Don’t eat the yellow snow…

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has accumulated even the smallest dusting of snow, you’ve had a parent or friend jokingly (or quite seriously) say “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Having three boys and a dog myself, I know I’ve uttered these words more than my fair share even though we live in the balmy southeastern state of North Carolina.

Take recently, for instance. Not only did we experience snow while visiting our Michigan family for Christmas, but then we returned home to the biggest snow our hometown had experienced in quite some time. The boys were ecstatic, playing in it until they had their fill. And every time I looked out the window, I saw my 9-year-old son scooping up a hand full of snow and feasting on it like it was manna from heaven. In fact, I seem to remember that’s exactly what he called it. “Manna from heaven.” (He has a flare for dramatics.)

And every time, I would pop my head out the door and say, “Make sure you don’t eat the yellow snow!” Because let’s face it…between three boys and a dog, the chances of hitting a yellow patch are high.

It reminded me of a time when I was about his age, growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border where snow did not come in short supply. And much like him, I liked to eat snow. I think most kids do. In fact, I would take snow, put it in ziploc bags, and stick it in the freezer to snack on later. I don’t know where I thought that snow on the ground was going, but I guess I wanted to make sure I had plenty stocked up in case we had a warm spell.

When one day randomly, my dad called me to the freezer and pointed to my stash. Inside a couple of the bags nestled in the back of the freezer, we could clearly see a faint tinge of yellow staining the frozen snow.

“Have you been eating these? he asked, mildly amused.

I stood there in shock, trying to figure out how I could have possibly missed the yellow snow I had scooped into these bags. I thought I had been so careful, but maybe my mind wandered as it was prone to do. Then I began to wonder if I had somehow eaten some of that snow!

Wouldn’t I have tasted the difference?

What if I didn’t?

What if I had been eating yellow snow all along and didn’t realize it?

Whyyyy hadn’t I paid attention better?!?

And on and on it went until finally I noticed that my dad was more than amused and outright laughing. Come to find out, he had squirted lemon juice in the bags to play a trick on me. And well…obviously, it worked.

But that memory made me think.

There are many things in our everyday life that we love. People, places, activities, things. And like snow and eating snow, they are mostly good. But instead of blindly eating all of the snow, it is important that we pick up the snow, check it over, and then eat carefully making sure it doesn’t look or taste like something we shouldn’t be eating.

I could give many examples of each, but the one that currently stands out in my mind the most, and has given me pause, is people. To be honest, the past year has been extremely disheartening for me. There have been several leaders I have held in high regard, both Christian and political, who have said things and taken stands with which I strongly disagree. Initially, they rocked my world and made me question how I could have missed the “yellow snow” when I began to support their ministry or leadership.

Our knee-jerk reaction is typically to stop. Stop eating the snow. Stop making the snow cream. [Stop listening to what that person has to say.] Just simply stop.

However, just because we run into some yellow snow, does that mean all of the snow up until this point has been yellow? [Has everything that person said been garbage? Has everything I believed in been wrong? Is everything they say going forward heresy?] Human nature makes us think it has and is. Human nature makes us question whether we’ve been eating yellow snow all along but didn’t know it. Human nature makes us want to boycott snow completely!!

But the truth is that no beautiful field of freshly fallen snow will remain spotless, just like no human being will ever be perfect. No matter who we hold in high regard, we must always carefully sift through their words and actions and make sure they line up with the Word of God. Nobody is exempt from this. Nobody is so infallible that we can blindly follow without caution. The only authority in which we can confidently trust is the inerrant Word of God.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs‬ ‭30:5-6‬ ‭

So yes, this past year has been disappointing in many ways. And yes, I’ve questioned my own judgement as a result. But what I’ve come to realize is that maybe I haven’t been eating “yellow snow” all along. And maybe the things I learned from those people weren’t all garbage but actually good and helpful. The fact that I recognized the detour from the truth is important.

It is their responsibility as leaders to speak truth that lines up with God’s Word…and it is my responsibility as a Christian to feast with my eyes wide open so that I don’t swallow something that isn’t truth.

And at the end of the day, God is still on the throne.

Once I made that distinction, I realized I have more control over how these revelations affect me. It is still disappointing when respected people make mistakes. Nobody likes to see a leader stumble. But at least now I can see the “yellow snow” for what it is, toss it to the side, and keep on moving.

The devil would love nothing more than to ruin an effective person’s influence; and we can’t keep them from making mistakes. However, we can somewhat thwart his efforts by protecting ourselves from stumbling with them.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬

So please…guard your heart, proceed with caution…and don’t eat the yellow snow.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

Mornings Are Hard. Parenting Is Harder.

