Thursday, December 19, 2013

Never Letting Go

No shadow comes without the light making a way
No raging storm can ever defy one word of faith
My heart remains sure in the wind, sure in the waves
You are the anchor for my soul
You won't let go
You won't let go
No matter what may come I know
You won't let go
You won't let go
No valley low, changes the truth
So I'm not afraid
You hold me close
You lead me through and light up the way
~Michael W. Smith, You Won't Let Go
I've been making a conscious effort this Christmas season to be aware and full of the Lord's Spirit as I prepare for celebrating his birth. I won't pretend that there haven't been moments during the past few weeks where this resolution of mine is put to the test.

There have been many reminders during this time though that show me He never lets go.  In His love for me, He has blessed me with a song, a wise word, or a perfectly timed Bible verse that shows He is here and He is enough. In the thick of it, it can be tough to feel that. Yet I'm learning that no matter what I feel in the moment, I know what is truth and that truth doesn't change.

So whether it is in the mountain top moments or the valley low moments - I know the truth, and that truth will set me free:

I know that nothing can separate me from God's love. Romans 8:38-39

I know that His joy is strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

I know that if I search for Him, I will find Him. Deuteronomy 4:29b

I know that His very breath courses through me, giving new life. Ezekiel 37:5

I know that the Lord stands with me. 2 Timothy 4:17

I know that He delights in me and with His love, He will calm all of my fears. Zephaniah 3:17 

May you too during this holiday season and in the new year to come, remember these truths and find comfort in His love for us. May He be the anchor for your soul and may you rest in the fact that He will never let go of you.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Peace on Earth and in Our Hearts

This second Sunday of Advent they lit the candle of peace and I bow my head to silently remember that He promised peace here on this earth.  Not the kind of peace that comes from believing we have it all figured out and that we are in control. But the peace that is beyond reason or understanding, and that wraps itself around our hearts whispering that there is a bigger plan.

In the middle of the busyness of the season, the lines and the crowds, the tantrums, the tears, the laughter and cookie baking, the cuddles and snuggles, the tight hugs and "I love you's," the unpredictable and the scary - in the middle of it all He beckons us to rest in Him and receive His peace.

He invites us into the hope that arrived that night in the form of a tiny baby crying out for its mother, so unassuming as he lay in a manger. He whispers, "trust me and there you will find peace." And my heart, that feels so fragile right now, yearns to let go and free fall into the peace that He offers. In the world that I cannot control, I ask that He will help me to trust and have faith that He is going before me and walking with me in each moment. I return to my constant prayer during this season, "Lord fill me with your presence and your Spirit; I need more of You." 

Wishing you peace this season too.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Season of Advent

"No matter your story before, this is your beginning now: you were formed by Love . . . for love.  And the greatest gift we can give our great God is to let His love make us glad." ~Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

It's December and I can already tell that this Christmas season is going to fly by; only 22 days until the big day.  It feels like there is so much to do in such a short amount of time as I try to cram in as much as I can to make this holiday special for the little ones.

However, last month I committed to myself that I would look at the holiday season differently this year. I would be more intentional about remembering what the season is really about and not try to rush through it, but instead slow down. As part of that, I am reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. In her book, she invites her readers to look at Christmas as a celebration of a love story; a love story of the God who has been pursuing our hearts since the very beginning.

God's infinite love has been a theme that has come up a lot for me during the last few months. I have been taught about God's love all my life, but that deeper understanding of how great His love for us is has been becoming more apparent recently.

And that is what this season of Advent and Christmas is truly about. It is remembering that He loved us so completely that He gave up heaven to come down here. He gave up everything to arrive on this earth with nothing. He became the least of these so that we can be more and have more than this life offers.

So I am on a journey this advent season as I await the celebration of the birth of my Savior; the one who's love for me is greater than I could ever comprehend. Because it is out of His love that everything else flows and is made possible. As the days move closer towards December 25th, I want to be moving closer towards Him. My prayer every morning this December is that I will be filled with Him; so much so that it overflows to those around me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thankful for His Light

We had finished watching a gorgeous sunset and were headed back.  As we drove, the moon rose above the hill; large, orange and luminescent against a deep blue, quickly darkening sky.  I let out a loud, involuntary exclamation over the beauty of it, "look at the MOON!" and we quickly pulled over in an attempt to catch the splendor of this light.

And it was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. I didn't get many photos and instead watched it rise higher and higher - a ball of orange and yellow, casting light through the clouds and illuminating the sky.

