His Word, Kids/Parenting, Soul Relationships

Do Life Big

Happy Thursday, y’all…

Jamie Grace, one of mine and my daughter’s favorite Christian female singers, has a song called “Do Life Big.” You can listen to it here: Do Life Big. This song came to me this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to it, but when I did, it spoke to me.

The first words she belts out in this song are: I gotta slow down…stop for a second, take a look around.

slow down…

s l o w d o w n…

s  l  o  w  d  o  w  n

I’ve been living in a state of semi-panic and high anxiety for about 4 months now. October 20, 2016 forever changed my life. I mean, this day and all that it held ROCKED my world to its core. Those details are for another day, perhaps…

Do you know what happens physically, when you are under a lot of stress and anxiety? You lose hair, by the handfuls. It takes allllll of your brain power to do simple tasks. You can’t enjoy living ‘in the moment,’ because you are perpetually concerned for what the future holds.

Yes, I understand, as a Christ-follower, worry is a form of disbelief. You can’t have worry and faith in the same breath. I get it.

In this song, she also says “I gotta take time to hear that little voice inside, saying I came to give you life. So spread your wings and fly.”

See, this stress and anxiety and semi-panic are not the life that God imagined for me…or for my children. Because let’s be honest, they are also deeply affected by the events of October 20.

In John 10:10, we find the words of Jesus, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The next lyrics hold the key to my ability to change my mental focus and energy.

“I’ve got a secret to share. You are enough to change the atmosphere.”

This is it. This is the reminder I needed.

I am enough to change the atmosphere…

…in my home

…in my classroom

…in my circle of influence

…in my personal space

I am enough to change…

…myself

…my outlook

…my perspective

…how my kids see me

I am enough.

I. Am. Enough.

I am enough, just as I am.

A dear friend sent me a message yesterday that said, “You are significant with or without a significant other.”

This is me, preaching to myself.

Make it an AWESOME day, folks!

Spread your smile.

Spread your sunshine.

Spread kindness.

His Word, Kids/Parenting

5 Fun Ways to Spend A Weekend

If you had told me when I was in my 20’s that I was going to spend my Friday nights in bed before 9:00, waking early on Saturdays and Sundays, I would have told you that you had lost your mind.

But it’s true. Here are five ways I spent my weekend which were the most fun I have had…well, since the weekend before.

1–I knew our weekend was going to be crazy busy, so I wanted to sit down and enjoy a meal with my two favorite people. BUT, I didn’t want to cook, busy mama’s you feel me, right? So, we went to one of Elijah’s new favorite places — Cheddar’s. He LOVES the chicken breast on their kids menu. I’ve tasted it before, it IS pretty phenomenal. Emma ordered…wait for it…MAC & CHEESE! I know, I know, this really surprises some of you. All too often, when we are rushing from one activity or another, we don’t get the time to sit and just enjoy one another’s presence. This was a huge gift to me. (And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. Acts 2:46)

2–When we got home Friday night, after our early dinner (seriously, we were done before 5…we were out with the ‘Early Birds’!!), Emma wanted to watch some Netflix and relax. So, she did just that. She sat with her headphones on and the iPad in front of her, and watched 4-5 episodes of one her favorite shows, Liv & Maddie. While she was doing that, I assumed Elijah would want to watch Netflix too. Or play a video game. Or build his Legos. Instead, he comes to me and says to me, in the sweetest voice, “Momma Jo, I wanna play a game with JUST you and me.” So I let him pick out the game and we played. Then we finished and I thought his ‘love bank’ would be full and that he would be ready to do something on his own. (And that I might be able to read.) But, in his super sweet voice he says that he wants to play ANOTHER game. So I again let him choose what game he wanted to play. He chose Pictionary.

