I have always been intrigued by Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I mean, what was it about this young girl that God picked her to deliver to the earth the most important child ever born? I have always liked to think it was because she was such a “good” girl. I was inclined to picture her as gentle, mild and meek. I have come to realize that there was much more to Mary than just those things.
Yes, we know she was a virgin, because the Bible tells us so. So, I know she was committed to her faith. This is one of the reasons God picked her. She was pure, but that is not the only reason. God knew she would be committed no matter what. As soon as Mary accepted Gabriel’s assignment, she was putting her life in danger. She was signing up for gossip, slander, criticism and even potentially being stoned. She said yes to God anyway. She consecrated herself to be the Lord’s servant no matter what. Without knowing all of the details, she was all in! That is commitment!
Mary was also undaunted!! She was very brave. She didn’t let the fear of Herod slow her down, she didn’t mind getting on to her Savior child in the temple, she had no problem asking Jesus to fix the wine shortage problem and she followed Him all the way to the cross. Mary was much fierce than I ever realized. God knew she could handle all of the turmoil she would face being the Savior’s mother. She was a woman of high convictions and stood up for what she believed in.
Just look at how Mary responded right after the angel left her..
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
She was excited about God ushering in justice. This woman was talking about overthrowing governments and dealing with corruption. She was not concerned about being politically correct. She was undaunted and committed.
I think we should learn from her. After all, God trusted her with the most valuable thing that He had, His Son. I want Him to trust me with His plans and purposes as well.
I am challenging myself to have a “Mary” Christmas by truly giving myself to the Lord as His servant; no matter what. Even when I don’t know all of the details, I want to say “YES LORD,”. I also want to be undaunted in living out His purpose for my life. I don’t want to be afraid of the criticism, gossip or rejection that comes when trusting and believing the truth of God’s word. I hope you will take the challenge with me!
We have all heard that quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I use it and love that it makes you take a look at things with a better perspective.
The other day I was picking the cute little lemons off of my Meyer lemon tree and had a little bit of a different thought. You see, I was harvesting exactly what I had planted, reaping what I had sown. Sometimes, I know things happen that are completely out of our control; bad things, unfortunate things and tragic things. But, sometimes life doesn’t give us lemons, we give ourselves lemons.
Instead of always playing the “blame game” or the “life keeps throwing lemons at me game” maybe we should take a hard look at the seeds we are planting.
For example, I read a great article the other day about what complaining does to your brain and your body (Click here if you want to read it!) I also read about what complaining does to those around you. I know how being around negative people effects me and so I try to distance myself and not subject my brain and body to it. Chronic complainers don’t understand that the reason people don’t want to be around them is that they have an exhaustingly negative impact. They assume that life is just throwing them lemons and everyone takes them for granted. Planting complaints and negativity will eventually leave you lonely.
You can’t sow rudeness and expect to reap kindness, you can’t plant stinginess and expect an overflow, you can’t sow discord and reap harmony, you can’t plant selfishness and expect to harvest a legacy of love and you can’t subject yourself to rude, selfish, stingy people and expect to have a great time.
By all means, when you get lemons have some lemonade. But, don’t fuss about your lemons when you are the one that planted, watered and catered to those lemon seeds.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” ( Galatians 6:7-9)
“Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.” (Proverbs 22:8)
I loved growing my own lemons!!! I got mine from Amazon. Click on the tree below to check them out !
The Holiday season is upon us!! This is truly my favorite time of the year! However, I know that for some people it ends up being the most stressful time of the year. There are presents to buy, meals to plan, families to visit, guest rooms to clean and many more things to accomplish. To stay in the right frame of my mind, I try to start preparing my heart as early as I can. I LOVE the holidays and I want everyone else to love them as much as I do. However, some people are determined to have a miserable time no matter what. Can I get an Amen on that one? I know someone just popped in your head! It is ok, I won’t tell. So, I determined that no matter what, I will allow myself to enjoy the fact that I am one of God’s girls and I am blessed. Out of the overflow of being blessed, I will try my best to be a blessing.
