Burden or Blessing?

Colossians 1:10:  “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”(NIV).

Have you ever had one of those days…weeks…months…years?  When you know that you are crabby and you can’t do anything about it…or at least you aren’t trying hard enough to change your attitude or perspective on life?  That nothing really horrible has happened to cause your bad mood…maybe instead you just are being a little too self-centered and not enough other-focused?

Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but that has been me for the past few days.  It all started with what I perceived as an injustice because my weekend didn’t go as I had planned.  Do you see the common thread in the sentence written above – “my weekend, I planned?”  Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I chose to continue my bad attitude even while realizing I am blessed beyond measure and my family, loved ones, and friends didn’t deserve to be subjected to my “spoiled brat” treatment.

This went on until God woke me up early five days later.  (I’m sometimes a slow learner.)  Despite His seemingly endless patience with us as His children, just like biological parents, I think He was finally telling me, “Enough is enough.”  He didn’t yell at me, He didn’t punish me by inflicting some sort of ailment or tragedy in my life – no, He lovingly reminded me that I was very blessed in life and needed to get my focus back in the right direction.  I needed to refocus on Him and all the good in my life.  I needed to start being a blessing to others instead of continuing to be a burden.  I was really convicted.  Not only had I hurt my Heavenly Father by my self-imposed selfishness, but I was hurting my family as well.  They hadn’t done anything to deserve my bratty behavior.

After confessing to God for being a burden for the last five days, I vowed to find ways to be a blessing instead.  Putting my focus back where it should be – on imitating Christ to others.

The irony of it all – When I am focused on “blessing myself” (which in turn burdens others to cater to my every whim), the blessings I receive fall short of my expectations.  However, when I focus on blessing others and living the way my Heavenly Father wants me to, then He chooses when and how to bless me.  And I have to say, those blessings usually knock my socks off.  They are bigger, better, and far more imaginative than I could ever think of to bless myself with.  And, I don’t know about you, but when I have to ask for something, it’s never as sweet as when someone catches me off guard and surprises me with a gift, token, act of service, whatever the surprise may be.

Not only do I hate the way I “look” when I’m turned inward and selfish, but I hate how I feel as well.  I truly do not like being a burden to others, but at times do the very thing I hate.  I think it’s time to apologize to those I have burdened for the last five days and start looking for ways I can bless them instead.  I have some wasted time I need to make up for.

What does your life look like today – are you being a burden or a blessing?


Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (NIV)

I thought I would take a few minutes to be thankful.  There are so many things in life that people complain about (myself included) but if you look hard enough, you can find a way to be thankful for just about anything.

I’m thankful that I have a job that allows me to stay at home with my kids while still earning a living.  It means that I can pay the bills I need to cover and sometimes have a little left over to help cover other expenses that always inevitably come up.

I’m thankful for my messy house.  I would rather have a house filled with family, kids, chaos, and the occasional dog hair (along with lots of dust bunnies) than a neat and tidy house that only I can enjoy.

I’m thankful for my husband who is also my best friend.  I’m thankful for his patience, his sense of humor, and the kindness that he shows not just to me and our kids on a daily basis but extended family, strangers on the street, and friends.  I’m thankful that he is teaching our kids by example how to live as a responsible, kind, productive adult.

I’m thankful for my children.  I’m thankful for the unexpected, “I love you’s,” being the one to comfort them when they are sad, the one they want to tell their secrets to, and the one who gets the privilege of watching them grow up.

I’m thankful for my health.  I may not be where I want to be, but I’m a lot healthier than I could be, and I’m healthy enough to work toward the goals that I want to achieve.  I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to choose to exercise, to choose balance in my diet, and to choose how I take care of my body by what I put in it and what I don’t.

I’m thankful for my friends.  I’m thankful that they care about me, make time to spend with me, and share their hearts with me.  I’m thankful that I can rejoice with them in good days, cry with them when there just aren’t the right words, and pray for them always.

I’m thankful for family, whether close by or miles apart.  I’m thankful that distance is only as far away as your heart is from someone, not the actual mileage between homes.

I’m thankful for hand-me-down clothes, Mom-to-Mom sales, long summer days, cold winter nights, lots of hot coffee, rainbows, animals, children, rainy days curled under a blanket, bike rides, funny movies, and family activities.

Most of all, I’m thankful that God loved me enough to want me as His child and provided a way for that to happen.