Photo Credit: Jonathan McGowan, Instagram: @jkrswld1234

I am amazed by the moon. This rock that's completely void of any light in itself, can light up the night sky so brilliantly and boldly as it reflects like a mirror, the light of the sun. It pierces the dark by simply allowing the sun to do what it is supposed to do.

In that moment it dawned on me that my calling, our calling, is so similar to that of the moon's.  I am called to be a light in the darkness, but thankfully I don't have to do it by own might. There was a sense of freedom that came from seeing it In that way. I do not have to generate this light by my own strength, but instead can be a reflection of His light and His love shining through me.

He "turns my darkness into light." He takes my imperfections, fears, doubts and failures and shines light in those dark areas creating hope, peace and love. When I allow God to be God and have His place in my life, than the rest begins to happen. His Spirit at work within me will allow me to be a source of light in the darkness and the hurt of those around me.  It will allow me to show love to those I come in contact with.

"For God, who said, "let light shine out of darkness," made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

Because He is the source of all light and of all hope.

And the hope we have in Him. . .that hope does not disappoint.

"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has given to us." Romans 5:5 NKJV

In the end, that is what so many of us need is to know that there is hope. Even when things are difficult, we have the hope that all things are redeemed and all things are used for good. That is what the moon does in the darkness of night. It offers light and it offers the hope that there is still the sun on the other side doing its job.

So I am thankful for His light and that it can be present in me, and I am thankful for the hope that is found in that knowledge.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful in a Fallen World

November is quickly and quietly slipping by.  In this month where we are to count our blessings, we also hear of thousands that have lost everything. This life here on earth, it isn't always an easy one. We live in a fallen world, full of hurting people and an enemy looking to destroy us.
It won't be until the other side of this life that we, and all that we are a part of, is perfect.
But God is good now and always, and He is here and He is in us. In a world that quakes with sadness and sends waves of destruction, God's love can still be seen. It is seen in the hands rebuilding broken homes, in those willing to give of their time and money to help those without, in an entire city that comes together to bring joy to a little boy and in the hearts that refuse to lose hope.
So I thank Him that He is still working and that He loves us. I lift up humbled heart and thank Him that even in a hurting world, I can trust Him to be present. I thank Him that I can stand on His promises and that because He loves us there is always hope.

And I whisper a prayer, half question and half assertion as I learn to trust, "your perfect love is casting out the fear and you have good, hope-filled plans for me and for this fallen world."  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Month of Thankfulness

Last week my littlest asked if Halloween was over now and when I said yes, she excitedly yelled "Christmas time!!" The holiday catalogues have arrived and my munchkins are excitedly thinking about their lists and trees and all the fun. And I get it. I absolutely love Christmas time and am already thinking about decorations and doing my shopping.

But what about Thanksgiving, this holiday smack dab in the middle of candy-crazed Halloween and bedazzled Christmas?  There are no goodies, no gifts and no real marketing value, so it often serves as only a stepping stone to the next big thing.

But Thanksgiving is important; even imperative. Can we enter this month of November, marked by shortened days, long nights, cold weather and dying leaves, with grateful hearts? Can we be looking for all of the little blessings that can be hard to see in the busyness of the every day?

In this season of hurry and full schedules, I want to pause to remember the blessings and the goodness. I want to search for the light that can be seen in even the darkest of nights. Because it is in thankfulness that we can find fullness of joy.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song." Psalm 28:7

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pint-Sized Warrior

Her fists balled up at her sides, at just three feet tall, her frustration and anger are evident, to everyone within a mile's distance I'm sure. Her personality is strong and courageous, terrific qualities, but in this moment she's battling for control and it's exhausting.  It takes all my self-control to not raise my voice in response, to not threaten to take away all her toys and even Halloween itself if she doesn't stop throwing this epic fit.

Finally things settle and she sits quietly on time out and this worn out mama hides in her room, knowing I'm in need of my own timeout. I sit on the floor feeling defeated and the tears come. This mom gig can be tough and I feel ill-equipped at times. I close my eyes and silently pray, "Lord, I cannot do this on my own, I need you in this too." 
At first it feels like defeat, throwing in the towel, to recognize I cannot do this on my own. It's almost a prayer of regret, "In this moment, I'm failing." But the peace sinks in and fills the space, and it's actually hope.

And I see it's not weakness to need Him, but instead it's strength. He will be the strength I need in this, and in everything.

In the good and the bad, I need Him.  I feel that deeply this week, my desperate need for Him. I recognize the more I sink into this truth and allow Him to operate through me, the greater the opportunity for peace and joy. Even when I'm struggling or trying to figure out the next step, He's there, waiting to offer me peace and rest.

