Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Year of Being Reckless

It sounded like a crazy resolution, even to me. It was only my second year to do the One Word project, and while other people chose great concepts like "enough" or "gratitude" or "grace," I felt God leading me to something different, something radical. My one word resolution was "reckless." It was a choice that raised a few eyebrows. Where did "reckless" fit into my faith?


Two things inspired it: Jeremy Camp's song by the same name, and Francis Chan's book Crazy Love. I realized that I've spent most of my life playing it safe - to paraphrase Francis Chan, I've spent my life hugging the balance beam, trying to love God and be safe. (See the video at the end of this post for his balance beam analogy.) But "safe" doesn't do great things for God - reckless does. I decided that in 2013, it was time to start living with reckless faith.

I was terrified. I'm a very quiet person by nature. It takes me a while to open up to people. I'm introverted. I'm cautious. I want to make smart, safe decisions. Suddenly God was telling me to do the opposite - take chances, risk failure, put my heart out there and risk it all. So I stepped out on shaky legs of faith and took the first leap.

True to my goals, 2013 has been a year of crazy leaps of faith. It's been a year of leaving fear behind - or sometimes facing my fears head-on and moving forward in spite of them. It's also been one of the most exciting years of my entire life.

Here are a few highlights from my year of being reckless:

1. Entering (and winning) my first fiction contest, judged by one of my favorite authors, Steven James


2. Graduating from college

3. Learning to boogie board (sort of) - Boogie Boards and Big Dreams
4. Leaving my insurance office job without another permanent job to go to
5. Starting my dental hygiene career
6. Querying a magazine for the first time
7. Submitting my first short story to a magazine - it was accepted! You can read it in the February 2014 issue of Splickety Love magazine
8. Finally openly sharing my dream of writing - and calling myself a writer - Dreamer and Hello I'm a Writer

It wasn't always an easy year. I'll be the first to admit, I'm a coward. I fought fear and stress so many times. I battled panic attacks. I must have asked God a thousand times, "Are You sure about this?" He always whispered reassurance and nudged me to keep going, and He never left my side.

I've definitely spent a lot of time outside my comfort zone this year. I've changed and grown. The biggest lesson I've learned: God is faithful. If He calls you to do something, He will walk beside you and give you strength to accomplish it. He will celebrate with you when you finish it. When you step out in faith, He will open doors you never dreamed of and help you do things you never imagined.

My year of being reckless changed my life. It changed who I am. In 2014, I'll continue moving ahead with my crazy, reckless dreams, trusting God to lead me into amazing adventures.

(I couldn't get the balance beam video to embed, but you can follow this link to watch it on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA_uwWPE6lQ)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Deliverer is Coming


Exodus 2:2-10

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”


Baby Moses floating in the Nile River may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Christmas, but follow my thinking for a minute. 

It's hard to wrap my mind around Pharaoh's evil choices. I can't even begin to imagine the fear Moses' mother must have felt. She'd done all she could to protect her son, so she put him in God's hands - and God delivered not only him, but the entire nation through him. Her son was sent to save his people, and God kept him safe.

Do you see it? The foreshadowing in Exodus is so powerful! Pharaoh sentenced all baby boys to death, just as Herod would do. One child was miraculously saved - first Moses, then one day, Jesus.

It reminds me of the Rich Mullins song "My Deliverer." It talks about Jesus, while He lived in Egypt when Joseph and Mary fled their home to keep Him safe. It talks about Him hearing songs the captive children used to sing. My favorite line, though, has to be, "Jesus heard the whole world cry for the healing that would flow from His own scars - the world was singing, my Deliverer is coming..." 

Even before the time of Moses, the world was crying out for the Savior, the deliverer promised from the very beginning. Long before Jesus came to earth, God was already telling His story, whispering a promise that He had not forgotten. No matter how dark things seemed, God was working. He kept His promises. He always does - so this Christmas, and every day, we celebrate.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The MOB Society

I'm excited and honored to have a guest post up at The MOB Society (Mothers of Boys). I love this ministry! You can see my post here: http://www.themobsociety.com/2013/11/26/let-them-see/

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Already Enough

"You idiot." The words slipped out before I even thought about them, whispered in the early morning darkness. As I tiptoed through the house, trying not to disturb my family, I tripped and bumped into a door, once again displaying my massive lack of grace. So the harsh words came out - words I would never speak to someone else, but found it far too easy to direct at myself.

I've struggled with my self-image as long as I can remember. As a child and teen, I was painfully shy, awkward, and very much an introvert, much more comfortable spending time with books and horses than with people. I wasn't talented. I definitely wasn't athletic. I was never the pretty one. I was the one who would "find someone who loves her for her sweet personality" according to a friend's mom. The words she didn't say were just as obvious: I would never find a man who thought I was beautiful because I wasn't enough.

