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Undeniably You

What do you do? What makes you extra ordinary? What little details do you weave into your every day, the different seasons that come and go throughout your life? What is something that only you do, and you hear others say, “oh, that’s so very ___________!”. And what do you do that stems off of what your legacy is riding on? The things you do because a loved one:  parents, grandparents, neighbors, mentors…people that have inspired you to step up in life and be an even better you; an undeniable you.

How you set up your Home, how you layer your life, what you incorporate into your sights, smells and sounds around you that draws other in… All of these make up an undeniable you. Peoples different layers are all interwoven from one another. You pick up bits and pieces as you grow; you reflect on mentors in your life and the different stages of it and can see the  Encouragers that have spurred you on to follow your dreams, and the loved ones that have poured time and attention into you and filled your heart to overflowing. All of these experiences are details given by God; a gift for each one of us. They make up who we are, and how we walk our lives.

As the season changes into Fall, and then Winter chasing close behind, it’s a fun time to reflect because you’re pulling out memorable things. You see your youth as the leaves dance and children  rake only to be able to jump with wild abandon into the colorful piles. You taste and sip hot cocoa and apple cider and remember the feelings of warmth. You take out dishes and serving pieces for the Holidays that hold cherished heirloom sentiment. You cook and bake the recipes that have been passed down to you to carry on. You have traditions that either you have started for your home, or you have incorporated from some place that you count a treasure in you heart.

In these shifting seasons, we tend to linger longer  and reflect a bit more. We come together with those we love and we squeeze in tighter as we prepare to hunker down for the winter calm. It’s good for your heart to think about what makes you undeniably you. Try it, it will put a beautiful smile across your face, each detail comes from different stages of your life.

here are a few of mine to hopefully prompt your heart to see yours:

The different stages of life lends itself to certain details; I sang a series of lullabies to each of my babies and I always sang them in the same order. I have vague memories of my mother rocking me to sleep in my early childhood and singing to me.

I take a Sharpie marker and draw simple pictures on water bottle lids for my boys lunch boxes…I don’t know why I do that. It started at one point, and now my boys mention if I forget one day, so I will continue to draw on water bottles.

My family has a large collection of turkey plates that belonged to my grandmother. Whichever house the extended family meal is at, those turkey plates travel to for all of us to remember.

I turn down the corner of each bed in our home right before sleep each night. I never saw anyone do this, I just began it one day and it has stuck with me and become part of my daily routine and gesture of love towards my family.

I light a candle every morning as I go through the house to open curtains and begin our day. I do it probably because it symbolizes warmth and comfort to me, and I want my boys to start their day with those things.

I have 26 lamps in every room…OK maybe a slight exaggeration, but not too far off if you’re asking my husband! But I love indirect lighting, because my mom has always loved indirect lighting.; it makes it feel like a home to me.

My favorite color is red. Every day I have something red that I wear, carry, etc. I just love red, simple as that!

Enjoy being the undeniable you that stands out to those that know and love you. There is nothing ordinary about how our loving God designed you. You were made to shine as only you can! Enjoy this season!!

Bold Prayers

I used to be afraid to pray bold prayers. I thought that if I prayed bold prayers I would have persecution come my way. And then one day I read that it doesn’t matter how intense ,or not,  your prayer time is, persecution will still come your way. And so that is how I came to be a prayer warrior.

Now the  Armor of God is an invaluable gift to us, and  I used to also think that I had to ask God for it each day or else I didn’t have that spiritual protection. It wasn’t until I was considerably older that I came to understand that the armor was a gift that is never taken back. The importance of praying for it daily is truly for us to remember in thanks that we wear it all the time, and can use it in times of need.

One of the things that our family does on the drive to school each day is to take turns and thank the Lord for His armor that He custom made for us. I started that prayer time to teach my children about the armor of God…but every day is a reminder to me as well, and it fortifies us in our day. We are all prayer warriors.

When we pray, it diffuses the enemies schemes. We then get the privilege of watching God move through our lives. I’m not fearful anymore of prayer.

