Category Archives: Dealing with Average

Choosing Kindness

As I’m easing my way into summer, I’m looking forward to writing more. To get reacquainted with my blog, I’m wiping away the virtual cobwebs with something I had the honor of sharing at my school’s baccalaureate a couple of weeks ago. The theme of the evening was the Fruits of the Spirit, and the students who put the service together had a different person speak about each fruit, connecting it to a physical piece of fruit. 

I was delighted to receive the task of discussing a quality that I believe in so much – kindness. 

 

It’s a human tendency to fail to see the beauty in the ordinary. We are attracted to flashy things that make bold statements. Trends draw us into them and make us lose sight of the things that seem common or dated.

It’s this very tendency that makes the fruit of kindness such a strong evidence of the Spirit’s work.

Sandwiched in the middle of the qualities listed in Galatians 5, kindness isn’t there to blend in. Rather, it’s there as a backbone for all of the other fruits. Its quiet strength speaks volumes, and it is completely content to go about its invaluable work, even when it goes unnoticed by others.

When I was thinking of which fruit I believed best represents kindness, I thought of the apple.

Much like kindness, one might argue that the apple is one of the most ordinary of fruits. There’s nothing flashy about it. It’s the fruit that people go to without really giving it a second thought, but at its core lies the tiniest, most powerful source of the life of faith.

We decide whether or not we like an apple by its skin. Each color embraces a distinct flavor that the consumer will either find off-putting or appealing. What’s fascinating about kindness is its ability to be pure in how it functions, in spite of how others view it.

Kindness doesn’t pay so much attention to the color of the skin, rather it realizes that underneath the skin, all apples have the same color of flesh. Kindness is the great equalizer. It’s the thing that sees what we all have in common and, as a result, pours out empathy on everyone around it. It understands that there is no point in judging because we all have a common need for grace. Grace can not be understood without kindness. Showing kindness is living out grace so that others see that it is possible, even though it’s undeserved.

The thing that is the most compelling about the fruit of kindness is the power of its tiny seeds. While the world might scoff at kindness and view it as weakness, in reality the small seeds of kindness that are intentionally planted understand their potential to change the world.

Much like the apple seed, when a seed of kindness is planted, it will often go unnoticed by those who pass by. It will even be trampled upon as it silently yet diligently sprouts its roots into the soil. Given time, the seed of kindness grows to provide a better world. A world with a tree that provides shade, a place for a traveler to rest while on a long journey, a place where children can climb and see the world from a new perspective, but most noticeably of all, it produces an abundance of fruit.

This is the beauty of what might have seemed just a simple fruit: it is most effectively accomplished in the ordinary. It can look quite different from one kind to the next, but on the inside it sees itself and others for who we really are. And it provides seeds that, when faithfully planted and tended, grow into one of the strongest producers of rest, joy, and nourishment – kindness.

In Everything Give Thanks

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have a started a half dozen different posts in recent weeks and months that I can’t seem to complete for the simple reason that I can’t seem to express properly how much I am changed. A new woman. Never able to be 100% the same girl I used to be.

And I am grateful to the point of tears that God in His mercy renews us. Renews me. At some point in every day, He uses little things to remind me when I need a shift in perspective, but He loves us too much to only use the little things.

I am one who holds on tightly to the little things. I have spent years applauding anything and anyone who shined a light on the importance of people, moments, and things that don’t seem significant. This will always be a part of who I am, and I don’t want to completely rid myself of this mindset because it truly is the little things that make all the difference in the world.

Those five minutes extra I spend with my kids at bed time, sending that text to say hello to a friend, sharing an evening watching TV with my husband, a hug, a funny video, a clean sink – the little things are things to intentionally keep a part of our lives because they work together to complete our purpose on this earth.

But what about the big things?

They don’t come every day or even every year, but they will come. I’m not referring to the happy kind of big things. I’m talking about the daunting, overwhelming, oppressive, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of big things. A devastating illness, death, a broken relationship – you’ve already filled in the blank if you’ve faced your big thing.

The truth is, big things will change you. No matter how much you try to convince yourself that they won’t. Anytime you lose the ability to live your life in the same way you were accustomed, something has to change.

The big things make you realize how many happy little things you took for granted before. The big things make you see the little habits that you’ve held onto that you should have purged long ago. The big things tempt you to take on one little negative thought and let your mind run with it until you have a million lies taking you captive.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that God’s will for me is to give thanks in everything. That means my big, ugly things as well as my mundane little things. As much as we say that it’s hard to remember to give thanks for the little things, I’m going to propose that perhaps that’s not always the case. Those big things are big. They’re hard. They hurt. They won’t go away and let you go back to the way life was before.

