Provide and Protect ~ a Prayer For My Children

Provide and Protect - a Prayer For My Children

It used to be me. Or so I thought.

When they were little, I was the one who provided everything they needed and protected them from anything that might hurt them. I set up their routines and walked them away from situations that were too much for their young hearts to handle. I set the boundaries, set the stage, set out the activities. I said yes, said no, said too much, said too little, said things wrong, said things right, and said it will all be okay. I was in charge. I was in control. I was the one.

Or so I thought.

They’re big now. They are amazing and skilled and smart and fun, and one by one, they are launching. Their steps are becoming their own; their thoughts and behaviors are less and less a result of my commands and instruction and more and more a brave leap of their own long-legged independence.

My prayer is no longer crafted out of the ideas on my own heart. Recognition of truth has left me with very few words. I know little about tomorrow. You are the One who knows your Kingdom plans for my kids. I’m simply the one whose heart longs for their good and for their walk to be on the path you’ve carved for them.

I’m not who I once thought I was.

I’m not their provider. I’m not their protector. I’m a huge part of their life on this earth, but I’m only their mother. I’m the one God gave them to show them love and guidance. But you, God. You are the One who knows what they need and how to provide.

This is what I ask of you:

Protect

Protect them, Lord. Protect them from people who do not have their best interests in mind, from people who are self-seeking and heartless, from people who will hurt them.

Protect them from apathy. Protect them from becoming self-centered, self-seeking, self-deprecating, and self-motivated. Provide them the heart to lay aside self in order to seek You.

Provide

Provide for them, Lord. Provide people to encourage and hold them accountable, to build them up and make them stronger, to inspire and challenge them to be more like Christ. It takes a village. Build it strong and high and full.

Provide my children with confidence and skill, tools and words to get themselves out of any situation that would be harmful to them in any way. Provide them with the confidence to do right and strength to flee from wrong.

Provide everything they need, because You are the One who knows precisely what that means.

Do what I cannot do. I trust you with my children.

Thank you for the blessing and honor of being Mom to my sons. How cool of you to give me my four favorites. How wise of you to grow me along with them. How gentle of you to hold us so gracefully. How perfect of you to love us so consistently.

To my boys:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

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Never (Forget to) Look Back

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The sound of a crunching leaf under my foot turns me into a pre-teen walking down the lane at church camp. Catching a whiff of Icy Hot gives me immediate shin splints and a nervous stomach as if I am once again a high school sophomore who must now get on the starting line of the track to run a half-mile race. Walking into a hospital makes my uterus contract (don’t make me explain this). So it shouldn’t have surprised me that seeing the pretty lighted snowflakes hung on our city’s downtown light poles this holiday season would bring up emotions from a few years ago at this time.

I remember loving the sight of the snowflakes that year, but feeling quite discouraged and therefore unable to be fully at peace in the moment. All was well overall in our lives, but there were a few uncertainties and decisions to be made. I remember being consumed by heavy thoughts that overshadowed my normally excited feelings about Christmas and threatened to steal away my joy of the season.

When I saw the lighted snowflakes this year, my mind was immediately taken back to that time. But just as quickly as those memories came back, God filled me with visions of all He’s done in our lives since that year. I saw all the ways God answered our prayers, showed us His power, and offered His constant provision. Boom. Take that, painful memories. We went through something hard. We not only survived, we came out stronger. God did His work in us.

The world tells us to leave the past behind. Never look back. Move forward. There’s a lot of good in this. After all, the Bible says in Philippians 3, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Indeed. Should we look back to dwell on a past full of regrets, pain, struggle? No, thank you. Let’s instead press on toward what God has already prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

But can I tell you something great about the beauty of taking time to look back in reflection of past struggles and difficult times? That’s when we can see all the ways God took care of us during that time and has met our needs since that time. Looking back helps us consider all the specifics of how His promises of provision and care have been fulfilled. Remembering His absolute faithfulness in the past helps us remember that we can trust His faithfulness in the future.

Never Forget to Look Back

So never forget to look back. Look back with joy as you reflect on what God has brought you through up until now. Those hard times? You made it through! God did His work! His promises are faithful and we can trust Him!