"Not enough" could pretty much sum up Leah's life, too. She lived in her sister's shadow - the older sister, the ugly sister, the sister who just couldn't measure up to Rachel.

I feel her pain. I think I get Leah's story so much because I have been Leah. My life doesn't look like hers, but we're alike in so many ways. For so long, I struggled with being enough. I was't pretty enough or athletic enough, so I tried to find fulfillment elsewhere. I dieted in hopes of being thin enough. I studied endlessly in the hope that my grades would be good enough. I spent so many years trying in vain to find the one thing that would make me feel worthy. 


That's exactly what Leah did. She tried so hard to be enough for Jacob. She knew she wasn't loved, but when she gave him a son, she thought surely Jacob would love her. But he didn't. Time after time, son after son, she hoped and prayed this time everything would change, but it never did.


How many of us do the same thing? We search for that elusive thing called "enough." If I was thinner, prettier, smarter, more successful; if I had a better job, a bigger house, a husband, a degree. The sad fact is, we will never be enough in this world. But what the world thinks of us isn't what matters. 

To your Father, you are already enough. God loves you, just as you are, with all your failures and imperfections. You are His daughter, His priceless treasure, His masterpiece. You are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 

It took Leah a while to figure this out, but she finally got it:
Gen 29:35    And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. 
She might not be enough for Jacob, but to God, she was perfect.

God has already given us a reason to praise Him - He has shown us that in Him, we are enough. We don't have to measure up. We can't measure up. But He embraces us, with all our imperfections, and shows us that we are already enough.
 

Leaving Fear Behind

I wrote just a few days about my dreams of being a writer. It's been a scary journey, both writing and revealing my dreams of writing. So much of the journey has involved learning to leave my fears behind.


Last week, I got amazing news that made all the fears worthwhile: I'm getting published.

I recently sent a short story to Splickety magazine. It was my first fiction submission ever, and I was terrified. Honestly, my husband is the one who talked me into submitting it. A week ago today I got the email that changed everything - my story was accepted. It will be published in the first ever issue of Splickety Love on February 14.

From the time I first read Little Women when I was nine years old, I dreamed of being like Jo March, my favorite character. I wanted to fall in love, get married, have a houseful of boys, and write stories. Today, I stand amazed that God listened to those dreams of that little girl in south Arkansas, and He answered them. I can officially say that I am a writer.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hello, I'm a Writer

Hello, my name is Amanda, and I'm a writer.

Photo credit: Tonya Salomons @ Stone To Heart
Artwork by Kathi Denfeld @ Lo-ly-gag
 
I still can't say those words aloud. It's too scary. The best I can do is type them. There's an expectation, a kind of reverence, attached to that single word, "writer," and I just can't say it along with my name yet.

I blog. I write fiction. I've submitted a query for an article to a major magazine, a short story to another magazine, and I've entered a huge fiction contest. (Now the waiting begins - it will be at least December before I hear back from any of them.) I've won a small writing contest. A few posts have been chosen as favorites in the weekly link ups I write for. My laptop and iPad are filling up with writing - blog posts, short stories, scenes and pieces of what will eventually (I hope) be a novel. So why can't I tell people "I'm a writer"?

 The biggest reason is fear. I know the next question will be "What have you written?" Nothing published, except my blog. I can't point to a book or story or article yet. I don't have concrete evidence that I am a writer. The fear lingers at the back of my mind - what if I never do?

What if I tell everyone "My name is Amanda, and I'm a writer," but nothing happens? What if there are no articles, no published stories, no books? Then what?

I think I'm still waiting for that magical moment when I'll really feel like a writer, when this whole dream I've had since nine years old will come true. I'm not sure if it will happen with the first article, or the first paycheck, or when I sign a book contract. 

I'm not sure when it will come, but I can't wait for the day I can fearlessly say, "I'm a writer." Because deep down, that's who I am. I'll write whether there's a contract or not. I'll write even if I never get a paycheck for it. I'll write because it's my release - it's what I have to do. It's what I was made to do. That's what really makes me a writer.

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

God's Daughter: Coming Soon!

It's been a really long time since I read a historical fiction novel. I really enjoyed them in the past, but for some reason I just haven't picked on up in a while. I was so excited when my friend Heather Day Gilbert told me about her historical novel, God's Daughter, and offered me a chance to read an advance copy of it. I can sum it up in one word: WOW!

 
God's Daughter tells the story of Gudrid, daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, the first documented European woman to have a child in North America - and one of the first Christians among the Vikings. Gudrid, already twice widowed, finds herself struggling in her marriage, homesick and struggling to adjust to her life in the New World. Her character is so real. She's honest in her struggles, and so easy to relate to as she tries to follow her faith in a society that is just beginning to learn about Christianity.
 