In Everything Give Thanks

And yet, I’m more grateful for my big things than I ever was for the culmination of all the little things I took notice of before. It’s because of my big things that I became aware of my need to change. Before my big things, I took my gratitude for the little things a bit too far and never wanted to step outside the comfy little nest I’d built for myself. When the big things forced me out of my nest, however, I saw that I needed real freedom, genuine change.

For the first time, I have an understanding of what God meant when He said His will was for me to give thanks in everything. Even when I wasn’t able to give thanks for the tough stuff, I realized that I could at least be thankful to God in the middle of the worst days. Eventually, God conquered them, and I could get a peek into why I needed to go through the experience.

So this year, I’m thankful for the many gifts God has given me. Some of them are happy little things that kept me going in while I was grappling with the big things. Others have been beasts that threatened to destroy me. The great thing is, they succeeded in obliterating parts of me that needed to change, and as a result I have been made new because of God’s beautiful grace. They worked together for my good, for my freedom.

What I’ve Learned About Living Free

Oh, hello there friends! I know I have been absent on here for the past month, and I’ve missed you. It’s been a crazy few weeks in our family, how about yours?

Now that I’m at the end of September, I can’t believe what a haze I’ve been in since August ended. Ha! Honestly, I feel that way about this entire year. I don’t even know where to begin to catch up, but I’m going to attempt to start doing just that.

You know the butterfly analogy that threatens to sound boring by now because you’ve heard it so many times before? Well, I’m going to use it because it works for me right now. I have spent years of my life feeling an internal conflict over the fact that I have never been “radically transformed” since I began my relationship with God at an early age. Maybe you can relate.

I know that my relationship with God started when I was young. I’ve felt His presence with me, and I can look back and see evidence of Him working through me and speaking to me. However, in the first couple of decades of my life, I didn’t experience a defining moment, tragedy, or success. I felt average, vanilla, and not worth much. Even though I could quote every scripture that refuted that notion, I still struggled with it.

Then I entered my thirties. Being over thirty has not had any influence on the transformation going on in my life; it’s simply an easy starting point for me to document the changes I’ve been undergoing. There are two main phases I’ve seen in my adult life. The first one is the cocoon phase.

For my early adult years, I lived in a cocoon, figuring out everything from what it means to be an adult, how to have a career then let it go, be a good wife and mother, choose to be intentional about relationships, and not get caught up in the trends of this world. I subconsciously built a protective cocoon around myself as I adapted to all of those changes so I could process everything.

About a year and a half ago, I began moving into the “second phase” if you will. This is the phase I call living in the freedom of God’s grace. Walking in freedom begins with breaking out of the cocoon. It was not always comfortable in there, but it had become familiar and sometimes that feels safer than being free to observe the world outside. I haven’t especially enjoyed parts of breaking out of my bubble. I knew how to handle the challenges of being a one-income, one-vehicle family who enjoyed actively ministering in the church the only way I knew how, but all of the circumstances and certainties of our simple way of life were shaken one by one.

I started a quest for spiritual freedom after a couple of painful blows to my comfortable life. But grasping the end of the rope of freedom from deep in the pit of despair is both invigorating and terrifying. Each step of climbing out of the muck is exhausting. And then I reached the top to see the world in a way I never possibly could have until I’d lived through some trials that left me wounded, dirty, and desperate for what the Bible actually says about the tough stuff, and even the not-so-tough stuff about life.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. Spreading my wings of freedom can be glorious, but it’s still hard! It’s terrifying to fly because I never know when the wind will gust and throw me off the path I thought I was supposed to take. I’ve been thrown way off the course I believed was right when I was in the cocoon.

I am not saying that the cocoon was a bad thing. Each layer of it built up over years of doing my best to be faithful through various challenges and experiences. I needed the time spent in my cocoon of being exceptionally average to grow. It was dark and lonely in there at times, but it was still home to me. The people in there with me all loved me and forgave me when I messed up.

The crucial thing for any believer to remember about life is that we are not meant to live in cocoons forever. We will outgrow them, no matter how comfortably we’ve built those walls around ourselves. This is wonderful, but it also means flying free in the outside world where there are no more guarantees that everyone is going to understand or accept me. And I don’t like not being accepted or understood.

