Fighting looks a lot like standing still.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You tell me that I should “Consider it all joy … when I encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance. And to let endurance have it’s perfect result…”(James 1:2-4) but it’s the endurance part that gets me or wait is the being joyful part? Lord you know what I need even when I am completely baffled. I will say thank you for my trials, not because I enjoy them or even because I am thankful at the moment but because I know eventually I will be extremely grateful for all of the trouble once it is done. You know that I am learning to trust you each day and through each trial. Thank you for loving me enough to not give up on me. Thank you for knowing that I don’t easily trust and that I am a giant work in progress. Lord bring this blog to someone who needs it, someone who is also fighting, someone who feels ready to give up and let it bless them and bring them closer to you.

Amen.


I let go of His hand.

For the month of May I felt more stressed and disconnected from God than I ever have. Hence no blog post for the whole month of May and for that matter June. I know how it started but I certainly didn’t expect the outcome to be feeling disconnected and distant from God which for me is a very lonely place. Can I just say it feels good just to admit that and write it down!

It started with late night baseball games that turned into tired mornings of sleeping in and not reading. From there it rolled into setting aside my middle & high school FCA/FCS (Fellowship of Christian Athlete & Students) groups after school so I could coach track. And it ended with packing and moving our home of 11 years all in the month of May. Oh and sprinkle on a school trip to Washington D.C. the week before we moved, and that my friend was the perfect recipe for loneliness, disconnect and feeling lost.

I drifted away in pure innocence. It happened so slowly that I didn’t notice until it was too late. The things that got my attention were not bad things. Certainly watching my two young boys play baseball was not an unGodly thing. Nor was coaching track where I encouraged young athletes to see the strength in their bodies. Surely God didn’t bless our buying of property and the sale of our home just to see me refuse to pack up and move did He? And my gift of teaching is always on full display in Washington DC. So how did I drift away?

By mid-May I knew something was off. I wasn’t reaching for my bible or my prayer journal. Although I was still reading a daily study the words weren’t sinking into my soul only to come up later at the perfect time. I was just merely going through the motions. But it wasn’t till school was out for the summer and we had moved into the apartment completely that I had a moment to stop and assess what was happening to me.

I had chased the world and let go of God’s hand the way a child would chase a balloon and let go of their father’s hand. I let the day to day noises of children, family, cell phones and general busyness drown out God’s voice telling me to come, talk and sit with Him awhile so that I may rest in His shade and gather my strength for the moments and days to come. This reminded of a children’s book my Nan would read me as a child called the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.giving tree In the book there is a boy and a tree. And the tree loved the boy and gave selflessly to the him only wanting a friendship in return but the boy chased the things of the world to satisfy himself. Each time the boy came back the tree was waiting to give again to the boy, without question or hesitation, hoping in return for a friendship. But the boy forgot where the source of all his gifts came from.

This reminds me of God, who loves me. Each time I let go of His hand to seek the world for what I believe I need He patiently waits for his daughter to grow tired and weary and wander back home to Him. He is always waiting with a warm embrace and a smile that says, “Don’t be afraid. I didn’t leave you, you just wandered away for a moment. I’m glad you heard my voice and turned back to find me.”

You see the things that took up my time were not bad things. My children, my gift of teaching, the building of our home are all tremendous blessings that He gave to me! But I neglected the SOURCE of those blessings. That neglect turned into feeling lost and lonely and for that I am blessed. As a mother I know that there are times when I have to let my children feel pain from their choices. Sometimes failure is the best teacher. God had to let me feel lost, lonely and disconnected for me to realize that it was because I had stopped seeking Him daily. I had stopped taking refuge in His word and drawing strength from our conversations.

So for the month of June I have read, prayed and held on like Jacob waiting to be blessed (Genesis 32:2-32). Blessed with what you might ask? Blessed with peace, blessed with purpose, blessed with a reassurance that I have only ever known by being in fellowship and relationship with Jesus. I have to fight everyday for it and that fighting looks a lot like standing still.

Everyday I fight my flesh and my free will. I fight the things that my flesh wants to do rather than the one to thing my soul screams for which is communion with Jesus. I fight the urge to look on Instagram or Pinterest. I fight the urge to clean, exercise or entertain my children. I fight the urge to do a multitude of things that keep me from standing still and seeking Christ. God doesn’t want my performance nor does He need it. He wants me and you. He wants our undivided attention so that He can equip us to live in the world with all its blessings and curses. He wants us to stand still and let Him do the fighting for us. He wants all our stress, our worries and issues. He actually wants them!

I’ve had to learn my lesson the hard way, and I hate to say this but I know it won’t be the last time I have to learn this lesson. But each time I have to recenter and refocus on where my true joy and peace come from I pray it will get a little easier and my wandering a little less. Just like the boy in the book I pray that I always return to the true source of life.

The last pages in The Giving Tree read like this…

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My Nan (85) passing on The Giving Tree to the fourth generation, Miss. Georgia (5)

“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy. Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”

“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”

And the boy did. And the tree was happy” (Shel Silverstein, 1964).

 

God loves us and longs for a relationship with us all. He beckons to us each day in various ways to come and rest in His shade and gather our strength in Him. He sent His own flesh and blood, Jesus, to die so that we might have everlasting life and communion with Him again in the garden.