What are you thankful for?

Fourth of July Fun

Outdoor picnics, S’mores cooked on a bonfire, camping outside, and staying up late to catch fireflies.  Playing games outside with family, having a cookout, and letting the kids use sparklers before the promise of the big show of fireworks later at night.  Sitting around reminiscing about old times, watching movies, and a shorter workweek.  These are some of the good times I look forward to when Fourth of July rolls around.  It’s the middle of the summer, sandwiched between Memorial Day and Labor Day; when the days are long and the nights are longer.

Here in Michigan, we have the privilege of living close enough to the airport that we can see the fun of the annual Balloon Festival in our very own backyard.  We watch the Blue Angels practice and then get to watch their shows on air day and getting the privilege of seeing the hot air balloons take off or land, sometimes in our own backyard.

Fourth of July signifies the long, lazy days of summer.  Our garden is really growing, rewarding my husband’s hard work with lots of fresh vegetables.  If we’re lucky, we get a break from the heat of the summer and enjoy a few cooler days; if not, we jump into our in-laws pool to cool off.

What are your plans for the Fourth of July this year?  Are you spending it with family, friends, or a little of both?  Do you like the fireworks or do you prefer to turn in early?  Whatever your plans, I hope you take time to relax, regroup, and refresh.  That’s part of what summer should be about.

What’s Love Got to Do It?

Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)

 I always thought that loving yourself meant living a selfish life. In addition, growing up I heard frequently that it was easy to love yourself because everyone naturally just did.  Those two assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Having been a parent for over a decade, I’m realizing that loving yourself is not something that everyone naturally does.  There are a lot of people out there who truly do not love themselves, they may not even like themselves very much.  However, in order to teach your children healthy boundaries, or even more, how to love themselves, it is important to have a healthy view of yourself.

I’m not talking about the self-entitled, self-centered message that the world loves to pass off as love.  I’m also not talking about just loving your outward body, although that part is important too.  I’m talking about loving yourself, and better still, viewing yourself in the way that your Heavenly Father sees and loves you.  With the proper kind of love in place, then you can bless others by selflessly loving them as well as leading by example how to love themselves in a healthy way.

This kind of healthy love can show itself in many different ways.  Some examples would include making sure to exercise regularly so that you feel good and have enough energy to accomplish the jobs that God has given you to perform.  It means not denying yourself a cone when the family goes for its semi-regular ice cream run, but it also means not telling yourself you deserve brownies, cake, candy bars, and a whole bag of potato chips at one time because you had a bad day.  It means sometimes going upstairs and soaking in a hot tub with a good book because you need to relax or sometimes it means cutting yourself some slack when you make a mistake.  It may mean turning down the request at church to volunteer for the fifth Sunday in a row or going to bed early (or sleeping in late) in order to replenish your depleted sleep quota.

When your kids see you taking good care of yourself, staying in balance as best as possible, then they in turn are raised able to see the right way to handle situations.  When you admit you were wrong and learn from your mistake, it might give your children permission to do the same when they inevitably mess up.  Don’t be fooled – They are watching when you berate yourself for a small infraction even if you think you are hiding the frustration you feel with yourself.

A very wise woman reminds me regularly that it’s okay, in fact, it’s necessary to be kind to myself.  When I do that, it frees me up to be kind to others, as well as to teach the next generation to pass that kindness along.

If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Love Myself?

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.”  Psalm 143:8

The world teaches us that beauty is only skin deep and if you don’t fit into the world’s standard of “perfect,” then you are somehow not worthy.  God tells us that He is more concerned with our heart than our body.

There are multiple verses in the Bible where God talks about how much He loves each and every one of us.  He doesn’t play favorites, He doesn’t compare, and He doesn’t value our outward bodies more than our inner spirit.  Yes, He wants us to take care of both our body and our spirit, but He loves us the same, regardless of what we look like or what “issue” we are working on presently.  God loves us with real love:  He purposefully chose His Son to die on the cross to allow us a chance to live with Him for all eternity.  The only thing we have to do is invite His Son into our lives and ask Him to be our Lord and Savior.

So…if God loves me (us) that much, why is it so hard to love myself (ourselves)?  Being a bit of a perfectionist, I really struggle with this issue and am working on changing my mindset.  I am very hard on myself.  If my friend makes a mistake, it’s a mistake.  If I make a mistake, it’s the end of the world.  If the scale shows me a number that is not acceptable, I stop eating all junk food or skip meals, punishing myself.  If my friend sees a number that isn’t acceptable, I tell her she’s probably retaining water and watch, it will go back down in a few days.

