Think About Such Things

How easy it is to read scripture, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it…then close the Book, walk away, and forget to live by the Truth we just read.

Don’t kick yourself over it.  We’re never going to “arrive.”  We’re human.  We are fighting an enemy who wants nothing more than to see us struggle.  He knows enough about us to know our weak points, and that’s exactly where he fires his arrows.

That’s why we eagerly read this read this…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Great scripture, right?  It’s one of my favorites.  Indeed, we can read it, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it, and commit to focus here.  But before we know it, we’re living like this:

Whatever is bothering you, whatever you’re worried about, whatever you have no control over, whatever makes you angry, whatever hurt your feelings, whatever made you sad, whatever may or may not happen, whatever is in the past that you can’t change…think about such things.  Whatever you’ve seen and tried that doesn’t work, keep doing it and remain in that rut of despair.  And overwhelming hopelessness will hold you in bondage.

Been there?  Me too.  It’s painful, pointless, and far too easy to remain in that ugly circle of anxious thoughts that serve only to keep us from peaceful rest in Christ.

It really is possible to re-train our thought life so that we drop-kick the negativity and worry.  We definitely don’t want to stay in this camp, right?  It is not fun here.  It’s cold, muddy, and it rains all the time.  There’s no joy in the prison of fear.  Bleh.  Get me out from under this dark cloud of self pity and bitterness.

And Jesus says, “Yes!  I’d be happy to.  In fact, I already did.  I’m right there with you, everywhere you go.  Turn your focus to Me.  I am love.  I am peace.  I am joy.”

Because of the strength we gain when we take our weaknesses to the cross, we’ve got this!  It takes the power of prayer.  We have to intentionally stop the negative, pointless thoughts that want to take over our minds, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because of Jesus, we are living in victory!  Remembering this truth sets our hearts free to focus on all that is true, noble, right, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Think About Such Things

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The “Eating Healthy” and “Save Money” Balancing Act

We all want to be healthy.  We all want to live frugally.  We all want the best for our families.  We all want food to taste good.  We all want great deals on groceries.  We all want delicious food, special treats, our favorite snacks…and if they could be free, cheap, come with a coupon, or be buy-one-get-one free – that would be fantastic.

Yeah, pretty much, we want it all.  Is that too much to ask?

Balancing Eating Healthy With Saving Money

Is it just me, or is it tricky sometimes to balance saving money with healthy eating?  Especially as our boys get older, I can not believe how much it costs to feed us well.  I believe it would also cost a lot to feed us poorly, simply because we eat so stinkin’ much food at our house all the time, every day, all the time.  We can not believe the lie that eating well is too expensive.  Eating junk is expensive too.  I’ve done the math.

I don’t have any wonderful new tips to share today as we work to keep our real food grocery budgets low.  I don’t have any great online grocery deals to share.  Instead, I just want to encourage keeping a healthy perspective when it comes to balancing saving money with eating healthy.

There really is great, real food out there that is not expensive.  It’s amazing all the wonderful combinations of real food ingredients we can creatively put together to feed our families while staying under budget.  We do not need to become discouraged, caving in to buy margarine because it’s cheaper than butter, or buying a cheese substitute because it’s cheaper than real cheese.  We do not need to skip the fruits and vegetables because we are afraid of the price tag.  They are not more expensive per ounce than a box of empty-calorie crackers.  I’ve done the math.

God is going to continue to provide for you and your family.  I believe the food on your table is as delicious as your attitude dictates it to be.  The health benefits of eating the best you can within your means, while trusting God?  Priceless.

Tired of the same old cheap real food meals of beans, rice, bananas, and carrots?  Ask God to give you more creative ideas, to provide you with what you need, and to give you a heart of thanksgiving.  I can almost guarantee that our little Gladis, over in Honduras, has very little variety in her diet, yet all of what she eats is real food and wholesome.  She and her family are simply thankful to have food, and they do the best they can.  Praise God for his provision!

Remembering her when I look into my refrigerator and pantry keeps me in check.  Gladis gives me perspective and offers me a chance to appreciate anew the abundance we have.  From thousands of miles away, she shuts my complaining mouth and calms my heart of discontent when I feel like whining about the price of strawberries.  How blessed we are to have access to the luxury of strawberries.

I pray we find balance as we seek to eat healthy while saving money.  I pray we look at what we have through the eyes of gratitude.

Let’s all continue to feed our families the best we can, while enjoying the blessing of real food – whatever it might look like on our individual tables.

Hoping to get your budget on track as you work to balance healthy eating with saving money?
Be sure to check out BudgetFocus as a wonderful resource!

