Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Always, Without Ceasing, In ALL Circumstances

Yesterday began with a feeling of anxiety.  You know, one of those days where you wake up, maxed out to your tolerance threshold for no apparent reason (this is the difference between a physical anxiety problem and worry/anxiety over circumstances).  It was just one of those days where I KNEW I was going to have to fight hard to stay focused on truth.

Then circumstances started playing a part into my angst and the day quickly began to unravel.

I knew that it was going to be more than just an anxious day to fight through, because once actual "things" start playing into the anxiety you've got yourself a whole other battle to fight.

I was so caught up in the seemingly hopeless situation(s) that I froze.
Well, everything froze but my mouth.
The poison just kept seeping out between the creases of my lips, leaving a wake of uneasiness around the entire house.

My anxiety quickly turned into anger, frustration, touchiness, and before I knew it, I was in the middle of a good ol' fashioned pity party, salted with anxiety and peppered with hopelessness and anything BUT joy.

I'm sure the Colony children could quickly begin to list off EVERY area that this affected yesterday. Let's just say that it wasn't pretty, and I will NOT be getting any "awesome mom" awards for the way I acted.

To top it all off, the kids were at each other.  Or maybe they were just being crazy and wild kids.
It didn't matter.
I was NOT having it and they needed to calm down.
I deserved a peaceful, quiet moment to gather my thoughts and regain control...
didn't I?

But being stressed out or anxious never excuses a sinful reaction, and this is the area I got stuck on.

I apologized more times than I can count, but the sin inside of me kept reclaiming ground.

Yes, yesterday was more than just a battle over my everyday anxiety that I deal with.  THAT cannot be helped.

But the way I respond to news like I heard yesterday, and the exhaustion from a busy weekend, and noisy kids playing around and having fun...THAT is a choice.

This morning I woke up to  have my time with the Lord and EVERY. THING. I read had to do with choosing JOY.  Giving THANKS.  Making WISE CHOICES.

NONE of which I accomplished yesterday!

I focused on everything else: the house that is literally falling apart beneath us, the volume of my kids (I'm pretty sure their decibel level clears the illegal threshold is some states!), the physical exhaustion from being busy (and sick) over the weekend, and all the other stuff that kept "going wrong".

When I should have just kept my eyes on Christ.
Because He is the hope.
He is the provider.
He is the interrupter of my perfectly laid out plans.
He is the author.
He is the one who gives JOY in the midst of seemingly rough unHAPPY news.

And He doesn't just ASK us to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in ALL circumstances".  1 Thessalonians says, "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

This focus on HIM isn't just for God's glory but for US!  It brings us the JOY in the midst of bad health, or thousands of dollars worth of house repairs, or lost jobs, or dwindling accounts, or struggling relationships, or broken promises, or overly-lively children;).

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

I'm claiming this today and I'm starting with thankfulness for HIS grace and HIS love and HIS patience for me, even when I get off track like I did yesterday.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Colony Mom Picks ~ Workout Faves

My parents used to call me "gnat" because I was so fast and would literally RUN everywhere!

I ran "track" in elementary school and really enjoyed it.

I tried my hand at basketball, but never really got the hang of it, because, well I could never remember which basket was my team's basket and then I found out that you can't technically be referred to as a basketball star with only 1 3-pointer under your belt in 2 years (and yes THAT basket was in MY own basket, ha!).

Then I found soccer.
Well actually, I found I guy I liked who was trying out for the soccer team in high school and he lived down the street from me and if I tried out for the girls team I could give him a ride home.  Yes, I was THAT girl!

Somehow I made the High School Varsity team as a freshman.
And the team was REALLY competitive and good.
Although I was NOT.

But I had speed in my favor, and the fact that I liked a good battle scar from slide tackles and snatching the ball away from the other team gave me a huge rush!

I moved my way up through the ranks on the team and actually got pretty good as my excellent teammates (and coach) rubbed off on me and I picked up on their techniques.

I even got a soccer scholarship which helped put me through college.
After college I played on a couple co-ed adult leagues until I found out I was pregnant with Rainy.

Josh and I also cultivated our young relationship through the hills and trails of Greenville, SC.  There is something to be said about a couple who can workout and sweat together.

All that to say, exercise and staying active have always been a pretty big part of our lives.

Now, more than ever, I use exercise as a way to manage my anxiety, but finding time can be really difficult.  That is why the way I workout is less about a "fit body" as it is to stay healthy and to release  endorphins.  I also believe that I can find time for the things that are important to me, and the times where I consistently lack exercise are the times I simply don't make it a priority.