She comes in to find me after timeout is over, bottom lip quivering and whispers she is sorry and that she loves me. I grab her close and hug her tight and tell her I love her too. She lets me hug her for awhile and I'm silently thanking God for this beautiful little girl who both challenges and delights me, and I'm praying that He will help me be the mom she needs.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

His Perfect Love

Fear, it can grip your soul like a vice.

Fear, it can destroy and devastate.

Fear, it can paralyze.

Fear, it can wound and harm.

Fear, it can pull you into darkness.

The fear though, it does not have to have power because there is love.

Because perfect love casts out fear.

Love, it frees you.

Love, it breathes new life.

Love, it spurs you into action.

Love, it heals and it strengthens.

Love, it is a beacon of light and hope.

And the best part of it all?

It is His love for us.

His perfect, unending, all encompassing love for you and me can drive out the fear.

And He does love us. Loves us so deeply and so completely.  There is nothing at all that can cause Him to stop loving us, absolutely nothing.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beautiful Creation

I am home from my final trip of the year, which makes me both happy and a bit sad. I love traveling; exploring new places or rediscovering old ones.  But there has been a lot of it in my life lately, and I am ready to be in one place and not living out of a suitcase for awhile. 

This last trip was a combination of both work and play, and my favorite one of the entire year.  In the matter of less than a week, I experienced ocean, redwoods, mountains, farm land, and vineyards. Temperature lows of 38 to highs of 85 (and those two were in the span of just a few hours!). Foggy drizzle to bright sunshine, and I LOVED it all.

Before and during; the prayer constantly on my lips was that I would have eyes to see His goodness and love for me in all that I experienced. I wanted to savor and be thankful for each and every moment.

I wanted to see past the creation to the One who created.

And God does not disappoint. 

When you look for Him, He is there to be found. . .

In the golden yellows and burnt oranges of leaves that tell of a turning of seasons. Signs of autumn that shout of the hope that comes in knowing that the falling away of the old allows room for the new and the renewed.

In the sun dancing across the trees, leaving trails of light through hundreds of giant redwoods. Rays that sing of the joy found in the Light of the World.
In the fog rolling in from the ocean. Fog that blankets a town in quiet and whispers reminders of the peace found in resting in Him.
In the brilliant colors of a sun dipping below the horizon. Colors painting a masterpiece that speaks of the artist who lovingly created us.  The One whose perfect love for us casts out fear.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Being Enough

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou

I've heard this quote many times, but today I read it again on a blog post and it really hit home. There are days where I feel the tugging so deeply that I want to be more, do more, touch more lives, accomplish more. More being the pattern here.  There are times where I worry that maybe I'm not enough; that in my current job or the things I'm doing, it's not enough of what I could be doing for God.

I don't have a prestigious title, I haven't written a published book, I'm not leading a huge ministry; I am a single mom to two little people while also working at a small company as a communications specialist.  But what I am learning, and why I think this quote spoke to me so loudly this time, is that in these small things, God is still doing big things.

It shouldn't be that I am only a mom, because that is a huge thing in itself. God gave these two precious ones specifically to me. He created each of them, knitting them together, knowing that He would equip me to the be the mother they need. I can lead by example, teaching them how to trust the Lord, how to look for joy in the every day and how to love freely. To them, my job title or list of accomplishments won't matter. What will matter to them is that I made them feel like they belong and that they are unconditionally loved.

While I may not be climbing the corporate ladder as I used to envision or winning awards; I am at my current job for a reason. These eleven people I interact with on a daily basis, they will remember how I made them feel. So smiling at them every morning, offering to help on tasks that aren't exciting, asking how someone is really doing - these things are important, even if not defined that way by the world.  In this job, I can help those I interact with to feel appreciated and cared about.

So instead of wanting to be more, I am beginning to recognize I am enough. There is incredible peace in knowing that who God created me to be and where He has placed me right now is enough. It is enough because He is present. It is enough when I allow Him to work through me. It is enough because I am trusting Him. 

People will remember how I make them feel, and how I want to make them feel is loved, appreciated and called by a gracious God. I can do that in this moment and don't need to be anything more than I already am to do it.

Perhaps in the future, God will call me somewhere different and I will have new responsibilities. But no matter if it's a different job or ministry, the heart of the matter will be the same - being a blessing and a tangible example of God's love on this earth. I won't need to be more in those moments either. I will simply need to be me, the woman God is refining and working through.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dear Lord,

Transform my prayers from last resort, desperation cries to first response, trust-filled whispers.

Ignite a fire in me to know you intimately.