So my prayer for the last few months has been this,

Dear Lord,

Thank you for never giving up on me even when I walk away from you. Bind my wandering heart to thee. Help me to see and hear you in everything I do and in every person I encounter. Let me be a light for others out there in the darkness chasing their happiness in the world. Let them see Your light in me so that they my seek to find You and hear Your voice in the wilderness. Father even when it is hard, continue to teach and remind me where the source of ALL things flow. If I should wander too far Lord do what You need to do to bring me back into your presence. Lord I also pray this over my children. Let them never wander too far out of Your sight.

Amen.


READ more FOR one OF my FAVORITE tools

One of the tools that I have used over the last year to keep God’s word on my mind are wristbands. Every year during VBS our church takes the children’s scripture handout and folds it up longways to create a paper bracelet ensuring it gets home to parents each night. Last year the Lord gave me a great idea!

I ordered paper admission bracelets from Amazon (click here for the link to the bands) and with a permanent marker wrote either a prayer or a piece of scripture on it that I wanted to remember. I love my cross bracelet and what it symbolizes but lets be honest after awhile it just becomes old hat, a piece of jewelry I always wear and don’t think much about. Even though I wore it (it recently fell off on a long run) everyday I rarely looked at it for remembrance of what God sacrificed for me. That’s where the admission bracelets are different.

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We keep ours on the fridge for easy access!

Here are a few aspects of the admission bracelets that I love…

  • they are water proof
  • they don’t typically come off unless you cut them
  • And the best part is … you can’t wear them forever

The longest I have worn one is a month. But why is that a good thing? Well because then I don’t run the risk of it becoming just another piece of jewelry!

Sometimes I need to meditate over a piece of scriptureIMG_4979 and other times I need to be in continual prayer over something and these bracelets are great for that. I can change them as often as needed. I’ve even worn two at one time, one for prayer and another for scripture.

I ordered purple to remind me that I am part of a royal kingdom because purple symbolizes royalty. I also ordered red to remind me that Jesus sacrificed His life for mine.

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Georgia’s reads, “I am a child of God.”

My children love these bracelets too! During the school year when my son was taking his state math tests I wrote scripture on his to encourage him and remind him that no matter what he belongs to God!

I also shared this idea with my FCS/FCA kids and the ran with it, so to speak, taking whole pages of bracelets and putting them in their bibles for when they needed a new one. I love seeing these bracelets put into action and it has been fun to read what they put on their bracelets.

Try them out for yourself! There are tons of different colors to chose from on Amazon and they usually ship very quickly.

Do you have a tip or trick that helps you to remember scripture or a prayer request? Please share by commenting on this post.

 

“The one constant in life is change.” ~Love, Dad

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you in this world of constant change and ever moving parts that you are constant. I will focus on you. I will keep my eyes fixed on you so as not to grow weary or dizzy. Right now Lord I am dizzy from all the moving parts and overwhelmed by the tasks that lie ahead. Thank you, for you are my resting place where I can come and give you all my worries.

Amen.


I want to be strong. But maybe it’s best I’m not because then I have no choice but to rely on Jesus to rescue me. I want to be like my little sister who takes change head on like a warrior goes into battle. It’s as if she is always ready for it and embraces it as if she is welcoming an old friend back into town. We were born into the same family with the same love from two parents and we bare the same battle scares of life from a tragedy that hit when we were too young to understand how our lives would be forever altered.  I can’t say why she heads into change with a charging force and I panic and run as fervently as I can in the opposite direction. Maybe that’s why I love running and she hates it with a deep passion.

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My sister Hannah on the left and I on the right. 414 Lincoln Ave where so many childhood memories still vividly remain. 

Well there you go. The thing that threatens to cut me down at the knees before anything else can, CHANGE. I can only tell you that I have harbored these feelings for as long as I can remember. This must be why I can still hear my father saying, “The one constant thing in life is change.” These words made one of his daughters panic and the other’s heart skip a beat with excitement.

Where one father left off the other carries on. The death of my father changed everything. In the summer of 1996 on a beautiful sunny summer day, a day when we should have been swimming with friends or riding in a car singing with the windows down, we watched my father take his last and final breath this side of heaven. He was young, heck we were all young. But that summer the bottom dropped out of my world. It was life altering in ways I still can’t understand. I was fatherless. An orphan at an age when I needed to branch out but still know I had someone to come back to. There was so much change coming at me that I had no focus point. It was as if I was on a merri-go-round that would not stop spinning.

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My father, Chris, my big brother Jacob and little sister Hannah.

You would think that would cure me right then and there of being afraid of change. And maybe it did some but those old feeling would come back to me when I moved away to pursue my teaching career, before every move and in moments before each of my children were born because I couldn’t stop the change that was about to engulf my life.

OK so problem established, I don’t like change yet I can’t stop it. So then how do I learn to run into change instead of from it? Faith, its the only solution that has ever worked for me. See what my father should have said to me when I was little was, “The one constant thing in life is change AND GOD.” Yes life is constantly changing but in all of that change God and His love for me is, was and always will be constant. He promises me He is the same today, tomorrow and forever (Heb. 13:8, NIV). So where one father left off the other continued. As I began to understand that God’s love for me and His promises would never change, admin all the changes in the world, then I could branch out without fear, knowing that His plans for me are to prosper me and not harm me, to give me hope and a future (Jerm. 29:11).  And those promises are for all His children who love and believe in Him.

So how do I constantly remind myself of God’s grace and love and promises? My weapon of choice is scripture, God’s word to me. My scripture board is one of many favorite ways to keep God’s word fresh and ever present in my mind.

