His Word, Kids/Parenting, Link-Ups, Soul Relationships

What’s Your Season?

 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

season-453x300

Ahhhh, spring.

I love this time of year. The weather begins to get a little warmer, the flowers begin to pop up from their winter slumber, and new life is forming

Have you ever had a particularly rough season in your life? Like the seasons of the weather, seasons in our lives come and go. And most of the time, we are able to learn a lesson or two.

We know that there is a purpose for every season of life, season of the weather, season of marriage, season of parenthood. Each season has its own intent.

My husband and I love the fall. We love the changing colors, the cooler weather and, of course, football! We love the fall so much, in fact, that we chose to get married in the fall. We made the decision to have a small outdoor wedding with only our parents, our children, our siblings and their children.

The rainbow of colors on the trees, the green grass, and the brown fields served as the backdrop for our intimate ceremony.

Our fall nuptials led us right into the holidays and the winter season. I love the winter season, for different reasons. Sometimes, I feel like I should have been born a bear. I love the cold weather for hibernating. I love the smell of hot chocolate and the feel of the brisk air on my cheeks.

The winter was a tough one for us. We faced some challenging circumstances with one of his older daughters. I had a battle with my son’s father looming in the not so distant future.

And then there’s the fact that I wasn’t working. Which was a blessing in itself; however, from the time I was able to work at age 16, I’ve always had a job. I had tied my worth to my monetary contribution to the house, therefore, I was feeling pretty insecure.

Through each season change, I’ve seen God’s faithfulness demonstrated. I feel Him bring the chill of the colder weather so we can all experience a season of rest. I see the new life that is coming around the corner with the spring.

I know that each season God has me in serves a purpose. I know that the grey winter, filled with challenges, sets me up for His blessings of the spring.

But the spring is all the evidence I need that God hasn’t given up on His creation yet. This is the season of beginnings, fresh life, and new experiences.

For me, this spring is helping me to lean into God’s light. I am ready to leave behind the darkness and struggles of winter and look to the promises of spring.

I am ready for a season where my husband and I grow together, toward Christ, rather than apart. I’m looking forward to the longer days, filled with more light. Days spent outside with our children, forming new bonds based on shared experiences.

This will be my first summer as a mom without a full-time job. This summer will be a season filled with many firsts. The long summer days that bleed into the warm summer nights will afford my family opportunities to create new memories.

Memories of seasons with life-lessons and love set to the tune of the cicadas in the trees and the smell of burgers on the grill and s’mores over an open fire.

Recently, a dear friend explained seasons of life and God’s priorities to me in this way: an idea, action or priority can’t be judged by one season our your lives. The essence of who we are can only be measured at the end when all the seasons are up.

If we give up when it’s winter, we will miss the promise of our spring, the beauty of our summer, and the fulfillment of our fall. We can’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy and pleasure of the remaining seasons. We can’t judge life by one strenuous success or formidable failure.

We must always persevere through the difficult times and know that pleasant times are coming. Leave the rest to our Creator and He will show us our priorities if we seek Him through His word and prayers.

His Word, Kids/Parenting, Soul Relationships

Hard Lessons Learned

Happy Wednesday dear friends.

After driving for 22 years (you can do the math on my age), I can proudly say that I’ve never locked my keys in my car.

Until this morning.

I went into the kids’ school to talk party stuff. Tomorrow is the big Valentine’s Day class party. I chatted with a few other teachers and was headed out the door.

Until I heard my daughter crying out to me from the front door of the school. I was *almost* to my van. She informed me that she needed money for the book fair today.

So, I did what every good parent does. I grumbled under my breath the rest of the way to my van, got my wallet, and grumbled the whole way into the school. Once there, I discovered that I had a five-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill. No way this could be split equitably between two kids.

I stopped in the office, knowing they must be tired of seeing me already this morning, to ask if they had change. No such luck. My next stop was the book fair. I mean, after all, wasn’t the blasted book fair the whole reason I had to make a second trip into the school this morning? The least it could do for me is give me change for a ten-dollar bill, so I could split it evenly.