Have you ever had one of those mornings that grabbed a hold of the song in your heart and every good intention, crammed it down the toilet, threw in a few unmentionables, and flushed…repeatedly…?

Asking for a friend.

No? ok then….

Well, mornings around our house are typically borderline mayhem. People shouting, clothes flying, dog barking…the works. If you happen to be walking past our house, just keep on truckin because there is nothin’ to see here!

Every school year, we vow to be better; and every year, the first week is all cupcakes and daisies then it’s straight downhill from there. And although I consistently try to do everything I can the night before to make things more manageable, it always seems to be next level. It’s a wonder we make it to school on time.

But every now and then, mayhem isn’t good enough.

No…no, we are overachievers and have to amp it up a notch.

Or ten. And by the time we leave for school, the dog is hiding under the bed, somebody is crying (or somebodies), and we’ve made fourteen trips back into the house for things forgotten.

Bless.

Unfortunately, this morning happened to be one of those. The really bad ones. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone down that road; and frankly, I thought we were past it. So this one blind-sided me. Threw me for a loop. Drop-kicked my fresh devotions and prayer time right out the window, and I spent the rest of the day trying to climb out of the funk it created.

It all started with an outfit.

Yes, an outfit. Yes, I have boys. Are we sufficiently confused yet? (some of you may remember the last time I wrote about this involved an outfit as well. When Mornings Suck.)

Jesus take the wheel.

But this wasn’t about just any outfit. It’s Spirit Week at school, and I have to say that I like Spirit Week even less as a mom than I did as a teacher. We spend the whole weekend before trying to plan out the attire for each day, and then I try not to spend a million dollars in the process. Hard to do when you have little ones with big ideas, but somehow we managed.

So my 9-year-old had his outfit all set out the night before, ready to go, and he was pumped.

And although he usually struggles with mornings and tends to be a grouch, I was hoping the excitement of Spirit Week would inspire him to be more pleasant. A girl can dream.

BUT…

Nope. Wrong. Not even close.

In fact, it was so bad that I think it wins for the all-time worst. And that’s quite an accomplishment for us.

Mr. Sunshine finally woke up after numerous attempts, copped an attitude because how dare we wake him….and suddenly the outfit wasn’t good enough, he didn’t want to wear it, and threw a fit.

And what did I do?

Of course, I calmly reminded him that….psh…yeah, right.

No, I lost it. For real. Even broke a hair brush on the bathroom floor. You can judge me now, because I deserve it. 

Back and forth we went, a battle of wills, until I finally told him to go change into normal clothes, because I was not going to drop him off at school in tears. (We moms have an image to uphold, you know.)

So here’s the thing. Was he wrong? Yes. Absolutely. And he lost some privileges and earned an earlier bedtime as a result. Something I should have done a long time ago.

But I was wrong too. Not only for losing my temper but for letting this morning routine go on for as long as I have.

What you allow will continue.

Rather than nip it in the bud, I have just dealt with it and picked up his slack all in an effort to get out the door and to school on time. Then by the time we return home, I am too tired to rehash the wreckage that was better off left behind. But that’s not fair to anyone, including him.

So why do I do it? 

Because consistency and enforcement is hard work. But if you think about it, so is this. We do no favors by being inconsistent. In fact, we create more work for ourselves in the long run and ultimately produce children who cannot face real life.

Contrary to what we may feel at times, children crave boundaries and consistency. There have to be consequences for their actions, even if it inconveniences us at the time. This creates a secure environment in which they know what to expect.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we already know this deep down inside.

Hey, tired & stressed out mama. I see you. I hear you. I AM you.

Being a parent is hard. There is no greater challenge and no greater blessing than being a mom.

We are going to mess up. A lot.

We are going to yell, and cry, and sometimes break hairbrushes.

We are going to ask forgiveness…from our children and from God. Many times over.

But we are going to be blessed for our faithfulness. 

We are going to be rewarded for our consistency.

We are going to be loved by our children in spite of it all.

So hang in there. Don’t give up. Keep being consistent. Don’t be their “friend.” Know when to give tough love and when to extend grace. Surround yourself with mamas both in your season and in the season ahead of you. Learn, read, ask questions, PRAY. Be willing to admit when you get it wrong and celebrate when you get it right.

We are all in this thing together, my friends. So just keep swimming.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

Monday: Before healthy boundaries. (The outfit that launched a thousand tears.)