Almost two years ago after watching the movie War Room I put up a cork board in my bathroom so that each day as I readied myself for the day ahead I had God’s word right in front of me to read and remind myself. I tend to spend about an hour each morning in my bathroom doing my hair and putting on make-up before work. So for me my bathroom was a logical choice of where to put my scripture board.

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My scripture board

My board is filled with scripture from current and past bible studies, prayers for salvation of my family, pictures and drawing. Each piece on my board helps me to remember God’s promises for my life and to remember  the places where the horizon looked dark but God bursted through with His redeeming light. We are a forgetful people. We need daily reminders of God’s grace and redemption. God knows this about us and I believe that’s why His word to me this year was REMEMBER.

Each year for the last three years God has given me a word to meditate on throughout the year. This year, 2017, the word is REMEMBER. At first I understood the word to mean that I needed to continue filling my heart and head with His word and His promises. I still believe this is what God intended by the word REMEMBER but as the year has continued I am understanding more why. My family is getting ready to make a change that has been in the works for years. It is a wonderful, exciting change that we have dreamed about and planned for but it is still a little bittersweet. We are on the brink of moving our family out of the only home we have ever known. I remember a people who were given a beautiful promise of hope and beauty but chose to take their eyes of the one who made this dream a reality and as a result they wandered the desert for 40 years.

I want to learn from history, mine and others. I want to move past the crippling feeling of change. Here is a wonderful blessing that truly has God’s hand all over it and if I don’t focus on God speaking to me through scripture then the change will trip me up and hold me down causing me to miss the awesomeness of God. “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matt. 4:4, NIV)”

So I have a choice. One that I have to make multiple times a day. I can chose to keep my eyes on Christ and His promises for my life or I can chose to look back, this looking back didn’t work well for Lot’s wife as she longed for what was instead of God’s saving grace (Gensis 19:26). I don’t aim to repeat Lot’s wife’s or the Israelites history when it comes to moving forward and keeping my focus on God.

In the process of writing this post we have encountered some issues in the process of selling our home. Issues that threatened the sale of our home. Not knowing if our house would sell this time or be put back on the market I began to pack our home in prayer, literally! The only way I knew to fight this time of waiting and wandering was to pray as I packed up our memories and belongings. My weapon of choice is and will continue to be God’s word. With each box I packed I included a piece of scripture written on the top: a promise, a love note from God to me. It’s almost as if each box got detailed directions to where it is going, and I with it. As I began to write these directions on each box I decided to enlist the help of the people God gave me to encourage me. I reached out to my friends and family to give me one piece of scripture for each box. The response was more than I could have hoped for. I enlisted a whole group of people to pray with me and in turn remember where their hope comes from. The idea of course was all God’s doing. God is good! Who needs MapQuest when I have God’s direction!

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So I keep my focus each and everyday on where I am going and I REMEMBER that God has given me carefully detailed directions. I believe it is ok to look back at lessons learned, on priceless memories made in kitchens surrounded by God’s blessings and on where God has delivered us from. I look back to an earthly father who loved a little brown eyed girl and thank God for the blessing of having him. I look back to find direction not to find a hiding place. The only hiding place I need is in the Lord. “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7, NIV)”.

Challenge: I challenge you the next time your path looks unclear or there is a fork in the road to focus on God’s direction for your life through scripture. Create your own scripture board and put it in a place where you are sure to see it everyday so that you can remember God’s plan and promises for your life. It may be a screensaver on your phone or computer, a scripture board in your bathroom or even a verse written on your mirror in dry erase marker. I don’t care how you do it , just do it! Recenter and refocus on what God offers you not on what this world offers you!

Additional Challenge: Next time you have a friend, co-worker or family member who is struggling with change I challenge you not to say “it will all work” or “it will be ok” because these are empty words to the person you are speaking to. I challenge you to speak life into their struggle with a piece of scripture. Help them to see what is just on the horizon waiting for them in God’s amazing plan. I have a wonderful friend who never hesitates to do this for me when I am troubled or for that matter happy. Thank you Tonya for always speaking life into me and my situations and circumstances. Iron sharpens iron my friend and you sharpen me daily!

The List

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being all powerful and all knowing. I am glad your ways are higher than my ways. Lord I ask for a blessing over my hands, my heart and my mind as I begin to write this post. Lord I ask that it be your words and not mine. We both know that void of you this is impossible. So Lord I thank you for your wisdom and words that you will pour out of me. Lord let this post touch someone today. Let it bring one of your sons or daughters closer to you.

In Jesus name, Amen.


A list. Simple as that. What could possibly be so special about a list?IMG_1929

A dear friend of mine, we will just call her T so as not to thrust her into stardom, had spoken to me about an author named Ann Voskamp for over a year. She told me about a book called 1,000 Gifts and I am sure there was more to the conversations each time she brought it up but I honestly can’t remember more than that. I can see now that God was putting this author’s name and title of her book on my mental bookshelf to read later.

Later came in January. The weekend before I started reading the book a beautiful blonde haired, spirited girl in my 5th period class suddenly passed away. The week after it happened was extremely difficult for the district and even more so for the students who walked the halls with her everyday since kindergarten. Starring at their bewildered faces in the days that followed was excruciating. I had no answer for their questions of why.

