From the Dust

On the way to a routine doctor’s appointment, I called my mom to check in with her. She was filled with excitement as she spoke of her time with Jesus in Bible study that morning. I wish I could have recorded her detailed thoughts as she spoke of familiar scripture that went from ordinary to extraordinary. We’ve all had those aha moments of connection and a new purpose within the familiar.

It’s a sacred place.

I’m readying a book on creativity and knowing our Creator as first and foremost as a creator who finds joy and purpose in creativity. As my mother spoke of all the things spoke into creation by God, I had a connection to my current reading.

“Oh, but, God created man with something–the only thing created from something by God.”

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Since the beginning of mankind, we have been filled with the very breath of God–LIFE!

We are different from animals and plants, because we have within us a longing for things beyond this world. As I breath in and out, I am praising my Creator, and I am longing for Him.

I feel within me that future life.  I shall most certainly rise toward the heavens. The nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the sound of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me. For half a century I have been translating my thoughts into prose and verse: history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and song; all of these I have tried. But I feel I haven’t given utterance to the thousandth part of what lies within me. When I go to the grave I can say, as others have said, “My day’s work is done.” But I cannot say, “My life is done.” My work will recommence the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes upon the twilight, but opens upon the dawn.

Victor Hugo
Why does this matter? Each day you face, you can rise breathing and believing that God, your Creator, has created you to bring about His love, peace, and purpose within this world. You are not an accident or a bundle of mistakes that you can’t seem to change. When you accept this knowledge you say to the darkness, that I am the light of the world! I, along with mankind, are here to bring God’s love–HIS LIFE!  You physically carry this LIFE within you as His child. Accepting Him as Father, we begin to acknowledge and grow in this understanding.
Taking this knowledge within your space within in our universe, I encourage you to embrace creativity as a new adventure! Whatever you are called to create within your home, workplace, or personal life, know that the God of our universe is the ultimate creator! His breath is in you!
Can a normal activity now have deeper meaning? Can you venture out and take a class that will inspire creativity?

 

Gratitude 📓

Good morning! I started the gratitude journal that I shared with you yesterday. Below are all the questions typed out with an example to share from my quiet time. I wanted to make the journey easy if you are considering keeping a gratitude journal. Feel free to copy and paste the questions and start your own. Once I’m finished, I will share the journey, and, I would love to hear from you.

There is always something to be thankful for….

What made you start this journal?

Attending church one Sunday, the pastor shared a “word for the year”.  The word for 2018 is rooted. I immediately had a vision of a beautiful tree with 12 roots deeply planted within the rich soil of the earth. For each 12 roots I began to think of words that support a healthy mind and spiritual blessings. Gratitude was the first word. God has given us so much and in return I desire to show gratitude with intention and purpose.

What is different today from a year ago that you are grateful for?

As I’ve grown old with my husband, we’ve moved away from diapers and daycare to grandparenting, adult children, college aged children, and a middle schooler. We have more responsibility in our positions, but more time to plan alone time together as a couple. We can, at times, be more spontaneous.  So, on a day in which we both had off with no children or obligations, we took a road trip to eat by the fire, dance under the sun, and ice skate in the freezing cold. I’m grateful for him, our love, and spontaneous play.

What do you love about your best friend?

The gift of friendship is something to be truly grateful for. Friends come and go with the seasons of your life. You drift apart due to graduation, moves, loss, or significant changes. There are few friends that remain through it all. What I love most about my best friend is how she makes me feel after being with her. Maya Angelou stated that “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

No matter what kind of day we are having after a get together I feel refreshed, validated, loved, and accepted. To be with someone that you can pour heart and soul out to and not feel judged or abandoned is truly a blessing and a rare gift.

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What is something beautiful that you saw today?

What is the best thing that happened today?

When you set your intentions to think of the question throughout the day, you find yourself being more mindful and purposeful. Often, we must practice being in the moment without trying to control it, but I chose to create “the best thing that happened”. After reading my chapter in my book that my mother gave me for Christmas, I asked her to come over and sit with me to discuss the questions the author had created for discussion. We  had a great time talking about the beautiful, Creator, God and His love for us.

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My Journal from 2014

Other enjoyable activities were working with a good friend from work, planning my syllabus, gathering around the table to eat as a family, and starting the journey of taking down the Christmas decorations.

What are the best compliments you’ve ever received?

When a child honors you as a parent with random poems, notes, or cards your heart sings! You find joy in knowing that you are making a difference and courage to face another season of parenting.  I have displayed in my room some very special poems and pictures from my three girls. The mother/daughter picture is from many years ago, but remains my favorite.