You Can Stop Feeling Like a Failure Now

If you woke up to a stack of crusty dishes piled up in the sink, you are not a failure.

If you forgot to put the laundry in the dryer and the clothes all got sour in the washer, you are not a failure.

If your kids threw a fit at the store, refusing to obey you, you are not a failure.

If you said something stupid, hurt someone’s feelings, forgot an important commitment, burned dinner, broke a special plate, spilled an entire bottle of something expensive, lost your phone, or overslept, you are not a failure.  You are normal though, so hi!  Welcome to the club.

It’s too easy for us to look at what we did or did not do, how our kids did or did not act, and what did or did not happen - letting each act and experience define our success or failure.

Why is this?  Is it possible that somehow, even though we all know it isn’t true, we all think that we (and everyone around us) should be perfect?  Even if we may not consider ourselves to be perfectionists, deep down, we still want life to be perfect.  We don’t want anything to go wrong, to annoy us, or to be inconvenient.  We want our spouse, our kids, our friends, our homes, our jobs, our health, and every single person we deal with to be perfect.  When they aren’t – yes that’s when, not if – when they aren’t, we feel as if we’ve failed or as if other people have failed us.

Stop it.

Stop Feeling Like a Failure

The truth is, we will never, ever in this fallen world achieve or experience anything close to perfection.  There is much good in the world, because God is everywhere around us, showing us His goodness.  But there’s also a lot of yuck in the world because Satan wants to win our hearts.  He enjoys watching our discouragement and bitterness.  He loves it when he can take our focus off God and turn us inward, making us focus on our supposed failures.  Ah yes, if Satan can keep our minds thinking selfishly, he wins.  That’s his goal.

But guess what?  This desire for perfection we all feel so strongly?  That is God given.  God wants us to seek to find that which is perfect.  Why?  Why would He give us that desire when clearly there is no way we can achieve perfection on this earth?  He gives us this desire because He is perfection and He wants us to seek Him.  Jesus.  Jesus is perfection.  That’s really what we should be looking for.

Keep lovingly taking care of your family and home.  Keep yearning to be more Christ-like.  But let go of the guilt that comes through your lack of perfection and supposed failure.  Focus on Jesus, the One who fulfills that need for perfection we all long for.

Crusty dishes in the sink?  Yep, there they are.  Gonna be late to an appointment?  Sometimes, sure enough.  People getting in your way and causing you trouble?  Well, of course.

This earth is only temporary.  This isn’t it, people.  Perfection?  It’s coming!  I can’t wait.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Remember all the lovely pictures of our garden that I took on Monday and shared for Gratituesday?  Those pictures are all we have left of our garden.

garden145

Here’s what our spinach and lettuce looked like on Monday.

hail garden 1

Here’s what our spinach and lettuce looked like the very next day.

Tuesday night (yes, the very Gratituesday I had shared those happy garden pictures), a huge hail storm hit our town.  It smashed our garden all to bits.  Seeing how this hail storm effected all of our garden areas, we sure hate to think what the farmers around here may have lost.

Can we replant?  Probably.  Will we?  Yes, it’s not too late to replant some of it.  Is this the end of the world for us?  No, but it is a huge disappointment.  It was a lot of work, many hours, and quite a few dollars worth of plants and seeds – down the drain.  I know this loss could have been a million times worse.  Our home is fine.  Our children are fine.  Nobody was hurt.  Still, waking up to a sad garden mess was disheartening.

hail garden 2
Most of the leaves on our pepper, okra, and tomato plants were broken off.

The moral of the story:  We can make plans, work toward a goal, and look forward to something – but the end result is never really up to us.  We just get to sit back and trust God.

We’re thankful that God knows what we need and that He will provide – even if it might look a little different this year.  We’ll be grateful for the handful of plants that seem to maybe be surviving.  We’ll get back out there and put more seeds and plants into the ground.  Who knows but that “Garden…round 2″ may be better than ever?!

Stop Thinking and Pray

Stop Thinking and Pray

70,000.  That’s how many thoughts we think every day, which breaks down to 1.2 thoughts per second.

Yoo-hoo, dear wonderful person who did the research so as to provide us with this thought provoking information: What I’d like to know is, how many of these thoughts of mine are rational, logical, emotional, or have something to do with cream cheese?  Does this statistic count the thoughts I think in my subconscious while I’m sleeping?  Or in fact do I cram my 70K thoughts into my awake hours, which ultimately means that all the thoughts I think are running into each other, tackling, punching, vying for attention, thus resulting in a big jumbled pile-up inside my head?

