Monday, July 29, 2019

The Year of the Snuffleupagus


Every year, around New Year’s Day, I come up with my word for the year. I believe last year’s word was balance and I have also used courageous. But this year, 2019, the grand word chosen to bring enrichment and enlightenment into my life has been Snuffleupagus! Yep that’s right, the big, giant, furry elephant- like character from Sesame Street. Actually he started out being Big Bird's imaginary friend that brought him joy and friendship when he needed it.

So why am I sharing with you my word of the year now, while it is July? And why in the world is it a kid’s cartoon character? Well, to answer the first question, I had hoped that by now, mid- July I would have had something grander chosen as my word of the year- something more sophisticated, classy, and relatable.

Honestly, this word was chosen not by me, but my husband. Last winter when I was asking my husband what my word of the year should be it just popped out of his mouth. I immediately cracked up laughing at the ridiculous notion.  I dismissed it and thought it was ludicrous, but come to find out, it’s been the perfect fit! Snuffleupagus represents to me not to take life or myself too seriously. A reminder to sit back, relax, and enjoy the life God has given me and not feel like I must have everything in life figured out.

When I become overwhelmed, burdened, and life begins to feel a bit heavy on my shoulders I realize that I am taking this situation too seriously, myself too seriously, or life in general too seriously. Then the word Snuffleupagus pops into my head and I envision the goofy looking character from tv with his endearing eyes and floppy nose and it puts a smile on my face. That’s it! It brings me joy! I remember that this is the word I chose for the year and for the moment it lightens my load. At the same time, I am reminded to leave my worries, cares, and burdens in God’s hands and stop stressing so much. Then it happened, the bible verse came to me that so perfectly encompassed the year of the Snuffleupagus:

 


“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in mean and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously- take God seriously.” Micah 6:8(MSG)

The words could not have jumped off the page more…"Take God seriously”! Oh, how I wish I would be more obedient to do that. I forget how amazing and perfect His plan for me is. How He truly has the whole world in his hands. How God has predestined plans prepared in advance for me to do. How God knew everything that would happen to me and my family and how it would all turn out. Sometimes I need to trust, sometimes I need to pray, sometimes I need to confront, sometimes I need to step back, sometimes I need to cry and sometimes I need to laugh.

Everytime I allow myself to get down in the dumps about a situation not turning out how I thought, a person not behaving how I think they should, or a plan changed from how I think it is supposed to go, I just think “Snuffleupagus” and I smile. I think of the joy and goofiness that character and that word brought to me as a child and what it brings to me now. I realize that no matter what, things are happening how they should and I need to give up more of my control so He can be in control.

Maybe you too need to lighten your load by lightening up. For you, the word snuffleupagus may not be the word that brings you joy. It may be the thought of your children, your favorite bible verse, or quote from some amazing author. It doesn't have to be complicated or religious. When life gets heavy and you feel bogged down, think of something that makes you smile and helps you to keep things all in perspective. Jesus didn’t die to give us all a life of stress. What kind of testimony would that be? He died to give us life more abundantly.

“Many are the plans in a person's heart,

but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.”- Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Your People, My People

"But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. 
Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. 
Your people will be my people and your God my God..." 
Ruth 1: 16




There is a picture that hangs on our "gallery wall" as I call it. It is a wall filled with family pictures and signs with scripture and quotes and this one in particular quotes the famous words of Ruth from the Bible when she says to Naomi, "Where you go, I will go, where you stay I will stay." I had to have it when I saw it at the store because I quoted these same words to my husband about a year ago and they were a pivotal moment in our marriage.

You see we were about 8 months into settling into our new home in North Carolina and making friends after being relocated there, but we got word after the company buyout that we may be uprooted and asked to move again. At first I was livid! I was not having it and there was no way I was going to move my family across the country again and I didn't even want to think about it. I let my husband know that if another relocation was in the works he could go without me and I was going to go back to Dallas and be with my family. 