Wednesday: After healthy boundaries.

Now to keep it going. 

We can do this.

 ________________________


 

Living An Extra’ordinary’ Life

When Satan convinces we are not enough, God reminds us that we are.

I would love to say that I’ve been on a writing hiatus because life is so incredibly busy and leave it at that…because it is. So that would be true. But it’s not the complete truth.

The truth is that life is incredibly busy…and Satan is incredibly smart.

It’s been 4 months since my last post. 4 months of busy, 4 months of excuses…and 4 months of self-doubt.  And it all started when I let the little voices inside my head take over. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just human.

The nagging thoughts…“What is the point?” “Why are you wasting your time doing this?” “You have much more important things to do.” “You’re not selling anything but truth…and that’s free. So really…what.is.the.point?”

And so I listened. Believed. Fed the lies with my own insecurity and let them take root in my soul.

But thank God, He never lets it stop there. He doesn’t see our struggle and leave us to fight it alone. No, He meets us in our deepest valley and points us to the path that leads us home.

And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Through a series of devotionals and books He dropped in my lap over the summer, I began to see things from a different perspective. One that was less me and more Him. Less my glory and more His glory. Less what can He do for me and more what can I do for Him?

And before you think it was an instant revelation, let me be clear. It was an uphill battle that took every bit of 4 months to gain even the slightest bit of ground at all, and I’m still not there. But it started the journey…and there is power in the journey. There is strength in even the smallest victory. And it gives us the courage to keep going.

Have you ever felt like you really missed the boat somewhere? Like everyone is doing something really fantastic and important, and you are just sitting there doing your best to make sure your kids, pets, and plants are fed and live to see another day? For the first time in my life I’ve successfully kept plants alive for an entire summer, and I’m fairly certain that’s award, if not HGTV, worthy.  (I once had a rock garden, so believe me when I say that this is huge.)

Do you have to hide people on social media or quit it all together because you just can’t bear to see another success, award, or fabulous sunset that isn’t your own? ouch

And in the midst of my struggle, God reminded me that success doesn’t always come wrapped in the same sparkly package.

“Everyone should examine his own conduct; then he will be able to take measure of his own worth; no need to compare himself to others.” Galatians 6:4

Some people are destined for flashy and big. Some have the drive and fortitude it requires to be entrepreneurs, CEO’s, fitness guru’s, professional athletes, and best-selling authors. They were born for it. And that’s ok. Quite amazing, actually.

Some will drive fast cars, own big boats, and live in mansions. Some will be happy, fulfilled, and use their success to help others…

And some will not.

Others are destined for a more subtle life, one that most would consider “small”.

But whether big or small, it’s what we do with that life that matters.

My grandfather worked the same factory job all of his adult life (after serving for a time in the military). By the standards of many, he was not what one would call “successful.” He wasn’t flashy or big and lived in a small two-bedroom home with his wife of over 50 years and a yard the size of a postage stamp. No, he may not have had much in the bank, but I believe he was truly successful in ways that far surpass monetary value. He was faithful, honest, kind. He loved Jesus, led a service down at the mission, and cut the church grass every week. He had that old-fashioned work ethic and loyalty that so many of our grandparents possessed, and everybody loved him. In terms of my 9-year-old son, he was the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time), and I have no doubt God met him at the pearly gates and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So why do we feel like we don’t measure up unless we make more than 6 figures and/or the whole world knows our name?

Success doesn’t always come with a paycheck. Sometimes it doesn’t come with any earthly reward at all.

If we use the gifts that God has given to us for His glory, to bless others, and to further His Kingdom….then it doesn’t matter what we do for a living or how much money we do or do not make. No matter where we are in life, our goal each day should be to look around us and find a way to help others.

If only we could change our perspective and how we measure success, our sense of purpose would sky-rocket and there is no limit to what we could accomplish.

Satan would love to challenge us on that. Make us feel inferior to those around us. Stop us from doing all that he knows we can do.

But he’s wrong…

And we don’t have to listen to him.