In an effort to remain in the moment, I also received a wonderful compliment from a friend at work who mentors and leads me as a new employee. She gave genuine praise and feedback on a project that I helped to create. I believe that we can make a difference in the workforce by seeking opportunities to give specific praise in growth and effort. So often we take people for granted–“It’s your job so get it done”, or we wait for perfection–“That’s not good enough”.

What aspects of yourself are you thankful for?

Today was a challenging day. You know the kind of day where Murphy shows up. Today I practiced gratitude. I believe that one of my character traits or aspect of myself that I’m thankful for is that I love a personal challenge. The mere fact that I’m keeping this journal, and I am trying to remain consistent are aspects of myself that I appreciate and serves me well. I am devoted to my marriage, consistently support my children, and I am optimistic and creative in the workforce. I have my days, but for the most part these are true statements.

What made you laugh today?

Oh Sandy! You made me laugh! Just sending out the question sparked hilarious conversations which reminded me of connection. My sweet aunt Polly loved to laugh. She called it getting the yucks. Today I got the yucks with Sandy, Sophia, and from a little bird who flew into my bedroom. Yes. A bird. In my bedroom. He is safely outside.

What made you smile today?

A letter of gratitude from my oldest. A picture of my Little Lamb.

What is something you love in nature?

For the last few days the weather has been grey and rainy. We’ve come off a few days of ice and snow. I took notice of my mood and attitude towards the lack of sun. Going in and out of the house, I would feel the rain on my skin, and instead of desiring to see color, I was okay with grey and black cast that rain and winter brings. Every season has its beauty.

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View from upstairs office looking out over our Pergola

 

What is something you are good at?

I’m really good at working with beloved coworkers to create a product or finish a project. I love to create, and I love to create with others to better our world.

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born from our creativity!” Brene’ Brown

What do you like about your job?

I love that I can create with others in my job. I also love that our mission is to change the trajectory of education through a system of support! My role as systems coach is a way for me to serve in a larger capacity and make a difference in the lives of children.

What is a proud moment in your life and why?

Each one of us desires to live in a world with peace. In your current profession and roles that you play, you offer peace. You reach out and offer a hand, encouragement, and because of the task you completed, you made our world a better place. It’s the small things like an engaged customer service worker, a co worker who stops and offers an encouraging word, a parks and recreation employee who keeps our parks clean, a mother who teaches her child not to hit but to use their words, a spouse who forgives and shows mercy. It all matters. Gratitude Question for today:

What is a proud moment in your life and why?

I challenge you to not think of a huge accomplishment like a graduation, but to acknowledge your day to day work and be proud of the peace you are offering the world around you.

With that being said, I am proud of my devotion and abilities to maintain the work and tasks that are needed in our home to support our goals and dreams. My youngest is trying out for specialty centers in her school district. The fun tasks of preparation have been in our home! What to wear? What’s the process? What will you sing?

My youngest has been singing since she was a small child. Here is a precious song she made up many years ago about Jesus.

What abilities are you grateful for?

I am grateful for the ability to sing and my love for music.

 

What is something unique about your family that you are grateful for?

What are you grateful for and why?

What was your favorite family outing that you went on this year?

What is something that was hard to do but you did it anyway?

What accomplishments in life have brought you the most happiness?

What are some of the little things in life that make you happy?

When is a time that you made a positive impact on someone else’s life?

What do you like most about the current season?

What is one thing you love about yourself?

What do you like about where you live?

What do you love about your parents?

What freedoms are you grateful for?

What kindness did someone give you today?

What place are you most grateful for?

What taste are you grateful for?

What have you learned from keeping this journal?

Taken from: http://www.SimpleMadePretty.com

Deeply Rooted 2018

Consider walking the 12 months deeply rooted in changing your mindset. I had a strong visual of a beautiful tree–blooming and flourishing– because the tree was deeply rooted. Strong, assured, courageous, and providing beauty and joy to all who happen by to enjoy the shade. Then I saw 12 strong roots, or 12 months, or 12 words to embrace. Our first word or root is gratitude. The month of January will be a daily concentration on the word gratitude. Changing a habit can take approximately 21 days of constant practice.

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I recently happened upon a video on gratitude and living in the moment. As I watched the scenes change from the beauty of the earth to a baby awakening to a new day, I pondered the practice of gratitude when gratitude is hard. The moment at work in which you feel overlooked, incompetent, or exhausted. The continued relationship struggles you’ve danced around for years. The flat tire, lost keys, or baby sick again days. As I pondered this discussion with my faithful friend, she reminded me that the practice of gratitude and mindfulness prepares us for the chaos.

Living intentionally with gratitude is truly a daily and sometimes moment by moment practice.

Jesus tells us to give “thanks in all things” and “with prayer and thanksgiving to offer our requests to God”.