I want my life to represent Thanksgiving. I know that Christ died for me but I want to live in the reality that He is also here with me. I want my life to reflect a life of gratitude to Him by being a blessing to others. It sounds lovely, but it is much harder said than done. You know you are going to have that one in-law (because it is NEVER your family) act in a selfish way, say something condescending or just be ugly. We can’t control that. They may even act that way after you have determined in your heart to be a blessing to them. Try also determining that even if they won’t allow themselves to be blessed by you, you are still gonna be blessed and keep on blessing!!
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to set a table and invite God to transform the lives of all of those that gather at the table. I can set a table, but I can not force people to eat. I have to remember to keep the heart of a servant, not the mind of a master. I can’t force, control, or change people. I can only love, serve and provide an atmosphere of grace that they can partake of or not.
No matter what happens this year, the Camps will have wonderful Thanksgiving. We will be surrounded by food that will bring us comfort, family that will make us laugh, lights and smells that will touch our soul and the God of the universe amongst us.
You could even start practicing now. Open your heart and home: invite someone to dinner so that you can be blessed and be a blessing.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. William Arthur Ward
I entered November with a full and grateful heart. However, a few minutes of scrolling through my social media feed and all of that can be undone. I am determined to keep an attitude of gratitude. I challenge you to do the same!!
Each day in November I am posting something I am grateful for. Not just to do it and not to brag, but to adjust my heart. I want to not only give thanks for the blessings in my life; I want to do it with a grateful heart.
This past weekend I celebrated my 38th birthday. Someone asked me the other day if I was 29 again and winked, I said, “No way, I am 38.” I wouldn’t go back to being 29 for anything. I am proud of my age and who I am becoming at this age. It took a lot of work, prayer and medical bills to get me to this sweet age and I intend to celebrate it, not be ashamed of it.
Birthdays use to bring a little bit of gloominess to me. I have always enjoyed celebrating, but birthdays reminded me of all of the things I could have been by that age. You know how it goes; you see a ballerina younger than you and think, “I could have done that.” (NOT REALLY) You wonder if you had of started younger, figured out what you loved sooner, been more dedicated than maybe you could have been more.
There it was; more. I never felt like I was enough and birthdays reminded me of that. The journey I have been on this year has led me to being satisfied being exactly who I am and where I am. I am no longer trying to be the next anybody, I am just being me. This change in perspective led me to celebrate a little differently this year.
This year, I threw my own party, which is fun for me because I love hosting events. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. We had my party under my favorite tree in my own backyard. There were tiki lights leading out to the tree, a fire pit, enough comfortable chairs for everyone, lights hanging from the tree, lanterns filled with candles, tons of cheese, meat, bread, dips, cake and chocolate pie. It was perfection.
As we all settled in under my tree and around the food, a warmth like sweet honey filled my soul. We were gathering, connecting, sharing, eating, and celebrating life outside under the stars in the middle of God’s beautiful creation; and it was enough. I was enough. This is what life was about and it is worth celebrating. Sometimes being broken is what will lead you to a journey of living an abundant life.
I am grateful for the broken places that were in my life. They led me to make some life altering decisions that guided me to a place of being loved, cared for, known and enough. It is a journey that continues everyday to be me, but it is a journey that is bringing so much life to my life.
Our lives are fleeting, they are shorter than we will ever want them to be. When you get a chance to celebrate, do it. Light the candles, laugh, talk , love, dance, sing and sit under the stars. Bring life to your life and to the lives of others. Let’s really live!
So.. how did I simplify my life? Well.. I am still working on it. It is a project that has already taken about 6 months. It was a journey for sure and something I think I will have to continually work on. Let me start off by saying, most of the simplifying was internal. I had to change the inside of myself before I could change the world around me.
I never had any amazing off of the chart talents. I could do many things decently, but didn’t have any super amazing talents. I was however, very capable and could be trusted to get things DONE! That became my thing.. getting things done. People could count on me, I became the “go to girl”. The more I rushed to do everything and prove how capable I was the more frantic of a life I began to live. My identity became tied to being capable. I didn’t like to admit I couldn’t do something. I prided myself on having too much on my plate. My soul seemed to stay in a constant state of busy. I wanted to impress everyone, including my husband with how much I could do. I was trying to be accepted and loved instead of just being.