I’d like to believe my thinker works in overdrive because I am an efficient multi-tasker.  Yes.  This is a gift I have, which in effect allows me to plan dinner, read to my kids, make a mental list of phone calls I need to make, and question whose feet are the culprit of my nostril discomfort - all at the same time.  Unfortunately, it is also the thinker that allows me to create scenarios, envision disasters, replay conversations, invent situations, and ultimately freak out inside about what did, could, should, didn’t, would have, and might just happen.  It is this thinker that makes me believe that I’m completely on my own and able to solve all the world’s problems, prevent all physical and spiritual calamities for my children, and figure out how to appropriately respond to all conversations and encounters.

This kind of thinking makes me crazy.

So what to do?  We can’t stop thinking. (because then we’d be dead.  okay then.)  Are those of us who tend to “over-think” situations, worry, fret, and constantly analyze just destined to have a lot of frustration for the rest of our lives?

Jesus says, no way.  Just like any sin and struggle, God gives us a simple way out of the crazy.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ2 Corinthians 10:5

Take Every Thought Captive

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We control our thoughts.  They do not control us.  If we allow thoughts that are anxious, frustrated, confusing, angry, controlling, or ungodly in any other way – we need to take them captive and intentionally refocus them to make them obey Christ.

This takes courage, intention, and a heart open to surrender.  Christ wants to overtake our thoughts, to fill our minds with his goodness, and to rule our actions.  He can’t do that when we ignore Him.  He can’t talk to us if we aren’t listening.  He can’t fill us with His peace and joy when we refuse to let go of swirling, corrupted thoughts.

Take your thoughts captive.  Make them obey Christ.  Stop thinking about and trying to figure out all the stuffJust stop.  Stop thinking and pray.  Before every decision.  Every situation.  Every step forward.

Be amazed at how God offers a solution to every problem you face and how He replaces your anxiety with peace.

Stop thinking and pray.  It works!  But did we really expect anything less?

Don’t Worry. Just Love People.

In the big scheme of life, Matt’s foot injury this week is not such a big deal.  It hurts quite a bit, it is causing some inconvenience, and is preventing him from getting his work done.  But we’ve got a friend undergoing major life-threatening surgery for cancer today, another who is getting ready to bury his dad, and many other friends who are struggling with hardships much more difficult than we are facing.

And yet.  This week has been exhausting.  I found myself quite weary by this afternoon, after several days of trying to juggle all my work and some of Matt’s too.  He’s starting to get around a little bit (on crutches), but it’s slow going.  I finally gave way to some tears this morning.  I’m fine, really.  I’m just tired.  :)

At just the right time early this afternoon, there was a knock at the door.  There stood my friend Rose, dressed in a cheery yellow shirt, a pecan pie in her hands.  I thought I would melt into a puddle.  Here’s what she said to me,

“I heard Matt got hurt.  I’m so sorry!  I wanted to do something, then questioned how I could possibly cook something for you, the one who cooks great food all the time.  Then I told myself, ‘well that’s just stupid.’  So I baked you a pie.”  Then she gave me an “I love you with the love of the Lord” sister-in-Christ hug.  Oh, it was just what I needed at that moment.

roses pie 1 (1)

Friends, I don’t care if she would have brought me a frozen pizza or a bag of nuggets from McDonalds.  I don’t care if she would have thrown me a bag of Cheetos out the window of her car.  I don’t care if she would have shoved a package of Oreos into my hands.  I don’t care if she showed up with nothing in her arms but a hug for me.  Her thoughtfulness and care were perfectly timed.  She followed the Spirit’s leading, and she loved me.  That’s all that matters.

I kid you not when I say that the entire pie was gone in less than 30 minutes.  Malachi declared it to be the “best pie he’d ever eaten.”  Mmhmm, it was super good.

roses pie 1 (2)

If you hear God calling you to serve, don’t question it.  Don’t hesitate, feel intimidated, or worry that what you have to offer won’t be good enough.  If God calls you, there’s a reason.  Listen and obey.  Your best is always just right.

So stop worrying.  When you choose to love people, you can’t go wrong.

Great Homemaking Doesn’t Always Mean “Make it Homemade”

If you desire to be a great homemaker, you must:

  • always have a perfectly clean house
  • always make homemade food from scratch, using the finest ingredients
  • keep your closets wonderfully organized
  • have perfectly behaved children (who never have crusty boogers on their sleeves)
  • never run out of toilet paper

No pressure.

Drop kick it with me, friends!  I despise these expectations we think others are putting on us that we most likely are really putting on ourselves.

