Easy as (a pizza) pie <3

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Hello and happy Friday to you!

Here in the Midwest we have been having major scares regarding upcoming storm systems. 

Cue the mad dash to all grocery stores and people stocking up like it will be months before we can get out again. 

With predictions of icy rain falling on the path from our house to the Fab Four’s between midnight on Wednesday and my scheduled Thursday 6 AM departure time, I packed an overnight bag and headed north arriving in time to crash at their house and be ready for action bright and early yesterday morning. 

We had a good day, but it was a long one and some unforeseen events robbed us of nap time for the two littlest ones, so to say Lola was tired by 5 PM is putting it mildly. 

There is a reason we bear our children at young ages and bless God for the energy He must have provided Sarah and Abraham to raise Isaac in their latter years. Talk about miraculous works.

Graham had been picked up for basketball practice and I was serving up plates of pizza and prayed for God to grant us nourishment. They eagerly picked up their slices as the amen fell from my lips.

But as I lifted my own head, I kind of craved being prayed for myself. 

So I just said Lola needs some prayer and immediately both boys dropped their pizza back on their plates and assumed the prayer warrior position. 

While I was really needing prayer to just stay awake long enough to get them fed and bathed before their mom got home with Graham, Emmett launched into a prayer for my safety driving home later. 

He covered the potential for regular snow and the dreaded ‘black snow’… how a five year old could already have picked up a fear of sliding on black ice on the highway is a credit to his genetic link to his grandmother who can work herself into an anxiety attack scanning the road for deer and ice patches…year round. 

In a few sentences he hit on all the potential dangers I might encounter, thanked God for answering and said his amen as he resumed devouring his pizza. Joel peeked over out of the corner of his eye to make sure all was clear and joined in the feast. 

I was humbled beyond words as I felt certain God had leaned forward from His throne and covenanted with Emmett to keep Lola safe. 

Sometimes we make prayer such a big deal. 

Emmett could have quizzed on me on what I thought I needed prayer for, but God had already planted in his little spirit what I really needed prayer for. 

The roads were perfectly dry and free of deer the entire way home. 

My headlights carved out a smooth path as I listened to a sermon and let God’s word sink deep into me. 

Today you may meet a traveler on the journey who just might ask you to pray for something going on in his or her life. 

Don’t promise to pray later.

Don’t ask them how you can pray. 

Just pray. 

Just drop your pizza slice, bow your head and lift up your heart to God for what He might want to do in that precious fellow sojourners life. 

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow … I am lifting each of you who might be reading this in prayer now <3

Bruised toes and thankful for them <3

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I was going to write a little post on five things I love about winter and I probably will still do that another day, but considering the bulk of Illinois is under a winter advisory that will include freezing rain, I just can’t take a chance of having some of you navigate awful driving conditions and then read about my favorite parts of the season when you finally get to your desk. 

I took the trek up north last evening to beat the storm and be here for the 7 AM bell so Rachel and Zach can get to work on time. 

We are unsure if there will be school or a delayed start…living on the edge of our seats, we are. 

On the way up here I listened to a sermon and it was a good one. 

Painful but good.

He talked about pride and how tricky it is to pin down in others and nearly impossible to notice in ourselves. 

That’s the nature of it. 

As he went through the character traits, I had to admit I could nod my head to so many.

Including indecisiveness. 

He pointed out that often our lack of commitment to making a decision is because by doing so, we risk being considered wrong by one or more people and this sense of being not liked at best or unloved at worst is actually just a sly form of pride. 

Well, ouch.

Another one that got me was how pride can be the showy kind – where we think we are better than others….or the subtle kind where we are constantly seeing how we don’t measure up…and yet both are pride because both are total focus on self. 

Some other things he pointed out are that pride can make us antagonistic toward others when they correct us…or we can crumble under criticism to the point that we dissolve. 

Both of these approaches leave no room for the correction God might be trying to make in paths that have veered off track. 

He talked about how tempting our culture is as we have easy access to ways we can promote ourselves…or compare ourselves unfavorably to others who seem to be setting the world ablaze with all their wonderfulness…but in reality…the problem is inside our hearts. 

Because all of the self-promotion and self-condemnation is fruit of self-centered living. 

And that is a beast that will never be satisfied even after it has consumed every ounce of your soul. 

This last one really got me…how sneaky our buried pride can be.

He was talking about how we can start out with righteous anger over something. But as we hold on to it and get more indignant the underlying source of our passion can actually be a pride that has led us to believe we would never ever do what that one has done.

It makes me think about some of my tirades that seemed fueled by my desire for justice and I can definitely relate to the pride all my posturing tried to cover up.

As the podcast ended and I turned off all noise and distractions in the car for the last few miles of the drive, I heard a God whisper…that verse that has consistently shown up throughout the first few weeks of 2019…so much that I am starting to get it memorized down deep…

And do not be conformed any longer to this world…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

We are set apart…called to be different…in the world but not of the world.

It is a daily battle. 

A daily laying down “me” and taking up the Cross that saved me from myself. 

From one work in progress to another, let’s keep our hearts open and invite Him to continue shaping us more and more into the image of His Son.

