Saturday, December 26, 2020

See the Good. Be the Good. An Update

Almost three years ago I wrote a post I really believed in and that I hoped would be a source of motivation to others looking to make life a little better. It was a post on seeing silver linings, of looking for the good even in places of pain and disappointment, and it was about making even a small difference in the day-to-day life of others. See the good, be the good became a reminder that positive things hide even in negative places and that some days I might need to be that positive thing.

Many people will look back on this last year through tear-stained eyes, grief holding on tight to hearts and minds, as grief often does. When mentioning all that transpired, there will be understandable disdain for the events of the previous months and we will all collectively hold our breath for fresh starts and blank slates. But I cannot let this last year fade away as an unhappy memory when I firmly believe there is goodness to be found even in the most trying of times.

This past summer, my son and I watched every Marvel movie chronologically from Captain America: The First Avenger to Spiderman: Far from Home. Later my kids and I worked our way through the Harry Potter films. As we immersed ourselves in these rich stories of good versus evil, it helped to lay the foundation for uncovering the good to be found in this year. J.K. Rowling, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, gives Albus Dumbledore a memorable line. “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

That’s the thing about good versus evil. The light always wins.

The light always wins against the dark because the good, the One who is immeasurably and overwhelmingly good, has already triumphed over evil. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Anything the world can bring us is only temporary because His victory is eternal. He is the light of the world that brings light to the world.

See the Good

Seeing the good means looking for this light; it means looking for big and little pictures of grace in a world that seems starved for good gifts. For our family, the lockdown created by the pandemic allowed for much needed rest after a difficult season of change we experienced the last half of 2019. The time at home gave us permission to slow down, to spend time together, to work our land and cultivate our homestead, and most importantly, to heal.

I know for some it was a difficult thing to find the good. In a year marked by sickness, death, loneliness, and fear of the present and future, it wasn’t easy to see even a small glimmer of hope. But leaning in to peer a bit closer, beneath the murky waters of this year, we might just find a shimmering pearl of goodness hiding in the sand.

I encourage you to look back and find a bit of encouragement from the last year that will help to propel you into the new. Even if you find yourself limping day after day, the goodness is that you are here. You woke up yesterday and today, and tomorrow you will greet a new day. In a dark season, that is enough.

Be the Good

But if you are ready, if you want to take a step toward adding a bit more light, I ask that you try to not only see the good in each day, but be the good to those around you. I keep reading stories of so many negative attitudes and behaviors; people have forgotten how to treat each other. We are collectively hurting and as the old cliché says, hurt people hurt people.

This new year will not necessarily mean all the bad will cease to be. On the contrary, we will probably continue to endure sickness, death, and loneliness. We will always have those in this broken world. The difference between then and now is that we can choose to be a source of light in dark days. We can choose small acts of kindness and edifying words. We can choose to be the good to those around us who need us to reflect the light of the one who has forever overcome the darkness.

See the good.

Be the good.

And as Dumbledore encouraged, remember to turn on the light.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

God is Faithful

God is faithful.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Samuel sets up an Ebeneezer stone, a reminder stone meaning “Till now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). I have my own Ebenezer stones, things that help me to remember that the Lord has been with me and he is faithful. I can look back on these situations and experiences and clearly see God’s faithfulness.

What about you? What are some of your Ebenezer stones?

We don’t always see God at work in something as it is happening. Instead we can look back to times that prove his promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He is eternally faithful.
One of my favorite verses comes from the book of Lamentations (3:22-23). This truth has been a comfort to me so many times when I’ve felt overwhelmed, confused, alone, hurt, full of sorrow, anxious, or angry.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.

When the storms rage in our lives, he blankets us in peace. When we feel empty in our loneliness, he reminds us he is always with us. When we feel consumed by struggles and difficult situations, we don’t have to fear or worry because he is our refuge and strength. When the world feels bleak, the sun still rises every morning to remind us that he is always at work and he is faithful.

I encourage you to take it all to the Lord. Anything that is holding you hostage or making you feel defeated, you can lay it at his feet. He promises that “he will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

God is faithful.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Stop Settling for Counterfeit Love

While pregnant with my second child, I had to stop wearing my engagement ring and wedding band because my fingers were too swollen.  I felt bad not wearing it, but I also didn’t want to spend a bunch of money to replace the ones that were just too small. After all, I was going to be back in the originals after I had that baby, right? (haha) 

Finally, it just felt too weird not wearing a ring, so my husband got online and ordered a shiny, new, temporary ring. The cost?  $4.00 shipped. 