The real definition of a great homemaker:

  • Loves her family {check}
  • Feeds her family {constantly}
  • Can close the closet doors {thankfully}
  • Relies on God’s grace while raising children {unceasingly}
  • Picks up cheese and apples while she’s making a slightly panicked toilet paper run {might as well be efficient}

Want to see what I made my family for our Sunday Dinner today?

Great Homemaking Doesn't Always Mean Make it Homemade

It’s a take-and-bake pizza from the store.  Couldn’t I have made a homemade pizza?  Well sure if I….wait – you know what?  NO.  I couldn’t.  That’s why I bought the pizza.  Our weekend has been so full of awesome fun, unexpected appliance break-downs (the washing machine and the dishwasher in the same day, really?), oodles of guests, and because it’s springtime – soccer games.  If we were going to make it to church and soccer games today with food in our bellies and a mama who had at least gotten a few hours sleep, lunch was either going to be a package of raw, frozen hamburger – or a store bought pizza.  We went with the pizza.  (You’re welcome, kids.)

So let’s consider:  Since I bought a pizza from the store to feed my family for lunch, am I a homemaking failure?  Since my new/used washing machine just got installed yesterday and I have yet to use it or clean up the mess the delivery guys left all the way down the stairs while they took out the old washer, am I a homemaking failure?  Since my dishwasher was broken and I pulled out the paper plates for our company on Saturday morning, am I a homemaking failure?

Sigh.  I’m pretty sure I am.  Woe is me.  I failed to be perfect.  I may as well throw in the (dirty) towel.

Or not.

Homemaking is homemaking – no matter what it looks like.  My heart is for God and for my family.  I always work hard and do my best.  Today, my best looked like a store bought pizza.  Today, I blessed my family by feeding them, worshiping with them, and cheering them on at soccer.  Joyfully, I have a case of toilet paper on hand so that I can check that off my list of mama emergencies.

Homemakers…unite!  Bring your imperfections, your crusty nosed kids, your broken appliances, and your unmade beds.  Be empowered to keep on doing what God is calling you to do.  Keep working hard, loving your families, and rocking this homemaking thing.

And if my closet door is ever open when you come to my house, please look away very quickly and act like you didn’t see a thing.

Because “You’re Worth It”

The commercials that tell me to buy something, do something, go somewhere, treat myself, or indulge because “I’m worth it” really turn me off.  In fact, for years, they actually made me rebel against the idea of doing anything for myself.  After all, I’m called to serve my family and others selflessly – not spoil myself, take lots of “me time,” and spend money on stuff to make me feel pretty and vivacious.

I still agree with my old way of thinking when it comes to being called to serve my family and others selflessly.  Indeed I am.  Feelings are fickle, so while I could spend money on something to make me feel pretty, that very same item might make me feel fat and ugly five minutes later.  “Me time” can be wasted and unproductive, leaving me more hesitant to serve, instead of refreshing me.

However, I’ve discovered that the me that rebelled against taking time, energy, and even money to care for myself was not actually always being selfless.  Much of the time, I played the role of a martyr.  With a sigh, I’d tell myself things things like, “Maybe someday when the kids are older, I’ll have time to exercise/write/play games/craft/relax.  I must give to my family and others until I drop – but it’s okay.  I’m called to serve.  I’ll eat healthy when I have more time.  I don’t really feel like drinking water or eating fruit.  I’ll just grab these five cookies and a Pepsi to pick me up.  I hate to leave the kids with anyone else, they really just need me.  Someday I’ll have time to myself.”  And on and on my thoughts would take me.

While I was deceiving myself into thinking I was being selfless, I was truly feeling sorry for myself and the role I played in our family.  More than that, I neglected my spiritual, emotional, and physical health in the name of selflessness.

Because You're Worth It

Ladies – I’m here to tell you that there is nothing selfish about taking good care of yourself.  Stop listening to lies and feeling guilt over what God calls you to do for yourself and your health.  You are so very worth it!  God says so.  Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health are vitally important – no matter your season in life.  You can not effectively care for your family when you are exhausted, under-nourished, sluggish, sleep deprived, unhappy, dehydrated, moody, out of shape, or depressed.

You know what I discovered after years of believing that I didn’t have time to spend in the Word each day?  That I don’t have time not to spend time in the Word each day.  That my time is more effectively used, more productive, and more focused when I take time out to sit with Jesus each day.   So what if there are dishes to do?  I can do them cheerfully later, after I’ve let Jesus refresh my spirit.

You know what I discovered once I stopped thinking I didn’t have time, energy, or desire to exercise?  I found that I love exercise, need exercise, and that regular work-outs give me more energy and help me get more done each day.