I very frequently get asked what I do for my workouts, so I thought I'd share my workout faves.  I try to workout at least 4 times a week, if not more.

1 - Beachbody videos are my favorite.  Specifically T25 and 21 Day Fix Extreme.  I prefer Shaun T over Autumn any day, but I love both workouts.  They are only 25-30 minutes long and high intensity so you are getting a great workout in a manageable/realistic time.

2 - Jogging/running.  Going for a jog looks a lot different these days.  I typically have at least 1 kid with me at all times so having practical expectations is key.  I have it good though, because Jude LOVES to get on his scooter and go for a jog with me.  He clocked nearly 60 miles with me last month alone!  I can also get some miles in during nap time running laps around my house.  And Josh is really good about letting me get out for a run to escape clear my mind:)

3 - I also use yard work as a workout outlet.  Push mowing our yard will give me over 3 miles and if I jog while mowing it makes it even that much more effective;)

4 - I have tried LOTS of different protein shakes but my favorite is Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens.  It is safe for the whole family and it is packed with protein and veggies!  I buy it off of Amazon.  It is cheaper (which is a HUGE factor) and packed with more vitamins, minerals and protein than all of the other shakes I've tried.

5 - These hairbands are my favorite to keep the flyaways out of my face.

So there you have it.  Nothing fancy and I'm not paying a fortune for a gym membership, which also releases endorphins for me, ha!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Identity Of A Blog

When I first began blogging, the act of writing down my thoughts was merely an outlet to the outside world.  I had 2 small children at home, 15 months a part, and being a full-time musician on the road didn't leave much room for relationships.  I was pretty lonely and blogging helped me feel like I had a voice in a world outside of diaper changes, wiping noses, packing and unpacking in a town with no family and very few friends.

My blogs consisted of funny things the kids would do and say, navigating the rough terrain of friendships I was trying so hard to cultivate, fighting to find the joy and laughter in the endless demands of motherhood, ministry updates and opportunities God was allowing us to be a part of.

Then my eyes were opened to the world of extreme couponing and freebies.  Oh.My.Goodness.  The amount of things that I actually got PAID to "buy" at Harris Teeter and CVS almost made me feel like I was cheating some kind of system!  I quickly accumulated quite a following from fellow couponers and other friends and family trying to stay up with the latest free stuff and "rock bottom deals".

The posts during this era were sprinkled with the same content as before but it wasn't uncommon for me to have 2-3 posts A DAY littered with the hottest deals and free stuff you could get your hands on.

Sometimes I wonder WHY in the world I would posted some of that stuff, ha!

My extreme couponing days fizzled out as we began eating a little differently and the desire to get rid of unneeded, excess "stuff" overruled the rush of all the free stuff I was accumulating.

My blog returned back to family moments and ministry opportunities.  Since this time it has become densely populated with things I have learned as I grow in my relationship with Christ, my husband, my children and my friends.

The older I become the more I see just how much I still have to learn.
I'm learning that the choices I make are accompanied with consequences that weigh much heavier and effect more people than ever before.

The posts these days dive into what I am learning as I seek to follow Christ with my whole heart, albeit imperfectly, and the lessons I am learning as a friend/mom/wife as I realize just how lacking I am in each of these areas.

I suppose if I had it all together I wouldn't have anything to write about at all, because I never want to paint a picture of a perfect me with a perfect family.  That portrayal makes being a follower of Christ seem so unattainable, in my opinion.

Lately I have wondered if I even need to keep blogging.
I mean, it takes time, and that is a rarity around the Colony, and it makes me feel so vulnerable, which tends to make me feel VERY uncomfortable (and admittedly anxious sometimes).

But if my blog, or a particular post, has the potential to reach one person who is questioning how God could ever change their life or use them because of their past (or even current choices) then I will keep writing.

Because I want to show the world that the Christian life IS attainable.
Even when life events suffocating the very air we are breathing,
even when you have not-so-stellar mom moments (or days, ahem),
even when you had an argument with your spouse where you were clearly in the wrong,
even when you question the God that allowed __________ to happen,
even when...
even when...

because God is the one and only factor that changes us.
He is the only one that can help us turn from ourselves and see the LIGHT through the cracks of life's darkness.

So, I may no longer have the inside scoop to the hottest deals,
or even the most brilliant ideas to do when daddy is out of the country,
or even a life of ministry adventures to post about.