Through a process of journaling, praying, studying God’s word, studying about my personality and reading I began to rediscover the person I am at my core. She is much more like the person I was when I was young. This girl likes to sit outside under trees and read, she likes to enjoy coffee with whipped cream on top, she loves the smell of rain, she loves to cook and gather people around a table, she longs for deep connections, she doesn’t have a problem being still, she easily saw herself as a daughter of the King, she was carefree, her trust was in the Lord, critics didn’t bother her, compliments didn’t drive her, and her life ambitions were to be available and connected to those she loved and cared about.
I had drifted a long way from who I was. It just happened naturally over time.
I decided it was time to leave pride, busyness, pushing, trying, striving, and exhaustion all behind. It left me very bare and broken. I had used all of those things to try and hide my flaws and imperfections. I felt vulnerable for the first time in a long time. I had to disconnect a lot, say no a lot and embrace the fact that I had been hiding I was not ok for a long time. I let myself feel, I let myself be broken and fragile. It was in that time that God’s light started shining through this cracked pot. That light begin to heal and restore me in a way that I can only describe as supernatural. It felt like sunshine on my face on a beautiful fall day. All of a sudden everything became more meaningful and enjoyable. I feel like my soul has a new way of living again. I enjoy the simple things again. I don’t have a fear of missing out, I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anyone, I feel a sense of simply being grounded. Being here, where I am.
It is still a process I am in and when I get stressed or uncomfortable, I am tempted to go back to the old way I was living. As this process continued inside, I started simplifying things on the outside.
I cleaned out all of my drawers and my closet. If I wasn’t crazy about it, I got rid of it. If I didn’t love the way it fit, I got rid of it. If I didn’t wear it the last time it was in season, I got rid of it. If it had holes in it, I got rid of it. If it was stringy and worn, I got rid of it. Part of me struggled with thinking I was wasting things. ( I gave it all away) Part of me worried that I may need something I was getting rid of again one day. But, I continued on and now.. my drawers are organized and clean. My closet has tons of room. It is sooooo much easier picking out something to wear. There are less options and I love everything in there.
This made such a difference, I moved on to my bathroom. Half -used makeup and lotion bottles – gone. Old hair products I “might” use again – gone. Less, less, less made my life more, more, more.
I moved from room to room and did this. Our home is now a place where we live, not a storage facility.
I plan my days with LOTS of margin and I don’t feel guilty anymore if everything is done and I have time to read, watch Netflix, have coffee with a friend or whatever else I want to do.
I plan my meals out. I hate not knowing what to cook. So I make myself sit down, plan out my meals and grocery shop. It makes the rest of the week simpler.
I clean out my fridge and pantry every week. It only takes like 5 minutes each time now.
I keep a freezer full of chicken breasts, veggies, Sister Shuberts rolls, Sister Shuberts sausage rolls, and a few other things in case we have guests coming I didn’t plan for; I don’t have to run to the grocery store.
I do a load of laundry every day.
I ridded the house of junk drawers. Junk goes in the trash.
I realize no matter how hard I try, our home will never look perfect. We live in it. So, I learned to also let things go. I choose to “be there” instead. Be there when my kid wants to talk, play basketball, play UNO or watch tv with me. Be there when my husband wants to take a walk or just sit and share our day. I am done trying to protect an image of who I am and I am just being me.
I started learning to do things from scratch. For example; I make French Press coffee and got rid of the Keurig. I am enjoying the process of things so much more than just the end results.
We have a weekly chalkboard calendar in our kitchen, at the bottom there is a magnet board where I keep a shopping list that Eric and Ethan can add to it what they need. I have no idea if they are out of deodorant or tooth paste and this helps me a lot!
I realized I can craft a life that is more free and reflects who God made me to be.
I have learned to play again and not be so serious.
These things may seem simple, but it has all changed my life. I no longer settle for a busy life for the sake of being busy, I want a meaningful soulful life. I am ok with not always being ok. My life is more honest. I have fewer surface connections and more deep meaningful ones. I don’t feel the need to impress anyone anymore, and before I was living for that. I feel more like the girl I use to be.