I am realizing that if God can love me regardless of what the number is on the scale, whether or not I have exercised 3.5 times this week, or if I got mad while driving and said something I regret, then He would want me to love myself too.  Not the kind of self-centered love that the world glorifies – where I am catered to and my every whim is fulfilled.  No…but I should learn to cut myself some slack.  If I got mad in traffic, you know what?  I can learn from that experience and do better next time, and having an audience in the car in the form of my children is good incentive to work hard at improving faster.  If the scale is creeping into (or past) the danger zone, then I can cut back on desserts at every meal and have the occasional treat instead, not punishing myself by complete denial but loving myself enough to get back into a healthy weight range.  I should strive to be healthy and put exercise in my life so I have the energy to enjoy life and fulfill God’s purpose for me, but not beat myself up about missing a day here or there when life gets in the way.

A wise woman told me and I keep reminding myself of this daily, sometimes hourly…If I wouldn’t say out loud to a friend the messages that play internally about myself, then I shouldn’t be saying it to me either.

God doesn’t expect me to be perfect; in fact, He knows that I will never achieve perfection here on Earth…so why should I expect perfection of myself?  Besides, perfection would be boring.

Acceptance versus Approval

 “Acceptance:  (noun) the act of accepting or the state of being accepted or acceptable; favorable reception; approval.”  (World English Dictionary)

“Approval: (noun) A favorable opinion; commendation.”  (World English Dictionary)

How many of us seek acceptance of the real us, the us we are sometimes afraid to show others?  How many more want approval – from our bosses, our parents, our spouse, or our friends?

I think it’s a natural instinct to want to be approved of for what we do and accepted for who we are.  Some of us settle for being accepted and approved of in whatever way we can, even if it means becoming someone we are not.  Even more of us do such a good job of becoming who and what others want us to be that we forget who we really are.

I want to make my home a place of acceptance, and yes, approval, for all who enter, but most importantly for those that I’ve been blessed to call my family.  I feel deeply that it is my duty, my calling as the mother, the heart of our home, to express that approval and acceptance of all my children equally.  I’m not talking about approving of their actions or accepting the good job they did cleaning the house.  I want to take it “to the next level.”  I am not their boss or their teacher or their coach.  I’m not even their best friend at this stage in their life.  Their actions and their accomplishments are secondary to what’s really important to me.  I’m invested in their emotional wellbeing – their heart.

I’m talking about a deep desire for my children to know that they are accepted and approved of just for being themselves.  That there isn’t anything they need to do to make me accept them, there isn’t anything they can do for me to approve of them – they are just accepted and approved of because they had the privilege of being born.  I want to be that soft place for them to land and that gentle reassurance that they are special and unique.  I never want them to doubt that God created them just the way they are for a purpose, for a reason, for a specific goal.

That is easier said than done sometimes.  Will I fail at that job?  Absolutely and I have, more times that I care to admit.  I fail to notice their seeking approval in many ways:  Sometimes brushing it off or other times mistaking it as a way to manipulate the situation.  This usually occurs when I tired, stressed, distracted, busy, or overwhelmed, focusing too much on my own needs or issues.  My prayer is that when this happens, I will first of all, quickly realize that I need to step up my game and second, make the corrections needed in my own life so that I can again create the right atmosphere in our home.

I might have focused on my children, but I think it’s just as important to carry that approval and acceptance over to my spouse, my extended family, and my friends.  Everyone will benefit from the gift of approval and acceptance with no strings attached.

Are you creating an environment that is accepting and approving of the loved ones in your life or do you need to “take it to the next level?”  Let’s hold each other accountable in this area.

Earthly Father versus Heavenly Father

Psalm 103:13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him…” (NIV)

Have you ever stopped to think that fathers have big shoes to fill?  As parents, my husband and I try to live according to the way God wants us to, teaching and training and loving and disciplining our children according to Biblical standards.