Cocoon Quote

The circumstances I’ve survived since I started down the road marked by grace have been excruciating at times. I literally didn’t know if I would survive some of them. Even so, grace got me through. I’d like to say I’m stronger for them, but instead I’m beginning to see that I am not stronger, but God’s grace in me is. My faith is no longer contingent on what I can accomplish; rather, it’s strengthened because God got me to the other side.

I know that I am now living a life of freedom because I could actually write the previous paragraph and personally own it. Before, I could quote sermons and scriptures and think they were powerful, but now? Now I know it’s true because I’ve lived it. I’m worth a lot to God because He has seen to it to be faithful to me through my dark times, my temper tantrums, my grief, my laziness, my insecurities, and my shame.

That is what I’ve been pondering lately in a nutshell. If you’re feeling the tug at your cocoon to break out and live a life of freedom, I’d love to hear from you and do my best to encourage you on your journey. You are not meant to do it all alone, nor are you meant to try sewing up the rips at your walls in an attempt to stay comfortable. I’m praying for you in the meantime.

 

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.

Choosing to do it Anyway

As I embark on the fourth Christmas season as a mother, I can see progress. Of course in my son, but also in me. In the beginning, I believed I should be the mom whose kid did every creative project known to man, so I’d have my one year old attempting to make hand print crafts for every holiday.

It turns out he was not that into making his hand prints look like actual hand prints. He’d rather slather the paint all over the paper or ball up his hand or outright refuse to stick his hand in the paint.

I finally accepted that I would not have a hand print calendar with adorable designs for each month of the year. I gave in to letting him mix the colors into the muddy color that forms when every color in the box of paint is mixed together. I didn’t give him lines to color in or outside of, I just gave him a blank piece of paper and let him find joy in creating.

Over these three and a half years together, I have finally stopped hyperventilating when the crafts I prepared are inevitably pushed aside. I actually see his work as something beautiful even if it’s nothing like the vision I had in my head. I can see joy in his earnest little face as he creates his own art. I see progress in his development as he experiments on each occasion with something he refused to do the last time.

Today he painted a hand print Christmas tree on a plate during a play date. I looked at that hand print, and while it technically resembled a frog more than an evergreen, I honestly found it adorable. The progress that both of us have made in this area is great, and I love the peace that accompanies the knowledge that we don’t need to attain perfection because we’re both growing.

I was struck with a realization while I helped my little guy display his newly-completed Christmas plate. I need to work to apply this principle to every aspect of my life – including this tricky world of writing and blogging.

I definitely struggle with finding a balance in the world of blogging.

  • I still don’t “get” the Twitter hype.
  • I forget to link up to other blogs all of the time.
  • I don’t do something blogging related (or even think about blogging-related things) every day.
  • I can’t seem to nail down an exact niche.
  • I don’t have a growing following because I don’t work at it like I should.

I’ve read the “how to” articles on overcoming each of these things, but in the end, I’m just like the one-year-old version of my son attempting to make a distinct hand print with paint. It looks like a goopy mess. Inevitably, I give up on one or all of my problem areas.

Sometimes it’s good to step back from something to allow time for maturing, but giving up altogether is not the answer.

That’s why this mama is giving herself an assignment that does not feel comfortable even though it’s right.

I’m going to keep doing it anyway. It will not miraculously stop looking sloppy overnight. The questions and internal struggles will not go away. My hand prints will continue to look misshapen  at times, shaky at best. But how can I take a stand for my Jesus or leave a legacy for my babies if I don’t choose to purposefully put my hand down and leave a mark?

That’s why even if it’s for an audience of One, I will not stop making hand prints in this place until He tells me otherwise.

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

On People Pleasing

There was joy in his leap. He didn’t look around to see who was watching, he simply seized the opportunity to embrace one of the great things about this season, threw his hands in the air, and jumped.

Because I’m a people pleaser by nature, sometimes I miss moments like these. Instead of soaking in the excitement that comes with following my passions, I pine to hear someone tell me that I’ve made them happy or helped them. I let worry gnaw at my stomach when I even think that someone I care about is displeased or unimpressed with me, or perhaps indifferent about something that I’m passionate about.

With each year that I add to my life, I see the holes in this mindset that has drained me dry too many times. For one, people pleasing is one of the easiest ways to stay mediocre. If I listened to every lie that is born of the misconceptions I’ve made about what people think of me or what I have (or haven’t) done, then I would never grow into the strong woman God wants me to be. Why? Because I’m allowing my thoughts and intentions to be defined by others.