Now, I will be the FIRST to tell you that I do NOT have an artistic bone in my body. That gene went to Emma. No matter. If my son wants to play Pictionary, then Pictionary it will be! We had so many wonderful laughs during this time. This time with him was quality bonding at it’s best. During our game, I asked him what his favorite part of his day was. This is something we do often; discuss ‘highs and lows.’ He looked at me and said, “Probably right now, Momma.” I stopped what I was doing and looked at him and said, “Really?”. And he confirmed that right there, at that time, spending time with him, loving on him, filling his love bank, connecting with him…that was the best part of his day. And my heart grew three sizes! (Behold, children are a heritage from the Lordthe fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3)

3 & 4–The third and fourth ways I had tons of fun this weekend was shuttling my kiddos to and from their Saturday activities. As I’m typing this, Emma is participating in her first ever Science Olympiad regional meet. I had to have her on Purdue’s campus at 7:00 in the morning. WOWZA! That wasn’t too early for me, but I had to get the kiddos up about an hour earlier than normal. This would normally be too much for both of them, but it turned out to be pretty exciting.

Emma 0.5 is all ready for her first event!

While they waited for their events, most of the kids had fun playing UNO to pass the time.

Wainwright Middle School 2017 Science Olympiad Team

Before Emma’s first event, I had to leave to take Elijah to his Impact basketball game. This boy loves to play ball — baseball, basketball, football — it doesn’t matter! He loves them all! I’ve told him so many times before, I love to watch him play. I love to see the concentration on his face. I love to see him be respectful of, and be obedient to, other adults. I love to see the sheer joy on his face when he makes a great play. He is so passionate about sports. As long as he’s passionate, I’ll support and encourage him.

Elijah dribbling down the court as point guard

Unfortunately, his team didn’t win. But he had fun, nonetheless.

After his game, I made my way back to campus to Emma’s SO meet. She was just finishing up her first event. We got to sit and eat lunch while she told me all about her event. Then we waited and played cards and talked while the other students finished up their events. The awards ceremony started late because they ran late with an event. So, it was pretty late by the time we got home. My girl was so disappointed because she didn’t win a medal. She takes things like that pretty hard. She is my mini-me, for sure!

When we got home, I pulled out some essential oils to help relax her muscles, I made her some hot tea, and just pampered her. It was a long day, for sure! I was so grateful for the time with her.

5–Sunday, it was just me and my girl. We did a lot of ‘girl’ things. We browsed for a piece of furniture at a couple of local antique shops. We ate lunch and enjoyed our surroundings. We book browsed and bought at Barnes & Noble. We watched a movie. We did laundry together. We did the grocery shopping for a week.

I have to say that I’ve read the words of mothers who came before me, saying the pre-teen/teen years are the best because the kids are just so eager to please. It’s true. Both of my kids are such fantastic people and I truly enjoy their company. This was another awesome weekend in the books!

What do you do for fun on your weekends? I know we don’t all share the same interests…so tell me what you enjoy!

His Word, Kids/Parenting

God’s Timing

I’m sitting by my toasty fireplace, unwinding from the day.  It’s relaxing and peaceful to hear the flames flicker and watch them dance around (even if they are gas…). I would like to share with you some things I’ve learned today about God’s timing…

See, His timing is perfect. HIS timing…not mine…not yours…not your uncle’s sister’s daughter’s dad’s. Only God’s timing is perfect.

I started my day with plenty on my ‘To-Do’ list. I had to drop off my son, drop off my daughter, get to the grocery store, meet a guy from the fireplace company at my house, and I really , REALLY wanted to get my Christmas tree down.

Things took a slight turn when I ended up on the phone with my cousin. She is genuine salt-of-the-earth people. She knows I’ve been going through a really tough time lately. I mean, the past 2 1/2 months have been stressful in and of themselves with some circumstances…then you throw the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the mix and WOAH!! I’m feeling like a rest and reprieve are in order.

Any who…we chatted for 1 hour and 27 minutes. (I just checked my phone log.) During that entire 1 hour and 27 minute phone conversation, there was no radio silence…NONE. She is the kinda gal that I can go months without talking to and then pick up like no time has passed. So, I was running slightly behind my ‘scheduled departure time’ because of the amazing conversation.

I was concerned I would be late for my first appointment. Turns out, I was just 2 minutes early! Score! From there, Emma and I had to make 3 quick stops. One of them was to our house to get a few things for her appointment.

