Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ready for Fall!

September 23, 2014 marks the first day of fall.  Spring and fall are my absolute favorite times of year.  They are so colorful and, depending on where you live, the temperatures are perfect for spending time outside doing whatever you like most. I personally love going to the farmer's market and seeing all of the fall produce - apples, pumpkins and my favorite winter squashes.

In my opinion, children today don't have the same appreciation for nature.  We see it in many aspects of life.  Electronic devices have taken over the love of just playing outside.  Shopping at grocery stores is the only real connection many have to where their food comes from.  Most of the food is processed or packaged and looks nothing like it did when it came from the ground.  To me, part of my growth as a Christian is linked to my connection with nature and the pure awe that God created all of the beauty around us. 

The Fantastic Gifts of FallThe Fantastic Gifts of Fall is the first book of a new seasonal four-book series by Dandi Daley Mackall that emphasizes the natural beauty around us.  The series uses playful rhymes and scripture to give thanks to God for creating autumn.  The Fantastic Gifts of Fall highlights the leaves turning color, pumpkin season, and celebrating family and gratitude at Thanksgiving.  It is so important to start these messages while children are young so as they get older they can maintain their appreciation for His creation.  I'm looking forward to the next book The Wonderful Gifts of Winter!

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I love getting coordinated messages.  Today in church, my pastor started a new series on "freedom."  This is such an important topic because there is so much freedom that comes with the Christian life.  Freedom from worry (Matthew 6:25-34).  Freedom from fear (Psalm 27:1).  Freedom from insecurity (2 Corinthians 2:19).  Freedom to experience joy in pain (James 1:2-6).  The list could go on and on. 

Unfortunately, many of us (including myself) don't live in that freedom.  We fret about things.  We live in fear of things that rarely become a reality.  We try to do things on our own strength.  We lament our trials to the point we are crippled from moving on past them.  As my pastor noted, the root cause of all these emotions is a lack of faith. 

Interestingly, I just started Eric Mason's new book Beat God to the Punch, due out September 15, 2014.  I planned to make it my week's lunchtime reading.  I skimmed through it and spent some time on the last chapter on freedom.  Just a few hours later, my church sermon focused on the very same topic.  Both the chapter and sermon made me wonder if there are areas in my life where I'm not admitting a lack of faith?  Am I unnecessarily suffering from anxiety, fear or insecurities?  Mason and my pastor challenged me to dig deeper to answer these questions.  This is a challenge I'm willing (and probably need) to take.  I hope to share more about Beat God to the Punch next week!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Eight Twenty Eight

I had a blast at my sister's recent wedding.  While at this age I have given up hopes of having anything too fancy when it's my turn to get married, I still absolutely love weddings.  I love seeing the bride in a beautiful dress,  the beautiful flowers and decorations, and of course the special food.  Weddings are also very emotional.  There is nothing more touching than seeing a groom tear up when he sees his bride.  Or a father cry after he gives his daughter away.  We ladies cry at weddings too, but men tend to be more stoic, so it makes me tear up a little more when I see them cry.

Like most women, I also love the thought of getting married.  I look forward to the opportunity to commit my life to my husband and for him to do the same.  I want to grow my family with little ones that look like a special mix of the two of us.  I also want my son to feel the responsibility of being a big brother and experience a two-parent household.  In my mind, weddings and marriage are absolutely dreamy.

Eight Twenty Eight
It seemed fitting that one day after my sister's wedding, I might curl up with the book Eight Twenty Eight by Ian and Larissa Murphy.  I vaguely knew it was a story about a married couple and their struggles after the husband was injured in a car accident.  After digging in (and not being able to put it down), I realized that it was about so much more. 

Eight Twenty Eight chronicles Ian and Larissa's courtship which abruptly changed course after Ian was seriously injured in a car accident.  They were planning for marriage, but the accident left him with a brain injury that would change him forever.  Despite all of the challenges that came with his injury and recovery, Ian later still proposed to Larissa and they married.  The beauty of the book was how Larissa, and later Ian, described the blessings in this tragedy and how she seemed to never give up hope that they might still be able to marry.  She fought to stay faithful even when it remained unclear how much Ian would recover. 