On my drive to work that Tuesday, as I was praying, God put an exercise of thanksgiving on my heart. I went to school that day and explained to my students that for the rest of the school year we were going to focus on joy, gratitude and happiness. That day and each day since the students write down one thing that brings them joy. The darkness of loss can swallow even the happiest of people if allowed and I knew my kids needed to focus on the light rather than the darkness.

That same week for whatever reason I started reading Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts. Maybe it was to escape a little from the grief that threatened to swallowed us all. Within the first two chapters I was quickly thrust back into reality with the retelling of Voskamp’s personal tragedy. The heartache I felt as I read threatened to stop me from finishing the book. I still can’t really say why I kept reading but I believe it was hope. I held out hope for Voskamp that somehow she managed to make it through that tunnel of grief and that she was telling her story from the other side. You see I’ve been through that tunnel before and it is one of scariest places I’ve ever been. I know what it takes to get to the other side and it is not easily done.  It is dark and it threatens to close in around you making you feel at times like you can’t breath. It’s also one of the loneliest places I’ve ever been. You can not travel through the tunnel with anyone else, no one can that’s just how it works. You must travel alone and that for me was the worst part of it all. So I continued to read because I was curious and hopeful that Voskamp had made it.

My curiosity of how Ann Voskamp would make it through the tunnel quickly turned into intrigue as I learned about the list. Somewhere along Voskamp’s journey she was challenged to write a list. A list of 1,000 gifts from God. As I read I thought about what gifts from God look like and how we tend to focus on God’s gifts as situations, circumstances and people that make our lives easy and enjoyable. But anyone reading this knows that as we love when life is easy and simple it is also not the reality of life. Life is messy, sad at times, scary in the dark places and exhausting. So how do we express gratefulness to God in those times when we don’t have the answers of “why”?

As the chapters unfolded she shared her list with her readers. The list was interesting to me. Simple things were on it, nothing fancy to the average person. It seemed as though she was a making simple observations of her surroundings and writing them down. And then came the part where I wanted to take the challenge. She said the list made her happy, it brought her joy. Now I was curious if the list would make me feel the same. So I began

  1. Books on audio
  2. warm socks
  3. God’s word
  4. the sound of children in my house
  5. my name sake
  6. That my mom prayed for my name & God answered

The list I learned was the practice of eucaristeo. Eucaristeo is a greek word which is defined as “to be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks”.  But what I love about this word more than anything is that it is a verb, meaning something you do. Meaning that I don’t just feel grateful or thankful but I AM thankful by giving thanks. Eucaristeo is active, it is a posture to hold not merely a feeling. Sometimes this translates to giving thanks for things I do not understand through gritted teeth.

As I continued my list I began to feel joy in looking for more things to add to my list daily. I remember sitting at a stop light on a gray, cloudy day looking up at an old church standing boldly on the corner and thanking God for the old wood doors that have welcomed so many searching and broken people throughout the years. Prior to listing God’s gifts I am not sure I would have even noticed the doors of that old church.  Well I might have because I have a thing for doors of any shape or size but I’m not sure I would have thanked God for what those doors represented: a welcome, a come on in and be one of us, a we are all broken and messy and doing this together, a you are wanted here. I was becoming intentional about giving thanks in all things.

We all give thanks from time to time but to give thanks continually and consistently was now my focus through this list. So how do we give thanks continually when we are wading through grief and loss. I don’t claim to have the answers for that but I do know that as we continue to move on we continue to give thanks to God even through broken hearts and tears. There was a time when I had to focus on the 16 years I enjoyed my father’s laughter and conversations instead of being consumed with the pain that he’d never watch me walk across the stage for graduation or hold one of his grandchildren. So I gave thanks for what I knew was a blessing. I gave thanks for a life lived. I gave thanks for a girl who made so many others laugh and smile. I gave thanks for the reminder that life is precious and delicate and should be cherished. These are the ways in which I actively give thanks.

No one, not Ann Voskamp, a grieving family or myself, like pain, suffering or loss. But in that pain and loss we have a choice, look for the light in the darkness or let the darkness swallow us up. So I chose light. I chose to actively thank God for all the ways in which He chooses to remind me that He loves me, that He is here even in the pain and suffering and that in His omnipotence He has a plan for my life even when that life is messy, scary and sad. As I write this I am reminded of what Jeremiah the prophet was told to say to God’s people,  “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(Jeremiah 29:10-11, NIV). The plan for God’s people was not without turmoil, long suffering, death or hardship but through all that God was saying that inspite of what they saw or felt that He had a plan and that they must remain faithful. Faith in God has to be more that what we feel or see. We are reminded by Paul the Apostle to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

IMG_1923Eucharisteo Copper Cuff – Etsy

So I continue the practice of thanksgiving, of eucharisteo. I fix my eyes upon my Savior and all that He did on the cross.

 

I thank Him for the happiness of marriage, children, and family. I thank Him for the little blessings no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to the world. I also thank Him for the pain when it is hard to say thank you. I thank Him as he refines me with affliction. I thank Him when I have to learn my lessons the hard way. Why? Because He loves me enough to teach me. He has not given up on me or my constant sin and forgetfulness of His blessings. And it all comes down to faith. Do I believe He is who He says He is? Do I believe His promise that He will never leave me or forsake me? Do I believe that the good works He started in me He will finish? Do I believe that He loved me enough to send His only son to die for me, not the Mother Teresa’s of the world but me!? And if I do then His grace is enough; It is sufficient. It is sufficient in want or in plenty.