It's not just Gudrid - all of the characters are fantastic. I honestly couldn't put this book down. I found myself getting so wrapped up in the story, in the lives of the characters. I stayed up late to read just a little more and finished it in just three days. I cannot wait for the second book in this series! Heather has made my love historical fiction again.
 
You can find out more about Heather on her blog and more about the book on GoodreadsGod's Daughter will release THIS FRIDAY on Amazon. Grab a copy as soon as you can - you don't want to miss this book!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remedial Faith

Failure. Somedays I think the word should be scrawled across my forehead for the world to see, so they'll know what they're getting into. A few others could go with it, maybe in smaller print under the main theme. Loser. Not good enough. Mistake.

If there were remedial courses for faith, I'm pretty sure I would be enrolled. I would be that student who shows up semester after semester, trying but never really getting the hang of things. I would be the person the teacher looks at and thinks, "Really? You again? Why don't you just quit - you'll never get this right anyway."

I try to be a good Christian. I try really hard, but it doesn't always work. I brush aside my time with God in favor of other, less important things. I lose my temper. I complain. I let bitterness or discontentment take root. I battle the same sins over and over again, and too often, I lose badly.

Time after time, I go to God, asking for His forgiveness - again. I hurt Him. I disobey Him. I promise Him I'll do better next time - but when the next time comes around, I mess it up again. It should be enough to make God turn His back and walk away from me.

But He doesn't. For reasons I can never understand, He loves me. He loves me when I can't even love myself. When I call, He runs to save me. He picks me up when I fall down. He pours undeserved grace into my life. How can He love me like that?


He's the God who created the universe. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who parted the Red Sea and raised the dead. But you know what really amazes me? He's MY God. He holds MY world. He created it all - yet He cares about tiny, insignificant me, one woman in a sea of billions. He knows every detail of my life, every hair on my head, every mistake I've made, and He still loves me.

It's not just love. It's extravagant love, a love that would do anything, a love that gave everything He had to redeem me. God doesn't see me as a remedial student or a failure. I'm a slow learner, but He's a patient teacher. And when He looks at me, He doesn't see a mistake - He sees His daughter. He sees me with fresh mercy, even when I don't deserve it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How To Control Your Emotions - Review and Giveaway!

I'm no stranger to roller coaster emotions. Life is full of ups and downs, and my emotions have a way of changing as fast as the twists and turns.

I can pinpoint big events that made my emotions go crazy: seven moves in my first seven years of marriage; a big pregnancy scare and the premature birth of our second child; going back to school at 30 to finish my degree and launch a new career; and my parents marriage almost crumbling just as I returned to college.

Sometimes, though, it 's not the big things that put my emotions in overdrive - it's the little everyday stresses. I'm guessing it's the same for you. It's when you're running late for work, or the kids won't stop fighting, or you can't stretch your budget any more. Emotions can overwhelm you when you can't make the number on the scale change, or you don't like the reflection staring back at you from the mirror.

You may feel defenseless against your emotions - but you don't have to be.


I've been a fan of Brooke McGlothlin for several years, since the first time I read Warrior Prayers. I was so excited to have the chance to review her newest book, How To Control Your Emotions So They Don't Control You.

If you've ever struggled with your emotions, you need this book. Brooke outlines simple strategies to help you bring your emotions under control, along with Scriptures to help fight off the lies of the enemy. She also shares examples of her own struggles - and sometimes, all a mom needs to know is that she's not alone in her fight!

Best of all, you can WIN a free copy of it this week! Just leave a comment below to enter. The winner we be announces Sunday, October 6th.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Living and Active

I never thought I would struggle with my weight. As a kid, I was always skinny. When I started taking karate and horseback riding lessons in junior high, I built muscle and toned. In high school, my weight yo-yoed but never got above 135 pounds. My freshman year of college, I became a vegetarian and lost the "freshman 15" instead of gaining them. I spent my days in class and my evenings working out, riding horses, and taking ballet classes.

Then life happened. I gave up being a vegetarian and worked out less. I got married. I sold my horse. I had kids. I gained weight. I lost weight. I went back to school and gained a lot of weight. Now, I find myself hovering (a second time) on the edge of my heaviest weight ever. And I don't like it.

The Bible says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19
 
It says we are to do everything for the glory of God:

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31
 
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. ~ Colossians 3:17
 
When it comes to my health, I'm not following those commands. Instead, I'm abusing my body. I fill it with unhealthy food. I overeat. I neglect my workouts. I have not glorified God with my physical health. And it's not okay.

Today marks a fresh start for me.


I'm starting the "Living and Active" challenge with Claire at Peak 313. For me, this challenge isn't about being supermodel skinny. It's not about getting six-pack abs or building big muscles. It's about giving God my best - spiritually, mentally, and physically.

