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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Timeless Tuesday - Training Little Humans

Well, isn't that the truth?!

We go into parenting with the best of intentions. We fantasize about the snuggles, the love, the soft pastels, the baby smiles, sparkling eyes, and velvety skin. And that's exactly how it should be. It's even part of the reality of parenting. Is there anything that gives more joy than seeing your children grow and thrive?

But parenting, while wonderful, is also grueling. It requires superhuman stamina and strength. It truly can boggle the mind. It can overwhelm, if we're not careful. There's so much to do, to teach, to undo, to clean.

Yet millions of people do it, and do it well, every day. You folks are my heroes.

Every time I hear a parent affirm their child in a store I want to stop and applaud.
When I see a child and parent laughing together, I smile and silently enter into their joy.
When I notice a mom knelt down eye to eye with her child calmly explaining why his behavior was unacceptable, I want to give her a trophy.
Every time a parent sticks a band-aid on a knee and seals it with a kiss...
When a child is picked up from school and greeted with a hug and a smile...
When a dad lifts a child to ride on his shoulders...
When a family throws a baseball together at the park...
When sheets are quietly changed in the night due to a sick or bed-wetting child...
When appointments with doctors, teachers, lessons are kept...
When applause is given after childrens' concert performances or sporting events...
When you help with homework every. single. day.
When you take your brood to church and get nothing out of the sermon because you're too busy keeping everyone occupied...
When you hide treats in your bedroom just for you and not for the little humans...
When you change the umpteenth diaper today and it's only noon...
When you can't get your teenager to get up in time for school...

All these little everyday things are the nitty-gritty of parenting. It gets tiring. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but all these things matter. They all add up to the strong foundation your child needs to build his life. Support, unconditional love, correction, encouragement, time spent together just having fun. They all matter.

Does it go right every day? Far from it. But that's okay, too, because our kids need to see that we're not perfect and we need grace, too. We need each other. We need Jesus and the forgiveness He gives.

So here's to all of you who are training little humans. I see you. God sees you. Hang in there. You're doing great.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Share Your World - 2016 Week 12

In response to Cee's Photography Share Your World Challenge.

Wanting something to quench your thirst, what would you drink?
I'd drink water. I try to drink at least two twenty-four ounce water bottles each day. But otherwise, my answer would be iced tea or Diet Coke.

What made you feel good this past week?
Seeing my daughter and her family again. They just moved back in the area after living out of state for two years. So thankful to have them close again.

When you’re alone at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?
I wear either flip-flops or my soft, flip-flop slippers. I like to call them flipper-slippers. I used to be a barefoot girl, but my feet hurt now when I go barefoot. Stupid aging.

Would you rather live where it is always hot or always cold?
I love the heat, which is a good thing since I live in Arizona. So always hot for me!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday - True Beauty

There have been times when I see someone in a store and think they're beautiful. Then I hear the horrible way they speak to their spouse or children and my opinion instantly changes.

Words matter.

The words we speak, the words we write, even the words we think. They impact us and everyone who hears them, even if those words aren't aimed at them. We don't often stop to realize how much we affect the people around us. But we do, intentionally or not.

Just today a Facebook friend who I have never met messaged me. She said, "I love your energy and the value you add to my Facebook feed." Really? They're just words. Sometimes pictures. They aren't aimed directly at her. But they mattered.

We sometimes think our words don't carry that much weight. But when we see them written on skin, like in the picture above, we might begin to see the message we send to the world. Or those closest to us.

Is your message one of love, peace, joy, encouragement? Or is it a negative message? We have choices about the vibe we share with the world around us. Every time we open our mouths, it's an opportunity to uplift and make the world a better place.

Take inventory of your speech today. Make any changes necessary to ensure your words positively impact the world and those around you. It's a responsibility and privilege we can share with each other. Be beautiful with your words.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Timeless Tuesday - Courage to Try New Things

I just got back from crossing the ocean to and from Hawaii. I didn't feel it took much courage to do that.