So my list continues.

Challenge: Start a list! I challenge you to write a list of 1,000 gifts from God. Start today! Grab a notebook and begin. I also challenge you to pick up Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts and read it for yourself!

Tip: I use a small notebook that I can keep in my purse so that when I feel the need to write   my notebook is right there with me. I bought mine at Hallmark.

 

Local & Lovely

Dear Heavenly Father,

Lord thank you for the bright shining sun that graced my morning drive today. Lord I thank you for other believers. For other followers that love you and constantly direct others back to you, glorifying Your name. Lord I ask for blessings over Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering and Branches of Green. I ask that you guide these women and constantly show them your grace and love. I pray for success over their businesses which constantly glorify you not only with their products but with the way they treat others with kindness.

In Jesus name, Amen.


One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to visit a few local shops that I love. An hour or two away from my crazy mom schedule and you will find me with coffee in hand wandering the rows of antiques in my favorite antique store or carefully examining a new pair of earrings in one of the many little boutiques I love in town. No Newark, Ohio isn’t setting the world on fire with new trend setting stores but what we do have is pretty awesome.

One of my favorite places to check out on the weekends when they hold open houses is Branches of Green. It is owned by two talented sisters and their hip mom! These three have an eye for design and an uncanny ability to see life in a piece or furniture or decor that others may view as old, out dated or trash. Hey, I know a guy who is also able to give life to what is old, out dated and thought to be trash. Ok enough of my shameless Jesus plugs, what is this a blog about Jesus or something!?

Branches of Green describes themselves as “2 generations of love for all things decorating. From planning your special events with us, to home staging and interior design.” But one of my favorite things about Branches of Green is their love for Jesus! You may have missed it but if you study their name it’s all right there. You see Jesus says in John 15.5 that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV, John 15.5)” The Green girls love the Lord and know that by abiding in the Father they will bear much fruit in all things.

So when Branches of Green advertised their Christmas open house I couldn’t wait to go. For this special open house they teamed up with Jenn Salyer who is the owner and artist behind Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering! I couldn’t wait to see what Jenn was going to showcase at the Branches of Green shop. Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering is another lovey, locally owned business. Their speciality is in hand lettering. Jenn will letter almost anything in her signature style but my favorite items are her t-shirts with meaningful bible scripture. Her lettering is so beautiful even Country Living noticed and she was a part of the Country Living Fair in Columbus this past fall. And if that wasn’t already the coolest thing ever she also designed a shirt for the Nothing to Prove book tour stop at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jenn not only has a unquie talent but also a bold faith that comes through on her home decor deigns, t-shirts, coffee mugs and journals. She also shares her thoughts and musings on her blog which you can find on her website Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering.

Processed with Rookie Cam

Tasha, owner of Branches of Green, in a Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering tank (2016. Newark, Ohio. http://www.cobblestoneroadlettering.com. Web. 4 Mar. 2017. .)

Luckily that night she had the shirt I had my eye on for some time. Tasha, co-owner of Branches of Green, wore the “She dresses herself with strength Proverbs 31:25” tank to baseball one night (we are fellow baseball moms) and I immediatly knew I had to get my hands on one. Not only did I snag a coveted tank but a hand lettered ornament by Jenn and a few of Branches of Green’s cool pieces. Shopping success!

I love trendy clothes, shoes, accessories and jewelry like any girl but this t-shirt reminds me that no matter how on point my outfit might be that my faith in Jesus Christ is what matters most. I am clothed in His strength and I have nothing to fear, for not even death can separate me from God’s love! Isaiah 61:10 says, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

You see when we except the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ paid for on the cross we are invited to throw off our rags and clothe ourselves in a royal robe. We are adopted into the kingdom and are called sons and daughters of God. I don’t know about you but I’ll take the major upgrade on eternity, the basement shoveling coal to stoke the fires of hell or a feast fit for royalty. I know my pick!

So thank you Jenn Salyer and Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering for this adorable and uber soft reminder of who I am and who I belong to! And thank you to Tasha and Branches of Green for living out your faith as women and business owners!

Challenge: Click the links to both of these lovely local businesses and check out what’s up and coming!

Do you know of a company that is bold in their faith as well as their talent? If so please share so I can share with others!

Check out Cobble Stone Road Hand Lettering for their new t-shirt design (I pre-ordered mind ready … ELBOW patches, need I say more?) and a cool giveaway … I am late on publishing this and it ends Sunday March 5 so get on the site and find out how to enter!

* No one paid me to write how cool these ladies are, they just are! Hope you all don’t mind being featured on my blog! I feel very fancy saying this but … this was not a paid advertisement.

It’s a …

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you Lord for other women who follow Christ! Thank you that they also want to share the love they have found in you with others. Lord I ask that you continue to bless the mission of She Reads Truth and all the women who work on staff there who work tirelessly to share you with the world! I also ask that you bless all the women who read this today and are directed to http://www.shereadstruth.com who then are directed back to you.

In your name I pray,

Amen.


It’s a  … NEW STUDY!

LENT IS HERE, LENT IS HERE!img_0011_2

I woke up this morning to find that my Lent study from She Reads Truth had arrived yesterday in the mail. I have been doing studies from She Reads Truth now for almost two years and I can not say enough about them.