My faith is everything to me. It's not just part of me - its all that I am. I know that if I skip my morning time with God, or if I don't have Christian music playing during the day, or if I skip church and feeding my soul - I can't do all that He calls me to do. I can't be a good wife and mom, be my best at work, or lead children's ministry if I'm not spending time with God. I can't give to others unless I fill up first.

Yet that's exactly what I've tried to do physically, and it's not working. I feel awful. So many days, instead of being at my best, I'm bloated, sluggish, and achy. I'm always exhausted. I'm stiff and sore in the mornings. I don't sleep well. I'll admit it - I don't want to live my life this way. I want something better.

I'm ready for changes, and this is the perfect place to start. I love this challenge because it's doable. This isn't extreme - and I have been to both extremes. I have eaten until I gorged myself, day after day, hiding my feelings behinds food. I have gotten scary skinny, hovering on the brink of an eating disorder. Extremes don't work. They don't last. I'm ready for consistent, healthy changes. I'm ready for to be living and active.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Me, Pinatas, and Epic Mom Fails

I've had my share of "epic mom fail" moments. Seriously. Like the time I sent email invites instead of real invitations to my oldest son's birthday party and no one showed up. Or the time forgot the big event my kids were desperately hoping to go to.

Or a few weeks ago, on a Sunday night, when I was working on a blog post. To make matters worse, I was working on a post about a verse I love in Psalms. I had started the post earlier in the day, and late that Sunday night, I was trying to edit it from my phone. (You can see how fast things are unraveling here.) My kids were both talking. They should have been in bed. I should have been in bed. But instead I was tapping my iPhone screen in a desperate attempt to finish a post that was already scheduled.

Then it happened. Distracted by my kids, I hit the wrong button and messed everything up. I yelled at my kids. I got mad at everything and everyone, including my phone, the Internet, and life in general. My oldest son walked away with a hurt look on his face. After all, he was in the middle of trying to tell me something funny he saw earlier that day, and not only was I not giving him my attention, I ended up yelling at him. Not my finest mommy moment. Sadly, it's just one in a long line of epic mommy fail moments.

I wish I could be a perfect mom. I really do. I wish I was a great homemaker (I'm not). I wish I could decorate elaborate birthday cakes, throw beautiful theme parties with the perfect decor and games and goody bags. (I'm doing good to hand out invitations at all, there are no party games, and I forgo goody bags for a piƱata. If you want a treat at our parties, you've got to fight for it.) {Click to Tweet that.} I wish I didn't yell at my kids. My mommy wish list goes on and on.


But my kids don't need to see Supermom - they need to see a momma clinging desperately to God's grace, knowing that's the only thing that can pull me through. They need to see my struggles so they see my victories. They need to see me striving to be better so they will know that it's never too late to change and be a better person.

I fail. A lot. But I hope my kids will see that I can't be perfect, and neither can they. But we serve a God who is perfect, and He gives plenty of grace to us, no matter how much we fail.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How To Be Brave

 
I'm close friends with fear - well, maybe "frienemies" is a better description. It's been a unwelcome part of my life for as long as I can remember. Worried, anxious fear. Mind-numbing, can't-breathe, panic attack fear. I know its many faces well.

When I was in junior high, I fell in love with the American West. The time period fascinated me, in part because these pioneers and early settlers knew a thing or two about fear. Families left everything behind for a chance to stake their claim on untamed land and start a new life. They faced droughts, storms, sickness, accidents, attacks, and more. For years, I read everything I could about this time period. During this time, I first read a quote from John Wayne:
 

I've used variations of this quote so many times with my kids, stressing to them that sometimes, you just have to face your fears. They aren't empty words. I've lived a lot of what I tell them. I fought a massive, decades long war against fear. While I overcame a lot, it's still a daily battle. Going back to college in 2010 brought up a whole new group of fears. Graduating silenced many of them - but not all. I still have big dreams beyond college, and big dreams bring bigger fears.

I'm trying really hard to be brave right now. Last week, I worked through the Blog Planning Boot Camp with Kat at How They Blog. Day One was exciting: writing down dreams of the legacy I want to leave behind. Day Two was scary: setting lifetime, five year, and ten year goals. By Day Three, I was in panic mode: breaking down my one year goals into small, doable steps and scheduling those steps on my calendar.

It's one thing to say I want to be a published, successful author and have a thriving blog. It's another thing to actually take steps toward that dream. The scariest part is the very simple act of admitting that I have the dream. (Click to Tweet) If no one knows my dream, and I never achieve it, it's no big deal. But if I admit it, if everyone knows my dream, and I never achieve it, then I feel like I've failed.