But I've done new things that did take courage. Like the time two years ago that I hung up my fear of heights and went zip-lining with my husband in Maui. Scary? You'd better believe it. Glad I did it? Absolutely. The scenery was spectacular and I love that I can say now that I did it. It's a wonderful memory.

I also went parasailing on our honeymoon 25 years ago. What? That's not me! But I did it and I'm so glad I lost sight of the shore to experience that.

But there have been things less dramatic that have taken so much more courage than I could have imagined. Like releasing the small hand of my child on that first day of school. Or letting my teen go on a mission trip so she could lose sight of her own shore. Or not intervening when I knew my child was on the wrong path, but knowing they needed to learn the hard lessons that road would teach them.

Sometimes we have to remember that even though we can't see the safety of the shore any more, God can. And He controls the waves that crash on it. Not only does He see the big picture, He also sees every seashell, crab, and grain of sand. Which means He sees me, my circumstance, and my children. With that knowledge, we can take courage and do those new things with confidence.

Go ahead. Cross that ocean.

What courageous new thing have you tried? Tell me about it in the comments.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday - Prayer Productivity

Oh, if only we could remember this. If only prayer was our automatic, go-to response to problems, stress, and worry. We think we have to do something, even though we can't see the solution.

Case in point:

I was taking some online college classes and had too many deadlines all at once. One of my classes was a math class, which is my hardest subject. I worked as hard as I could, did everything possible to meet those deadlines. It looked bleak, nearly impossible. I went to bed thinking it would never happen, but committed it to God before going to sleep.

The next morning I got up and put the CD in my computer to start working on my math deadline again. As soon as I pushed the CD tray in, the CD broke. Hallelujah! There was no way to do the work with a broken CD. I immediately contacted my teacher and she told me the work I'd already done was sufficient. I was finished!

God orchestrated a solution I never would have thought of. He relieved my stress and I was able to meet my other deadlines. Would that CD have broken had I not prayed? Maybe. Who knows? But I know that I was able to sleep in peace because I trusted God to work things out for me. It only took a few seconds to ask for His help, but alleviated a semester's worth of stress.

Another example: Years ago, my daughter's hamster escaped from its cage. We searched everywhere for it. No luck. On our search, I spotted it running into my teenage son's messy room, where I knew it would be impossible to find it. We looked through all the junk without success.

Then I stopped. "You know what we forgot to do?" I asked my daughter.
"Pray. Let's do it now."

So we did. Within two minutes we found the little guy and put him safely back in his cage. Had we prayed first it may have saved us lots of looking.

So make prayer your first response, not your last resort. You may be amazed at how your productivity increases.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Timeless Tuesday - Doing Nothing

I get back home from a Hawaiian vacation tomorrow. It's been a wonderful time away from daily responsibilities and routine.

But coming home is just as sweet to me as going away.

I love the comfort of home and routine. I love the quiet, the people in my life, the ordinariness. And the older I get, the more I love it.

One of my favorite times of the day is evening, when my husband and I sit on our respective ends of the couch and enjoy each other's company. The TV is usually on, our laptop computers are usually open, but we're together in deep companionship. We talk in bits, here and there, as thoughts arise in our minds or we want to share something funny we've read. We lament over how the Wheel contestants can't figure out a puzzle. We cheer on our favorite teams. We talk about our day a blip at a time. We laugh at the dogs. One of us gets hungry and gets us both a snack.

There's nothing special about it. Yet, there's everything special about it. Doing nothing together is my favorite thing. And we get to do it almost every evening.

That's what I call a timeless, blessed life.


Monday, May 16, 2016

26 Weeks Letter Challenge: H

Week eight of the 26 Weeks Letter Challenge, where I'll post photographs of things that begin with that week's letter. Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blog. It's a great way to use some of those pictures taking up space in your computer.

H is for:

Hawaii, which is where I am vacationing right this very minute.
Hearts, in any form, are my favorite. Especially if
they're found in nature.
Make it a great week!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Share Your World - 2016 Week 11

How many siblings do you have? What’s your birth order?
I have two siblings, an older brother and an older sister. Guess that makes me the youngest!