I used to believe that mothers had the tougher job than fathers.  We are usually the ones that our kids feel safe enough to vent to (yell and scream at) and try out their independence on.  We also are the ones that are with them more often so we hear more whining, complaining, and manipulation to try and get out of chores or homework.  We are the ones whose meals are criticized, yelled at when their clothes didn’t make it to the laundry room on time, and have to listen to ten excuses as to why it’s not possible to vacuum the whole house before dad gets home.  We have to drag them to doctor and/or dentist appointments and remind them to brush their teeth (twice a day, not just when they want to).

On the flip side, we also are the ones that usually get to hear their inmost secrets, are trusted with their hearts, and know their likes and dislikes down to their favorite movie.  We also get to listen to all their activities with friends and hear what dreams they have for their future.  For some blessed fathers who actively invest in their children, they are privileged to share in this part as well.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that our husbands, their fathers, have the tougher job.  As mothers we are expected to be firm but loving, tender with a side of toughness, but mainly a soft place for our kids to land.  Even though God gives us a Biblical standard to live by, we are not the earthly example of the loving Heavenly Father that our husbands are.  They are the ones that truly are expected to show God to our children.  They are the ones that have to give discipline when necessary, show unconditional love, and do the best they can as imperfect examples of our perfect God.  I’m thankful that is not part of my job description.

I’m not trying to imply that any man should be expected to live up to the perfect standard that God Himself is.  I am saying that to have an earthly father who loves God and his family enough to seek God out in order to do his very best, is the biggest blessing that any child can receive.

Today, on Father’s Day, I want to say thank you to my father and my “other” father.  I know that parenting isn’t easy and for them to seek God’s help for such an important task is an example they passed along to the next generation.   Most of all, I want to say thank you to my husband, who on a daily basis, shows our kids the best example he can of how much our Heavenly Father loves them.   No one is perfect here on Earth, but it is evident that he seeks God’s wisdom in training, teaching, disciplining, and showing unconditional love to our kids.  I pray that our kids will in turn continue that tradition with their children, passing the torch to the next generation.

The Versatile Blogger Award

                                                  The Versatile Blogger Award

This week I was given the honor of being nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. This is a way for bloggers to refer and recommend other bloggers who are doing a good job blogging themselves. Here are the rules once you have been nominated. You can find them at the versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com.

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  • Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

First of all, I would like to thank my good friend, Jessie Clemence, at http://jessieclemence.wordpress.com for nominating me. I’ve been reading Jessie’s posts since she started blogging and truly look forward to them every time. I need to get better at responding to them. We used to work together and I loved having the chance to reconnect with her. We both are pursuing God’s purpose in our lives and it’s great to share that journey with a friend. Check out her blog:  Not only will she make you think, but you’ll be laughing so much it will seem fun.

Here are the blogs that I enjoy and read on a regular basis, and therefore nominate for the Versatile Blogger Award. I would nominate more, but unfortunately I don’t follow that many (yet). If I accidentally didn’t post the blog addresses correctly, I apologize ahead of time. Write a comment in the comment section, I will get you the correct information. My brain was wired to write, not be technically savvy. Some days I can do both pretty well; other days, I’m not sure if I get either right.

  • My friend, Jessie Clemence, listed above and      found at http://jessieclemence.wordpress.com. Like I said above, she is      hilarious, full of knowledge, and wants to live her life pleasing God the      best way she knows how. She encourages others in that area while keeping      life on the lighter side.
  • Beth Vogt, an author found at BethKVogt.com,      is another great blog that I follow. I don’t know her personally, but      after reading her blogs, she makes you feel like you are part of her      family.
  • Marianne Clements is someone I met through      48days.net. She is inspirational and has overcome a lot in her life,      wanting to share that victory with others. You can follow her at:      http://www.VictoryChristianCoaching.com.

According to the rules, now I have to share seven things about myself:

  1. I am a Christ follower, wife to an amazing      man, and mother to some terrific kids.
  2. I consider myself a gypsy. Due to my dad’s      job, we moved around quite a bit when I was growing up. I’m glad I had      that experience to see different parts of the United States.
  3. Which brings me to my next fun fact. I always      tell me people that when I married my husband, he gave me roots. I love      that he lives in the same town where he grew up, we live next door to his      parents, and my kids attend the same school he did.
  4. My favorite season is fall. I love warm,      sunny days with cool, crisp nights. I love apple orchards, the colors of      changing leaves, raking leaves, and fires in the fireplace. I hate the      thought of five long months of winter, but I love fall and wish it would      last longer than it does.
  5. I love all things outdoors (except yucky      bugs). I love campfires, impromptu family water fights, running through      the sprinkler, working in the garden, bike rides, long hikes, and most of      all, just enjoying God’s amazing creation with all the colors, natural      sounds, and solitude that make up living “in the country”.
  6. I love spending time with family and friends.      I never have as much time with either as I would like, but I enjoy the      time I do get.
  7. I love how every day I get a new beginning, a      new chance to do a better job than I did the day before. I love how God      shows me that grace and I love the fact that He will do it for you too!