As I was traveling, I let my mind wander. I tend to do that. I was inwardly yelling at myself, thinking, ‘if you had just taken an extra 5 minutes before you left the house the first time, you wouldn’t have to go back again. you’re so irresponsible. why can’t you just get. it. together?!?!’

What? Doesn’t everyone mentally berate themselves from time-to-time? I do; more often than I should.

So, we made our three stops and I dropped her off. It was 11:45. I had exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes to make it to the grocery store and then back home by 1:00 to meet the fireplace people. I thought to myself, I can DO this!

I get to the grocery store, Aldi’s – where I do most of my shopping, and of course it’s PACKED! Go figure, right?

In case you don’t have an Aldi’s near you or you’ve never been, let me explain a few things for you about how they operate.

First, you pay a quarter to ‘rent’ the cart. You go to the little cart corral, put your quarter in, and voila! You have a cart! You get the quarter back once you have loaded your groceries in your vehicle and return the cart. It prevents them from having to pay for cart boys, thereby saving YOU, the consumer, money!

Second, the store has a clear outline of how you are to proceed through the store. Once you start, you’re really bucking the entire system if you have to go back to any prior rows for anything. Because then you are going against the grain.

Third, the cashiers are ON POINT! They can really move those items across the scanner. The other thing that helps this is that there are multiple UPC bars on every item. That way, it doesn’t have to be only one place that your item can be scanned. (As a side note, I really wish EVERY product manufacturer would use this method. Anyone else stand at the self-checkout wanting to SCREAM because it just. won’t. scan. your. item? No? I’m the only one? Ok….) So, they quickly scan and put your items in your cart.

Fourth, from there, you take your items to a place on their 80′ counter and bag them yourself. Again, this helps keep costs down, because they’re not paying someone to bag their groceries. Also, lest I forget, you have to bring your OWN bags to Aldi’s. ‘Cause they don’t provide them for free. You can buy them, of course. But it works better if you simply plan ahead and bring them. (Another side note, I’m not always the best at this, so I do have some Aldi paper grocery sacks which are a whopping 6 cents.)

Ok, now that I have it set up for you…

I’m in the grocery store, which is crammed with people. I get what I need and head to the checkouts. Behind me in line, there is one lady who doesn’t have many items. I don’t pay much attention to those in line behind her, until after I begin bagging my groceries.

Normally when I bag my groceries, I go to the counter way down by the doors. They’re usually less crowded because the cash registers aren’t feeding into their area. Today; however, I chose to go to the counter directly across from the register where I checked out.

While I’m loading my bags into my cart, I hear a woman in line behind a man and his two sons who are standing at the checkout, waiting to pay. She apologizes to the cashier because the older son of the man’s, who is around 12-13, had gone to get her a head of lettuce. He had the form of payment and wasn’t back by the time they were ready to pay and leave, which was holding up progress. And one thing those Aldi’s cashiers really dislike is someone holding up progress.

I happen to look over just as the older boy is coming back with a head of lettuce for the nice lady in line behind he and his dad and brother. He comes to the cashier and I hear his dad say, ‘How much is on there?’ I realize they are paying with an EBT (food stamp) card. I glance up and their total is $12 and change. I look in their cart and they have a pound of bacon, a gallon of milk, three boxes of cereal and a 12 pack of orange soda.

The boy scans the card, and there is $9.98 remaining. I begin to walk away.

I hear the cashier say, “Ok, what do you want to put back?”

At which point, God told me to go back and pay the difference so they could have their groceries.

I walked back and I told the cashier, as quietly as I could, that I would cover the difference.

The difference was $2 and some change.

The man and his two sons each thanked me, at least once. I acknowledged their thanks and told them they were welcome, and that I wanted them to bless someone else.

Here is my point in all of this. I don’t share this with you for any accolades whatsoever. I simply share this with you because if at any point in my morning, there was a minute added or shaved off of my ‘schedule,’ I would not have been at that God-appointed location at the God-appointed time to be the hands and feet of Jesus and share my meager $2 with this man and his sons.