The volunteer working the book fair so kindly gave me 2 five-dollar bills and as I was leaving, two mothers from my daughter’s class asked what they could send in for the party tomorrow. Being so grateful for their donations, I shared with them what we still needed and continued on my way.

I made what I thought was my final stop in the school office, so they could deliver money to my children for the book fair. YAY!

As I’m just getting ready to walk out the door, I realize I don’t have my keys. Trying to play it cool to the ladies in the office, I’m all like, ‘oh gosh, I’m sure they’re in the van.’

I leave the office and walk out to my van. The walk, which normally takes 2 minutes tops, felt like an eternity. I was thinking to myself the whole way that I NEVER leave my keys in my van. Nor do I ever leave my van unlocked.

You’re a smart bunch of people, you’re my friends, after all. You know where this is going, right?

I get to my van, look in the window, and see that sure enough, my keys are in the van. In a split second, I look down and notice that the door is locked.

mistake

AWESOMESAUCE! I’m so loving my luck right now! I only had about a gazillion things on my mind for what I needed to accomplish the rest of this week.

See, my husband and I have been having some *ahem* difficulties with one of our children. I will NOT name names, but suffice to say, said child has had a little bit of an attitude lately. So, I’ve been thinking about ways we could improve things with said child.

We also have a legal situation with another child that is looming over us. I know that God already has that situation worked out for His glory, but hey, I’m human, right? And I can freak out and worry and stress with the best of them.

Also on my ‘list of worries’ is previously mentioned Valentine’s Day class party that I promised and swore to myself that I wouldn’t wait until the last. minute. to plan…but, well you know how that turned out.

Then of course, are everyone’s every day worries and concerns.

Money.

Relationships.

Faith.

Weight. (I’m a woman, remember?)

Lifestyle.

All of these concerns and issues came together in a perfect storm to cause me to lock my keys (and my phone) in my van today.

When I realized what I had done, I called my husband from the school. I knew the odds of him answering the phone call were slim, for two reasons. First, it was an unrecognized number. Second, he was at work and I rarely catch him the first time I try to call. Typically, he sees my call and calls me back. I had to get my daughter’s iPod from her class to text him and ask him to answer my call.

He called a local tow company and they said they would be out as soon as they can. Y’all know what that means…

After waiting for over two hours, and many more trips to the office (I’m CERTAIN the lovely ladies in the office were really ready for me to go), they finally showed up to unlock my van. During this two hours, I endured multiple well-meaning individuals sharing with me how I might be able to avoid this fate in the future.

Also while waiting, not so patiently, for my rescuer to come, I did some thinking. I thought about how, when we are in the waiting rooms of life, we typically don’t wait patiently. Most of the time, we are trying to figure out how we can get out of our current situation as soon as possible, with the least amount of pain.

As I was waiting, it occurred to me that God might just want us to chill for a while…or two hours…

We might need to learn something in that waiting room.

Perhaps He is keeping us from something worse.

Perhaps He is keeping us from something better, simply because we’re not ready.

Perhaps He has us there because we are going to encounter someone else in that same waiting room and we can positively impact their life. Or vice versa. Maybe we need someone to be a positive influence in our life.

My point here is that, if I had my books or my laptop (or even my phone) with me when I locked myself out of my van, it wouldn’t have accomplished the same mission.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with reading or, in my case, writing, to pass the time, it would have distracted me from the lesson God wanted me to learn. The hard lesson learned.

That patience is a virtue. And one that doesn’t come easily or without cost. (To the tune of $68, as a matter of fact.)

One further point I would like to make is from a book I recently started reading called Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson. The subtitle to her book is ‘Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Joy.’ You can assume that this book was written to help free us from saying YES to everything that comes our way. Instead, we should select only those activities that He has called us to.

In her introduction, she says this, “Life is a gift. Time is a treasured commodity. When we open our hands and give what we have to Jesus–be it our moments, our gifts, our time, or simply room and space for Him to show up–we find life to be a sacred journey.”