But I do have the TRUTH of His word, working through this average stay-at-home mom who desires to live a life for HIS glory...
even after apologizing to the kids AGAIN for another lost temper,
or finding myself agonizing over another missed opportunity that God clearly placed in front of me that I was too distracted or selfish to take.

I am grateful to be a sinner saved by His grace.
Because HIS GRACE is what saved me, and I'm having a hard time NOT sharing it with the world!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Standing On The Promises of God

  1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
    Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
    Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    Standing on the promises of God.
    • Refrain:
      Standing, standing,
      Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
      Standing, standing,
      I’m standing on the promises of God.
  2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
    When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  3. Standing on the promises I now can see
    Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
    Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  4. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
    Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
    Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  5. Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
    List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,
    Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
    Standing on the promises of God.

I grew up singing this old hymn.  Even now if I hear people mention the "promises of God" my mind takes me back to the words I sang over and over as a child.

The promises of God are what give us hope. (Romans 8:31)
The promises of God are what give us life. (Job 33:4)
The promises of God are the lifeline to WHO WE ARE IN HIM! (John 1:12)

The promises of God are recorded in the word of God.
Our sword. (Ephesians 6:17)
They are our weapon when fighting off the very real fight of the spiritual enemy who seeks to kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

Therefore (which means, because of the things that were just stated),
we must cling to the words of God, the weapon for fighting, in order to stand our ground against the enemy.

The Bible is our means for combating against our shaky and fickle feelings and emotions.
This weapon is what keeps Truth from getting lost in the sweeping currents of life.

But we can't stop there.
We can't just depend on the word of God for self confidence and fighting off the enemy.

Because sometimes the enemy is our own self.
(Beth Moore talks about this in the study I am doing entitled "Children Of The Day".)

Sometimes the very real enemy is other people.
Sometimes it is Satan himself.
And sometimes it is ourselves.

And the only way to stay on track is to know and study His Word.
The Sword.

Because it is the ONLY thing that is able to penetrate our hearts! (Hebrews 4:12)
Penetrate MY heart.
And I want that.

"In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God."
John 1:1

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Moment Shared Under The Trees

Several years ago, on one of the many mission trips I took to Uganda, I found myself out in a remote village with my team.  Our clinic had been underway for several hours and I was trying my best to mingle among the mothers and ladies who had come.

I veered off away from the crowds to walk down the hill toward the local village.

After a while I found myself under a tree with a young mom who had followed me from the crowd.  She had a couple of kids of her own and was also caring for some family member's children as well.

She didn't waste any time getting to the point of her intentions.

She did not ask for food.
She did not ask for money.
She did not ask me to take some of the many children she was caring for because she simply didn't have enough to feed all of them (this, unfortunately, is not uncommon).

She spoke not one word of greeting.

She did, however, recite this verse.  A verse which I have clung to my entire life as someone who fights against worry and anxiety on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.  But there was something about the way she said it.  Especially after realizing that she didn't have a copy of her own Bible to help her memorize these words.

One baby wrapped around her back, another clinging to her hip, tears soaking the front of her dress she spoke these words:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink,
nor about your body, what you will put on.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: 
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?"
Matthew 6:25-26

Then she looked up at me with complete belief in these words while innocently asking how God could make such promises and not be providing food and clothing for herself and the many little humans left in her care.  She was broken but honestly seeking insight into these words she had just spoken to me.

We just sat there, holding hands and crying.

I had no answers for her and couldn't even pretend to.

We prayed together and then it was time for me to go.

I believe every single word of the Bible is TRUTH.
I believe every single promise in the Bible will come to pass.

So how can this mama (among so many other hurting and hungry in the world) be clinging to this HOPE, this PROMISE to their graves?!

I have wrestled and battled this question for years.

I have these verses hidden in my heart and pull them to the forefront of my mind when we have a bill due and the money isn't there (yet).  I recall the words and promises within these verses on highly anxious days, KNOWING that God is my provider, that HE's got this, that HE is in control...

...but part of me questions it because of that tear-filled moment under the tree with this woman in Uganda.

I decided to dig a little deeper into the words of this passage to get a better mental grasp of the context of these words from the Holman Commentary series.

You almost have to go back to vs. 19-24 to grasp the whole picture.
Jesus is teaching the people how to be fully devoted with total commitment.
And (one of) the fruit of this commitment is His promise to care for us.

Weber writes, " Our commitment to him and his commitment to us go hand in hand."