Here are a few things that help me when Satan has me feeling like crap and hiding from the world:

  • Listen to worship music…lots of it. It feeds my mind, heart, and soul with constant reminders of God’s goodness and grace.
  • Get in the Word. Satan shrinks when we fight him with Scripture. His lies have no power when we use the Word as a sword & shield.
  • Pray. Talk to Jesus. He’s better than a BFF, because He’s always available and ready to listen. He doesn’t have dinner to make or errands to run. He’s just waiting on us.
  • Read good books. There are so many books that have helped me fight insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Uninvited by Lisa TerKeurst, Unashamed by Christine Caine, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Surround myself with encouraging people. Those people that speak truth and encouragement into my life, cheer on my victories, and pick me up when I fall.
  • Look for ways to serve. Volunteer at church, lead a small group, feed a family going through a tough time, babysit for a friend who needs a break…nothing is too small.
  • Keep fighting the lies. Always. Don’t give up. He may not ever stop trying, but it will become easier with time and practice…and it will be worth it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

I’d Rather Be A Real Mom Than A Super Mom

What if we as mom’s, parents, guardians, and caregivers gave ourselves a break? What would that look like? How would that feel?

When you figure it out, let me know…

Because I majorly sucked at the mom thing this week. 

That’s what happens when we try to do it all. We hold ourselves to these ridiculous expectations and then feel like a failure when we don’t meet them. 

Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman, it will make me a worn out woman.” – Lisa Terkeurst

Show me a perfect mom, and…well, you can’t. 

It all started with a major work project. 

Suddenly, roles were reversed, and I was leaving the house at the crack of dawn while the hubs was playing Mr. Mom. Sounds like a vacation, right?!

Wrong.

In comes the guilt. 

  • Missing the first Awards Program in forever….
  • Receiving that dreaded “sick call” when I’m an hour away and can do nothing about it…
  • Missing an important birthday party invite until the last minute….

You name it, it happened.

And I stressed. 

But guess what. We made it. We all made it to the end of the week in one piece. Nobody died. Nobody needs therapy. (As far as I know) And nobody hates me.

In fact, we all learned how to pull together and do our part. Because that’s what we do as families. We’re a team. We work together and make it all happen. 

And when one person changes positions, we adjust. We cover for each other. Fill in the gaps.

It doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us good parents.

We are teaching our children that life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s not the same every day. Just because mom usually does the morning thing, school drop off, and daily emergencies doesn’t mean dad can’t do it too! And apparently he’s not terrible at it, because they made it to school even earlier than usual. I have no idea what they were wearing or if their hair was combed…but who even cares?!

They need to know that they may walk into a college class that will rock their world. They need to know a boss may throw things at them they weren’t expecting and ask them to do the “impossible.” They need to know that they have to stay flexible and go with the flow. Because that.is.life.

The bottom line is this. We have to stop beating ourselves up over this stuff. We are not teaching our children anything by being there at their every beck and call. 

That missed awards program? The boys loved having their dad there for a change. It was special. He was able to meet friends and experience the crazy. And bless him for sending me pictures!

That sick phone call that made me feel like the worst mom ever? Let’s just say “miraculous recovery” when he realized nobody was coming to get him. Lunch sitting next to his sweet teacher certainly helped. Praise

That missed birthday party invite? It was ok! The mom understood. She showed grace! He made it to the party. It was fun! 

So instead of trying to do it all, be the perfect parent, and win at everything…let’s try being “real.” Because “real” is going to teach our kids the most about life. “Real” is going to keep them grounded. “Real” is going to make them awesome. 

And because “real” is really all we can do and survive. 

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of Year…or is it?

When the most magical time of year doesn’t seem so magical…maybe we should listen to the movies after all.

The holiday season has just begun, and I’m already tired.

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, right? But the mere thought of decking the halls and fighting the crowds makes me want to crawl under the covers and resurface only after the ball drops in Times Square.

Now, maybe you are Cindy Lou Who and radiate the Christmas spirit all year long; and if that’s the case, yay you! Please feel free to come to my house and radiate all day long. I will not stop you…and may even hand you the lights.

But some of us need help. (And by some of us, I still mean me.)

I’m not going to lie. Every year at this time, I get cranky. I’m all Thanksgiving-ed out, the kids are jacked up on caffeine and sugar, and all I can think of is the enormous list of things that need to be done. And don’t get me started on the lights that mysteriously stop working from year to year. I just love that. 

Bah-humbug.

Let’s face it, Moms. Our children’s happiness rests solely in our hands! Whether Christmas is a success or failure depends entirely on us. One wrong move, and our kiddos are going to therapy!

Or not.

But isn’t that how we feel? We put this enormous unattainable pressure on ourselves to make this the biggest and grandest Christmas of them all and completely wear ourselves out doing it. There’s nothing less fun than when we try to force the fun, believe me I know. I usually have this idea in my head of how it’s going to go….and hell hath no fury like a mother who doesn’t get her picture perfect holiday.