But on my way to church that Wednesday night, God pricked my heart and showed me that I had spoken words of separation over our family and He certainly did not want those words to take root and cause a rift between me and my husband. My dad called me that evening on the phone and after venting to him about us possibly moving again, he said words I didn't expect him to say, "It is much more important for you to be there for your husband, than for your family to be there for you." I stopped in my tracks and thought about how terrible I was being. This move would bring opportunity, growth and financial blessing to our family but I was blindsided by the inconvenience it would cause our family to make new friends, find a new church and have our children adjust to being in new schools. Now don't get me wrong those are all big things to consider, but I knew that the same kindness shown to us by our new friends in North Carolina would be shown to us in Kentucky if God was with us. 

So here I am 8 months into settling into our new home outside of Louisville, Kentucky and my kids having finished another year in another new school and we are yet again new in another church finding where we fit. 

I am so glad I clung to those words Ruth spoke to Naomi and I noticed something. It's not the going or the staying that is hard, it's actually what comes after that, "...your people will be my people..."

Making my fellow Kentuckians my friends is what's daunting, intimidating, uncomfortable and takes me out of my comfort zone. Both I and my children wish we had the same strong friendships we left behind in Texas, but it took years for us to make those friendships and forge the strong bond we left behind. It will take years for us to make those best friendships and people you can call at any time of day and say "Hey I am coming over!" here too. But in the process of making these people, my people, I see God's hand in it all. 

He brought us to a neighborhood overflowing with kids so there is no lack of finding someone for my kids to play with. He has brought together an incredible group of women who meet once a month at my house for book club  and prayer. He placed me in a job working at one of my boy's schools so I am able to keep their same schedule, make a little money and get out of the house! 

He is with us, Emmanuel! 

God was with us in Texas, North Carolina and now here in Kentucky. Day by day, week by week and month by month he is showing us that His hand has been in it all- comforting, providing, directing, and loving. 

So maybe you are in the same place I am in -making the people around you, your people. Or maybe your feet are frozen in place and He is asking you to go, perhaps He is asking you to stay. I want you to take comfort in the fact that the same all-knowing, omni present, ever-providing God that I serve is the same one that can come through for you and your situation. My God is your God. He can do the same miracles, restorations, and redemptions in your story as I see Him doing in mine. 

I know that nothing that comes mine or my family's way has not first passed through His hand and He is going to either bring me through it or deliver me from it. Either way, growth, strength and courage await me on the other side. 

Ruth had no idea what awaited her when she ventured out with Naomi. But when she met her Boaz, her kinsman redeemer, all that she had lost and more had been restored and her life became full. 

I sometimes think that the difficult, uncomfortable and stretching times are now necessary for us as believers to scrape off the rough edges and buff out the marred places in our lives. The joy that comes in the morning is always well worth the pain in the night. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

In Your Face, New Year!

It's the end of the month of January and yes I am just now getting to my new year blog. But I figured now is probably better than to have written it on January 1st. I, personally, subscribe to many devotionals and blogs and I had an enormous influx of "New Year, New You" and "What's Your Word for 2017?" and "Be Healthy in the New Year" that they all kinda seemed to be the same and I began to just skim right over them and wish for the New Year newness to wear off a bit.

For some of you the New Year's Resolutions have already waved you goodbye and you find yourself struggling to get into the gym and validate that membership you put a bucket load of money into. For some, eating healthier eludes you as you walk into that coffee shop and smell the sweet scent of those blueberry scones as you sit down and pull out your laptop to blog, (Oh wait, is that just me?)

Bottom line is we struggle, all of us, with inner turmoil between what we wanna be and who we currently are. It's a never ending cycle of beating ourselves up internally for messing up and whipping ourselves into shape when the temptation to waver off our financial plan, diet plan, book reading plan falls apart or whatever New Year's resolution we made seems to come apart at the seams. 