Brene Brown, researcher and social worker, reminded us of the connection between gratitude and joy. When we are filled with gratitude we experience joy.  Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts shared here life changing discovery of “giving thanks” and making it a practice by taking a picture, writing it down, and giving thanks, like Jesus did when He broke bread with the disciples at the last supper.  Her book and work offers an app in which you can take pictures of your one thousand gifts.

It’s the arms that hold you, the small touch on the back, a smile, a mother singing to her baby, and the breeze that catches your breath when you step outside from a long day of work.

After watching the video, I imagined in my mind what my video would be like during the course of a given day. This intentional practice created an opportunity for me to stop, look, and go. I noticed the beauty in a moment, took a mental picture, and moved on to the next moment.

I encourage you to start your new year watching this video:

Practice gratitude intentionally through your thoughts, words, and consider keeping a gratitude journal.

Print this book with your family and practice together: https://www.simplemadepretty.com/download/5363/

My husband and I went to see the movie, Downsizing. At the very end, the main character, took the time to stop, look, and go, a practice noted on gratefulness.org. I love when connections are made. If you’ve seen this movie, it’s when Matt Damon rushes to feed someone who lives in poverty with significant health concerns. Instead of checking it off the list, he stopped, looked him in the eyes, smiled, and noticed the gratitude of the friend–his need being met. He didn’t linger, but moved to the next moment–go.

When we see each moment as an opportunity, we will be filled with peace and joy knowing that God, in His love and mercy, holds each moment.

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When thinking you are ugly is bad for you

When did it begin for you? When did you look in the mirror and think thoughts of comparison, perfection, or confusion? I’m reading several books right now that have a common theme that could be summed up in one word “freedom”. As much as we live in the land of opportunity and freedom of expression we rate high in anxiety, depression, and judgment. We not only hold the yard stick up to ourselves but also to others who are not measuring up.  “Not me!” you say? If we really looked deep enough, and we were honest enough, there is this little child inside of us in the sandbox trying to figure out how to belong, and who in the sandbox needs to go. Sometimes our attitudes and actions are subtle–so subtle we don’t see it.

When you were a little baby and your caregiver or parent held you up to a mirror you squealed with delight. If you could talk, you would have said, “Look at this masterpiece! I’m fearfully and wonderfully made!” You wouldn’t see all the flaws that beauty experts convince you of and the product to cure the imperfection. No matter how large or small your nose was you’d point, smile, and push down your squishy nose and yell, “Nose!”

I have three beautiful daughters who went through the same “mirror on the wall” experiences. Oh how it pained me, as their mother, to see them fixated on a “flaw”, or tearful because someone pointed out their imperfection publicly at school. As much as we lament the younger years and their painful path despite our teachings, adults continue the discussion through wrinkled skin, sagging parts, and old wounds that haven’t healed.

I’d like to sit the universe down –all of us in one room–and watch this TED talk. I know. I know. You’ve seen a thousand TED talks.  BUT! This one convicted me, made me weep for any human who feels less than, and made me want to tell anyone who dehumanizes another soul to stop and reconsider.

Our word–FREEDOM

Can you imagine the freedom of a child who would hold no fear or judgment about their body image?

Can you imagine the freedom if you, as an adult, completely loved your body and adored every inch?

Can you imagine if we stopped glamorizing the impossible–air brushed pictures that have been altered and shown as the idolized human being?

It can start with us. Be FREE!  Thank you Meaghan Ramsey!

What do you magnify?

“What you meditate on, you will magnify.”

If I meditate on chocolate, come what may, I will be eating something chocolate by the end of the week. If I meditate on my problems, my life will be seen through a lens of little hope or promise. I eat, drink, sleep the problem. In some ways, this expression can be taken literally. I’ve been so consumed by a concern, that I can’t sleep and all that I do during the course of the day is laced with conversation and thoughts that impact your eating, or daily life activities.

meditate: verb, think deeply or carefully about (something).

To keep you from turning to God as your only source of hope, the problems we meditate on become our god, or our constant. Recurring situations play out that create patterns of thoughts that maybe something is wrong with me. I’m the problem. I’m marked or poor in spirit. Bound with fear or apathy we meditate, or think deeply about our shame and not God’s glory.

With so many self-help books out there, we can work on ourselves until we become exhausted from self-analysis. Desiring excellence and God’s best is not the sin or problem. It’s the focus.

When our children run out into the street, what is our focus? We quickly act to bring them to safety, but we also spend time showing them how to be safe. We move from “Get out of the street!” to all the wonderful ways they can have fun in the boundaries of their yard and home.

It’s in our nature to magnify the negative. We can be in the lap of luxury and complain about the food or service. We idolize a perfect day. Changing our mindset or focus to meditating on God’s promises and love, we can have a day filled with the Glory of God even if we get the phone call, deal with a teenager’s attitude, forget to take the trash out, or make mistakes on the job. You will never, ever, never have a perfect day. And, quite frankly, some days can be straight from hell–the perfect storm that caused the argument with your spouse or the slamming of a door on a desired dream.