On February 27 She Reads Truth will embark on a 49 day journey through Lent! This years Lent study is entitled You Are Mine: A Lenten Study of Isaiah . I am particularly excited about studying Isaiah because my Monday night small group is just wrapping up our year long journey reading through Isaiah. I think one of my favorite things about learning is that there is so much to learn, especially when it comes to the word of God. This study is sure to further enrich my knowledge of Isaiah.

So how does She Reads Truth work? SRT is an online community of women who work together to help other women study the bible. In each study they present you with various pieces of scripture and then a guest writer writes a commentary for that particular day. I love the variety of writing styles and different personalities they invite to work on the studies. SRT provides four options in how you can choose to recieve your daily study.

  1.  Free version. Simply get on their website http://www.shereadstruth.com each day, click on the current study, read the scripture assigned and then the commentary provided for that day.
  2. Free version. You can sign up online for daily emails from SRT and they will email you (early in the morning which I love) the scripture for that day and the commentary.
  3. There’s an APP for that. If you are someone who loves to read on the go and you have a smartphone you can download the SRT app and for a small fee with each new study you can get everything on the app.
  4. Book Lovers Unite! This version is by far the most expensive but it is my favorite way to read SRT. I love to highlight and write notes in my SRT books plus the recipes and photography are amazing! So about a month or so before a new study begins SRT will announce the new study and you can order the study in book form. You simply get online, chose the study you want, pay for the book plus shipping and they will mail you the study a week or two before it begins. Sometimes they will offer free shipping or small gifts with their studies. One of my all time favorite pens came with the Christmas Advent study. Also the books do not contain the commentary from their guest writers. You have to get online to read the commentary. They do this because they want each reader to study and meditate on the word of God not people’s commentary.

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So why do I love SRT. My answer is simple … they seek to glorify God and they do not deviate from the word of God. God warns us in Revelations and Proverbs of adding to or taking away from His word.

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelations 22:9).

“Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Proverbs 30:6).

The deeper I walk in my faith the more I see there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must be discerning people always asking the Holy Spirit to help us know what is from Him and what is not from Him. And this absolutely applies to preachers, pastors and people seeking to spread God’s word. With that being said SRT is a wonderful group that seeks to direct people back to God and His covenant with us through Jesus Christ.

SRT puts out three big studies each year in addition to their shorter ones. The big ones, in my experience, have been the study for Lent, Christmas and a summer study. The books are beautifully put together with stunning photography, delicious recipes, music and small scripture cards to memorize each week! After the study is over I put the scripture cards on my scripture board (I’ll discuss my scripture board in a later blog).

A typical week with SRT truth looks something like this …

  1. Monday through Friday you read the assigned scripture and commentary.
  2. Saturday is Grace Day  where they encourage you to, “Take this day as an opportunity to catch up on your reading, pray, and rest in the presence of the Lord” (www.shereadstruth.com, 2017)
  3. Sunday is Weekly Truth where they encourage you to memorize a piece of scripture each week. The little scripture cards included in the book are extremely helpful in memorizing the scripture for the week. You can put these cards on your bathroom mirror or on your desk to help you throughout the week. You can also take a screen shot of the memory verse and make is a screen saver on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Lastly, SRT also has studies for men which you can get from their sight or go to http://www.hereadstruth.com. It is a great way to study the bible with your spouse or significant other. I have bought my husband a few studies in the past but he prefers the emailed version of the study to the book. However the men’s books are awesome. They are smaller in size and less “girly”, dare I say that a few of his studies I preferred over mine. I think I like that they are smaller and easy to throw in my purse. I am one of “those” people that carries everything I have ever owned in my purse. Long story but I have my
freshman orientation professor to blame for that one. But I digress.

Occasionally SRT will offer a Kids Read Truth study for little ones! I bought the Kids Read Truth Advent study for my kids for Christmas and combined the KRT study with our daily advent activities. Needless to say we loved the addition to our advent and will do it again next year.

Needless to say I am a big fan of She Reads Truth! It would be a dream to be a guest writer for them one day 🙂


Challenge: Do something new and check out She Reads Truth website. It is free after all so there is no harm in trying it out to see if it works for you. 

Do you have a study that you love and want to share? Comment below if you have a study that you love and think others should know about.

Tip: You can take your SRT book to your local Office Max or Staples and have it spiral bound. I have not done this yet but I think I am going to do it for the Lent study.

 

Up Side Down is Right Side Up

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to you this morning with thankfulness. I am blessed by your constant reminders that I am a light and that others see that light whether I know it or not. God let this light bring glory to your name. Lord forgive me for my rushed way of doing life. Forgive me for my short temper with my children and my sometimes “seen and not heard” way of raising them. God I ask you to continually remind me they were entrusted to me by you. God I pray you bless, enlighten, strengthen and love them in spite of Ryan and I and of how poorly we parent at times. Forgive me Lord for there are many times I do not know what I am doing to them in the midst of my busy life.

In Jesus name I pray,

Amen.


She watches me sip my coffee and studies my face. She watches me write in my bible and makes a mental note of how often I do this. She is forever watching me. Always studying, observing and recording what is looks like to be a girl, a wife, a mother and a follower of Christ. Out of our three children she pays attention to detail the most. Yesterday she put on a pair of cable knit tights and danced down the hall to invite her father to notice the detail with her. “Daddy do you like my tights? Do you see the detail?”

I wish I paid attention to detail the way she does. I wish I remembered that she is always watching me with careful detail. But as I put our daughter to bed last night and kissed her sweet face she helped to remind me that she is watching my every move and wants to be just like me. As I tucked her in she whispered, “When I get up can I come out and read bibles with you?”