You know what I discovered once I stopped eating and drinking so much sugar?  I think more clearly, sleep so much better, don’t have sugar crashes, and crave more water and nutrient filled foods.

You know what happened when I started listening to and obey God instead of the world or myself?  I became a more loving wife, a more patient mother, a more cheerful person, and a more Christ-focused servant.

I still struggle sometimes.  I fight anxiety.  I get angry.  I don’t always get enough sleep.  Life isn’t perfect for any of us.  Puke happens.  Kitchens explode.  Laundry piles multiply.  Kids disobey.  Husbands aren’t perfect.  I fail.

But His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  I only recognize this truth when I am taking care of myself.

This might mean I’m spending money on health care, good food, exercise classes, or going to my massage therapist.  This might mean I’m taking a few minutes to dress in a cute outfit and fix my hair.  This might mean I close my door while I’m writing so that I can enjoy uninterrupted time doing what I love to do.

Then, I come before my husband, my children, my church family, my community, and any stranger I run into with a godly focus, a more peaceful heart, a more energized body, and with a clear and alert mind.

Am I worth it?  Oh yes, I am.  And so, my friend, are you.

What about you?  What can you do to take better care of your health?  What do you love to do that would be refreshing and energizing to you?

Homeschoolers Always Never

Homeschoolers are brilliant, hard working, and mature.  They always do well on standardized tests.  They each play at least one musical instrument, beginning at the age of three.  They can each speak at least two languages fluently.  They always graduate early and become neurosurgeons at the age of 22.  They always come from huge families.

Homeschoolers never get enough social interaction.  They never have opportunities to participate in group projects or have class parties.  They never eat Doritos.

Homeschoolers Always Never

I always cringe inside and I never feel like conversations like this build anyone up or glorify God.  So can we stop with stereotypes and generalities already?  Statements about what homeschooled kids always or never do is painful, ignorant, and downright silly.  I’m not just talking about what those who ”don’t get homeschooling” say.  I’ve heard some of these statements from homeschooling families too.

Is it true that public schoolers always get into trouble, do drugs, disrespect their teachers, and slough off during high school?  Of course not.  Just like there are all varieties of students in the public school – ranging from scholarly to bully to godly to needy to athletic to healthy to highly intelligent to drama queen – so it is with homeschoolers.

Can I tell you a homeschooling truth?  Some students are only “average” (which, for the record, is defined as normal, typical, and common – and therefore nothing to be ashamed of).  Some of them struggle to read and write.  Some knock the socks off the ACT and other standardized tests, but some do not.  Some are musically inclined, while some are completely tone deaf.  Some love learning foreign languages and some barely master speaking the English language using complete sentences.  (Like, yeah. I know right? Totally.)

Homeschooling does not ensure that kids will grow up to follow the Lord.  Public schooling does not turn out robots.  Homeschooling does not make kids anti-social.  Public schooling does not provide more opportunities.  Raising kids, no matter how you choose to do it, takes work, patience, and an immense trust and reliance on God - the One who created all of us uniquely for His glory.  I am raising four boys in the same house, feeding them the same food, passing down jeans from one boy to the next, reading them the same books, teaching them the same math, and talking the same talk daily to all of them at the same time.  Would you believe that all four of them are all very different in their talents, interests, learning styles, and personalities?  I’m fairly certain that none of them have any interest in becoming a French speaking, cello playing, neurosurgeon.  Thankfully, I realize that this doesn’t mean I have failed as a homeschool mom.  I see their God-given talents shining in other ways.

Homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, adults, children, men, and women are individuals with unique talents, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.  Each one of us is always never anything less than God created us to be.  Let us never make a generalized statement that might belittle that truth.

P.S.  I thought it may be of interest to note that last night, our family ate a meal with a group of homeschoolers.  We all shared a bag of Doritos.

Our Light and Momentary Troubles

Rarely do our trials feel light or momentary.  We know in our hearts that God is in control, but living peacefully in that truth is hard when we are focused on what is seen on this earth.  After all, much of what we experience on this earth is challenging.

While praying for some friends of ours, God led me to this passage in 2 Corinthians this week.  I was so encouraged by these words from Paul.  Truth:  We are being renewed daily.  We fix our eyes on Jesus, knowing that our eternal glory outweighs everything we struggle through on this earth.

Praise God for His truth and promises!  Knowing my tendency to rely on myself and on the things that are seen, I printed this verse out so that I could post it on my fridge and be reminded of these truths.

Being Renewed Image

I created a printable of this passage to share with you.

Download the Being Renewed Passage for your encouragement.

Hold on to truth!