Thank you, Jessie, for this nomination. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Now, I would love to know seven fun facts about you.  Please share them in the comment section below.


A Woman’s Prerogative or Hearing God’s Voice?

Matthew 6:10: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

A good friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about how different our lives look now than they did three years ago.  Plans that we had, things we were going to do (or absolutely not do), or things we had not even thought possible were either in the planning stages or being moved out of the way to make room for new adventures.  The joke was tossed around that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.

As funny as that is (and I have to admit, sometimes very true for myself), I don’t think that is what happens the majority of the time, especially with women who have a relationship with their Heavenly Father and truly want His will in their life and the lives of their loved ones.  I think that people who are honestly seeking God and His best for their life have an open heart and spirit, willing to listen to Him gently change their plans instead of just whimsically deciding to head in a different direction.  This is especially important when the decision being made has the potential for lifelong consequences.

This takes on many different forms for different people:  It could mean a career change, either going back to work or choosing to stay home while your little ones are little or even just doing a complete 180 degree switch in your career path.  It could mean homeschooling your children through a particularly difficult stage in their life or for a specific period of time.  It could also mean adding another child to your family, supporting your husband in a new career, moving across country for a better job opportunity, or taking your aging parents into your home and lovingly caring for them in their final years.

Whatever change in direction is happening in your life right now, it’s funny to think that we have that option because we’re women and that’s what we’re supposed to do – change our mind depending upon our mood.  For some, that could very well be what happens.  However, all joking aside, when God is the one who is prompting us to make the change in our life, even if we never find out exactly why, then I have confidence that moving forward will be the best choice.  There will inevitably be challenges that have to be dealt with, but if He is the One in charge of the change, He will ultimately bless that choice.

What choices are on your horizon?  Are you using a woman’s prerogative or are you open to God’s leading?

Favorite Summer Memories

I was feeling nostalgic, thinking back to some of my favorite summer memories.  Some of them I would love to repeat with my family and others are just to be treasured from my past.  Maybe strolling with me will jog some favorite summer activities from your own past.

My favorite summer memory from childhood was just playing outside for long stretches.  It seems like, looking back, the days were super long, the nights were short, and summer vacation went on forever.  My mom was teacher, so summertime meant having her home all day, every day, which I loved.  It didn’t matter particularly what I was doing, although I definitely remember being barefoot 24/7, unless we were at church, but even then, it meant a break from socks and getting to wear cool sundresses with tanned skin.  Our family would always take family trips every year, but the highlight of summer for me really was just the simple things – eating dinner on our back patio, reading books until late at night and then sleeping in the next day, and lots of time spent outdoors.

Fast forward to the year I dated my husband.  That summer was filled with wonderful memories I still replay over and over.  We spent a lot of time at the park, either rollerblading or canoeing, having bonfires with friends in his backyard (now our yard), and sunset picnics at the beach.  Since I was trying to make a good first impression, that was probably the only year I didn’t spend the majority of my time barefoot.

Now that we are married and have a family, some of the best memories of summer for me are still very similar, always including lots of outdoor activities.  There is grilling out with extended family or by ourselves, camping and bonfires in our backyard, bike riding or walking the bike path with a stop for ice cream at Ritter’s afterwards, time at the beach, and a few family vacations sprinkled in to keep things interesting.  We also maintain a garden, so I get to spend a lot of time barefoot.  Lastly, we get to enjoy swimming at his parents’ pool and now that the kids are older, lots of fun, outside family games.

Those are just some of my favorite summertime activities.  The days don’t seem as long and before I know it, summer vacation is over and done with.  The kids will be back in school which makes me sad because I love having them home.  I love when our schedule is a little more laid back and even though I’m still working a full-time job, there is room for a few extra things here and there.  The long hours of daylight make getting up early not so difficult and relying on less sleep a little more bearable.

What about you?  What are your favorite summertime memories?  I would love to add new favorites to our list to try as people share.