“Sure” I replied not thinking she would be awake at 4am while questioning how she knew I got up that early to read. But as I made my coffee at 4 I heard the familiar thud of her feet hitting the ground followed by the tiny footsteps on the hardwood floor. To my surprise not only had she woken up but she remembered it was time to “read our bibles”.

So we snuggled up on the couch and cracked open our bibles, hers upside down as usual. This always reminds me that what the world sees as important is upside down from what God deems as important. She asked me what page we were reading as I helped her navigate the small bible with her pink highlighted notations. To her defense she tried to “read” quietly but it wasn’t long before she wanted to talk about all her early morning observations. I responded to a few of her questions as I started to become agitated. This was my time with God she was interrupting. I took a deep breath and suggested maybe she could draw a picture of Jesus while I read. With the suggestion she sprang into action and gathered the box of colored pencils from the table and began.

I refocused myself back to my bible and the devotion I chose for the day, ironically entitled Make room for the Children from http://www.shereadstruth.com . As I read “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in ithe depths of the earth.Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV). I thought about the way my husband and I wavered on whether we should have a third child, who now sat next to me coloring. I questioned if this world had become too dark and my husband questioned whether we had enough time and attention to devote to a third child. And as I sat remembering our waviering I looked at her half colored picture.

“Is that Jesus?” I asked.

“No that’s an angel. He came to tell Mary that she was going to have baby Jesus,” she confidently declared never looking up.

“Wow, that’s awesome. Good job,” I said as I sat there piecing together what God was trying to show me through scripture and this tiny evangelical artist beside me; and I went back to reading my scripture.

“Jesus said,“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV).

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“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Sam 1:27

As I read I could feel my irritation rise as the orange marker she chose squeaked over the thick paper making me loose focus of my thoughts. I told myself to breath, to welcome her presence the way that God had welcomed me into His this morning. To welcome her closeness and noise that way that God welcomes mine. And again I refocused my attention back to my bible to look for the next piece of scripture.

As I looked for it I came across a small note in my bible about Mark 2:27, which refers to the Sabbath or rest, that read “to help, to rest, not control”. I knew I needed to stop. I put my bible down and thanked God for what he was trying to show me in that moment. He wanted me to help her, to show her how to find Him and show her how to rest in Him. I was trying to desperately to control the moment and to focus on God’s word instead of living it to the very person I want to know Him most. After a few moments of quiet gratitude to God for His patience with me I read the last verse in the study and realized I needed to repent and ask for forgiveness immediatly.

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV).

I quickly looked up the word indignant which is described as feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. Dear Lord thank you for showing me where I am wrong. That I am treating my daughter unfairly. I am sitting at your feet asking for you to pay attention to me, hear me, love me, guide me and in that same moment I can’t even do that for my daughter. And you want to know what makes it worse I prayed for this child. Yes just like Hannah prayed for Samuel I prayed for this sweet little girl. I told God that if it was in His will to bless us with another child that she would be raised knowing Him, hearing His promises and knowing that God loved her. Yet here I was feeling irritated at her squeaking pen and inquisitive observations instead of basking in her presence and willingness to follow me as I followed after Christ.

Does feeling disciplined hurt? Yes ma’am. Does it need to happen despite my pride? Absolutely! I want our daughter to love the Lord. I want her to seek Him with all her heart, mind, body and soul! I want her to be surrounded with Godly friends and eventually marry a man that loves the Lord even more than her. I want her life to be sold out for Jesus. This is after all what I have prayed for, even before we became pregnant with her. But can I just hope for these things to happen, pray about it and BANG it’s done. Sadly it does not work that way.

I do not have control over whether my children chose a life with Christ and that thought takes my breath away. Like some parents pray for their children to be all-star athletes or scholars that go on to ivy league schools I pray for mine to find Jesus and find Him early in life. Although I can not make the choice for them I can make the choice for myself and run hard after Christ. I can show my children how to praise His name in the hard times. I can show my children how to read His word, pray His word and obediantly live His word.

It’s in the small quiet moments that God reminds me that our daughter is watching me. She is paying attention to every last detail of how I live like Christ. So if I ask her to follow me while I follow Christ shouldn’t that look like … well Christ.img_6817

Challenge: You don’t have to be a parent to take up this challenge. Write down three ways TODAY that you can stop and make time for someone else. Call that friend or family member you have been meaning to call and catch up with. Or slow down and take a few minutes to chat with your child about their day or maybe you don’t have children or they are grown but you have a neighbor that lives alone and would love a visit. Maybe you could help your spouse complete a chore that they normally do alone. God wants us to connect with each other. He wants us to love on another. Go be the hands and the feet of Christ today!

Thanks for taking the time for me today. Thank you for reading.

***This was not intended to be the next post but I felt that need to share. I will post the next blog post this week about a Greek word I have recently learned that has brought me some incrediable joy.***

 

 

 

Praise God for Crossfit

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the words, wisdom and creativity you have placed in me. Thank you for my faith and all those who you continually put in my life to encourage me and cheer me on as I run towards you. Lord let these words encourage someone today. Let this post turn someone back to you. Bless each reader in some way according to your will.

Amen.