When War Room came out in the theaters, many people set up places in their homes to pray bold prayers. Whether they taped cards on their closet walls or wrote them in journals…bold prayers came out of that movie. The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer also was written alongside War Room.  She walks us through a simple way of writing out a bold prayer.  At first, I wasn’t going to try the technique…but I’m so grateful that I went ahead and tried it. These are the prayers I cling to in peace and persecution.  The prayers I have taken the time to write out, are the ones the Lord uses the most with me.

.Again, I never wrote out a prayer before I read this book. But by taking a few moments to construct a specific prayer over a topic, and then surrounding that prayer with thanksgiving, praise, repentance and scripture…whoa. Game changer for me.

So okay, it feels slightly vulnerable, but I’m going to share a few of my bold prayers because my heart feels a heaviness to do that. There is power in prayer; it does all our hearts good.  My bold prayer right now, is that your heart is encouraged to either begin or carry on in a prayer time. I’ll never regret praying bold prayers.

 A Prayer For Passion

Lord, Your loving-kindness never ceases. Your compassion never fails. Thank You, Jesus! Lord, please take my heart and renew it; make me a holy vessel for You. Lord, refresh my spirit, search my heart, show me how to be a prayer warrior for my loved ones. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (psalm 51:10) Amen.

A Prayer For Focus

Lord, You are far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else, (not only in this world but also in the world to come. Ephesians 1:21). I lose sight of where the attacks that come at me originate. I lose my cool, temper and self-control. Please keep me continually aware. Open my spiritual eyes; strengthen me with Your Armor, God, so that you can cut the enemy off from his plots and destruction. This battle is not mine, but Yours, God. Station me where I see Your salvation. I will not fear because You are with me.

 

A Prayer For Fears

Thank You, God, that You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, (2 Timothy 1:7). Forgive me, Lord,  when I start listening to the voice of fear and stray from Your destiny for me. Help me, please, to step boldly in my faith with You by my side. Make me fearless because You are fearless! Remind me of Your promises. Thank You for Your instruction and teaching in the  way I should go.; Your counsel and Your eye always upon me, (Psalm 32:8).

May all of us have a beautiful day.

Inside Out

With the shift of seasons comes the inevitable wrestling with our fall wardrobes: what fits? what doesn’t? We cull out items that have lost their elastic or faded. We try  to figure out if our favorite sweater is a “classic” or just plain old and out-of-date. Anybody else feel like they need to “phone a friend” just to get a more objective view of their clothing mess?

hanging clothesCleaning out closets is not for the faint of heart. It  requires firm decision-making and perseverance. Although we always feel better once we’ve conquered it, the process can be painful.

Each new season reminds us that we’ve changed. Sometimes our physical alteration is readily apparent while other times it’s subtle.

– – – From season to season, we shift.  We settle. – – –

Many times we make it too hard. Our closets are filled with too many choices. We’re overwhelmed by all the micro-decisions we have to make about what goes together or we struggle to predict what’s the “right” dress code for a certain event.

What if we put just as much effort on our inner beauty, dressing from the INSIDE OUT? 

strength & dignityWe’ve probably all heard reference to the Proverbs 31 woman, an ideal multi-tasker and graciously competent in so  many ways. She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

In the aftermath of my closet cleanout, I did a little more digging in the Word to pull out some inspiration for this Fall season:

“clothe yourself with humility.” I Peter 1:5

clothe yourself with humility

To me, this is simply keeping it real.

…being genuine in our daily interactions, ponytail and all.

“clothe yourself with strength”  Isaiah 52:1

working out with Katie

Whatever workouts we’re doing to keep ourselves in healthy physical shape spills over into our emotional and spiritual health, too. Just as we strengthen our core by doing certain ab exercises, we strengthen our inner core through prayer and scripture reading, getting stronger with more and more reps.

“clothe yourself with compassion” Colossians 3:12

favorite jeansI love this one because it is for ALL seasons and looks good on everyone!

Compassion pairs nicely with everything and is suitable for all occasions. It can become as comfy as your favorite pair of jeans.