As we look ahead toward a new year, we can be excited. I guarantee that a few years from now when we look back at this very time, we will have a new story to tell of God’s goodness and care. Now that’s something to look forward to.

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12 Days of Christmas ~ Seeking Jesus Countdown Printable (How My Family Will Be Celebrating Jesus this Christmas)

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Christmastime brings out the “kid” in my kids. I guess in some ways it brings out the kid in all of us. I get overwhelmingly giddy about all the Christmas fun, and I’m…not a kid.

This year, my boys suggested that I should make them some sort of advent calendar – you know – the kind that included 25 days worth of candy or presents or money? No biggie. On second thought, knowing how busy I am, my boys were thoughtful enough to suggest that I could just buy one. They are so considerate of my needs. (Just don’t forget the candy, Mom.)

I knew they were (mostly) kidding, but still the idea of creating some sort of special Christmas countdown for them sounded like a lot of fun. I especially wanted to do it because after we had our conversation, they pretty much thought I would forget about it and not do anything. Ha! I’ll show them. It’s fun to be rebellious toward my teenagers. 

Fast-forward to later that day when I saw my sister-in-law’s Facebook post asking people to share what Advent meant to each one. One of her friends mentioned the story “of Simeon and Anna as they wait on the promise of seeing Christ, who would take away the sorrows of Israel…both old, filled with the Holy Spirit…and now ready to die because they had seen the salvation of the Lord.” (Luke 2:25-32)

After I read this, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I mostly focus on the birth of Jesus during the Christmas season. How lovely to think about how Simeon and Anna eagerly sought to meet Jesus on earth after his birth! I opened my Bible and searched for more instances where people sought after Jesus. So many people from so many different situations recognized their need for Jesus. Their stories are beautiful – so filled with faith.

THIS is why Jesus came!! To heal! To cleanse! To bring salvation. To be truth. To meet the needs of each one who seeks Him. To bring peace. To be joy.

During my study that day, an idea for a Christmas count-down began to form. In my excitement, I could think of little else. I wrote down 12 situations in the Bible where people saw their need for Jesus, sought Him out, and encountered His fullness. I decided that our family could read one each day for 12 days, beginning December 13 – counting down the days until Christmas.

One idea led to another as I thought of ways to make this more memorable and meaningful for our family. I turned the scriptures into decorative cards. I attached the cards to 12 lunch-sized sacks. Beginning December 13, we will open one sack each day after we read and discuss the scripture. Inside each sack, I have included an item that relates to the day’s reading. Some will be treats for us to enjoy, some will be something we can share with others, some will simply be symbolic. I’ve written the details below in case you’d like to do something similar with your family.

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Download the 12 Days of Christmas ~ Seeking Jesus Countdown Cards

I keep getting choked up and teary eyed as I anticipate sharing this with my family. I have such a desire to make Jesus a bigger part of our Christmas celebrations, and I can’t think of a better way than to celebrate with 12 Biblical examples of people who came eagerly seeking Him during his time on earth. May we also be inspired to eagerly seek Jesus daily for our comfort, healing, peace, and joy!

Here are the scriptures I chose, as well as details about what I included in each sack.

12 Days of Christmas ~ Seeking Jesus

1. Luke 2:25-35

The story of Simeon seeking Jesus in the temple. I added a Christmas-y candle to the bag. We’ll light it as a reminder that Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

2. Luke 2:36-40

The story of Anna seeking Jesus in the temple. The bag contains a 2016 mini-calendar. This will represent how Anna worshiped in the Temple night and day for years and years. It will remind us that our daily lives are also to be worship.

3. Luke 2:41-52

The story of Jesus’ parents looking for Jesus and finding him in the temple. This sack is empty! Once the boys discover this, they will have to do a search through the living room to find a treat I’ve hidden. This represents Jesus’ parents searching for him on their journey.

4. Luke 5:12-16

The story of Jesus healing a leper. This bag contains a new snowman soap dispenser. This represents “cleansing” as described in the story. Other ideas include fun bars of soap or cute washrags.

5. Luke 5:17-26

The story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man on the mat. I found a fun Christmas place-mat and folded it up (carefully!) into the sack. I also included a small treat we can eat after we put the new mat on our table.