Teach me to move from fear to faith.

Create in me a heart that loves you fully and out of that flows genuine love for the wounded and the hurting.

Show me how to be a light in this dark world.

Help me to always be listening and willing to go where you lead me.

Lord, I thank you that you never leave me nor forsake me.

I thank you that I need to do nothing in my own strength, because your strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.

Thank you that your grace is sufficient for this moment, this day and in that knowledge I can rest knowing you are in control.

Lord I need you; every second of every day and for that I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Out of the Ashes

"From the ruins
From the ashes
Beauty will rise
From the wreckage
From the darkness
Glory will shine."
~Nothing is Wasted, Jason Gray
I was in Tahoe two weeks ago for work; I know, I've got a pretty awful job, huh. But in all honesty, I do have a great job and recognize how blessed I am to get to experience the things I do through work. 

This time of year in Tahoe is absolutely beautiful. After the work part of the trip, I was fortunate enough to take a half-day photography tour of Tahoe. The guide took us all over the South Shore area, showing us several places I've never seen before. Our last stop on the trip was a road that winds up above Fallen Leaf Lake that offers some great views.  One side of the road overlooked the lake and the other looked over a valley that had been devastated by a fire a few years back.

At first glace the area appeared desolate and destroyed. The trees that were left standing seemed to be only remnants of what they once were; bare trunks, blackened and scarred from the flames with no visible evidence of the life they once gave through their branches and leaves.  For all intent and purposes, it looked like a wasteland now. However, looking deeper there were signs of new life all over. Green sprouting up from what was once just ashes. It was interesting to learn that controlled fires can be good for the area, that they stimulate growth and some trees in fact need the heat to open up their cones and spread seeds.
As I snapped away with my camera, I couldn't help but make the leap to how God works. During the trials and the fire, He is in fact working behind the scenes to bring new life and goodness from what was meant for destruction.  He takes things that at first appear ugly and broken and He turns them all into beauty. Maybe not always beauty as the world might describe, but the kind of beauty found in a heart that still hopes, in a strength that cannot be broken and a joy that cannot be shaken.
This is a theme that I write about a lot on here, but it is something so close to my heart because I've walked that path.  There has been grief that at times felt too overwhelming to handle and there were shattered dreams.  But I have seen God refine me through it all. I've seen Him working good in the lives of me and my children. I have seen the moments of beauty already and I am trusting that what I may still not understand right now, one day I will see how it was used for His glory.
"He has sent me . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61: 2-3
Looking back now, I think that I might be like those trees that needed the heat to truly grow and thrive. I wouldn't have chosen these events for myself, but through them I believe my life is headed in a direction that might not have been possible were it not for walking through the fire. The fire has allowed seeds planted to grow amidst the pain and in that I see beauty.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trust Without Borders

Last week I shared a song by Hillsong United that speaks to me on a deep level. It is still filtering through my play list often, and every time it resonates at the soul level and I feel God drawing me closer.

I've let this particular line "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders," linger and circle through my mind often during the past week. I've asked myself what does it mean to trust Him with everything, no borders or hedges around certain areas of my life that I still try to control without His help and guidance.

Am I allowing the Spirit to lead me to a deeper place of trust? Am I trusting God with EVERY area, or am I still harboring particular areas for safe keeping because deep down I think I know how to handle those areas better than He does or I'm afraid of what He might call me to do?

This morning's Jesus Calling devotional was perfectly timed for these things I've been working through:

"Pour all of your energy intro trusting me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My Presence. Every step on your life-journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trusts are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether: leaping across chasms in semidarkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me."

So I've been praying daily that the Holy Spirit will help me live a life of trust and that I will learn to trust Him without borders. I will admit that while I am excited about what this will look like in my life and the work He is doing on my heart; I'm also a bit afraid of what this will require of me. But that's part of what faith is, right? It's not saying that I'm not afraid, but it's taking each step forward in spite of the fear and saying, "Lord I know you have this."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Swimming in the Ocean's Depths

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
Hillsong United
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

When I heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago, I instantly fell in love with it. I will admit that it's been on repeat on my iPhone a lot lately because it is that good.  The lyrics spoke directly to why I actually chose the name of my blog. When I decided to start writing on here, I chose Dancing in the Waves because I truly believe that it is when we step out into the deep waters and lose sight of the shore, we will then discover a life fuller and richer than we ever thought possible. One that is seeped in joy even in the difficult moments. I know that this can be easier said than done many days and that it is a continual journey of learning to trust Him with everything. But I think that He is lovingly patient with each baby step I make towards Him.