After about seven years of wearing that ring (yes, you read that years), it lost one of its fake diamonds, so we bought a replacement. The cost was around $5.00. Inflation, I guess.

My current counterfeit ring and its cheap predecessor have been the symbol of my marriage for the last eight years. When people look at it, they assume it’s a ring of real diamonds. It sparkles and shines. It's beautiful in its simplicity. 

But it is an impostor for the real thing.

Many of the lies we believe about ourselves, the lies the world tells, and the things we use to fill our days and our hearts are cheap imitations for the love that only God can provide. The world's love is fleeting, it is fake, it is self-serving, and it is imperfect. Why do we keep trying to fill ourselves with this empty love? We can try all we want to replace His perfect love with counterfeits, but we will keep thirsting for what only the Living Water can quench. 

Let’s reflect on some truths about His perfect love.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. 

 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved.

The enemy tells us we have to work for love.  He tells us we have to love ourselves more, push our own agendas, or focus on our external beauty rather than our spiritual health.  But God loved us while we were still sinners. 

You matter.  

You have dignity because you are an image bearer of God. 

There is nothing you have to work for or prove; you just have to follow Him.

Today we need to accept that He is sovereign and He loves us. His love is perfect and unchanging. We have to take care of each other and we have to speak truth to ourselves and into the lives of the women around us. 

Stop settling for counterfeit love and run to the One who loves perfectly. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

If Life is Feeling Too Busy, Here are 6 Ways to Practice Self-Care.

If you came here looking for aromatherapy and bubble baths, you’re in the wrong place.

Practicing self-care is more than just pampering.  It’s learning to take control of situations, being more organized to keep life more calm, and realizing it might be time to ask for help.

This time last year, I felt like I was just surviving.  Working in an emotionally taxing job, keeping up with my duties as a wife and mom, and having additional commitments in various ministries was starting to wear me down.


“Wear me down” is too soft of a description. If I’m honest, a better way to describe my life is that I was feeling run over. By a truck. A really, really big truck.

I had to figure out a way to get myself together before the candles I was burning at both ends burned me along with them.

Here are some of the ways I learned to stay sane.

1. Stop the mess before it completely takes over

In college, I learned this really interesting concept called entropy that has stuck with me because I  see it everywhere.  Entropy is the idea that everything will gradually decline from order to disorder. I clean off the island and later that day, someone has put a small pile of homework papers.  It’s okay though, that’ll be easy to clean up later, right?  Then someone puts the mail there and a plate and then an empty box of cereal and before I know it, I can’t even see the surface anymore.  It's chaos. That’s entropy, my friends.

Have you ever heard the saying about eating an elephant?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  

Or more specifically, a little bit every day.  If my family spends 10 minutes a day picking up before bed, we can combat the mess that is sure to multiply if it is ignored. Then, when those surfaces are clean, there are no random socks in the floor, and the dishes are in the dishwasher and not in the sink/on the counter/on the island, and I can relax in my chair and read a book. 

What’s one thing you can do every day to keep a mess from getting out of control?

2. Make it a team effort

I admit I like certain things done in a certain way. Maybe you can relate. The problem with wanting to control the situation is that I try to do everything myself, which in turn makes me feel overwhelmed. That’s not good self-care.

It’s time to take some of that load and responsibility and pass it around to the other people living under your roof.  Assign chores, tasks, responsibilities, jobs, or whatever you want to call them.  Hey, they help make those messes, the least they can do is help clean them up.

How can you make this work at your house?

3. Prep in advance

Here’s a taste of what life used to sound like every morning before school.

“Mom, I can’t find any clean underwear.”

“It’s in your drawer.”

“No it’s not!”

“Yes, it is. *sigh* I’m coming in there.”

You get the picture. Basically, things existed in my house, but no one could ever find them. These conversations drove me crazy!

This past summer, I knew I wanted the new school year to go differently so I came up with a plan. Although it hasn’t been perfect, it’s been really great at making mornings less chaotic.

Every Sunday after church, I sit in front of the television and fold all the laundry.  I start a load of one kid’s, then the other kid’s, then the parent laundry, followed by towels and bedding. I watch television which allows me to relax while I do this mindless task.  

As I fold, I make outfit piles for each kid, including underwear and socks, and put each outfit in a hanging cubby hole in each kid’s closet. They choose an outfit from the cubby, in no particular order, every morning before school. 

Let me tell you, it has made my mornings smoother. It is so nice to get in my car and head to work not feeling frazzled and stressed. Calmer mornings are worth the marathon laundry/television sessions on Sunday afternoon.