“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together.” – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

I mean, just how many “traditions” does one family actually need? Talk about pressure! After years of collecting traditions like coffee mugs,  (those sentimental blog posts and creative pins will get you every time) I started asking myself why? Am I creating lifelong memories for my family to pass down to their children…or am I trying to impress other moms who are just as tired as I am.

After giving it some thought, I realized many of the “traditions” we had were merely checking boxes.  They didn’t breathe life into our family or make happy memories. It became more about creating the “perfect Christmas” than about celebrating Jesus and our time together as a family. Bottom line, it was stressing me out; and when mama ain’t happy…nobody’s happy.

“He puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more!” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

And guess what. I found out that no one even cared about half of the “traditions” anyway! Here I was stressing over fitting it all in so we could “Save Christmas” that I was totally missing what really mattered to my family.

When I took the time to sit down and find out what that was, I realized it was more about “Quality over Quantity.” It’s not how many traditions we have or how many presents we buy….

  • It’s making the traditions we have count. Quality time together doing something we all enjoy. And that’s different for every family! You may enjoy baking Christmas cookies…and we may enjoy going “Light Criticizing.” (don’t judge…it’s a perfectly good holiday tradition) 
  • It’s making the gifts we buy count. The older our children get, the more expensive the toys; so they know they may open fewer gifts…but they also know they will enjoy them longer.
  • It’s making the memories we make count. The more we schedule, the less fun we have. The best holiday memories I have are of the unplanned moments…the people…the love.

“That’s what Christmas memories are made from. They’re not planned, they’re not scheduled, nobody puts them in their Blackberry, they just happen.” – Deck the Halls

I don’t want the only holiday memories my children have to be of their crazy mom trying to force the magic. I want it to be magical because it truly is a magical time of year when we let it.

Quality over Quantity…that’s what I want. Now if I could just get rid of the Elf…..

“Just remember the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” – Santa Claus, The Polar Express

 

 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Because we are all in this together…

I married a baller.

No, not like “the Rock” kind of Baller (although I’m sure my man wouldn’t hate the comparison), but the kind of baller that at one time or another has played, coached, or binge-watched every sport known to man. (Maybe you married one of those too, and we can hang out every Sunday afternoon from now until we die. Call me.)

So when Shane and I embarked on this little journey called “life” together, I knew at some point we would most likely produce a little baller of our own. It seemed inevitable…and became even more of a probability once we realized we could only produce boys. However, while the first two willingly participated in many sports, there never was that burning fire inside that drove them to diligently practice for hours on end or force themselves to do every day tasks with their non-dominant hands. (apparently, that is a thing)

And surprisingly enough, my baller husband was ok with it. I expected him to be all “Crazy Sports Dad,” but he had seen so many of those throughout his years of playing and coaching that he had determined not to become one himself. I was impressed.

Then came Kid #3.

If you look up baller in the dictionary, I’m sure you will see a picture of Hayes, or at least you should. Straight from the womb, this kid was on fire. So of course, we registered him for every sport possible as soon as he was eligible, because he was chomping at the bit and that’s exactly what he wanted. Happy dad.

It was pretty great until we realized we had more to work on than just form and technique.

For instance, take (age 5) when we told him he needed to stop hogging the ball and let others have an opportunity to score. After clearly struggling with the decision, he reluctantly kicked the soccer ball over to a delighted girl in pigtails who then proceeded to kick it straight into the stands. Face red and arms crossed, Hayes immediately looked over at us from across the field and yelled, “THAT’S THE LAST TIME I EVER DO THAT!!!”

Proud parenting moment right there, let me tell you.

Or how about the times his older brother advanced in either stripes or belts before he did in jiu jitsu, and he cried biguglytears…while complaining loudly about the injustice? Fun times.

I’d love to say that we were able to take these teachable moments and imprint upon his little baller brain that it is important to be a team player, cheer your friends and teammates on to success, and win or lose graciously. However, if it were that easy, there would be no Tom Brady’s, Lebron’s, or Cam Newton’s now would there. (no offense, Cam, we still love you)

No, there have been plenty of highs and lows, bad attitudes and ego trips in his 8 short years; and I am sure there will be many more to come.

So when we started off the football season this year, I was nervous…especially after he made the first touchdown and celebrated like he had just won the Super Bowl. I wondered if he would be able to give up the spotlight and cheer for his teammates, put the team first and fight together for the win; but to my surprise and relief, he did!

Somewhere along the way, he began to see that working together and celebrating each other is important. It’s what makes people love being part of a team. It’s what makes someone a true baller. 