This spoke volumes to me. When was the last time you had whitespace in your schedule? Whether it was for a lesson learned the hard way or whether it was to sit with your grandmother helping her figure out her phone–without having to rush to the next thing?

Either way, we all need to determine what our sacred YES is, so that we can truly be open to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Link-Ups, Series, Soul Relationships

Focus

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve participated in the five minute friday community. But when I saw the word for today is ‘focus,’ I knew I had to share a few words with you all.

The premise for five minute friday is that you are given one word and you write for five minutes solid. No stopping…no correcting grammar. You can learn more here at Kate Motaung’s blog.

Merriam-Webster defines focus as: the subject on which people’s attention is focused; a main purpose or interest.

Focus is my word for 2016. I am going to focus more on what matters. I’m going to make my focus the intangibles of life.

Focus

As I sit here in Starbucks, I’m finding it difficult to focus on this post. It’s loud. No more are the days when you can sit in the coffee shop and have some elevator music playing softly in the background. Nope…now it’s loud…and distracting…and not relaxing in the least.

Aside from the music, it is FREEZING in here. I can’t even begin to relate to you just how cold it is. My fingers are having difficulty typing. Because my hair is pulled back today, my neck continually feels the breeze, coming from where, I’m not exactly sure. And I’m trying to get my hood to stay up, but it won’t.

It’s distractions like this that the enemy uses to derail our focus…our thinking…our attention. He wants to get us thinking about something other than God’s Word or His plan for our lives. The enemy wants to make us ‘busy.’ Because if he can make us busy, he can get us sidetracked in our goals and dreams.

See, that’s where I’m trying to focus more this year. How can I be a better steward of what God has given me? How can I focus more on what He wants from me and for me?

And a shiver just went through my bones. As I’m trying to get my thoughts in line. As I’m trying to decide the right words to say to you to help you find your focus.

Do you want to get in better shape?

Do you want to read more?

Do you want to earn more money?

Do you want to have more quality time with your family?

Then ask yourself this: is what I’m doing RIGHT NOW going to bring my desire into focus or will it cause it to be blurry? Will it cloud my vision? Or is it in line with my mission?

 

Kids/Parenting, Soul Relationships

Dreams

It’s 11:11 on a Wednesday morning. I’m sitting at my computer, trying to find inspiration or at least a few mediocre words to share that might somehow encourage you all.

Many of you know that last October, I had three huge life changing events.

  • I got married.
  • I moved (in with my husband)
  • I quit my job

Now, any one of these things would be enough to put someone in the loony bin, but I’m not one to do things {ahem} small. My philosophy? Go big or go home. So, I went big.

The last time something huge happened in my life was March – June of 2012.

  • I bought a house
  • I finished school for my MBA
  • I changed jobs

Suffice to say, I do big things in threes.

In the fall of 2012, I started a blog. It’s been quite a journey, to say the least. What I have discovered, though, is that I have to discipline myself to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love to get my thoughts and words on paper {or your computer screen}, but sometimes I just don’t feel it and have to do it anyway. From what I’m hearing, that’s how all of the greats do it.

I know, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this post – the title is ‘Dreams,’ after all. I’m getting there.

For those of you who don’t know my husband, let me say you are missing out. He is kind and generous and giving and honest and trustworthy and genuine and compassionate. And he’s also my biggest encourager.

See, I shared with him a few months back my dream of becoming a writer. I know, I know…anyone can be a writer, all you have to do is write the words. But it’s bigger than that for me. I feel that God has given me a story to share. A story that can help and benefit others. A story that matters. And I want to share it. With you all.

I should have kept this little gem of a secret to myself. Because wouldn’t you know it, he told me I could quit my job and pursue my dreams. Whoa…wait just one stinking second…you’re going to let me…pursue my dream of writing? But wait…writers {most, anyway}, don’t get paid. How will I contribute to our household? How will I measure my worth? How will I determine if I’m successful?