Several years ago a close mentor remarked that she had noticed I had the tendency to let fear be a guiding factor in my decision making. These words were spoken in love during a very difficult season of change in my life, with the intent of propelling me to trade my fear for faith.  They were a life changer. In that moment I knew I did not want that to be my legacy or something I passed down to my children. I knew that God has called me to so much more.

I wish I could say that from that day forward I never again let fear rule me, but there are times where I still react out of fear of the unknown or fear of being hurt. Probably more than I'd like to admit. I think the difference is that I now recognize when I am doing it and I am asking God daily to replace my fear with faith. And can I tell you, He is good and He is gracious. I am left humbled and thankful for the joy and love He lavishes upon me. When I pray a prayer of surrendering it all to Him, he fills me with peace.

I am also very thankful for the honest and wise words spoken to me. She spoke difficult truth to me in that moment, but it was what I needed to hear as I faced events that changed me. I was able to ask God to use the hurt to bring me closer to Him.

If you've got a few minutes, listen to the Hillsong United song below.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cultivating Thankfulness

Slow Down Challenge - Day 5

"One of the curses of living in such a fast-paced society is that we tend to take things for granted.  We overlook everyday blessings, oblivious to the fact that life itself is a gift. . . When we forget to be grateful for the less than extraordinary times, we forget to be grateful, period. Beauty and goodness are all around us; we just need eyes to see them. . . That's not to say bad things don't happen or that injustice and evil are not real. What we do in the worst of times determines who we are all the time.

Today, try saying "thank you" - for everything." ~ Jeff Goins

It was hard for me to not quote all of his post from day 5 of the challenge; it was that good and that convicting. I do believe that at times we can be looking for all of the big stuff to be thankful for and forget the little stuff that occurs every day.

My day 5 of this challenge was Friday and that in itself was something to be thankful for. I've been making a point each morning before I get out of bed to thank the Lord for the day ahead and to offer it up to Him. With the ups and downs of a sometimes hectic life, my desire is to ground myself in what I know to be true and to trust Him with all that is in store.

The weather was warm on Friday, with summer feeling like it has finally arrived as the kids are now back in school. I am thankful for the warm weather while we have it. I spent my lunch break enjoying time outside with amazing company.  I was thankful for the sweet moments of time spent with someone I love.

That evening the kids and I had a low key night at home planned. There was dinner, play time and then relaxing on the couch with a movie. These were simple things, which with my on the go personality type, can feel a little overly ordinary to me at times (again, why I want to learn to really enjoy and savor each and every moment). It was a great night, and at one point as I sat on the couch with a child cuddled up on each side of me, I said a silent prayer of thankfulness for these two I've been tasked with raising.

I do truly have so much to be thankful for and I want to remember that, even in the midst of deadlines, tantrums, bad attitudes, endless loads of laundry and more. I look at these two and even when they're bickering, I am thankful that they have such a love and care for each other.

I am learning to be "grateful for the moments that slow me down, the ones that cause me to take my time." What are the little things that you are thankful for right now?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sleepy Interruptions

Slow Down Challenge - Day 4

"The legacy of your life will not be judged by how many emails you responded to or how well you maximized your lunch break. It will be measured, I believe, by how interruptible you were.  How often did you let the world pull you away from yourself so you could focus on others?  That's the question we need to answer. When we try to control everything, when we plan every last minute of the day, we get mad at life for throwing a wrench in our plans.  . . But what if we expected these interruptions? What if we counted on them, deciding ahead of time how to act in these instances."
~ Jeff Goins

You may have noticed that a reoccurring theme in my household lately has been bedtime and sleep, or the lack of sleep to be more accurate. Getting my kiddos to go to bed in their own room the entire night is an ongoing battle.

We have gotten into a good initial bedtime routine that is going well right now: pj's on, teeth brushed, story, prayers, a song and then I sit with them for about 5 minutes before I leave to finish up my stuff for the evening.

But then we are averaging about 3 hours until the first attempt to come and crawl in bed with mommy. Depending on the night, this first call for mom comes right about the time I've started to fall asleep or I've been asleep for a good hour or more. Either way, I'm tired and never relish the idea of getting up out of bed again.

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I LOVE my sleep. When I became pregnant with my oldest, one of my worries was how would I survive on such little sleep and still be a loving, got it all together mom.  Because I have been told, although I deny it, that I may get just a tad cranky when going on little sleep.  I had assumed that at three and seven we would be past the sleep deprived state, but alas we are not quite there. I survive by operating on a lot of coffee, and "a lot" is an understatement some days. So when these frequent nightly interruptions occur, it takes a lot of prayer and will on my part to be present, patient and positive.  And I still fail miserably some nights.