“Someone else’s success does not rob you of anything.” – Christine Caine

So why do we grown ups often forget this important truth ourselves?

When something good happens to a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker, our worth does not become less because of it. Yet so many times, we feel like another’s success somehow magnifies our failures.

“We have an enemy, and it’s not each other.” – Lysa TerKeurst

Satan would love nothing more than to use the good things in a person’s life to alienate and damage relationships. By whispering lies, he manipulates our emotions to keep us from working together toward a common goal and building each other up. Don’t you see? If he can divide us, then he can conquer and render us useless in furthering the Kingdom. It’s been his plan all along!

But God has a better plan,

“Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up the other.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” It happens to be a favorite in our home; because as a family of five, nothing gets done unless we work as a team.

But the truth of the matter is we are all on the same team in this life. We are all working towards a common goal. My weakness may be your strength, and your weakness may be my strength. So why not capitalize instead of compete? Can you imagine what we could accomplish together if we started celebrating each other?

The devil certainly doesn’t want us to find out. He will do everything in his power to keep us divided. But thanks to our gracious Heavenly Father, he isn’t on the throne, and we don’t have to listen to his lies. The battle has already been won, our Almighty God is victorious, and we are His team. Let’s act like it.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving House

When we look past the ordinary and find the extraordinary…

Recently, our family made a long-anticipated move from a house in the city to what we consider a house in the country. It’s literally 5 minutes down the road, but everything changed from stores frequented and schools attended to farm animals and spiders the size of my fist. Not.a.fan. However, as sad as we were to leave behind the comfort of the familiar, we have quickly grown to love many things about our new home.

Whether it be watching the sun rise over the fields as we drive to school in the morning or admiring the horses, pigs, and old houses as we head into town, we’ve found new sights to see and new things to discuss.

For example, it was not long after our move that I broke from my morning pre-caffeinated trance and noticed a little old house on my way to work. Tucked back between an old billboard and a cluster of trees, the tiny shack could have easily been missed had it not been for the middle-aged woman bustling about outside that caught my eye. At first I didn’t think much of it for there are many different kinds of homes scattered along the way. Some big, some small…some mobile, and some abandoned.

This one had clearly seen better days; but for some reason it stuck with me, and I began to look for it.

Every day as I passed, I saw this same woman, coarse dark hair pulled back in a bright scarf and a dirty apron covering her simple clothing, sweeping the porch or the driveway, watering potted plants hanging from splintered beams, or sitting with a glass of tea in a weathered but colorful chair soaking in the sun or the breeze, depending on which the temperamental NC summer decided to give us.

And every day, I admired her.

I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know her story. I often like to watch people and try to imagine what that might be. However, what I do know is that she doesn’t have much as far as material possessions are concerned, but she clearly takes pride in the little she has….and that struck a chord in my heart.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.”  1 Timothy 6:6-7

Why is it that the people who seem to have so little often appreciate what they have so much more? This sweet woman doesn’t hunch her shoulders and drag her broom muttering under her breath about her misfortune. Even from my passing car, I can see she stands tall and sweeps with fervency and pride, making her little house a home where she and her family can find comfort and rest.

It pricked my conscience and made me think. There have been times in my life that I knew what it was like to have very little. When I spent years as a young child living in a small trailer with my single mother eating rice and bologna every way one can fix rice and bologna, then later in the first years of our marriage when we were in ministry and barely making ends meet…I’ll admit my attitude was not nearly as gracious, nor did I take pride in the little we had.

But now, so many years later, I am beginning to realize the error of my ways and the sobering truth of the matter. It’s not the house that makes a home. It’s not the perfectly manicured lawns or the white picket fence. It’s not the elaborate meals or the expensive toys (for both young and old).

It’s the people. It’s the life we live and the love we share. It’s coming together to help one another in times of need. It’s being thankful for the blessings God has given us.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

So as we approach Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and the Christmas season soon to follow, I want to remember what this woman unknowingly taught me with her diligence and sweet spirit in less than desirable circumstances. It isn’t about what we don’t have or what we think we need. It isn’t about perfection or impressing others.

It is all about Jesus, what we DO have, and how He graciously meets our needs in miraculous ways each and every day. 

And in case you were wondering about our sweet friend who has become so dear (in a non-stalkerish kind of way), the onset of colder days has driven her and her pretty little plants inside, but we won’t soon forget her precious example and the lesson she has taught…and we look forward to seeing her once again in the warmer days of spring.