What if I tell everyone that I want to be a published author - but I never even get an article in a magazine? What if I share my dream of writing Christian fiction - but get only unfinished manuscripts or a stack of rejection letters to show for my work? What happens if I bare my soul to the world, letting them see the deepest desires of my heart - only to learn I'm not good enough to make it happen?

I've always been a dreamer - but now it's time to become a doer. It's time to push my fears aside and put my hopes into action. I'm shaking in my boots, but I'm saddling up anyway. I've dreamed it. I've planned it. Now it's time to dive in.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bread and Wine: A Review

It's easy for cooking and mealtimes to become a chore. I love to cook, but after three years of balancing school with work and family, coming home exhausted every day just to spend hours studying, I lost my love for it. I just wanted to find something quick and easy that would get everyone fed each night. After my graduation in May, I was determined to rediscover the joy I once found in cooking. Then I found Bread and Wine. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time.



 Shauna Niequist perfectly ties together faith, family, and food in a book that is part memoir, part cookbook, and entirely wonderful. This is not a book to read in one sitting or even in a couple of days. It's a book to read a snippet from, then mull it over (and try the recipes) before moving on to the next portion. It will make you fall in love with food, cooking, and sharing meals with the ones we love.

This is the perfect book for "foodies," but it's about so much more than food. Shauna openly shares her life and faith, including her infertility and miscarriages, her struggles with weight and body imagine, and the struggle to really, fully be where you are.

 

 
 
As I finished this book, it led me down some other trails, pointing the way to other books already on my to-read list. I'm following it up with The Hour That Matters Most by Les and Leslie Parrott (a books bout the lost art of family mealtimes) and The Unwired Mom by Sarah Mae.
 
I highly recommend this book!  I rarely give a book five stars, but this one makes it onto that list.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Way To Journal

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that journaling is a huge part of my Bible study time. I've also written about it here on my blog and guest posted about it on Inspired To Action. It has become a way to deepen my faith and get more from my time with God.

A few weeks ago, I started feeling that something was still missing. I knew there had to be a way to get even more from my journaling. Around this same time, I found myself on a scrapbooking kick, checking out Project Life (which I really want to start) and smash books at Hobby Lobby. The morning after my trip, I had a light-bulb moment, and my journal got a makeover.

It wasn't a big budget change. I spent $3.00 in the craft department at Walmart for some scrapbook journaling cards, found some smash book supplies I bought on clearance a few months ago (for a project I never got to), and printed off some quotes I love from Pinterest and my Instagram page. What did I change? I just decided to highlight some things that were playing a small part before, and added a little scrapbooking flair.

For example, I decided to add more of the quotes and Scriptures that inspire me:



So many times, I refer to songs or books when I journal, so I added lists of what I want to read and what I'm listening to this year.


I also decided to start doing a monthly "currently" feature. This goes back to the influence of what I'm reading and listening to. It's a short list of what I'm reading, listening to, writing, and loving the most that month. (For August, I love Ann Voskamp's post How To Live Through Anything: The Fish Principle.)
 
 

The final product is a book that is part journal, part Bible study notebook, part smash book, and all about my faith. It's counting gifts and heart wrenching prayers, dreams and whispers of truth. It's gratitudes, fears, successes and failures. It's snippets of my life. More than snippets, because its about my faith - and my faith is life itself. It's all that I am, and journaling is growing my faith deeper every day.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chills: A True Story

I'm branching out again today on my blog and linking up with Studio 30 Plus.  I usually link fiction (like Love: A Very Short Story), but this time I'm linking up a true story of an event that changed the way I look at life...


Something was very wrong. A chill crept over me as I stood, staring at the ominous way the light refracted through the glass…the broken glass of a locked door, in the building where I stood alone. Or did I? My heart started pounding as I realized that the break in had occurred recently, within the two hours or so since I had last stood here – which meant those responsible might still be inside.

Adrenaline was suddenly racing through my veins. The first thought running through my head: call my husband, who was next door, and pray my phone could get in a signal in the huge metal building – at least if someone hit me over the head, he would know I was there. My second thought – get out. The only problem was that every door required a key to unlock it from the inside, a key I didn’t have. There were only two ways out for me, and both were on the other side of the building. I made a mad dash for the one I had come in through, fear pulsing through my body.

I raced back out the way I’d come, now seeing the evidence of a break in that I had overlooked – the overturned boxes, the open doors that should have been closed, the lights turned on. My husband was already in the parking lot, running to meet me as he called 911. We waited outside, shaken to the core.

The police came quickly, and caught the would-be burglar, empty-handed and still on the property. He was arrested - so high the police said he’d probably never even remember the events of that afternoon. The police later found out that I was the one who scared him off – he was in the building as I entered, but ran when he heard me, hiding on the property until his arrest.