6. Luke 7:1-10

The story of the Centurion seeking Jesus to heal his servant. Because Jesus healed the man’s servant, I’ve included a service opportunity in this sack. I put two muffin mixes along with some Christmas paper liners for the boys to make and deliver to someone.

7. Luke 7:36-50

The story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and poured perfume on them. I put two bottles of essential oils in the sack for us to use in our diffuser. All day the smell of the oils will remind of us of this story of forgiveness.

8. Luke 8:40-56

The story of Jairus seeking Jesus to heal his 12-year old daughter, and Jesus healing the woman who had been sick for 12 years. I added 12 chocolate candies in the sack to share as the number 12 is a significant number in this reading. Plus, there was much to celebrate with these two healings! Chocolate seemed appropriate.

9. Luke 9:37-43

The story of Jesus healing the demon possessed boy. This one is a little bit silly, but my big boys appreciate being silly quite frequently. Picturing the joy of the boy who was healed by Jesus, I put some goofy toys in the sack for our boys. Straws with mustaches? Why not?

10. Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus climbing a tree to see Jesus. Since Zacchaeus was a tax collector who turned his life around, I put some cash in the sack. Our family will decide together how we would like to donate this money.

11. John 3:1-21

The story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night to learn from him. I got a new string of Christmas lights for our boys to hang in their room as a reminder of Jesus words, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Other ideas include glow lights or bracelets.

12. Matthew 2:1-12

The story of the Magi following the star to find Jesus. I found a new star-shaped ornament for our tree. This will be the final bag we open on December 24!

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Christmas Countdown Notes

~ Reading chronologically is nice, but I’m actually mixing up the scriptures and stories and doing them with our family in a different order than listed above.

~ In deciding the order, be sure to start with 12 and work your way down to 1. I know that is obvious in a Christmas Countdown, but my brain had to think through that more than once as I was organizing the best order for our scripture cards and sacks. :)

~ I purchased almost all of these items at our dollar store or used what I already had on hand. I wanted to make this special while keeping the cost down. Win-win.

~ The free download includes number cards if you’d like to use them too. I simply folded over the sacks and stapled on the number card along with a little curly ribbon.

Download Free 12 Days of Christmas ~ Seeking Jesus ~ Scripture Countdown Cards

I’d love to hear about any special advent traditions your family has! At this point, our countdown sacks are under our tree, just waiting for December 13 so we can begin. The sacks look pretty intriguing, so I think we need a special countdown for our countdown. :)

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What Most People Don’t Know About Me

I’m known for my love of cooking and baking. I’m the mom of four boys. I’m Matt’s wife. I’m that lady who likes eating natural food. I’m the mom who lives at the soccer field every spring and fall. I’m the one who writes a blog and a column in our local newspaper. I love jars. I love butter. This is what people know about me.

What people are always surprised to hear is this:

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I am a hard core introvert.

Surely not!

(Did you just call me Shirley? You don’t even know me at all.)

My name is Laura (pronounced like this) and oh yes. I am very much an introvert.

The confusion comes when people don’t know the true definition of introvert. (Introverts are hermits, they hate people, they’re always super shy, and they can’t handle having conversations. Oh my goodness. This is so not it.) Or when people do know the true definition, but they see me flitting around all the people having lively conversations – this is when they are surprised to hear that I am introverted. Understandable.

So then, what is an introvert? There are many definitions and explanations, but here’s the most basic way I understand it and explain it to people:

An introvert can very much enjoy being with people, but will become drained after a time, and finds rest and refreshment after some time alone. An extrovert, on the other hand, is drained by alone time and instead craves and is completely rejuvenated by people time.

Oh how I crave and need alone time. 

Because of this, I have too often viewed my introverted nature as a weakness. Sometimes I’m even angry with God for making me an introvert. Why, God? Why have you made me love so many people and put so many, many people in my life – but then made it so exhausting for me to be with all the people all the time?

Check it out: Introvert has a pity party, inviting only herself to the party, because well…introvert! Clearly it’s best that no one else was invited to that party anyway.

So is being an introvert a weakness?