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I can already hear the comments now. Why is she praising God for Crossfit? I thought this was a blog about Jesus. Stick with me because Crossfit led me to a closer walk with Jesus. Before I begin this journey of sharing through my blog I wanted to share the most essential part of my daily walk with Jesus. This routine is simple yet life giving! When I miss this routine I often feel like I spend the rest of my day hanging on to the edge of a cliff by my fingertips. My prayer is that you will in some way adopt this routine as your own.

Almost three years ago a friend of mine from church introduced me to Crossfit. (Thanks a million Josh.) I will never forget walking into the gym on that first day. I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone but too curious to go home. My experience that first day was hard but exhilarating. As I lifted weights I listened to people use words that I had never heard before, like WOD and AMRAP. I also noticed that they were genuinely supportive of one another. They cheered each other on and even encouraged the last athlete to finish. Heck they called each other athletes, which is something that most of us had never been called before in our lives. I loved it! So I went back.

First it was on Fridays when I only had to pay $5.00. You see I didn’t want to make the commitment just yet. I wasn’t sure if I could squeeze one more thing into my already busy life of being a mom, a wife and a teacher, and let’s be honest would it really change my body. I knew things in my schedule would have to change if I ever wanted to make this a priority. I needed to make my health a priority! My body had given birth to three babies and I wasn’t twenty anymore. I felt tired and embarrassed of my body most of the time. I needed a change. So after two months of $5.00 Fridays I signed up for a monthly membership and so I began my daily 5 am trip to this little gym in downtown Newark with a bunch of other people needing a change.

So how did Crossfit help me walk closer with Jesus? The answer to this question is in the details. You may have glanced over the simple detail of time. You see most mornings I wake up and I am to the gym by 5 am. Sometimes I slide in a few minutes late, trust me this no secret. I go at 5 am because this is the one time in the day when I can get away without interruption or prior commitments. So naturally over the last three years, with some breaks here and there due to schedule conflicts and other issues, I have trained myself to get up extremely early, even on summer break!

As my body grew stronger through Crossfit because of my daily routine my spiritual growth only inched along due to a lack of one. You see I was still lacking a consistent routine where I just sat with Christ one on one, prayed and read His word. Please don’t hear me wrong. I read my bible and I prayed constantly but when I did it was never consistent. Sometimes I would use my lunch break or wait until the kids went to bed, but I never made it a priority to set aside uninterrupted time everyday. That was until God convicted me of what I was doing with the first fruits of my day.

Jesus reminded me that He consistently gave the first part of His day to God. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV). We are told many times throughout the bible that we are to honor God by giving Him the first fruits of our harvest. “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” (Proverbs 3:9, NLT). The harvest now a day looks more like paychecks and time, rather then wheat, barley or figs. Jesus clearly showed me that I was giving my valuable time, the first hour of my morning away to something else other than Him.

I was at a Crossroads. I had two choices, the cross or Crossfit. I could not have both and trust me I contemplated listening to my bible app while I back squatted and box jumped away the first part of my morning. Eventually after wrestling with God for a while the choice was clear, Jesus needed to come before everyone and everything else. A strong spirit will always be more useful than a strong body.

If you think I gave up Crossfit think again. You see going to Crossfit at 5 am for so long had trained my body to wake up early. Overtime I had changed my internal alarm clock. I decided that if I could get up at 4:40 am and rush out the door than I could train my body to get up just a little earlier at 4:00 am and spend time with the ultimate Cross trainer.

So now the first fruits of my day are spent in the quiet of my living room reading God’s word and letting Him prepare me for the day ahead. You see just like that first Crossfit class where I was out of my comfort zone but too curious to go home, my morning routine with Jesus was uncomfortable yet intriguing. What would happen if I set up a regular time to sit at the feet of Jesus? I needed to make a spiritual change so that I could grow stronger in my faith but was the investment worth it? Would it really change my spirit and draw me closer to Christ? You might laugh but just like my initial drop-ins to the gym on Fridays I did the same thing with my morning time with Jesus. At first I started getting up early three days a week but it wasn’t enough. Much like working out energizes my body, my faith is also empowered and strengthened by setting aside a time to spend with Jesus, and not just anytime but the first fruits of my harvest. For me that just happens to be 4 am. It won’t always be comfortable or welcomed but it is a worthy investment. And there are times when the temptation to hit snooze and roll over is strong but I assure you my God is stronger. If you don’t believe me let me tell you that hearing God say, “Is that extra few minutes of sleep going to do more for you than I can?” is more jarring than an alarm clock!  I honor God with my time.

And wouldn’t you know similar to the athletes at Crossfit encouraging each other to finish, Jesus continues to cheer me on in our morning conversations. “… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV). So with my biggest fan encouraging my faith and calling me one of His own (Isaiah 43:1-2, NIV) I continue to go back each morning.

CHALLENGE: Each time I post I will challenge my readers to try something new (forgive me this teacher enjoys giving homework).

  1. Your challenge this week is to find a time in your day, even if it’s twenty minutes, to spend on prayer and reading your bible. I encourage you to find a time that is the same each day. If early morning works for you then make it early morning each day. By doing this you will create a routine. I promise this is an investment of your time that will pay you back in eternal rewards! Jesus WILL meet you where you are, no matter what (He kind of specializes in that.)
    1. Short-term challenge: Try it for a week and see how God moves
    2. Long-term: challenge: Try it for 21 days and I bet you will be hooked!

TIP: Set an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to CROSS train. If you have an iPhone set up your alarm tone to play a worship song.

~~~Next week I will be exploring a Greek word that has brought me some serious joy!~~~