He may not remember, but I will never forget. I’m really good at playing “what if” – a talent that comes in pretty handy when you want to write, but no so great when you face a terrifying experience. I’ve played the game a thousand times since that day, thinking through all the nightmares that could have come true. Even though it happened more than six years ago, I still remember every time I go into that building.

That single event, spanning just a few minutes on an otherwise normal day, changed me. I’m much more cautious now and aware of my surroundings at all times. I have a concealed handgun license and routinely carry my gun (a Sig Sauer, in case you’re wondering). I’m never without my cell phone. I won't walk blindly into a situation like that again if I can help it. And every time I think of it – even after six years – it still gives me chills.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When I Run

It's so easy to get overwhelmed.  It happens way too often for me.  Life starts throwing too much my way, and I find myself stressed out, restless, ready to throw my hands up and run away from it all.

Recently, I studied Psalm 71, and verse 3 jumped out at me: "Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress."  I love this verse!  Look at the ways God is described in this short segment:

1. Our habitation
A habitat is defined as "a natural home."  That is exactly what God should be - our natural home, where we continually stay with Him, where we take shelter in the hard times and find rest in the good times.  It can also be defined as a retreat, a place to run for safety. 

 
2. Our rock
In this verse, rock refers to a fortress or strong hold.  It also infers strength and might.  God is the strong One, the foundation we can build our lives on.  He will help us stand strong.

3. Our fortress
God is our safe place, no matter what storms rage around us.  He is the refuge we can run to whenever we need Him.  He is our protection.

Best of all, we can continually go to God!  One definition of "continually" refers to daily, regularly coming to God.  He wants us to make Him an integral part of our lives.  When we feel stress building and life seems to overwhelm us, we can run to our refuge, over and over again.  He will give us strength and keep us safe.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Staying Focused

We're almost at the end of the summer Hello Mornings session.  Where did the summer go???  How is it going - is it going well, or are you struggling?  If you're struggling, don't worry - you're not alone.  Confession time: sometimes I struggle with my Hello Mornings. (Click to Tweet that!)

This is not my first time to do the challenge - actually, I can't remember if it's my fifth or sixth challenge - but I still find myself struggling from time to time.  My biggest challenge isn't getting up early.  After finally finishing three years of juggling full-time college with a family and an almost full-time job, a 6:00 a.m. wakeup is considered "sleeping in" for me.  I can get up with no problem.  What I struggle with is staying focused.

Too many times, my morning goes like this:
5:00 a.m. - Get up, check emails on phone, make coffee
5:10 a.m. - Check in on Twitter
5:15 a.m. - Still on Twitter, because I had to read more about that post
5:20 a.m. - Chatting on Twitter
5:25 a.m. - Move to Facebook
5:30 a.m. - Check Pinterest
5:45 a.m. - Finally pick up my Bible and journal
6:00 a.m. - Back to my phone to follow up on an email

Ok, y'all, fess up - I know I'm not the only one who battles distractions!

My morning time is limited.  I often have to leave my house at 7:00, and I want to maximize my time.  I have a few strategies I'm using to help curb distractions and keep me focused:

Create a schedule.

I wrote out a simple schedule a few months ago to help me stay focused.  If I find myself wandering, I go back to this.  Sure, checking in with my group is important - but spending time in the Word is much more important.



Set a timer for your phone or computer time.

Limit yourself - whether it's five minutes or thirty minutes, decide what is absolutely essential to start your day, and stick with it.

Be accountable!
Let your Hello Mornings group know you're struggling.  They are there to help you - and they have probably struggled with same issue at some point.

Stick with it and finish strong!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Victim of Grace



Every so often, a book comes along that just grabs you and doesn't let go.  Victim of Grace by Robin Jones Gunn is that kind of book.  As I read, I would periodically stop to text a friend and say, "You have to read this!"  Other times I stopped to type out a quote to share on Facebook or Instagram.



Victim of Grace shares personal stories from Robin Jones Gunn's life, linking each back to a woman in the Bible whose story she related to during that time.  She shares both the dark times and the good times in her life, but through it all, she shows how God's goodness prevails.  She discusses how we lost our "covering of grace" in the fall and how we need to be honest with God, receiving the provisions He has for us. 

She also shares a lot of her experiences with writing.  She talks about where many of her book ideas came from, as well as her writing habits and how she made time for writing in the middle of raising children and caring for her father as his health declined. 


I would highly recommend this book to anyone.  It's one of those books you'll find yourself sitting down periodically so you can soak in what you're reading.  You won't regret it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Boogie Boards and Big Dreams

Last week, I did something crazy.  I chaperoned a pre-teen trip to a local water park.  (That wasn't the crazy part.)  I wore a swimsuit, which was pretty crazy.  And scary.  Even if I did wear shorts with it.  A thirty something momma of two squeezing into a stretchy swimsuit...ugh.  But I digress.  No, as challenging as that may have been, that wasn't my crazy adventure.