When I read the challenge for day 4, I knew immediately that these nighttime wake up calls was an area where I could really apply this lesson. Sure enough, about 11:30 pm, my oldest came a calling, saying he couldn't sleep and was scared. This tired mama wanted to tell him to just go back to bed, but instead I walked with him back to bed and curled up next to him for awhile. I sang him a little song, said a quick prayer and hugged him close.

I do know that they both need to learn to sleep on their own and we are slowly, but surely getting there. Yet, I also know that one day he may not want me in his room at all or may feel he's too cool for a cuddle and hug from his mom. So I cherished the moment with him, and snuggled until I heard his breathing change to the peaceful, even breaths of sleep.

Don't get me wrong. In the few nights since, I have had the presence of mind to enjoy these snuggle moments and chances to calm fears with both of them, but I've also had the times where I still try to rush through them as quickly as possible so that I can crawl back in my own bed.

Where do you need to be open to the interruptions of others? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dinner, Legos and a Bit of Focus

Slow Down Challenge Day 3: Focusing

"Staying productive is good.  But busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us. It distracts us from the most important things in life and often steals our joy. . . Learn to pay attention to what matters most and find the freedom that comes from focusing." ~ Jeff Goins

In case you all are wondering, I didn't give up on the challenge. I stuck with it, but haven't been the best at keeping up on writing how it went. The holiday weekend and my son's birthday took center stage this weekend, and that was important and good. I was glad to celebrate this little man of mine who is now 7 years old! Time really does go so quickly.

Back to being focused and Slow Down Challenge, Day 3. The challenge was to pick one task and accomplish it without letting other things come in and distract you from what is important in the moment. I decided to not choose a particular work task or chore, but instead wanted to spend the evening at home loving on my kids. It is so easy to get home from working a full day and start checking off things that need to be done around the house: dinner, homework, chores, baths, get ready for tomorrow and on and on.

In doing this challenge however, I am reminded that these moments right now need to be viewed as the only moments that matter. My kids will only be little for so long and putting aside all of the distractions - the to do lists, the cell phone, the TV, the mentally going through what needs to be done tomorrow, etc. - and truly focusing on quality time with them is life giving for both them and myself.

So I put my phone in the other room, put my chore list aside for the evening and we kept the TV off.  We ate dinner together, did our devotion and played Legos. Legos covered the family room floor, and I am not exaggerating, they were EVERYWHERE. One Christmas, the little man probably received 10 different sets, so we have Legos coming out of our ears.  We built cars and a tower and a house boat.  It was a truly wonderful evening. Looking up every few minutes and being greeted with an ear to ear grin just about melted my heart.

I know I'm not a perfect parent and I often don't get it right, but in the end if my little ones know every single day how dearly they are loved by me and even more so by their Heavenly Father, than I've done something right.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Savoring the Moments

Slow Down Challenge Day 2: Savoring

"We must savor every moment. The trouble is sometimes life can be bittersweet. It comes with all kinds of twists and turns, moments when we don't know what the point of it all is.  During those times, it may be tempting to live in the past or want to push ahead to the future. But those are the times we must cherish the most. . . No it's not easy to slow down and enjoy every breath, every meal, every inconvenient interaction. But that is what we must do." ~Jeff Goins

Learning to savor every moment, including the difficult ones, is not an easy task to accomplish.  But when we learn to be grateful, even in the nitty gritty, I truly believe that there are blessings to be had.

The challenge for Day 2 was to take the time to truly savor and enjoy a meal. I will be the first to admit that while I LOVE food, I often find myself rushing through meals. I think my personality can lend itself to hurrying from one thing to the next, thus why I feel this challenge was important to undertake.

I decided to put this into practice over a dinner out with amazing company. I learned a few things:
  1. I just don't think it's in my DNA to chew a bite of food a minimum of 20 times. I mean it; it's just impossible.
  2. It's really easy to smile between bites when you are sharing a meal with someone you love.
  3. Being present in the moment enables you to value the relationship, the time spent in community and appreciate the little things you might otherwise overlook when rushing. For instance; how deliciously sweet watermelon tastes on a warm summer evening, how mango salsa takes a chicken sandwich from just good to plain wow, and how a good laugh can make a bad day ten times better.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Being Able to Notice

Slow Down Challenge Day 1 - Notice:  "Take time to notice the things that other people are overlooking. Find a way to interrupt your busy schedule and enjoy what's right in front of you. . . These are not distractions from life; they are life itself."

The day had been long, I was tired and the past week and a half have been a bit rough and stressful.  Driving home, no part of me whatsoever wanted to go for a run or do anything other than sit on my butt for the next hour before my plans for the evening.

But knowing that I am doing this challenge and having promised myself that I will do what it takes to work through stress in a healthy way; I made myself get outside.  I put in my earphones, turned on worship music and began putting foot to pavement.

When I reached the Crow Canyon creek and gardens, there was no one else around so I decided to slow down and soak it all in.

It was quiet except for the warm breeze that rustled the trees and the music coming through my earphones.  Hillsong's Desert Song played:

All of my life, in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship.

As I listened to the lyrics, I felt deeply content and hopeful. I was thankful for the time alone and in that time to myself I could once again recognize I am never doing this life on my own.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Slowing Down

I started Jeff Goins' Slow Down Challenge yesterday, a five-day series with the aim of learning to live your everyday life with intention and focusing on the things that matter.  I happened upon this challenge through Twitter and it immediately caught my attention.  Goins' says:

"When we slow down, we do better, more creative work; we become better stewards of the relationships in our lives; and we grow grateful for the small things in life. . . The reality is, this is true for all of us, wherever we are. Right now is the only time you will ever have. So it has to be the best — because it’s all you get. Better make the most of it."

Part of the reason this spoke to me is the stage I'm in right now in my life. Working full time with two kids can be exhausting. There are nightmare-filled, sleepless nights; a never ending to-do list of household chores; potty training ups and downs; work deadlines; homework; sibling squabbles; comforting let downs and hurt hearts and more.

Some weeks the days run one into the other and Friday is here before it seems Monday has even finished. At times I can find myself thinking; "I can't wait until we are past potty training; it'll be nice when they are no longer afraid of the dark and want to sleep in." But there are dangers in that, because before I know it they will be all grown up and not my little ones anymore. And I will miss those nighttime snuggles and jelly smeared faces.

I don't want to take these moments and days for granted. I want to find joy in it all; in every moment, in the difficult, the frustrating, the exhausting, the exciting, the happy and the fun. I want to see what God is doing and as Goins' so eloquently says, I want to be grateful for the small stuff.  So as I begin this short five day journey, I'm praying that God will continue to open my eyes to see what He is doing in my life and the lives of my children. I'm also praying that He will show me how to rest, to be thankful for this very moment and to not always be waiting for the next step or next phase.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Faith For Fear

"I'm giving You fear and You give faith
I'm giving You doubt
You give me grace
For every step I've never been alone"
~Sidewalk Prophets
The little miss is finally in a big girl bed. It's pink, flowers and princesses - everything a little girl loves. And love it she does. . .during the day. When it comes to nighttime, her bed becomes the enemy and she fights me on having to sleep in it alone. Most nights still she will cry and cry or she will wake up in the night calling for me, whimpering that she is scared.
Some nights I am blurry eyed, half-asleep and inpatient - telling her there is nothing to be afraid of and to go back to sleep, hoping that this time she will believe me. But other nights I am not the walking dead and have more clarity and patience to try and help her through the fears.
A lot of her fears seem irrational to me; monsters in the closet, wolves under the bed, and other images born of a very active imagination. But to her these fears are very real dangers that lurk around every corner. It's my job as her mom to comfort her and help her work through it.
But it's more than just a duty I have to perform in my role as mother. I want to do it because I love her. Born out of my love for her is the desire to help her walk through the difficult stuff, to comfort her fears, hold her close when she is upset, and teach her that because of our Savior, we have nothing to fear. I constantly pray for the wisdom and discernment to help me teach both my little ones to walk in faith. Even in my sleep deprived, middle of the night, inpatient and grumpy state - my love for them and desire to be there for them, doesn't change. 
I see this in my relationship with my children, knowing that I am imperfect and flawed, and yet I still have difficulty at times believing the same is true for the One who loved me enough to die. There are days where I assume the Lord becomes frustrated with my fears and sees them as irrational and silly. I wonder if He thinks, "how many times have I proven to her that I am always with her and here she is again worrying about tomorrow."  
Thankfully, He is a God whose very nature is love. He loves me so much that He is patient with my fears.
Even if it's the hundredth time I've worried about:
My children's safety, He whispers, "They are mine and I am watching over them every moment of every day. I love them and I love you."
My finances, He whispers, "Trust me with all I've given you. I love you."
My heart being broken, He whispers, "Place your heart in my hands; I can guard it and I can heal it. I love you."
My future, He whispers: "Your future is under my control and I will walk every step with you. I love you."
He loves me enough to never stop showing me that He is here, even if I've questioned or faltered a thousand times. He is always guiding me towards Him, turning my fears into faith and proving He will neither leave me nor forsake me.
I am beyond thankful that He is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (Psalm 86:15)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jesus in Disguise

Last Tuesday I had the awesome opportunity to go with my friend Erin to see Amy Grant and Brandon Heath in concert, as well as spend a little bit of time talking to them beforehand. And when I say it was awesome, that is an understatement. I will freely admit that I was completely star-struck.

While I'd like to think that I appeared cool, calm and collected despite what I was actually feeling, I doubt that was completely true.

Here is how I am hoping it went down:

Me: "I enjoy your music. Oh yeah, I've heard World War Z is a great movie and that will be the perfect way to escape the heat."  See I got this; I'm totally not phased by meeting someone I hear on the radio every day.

To onlookers: "That woman looks so calm and relaxed, she must meet famous people just about every day because she carries on a conversation like a PRO." 

How I'm sure it really went down:

Me: "I know who you are; I listen to your music ALL the time."  Awkward pause when I cannot call to mind a title of any song.  OMG! I am meeting Amy Grant and Brandon Heath. I'm right now chatting with a famous singer, someone who has been nominated for a GRAMMY. 5. TIMES! Yep, that's right 5 times, and now I'm here chatting about the day like it ain't no thang. What is something really cool to say? Why CAN I NOT REMEMBER  the name of a single song! I hope I don't have anything stuck in my teeth. Why do I sound like a teenage girl in my head?!

How I probably looked to everyone around me: "Why does she kind of look like she might pass out any second. She is definitely giggling like a teenage groupie and has not stopped smiling the entire time."

Looking at the ear to ear grin on my face in the picture; I'm strongly thinking that it was the second of the two scenarios that took place, lol. Oh well, at least I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been tongue tied when meeting someone famous.

Besides being silly and star-struck beforehand, the concert itself was a fun and uplifting experience. Amy Grant sang some of her newer stuff as well as some of her old hits. Having grown up listening to her music, I think I knew just about every song.

There was some great worship music thrown in the mix, and throughout the night I was reminded of how truly blessed I am. I am very fortunate to have Erin for a friend and I know that if life hadn't taken the turn it did a few years ago, her and I would not be nearly as close. I am always amazed how God weaves stories together and brings the right people in your life at the right time. Although the story of how Erin knows Amy Grant isn't my personal story to tell, it is another example of how God can set things in motion in ways we never imagined in order to show us His love for us.

One of the songs performed was Jesus in Disguise. It was a reminder of the fact that Jesus works through others to show His love, as well as a reminder that we need to be His love to those around us. There is a line that is repeated:

"So open my eyes wide as I can, blind as I am. Jesus in disguise."

I want that to be one of the prayers of my heart; that my eyes are open to all that He is doing in and around me and that I can also be a reflection of His love for others.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Own Smallness

I was in Tahoe two weeks ago for work and was able to snag a little down time to enjoy all of the amazing scenery. I've grown up visiting this jewel of the Sierra Nevada, and yet every visit still leaves me awestruck. When I come upon views where the lake's brilliant blues seamlessly merge with the deep blues of the sky, I close my eyes and feel this is one of those lovely places where heaven really does meet earth.

On my second evening, I snuck out after our dinner and drove along the lake's shore, stopping often to take pictures. I had planned this evening to myself knowing that friends were joining me soon and the remainder of the weekend would be busy and filled with a lot of socializing.

At one point I pulled over and hiked down a bit to get a better view. The sun bathed the trees and shore in warm light and I felt myself smiling. I was completely alone in the tucked away outlet, which isn't something I always enjoy because I love being social and having the company of others, but this aloneness was different. It was peaceful. The thick silence wasn't even broken by the sound of cars driving by.

I was yet again reminded of my own smallness, which is something that has come up a lot in the last few months. I often try to tune in and pay attention when I feel that God is showing me the same thing again and again.  We live in a society where there is the constant drive to always be bigger and better.

But maybe instead we should delight in our smallness. In recognizing that about myself I am allowing God to be bigger. I am no longer striving to be better than the person next to me, but I am able to rest in God's greatness. And when I see that it is His greatness at work, than all I need to do is ask God how He will use that through me.

I stayed out until the last bit of sunlight was gone, reluctant to leave behind all the beauty I was seeing. With not a cloud in the sky during the day, the sunset's colors were soft and subtle. A gentle whisper of the beauty of His creation.