Furthermore, our Heavenly Father has our days numbered.
Worrying about a single one of these things will not "add a single hour to his life".

When we are fully committed to God, and His Story,
when we see our lives as PART OF the bigger Story of Christ,  
which is SO MUCH BIGGER than ourselves,
we can see the silver lining.

He will continue to care for us because we are so valuable and loved by Him,
but one day our story will end BUT GOD'S GLORY WILL CONTINUE, 
and He will cease to need to provide for us any longer because we will be with Him in eternity.

Sin has wreaked havoc on mankind, but God's Sovereignty overrules it all in the end and, despite the hunger and hurting and war and diseased, He still comes out victorious!  

Weber's interpretation of vs. 27 has been comforting and freeing to me as they sink in:
"If you try to take your basic provision into your own hands, 
you will find you do not have the power over life and death.  
Only God has this power, and he will sustain you as long as his plan intends."

So while I am still living and breathing, my God, help me rest in You, my provider and sustainer.

May God be glorified through it all, even when it doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Meal Prep - a little motivation and a brand new system

Meals are one of my anxiety triggers.  I know, that sounds so silly, but I'm just being completely honest.  Trying to keep our pantry stocked and my family fed is a never ending process.  And then there is the trying-to-figure-out-what-to-eat-for-dinner question that always makes me feel panicky if I'm not prepared.

I grew up with a full-time working mama who made it a priority to feed us well.  We spend many nights eating crock-pot dinners in the teacher's lounge after a long day of school and activities.  She taught me to grocery shop in bulk and plan ahead.

And I was pretty good at it for a while.  I remember sitting on the front porch with my notebook and recipe box planning out our meals every month.  But then we kept adding kids and life just got in the way.  Feeding my family healthy home cooked meals is still a priority for me but I neglected to be proactive about it so it became a constant struggle and stressor.

So when my friend, Magan, posted a photo of her meal-prep day last month it triggered some pretty good motivation.  She is a full-time teacher, wife and mommy to two.  She HAS to be on top of her game in order to get her family fed and her budget in check.  Her post was just the motivation I needed to get my butt back into gear and figure out a new system for this large family that never seems to get full.

So with her fresh motivation and my mama's example I think I figured out something that will work for my family in this season.

1 - I grab my calendar, my computer (because Pinterest) and my menu board.

2 - I list out the next two weeks (that is all I can wrap my head around, plus our budget will only allow for 2-weeks worth of groceries at a time).  I write if it needs to be a quick fix or crock-pot night and then place the weekly traditional meals on my list so I know that those are already covered (i.e. homemade Pizza/Movie night)

3 - I only have a  handful of recipe cards that we use now because the internet has completely taken over.  But sometimes I find it's hard to find my favorite recipes.  This is where Pinterest comes in handy.  I create a board for the month's meals.  That way I know exactly where to go for my recipe each night and I only have to sift through a few to find it.  After I use it I move the recipe to my other folder for "Cooking Repeats" or nix it if we ended up feeding it to the chickens because it was a recipe #fail.  (but of course that NEVER happens, ahem).

4 - I write the meals in the appropriate slots on my calendar (with a note as to where the recipe is...cook book, card or Pinterest) and add the next weeks meals to my menu board for easy access.

5 - Next I get two grocery lists going.  One for the big trip to get the ingredients to put the meals together as much as possible beforehand, and then a list for the next week to get the final ingredients or produce we might need for sides that might not keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

6 - Go shopping.

7 - Come home and do as much prep for each meal as I can.  That means prepping the meat, ziploc bagging up the ingredients to throw in a crockpot, mixing spices with the meat for swedish meatballs or prepping a side such as cole slaw.

So far this system has been a HUGE stress relief when it comes to dinner.  I KNOW what I'm making each night, I have the biggest prep work done and with minimal prep time during homework/piano lessons in the evening we have much happier hearts all around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Look Up

I was out for a run.
One of those runs to take back the day and show it who's boss.
The kind that makes me a better mom and allows for my kids to want to be around me.

But my body was feeling suffocated by life.
By anxiety.

It was one of those runs where I felt like my legs were made of lead and every muscle was begging me to stop but I was determined to make it to my goal (I can be a little hard headed).

Since one of the Colony members destroyed (another set) my ear buds (thank you Jude) I had nothing to listen to but my own thoughts swirling around in my head.

And all I could think about was my hurting knee.
The nearly 90 degree heat.
And the distance I still had to run to be finished and get on with my day.
You know, the day that I needed a break from since I rolled out of bed.

