Whose day could I make brighter by complimenting her? Whose life could I possibly change tomorrow by taking time to encourage them to push through the hard times to pursue their calling?

Well, what are you waiting for? Go change someone’s life for the better. 🙂

Linking up with Lisa-Jo & the Five Minute Friday girls.

Inspiration for Reaching Goals

Have you set any goals for yourself this year? I have several, and I thought I’d pass along some of the thoughts that have been inspiring me to keep pushing through to accomplish them.

Do you know who really inspires me? Exceptionally average people. I’m most challenged and motivated when I see someone who the world doesn’t necessarily know much about make a decision to do something good, especially when it isn’t naturally easy for them.

I am a sucker for any kind of TV show that involves a transformation. Be it “Biggest Loser,” “What Not to Wear,” or any other show of that kind, I get inspired by seeing people step outside of their comfort zones to rid themselves of baggage in order to grow as a person.

As I watch other people transform, whether in real life or television, there are some key factors that are always a part of a genuine change in that person. I’m working to adopt each of the following things in the areas I’ve prayerfully determined need to be a priority in my life.

1. I have to want to change. Even when we know we are doing something that isn’t bettering our lives, it’s easier to stick with what’s familiar and comfortable, but it doesn’t make us any better off. For example, I want to change my habit of only writing sporadically, so that means I have to put aside excuses and write more.

2. I have to change my priorities. Excuses must go by the wayside. There are legitimate reasons that some seasons do not allow for stepping up and making big changes, but those seasons don’t last forever. I know when it’s time for me to kick it into gear and get to work again, but it’s not going to happen until I decide to make what’s important to me a priority.

3. Saying “I can’t” is not optional. Again, there are seasons where I really “can’t.” I wasn’t able to consistently get up before both of my kids at any point in the last 11 months because I haven’t been regularly getting decent nights of sleep. That has started to change in the past couple of weeks, which has been fantastic! I thought I was out of the sleep-deprived fog months ago, but now I see the truth. I’m only just now coming out of the fog. (Hallelujah!)  That means I can work on my goal of getting up early.

4. Saying “no” is required. Every transformation requires saying no. In What Not to Wear, the clients have to be willing to throw away their entire wardrobes before getting a new one. In Biggest Loser, the contestants must say no to the unhealthy parts of their lifestyle so they can begin living quality lives. There will be things I must let go of to reach my goals.

5. Move the focus off the past to look at the future. We should never forget where we’ve come from, but it’s never healthy to be stuck there. I love the verses in Isaiah 43:18-19,
“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
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.

In the past, I’ve had tasted both success and failure, but today is a new day. I’m in a new season, and I must do the work that is required to accomplish the goals I have for my future. I mentioned a couple of my goals in this post: writing more and getting up earlier. So I thought I’d share with you how I’m working to be proactive about them.

First off, I’m trying to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier. I haven’t had a perfect week, but the thing is, there have been days that I have successfully accomplished my goal. That’s a big deal to me.

Second, I took on a challenge issued by one of my favorite current writers, Jeff Goins. He invited his readers to join him in a month-long challenge in January to write 500 words a day. I decided to join in, and I’ve done it! I’ve actually written around 7,000 words since January 1st.

So, my friend, what goals have you set for yourself this year? What or who is inspiring you to make them happen? I’d love to hear your story.

 

Proclaiming The Year of the LORD’s Favor

All of the anticipation and busyness of the holidays is officially behind while another year is now history. Today is the day that traditions and occasions are set aside or packed away while we establish what normal will look like for 2014.

Each year I adopt a word to be my focal point for learning and staying grounded with the ups and downs that will inevitably come over the course of 12 months. I always pray about what word God would want me to claim, but this year He handed it to me straight from His Word when I wasn’t even searching for it.

Last week, I was reflecting over the events of the last few months, and I felt the weight of a couple of trials I’d been working through settling over me. This was not how I wanted to feel, nor what I wanted to dwell on, but I felt the strong grip of heartache taking over. No matter how much I counted all of the blessings, depression was knocking, prying at the door to come in and take residence.

So I prayed for God to deliver me, and did He ever! He would not let me move on with my day until I found a Bible study (“Breaking Free” by Beth Moore in case you’re curious) I’d abandoned a few years ago. I had managed to write down the date I started it four years ago, and I shook my head. I thought back to the woman I was at that time, how oblivious I was to the spiritual warfare I was going to encounter, the lessons I had yet to learn, the humility I needed so desperately. Then I thanked God for His perfect timing as I began listening to the first session while I scrubbed dishes and fed my kids lunch.

The very first scripture Beth read aloud was from Isaiah 61:1-4. In the midst of a baby throwing banana on the floor from her high chair, a boy coloring Star Wars pictures next to his abandoned peanut butter dish, and my scrub brush removing chocolate milk from plastic cups, I heard God speak plain as day through His Word.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

God’s gave me His Word for me this year with the promise that this year is the year of the LORD’s favor. I am coming into this year filled with the hope that He will fulfill His promise to me and the prayer that I will be seeking His favor above what I want.

The LORDs Favor

I share this story because I know that I am not the only one who needs to hear this promise. I know at least part of the stories that many of you dear people who take time to read this blog have lived this year, and I want you to know that this new year can be your year of THE LORD’S FAVOR as well.

The failures and heartaches that came with last year don’t have to define this year. Let’s learn from them and move on to focusing on the LORD’s favor. How is He going to bless us this year? How is He going to prove Himself faithful? How is He doing it already, just two days into the new year?

Look for His favor in the exceptionally average moments of your life. Look for His favor in the happiest days of this year, and thank Him for the hope of His favor in the tough days ahead. My prayer is for you, friend, who may be right where I was a few days ago: on the cusp of giving into giving up on fighting Satan’s attacks.

Fighting may be hard work, but nothing is more exhausting or defeating than giving up and being steamrolled by the enemy. So let’s not dwell on the dark days of a year gone by, but rather, let’s move forward with the purpose of being an oak of righteousness that brings honor to God in a new chapter of life He’s giving us today.

Do you have a word for 2014? If so, I’d love to hear what it is and how you came to choose it. Feel free leave a comment or send an email.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria