How I Got Rid of the Stress – I Didn’t Know Existed – in my Life.

I don’t get stressed out very easily, but recently I watched a show that had me on edge from the moment it came on. The show is called “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” Have you ever seen it?

It is a show about people who collect “stuff”. For whatever reason, they get attached to their “stuff” and refuse to get rid of anything. Boxes line their hallways and clutter climbs to the ceiling making it virtually impossible to negotiate through their homes. Often their “stuff” is piled so high that they cannot function in their own living space. It is absolutely crazy! And stressful just to watch, let alone live in.

I am the exact opposite of these folks.

I am not a collector or a saver, and I don’t like “things”. I can’t stand having to dust around trinkets or store items I rarely use, so I keep my “stuff” to a minimum. I actually keep a box in my laundry room for clothes the kid’s have outgrown and things we no longer want or need. When the box gets full we take a trip to the A+ thrift shop to donate these items on a regular basis. This way, “stuff” never takes over my house.

I call it “dejunking.” And because I hate clutter, and stress, I do it often.

Recently, however, I took my “dejunking” to a whole new level. And doing so has removed stress I did not even realize existed in my life.

Let me tell you how it happened…

One afternoon two months ago, I threatened to get rid of my boys’ toys if they didn’t clean up their room. I explained to them that if they didn’t have so much “stuff,” they wouldn’t have to listen to me barking orders to clean it up all the time. I whined a bit about how if they had nothing to play with, they would have nothing to clean up. Eventually, they got their room – most of the way – clean.

For three days in a row, this went on. I would go in and bark. They would whine about having to clean. I would threaten them by telling them how serious I was about getting rid of their “stuff” if they couldn’t get it cleaned up in a timely fashion. Then, eventually, they would get their room – most of the way – clean.

On the fourth day, my eight year old son came to me and said, “Mommy, I think you are right. If we get rid of some of our toys we won’t have as much to have to clean up all the time.”

The words were music to my ears, but I had just “dejunked” their room three months earlier. I never really intended to get rid of all their stuff. Nonetheless, I predetermined in my heart that if my boys said they wanted to give it away, I would say yes. (See, though, I am not a saver, I still clung to some of the toys that were in good shape – even if they didn’t use them – simply because they were in good shape or expensive or a gift from grandma, etc. Can anyone relate?)

At the end of the afternoon, both boys had collected quite a bit of “stuff” to give away. And I was pleased.

A few days passed when Jayce came to me again noticing that he was still spending a lot of time cleaning up. “Mommy,” he asked. “Can I get rid of some more stuff?”

With that, we went in the room together and purged it of almost every toy in the room. We got rid of cars, action heroes, race tracks and Ninja turtles. Light sabers, Nerf guns, Frisbees and swords. When we were finished, we moved the toy box to the family room closet with five toys in it. My boys’ room was officially “dejunked.” With only a few books, Legos, cars and guys on a shelf, there was no major way to make a mess.

Before I continue, I am sure there are a few of you out there worried about how the kids coped after the initial excitement of the purge wore off. I want to assure you, they have hardly missed a thing. In fact we have only had one incident where they even asked for anything back. (It was a gun and we quickly remedied it by building stick guns from the yard and using their imaginations to play instead.)

Two months later, my house has never been so clean. I am not constantly yelling at my kids to pick up the toys they dumped on the floor (and never even played with) anymore. When it is time to clean up, it takes only a few minutes to get the job done. And doing so is much more peaceful.

In hindsight, I realize that the addition of all this “stuff” did not created joy at all. It actually added more stress- to both them and me. (In the same way “more stuff” doesn’t make adults happy, it doesn’t make our kids happy either.) In fact, the kid’s are in complete agreement. (Yes, I asked them.) – Dejunking their room was one of the best things we have done in a long time. I am so grateful that we stumbled upon such an incredible blessing. It has relieved loads of stress that I never even recognized was there… until it was gone.

How about you? Are you addicted to “stuff”? How would getting rid of some of the “stuff” in your home simplify your life? How would cleaning out the toy box change your life?

Mathew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If I Could Write a Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self, Here’s What I’d Say.

Ten years ago, I walked the halls of Merritt Island High as my daughter took swim lessons in the pool out back. When I got home, I told my husband if it weren’t for the infant in the stroller I was pushing, I could still blend in with the high-schoolers.

He laughed. But I really meant it.

My, how time flies.

I turned thirty-nine on Sunday. I don’t think “blend in” is possible anymore – stroller or not.

As I reflected on another year gone by (and one closer to forty), I thought about what I would say to myself if I could go back twenty years and give myself some advice with the wisdom and life experience I have now.

I decided to write myself a letter.

Before I began, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It actually surprised even me. Tears streamed down my face, without having gotten even one word out. Some tears were of joy- because of the amazing life that I have today. Others were not so happy tears, as I remembered some of the more trying times the past twenty years have brought.

Today, I want to share with you that letter. As you read, I pray that you will see your story somewhere in the pages; that you will remember the times the Lord has walked you through trying circumstances and how you have grown in the process. And if you have not yet learned how to depend on Him, that through my words, you would grow one step closer.

Here’s my letter– to me:

Dear Amy,

How many times has your mom said, “You have the world at your fingertips?” Well… she was right.

You are about to embark on an amazing journey; one that turns out to be greater than you have imagined.

But, it is not for the reasons you think.

Right now, you think life is all about you.

But it isn’t.

Soon you will come to realize this. And in your realization, you will discover that while you have everything on earth you need to be happy, something is still missing in your life. On your quest to find happiness, you will discover how to have joy that is not based on who or what is happening to you. You will discover an amazing love; one rooted in Jesus Christ.  

The decision to follow Him will change the course of your life. It is, by far, the best decision you will ever make. 

For two years, you will be like a sponge, soaking in every detail of who God is. You will grow close to the Lord in ways you can’t fathom now. The Lord will birth dreams on the inside of you that you never would have imagined without turning your heart towards Him.

Many people will not understand the change that has taken place in you. Do not fret or shrink back because of the things others say. As you continue to trust in Him, the Lord will be faithful to you and the promises He has made you.

Before you see any of these dreams come to pass, though, your life will take some unexpected turns that will rock you to the core. Again, do not be afraid. It is through these times that you will grow into the woman you are today.Before they come, the Lord will prepare you with every tool you need to walk through these difficult years.

By your twenty-third birthday, the life you now know will not be the same. You will have met a man you thought you would marry. He will break your heart and you will be left with many unanswered questions. This pain will only be compounded by the fact that your “Leave it to Beaver” family will be devastated by your parent’s divorce. Your mother will move out of state. At the same time, your father will abandon you for a full year. You will take a job in a new city without the ties of a church, friends or family, as you work to overcome an eating disorder that has held you in bondage for years.

During these years, you will feel very alone. You will watch friend after friend get married and start their families. All the while, you will remain single for many years despite desperately  longing to start a life with someone. There will be days you will question your new found faith and wonder if the Lord is really true to His promises. People will tell you that the life you are believing for doesn’t exist; that the husband you are praying for is only found in fairy tales; and that you will always have predispositions to an eating disorder- that this is one addiction you can never fully break.

I want to assure you…They are dead wrong!

The Lord is true to His promises.

The dreams on the inside of you were put there by the God of the Universe… because He wants to see your dreams come to pass more than you do. The naysayers in your life are only speaking from their own understanding. Let go of their words and hold fast to the Word of God. In it is truth; and the amazing life you long for.

You will spend many years “walking by faith” and “holding fast to your confession” as the Word says. It will take years of steadfastness, but in time, you will start reaping the results of your efforts and the Lord’s faithfulness.

You will overcome the eating disorder and be completely free of all predispositions to it. You will actually be happier with your body at 39 than you were at 25. Not because it looks so much better, but because you will be comfortable in your own skin. And know that your beauty is so much deeper than the number on the scale.

As for your father, remember hurting people hurt people. His actions stem from hurt. Forgive him quickly, before he ever asks. Trust God’s timing and wait patiently for Him. When the time is right, your relationship will pick right back up where you left off because you have not allowed roots of bitterness to get in the way.

Your broken heart will have mended, and while you may never  fully understand it, you will be utterly grateful for it. After kissing many frogs, you will finally meet  your prince – the man you have spent years praying for. Amy, he is everything you prayed for. Please, don’t worry about who and how and when you will meet him. He is kind, smart, handsome and most importantly, loves Jesus as much as you do- just like you prayed. Your relationship will flow the way it should- with ease. He will recognize you as the pearl you are.  

Please. Please. Please.  In the years ahead, don’t waste one minute doubting God’s plan for you. His plans are perfect. His timing is perfect. And, His love is perfect, too. He will not fail you. He will not leave you. Rather, He will walk with you down every one of life’s roads.

So, I encourage you… From this moment forward, live like you know how much you are loved and accepted. Embrace every moment. Refuse to settle. Love without expecting anything in return. Give exuberantly.  Believe fully. Dream big. Laugh lots. And in every situation, hope.

Your life is what you make it.

With much love,

Your twenty years wiser self

 In closing, I want to leave you with one last thought… As I wrote, I found myself wanting to encourage myself over and over not to be afraid. It reminded me of how often the scriptures warn us not to be afraid, as well. I believe there is a great deal of freedom in living fearlessly. Each time I wrote it and every time I thought it, but didn’t put it on the page, something deep resonated on the inside of me.

Today, I am reminded to live fearlessly; to be bolder and to trust more. I am encouraged not to waste one minute in worry about the future. He holds the Universe in His hands, surely He can take care of the next forty years of my life and yours.

I encourage you today… Whatever your future holds, refuse to give in to fear. He has a great plan for your life too!

Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 

 

Never Judge a Book by its Cover.

I am going to make a statement that will make some of you want to throw up. But it’s the truth. And I am not ashamed.

I love the show, “The Bachelor.”

I can’t help it. I am a hopeless romantic.

It all started twelve years ago when Trista and Ryan fell in love at the same time as Landon and me.

We lived outside of Kansas City at the time. Landon would come home from his night class to his brand new wife lying on the couch engulfed in the drama of someone else’s love story. A big smile would be pasted to my face as I watched two complete strangers pour their hearts out to one another in front of the entire nation. Meanwhile, my sweet beau, Landon, would crack jokes and poke fun at me– and the ridiculous idea of “falling in love” on a television show.

I am not exactly sure which season it happened, but somewhere along the way Landon changed his tune. Soon, he began looking forward to Monday nights as much as me. (Not really. That wouldn’t be very manly. But it sounds ushy-gushy, doesn’t it?)

Before I go any further, I want you to know… I could share a million different thoughts with you, but as I prayed about what to write this week, one particular thought kept rising up in me. So… bear with me a moment. I promise you, there is a lesson here.

This season, there is a particular guy who has caught my attention. He is a quite a looker. Fit, confident, and poised. His name is Josh and he just so happens to be a former professional baseball player. As I watched him interact with Andi, the Bachelorette, I couldn’t help but pass judgment on him. I found myself doubting his sincerity and wondering if he really is all that he seems to be. Simply because… he is a professional baseball player.

To those of you who know me well, you may see the irony. For those that don’t, here is why I find my judgment so interesting. I happen to be married to an ex-professional baseball player (St. Louis Cardinals) turned current professional baseball coach (Washington Nationals.) Sports are a huge influence in my husband’s life. And if I may say so, Landon is quite a looker. Fit, confident, and poised, as well.

So, do you see the irony?

How is it that I – a woman fully vested and happily married, to a man who reminds me a lot of Josh – is having to fight the urge to judge him based on his good looks and career? My instinct is to assume that Josh is not who he appears to be. That he is really a jerk. And that America, and I, will soon figure this out.

1 Samuel 16:7, But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

It comforts me to know that I am not the only one who has struggled with this. Obviously, the prophet Samuel did too. In fact, David wouldn’t have been anointed King of Israel, if the Lord hadn’t set him straight. Before God’s plan for Israel could begin, Samuel needed to learn the same lesson my parents taught me… Never judge a book by its cover.

Prior to meeting my husband, my heart was broken by a former professional baseball player. When Landon told me what he did for a living, my first instinct was to run the opposite direction. Because, according to my thinking, baseball players are jerks. And they will end up breaking your heart. Right?

Wrong.

It is easy to go into a situation and determine the future based on our past experiences and preconceived ideas. And while, there is wisdom to be gained through past experience, we must remember to keep an open heart in all our dealings.

I can’t help but wonder what my life would look like today if I had allowed my past experience and first judgment to determine my response to the cute baseball guy who wanted to know my story.

So, I encourage you today. Resist the urge to judge. In every situation. And every person.

God doesn’t look at outward appearance.

He looks at the heart.

Shouldn’t we?

Marriage and Divorce

I Thought My Family Was Perfect: Twelve Truths on Marriage and Divorce

Growing up, my family wasn’t perfect. But… I thought it was. Spending quality time together was a huge priority for us. We were extremely close knit. Most of my cousin’s lived within a few miles. We spent summer holidays picnicking at Kars Park and winter holidays having family get-togethers. Most Sunday afternoons, we would swim and have dinner at my grandparent’s house. On the way home, we would visit my other grandparent’s before heading home for the night.

They were simple days, but they were my fondest childhood memories. I was healthy, happy, and filled to overflowing with love. In fact, life was so good that I wanted nothing more than to emulate my childhood with my own family. As a young adult, I envisioned carrying on these same traditions with my future husband and children.

It is amazing how quickly your world can be turned up-side down.

Sixteen years ago, my mom broke the news to me that after twenty-eight years of marriage, she was leaving my father. In that moment, my life took a dramatic turn. Devastated only scratches the surface of the emotions I felt.

The next few years were some of the toughest of my life.  Despite the fact that, at the time, they were gut-wrenchingly unbearable, the growth I experienced during that season of my life has proven to be invaluable. I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not gone through those hard years. I am continually amazed by how much we learn from the times that are the hardest in life.

James 1:2-4, “…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The wisdom I gained has benefitted me tremendously in my life and relationships.  And I often remind myself of this truth when faced with challenges today.

With the knowledge that comes from both living through a traumatic divorce and being happily married for twelve years myself, I want to share with you a few of truths I have learned about marriage and divorce. I pray that you receive these words, not with condemnation for past mistakes, but with expectant hope and understanding for a brighter tomorrow.

  1. While time heals many of the wounds of divorce, the effects of it can be felt for years to come. Don’t make this decision without recognizing the far-reaching effects. Today as a thirty-eight year old woman, my life (and the lives of my children) is still impacted today by my parent’s choice to end their marriage. While I have made a beautiful life for myself, there are many things that I would like to experience with my family that are simply not a possibility for us today.
  2. The grass may look a lot greener on the other side, but it is not. Every relationship has its challenges. When you start a new relationship, you get a new set of problems. They may look different than the ones you had before, but there are still challenges. To have a great relationship, you must learn how to work through your differences.
  3. You don’t “fall” out of love. You make a choice to quit loving the same way you make a choice to start loving. It is never too late to begin to love again. If you will begin to treat your spouse like you’d treat the person you’d pursue after your divorce was final, you would begin to see your current spouse in a whole new light.
  4. “Feeling butterflies” does not equal love. In fact, it is one of the lowest ways to determine true love. Love is a commitment based on a decision, not an emotion. Disregard the fluttery feelings and place a high value on honoring your commitment. Having a good marriage does not happen on accident. It is intentional.
  5. The best way to have a better marriage is to become a better spouse. That means learning to love more selflessly than you ever imagined. It means laying aside your desires, to give your spouse what they want. Practically, it means giving them your spot you on the couch, the juicier steak and the opportunity to sleep in on the weekend. It means sacrificing your comfort for theirs, not insisting on your way all the time, and trying their way even when you know your way is better. (And not saying, “I told you so.”)
  6. Don’t sweep your problems under the rug. If you always “give in” to “keep the peace,” your peace will blow up in your face one day and you will end up quitting on your marriage. (For you peace-makers…You matter. Your opinions matter. Your desires matter. In some cases, you need to put your foot down and make sure you have your say and do things your way every once in a while. Otherwise, you will end up resentful.)
  7. Confront your issues. Confrontation -in love- is your friend. It may be painful at the time, but if you are diligent, confrontation brings resolution. Resolution results in happy marriages.
  8. Get to the root of your problems and discuss them. Don’t waste time knit-picking details. It may take time to figure out what the root is. So, don’t speak until you have figured out the root of the problem. For example, anger generally stems from hurt. Find out why you are hurting and discuss that. If you will recognize that you and your spouse are a team working together to solve a problem, you can approach the problem from the same side and solve it.
  9. Timing matters. The manner in which you approach each conversation highly determines the outcome. Use wisdom in when you choose to discuss a subject matter. The right words at the wrong time are the wrong words. Make sure you wait until your emotions have settled down, and stop the conversation once you have quit making progress. (But don’t leave it under the rug. Pick it back up later and talk as many times as it takes to resolve the issue.)
  10. Good communication is key. Pray before you speak. (I even pray as I am talking to my husband. I ask the Lord to help me communicate in a way that shows love and resolves conflict. I ask God to help me see the problem from his perspective, as well. The results are amazing.) Use a loving tone in all your conversations. Don’t make “always” and “never” statements. Don’t name call. Encourage your spouse before and after the confrontation. Reinforce your love for your spouse after a disagreement. And never use the “D” word (divorce). If you don’t use it, it will never become an option.
  11. In daily life, be quick to point out what is right with your spouse. Even if it is something very small. The more good you point out in them, the more good you will see in them. The more good you point out, the more your spouse will try to live up to your opinion. (Unfortunately, this works in the negative sense too. So be very careful of being critical of your spouse.)
  12. Always believe the best about your spouse. Love always believes the best no matter what the situation. If you spend years assuming the worst, you will have a bad opinion of your spouse. If you want to have a good opinion of them, start assuming the best instead. Give them the benefit of the doubt and the grace you would like to receive. And remember, love covers a multitude of sins.

The Lord desires that you have happy, healthy relationships. Nothing is impossible with Him. If you will remain steadfast in Him, He will walk you down the path to victory.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would show every person who reads this post the truth about their relationships. That we would take a hard look at who we are and the life that you have called us to live. That we would be obedient to your voice. I pray we would not buy into the lie of the enemy that says our situation is beyond repair. But that a new sense of hope would rise up on the inside of us this day and that you would lead us down the path to victory in our relationships. I declare in this moment, that restoration is possible in each and every circumstance that is present here today. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love Does.

 

One evening last week my husband, Landon, made a statement that caught me a little off guard. Through his casual comment, he gave voice to a desire dwelling on the inside of him. On hearing the comment, my mind reeled. On one hand, his idea was laced with whimsy and full of excitement. But in the moment, I didn’t recognize it as such. Instead, my flesh tensed as I immediately traveled to the amount of sacrifice it would take to make his dream a reality.

In our marriage, I am usually the one dreaming big, taking risks, and stepping out of the boat. My natural tendency is to take the plunge and trust God with the details. Landon, on the other hand, typically prefers to take the “safe” route. While I am out water walking, he prefers to sit in the boat until it is full of water. Then, when he has no other options, he begins to swim. His natural tendency is to use wisdom and avoid risk at all cost.

Being intimately acquainted with every detail of my beloved husband, I knew my response to his statement would largely determine the direction our lives would take. In essence, I held the power to turn this whimsical statement into a real possibility in our lives. In the same manner, I could squash his dream all together solely based on my response.

Would I choose to water-walk? Or sit in the boat?

It humbles me to think that as his wife, my choices have this much influence on who my husband becomes. But, ladies, it is the truth. With our support, our husbands can conquer the world. Without it, their chances are slim at best.

In my flesh, I wanted nothing more than to scream, “No way! We are NOT doing that. If North is the direction I need to go to fulfill my dreams, this one has me headed due South. Haven’t I made enough sacrifices already? I shouldn’t have to do it again!”

But… I recently heard a message on what it means to show genuine love in relationships. (i.e. Love says, “What can I do for you?) And… I also happened to be reading a book, called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. So, instead of responding in my flesh, I spent the evening in prayer.

When I woke up the next morning, I knew in my heart exactly what I needed to do.

I would love, not just with my words, but in my actions, as well. I would ignore the voice of fear and rise to the occasion. I would step out in faith and support my husband down this path of unknowns. I would willingly sacrifice my comfort and my dream (for now) in order to help him fulfill his.

Because that’s what Love Does.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Love steps outside of what works best for me. Love is selfless. Love sacrifices. Love lays down her life for the one she loves. Love doesn’t just talk. Love Acts. Love Does.

The next morning I cried as I wrote a letter to my husband urging him to take the next step in making his dream a reality. By putting the words on paper, I laid down my dreams to help him fulfill his. And despite the tears, I had (and do have) a deep sense of peace that I made the right decision.

See, I have learned not to judge circumstances by what they look like in the natural. After all, God’s economy doesn’t work like the worlds. The God-kind of love doesn’t look like the rest of the world, either. And while many would say my decision is foolish, I have learned that being obedient to the voice of God trumps the voice of the world every time. Though this decision looks to be in the complete opposite direction of my dreams, deep down on the inside, I believe it is actually the next step in fulfilling them.

It would have been easy to disregard  my husband’s statement. I have no physical proof that anything will develop from it. Only God knows the impact of what one simple “yes” will have on our future. But– I am learning that the more I say “yes” to God, the more wonder I discover in who He is.

Lord, I pray that you would give each and every person who reads this post the courage to say “yes” to you. I pray that you would give them supernatural ability to see beyond their present circumstance into the good plan that you have for their life. That they would know the power of the act of love you demonstrated toward them on Calvary when you laid down your life for theirs. And Father, I pray your abundant peace over them as they seek your face in every area of their life today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Hold on to the Promises of God: A Cloud the Size of a Man’s Hand.

The sun beat through the car window warming my skin. A gentle breeze I often take for granted in this lovely place I call home, blew across the river below. Hovering above me was a perfectly blue sky.

“What a fabulous day to get off early,” I thought as I drove over the Hubert Humphrey Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.

Grateful for this beautifully painted scenery, I turned my head to soak in the moment. As I did I saw a lone cloud in the sky to the north. Immediately, I did a double take and a portion of scripture rose up on the inside of me. Indeed, just above the sky line was a “cloud the size of a man’s hand” in this vast sea of blue.

“A cloud the size of a man’s hand…”

At first glance this cloud wouldn’t mean much to anyone, me included. But with this mild nudging from the Holy Spirit and the knowledge behind this portion of scripture, this small, lone cloud gave me a fresh reminder of the power of holding on to the promises of God.

The setting for the scripture in this Old Testament story is this: In the middle of a three year drought, the Lord made a promise to the prophet Elijah stating that He would send rain to Israel. But, like many promises, this one did not come to pass right away. In fact, after the promise was made, there was no visible change in sight.

Unmoved, Elijah began to cry out to the Lord in prayer- standing on the promise of God. Six times he prayed. Six times he sent his servant to look for any sign of rain. Six times, Elijah’s servant came back with nothing.

No Word. No Sign. No Hope.

Despite the grim report, Elijah remained steadfast by continuing in prayer. Undaunted, he sent his servant out a seventh time. Only this time his servant came back with a tiny glimmer of hope- stating, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than a man’s hand rising out of the sea.”

Many of us would have written off this small glimmer of hope. After living in a time of drought for so long, we likely would have ignored this sign and/or quit praying all together. But not Elijah. On report of this small cloud, Elijah told the king to “go down before the rain stops you.”

Can you guess what happened next?

After three long years, the Lord fulfilled His Word. It began to rain.

There are many promises written in the Word of God for us. For instance, the Word says, the Lord shall supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19); that you were healed by His stripes (1 Peter 2:24); if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). He promises you peace and a good night sleep (Psalm 4:8); And that the fruit of your womb is blessed (Deuteronomy 28:4).

What we do with the promises written in the Word of God make the difference in our lives between rain and drought- a promise made and a promise fulfilled.

If Elijah had not clung to the word of the Lord; if he had stopped praying on the sixth time; if he had ignored the glimpse of hope, who knows how long it would have been before the answer came.

I don’t know what your heart’s desire is. Or what promise you long to see fulfilled in your life, but I encourage you today… Be on the lookout for the cloud in your life that reminds you of His promise.  And if you don’t see it right away… Keep looking. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep standing.

Isaiah 55:11, “In the same way, the promise that I (the Lord) make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.”

Spit it Out.

Before I woke up this morning, I got some company. My youngest son, Ty, hopped in bed, threw his head on the pillow and a puddle of water filled his eyes.

“What’s the matter, Ty?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he cried.

Hmmm. That’s strange. Because, when I throw myself in bed with tears flooding my eyes, something is definitely wrong.

And so, the probing began… “Are you hurt? Did Jayce take the ball from you? Did he say something mean to you? What is the matter?”

After a series of questions, I am able to determine that his big brother hurt his feelings. Because I know how important communication is, I tell Ty he is going to have to let Jayce in on how he is feeling. Nonetheless, Ty lies in silence, not breathing a word.

“Go ahead, tell him that he hurt your feelings,” I implore.

Still silent, Ty offers not a word.

He knows what is wrong. And so do I. Now, Jayce even knows. Yet my little Ty simply can’t get the words out.

This scene is oh, so familiar to me.

I return in my mind to the early years of my marriage when my feelings had been hurt and I wanted so much to “just get the words out.” I would lie on the edge of my bed rehearsing how I had been wronged and what I would say. My husband would ask, “Honey, what is the matter?” In my mind, I would continue to rehearse. Yet out of my mouth, no words would come.

Why is it so hard to expose the way we are feeling?

Before I got married, I promised myself that I would not  be one of those wives that made her husband “figure out” what he had done wrong. I would always tell him how I felt. I would always speak the truth in love. In every instance, I would be an excellent communicator. Yet lying on the crease of the bed at night, carrying out my promise seemed like an impossible feat.

I knew that without some desperately needed help in the area of communication, like so many others, our marriage would eventually fail. So, I prayed. Right there on the edge of my bed. Asking God to help me overcome this fear. Or pride. Or whatever it was that kept me from voicing how I felt.

Proverbs 16:23, says “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth…” What an incredible verse. Think about it a moment… “The heart of the WISE… TEACHES his MOUTH.”

My mouth desperately needed to learn how to communicate. And I was the only one who could train it. So, rather than carry around a bag of resentment over my shoulder for the rest of my marriage, I decided I’d better teach my mouth how to get the words out- no matter how hard it was.

So… I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and spit out the words I so desperately needed to say.

It was tough, I’ll admit. But the more I practiced, the easier it got. Now, it doesn’t take much effort at all. And boy has my marriage benefitted from it. I have discovered that most of the time, when my feelings are hurt, it was unintentional. Usually, Landon doesn’t have any idea he has even upset me. By talking to him about my feelings, we are able to resolve the conflict . And I… am free to let go of the resentment. (Thank you Jesus!)

This morning, I decided to teach Ty how to train his mouth, too. I made him repeat the words he so desperately needed to say… “Jayce, you hurt my feelings.” It was like pulling teeth to get him to spit the words out. I actually had to have him repeat it – one word at a time. It certainly wasn’t perfect (and was really more of a mumble),but it was a start. And taking the first step is often the most difficult to do.

Relationships rise or fall largely on how well two people communicate. I pray this morning that you will take the first steps in learning how to a better communicator, too; That you will train your mouth to speak what your heart so desperately longs to say. Instead of rehearsing in your mind what you want to say, that you will take the plunge and spit them out- Always speaking the truth in love.

This Mama Bear Almost Ate Her Cub For Breakfast.

There is something unique and beautiful about a mother’s love. Truly, a mother sees her children through rose-colored glasses. When the world sees the worst, she sees the best. If someone says a negative word about him, whether it is true or not, she is quick to defend. And don’t even think about trying to bully her baby, if she is anywhere in sight, Mama Bear is sure to put up a fight.

From the beginning of time, mothers have sacrificed their own well-being to benefit the children they love. Her desire is to make her child’s life the best it can possibly be.

I am no different.

I love my children to the moon and back. To each of them, I am wholly devoted. It is my goal to equip them to live the best life they can. I want to be as diligent in my efforts with the last as I have been with the first. However, while I am the mommy to all of them, I don’t parent each child the same.

I try to.

In some instances, I do better. I have learned a lot from my previous mistakes. In many areas, I improved drastically the second and third time around. However (as much as I hate to admit it), I have come to recognize that in at least one area, I am failing.

My youngest son has managed to get away with a lot more than the eldest two. He seems to have this sense of entitlement my other two don’t.

Maybe it because I have been able to give him much more than the first two. Money was tight when Aspen and Jayce were small. When we entered a store, they knew not to ask for things, because the answer was consistently the same. “No.”

Maybe it’s because, with two other children, my plate is already full and I am  tired. Over the past ten years, I have said “no” at least 4.5 billion times. Quite frankly, it is much easier to say “yes,” so I find myself saying it more and more.

Maybe it is because he is my youngest. I know how quickly he will grow up. So, I hold him a little longer. I cuddle with him a little more. Sometimes I still spoon feed him his dinner. Just because he wants me to. And…. he’s my baby.

I certainly don’t love him any more than my other children. And I definitely don’t intend to treat him differently, but somehow I have.

It all came to a head last month when I said “no”- refusing his request for a pair of “long socks.” He threw his head back in disgust and let out a “na-na, na-na, naaa” — chalked full of disrespect.

“Excuse me. What did you just say?” I asked.

Boldy, he repeated his mocking…“na-na, na-na, naaaaa.”

With that, the same Mama Bear that generally defends her cub, was ready to claw her own and eat him for breakfast.

That is when it hit me… I have done this to my five year old.Though it was not my intention, I have turned him in to this.

Proverbs 29:15, A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.”

Before I became a parent, I often wondered how children from the same family- raised by the same parents- could turn out so differently.

Now I know.

We get tired. We give in. We say yes when we should say no. We let them get away with things when we should discipline. We “baby” the baby.

After this episode a few weeks ago, I realized I needed to make some adjustments in my parenting. So… I have gotten a bit firmer with my baby. I have put a hold on buying him things –from the box of Tic-Tacs at Walmart to the Bug Juice at the Circle K. I have disciplined him more and reintroduced him to Mr. Spoon. (And in case you are wondering. Eventually I did buy him the long socks. But, he had to earn them. It took him three weeks. Now he really appreciates them; and wears them every day.)

Already, I can see a difference.

I am responsible for who Ty grows up to become. I can’t “baby my baby” forever. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this “na-na, na-na, naaaa” moment helped me make a life changing adjustment. For that, I am forever grateful.

How about you? Is there an area in your life that you need to make an adjustment? It is never too late to admit your faults and take a step in a new direction.

You Can Do It.

One afternoon in early 1999, Rhonda and I talked about taking a trip to Europe. We discussed the sites we’d see- paintings we’d study, architecture we’d tour and museums we’d visit if we ever were able to travel abroad.

“Would you rather visit the Buckingham Palace in London? Or the Eiffel Tower in Paris?” Rhonda asked. “Hike the Swiss Alps? Ride a gondola through Venice? Or stroll the cobblestone streets of Heidelberg?” she continued

I really didn’t have an answer to any of her questions.

Growing up, my family never really took vacations. Unless it was to visit someone in a nearby city. Rarely did we cross the state line, so the thought of crossing an ocean was a near impossibility in my mind.

“Someday, we’ll have to do that.” I thought.

The next time I saw Rhonda, with an itinerary in hand, she asked, “Do you think we could do it sometime this summer? While I have off.”

Surprised by her efforts, I asked, “What? Are we really going to go?

“Yes,” she stated emphatically. “You said you wanted to. Right?”

Of course I wanted to. “Want to” wasn’t the problem. There were many things I wanted to do. I wanted to get married and have a family. I wanted to own my own home. I wanted to write a book and teach thousands of people about Jesus.

Yes! I definitely wanted to, but… didn’t she know there was a WHOLE OCEAN to cross?

Certainly, I wanted to fulfill my dreams. I even hoped to. But somehow, my dreams were out of reach. They were oceans away. My dreams lived on the other side of the four walls of the box I was in. And my box was small. Too small to hold such big dreams.

I needed a paradigm shift. My vision expanded. My borders enlarged.

1 Chronicles 4:10 says, “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.”

Apparently I am not the only one with a box too small.

Like me, Jabez needed his vision expanded too. In order to hold the dreams the Lord had placed on the inside of Him, Jabez’s box needed enlarging, as well. So he asked God to expand his borders… And the Lord granted him his request!

I don’t know what it is that you dream about in your quiet time, but I can assure you, God’s dreams for you are bigger. He longs to satisfy your deepest desires and fulfill your every need.

In those days, I needed someone to help me take that first step. Someone who recognized, while it may be a big ocean, it really isn’t that difficult to cross. Someone to help me put one foot in front of the other, until I saw my dream become a reality.

In June of 1999, I spent my 24th birthday overlooking Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, Rhonda and I made a lot of great memories in a number of different countries that summer. But the most important thing I gleaned from that trip so many years ago, had nothing to do with the tour itself, and everything to do with how to get there.

That trip taught me to quit dreaming and start doing. It tore the walls off my box and showed me that I was dreaming way too small.

Maybe you are where I was a few years ago… Trying to hold your big dream in small box. Do you need someone to help you take that first step to fulfill your dream? Someone to help you unleash your dream. Someone to encourage you.

Look no further, you found that person. Whatever it is, you can do it!

Go ahead. I dare you. Ask the Lord today to enlarge your borders. To blow off the walls that have held you captive. To push the boundaries on your box. And cross the line, you have yet to cross toward fulfilling that dream.

If you are willing to take the risk, I have a feeling, He just might grant you your request.

The Road to Happiness.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up. Everything about being an adult appealed to me. I wanted to break away from everything that prevented me from living the life I dreamed of. I yearned for the freedom to do what I wanted to do.

I longed to be in charge of my own life.

“If only I was able to drive,” I thought,” I could go anywhere I wanted. I could do whatever I please. When I can finally drive… then… life will be grand.”

And for a while, it was.

Until the excitement wore off and I was left longing for something more.

Towards the end of high school I found myself in deep anticipation for the next season of life. The season where life would really begin. The place I could indeed spread my wings. The time when life would truly be grand…

College.

But that wasn’t what I envisioned it to be either.

“I know. I know,” I thought. “When I graduate from college, I will never have to spend another night studying. That is what is making my life so difficult. When I am finally through with school, then I will be free to really enjoy my life. Then, life will be grand.”

Graduation couldn’t come soon enough.

When it finally arrived, the studying ceased. But the longing for more was still present.

So I reasoned yet again.

“All of those other things are just— things. Things won’t make me happy. What I really need is companionship. When I meet Mr. Right,” I reasoned, “then I will find true happiness.”

I spent a lot of time looking for the road to happiness.

I forever believed that- When I get this… then… I would be that.

If only I could… then… life will be grand.

I spent a lot of my young life wishing I was somewhere I wasn’t, striving to attain my personal goals and putting my hope in things (and people) that failed me.

I was constantly searching for the station. The time when I would finally arrive. The place where all my longings would be fulfilled. The season when my world would be perfect, and LIFE WOULD TRULY BE GRAND.

Instead of reaching the station, however, somewhere in the midst of my searching, I discovered this truth… True happiness is not wrapped up in things. Or people.

As cliché as it sounds, true happiness can only be found deep within. It is discovered only when the void on the inside of you is filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 16:24,”Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

You can search to the ends of the earth. But I promise you, you will find only one relationship that brings lasting joy. There is only One who will fill you up. Only One who will never fail you.

I learned this important truth through the school of hard knocks. At a time when many of the people in my life let me down, Jesus became my sustenance.

I know this is foreign (and maybe even verges on a weird) for some of you reading this. You may be wondering how I can have so much faith in something, someone, I can’t even see? And, while I don’t have all the answers, I can assure you, it is the truth.

I spent years searching for the road to happiness.

I looked everywhere, including religion.

It was only when I began a real relationship with Christ, that the void in my heart was finally filled.

I didn’t get to this place in my life overnight. I simply said “yes” when I felt the knock on my heart. I had no idea that one simple “yes” was the turn I needed to put me on the road to happiness. I was clueless that this one yes would turn into this amazing, fulfilled life.

How about you? Have you answered the knock at the door of your heart? Have you said “yes” to the One who created you? Have you said “yes” to the One who longs to fill the deepest desire of your heart?

If you haven’t yet, but want to say yes to the Lord today, I encourage you to pray this prayer with me right now. I assure you, you will never regret it.

Dear Lord, Thank you Lord for sending your son, Jesus, to the earth to die for my sins on the cross at Calvary.  I have tried to do life my own way, and I realize my limitations. Forgive me for falling short so many times. This day, I invite you to come and live on the inside of me. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. I give you the reigns to my life. I ask you to sit in the driver’s seat. Lead me down the path You have prepared for me. Place people in my life to help me to walk in Your ways. Today, I surrender my life to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.