Their story opened my eyes to the fact that weddings and marriage are about a lot more than dreamy notions.  They are really about love.  Love that must endure a wide range of life's ups and downs.  What if you are not blessed with children?  What if an extended period of unemployment leads to financial ruin?  Or what if an accident changes one of you forever?  Eight Twenty Eight is a true love story.  May we all be so fortunate to have such a romantic love in our lives. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shiny Things

Like most people, I love shiny things.  My love is not limited to materials things like a new dress, purse, or piece of jewelry.  I'm ashamed to admit that I also like intangible shiny things. Maybe a job with a nice title.  Knowing the right people.  Or sending my son to the right school.  This realization hit home today after an uncomfortable conversation with a dear friend.

Fulfilled: The Refreshing Alternative to the Half-Empty LifeI am blessed to be part of B&H Publishing's Bloggers Program so I periodically get a great assortment of new books to read.  Today, I selected Fulfilled: The Refreshing Alternative to the Half-Empty Life by Joey Lankford.  The book chronicles his journey from a comfortable life in Tennessee to the mission field in South Africa after he felt called by God to leave his quest for material wealth and comfort behind.  Lankford sold everything he owned and moved his family to South Africa to spread the Gospel.  

At first, I felt I didn't have much to learn from the book.  I have given up some level of comfort, personal and professional, to follow a dream God placed on my heart more times than I can count.  I left high-paying and relatively secure jobs because I felt His calling to pursue something else.  While I haven't made it to a mission field, it wouldn't take much for me to drop everything and go if asked.  Even though I enjoy nice things, I'm not completely driven by the need to get them. 

After that conversation with my friend, I found myself wondering whether I am as "spiritually mature" as I think I am.  Were all those moves really about listening and surrendering to His will or did I have my own (more worldly) motives mixed in?  Was I really just after another shiny thing?  For some reason, I think He wants me to reflect on this question now.  I'm grateful that Fulfilled, and my dear friend, put the issue on my heart.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Embracing Imperfection

Some days I look back and reflect on the tough roads I chose.  Single parenthood, a rocky start to my career, and just generally not "settling down" in my adult life.  Each of these paths involved a deliberate choice to walk down a road that could be fraught with peril.  Shame, unemployment, and poverty often felt like they were literally knocking on my door. 

Moms' Night Out DevotionalAnd it was humbling.  The looks of pity.  Hurtful comments.  My own perceptions of being judged.  I literally had to crawl myself out of a pit and most days, it wasn't pretty.  It's still not actually.  Although I've come a long way in the last 10 years, many days I feel less than two steps from being right back where I started. 

The key for me has been to press on and embrace what God is trying to teach me through my dysfunction.  That's one of my takeaways from Kerri Pomarolli's devotional, Mom's Night Out and Other Things I Miss... too.  The title and cover were a bit deceptive.  I thought it was about moms needing a break every now and then.  What's inside is a light take on the real challenges of motherhood, the pressure we feel from society to live cookie-cutter lives free from imperfection, and how the gospel and scripture completely refute that notion.  It is something that we all must come to grips with in life.  We will all ultimately fail at something or come up against a problem we just can't fix.  This is a great devotional to help moms cope with the many failures we must confront day to day. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Called to Lead #FamilyofJesus

Have you ever been called to do something that has almost zero chance of success? Do you remember the feelings that came with the task?  Isolation.  Loneliness.  Despair over your inadequacies.  Frustration with the lack of progress.  I bet the list could go on and on.  These feelings can be multiplied by 10 if you are actually "leading" an effort, but as Karen Kingsbury aptly notes, no matter our title we are "called to lead."
There have been more than a few times in my life I have been involved in efforts that were destined for failure.  As a matter of fact, some days it feels like that is the story of my life.  The battles have been tough and many days I just wanted to curl up in a ball and check out.  As I look back though, I realize in many respects I ended up victorious although no one on the outside would like at me and consider me wildly, or even moderately, successful.  The victory was the work God did on my heart through the process.  He helped me overcome fear and walk completely by faith.  I learned obedience, not just to His commandments, but also to His will and purpose for my life in any particular season.  To be sure, I still fail quite often and learn many lessons in humility when my ego gets out of check.  I wouldn't trade those rough days for the world though, because God uses them to truly refine me.
The Family of Jesus Bible Study - Member BookThis week I'm starting The Family of Jesus Bible Study by Karen Kingsbury.  I think it is safe to say that no family in history received a tougher assignment than this family.  I am excited to get a better perspective on Joseph, Mary and James, to name a few.  I was surprised to see James listed as a "doubting brother" because I absolutely love the Book of James in the New Testament.  How did James evolve?  Did Joseph and Mary ever have doubts?  How did they cope?  I know many questions will remain unanswered, but I'm looking forward to digging into this study during my lunch hour.  Hope to write more about it soon!