Safe travels if you are out and about and I will see you tomorrow <3

Packing away Christmas and taking notes for next year <3

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Good morning! 

I am checking in quickly since I didn’t post yesterday and left you with kind of a heavy one on Monday. 

Yesterday was a red-letter day because all the trim from Christmas…

(except for some lingering fake pine branches here and there that will get us through til spring calls for another redo of the decor) …

is stored back in its place in the basement and I feel like I just finished a marathon. 

Such joy to have it all put away…even though all surfaces look quite bare except for the layer of dust and silhouettes of clean where Christmas 2018 once rested. 

I also did some evaluating and made notes in this year’s calendar that I hope I am proactive in following through on. 

One is to order Christmas cards earlier so I can get them addressed and to remember that it is much better to paint the annual ornaments in the summer than when I am trying to do a ton of extra stuff the week before Christmas. 

You would think I would learn on those two items right there…but every year I’m cramming it in to the final stretch.

I was sad I didn’t get more of our traditional stack of favorite Christmas stories read to some little ones, so I made a note to come up with a plan to make sure we get to share that part of their mommy’s heritage with them. 

They are only little for such a short time and I regret that I didn’t get to read such classics as “A Wish for Wings that Work”. Which I have read multiple times over the years and still can’t get through without crying. 

I also made a note to NOT purchase a gingerbread house kit. 

It would seem the debacle of this years would be embedded in my memory sufficiently to keep me from repeating the event, but I know me. 

I get all fuzzy brained and hopeful as the shiny things start appearing around the malls and grocery stores. 

I see other people’s pictures and it looks so fun and I forget that the kids just want to eat the candy and the icing is disgusting and my perfectionism and desire for order always struggles as we try to form a perfect little cottage out of irregular pieces that came off an assembly line. 

And then there is the dilemma of how to display and store this mess that will start collecting dust and eventually have to be pitched, which will make me feel guilty because…creative works are hard for me to discard. 

So, for me, no thank you Gingerbread Kit people.  

Some of us were not called to construct dwellings made of food and I accept this as my fate. 

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I will happily love all the photos of other’s adventures and I will remind myself that there is no need to envy what in reality is not a fun thing for me.  

I am here to tell you…it’s okay if something that others find fun is not your jam. Drop the guilt and find what works for YOU <3

With that, I bid you farewell and wish we could sit over a cup of coffee and a bag of unused gum drops and you could tell me what your do’s and don’ts for next year might include. 

Drop me a comment if you want to share…and as always let me know if it’s just for me or for others.

Have a blessed day <3

The weighty things <3

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It is my experience in my journey of faith that God always gives back way more than I think I am giving Him.

Sign up to go help people halfway around the world who have so little and find out how poor your land of plenty really is…and how much you can learn from people who have nothing and give everything.

Volunteer and give up a week of your summer to serve in Vacation Bible School so the neighborhood kids can learn about Jesus and as you sit and listen to the teachings, you find truth nuggets for your child-size brain.

Load up your car with stuff you had trouble parting with and find  yourself knocked to your knees by the sweet lady with scars on her face who helps you unload it all and thanks you so much and do you want a receipt for taxes…no thank you…this one is going unrecorded.

So last night we drug ourselves off the couch and out from under blankets to answer the call for prayer from our pastors and leaders. 

We drove on slick roads and navigated the parking lot, cautioning each other to be careful because we have heard the horror stories of people who weren’t and we don’t want to add that to our deductible this winter.

And as we approached the doors of the prayer meeting, we were told to select a rock from a basket.

I did what I always cringe doing…I made a quip about it…perhaps involving a reference to stoning people…and found out that I was one of many who had said the same thing. 

Dang I hate being a cliche sometimes.

Anywho…back to the prayer meeting…

We found some seats and gathered with others who just can’t resist when they open the doors of our church for any kind of service…and the prayers and praise commenced.

And God showed up.

Just like He always does when two or more gather.

It was old school church with a guitar and one person leading songs and I kind of loved it. 

We were led through various prayers, and for whatever reason I never put my rock down. 

I held it all the way through the whole event. 

To be honest, it felt comfortable in my hand and I often found myself just holding it to my heart. 

I guess since our sermon that morning had referenced 1 Samuel 7: 10-12, I was still associating the “Ebenezer…thus far” reference. 

But then one of our leaders took her turn in the service. Turns out the rocks were meant to remind us not of how far God has brought us, but how much we weigh our own selves down at times.

She talked about sin. 

Our sin and the sins of others against us. 

The weight of them.

Oh, I get it about my sin.

I carry it like a chain at times. 

And not like a martyr.

 No.

Like a woman who has underestimated the power of her God and overestimated the stain of her sin.

But as she led us through the prayer exercise, and she talked about the weight of the sins we have had against us…the hurt and the pain…and the way it has distorted us…hardened us…wounded us…that rock in my hand started getting pretty heavy. 

I thought back over the previous portions of the service and how at times I had held it to my heart as I participated in worship.

I remembered how I had to hold on to it with one hand which only allowed me the freedom to raise the empty one in a kind of affirmation. It had limited me from full on, both hands and arms raised in surrender praise. 