Even as it feels that way to me at times, I know that it definitely is not. As my husband likes to point out to me: If I were extroverted, I would likely never have started this website. I would never have stayed home long enough, sat in a chair long enough, sought quiet writing time enough. That’s just one example of ways God uses my introverted nature in ministry. Spending hours in my kitchen, alone with pots and pans and mixing bowls, whipping and stirring and simmering and having all sorts of fun with food that blesses so many – I find so much refreshment in this! Extroverts can also blog and love cooking, no doubt! It’s just that those are two ways my variety of introvertedness shines through in ministry.

There are struggles and blessings with being an introvert just like there are struggles and blessings with being an extrovert. One is not better or worse than the other. One isn’t the preferred personality trait. God uses both – introverts and extroverts for His purposes.

How do I find rest?

My biggest struggle with being an introvert is that I am so rarely alone. There are a lot of people in my life that I love and want to spend time with. There are many needs – starting with my husband and kids and ending with…well – there is no end to the people to love. God is teaching me that it is not my job to be all things to all people and that taking care of myself is a must if I actually want to love the people He puts in my path to serve. I’ve found that I must have alone time or I feel an actual physical and mental ache.

  • I’ve learned to schedule very little activity outside my home or with people on Mondays and Thursdays if possible. (Sundays and Wednesdays are very people-filled. I’m usually extra tired on Mon. and Thurs. as a result, which is my nice way of saying that those are the days I can’t finish sentences.)
  • I get up earlier than my family almost every day so that I can sit in the quiet for an extended period of time – just God and me.
  • I say “no” more than I say “yes” to outside requests. I’ve learned that this is God-approved. No guilt. 
  • I enlist the help of my husband to provide me some much needed alone time. (Elias has practice tonight? Don’t you think Justus and Malachi should go too? You know, for the fresh air and exercise? And also because then I could be all alone all by myself with no one talking or breathing near me?)
  • I practice a weekly Sabbath rest, almost every week if possible, usually on Tuesdays. I promise to write more about this sometime.
  • I have had to learn the introvert/extrovert nature of my children and teach them mine so that we can make this work. (This, as in, the living together thing.)

What About My Husband and Children?

Matt is also an introvert. He rarely feels the people exhaustion I experience, though. I believe this is because his line of work lends itself to quite a bit of alone time each day, so he achieves a nice balance of people time/alone time quite naturally. (Either that or he tips the scales a little closer to the extroverted side, if in fact there is a sliding scale.)

Two out of four of our boys are absolute extroverts – our oldest and our youngest – the bookends. They love leaving and doing and being with all the people as much as possible! Some day I’ll write a post about what I’ve learned about homeschooling extroverted kids. But for today, I will say that helping us all understand our people vs. alone time needs has been very necessary and good. I want my kids to understand that when Mom needs alone time it isn’t because I don’t like being with them. I simply need some quiet time so that I’ll be healthy.

Introvert or Extrovert?

So what about you? Do you get your energy from people or from alone time? Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test to help determine this? I have found it so helpful in understanding myself and others. No more guilt for needing alone time! (Usually. Mostly. NO! Being an introvert is not a weakness!)

Here’s the test I took most recently if you’d like to take a few minutes to see for yourself. I don’t believe these types of things are the be all and end all, but I do find them interesting (even if some of the questions I’d really have to give an I have no idea answer).

Share with us here! Introvert or Extrovert? Ambivert? That’s a real thing too.

P.S. My introvertism is why I likely won’t join Periscope and some other social media outlets. In an effort to stay sane, I just can’t do it. But I love you all the same. :)

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Just Take the Next Step

I shall begin by boring you to death with a history lesson. Yes, the history of me. (Someone thinks highly of oneself, doesn’t someone?)

1. I was born in 1973. Blah, blah, blah childhood memories, middle school drama, high school graduation, college life, tall blond soccer player catches my eye. Nobody needs to hear all the in between stuff about burning barns and stealing candy bars.

2. Matt and I got married in 1994. After a few months he said, “Do you think maybe we could try another vegetable besides canned green beans?” Another vegetable? I’d only read about them in books. I gave steamed broccoli a try. It was so-so.

3. Baby boy #1 was born in 1997. Baby boy #2 came in 2000. I became a coupon queen, buying poptarts and spaghettios for next to nothing. Baby boy #3 came in 2002. Baby boy #4 was born in 2004. Life was a blur. Sometimes we all shared a peach. I’d only ever had the canned kind before. Did you know these actually grow on trees? (Peaches. Not baby boys.)