But let me encourage you with this, no matter what goal we set for ourselves this year, know this...you are a treasured and cherished daughter of the King and nothing will change that. No amount of pounds, no amount of books read or written, no amount of college finished or yet to be completed, no amount of healthy food in your fridge or brownies sitting on your counter can change that. 



Being healthy and increasing your knowledge through going back to school or reading more books and even getting out of debt are fantastic habits and goals, but your identity in Christ is set despite what amount of money is in your bank account and what title is on your business card. Stay at home mommas, whether you got to shower today or not, put on your makeup or even get out of your pajamas, doesn't change how much God loves you or how beautiful He thinks you are.  

So let's all stand up and hold hands this year sisters and say "In Your Face, New Year!" Don't let the would'a, could'a, should'a's get you down. Focus on today and the next right step. Focus your eyes on Jesus and spend time in His Presence asking Him what you are to prioritize today. Rest in knowing that you may not be where you want to be, but thank God you are not where you used to be. (Thank you Joyce Meyer for that quote.) 


No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
Philippians 3:13 NLT

This song, "You are Loved" by Stars Go Dim could not be more appropriate...
We hide pain in the weirdest places
Broken souls with smiling faces
Fighting for surrender
For now and the after, yeah
Just look around and you'll see that people
Are scared to say how they really feel
Oh, we all need a little honesty
You are loved
If your heart's in a thousand pieces
If you're lost and you're far from reason
Just look up; know you are loved
Just look up; and know you are loved
When it feels like something's missing
If it hurts but you can't find healing
Just look up, know you are loved

We're not made to be superheroes
Photoshopped, all size zeroes
A light not expected
But not quite perfected yet
Look up; see the sun is shinning
There's hope on a new horizon
Calling you, it's calling

 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Gift of Grace

The best gift we can all give ourselves this Christmas season is grace.


As a recently returned to work mom, after staying at home with my children for many years, I have given myself the grace knowing my house getting clean and laundry getting done is not happening till Sunday afternoon...and that's ok.

As much as I try hard to stick to my weekly menu planning to save money and eat healthier at home, I give myself grace as I find myself going through another drive thru or ordering from another menu because time in the evenings goes at super speed...and that's OK.

As hard as it was to stay silent in my blogging world for the last three months, I needed that time of silence to regroup and re-encourage myself through another big life transition... and that's OK.
 
As hard as it is to stay away from sweets and my favorite food group- chocolate, I allow myself the grace to give in to one indulgence a week...and that's OK.

As much as I would love to spoil my family members with indulgent Christmas presents  every year, I give myself grace as I go reaching for the gift-cards and sale racks making small purchases to allow my dollars to go further...and that's OK.

As this holiday season comes around with all of its hustle and bustle and the New Year's resolutions pressure returns its ugly heads, reminding of us of how far we fell off the wagon last year, we need to extend ourselves grace.

We aren't perfect, we will mess up, we will fail our family, friends and ourselves. But the important thing to remember here is that we get back up, try again or try harder next time. It's good to plan, it's good to budget, it's good to  set goals, but sometimes we are a little hard on ourselves. 

When we internally reprimand ourselves for screwing up or falling off the bandwagon, we bring thoughts of self condemnation upon ourselves that make us want to give up. That's not where our heads should be, we should extend grace to ourselves to not allow slack into our lives or a pattern of laziness to take hold but to remove the stress and pressure of perfectionism.

As we extend grace to ourselves, remember to extend grace to those around us too. 

Did a certain family member forget to send you a Christmas card? Extend grace. Did an in law make a snide comment at the Christmas dinner table about your parenting skills? Extend grace. Did your husband change the tv from your Christmas movie to the football game? Extend grace. Did someone take your parking spot at the mall? Extend grace. 

There are little ways to make this time of year a bit more peaceful and grace is the gift we can receive and gift to help make the holidays a bit more joyous this season. 

This year give the gift of grace.