As she reminded us to forgive as Christ has forgiven us, I had to recognize that while I have forgiven the ones who this tangible weight in my hand represented…I still carry the pain of it because, in truth, I don’t know what to do with it. 

It has changed and colored both our past, our present and our future. 

I don’t know what to do with the memories that now look different because of other’s choices. 

It has stolen my joy many times and it has clouded and crowded out my joy for others who are experiencing what I would love to have.

It permeates so much more than I could have imagined and even as life goes on, I am left at times grappling to just stay afloat amidst the changes brought on by a fallen world and my own fallen nature that continues to rise up unbidden, even as I know and believe and declare that in Christ I am a new creation.

As we finished the exercise, we were given instruction to ask God to forgive us the weight of our sin and to ask Him for His help and assistance to forgive…let go…release…the pain and hurt of the sins against us. 

The service had come to an end and we were invited to share in one more song of worship and praise. 

We were invited to sit or stand.

Whatever posture seemed to express our heart to God for what He had done and our hope for what He will yet do.

In the fellowship of believers, sitting there with people I have known and shared so much of this faith journey with for so many years, I stood…still hanging on to that rock that fit so comfortably in my fist. 

And as we sang, I realized that somewhere along the way the pain has become such a part of me that I just assumed I had to hold on to it. 

I set the rock down on the pew and raised both my arms. 

I will have a choice to make in the days ahead when a photograph or a comment from someone triggers the feel of the weight of it once again, for most assuredly that temptation will always be there. 

I will have to choose if I will draw it close to my chest and hold on to it or lay it down. 

I pray I will remember His faithfulness.

The stone I laid down will be a reminder of the Rock I lean on. 

That all stones…all sins…those against me and those I have made against others… are laid down at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ…

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shem, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”   1 Samuel 7:12  <3

One in a trabillionzillion <3

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I was trying to think what to send you and I keep pushing away this little story, but it persists in rising to the top and so I am going to share it. 

Do you ever have things happen that are just so sweet and tender that you almost want to hide them away in your heart? I do.

I never want to betray the sacred ground of our family life for a story and yet God seems to give me such moments to share with you – maybe something you can relate to…maybe He has a word of encouragement for you…maybe just to make you smile and think on good things in a world that is becoming increasingly hard and divided. 

So here is my little gift to you today from my heart.

A couple of months ago when I was spending the day with our crew, Graham took a super close zoom in on my face and very sweetly pointed out that I had something on one of my front teeth. 

I asked him if he was seeing a little divot near the bottom edge of the tooth and yes, that was it. 

I told him I have always had that. Some dentist along the way told me my permanent tooth had been delayed coming in and that caused this kind of chipped spot.

 I don’t know if he was correct in that diagnosis, but over the years various other dentists have offered to fill it in if I would like but I told them no. 

Graham seemed fascinated that I would pass on having this little mar fixed. 

I can understand why he would be surprised since I can’t bear having a spot on my clothes or a mascara smear at the corner of my eye and can waste a huge amount of time stressing over a chunk of hair that is stubbornly refusing to join ranks with the rest of my head. 

As he looked at me like I had suddenly grown a third eye in addition to my chipped tooth, I explained to him how I kind of love that little blemish for some reason.

 It is like a familiar friend to me and I always felt like it gave my ordinary features something special and unique. It was how God made my tooth and I actually love my little chip.

I totally forgot about the conversation and for story purposes, you need to as well….

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and another day with the band of brothers and Little Miss Thing. 

We were driving in the van and from the far recesses of the back, Graham asked me if I ever noticed he has a bald spot. 

Well, I did know that he has a tiny place on the side of his head near his temple where hair just never has grown. I noticed it first a few years ago and had asked Rachel if he or another Kindergartner had taken a scissor to it because he seemed self conscious about making sure it was covered. She told me he had always had it and yes, he was embarrassed when people noticed and commented.

So with this memory popping up, I immediately began to downplay any recollection of having noticed this on his precious head. 

Instantly he stopped me in my tracks. 

Oh no Lola!!! I do have a spot…it’s like the chip in your tooth. God made me that way. It makes me special and unique.

Even as I tell you this, I have a big lump in my throat and tears brimming thinking of the joy in his voice as he shared my own words right back to me. 

I took a peek in the rearview mirror at his beaming face as I asked him…Graham! Have you come to love your little bald spot the way I love my tooth? 

Nodding enthusiastically he replied with a happy….. Yes

Oh my word…such a moment. 

There are so many things about myself I wish were not so. 

Not just physical things, but ways I am wired and driven. 

And yes, God is in the business of transforming me more and more into the image of Christ. 

But how fun when He helps me see that some of my flaws and shortcomings (not my sins…just my human “stuff”)  are just the ways He has made me unique and different from everyone else so that we can all come together and add our flavor to the Body of Christ <3 

What’s your little imperfection or quirk that God has shown you makes you unique and uses to encourage all the other works-in-progress who share the journey each day?

Can we learn to love how we were fashioned because we love the One who made us this way? I hope so. 

You are unique and one of a kind beautiful and you are loved <3