As the journey continues, I will let you know how it goes. One of the books that helped me the most was “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. She went through the same thing, on a much larger scale of course. I felt like she was writing exactly what I felt, except she is an extrovert and I am a functioning introvert.
I will leave you with a quote from her book that rocked my soul, “This is actually my life, and it doesn’t matter a bit if it would be lovely for someone else to live. What does matter: does it feel congruent with how God made me and called me?”
Many of us watch the news everyday in horror. We scroll through our social media news feeds with story after story of tragedy, injustice, lies, deception and it is scary. We get angry, we get mad, we post things, we want to do something. Many of us don’t know what to do, sometimes we don’t even know what to say. We decide that all we can do is pray. I think prayer is the most important thing that we can do but there is something more. For some, God may call them to stand up in ways that others can not. But, all of us have a mandate, something we are called to do and that is LOVE.
The Bible tells us to train up a child in the way they should go. As I look around America, I am seeing homes where children are being provided for but not raised. We are hustling chasing down the almighty dollar, fame, popularity, authority and glory. But, in the mean time our homes are suffering. Our most important calling is being forsaken. One thing we all can do is go home and love our families and teach them to love. Whether we realize it or not we are training our children. We are either training them in the ways of God or the ways of this world. They are learning by every move we make. They are also learning from friends, social media, school teachers, coaches, and tv. Do you know what is influencing them? When I love my husband and my son well, I am filling up their soul with the good things of God. They are replenished by my love because my love for them comes from God. It is hard to love others when your own love tank is overdrawn. It should be our goal to at least make sure those in our home are full on our love so they can go out and love others. This is not easy, and I don’t always get it right. But, I know that if we don’t get this right in our homes, our world will never change.
We may feel safe and protected in our homes, but if you think our children do not know what is going on in this world then you have your head in the sand. They are exposed to so much at school and through social media that it would blow your mind! They have to deal with it. Maybe instead of getting consumed about what everyone on Facebook is saying about the shape our world is in, we get around the dinner table and talk to our kids. It doesn’t have to be fancy, make a bologna sandwich and pull up a chair. Have the tough conversations with our kids. Ask them what is really going on in their life! Talk to them about ways things could be done better, talk to them about the way God would want us to handle situations. Teach them to love. Teach them to stand up for the right things. Teach them, train them, raise them.
If we really want harmony and unity, then we should clothe ourselves in love and we should teach our kids to do the same.
I know there are many more things that can be done. This is just the first place we can start.
It is in the moments I mess up. The moments that people attack my family. The moments that my blood pressure soars through the roof. The moments that I see hate and lies typed out onto a screen. The moments people love to try and twist everything I say. The moments I want to sit under a tree like Jonah and wait for God to wipe out my enemies. The moments that the hurt in my heart bubbles up through my throat and out of my mouth. The moments I realize I am not as strong as I thought I was. The moments I let people silence me. The moments I want to hide my light because I am tired of people trying to destroy it. The moments I want to isolate myself because I do not feel safe. The moments I am in a crowded room and feel utterly alone. The moments that I don’t think it is worth it. The moments that bitterness is trying to take root and I am trying to decide if I want to cut it off or let it grow. The moments I just want to give up on humanity. The moments I wish I was cold-hearted instead of tender.
It is also in moments, beautiful moments that the Spirit of the Lord moves in on me like a gentle fall breeze. The moments I calm down. The moments I get a grip on my soul. The moments that I tell the Lord I am weary and He gives me rest. The moments I realize the burdens I am carrying are not the ones He gave me because His are light. In these moments, God supernaturally changes my heart. He steadies my mind and rights my skewed perspective. He enhances the truth of my reality and strips away the lies of the enemy. It is in the moments I realize there is more on me than I can handle because He wants to handle it for me. In these moments I become brave again, not because of my strength or ability but because the Lord of the Universe is letting me cast my cares on Him. In these moments I am glad He made me tender. God is letting me be what He already created me to be. In these moments, the exhaustion is lifted and I am living lightly, freely and courageously again.
Thank you Lord for the beautiful moments. Thank you for knowing my heart and blowing gently across it during the moments I am messing up.