“clothe yourself with splendor” Psalm 45:3

Wedding dress - 25th anniv

Ok, so I played around a bit in my wedding dress this summer when one of my bridesmaids was in town.

In honor of our 25th anniversary, I thought it was time to pull my wedding gown out of the box and see if it still fit.

The memories rolled out amidst all the satin and beading….whoosh!

Slipping into this 25-year-old dress made me feel special even though I was still in my closet with ordinary,  low-key makeup and messy out-of-the-pool hair.

I wonder if this is how God views us – IN SPLENDOR – while we tend to focus on our faults?  Imagine if we could feel that splendor bubbling up from within us each day as we leave the house?
splendor

 

This last one is my favorite:

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus.”  Romans 13:14

No accessories needed. Just Jesus…from the INSIDE OUT.
Bible Quilt™ page: Clothe yourself with strength & dignity
Bible Quilt™ page – Clothe yourself with strength & dignity
Be bold as you walk into your day, friends, showing the sweet confidence you have in Christ.

 

The Harvest Is Plentiful

 

Do you see them all over town? They are not shy nor will they go unnoticed. Bright oranges and creamy whites, smooth and bumpy perched on hay bales.  Oh! The pumpkins have arrived! Fall is such a fun and flavorful season to incorporate some great Memory Makers with family and friends. So many to choose from…

This is my mom holding my first son a few Octobers ago. Going to the Pumpkin Patch is part of our family tradition. We pick carving pumpkins and dream up ideas for funny faces for them. We pet all the farm animals and walk the corn mazes; we leave itchy from crawling over hay bales, and we always feel the need for apple cider after our exploration. These are sweet memories made.

 

 

Sometimes we have been known to paint the pumpkins we bring home! What a colorful mess we make! But it’s worth it; the joy and laughter is completely contagious. We add feathers and glitter and the whole nine yards!

 

The week of Halloween, we make a pot of soup, invite grandparents over, and carve pumpkins together. The seeds get washed, seasoned, and cooked for snacking during the process. We fill our tummies and our hearts in the crisp air that usually has just begun to chill our evenings. We bust out carving knives and power drills for our pumpkins! The imaginations take flight as we all carve.

 

Ever since I have any memory, my extended family has gotten together for a Halloween supper and trick or treating together. We always have chili and fritos, and EVERYone must show up in costume; no exceptions. We have years and years of pictures of children, grandparents, friends,( pets even!) dressed in silliness. We are all in, and it is so much fun!It is always pure joy to just play for the evening. A Tradition that’s in its third generation currently.

Let the kids spread out their loot at the end of the evening. Give them permission to wallow in it for the moment…when else is it ever appropriate? Pure Bliss is in those memories. Treasures that go WAY beyond their sweet tooth.

 

One of my sons is a collector of nature. I am forever being gifted dandelions, and rocks, sticks and walnut shells that have hearts carved in them by our Magnificent God. I cherish the pictures I have taken of these perishable treasures. It is a glimpse through the eyes of a child; pure and unencumbered. And the Nature Walks!! These are requested as early as August by my crew. We make them wait till the leaves start falling. But the anticipation wraps our beautiful memories made in the Scavenger Hunts we take out on each Fall with walking sticks, paper bags, snacks and all!

We have friends that always pass through during this season and spend some nights with our family.  It is fun to set up a Blessing  Box for their room while they visit. There is something so inviting about all the rich layers of colors in the Fall. A book, magazine,  candle, flowers, bottled water and pumpkin with some hand-written greetings is simple but sweet.The boys and I love watching the foliage change and the wind stir the leaves across the yards. The ambition of raking the leaves is usually tossed quickly as we jump into them! We sometimes lay on hammocks and look up into the colorful tree tops. There are so many simple moments to be found in this season that overflow with Thankfulness. Read a book out-loud as a family, make a big pot of Apple Cider to sip on all Sunday afternoon. Bake pumpkin bread with your kids and then share it with your neighbors. Begin a Gratitude Pumpkin and take turns writing all there is to be thankful for. Snap lots of pictures, and jot down memories while they are fresh in your mind. Absorb all that Fall has waiting for you.  The Harvest is Plentiful

Buffering

How often do we get annoyed waiting for a download? As technology has advanced, we’ve gotten spoiled and increasingly more impatient with the few seconds this transformation occurs, forgetting that this process used to take minutes. (Not to mention our personal history with “dial-up” connections…we need not remind ourselves how old this makes us sound!)