All of a sudden I passed a man walking his dogs.
We made eye contact as he smiled and said "hey" and I huffed a quick "hi" in return.

But because of that distraction my eyes were up off of the trail underneath me.
I realized just how beautiful it was outside.
I noticed how the sun was shining through the trees.
I observed the squirrels and rabbits off in the brush.

Before I knew it I was another mile in and hadn't even thought about my aching knee, or the heat, or the day that had thrown me for a loop.

I am so easily caught up in my stride and the things right around me that I neglect to see what is in the distance.

And the distance is full of hope and grace and fresh mercies.
The distance is full of purpose and motivation to keep running.

And that makes my steps a bit lighter and the distance seem a bit shorter.
It takes my focus off of me and places it back on the one who sets the pace and promises that everything will work together for my good if I keep my eyes on Him (Romans 8:28).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lessons From The Gardener ~ Perseverance

This whole gardening process can be pretty tedious.  Maybe it's just because I don't know what I'm doing and I'm just hoping with everything in me that some of those little seeds I placed in the soil will do something.  At this point I just want some healthy green foliage, I'm not even asking for the vegetables and fruit to produce bountifully, I just need those little seeds to start poking through the soil to let me know that they are doing something.

I have spent around 40 hours personally digging and ripping up old roots, vines, shrubs and trees from our "bunny bush" area that the kids loved to play in (but our neighbor despised looking at).  It was an old grapevine that had been under cared for LONG before the Colony moved in (and under-cared for it even more!).

Then another 20 hours or so was spent preparing the soil and covering the ground accordingly so it would be ready for a garden in the spring.

I waited all winter long in anticipation of what was to come.

Then February rolled around and I planted these tiny little seeds, following each instruction to a T.

Then, miracle of all miracles, several of my little seeds began to grow into beautiful little seedlings.
I know I shouldn't be shocked, but I typically don't do well with plants that die if I don't keep them watered;).  (I will say that I have gotten better over the years and last year's little garden did surprising well!)

So, I prepared the best way I knew how.
I consistently watered and fed those little seeds.

Next came the transplant, where I had to uproot the tender little seedlings from their safe home and take them out in the "wild" where they will have to strengthen their roots and grow strong to be able to withstand the impending storms (and fuzzy, hungry critters and probably even a peck or 20 from the Colony chickens) that will most certainly come their way.

Sadly some of the little seedlings didn't make the transplant so well.  And even after tucking the Colony garden in for the nights before the frost, some of them have not weathered so well.

It's hard not to get discouraged and even harder to push away the thoughts of defeat and desire to quit.

But wouldn't you know that this month's lesson for the Colony kids at Journey is Perseverance.

Perseverance to keep going when things feel impossible.
Perseverance in the failure,
and in the embarrassment,
and in the feelings of defeat,
and to keep planting those seeds, even when we feel like the roots will NEVER take.

Because the roots and fruit and growth are not OUR responsibility!
Oh no, we could NEVER do that.

Our job is to plant the seeds in faith.
Not knowing what is going on under the soil.
Maybe never even seeing the growth we think we should.

That is the job of the Lord over creation.
The author of life and the finisher of faith.

It's all part of the plan.
And we GET to be part of it.

Harvesting a garden and harvesting souls are so intertwined its no wonder why Jesus used this picture to teach his people.

This Colony garden has taught me more about my own walk with Christ and the mission HE has given me than almost ay other thing I've worked through.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
but only God who gives the growth."
1 Corinthians 3:7

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Rainy's Beach Party

I don't do birthday parties.

Ok, so I DO do birthday parties, but typically not so well.

I'm not fishing for compliments here folks.
I'm just stating that I have many strengths in life, but planning and executing birthday parties just isn't one of them.

But with another snowy day back in February we were left with LOTS of extra time on our hands.
Rainy and I decided to take advantage of one of those chilly afternoons and plan the party of the century decade year month, well...a fun party for an upcoming birthday girl.

We set a budget and got to work on Pinterest and Amazon to find appropriate decor and fun budget-friendly ideas to turn our living room into a beach get-away for her friends.

the boys' cake since we had so many of them sticking around;)

Rainy chose for the girls to make jellyfish out of 
bowls streamers and pom-poms and they really turned out cute:)

And Josh did a great job corralling the boys outside
by making a tree house ledge for the kids to fall jump off of!
Thanks babe.  We ALL appreciated that effort!