4. Life took a dramatic turn when Baby Boy #4 was two months old and broke out in eczema from head to toe. One doctor visit, some cortizone and a steroid later – he looked great! Two days after the medicine wore off, he was back to where we started. We had a decision to make. Keep baby on steroids, or no? Even with our zero knowledge of natural alternatives, we just couldn’t choose for our tiny little baby to be on either of these medications.

5. We began to learn about clean eating, clean cleaning (wha?), natural doctors who get to the root of a problem, vitamins, chiropractic, and the evils of margarine. The information overwhelmed my mommy brain, but I desperately wanted my baby to be healthy. Therefore…

6. I freaked out on everyone and tried to change everything at once. Out with the poison (non-organic everything) and in with the soaked grains, fermented vegetables, and kombucha. My family loved all of these abrupt changes and speak so fondly of this time in our lives. {bangs forehead with palm}

7. Months later, Baby boy #4 is still miserable. I’m going crazy. We all hate my sourdough. I get mad at all of America and the government and pharmaceutical companies. I drink Pepsi for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner because it makes perfect sense to avoid conventional apples but down a liter of Pepsi every day.

8. None of us can live with Psycho Mom – not even (especially not) me. I decide to try a few baby steps instead of taking 817 giant leaps at once. Everyone let out a sigh of relief.

9. We continue to learn more about how to help Baby boy #4, who, as it turns out, has kidney and liver issues. We learn that eczema is not a skin issue, but a gut issue. We brace ourselves for the long haul (and we pray like never before). We don’t sleep much. The Pepsi tries to help keep me awake.

10. I learn that food isn’t something to be feared. I learn that food is nourishment. This makes so much sense. I learn that food is still fun. We buy a grass-fed cow (of the frozen variety).

11. I drink Pepsi with my grass fed cow.

12. We start getting fresh raw milk from local farming friends. It is yummy (unless it is the first few weeks of Spring when it tastes like drinking fresh grass, and then we make a lot of milkshakes).

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13. I keep getting sick because of my asthma. My natural doctor tells me to stop drinking Pepsi. I stick my (imaginary) tongue out at my doctor. She writes “No more Pepsi” on a prescription pad. I put the paper on the fridge at home. I sadly put down my two liter. I begin to grieve Pepsi. I decide that I have to do this. I want to be healthy, and I need to take care of my four baby boys. I pray for strength and sniff my friend’s Pepsi cans when I get a chance. I have compassionate friends.

14. Years go by. Canola oil and margarine are exchanged for Coconut oil and butter. I slowly begin putting new fruits and veggies into our cart (and sometimes they are not even organic because I learned to do what I could with what I had and let God take care of us).

15. It is 2012 and after  7 years of the journey, I still love sugar. I justify my sweet tooth knowing that I’m eating it in the form of honey, real maple syrup, and sucanat – and hey, at least it’s not Pepsi. My body is like, “Whatever. It’s all sugar to me. Bring it.” My migraine headaches get worse. I add exercise to my healthy lifestyle choices. I eat brownies after I work out.

16. I hate migraines and I discover a new natural doctor in a nearby city. She helps me begin to detox all my previous 39 years of…we’ll just call it “stuff.” I feel crummy sometimes because detox is not glamorous. Then I start to feel better. Then sometimes worse. And then a little bit better. I add even more fruits and veggies to my diet, because I am starting to love and crave them so very much.

17. My detoxing body can’t handle sugary foods. Feeling sick after eating a cookie helps break my sugar addiction. I can take no credit for this.

18. I continue to go (and take our family to) our natural doctor. We continue to learn more. Baby boy #4 is now ten years old and has skin that is so soft none of us (even his teenage brothers) can keep ourselves from touching his silky cheeks.

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So now it is 2015. I’ve been on this journey for ten and a half years. The journey never ends, friends, because every day we all have to make choices and work to care for the bodies we’ve been given. I wanted to share that timeline with you as encouragement for you on your healthy living journey.

Do you want to make healthy changes in your life, but you feel afraid? Are you feeling like you should change everything at once? Are you overwhelmed?

Take a deep breath and…

Just take the next step.

Let me tell you something profound (oh, just humor me):

The healthier you get, the healthier you will get.