In a car, would you rather drive or be a passenger?
I like to do both. But if my husband is with me I definitely would rather be a passenger. But if I'm with a group of friends I don't mind driving. 

When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles or turn on the flashlight?
I light the candles. I love the warm glow of them and how cozy it makes a room feel. Drives the scary storm right out of my mind. But honestly, I might have to grab a flashlight in order to find the candles.

List at least five of your favorite types of animals.  (any animal from domestic to wild to marine life).
I'm not that much of an animal lover, but here goes. Dogs (small ones, please), lazy cats, monkeys, tigers, sheep. 

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
I'm super grateful that my daughter and her family are moving back to Arizona this week. Should be in the valley of the sun tomorrow! Which leads me to what I'm looking forward to in the week ahead. I'm on vacation and won't be in AZ to greet them when they arrive, so I'm really looking forward to getting home and hugging them in a few days! 

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday - Deserve

In today's world, we often congratulate people by saying, "You deserve this." We're happy something good has happened in their life.

Other times, we might hear someone complaining. "I've worked so hard. I don't deserve this." It's probably true. We all work hard to try to make our lives better.

But the truth is, we're living in a fallen world. Sin is king and none of us are exempt. Romans 3:23 makes no bones about it. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (NIV)." Then Romans 6:23 cuts to the chase and tells us what we really deserve. "For the wages of sin is death..."

There is good news is at the end of that verse. "...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." So the choice is ours. We can get what we deserve--death. Or we can get what we don't deserve--eternal life. But to get that we have to accept Jesus as the King of our life instead of allowing sin to reign.

So next time you think you're getting a raw deal that you don't deserve. Think again. And if you're still breathing, give thanks.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Timeless Tuesday - Doing What's Right

Good old Eleanor. I bet she knew a thing or two about this as the First Lady. It's hard being in the public eye.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's hard not being in the public eye, too. People like to criticize, usually because it feeds an unspoken need for superiority. People think when they criticize, it elevates them above that person. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a grain of wisdom will inform those around them that the criticizer has only succeeded in lowering themselves, instead of the person they're demeaning.

May as well do what's right. It will help you rise above the crowd even if others criticize. Who doesn't admire someone who lives according to their conscience, regardless of the backlash? If criticism is going to come, let it come when you're doing right. Your integrity stays intact and your conscience is clear.

Way to go, Eleanor!


Monday, May 9, 2016

26 Weeks Letter Challenge: G

Week seven of the 26 Weeks Letter Challenge, where I'll post photographs of things that begin with that week's letter. Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blog. It's a great way to use some of those pictures taking up space in your computer.

G is for:

Games (this is only part of our game closet!)
Garbage day
Have a great week!


Friday, May 6, 2016

The Best Mothering Advice I Ever Got

This post was originally published in March, 2015. But with Mother's Day this weekend, I thought it was a good time to repost it. Enjoy!

When I was a new mother, I felt woefully inadequate. Though I loved being a mom, I also felt like I didn't know what I was doing. Why did it seem everyone else was so much more confident than I was?

I knew I needed to become more assertive and confident the day I was at my mom's with my newborn daughter. Mom had rocked Jessica to sleep and asked, "Where do you want me to lay her?"
"It doesn't matter. Wherever you think best," I replied.
Mom looked at me, and as usual, knew what was going on inside me. "Linda," she said. "This is your baby. You decide what's best for her."

That was my wake-up call to being an assertive, confident mother.

Later, I read an article that helped me gain the confidence I lacked as a mom. I don't remember what magazine it was. I don't know who the author was. But I know that what it said stayed with me all these 30-plus years later.

In a nutshell it said, "You're this child's mother. No one knows her better than you do." I know that sounds simple, but it came back to me time and time again when I had no clue what I was doing as a mother. When my baby cried, she wanted ME, not someone else, and certainly not because I was so well-qualified, but simply because I was her mom. I was the one she trusted to care for her, with all my inadequacy, foibles, mistakes, and lack of confidence. Me!