So many times, I think we get caught up in doing something BIG for God…or doing something really worthwhile for His kingdom. When every single thing we do for God to be there for someone else IS big and worthwhile to Him.

For the amount of money I would have spent on a soda or two, I was able to help these folks get the groceries they came for.

Friends, it’s not about how BIG of a thing we do for God. It’s simply about being available to Him and following His prompting.

I could have easily walked away from this situation; I was already half-way to the door. But God. But God nudged my heart to give. But God reminded me what it was like to be on food stamps and have to budget so tightly to make it work every month. But God reminded me that He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. But God…

That God of mine is really something. I hope you know Him too.

His Word, Kids/Parenting

Traveling in Life

Recently, I traveled to French Lick, Indiana with some of my loved ones. When mapping out our journey, I found there were 3 routes to choose from. One was a direct route which was shorter in distance, but longer in time. One was a little bit out of the way with longer distance but shorter time. Then there was one in between – medium time and medium distance.

I chose the shorter, more direct route in distance, but longer in time.

This route took us across the winding countryside – through twists and turns, up hills and down hills, and into valleys. We were able to see the gorgeous fall foliage and scenery.

We saw quite a few horse ranches and just as many single-wide trailers. We saw an expansive open pasture with cows grazing lazily.

More than once, Elijah thought we were lost. Despite having failed me before, I had confidence in my GPS and navigation system.

Our destination was a resort-style water park. It wasn’t even visible from the road. It was perched high upon a hill and surrounded by trees and a long, steep, windy driveway. Once it was within our sight, the kiddos got super excited!

When we got to the water park, we discovered there were 2 tube slides and 2 body slides.

Now, I have no problem doing the tube slides – but the body slides are not my favorite. The kiddos did the body slides and tried to take me into the body slide. Eventually, their pleadings got the better of me and I momentarily abandoned my senses. I agreed to go down what I thought was the lesser of two evils, the yellow slide.

I have no idea what the blue slide is like, but I know the kids really enjoyed it. From experience, I will say the yellow slide was enough for me!

Its zips and zags and twists and turns and the rapid descent with the water in my face was enough for me to be assured that I would NOT be trying the blue slide.

As I was rapidly descending, I began to wish I could go backwards – back up to the top – to change my mind. That got me pondering some paths I’ve gone down in life. Many times, I would begin to travel one way or another and I would wish I hadn’t taken this path. But I couldn’t go back, because I couldn’t follow the path back to the beginning perfectly. I wouldn’t have made it to the same place I started.

The only thing I could do in the slide, as in life many times, is to hold on tightly, close my eyes during the really scary parts, and pray for God’s hand of protection over me.

Book Reviews, His Word, Link-Ups

Book Review – Disillusioned

Ok folks…summer took a serious toll on this gal. Kids…everywhere. Productivity…nowhere!

I have so many books that I was given copies of, in return for an honest review here in my space on the interwebs…and I’m sooooo far behind!

But, I have to tell you, the most recent book I read, Disillusioned by Christy Barritt was seriously amazing! I haven’t had the opportunity to read such an engaging thriller in a long time.

Disillusioned

The brief summary is that the main character, Nikki, has a brother that escaped from a detainment camp in Columbia. Since he escaped, he hasn’t been the same. What’s more is that it appears that he is being framed for acts of terrorism.

From the moment I turned the first page, Christy had me hooked. This was the first book of her’s that I read. Needless to say, I’ll be finding more.

The author’s writing style is easy to follow and with the way she ends chapters, you can’t help but start a new one immediately. Bookmarks? Those are for quitters.

Through every twist and plot turn, you find yourself rooting for Nikki, her brother Bobby, and their friend, Kade, who is helping them uncover the layers of deceit.

This book also has an underlying element of faith. When the story begins, we find Nikki disillusioned with her faith and religion overall. As the story unfolds, we gain a better understanding of why Nikki questions and second-guesses her belief in God and His overall goodness.

If you enjoy reading a good, clean suspense thriller, with a faith factor added in, then this book is definitely for you!