I learned to boogie board.

Seriously.  

I told my husband once that if we ever went to Hawaii or California or someplace with actual waves (which we don't have on the Texas coast) I want to learn to surf.  His response?  Hysterical laughter.  It was justified.  Let's just say that I'm not known for my gracefulness.  I'm known more for tripping on flat surfaces.  So I'm not a natural candidate for surfing skills.

Still, I've always wanted to try.  Last week, when we walked into that water park, what was the first thing I saw?  Surfing.  Ok, boogie boarding, actually, but close enough.  I knew I has to try it before we left.  But I couldn't talk any of the kids into it.  We warmed up on a few water slides - with me screaming the whole time.  Then we floated the river surrounding the park, where I flipped over in the rapids and hurt my knee.  (I told you I'm not very graceful.). The day wore on, until finally I knew it was now or never.

Image credit: Schlitterbahn Galveston

I made my way to the boogie board line.  At first, I stood aside, just watching, before working up the nerve to get in line.  It didn't take long to realize that I was the oldest person there, by quite a few years.  I guess that's why one kid looked at me so funny when he asked, "Are you going to try it?"  

My nerves almost got the better of me as I watched college guys and small children attempt it.  I was supposed to hold this board, dive down a hill into a rushing current of two-inch-deep water, then get on my knees on said board?  It had disaster written all over it.  When it was my turn, I stood telling the guy overseeing it, "Look, I have no idea what I'm doing."  He explained, then demonstrated, then turned me loose.  I held my board, took a deep breath, and dove.  

And it worked.  I caught the current just right, and stayed on the board, on my stomach, for quite a while.  I felt so confident that I got back in line for a second try.  This time, when my turn rolled around, I asked the guy what the secret was to getting on your knees on the board.  He explained, and again, I did it.  It was amazing.  By the time I finished the second round, I was exhausted, my knee was killing me from my earlier wipeout, and our group was packing up, so I headed out - but I've got to say, I felt great.  I rocked.

Okay, you're probably wondering what my boogie boarding adventure has to do with anything.  I've talked a lot about my dreams this year - my huge, crazy, God-sized dreams.  If I'm going to dream big, I have to overcome some of the same hurdles I overcame to boogie board.

1. Don't be afraid to look crazy.
I would have spent weeks kicking myself if I hadn't tried it that day.  I would rather look like the crazy middle aged woman on a boogie board than to regret missing the opportunity.

2. Take a deep breath and just dive in.
All I knew about boogie boarding, I learned from a thirty second conversation with a teenager.  I just had to take what little I knew and dive in.  We can only learn so much by standing on the sidelines - sometimes we just have to experience it for ourselves.

3. Celebrate taking the leap.
Okay, so maybe throwing my hands in the air and telling my oldest, "I surfed - and I rocked!" wasn't the appropriate way to celebrate.  But just taking leap is something to celebrate, even of things don't turn out like you planned.

Have you ever done something wild and crazy, not caring how you looked?  Tell me about it.  Please.  So I won't think I'm crazy.  

(Just incase you're wondering, I'm still recovering from the sunburn and the injured knee.  But it was totally worth it.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

When Boys Become Men

I'm losing my babies. Time is slipping away before my eyes, running through my fingers as I try to hang on tighter.  I'm watching my little boys become men, day by day.

My oldest - my firstborn, who I watched and guarded so carefully - is now watching out for me. He checks my tires. He cooks dinner. He encourages me. A few months ago, as I prepared to take a hard test with very high stakes, he left this for me on the refrigerator:

 
He started youth group this summer.  Youth.  Already.  It doesn't seem possible.  Wasn't it just a few days ago when I held that tiny newborn in my arms - a new mom, holding a new life, falling head over heels in love.  Can we just rewind a little?


My youngest is too big for me to pick up anymore. He writes in cursive and reads massive amounts about dinosaurs.  My preemie who fought so hard for every breath those first few days of life will now fight for breath through his laughter as he tells jokes or watches his favorite movie, calling out, "Mom, this is just too funny!"

 
I look around at the shoes lying in the floor - they are now bigger than my own.  Tears fill my eyes. Can we slow this down?  Time is passing by much too fast.  In six years, my oldest will graduate - my baby will follow him just three years later.  I feel this crazy twist of emotions - pride and delight as I see the men they are becoming, as I watch their strengths and talents and passions emerging; sadness that all too quickly, they will be all grown up and our home will become an empty nest.

I got my first taste of what that will be like when they went to camp last week.  It marked the longest time I've ever been away from my boys - four nights.  The house was so empty without them.  There were a little homesick, but they came back with stories of ziplining, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, amazing chapel services - and the highlight of it all, Top Shot champion Dustin Ellermann teaching them to shoot.  They had adventures of their own, and they loved it.  It was a week that proved they are growing up.