These are all good questions. However, the more I travel and the more I read and learn about other writers who have paved the path before me, the more I’m learning that these are questions that are mostly based on where we live. In the U.S. In a society that only sees value and worth in money, possessions, and tangible stuff.

As a society, we don’t value the intangible things like creativity. We value houses and cars.

As a society, we don’t value relationships like being someone’s wife and mother. We value what you can bring to the workplace.

Dream Big

My dreams…my dream is that I will make a difference in the lives of my children and in those around me. My dream is that I can spread hope and love in places where you wouldn’t think to find it. My dream is that someone’s life will be better, improved, because of me and my role in their life.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to write. I’m going to have the discipline necessary to write 1,000 words a day…even if I’m not feeling it.

I’m going to put in the extra work to improve my craft. I’m going to read and learn from others who have been there. I’m going to take a step of faith and put myself out there to dream and to push others to dream.

Because what would life look like without dreams?

His Word, Kids/Parenting, Soul Relationships

Thoughts on Pride

I have to be transparent here, folks. I’m struggling with my pride…

Merriam-Webster defines ‘pride‘ as: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people, a feeling that you are more important or better than other people.

It pains me to say this to you. It is uncomfortable to give voice to these feelings – because if I put them out there, if I share them with you, then it makes them real…it means that I really AM self-centered or self-involved.

And that’s the LAST thing I want to be, or that I should be, as a Christian.

I’m struggling with an inflated ego…I’m struggling with feeling like my husband, my kids, my friends, should all get on board with ‘Team Michelle.’

My husband, the wonderful man that he is, continues to tell me that I should ‘do something for myself.’ Yes, I agree that I shouldn’t be dead last when it comes to who I have been given to care for. At the same time, I feel like a self-involved, first-world-problems-focused, kinda gal. And that’s not me, at my core.

I recently read “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. This is basically his story and a collection of his friends’ stories on Christianity and religion and other life matters – money, love, etc. In it, he realizes that he struggles with intimacy because he is an introvert and enjoys his own company. He recognizes that he is not the being that others orbit around. The world doesn’t revolve around him. He has a plan for his life and how his days should go, and he gets annoyed with others don’t play their part in his script. He takes everything personally.

Up until about 3 months ago, I worked full-time. I was in a very customer-service oriented position. People were emailing me, calling me, and appearing in my office door all the live-long day. Everyone needed something. I used to get so agitated. I would think, ‘If these people would only leave me alone, I could get some work done.’

I realize now, that their needs WERE my work.

Now that I’m a full-time stay at home mom (for all intents and purposes because I only work about 10 hours a week), I’m realizing that those little people, my husband, those in my sphere of influence – their needs are my work.

Whatever I can do to make their lives smoother…that is my ‘job.’ And it’s certainly a full-time one, at that.

We were not made to do life alone. We were made to be in relationship with others…to go through life with our tribe by our side.

My outlook needs to change. The landscape in my life and in the lives of those around me is changing.

I’ve never been one to welcome an interruption, particularly when I’m eyeball deep in thought or task. However, I can learn from Jesus the proper response to interruptions.

In Matthew 14, we learn that John the Baptist was beheaded. When Jesus learns of this news, ‘he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.’

Jesus wanted to get away.

He left. On a boat. To a remote area. To be alone.

All of these phrases indicate that he didn’t want to be bothered.

And yet, we read in the next verse, ‘Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.’

Jesus saw.

He had compassion on them.

And healed their sick.

You know what’s coming next, right? This is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. He just learned that the head of his BFF was delivered on a silver platter to a snotty little girl who wanted it as a birthday wish. Seriously?

This news was delivered to Him and He wanted to mourn. Alone. On a boat.

But He saw the people and He knew His mourning would have to wait. His needs would take a back-seat to those He had compassion on.

This is the example I am to follow.

Will I succeed every time? No.

Will I screw it up royally on occasion? You betcha.

Will I have to apologize and ask for forgiveness from those closest to me? Absolutely.

Will my family and friends remember that I gave them my very best? Yes and no.

Will I feel better knowing that I poured myself and my life into my loved ones? Without a doubt.