See? Profound.

But it is true, because in my experience – one healthy step leads to another. Once you’ve tackled one healthy change, then your body is ready for another healthy change (with no specific one-size-fits-all-plan). After that, you will be confident to do the next thing. Your body will begin to crave healthiness. It is a natural response to being awakened to the good stuff.

So start with one thing – and it doesn’t even have to be the one thing someone else is choosing. It needs to be your next thing. Maybe you can take a walk a few times each week. Maybe you can get rid of margarine and get butter instead (please do this). Maybe you can focus on drinking more water to stay hydrated. Maybe you can discover a new fruit you love.

Whatever you decide to do, just take one step. And then another.

I will continue to strive, but I will never reach perfection and my kids will sometimes still eat Twizzlers at youth group. But each step I have taken toward better health has led me to the next one.

It’s good to look back on ten years and see how God has brought us to this point. You will (and already) have a story too.

So one step. Which one can you take next?

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When People Let You Down

When people let you down. When they hurt you. Say the wrong thing. Disappoint you. Disagree with you. Don’t meet your needs. Don’t meet your wants. Don’t hear you out. Don’t understand. Don’t see things your way. Frustrate you. Confuse you. Drive you crazy. Make you cry. Make you mad. Take your breath away.

When decisions are made that you don’t agree with. When you are discouraged. When you just don’t get it.

What do you do?

When People Let You Down

First, maybe we could stop being shocked that this is all about the when, and not the if. People are going to let us down. People are going to hurt us. People are going to fail. This is a part of life. People are human.

How’s that for a redundant, yet powerful statement? People are…human. Even the God-fearing ones. Sometimes right and wrong is involved and sometimes its just a matter of perspective or opinion or preference. But no matter what it is, there will be times we feel the ache of discouragement over a person’s words or actions.

Hello, human person. I am also a human person. Thank you for coexisting with me in a fallen world in which God is still supreme and you and I are striving yet still awkward human people with weaknesses. Is this why you sometimes let me down? Is this why I sometimes let you down too? I’m sorry for this. Sometimes it’s hard to be a human person with you.

So this. What do we do when someone lets us down?

Wallow in a corner? Feel sorry for ourselves and complain to others about how unfair life is and how stupid people are? Replay conversations over and over in our heads, attempting to imagine a better outcome? I mean, those are certainly options, and wonderful ways to remain in a state of non-productivity for the Kingdom. So go ahead, if it helps you feel better. Which it won’t.

This is what I know is true. People are going to let me down. I can cry (and I do), I can feel the sting (because it does), I can acknowledge that I am hurt (because I am).

And then I can turn to Jesus.

As in, literally, I find some quiet and I turn to the red letter pages of the Gospels. All other words can feel jumbled to me when I am upset or confused or hurting. But the red letters are solid. They are the words Jesus spoke to all the human people. They are words of promise, words of hope, words with roots, words of Life.

It is here, in the red letters, I find fulfillment and focus. It is here that I find perspective. It is here that I find grace.

Grace to hold and grace to give – the perfect gift from Jesus for all the human people.

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Gratituesday: How Much You Mean to Me

I decided it’s high time I wrote another Gratituesday post. Please join me today as I celebrate God’s goodness in my friend Edith.

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She first emailed me in 2009 to say, “I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog newsletters. I have shared many of them with our two daughters.”

That email came when my blog was a baby. She was one of my first blog followers. Her name was Edith. She was from Ohio.

Edith and I continued to email from time to time during the next few months. Then something I said in one of my posts sparked an interest, and would you believe? Her husband was born in the very same town where I grew up. Wonderful thing, this internet – connecting people who otherwise would not have met.

The email she sent in June, 2010 took our relationship to a new level. I had just written a blog post about our oldest son becoming a teenager. She wrote to tell me how wonderful teenagers are. Then she went on to say:

“Count your blessings every day – treasure every moment. And I know it’s trite, but do live each moment as though it truly were the last moment you have with your loved ones. We recently unexpectedly lost our elder daughter at age 36 in a matter of just a few hours.”

This began a friendship that was absolutely God given and beautifully selected. You see, the daughter Edith had lost was just my age. And my mom. Well, my mom had been gone already for a few years.