 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Strong and Courageous

"Have I not commanded you? 
Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
 for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

How many times in life are we in a position that we are called to be strong and courageous? Starting a new job, moving to a new city, becoming a parent for the first time, competing in our favorite sport, or trying a new activity like sky diving or zip lining!

Trusting the Lord with our children, holding our heads high even while struggling through a difficult diagnosis, or learning to put one foot in front of the other after losing someone we loved dearly. There are ample times and opportunities to share our strength and courage in different situations.


I am currently in one such situation myself and God has brought me to the book of Joshua for this season of my life. So when I have a heart for a certain story in the Bible I start from the beginning- Joshua chapter 1. God tells Joshua " I will give you every place where you set your foot...No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life." (verses 3, 5)

Wow! Pretty powerful stuff! Re-imagine that situation you are in with the promise that God has already got it covered, you will come out the other side not only fine but victorious, and any opposition will melt before you! Can you even imagine? So he goes on to instruct Joshua the battle plans for war and who he needs to conquer, the time he needs to conquer them, and how to do it, so as to claim the promised land for Israel. 

Sounds amazing right? You would feel like you're on top of the world and can conquer just about anything! But... I notice something throughout the book of Joshua that catches my attention. God tells Joshua repeatedly " Be strong and courageous" or "Be very strong and very courageous". Why in the world would Joshua need so many reminders when God has already promised success and prosperity to Joshua and the Israelite's? The enemy was going to be delivered into Joshua's hands! So why all the reminders? You would think the promise of God's deliverance would be enough to power Joshua through all those battles. But the real enemy was not all the "-ites" that were inhabiting the promised land (Amorites, Gibeonites, Geshurites, etc...) The real enemy Joshua would need to face was his own fear.

Wow! This realization struck me and it's something that I have been going over and over again in my head, praying about and experiencing firsthand myself. Despite the victories that Joshua saw along the way, there were many times when the enemy looked very intimidating and their numbers seemed to not be in their favor. But in these moments that Joshua could have very well doubted his ability to win, He needed to remember who was on His side and the promise the Lord gave Him from the very beginning. God's promise didn't waver in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The thing Joshua needed to be careful of was that his faith in God didn't waver and that his doubt didn't take control.

I speak to the power fear can have over our lives in my book "Arm Yourself: Equipping Ourselves with the Armor of God." There is a whole section on fear and how it has the power to strip away our faith and lead to anxiety and anxiety can paralyze us. We can keep from moving forward and our unbelief leads to doubting God's ability to truly intervene in our situation, ultimately telling God that our problem is bigger than Him. 

We can't walk in victory with that kind of attitude. Neither could Joshua, so that is why Joshua needed those reminders from the Lord to be strong and courageous! 

Let me break this down just a bit more. Let's look at strength for a moment. According to Google, strength is defined as "the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult." So what are these mental and emotional qualities needed? Well the  verse that comes to mind is when Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 8:10, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength". How many times do we trade our joy for sorrow or despair when times are tough? A lot! Well, don't do that! Allowing joy which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives to shine through even in hard times is a gift to you in difficult situations. I am not talking about the feeling of happiness, but the decision you need to make everyday to operate in this joy despite what your feelings tell you the moment your feet hit the floor. 

Courage is a quality we tap into when fear is knocking at our door, but we choose to trust in God's promises and His timing, purposes and plans for whatever situation we are currently facing. We may feel afraid, but we don't need to give into fear or let it control our lives. We need to speak to that fear-God's Word and His promises over our lives and situations that threaten to steal our victory! 

Jesus has already won the victory over our lives! We need to walk in it. The same promise He gave Joshua, He has given to us. Don't live your life afraid of failure or rejection. Live boldly with strength and courage exuding from your soul and spirit. There were times when Joshua and the Israelites did stumble and offer treaties to tribes they should not have and allowed certain tribes to stay within the Promised Land that should not have stayed. Because of that, they were not able to fully conquer some parts for Israel's victory. 