In truth, God has called each of us to a unique and beautiful purpose. It won’t always make sense to everyone all of the time. Some may even think were crazy, but the only thing that would actually be crazy is choosing man’s opinion over God’s calling.

People pleasing can also steal joy. It saddens me to look back at times in my life when I decided to chew on a phrase that hurt my feelings when I could have chosen to dwell on the abundance of affirmation and love that comes from God’s Word instead.

Today I choose to go all in without looking over my shoulder. I choose to find joy in the work God has done in my life, removing all pressure off my own shoulders because it is His name that deserves to be glorified, not mine. I choose to embrace the benefits of this season without drawing in unnecessary clouds of worry and wonder. God is good, and pleasing Him is something I daily work to make my primary ambition.

“And I am sure of this, that he who begana good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

A Box of Chalk + Giveaway

She has no idea I’m sharing this until she reads it, but I have to tell you that Ashley applied what she talks about in this post to me in many ways last week. First off, she wrote this post for me when I asked for guest posters. She also rearranged our playdate plans and hauled all three of her children to my house when I couldn’t drive because of my injury, AND she showed up with two meals for me to stick in the freezer since I can’t cook much right now. That, my friends, is love in action. Thank you, Ashley, for being a genuine friend that shows the love of Christ to others such as me!

Teachers' Tool
Photo Credit

It was the first week of my first year of teaching and one of the hardest weeks of my life.  I was starting three weeks into the school year; I was commuting 40 minutes to work; and the squirrely 8th graders had already broken in three different teachers when they got me.  They were fully accustomed to considering the language arts period as playtime.  They took one look at 23 year old me and decided it would remain play time.  I had other plans.

I arrived early every day and stayed late.  I went home frustrated over the behavior of the students.  I sent three students to the principal’s office that first week.  I was three weeks behind on the curriculum and trying desperately to get a handle on it.  And to top off all these bigger concerns, the previous teacher had purposely stripped the classroom of all things useful.  I had no supplies.  None.   I remember my shaky knees on those first days as I stood before the class in that drafty old classroom and wrote my name on the board with a piece of chalk the size of my pinky fingernail.  It was terrible.

So you can imagine my feelings when I received a large brown box in the mail from my mother-in-law, Sandy, and opened it up to find every kind of school supply a teacher could need—including two big boxes of white chalk.  I’m pretty sure that I cried over that chalk.

It’s only one occasion of countless times my mother-in-law has shown love through gift giving or acts of service. My husband and I have moved three times in seven years of marriage and each time, she has cleaned our new home from top to bottom before we moved in.  God has uniquely equipped her to show love through gift-giving and service.

1 John 3:18 says, “Let us not love with words or tongue with but with actions and in truth.”

I have to admit, it is easier for me to love with words and tongue. I am a communicator. I write and I speak and language is my love language.  I can speak words of encouragement, write an email, talk one-on-one and these are my favorite ways to show love.  But through my mother-in-law and many people who have shown me love through acts of service or a thoughtful gift, I have learned the value of being loved this way.

The Bible specifically instructs me to love with actions and in truth. This implies that it is possible to speak something with your tongue that is not true enough to show in your actions. Talk is cheap. I know this is sometimes true with me. I say I am so concerned about someone who is in the hospital, but am I concerned enough to visit or drop a meal off for the family? Sometimes I am too busy, too lazy, or too unconcerned. Sometimes I am intimidated or overwhelmed with the needs of my own family.

But I want to grow in loving people this way, even though it does not come as naturally for me.  James chapter 4 also tells me that, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  Often I think of a kind action to do for someone or a gift that would bless them, but fail to carry out those good intentions.  Remembering what that box of chalk meant to me is inspiration to bless others as I have been blessed. I’m grateful to my mother-in-law for showing me this kind of love.

Lord, may my actions reflect your Father-love toward others and my gifts reflect your grace.

Giveaway! If you could use 100 free pictures from Shutterfly, please leave a comment then enter your name in the giveaway box below telling us one action you could take or gift you could give this week to show love to someone.  Then go do it!  If you are the winner of the drawing, Kelly will send you the code for the free pictures via email. Thanks!

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A believer and a dreamer. A pastor’s wife and a mama to three. A little creative and a little messy. Imperfection guaranteed. By the grace of God, I am who I am and His grace to me has not been without effect. Ashley blogs over at Little Pieces of Ordinary. A place where she shares how God reveals His grace to her through the everyday occurrences of life.

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.