No one takes the place of a lost loved one. But Edith and I – well, I suppose we needed each other. She continued to send me emails of encouragement every few weeks, often to let me know she was praying for me. She sent me beautiful eCards for every holiday, which she personalized.

Edith loved me. Her love blessed me in ways I cannot describe. She was on my team. She was my prayer warrior. She was my friend. I loved her so.

Edith died unexpectedly last week. When I received the email from her younger daughter, who was so kind to think of me and share the news, I fell tearfully onto Matt’s chest. Not my Edith. I need my Edith.

I am going to miss this precious lady. Edith – the lady I never met face-to-face. The lady I could count on hearing from every few weeks as she cheered me on in my parenting, my writing, and my Christian walk.

My dear readers, I share this to let you know how much you mean to me. You’re not just “some people out there who read my blog.” You are a part of my life – a God given part that I do not take for granted. I treasure you and I am thankful for you.

When her oldest daughter died in 2010, this is what Edith said to me in her email:

“We are truly at peace even in our sadness. We know she’s having the time of her life in the presence of her beloved Lord and Savior. As her sister said, ‘She beat us home.’ And in that we rejoice.”

Now I say goodbye to my dear friend Edith, using her very words.

Thank you for loving me, Edith. Thank you for allowing God to work through you to be such a blessing in my life. I miss you already. But you’re having the time of your life in the presence of your beloved Lord and Savior. You beat us home. In that, I rejoice.

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All the Gifts

First, let’s get this straight: Our gifts, abilities, and talents come straight from God so it’s okay to recognize them, talk about them, and even glory in them. They are from God. Humility is recognizing this and saying, “Yay God!” Discounting our gifts is false-humility and it’s also like saying, “God doesn’t really do anything through me.” C’mon! Grab hold of your gift already, be excited about it, and rock that God-given ability!

One of my gifts is food. I’m good at feeding people. (See how easy that was to say? And also, “Yay God!”)

But one of my gifts isn’t talking and feeding people at the same time. I either forget words or I forget ingredients. Or both. It can be disastrous. So let me tell you about last weekend.

We were at our annual 4th of July “Hamm Bash.” (What? It’s my maiden name. Hamm. It’s okay. I give you permission to laugh.)

Anyway, we were at our annual “Hamm Bash.” (Yes, we typically do eat some form of pork at this event. Yes, we have heard that joke before. Can we move on now?)

So we were at our annual “Hamm Bash.” Guess who was in charge of the food this year? This girl. That means I got to use my gift. (Yay, God!) But it also means I had to talk and cook at the same time while (brace yourself) preparing 3 meals for 60 people in a strange kitchen.

To clarify, the 3 meals for 60 people was not my challenge. (Yay, God!) But the strange kitchen (with the questions and the talking) – that’s where it became difficult.

My Dad: Laura, I need a measuring cup. 
Me, with a look of bewilderment: I don’t think they don’t have any here.
(Except that later we found 14. Sets.)

So there I was, using my gift in the middle of pushing through some of my weaknesses. That’s when all the other people – with all the other gifts – joined me in the kitchen. When we opened the fridge to try and fit all the groceries inside – and it looked like we were going to need to drink 3 gallons of milk and eat 9 pounds of strawberries right this minute because that was our only hope – my cousin Jayme said, “I’ve got this.” And she did.

When we needed cream, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla to be whipped together for Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits – and I had no idea how to run the Kitchen Aid – my step-mom Tacy said, “Oh, sure. I know how to do that.”

When I was in the middle of trying to put together 8 lasagnas while answering 20 questions and trying to find a ladle in a strange kitchen, and then I realized we didn’t have drinks made yet and the thought of brewing all that tea and putting it in the – wait, what would we put it in?? – my cousin Crystal said, “Is that really all you need me to do? Um, yes. I think I can handle making tea.”

When I asked my sister-in-law Michele to bring all the Italian bread for our lasagna meal and all the buns for our pulled pork meal (I told you we ate pork at the Hamm Bash), she not only brought the bread and the buns – she had made them all from scratch. All of them. They were amazing. This gave me all kinds of reasons to make jokes about Michele’s awesome buns – all weekend long. I think I discovered a new gift in the area of “nice buns” jokes. (Yay, God?)