Don't make treaties with worry or stress. Don't allow things that strip away your victory to take places in your heart that God wants to fill with courage and boldness. 

In Joshua chapter 21: 43-45, the promise becomes fulfilled. The Israelite's take possession of the land God promised and settled there. God gave them rest from war on every side and it ends with a verse I love (v.45) "Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."
I don't know about you, but that makes me excited! So let me encourage you with this today, be strong and courageous! There are lots of things out there that threaten you, but remember it's not the people in our lives we need to fear or the situations seemingly out of our control: 

 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6: 12

And over that, you can be sure we have already won the victory!!!

What courageous thing is God asking you to do? Write this verse down and carry it with you. 

"So do not be afraid. I am with you.Do not be terrified. I am your God.
I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands.
    I always do what is right.
11 “All those who are angry with you will be put to shame.
    And they will be dishonored.
Those who oppose you will be destroyed. And they will vanish.
12 You might search for your enemies. But you will not find them.
Those who go to war against you will completely disappear.
13 I am the Lord your God. I take hold of your right hand.
I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I will help you.’
 
Isaiah 41: 10-13 
 

 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Re-routing (When God Takes You On A Detour)

 
Traveling to visit my mom in far northeastern Arkansas from the Dallas, Texas area several years ago, me and my husband, along with my oldest son and my brother made the long trek to visit my mom for Thanksgiving. 

During that 8 hour trip, the GPS on the phone would say "Re-routing..." when there was traffic up ahead or a faster detour we could take. My brother would look down at his phone and say "Aaah, Rita, she's done it again!" 

"Rita?" I asked quizzically, "Who are you talking to?"

"My phone" my brother replied, "She re-routes so much I nicknamed her Rita Re-route."

So for the remainder of the trip and pretty much the rest of my life since then, I never looked at my phone the same way again, Rita Re-route always popped into my head when a re-route was necessary on our travels.  

How many times I have listened to Rita Re-route willingly, and sometimes, not so willingly in my journey through life. Changing majors in college, switching professions (from aspiring Christian artist/preschool teacher turned stay at home mom/published author), relocating for my husband's job that has recently brought us across the country twice... all these things have definitely thrown kinks into my plans and at times, made me feel the rug was pulled out from underneath me. 

But I can look back at all the re-routes in my life and see that the whole time, God was in control of mine and my family's ultimate destination. How we got there depended on whether or not we listened to take the faster detours or not.

That's why I love God's gift of free will. We can choose to listen to the Rita Re-routes in our minds or continue on our chosen path. But when we keep God first in our lives we will ultimately end up where we are suppose to be. 

About a year ago I looked at my husband after we were settling into our new home in North Carolina and through homesick tears for Texas asked, "Is this where we will grow old? Or do you think well find our way back?"

He looked up, sighed heavily and replied, "I think we'll end up where God ultimately wants us to be."  

I was not satisfied with that answer, I wanted to know and know now! I bent down on my knees asking God to answer this question for me, but all I ever got was silence. So I settled in my soul that I didn't need to know the answer, I just needed to bloom where God had currently planted me. So I did my very best with what I could with the time and talents I was given. I wrote, filmed and edited a bible study to go along with my first book, filmed a radio interview, hosted a book signing at a local coffee shop and got involved in a local church we started attending. But then I could feel a stirring in my soul, that we were about to get re-routed once again. 

When my husband got the offer to relocate to Kentucky, we had the choice to accept and believe this was from God and provide us another opportunity to grow and flourish elsewhere or stay and see if maybe God was not quite finished with us here. When both my husband and I felt the release to move on and go with God, knowing He would provide for us there as much as He had here, we graciously accepted the detour. 

As cliche as it sounds the quote that says "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future" is my life's motto right now. I may not know what church we will attend or how my kids will like the schools or when well make new friends in Kentucky, but I do know that God is the center of this family and this home. 