No one told me that motherhood is such a mixed up mess of joy and fear.  My heart fills with pride at the men my boys are becoming - and breaks because it's happening much too quickly.  The hardest part of parenting is the letting go. http://clicktotweet.com/3WR5B  It's a thousand little moments leading up to the ultimate moment of turning them loose in the world and praying that they make the right choices, that what we've done is enough.

I can't rely on myself to prepare them for life.  No matter how much my husband and I teach them, no matter how many church services we take them to or how many family devotions we read, so much about their lives is out of our hands.  I have to let them go and place them in God's hands.


Do you have a verse that you cling to for your children?  This is mine.  What a perfect reminder this week, as I review one of my favorite verses with Hide His Word.  He knows them far better than I do.  He has plans for them - good plans.  They are in His hands, hands that are so much bigger than my own.  Letting go is never easy - but I know they will be safe in their Father's hands.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Transitions

Life is all about changes.  Nothing stays the same for long.  But change is hard - even good change - and there's a part of us that wants to fight it.  No one likes the struggle that comes with transitions.

I'm in a transition period myself.   A few days ago, I mailed in my application packet for my dental hygiene license.  I've graduated.  I've passed both my regional and national tests. It's a done deal, except for a little paperwork and red tape.  In a few weeks, I'll get my license in the mail, and I will officially be an RDH.  For the first time in my life, I will have a career, not just a part-time job.  I can't wait to start this new phase in my life.



But I'm not quite there yet.  Technically, anyway.  I can't touch a patient until I get my license.  I'm still working my office job until my license comes in.  In a few weeks, everything will change - but for now, I'm caught somewhere in between.

I've also reached a transition period with my writing.  I can now spend more time focusing on writing.  I have ideas for magazine articles, blog posts, stories, and more, and I'm working on creating a schedule and trying to sit down daily to write.  I'm trying to move writing from something I do for fun to something I take seriously.  It's my dream, it's what I love, but it, too, requires a transition.

I have to admit, this whole process of change hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be.  I imagined that once I finished school, I would easily slip into a calm, "normal" life where balance came naturally.  How could it not after having such a huge load taken off my plate?  What I found instead were all the things I pushed aside to get through school now clamoring for my attention - fitness, ministry, home projects, and more.  Finding a workable schedule and sticking with it has proved to be a challenge, one that I'm still working on.

So what do you do when you're in-between two realities, moving from old to new?  You stay faithful.  You keep working hard.  I'm still working at my job at an insurance office.  I'm slowly working on my home, catching up on all the things I didn't have time to do during college, planning so that hopefully things will run smoothly once I start my new job.  I'm working my way into a new fitness routine and slowly changing my eating habits.  I'm jotting down ideas and developing them slowly, working from my laptop and my new iPad mini to create blog posts and articles.  I'm emailing my critique group and my writers group for feedback and advice.  I'm keeping an ear out for job openings and professional connections.  I'm trying to weave what seems to be a thousand little pieces of my life into something that works.

Change is natural and normal, but it's not easy.  I'm growing - and I'm having some growing pains to prove it.  My life is morphing into something new and better.  For now, though, I'm hanging on through the transition.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Comfort Food: Cheesy Potato Soup

I'm a Southern girl, and in the South, we love good old fashioned comfort food.  When I'm having a bad day or when I'm not feeling good, a bowl full of warm soup is the perfect pick me up.  Of course, you don't really need an excuse to make a big pot of good soup.

Cheesy potato soup is one of my family's favorite meals.  I got the original recipe years ago, and I worked on it for a few months, tweaking it a little each time I made it.  We had it this weekend, for the first time in months.  (According my oldest, now that I'm done with college, "We're having real food for the first time in a year - or three.")


It's super easy - peeling the potatoes is the hardest part!


·         8 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

·         1 small onion

·         3 stalks celery

·         5 cups water

·         5 teaspoons salt, divided

·         1 stick butter

·         4 cups milk

·         1/4 cup flour

·         1/2 teaspoon pepper

·         1 teaspoon dry mustard

·         1 (14 oz) can tomato sauce

·         1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

·         1/2 pound Velveeta

 

1.       Finely chop onion and celery; add potatoes and put in water with half of the salt; boil until tender.

2.       In a separate pan, combine butter, milk, flour, pepper, dry mustard, and the rest of the salt; heat until butter is melted and all ingredients are combined.

3.       Shred or thinly slice Velveeta and add to butter/milk mixture, stirring until melted.

4.       Combine cheese/milk/butter mixture with potatoes.
 
Add tomato sauce and Worcestershire, and heat through.  Serve with thick slices of French bread or homemade bread.

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