. . . ___. . . Buffering . . . ___ . . .

Yep, we even have a fancy term for waiting on technology: buffering – -waiting with purpose and a heightened expectation of data coming our way. We’re paused as we  wait for data or images to load, so we can proceed with our next electronic interaction. The momentary lapse in electronic connection makes us feel restless.buffering symbol

Software programs have even designed creative ways to give us digital holding cues…a flashing line promising that progress is about to happen or a bright green line racing around a circle offering the illusion of “almost there.”

Last week when I was feeling the pressure of navigating a tight schedule while trying to accommodate the various speeds on which my children operate, it occurred to me how often I act as a buffering agent to those around me.
Like the mysterious data preloading that occurs, our buffering efforts go largely unseen but are constantly at work.
As moms, we’re often filling in the gaps between one family member to the next. We are frequently redirecting children, softening sharp edges of voice tones and harsh facial expressions. We’re constantly monitoring the goings-on in our families, serving as a hub in which each family member dives in for a brief connection then returns to their homework or computer screen.
We help modulate the buzz of activity in our households, buffering between family and houseguests or redirecting young sibling traffic to a neutral zone when teens are hanging out in another.

Even our pets use us as buffers. During yesterday’s thunderstorm, my golden retriever would not leave my side as she panted and anxiously tucked her tail, looking at me imploringly to “STOP MOVING ALREADY!” so she could settle.Katie hiding from storms

As women, we probably have more buffering systems in play than men, so it’s not unusual for me to hear stories about how a friend is  intervening between her husband and their realtor; or navigating details between her husband and service workers (and hoping to get the details about the roof leak, the hot water gadget, or the pool pump control panel interpreted correctly).

. . . ___ . . . We buffer between extremes. 

We lessen the impact of potential harsh consequences we see coming, but they may not. 

. . . ___ . . . We referee between siblings. 

We reframe feedback from challenging teachers and revved-up coaches  in ways our children can absorb it more constructively.

All this buffering can take a toll on us, leaving us feeling battered and weary. Sometimes on a day when we’ve spent so much energy putting out other people’s fires and not gotten our own agenda accomplished, we’re left feeling unproductive with an empty tank.
This past Sunday when I was feeling off-kilter after a busy week of solo parenting, I managed to stop for a few moments and go offline.offline mom break

Even though I’ve been trying to practice the art of Sabbath rest, the struggle to downshift is tricky. During waking hours my brain does not seem to have an “off” switch, so this striving to rest is a discipline I have to work at intentionally.

As I’ve recognized the draining pull of this nearly constant buffering, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances more and realize the hidden impact my unseen efforts have on those around me. Slowly, I’m giving myself permission to power down” so I can truly recharge and be more effective as a nurturing buffer rather than an automatic boomerang.
Like it or not, mommas, this buffering stuff is part of the gig. I’m grateful God wired us to multi-task and self-regulate so we can stay on track when needed. I’m also thankful for the grace He extends to us and through us, so we can upload a positive influence on our families.leaves fallen

Fall is our friendly buffer between the lingering mugginess of Summer and the harsh chill of Winter.

As we transition into muted days with a crispness in the air, may we slip away for some nature walks to rebuild our inner buffering system. We’ve got this, friends!

What is YOUR recharge going to be this season?

“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” – Charles Swindoll


 

A Picture Worth A Thousand Memories

As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.

I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood.  It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.

And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary,  look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.

As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them.  Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived.  He lingered there for an hour! (A  looong time for a 5-year-old).  I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.

So many Saturdays are on the Soccer Fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact.  It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.

And so I have these:

Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,

A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,

A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!

Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me.  My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day!  You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord! For He is good, for His steadfast Love endures forever! Psalm 107:1