Sometimes God re-routes our lives to get us back on track, perhaps we've detoured far off the path that will be good for us.  Sometimes He offers safer detours because there might be a dangerous path up ahead that can be avoided, and sometimes He re-routes us to grow us into the people He created us to be. That re-route might be what builds strength, character, hope or perseverance like it says in Romans 5:3-5 (NLT):

 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Your re-route might not be a physical move like ours has been, but it may look like a cancer diagnosis or perhaps you got laid off from your job.  Maybe your re-route is deciding whether or not to go back to school or get involved in that ministry opportunity at church. Perhaps your life is at one of those crossroads where your youngest started kindergarten this year and you feel the stirring to go back to work. Maybe all of your children have left home and you find yourself an empty-nester and that nudging to finish writing that book or maybe even to start your own business is constantly on your mind. 

Life offers us many re-routes and a lot of detours. But we can trust we are on the right path when we consult with the ultimate navigator- Jesus! 


Monday, August 8, 2016

Get Up and Go!


I was a teenager sitting in church barely able to keep my eyes open. Hardly listening to the pastor's message that Sunday, I was in a season of my life where I was actively trying to grow in my faith. But that Sunday I just wasn't feeling it, wasn't paying attention at all, then my eyes closed. 

Have you ever had one of those moments when you fall asleep in places that you know you shouldn't? Oh man, I remember the times in high school and college where I would drift off only to have my head jerk up so hard, if people around me didn't know I was asleep, they knew then by my wild reactive movements.  

Well my head jerked up and I wildly looked around to see if anyone noticed and after breathing a sigh of relief, I looked down in my lap at my opened Bible and read the following words:  "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

It was almost like I received a shot of Espresso through an IV. I know no one around me saw me doze off that day, but  God did. I can't tell you what the sermon was about or if anything profound happened after that service, but I woke up and got to listening to the Word of God being preached for that day. 

This Summer, I have been enjoying the lazy days being at home with my boys, staying up late watching things like Shark Week and the Summer Olympics and getting to sleep in the next morning. But allowing myself to sleep in till the boys wake up, also keeps me from getting some quiet time with the Lord done in the morning. 

When I hear my children rustling around, I look over at my phone, read the latest blog devotional in my email, say a little prayer and then drift back off to sleep before I hear the voice... For about a month now, I have been feeling the Lord telling me to get up, before my kids did and spend time with Him. 

At first, I was frustrated. I thought I need that annoying voice telling me to get up to stop, because I need rest too! I justified rest is just as important to God as it is to me and he would understand. Only I knew no evil voice would be telling me to get up and spend time with God, the Holy Spirit was wanting to get me back in my quiet time, because there were things me and Him needed to hash out. 

I had been feeling dry spiritually and frustrated.  There were a lot of big decisions going on in my life and my family's that I should have been face down on the floor about, but I wasn't. In my quiet time I turn my Pandora channel on the Elevation Worship station, grab my Bible (not the one on my phone) and my journal and head to the front porch and get in the zone! In the stillness and quietness of those moments, that is when I hear God most speaking into my life. He and I both needed that. 

He needed me to wake up from my sleep, rise up from the demands of my life trying to drown out His voice and take the time to let Jesus shine in me, through me and speak to me just like it says in Ephesians 5:14.  



He needed me to get up and go spend time with Him, pray to Him and hear from Him. Let me tell you, I didn't regret it one bit! 

What is God whispering into your life that you keep brushing aside? Does your spiritual walk feel like it is falling flat and lacking depth? Perhaps because it is. Get up and go to your quiet place. Do whatever you need to do to cancel out any distraction and mute all noise and just sit in God's presence to hear what He has for you today.  

Deserts will bloom in the light of Your love
Valleys make room for the river of God

You never run dry
Never run dry
Never run dry

You're my source, never ending
You're my life, never lacking

Lyrics from "Never Run Dry" by Housefires