When none of us had the gift of figuring out the huge coffee pot, and then I tried it only to waste way too many delicious coffee beans, and then come to find out the pot was broken in the first place and I hadn’t had my cup of coffee yet and I needed to feed 60 people breakfast in a strange kitchen – my cousin Kristin showed up with a steaming cup of coffee she’d made just for me at her house. Then she handed me the half-and-half. I may have teared up a little.

This, friends. This is what makes the world go ’round. We use our gifts. Other people use theirs. We step up where we can. Others step up where we can’t. Those who weren’t in the kitchen that weekend were muscling around the tables and chairs, setting up games, watching to be sure the babies didn’t get bruised by a basketball, carrying items for the older ones among us, and so much more. Truly it was a joy to watch and to be a part of.

So let’s hear it for all the gifts. God gave me mine. God gave you yours. Together, when we seek Him, we are one great body of goodness. (Yay, God!)

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How About That? God Really Does Work Everything Out.

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Remember this post? You know, that one post I wrote last September? The one where I shared this:

I hate to spoil the ending...

The one where I talked about how we had no idea how everything would work out for our oldest son at the end of the school year? How we didn’t have any idea what would be best for him? How if he chose college, which one would it be and how would we work that out financially? How there were so many unknowns and what ifs and major decisions to make?

And more importantly, the one where I shared that God was teaching me to trust – like for real.

Last school year was wonderful and exhausting in countless ways. In the midst of it, we knew God had a plan and would roll it out for us in His timing. But when I wrote this post, we had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that it would…end. And that the ending would be good because God was writing the story.

In the midst of the waiting (we all know what that’s like, right? no matter what it is we’re waiting for) – our minds can turn toward all kinds of doubt and worry. We can invent scenarios that may or may not happen and then create all sorts of responses to the made up scenarios.

Unless any of those thoughts are Spirit led, they are absolutely pointless and completely exhausting. When I look back on our school year and how we watched our son learn to listen to God as he made his decisions, I am…

1) Really glad it’s behind us because it was just hard. Good, but hard.
2) So excited to realize God’s absolute promises and His guidance in everything. Everything. All of it. Every single bit.

We should never doubt. Never, ever, ever.

Not sure about an employment situation looming in your future? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure about a decision you’re making about parenting? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure how you can possibly afford whatever that need is that there is no money for?  God knows. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure what to do about forty different questions floating in your head about everything from little to big? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

God never asked us to get it all figured out. He only asked for our faith. If you don’t believe me, go read all the words of Jesus in the gospels. All of them. They will change your life.

And oh yeah – about this post. The one where I wrote about how we had no idea how the story would end, about what would be best, about how we would survive such a major change in our lives (yeah, I know, all the parents do it, but it’s hard and that’s just the truth). Go back and read this.

Then. Then read this one. Seven months after I wrote the “we have no idea” post – I was blessed to be able to write the “well look at that. now we know” post.

There is always an ending to the story. If we’re seeking God, the ending is beautiful. If we’re not, well, God can still work and God is always lovingly waiting for us to turn to Him.

I write this as a reminder. To you – to me. Trust God. Where there are question marks, trust God. There will always be question marks. But there will always be answers because God is God and He is faithful. And because of that, there can always be peace.

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Free Summer Blessings Printables ~ Use These Free Printables to Be a Blessing!

What can you and your family do to be a blessing to someone during the next few days? I encourage you to pray with your family about this. Can you take someone some food? Visit a neighbor? How can you be a light and bless someone?

To bless your efforts (blessings all around, right?!) – we’ve made some fun Summer Blessings printables for you. They are free. Help yourself! Print as many as you like.

Summer Blessings Printables

Download the Summer Blessings Printable
Cards and Gift Tags Here!

Suggestions for ways to use these printables:

  • Print a set of 6 or 8 of the Blessed and Hello note cards. Tie them up with a ribbon and give them as a gift. Be sure to include envelopes! (Like these.)
  • Print a few Blessed and Hello note cards. Spend some time writing encouraging notes in the cards to give or send.
  • Bake something yummy, package it up and attach one of the cards or gift tags. (Here are some baked good recipes to pick from.)

What else? Leave a comment to share ideas of ways we can use these fun new printables!

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