You may not have all the answers either, but you do know how your baby likes to be held, what things most often make her cry, or stop crying. You know what her favorite toy is and that she needs her blankie to rub as she drifts off to sleep. You know her tickle spots and the way her eyes crinkle before she breaks into a smile. You know the way she likes to sway and which songs are her favorite. You know what sounds scare her and what makes her squeal with joy. You know far more about that little person God gifted into your care than you think you do.

And even if you don't know those things yet, it doesn't matter. She knows your heartbeat and your gentle touch. She hears your voice, feels your steady breathing, and the way you stroke her downy-soft hair and she's calmed. Why? Because you're her precious mama.

So rest easy. Ignore all the unwanted advice you receive and trust your gut. Ask God for help. Reach out to mothers you respect when you really need another opinion. But be confident that you're enough, because you are. Because God has and will continue to equip you, you'll learn this mothering thing backward and forward, inside and out.

And it will be the most glorious, excruciating, wonder-filled adventure you ever set out on.

Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday - Choose Well

Ann Voskamp is one of my favorite authors. Her One Thousand Gifts book has impacted my life in countless ways. This quote of hers, well, it's truth.

We choose what to put on our schedules every day, and also what we put on our kids' schedules, as well. We decide what will fill our days. We get to say what we'll do and what we won't do. When we add too many things to the calendar we start to feel it in our souls. Our shoulders tense, we glance at the every-moving clock, we hurry, hurry, hurry, and in doing so, miss out on life's beauty.

I use a self-imposed rule for my life. If I add something in, I must let something go. Last week someone asked me if I would consider leading a Bible study for young women. She said she needed something more in her life. I didn't hesitate. Of course I would. But my next question to myself was, What will I give up to do this? I'm still considering the answer. Maybe it will be one large, time-consuming thing or a few smaller things. But the point is, I'm choosing.

I choose not to be stressed out. I choose not to overschedule so I'm not too busy for the really important stuff. I choose not to live life in a constant, massive, stressed-out hurry. I choose joy. I choose to slow down and see the beauty around me in nature, in the faces of those I love, in exchanges between complete strangers, in the depth of sorrow, and in the joy of celebration.

How will you choose today? I pray you choose well.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Timeless Tuesday - The Blessing of Life

Life is a blessing. It's so true, it's become cliché. We know it's a blessing. We don't need anyone to tell us again.

What if we started acting like it? What if we were enthusiastic every time the sun dawned and we were alive to experience it? What if we took a few minutes to marvel at the rhythmic rise and fall of our chest with every life-giving breath? What if we started thanking God for our to-do lists instead of bemoaning them?

Michael Hyatt, former CEO at Thomas Nelson Publishing House, and a leadership guru, suggests we stop saying "I have to..." and instead say, "I get to...", You can read his entire blog post about it here. It's a positive shift in attitude.

Check it out: I don't have to do the laundry today, I get to, because I'm blessed with a family to care for. I don't have to teach a Sunday school class, I get to, because sharing what matters deeply to me with people I care about gives my life purpose. I don't have to go to work today, I get to, because it provides for my family's wants and needs.

Wow! What a difference one word can make in the way I view my life. That tiny change helps me start acting like my life is a blessing. And magically, when I start acting like it, it starts feeling like it.

So my challenge to you (and myself) is to change "have to" to "get to" and see what happens. It's the beginning of living a life of gratitude, which is a beautiful neighborhood in which to live.

What other small changes have helped you acknowledge the amazing gift of life? Share them in the comments.


Monday, May 2, 2016

26 Weeks Letter Challenge: F

Week six of the 26 Weeks Letter Challenge, where I'll post photographs of things that begin with that week's letter. Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blog. It's a great way to use some of those pictures taking up space in your computer.

F is for:

More family!
I would also add friends, feet, food, and flowers, but I don't have the time to collect the pictures to make that happen in this post! What begins with F in your life?