What is one way you can prepare to eliminate some of the stress in your life?

4. Have a day of rest

Saturday is usually the calmest day of my week.  I do my best on this day to make sure I’m recharging my batteries. I sleep in, enjoy a cup of coffee or two (or three), and enjoy a good book. 

If I do have to leave the house, I spend a little extra time taking care of myself.  This is when I take a long, relaxing shower, do a body scrub, and deep condition my hair.  Saturday is a day of rest, but it’s also a day of pampering. A good portion of my life is spent taking care of others, so it’s important for me to take a day of rest because it keeps me more physically and mentally healthy.

Do you make time for rest?

5. Be healthier

I’m at the age where my back hurts for no reason and my ankle knows when rain is coming. 

I’ve come to terms with the fact I’m getting older and my gray hair can prove it. My health needs to be a priority. I take multivitamins, pre and probiotics, and elderberry gummies. I wear a watch that tracks my steps and I try to be good about drinking water.  I also try to get in some exercise.  

Recently my husband and I found a punching bag on sale at the sporting goods store so we bought it and put it in the basement. I have pink boxing gloves and I built the perfect playlist for getting my frustrations out/getting exercise. It’s awesome.

What can you do to create a healthier lifestyle?

6. Do it anyway

I love to stay up late and read. It’s my favorite. Do you know what’s not my favorite? Feeling terrible the next day because I stayed up late to read. I don’t want to go to bed at a decent time, but I do it anyway. 

Sometimes I want to veg out in front of the television and not have to think about anything, but I also need to spend time with the Lord and read my bible.  I want to do nothing, but tending to my relationship with God is the better choice.  I never regret that time.

I don’t always want to eat healthy, but I do it anyway.

I don’t always want to get up a little earlier to make the mornings smoother, but I do it anyway.

Sometimes, I don’t want to give up my Saturday night to hang out with friends, but I do it anyway.

Self-care isn’t always saying no to things. Often taking care of yourself means saying yes to things that are good for you. Even if you don’t always feel like doing it, do it anyway.

What is something good for you that you should start doing?

Taking care of yourself is essential because when you take care of yourself, you can be a better friend, worker, and family member, and you can be better at loving those around you.

What is one change you can make today to practice self-care?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

This morning, as I allowed myself to be still during our school’s customary moment of silence, a song from my childhood came crashing in. 

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

If you’re familiar with that song, you know it's the same line over and over.  It’s easy to sing and it’s one of those songs that embeds itself deep into a child’s heart.  Younger me didn’t necessarily understand its meaning, but it brought me comfort nonetheless. 

Some mornings I wake up with a song in my head, a gift from God whose mercies are new every morning.  There’s just something about a song in my mind that flows to my heart and allows me to meditate on His goodness first thing in the morning.

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27

Other mornings I wake up with no song.  Only my thoughts.

I’m so tired. How many days until I can sleep in?

Lord, I haven’t even rolled out of bed and already I’m dreading the day ahead.

How will I make it through what’s waiting for me at work today?

Help me, Lord.

My quiet time rolls around and I force myself to sit still and praise the one who gave me life and every good thing.  It’s this act of thankfulness that brings a song back to my heart. 

Every morning He seeks me out, but I have to tune in to Him.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

True joy cannot be swayed by our circumstances, our possessions, our friendships, or all sorts of external things.  Joy comes from a deeper place. It’s a fruit of the Spirit.  It’s a gift in difficult times and refuge from the cares of life.  It’s light in the darkness. Joy satisfies the heart.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11

If I’m being honest, sometimes it really hasn’t been my day, my week, my month, or even my year (thank you, Friends theme song). It’s easy to dwell on the bad and feel so disheartened.

The good news - no the GREAT news - is that joy is a product of the Holy Spirit working in us.  It is joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8) that helps us through each day.  We know that trials will come, pain is inevitable, and brokenness is always present, but the words of Psalm 30:5 bring peace. Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  Can I get a yes and amen?

Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that God works everything for good. The good he is speaking of is our spiritual growth, our sanctification. It’s us becoming more Christ-like. When we abide in Him, our trials are still present, but they are bearable because joy and peace rule our hearts. Our trials are dwarfed by the power of our God. 

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

In times that can be so stressful, so full of the enemy’s attacks, the joy of the Lord is our strength.  It allows us see the good in others, laugh in the midst of trials, smile through adversity, and trust that joy really does come in the morning.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.