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” (Galatians 5:25-26)
Don’t you wish you could go back and give your younger self some advice? I sure wish I could. I look back on that girl trying to prove herself, trying to be ambitious and make a name for herself, trying to make everyone happy, comparing herself to others and I wish I could tell her a few things.
I would tell her that just because she felt more called to minister at home than at church doesn’t make her a bad pastor’s wife. I wish I could tell her not to do things to try and prove that she has value. I wish I could tell her that her worth was not determined by her accomplishments. I wish I could tell her that no matter how hard she tries, people will be mean and hate her. I would tell her she is a miracle, that she was created for the glory of God. I would tell her to be more concerned about being a virtuous woman than a popular woman. I would tell her it is far easier to see the best in others when you can see the best in yourself. I would tell her to quit comparing herself to others.
That last one, that is the one that still hangs me up to this day. In my life I have been through many different seasons. My heart as a young person was to be a wife and mom. However, I knew I was capable of much “more” and tried to pursue many things. I was good at business, I was good at leading some areas of the church, I was good, but not fulfilled. I was willing, but sometimes it went beyond willing to pushing myself too hard. I was trying to prove something. Pride was the root cause. Culture didn’t sing the praises of the stay at home mom and the woman that supported her husband. It sang the praises of the worn out woman who was killing it at her career and trying to give what she had left at home. I wanted to feel valuable. The women that can have a career and care for their families are truly amazing, and there is nothing wrong with that. Please understand, I am not saying what I do is right and others are wrong. It is just not what God graced me for. I have a husband who pastors and leads in his community. He is a very busy man. God had to really deal with the pride in my life to show me that it was ok to minister to my husband and son so they can go and do what God had called them to do. My calling was to to serve them. I GET to do a lot of other things. I get to lead the women of Sisterhood, I get to write, I get to be available to help others, I get to play with the worship team and so on. I don’t need a title or career to serve others. The root of chasing down the “more” in my life was comparing myself to others. It kept me chasing the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
I can now be truly happy for my friends who are successful doing what they do. I can rejoice with others when they are happy. I can do that because I know that I have far more interesting things to do with my life than compare myself to others. Comparison can lead to jealousy and judgement. I have learned that none of us are better or worse than anyone else. I am just doing what God made me to do and loving it.
So, if you are a stay at home mom, a working mom, a single lady, a breast feeding mom, a bottle feeding mom, a member of the PTO, a member of AA, a leader, a follower, an inspirer, a woman trying to get pregnant, an empty nester, a creative woman, an organized woman, or whatever other type of woman you consider yourself to be; I would love to tell you this..
Don’t consider yourself better or worse than anyone else. You are an original. You have far more interesting things to do with your life than to compare it to others. Do what God has created you to do no matter what others think. Don’t chase after the “more” in life, chase after Jesus. Your worth is not determined by your accomplishments, how many hours you worked out, how many commitments you have, the size of your house, the name brands on your clothes or the number of instagram followers you have. You are a child of the King. Your worth comes from Him alone. Don’t worry about being popular, be concerned about being virtuous. Don’t try and be famous, try to be a servant. See the best in others and see the best in yourself. Everyone does not have to like you or be like you, it is ok. You are a miracle, you were created for the glory of God, He delights in you.
Do you know what Jesus kept telling everybody after He rose from the grave? “Peace be with you.” He said it several times. I use to think He said that because He assumed seeing a dead man walking could of been pretty unsettling and He didn’t want them to be scared.
But, it was really so much more. Real peace can only truly come from God. Too many of us think having peace or not having peace comes from the current state of our situations. But our peace is not situational. Peace is a gift from God bestowed on us through His Son, Jesus. No matter our situation, circumstance or emotional state we can have that peace.
The Merriam Webster definition of peace is: state of tranquility: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions: a state of concord or tranquility.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
What state is your mind and soul in right now? Most of us would have to say that our emotions and thoughts are full of disquieting and oppressing thoughts. It doesn’t have to be that way. Situations and circumstances in your life may not be perfect, God never promised that your life would be perfect. However, He did leave His peace on you. We must realize that Jesus is our only true source of peace. All other sources are temporary settings or fake. Jesus is the only source that peace freely and continually flows from.
Thank goodness He is always with us. Calm your mind and your emotions today by turning to the source of peace!