Come before God with honesty, but, my friend, move your eyes and soul to the Word of God and His promises. His Word is our hope.

Be kind.

“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy spirit, and so be at peace with one another.”

Talk to each other about God’s love.

” Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Brene’ Brown interviewed Viola Davis in her book Braving the Wilderness.  Viola shared

This is who I am.

This is where I am from.

This is my mess.

This is what it means to belong to myself.

I translated this mantra in my mind to God speaking to my life.  He says

I AM. (Exodus 3:14)

You are my child.

Give me your mess.

This is what it means to belong to Me.

Lord, help me to meditate on your Word, Your purpose in my mess, and the Glory of your eternal love. Help me to be kind to my sisters and brothers by extending mercy and grace. Lord, keep a song in my heart and Your goodness on my lips.

 

Chaos and Your Mosaic Life

The paradox.

Mirriam-Webster defines a paradox as

1.  a :a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true
     b :a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true
     c :an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises
2. one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases
I’ve always delighted in the knowledge that order brings peace, and, if we are orderly, careful, and three steps ahead, we can almost guarantee the outcomes. As adults, we know the world is not perfect, but our attempts to make sense and order of things brings a sense of control. The paradox I’m finding and confirming through others is that chaos is where I’m most creative and challenged and beauty can happen.  Our brutal attempt to make sense of things and to bring order and control has become our nemesis. This is not an attempt to justify my messy life. It’s more an epiphany of the soul. I still desire a clean kitchen, and last night I made myself go through the clean laundry baskets, so when I woke up this morning, I did not have to spend 10 minutes (again) on finding underwear for the day.
What scientist have found is that we are most creative in our chaos. What God has revealed in His word, over and over again, is that our lives are a mystery, an unfolding of days that we could never imagine or aspire to understand the why.  So, instead of trying to control the waves, ride them.  Don’t ride them with panic, or apprehension. Ride them with anticipation and a secure mind. I could type so many verses that are a paradox. For example,

2 Corinthians 6:10 Living Bible (TLB)

 Our hearts ache, but at the same time we have the joy of the Lord. We are poor, but we give rich spiritual gifts to others. We own nothing, and yet we enjoy everything.

Just as scientist have studied cause and effect but can’t predict with perfect accuracy weather patterns, we are a masterpiece created by God (truth) with an unknown future. We are secure in His promises (the known) to walk through the unknown.

Your prescription for joy, which can co-exist with sorrow, is to be in God’s Word, to take Him at His Word, and to take action on that belief.

A royal official, took Jesus at His word (John 4:50). After a day of travel, he found Jesus. On rumors and stories about His power and love, this man desperately begged Jesus to come with him back to His house to heal his son. Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man first, “took Him at His word”, then left believing that he would find his son healed. Not only was his son healed, but his entire house believed in the name of Jesus.

Imagine your life as a perfect vase placed on a shelf–polished, protected, and pristine. An earthquake (life) knocks the vase from the shelf. Imagine the process of God and you writing your story with the shattered pieces.

I was inspired to write this post after a beautiful retreat weekend, readings, messages, and research. I also was inspired, because I can’t find a single soul on this planet who is not living in the paradox. Sit long enough over coffee with a friend or loved one, and you will discover their own personal chaos. So, if chaos is inevitable, how do we live? I think this young lady found out very quickly in life how to embrace chaos, or this messy life.

“So much beauty can come from chaos,” says Anna Kauffman in this story of personal suffering and overcoming. Her story shows how we can create new perspectives and ideas from our personal chaos.”

Remember, we have a personal God that writes a story from our personal chaos.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

 

 

30 Day Challenge for Joy

This weekend was the Mother/Daughter retreat for Camp Willow Run. The speaker, Sharon Glasgow, spoke to us on the prescription for joy as she told one amazing life story after another. She was a master storyteller. You would imagine yourself in the middle of the story laughing or crying.

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The entire weekend was filled with connections with my daughter, lifelong friends, and most of all Jesus. We all have our God story, and all of us were there working on our “soul stuff”.

The soul work was overwhelming, and this box car, sleeping mama is too tired to process that into words on a blog, but I do want to share the prescription for joy and a 30 day challenge with you.

Definition of joy: complete faith that God will walk with you through anything you are going through and provide His love, power, and wisdom. It’s not happiness (i.e. chocolate cake, Krispy Kreme doughnuts that are warmed and placed in your box, a day off from work due to snow, or a clean house, etc.)

Prescription: Eat, Believe, Live

  • Eat God’s word every day and know His Word
  • Believe what you are reading is true and true for YOU
  • Live your life as if the scriptures you believe to be true will happen. Meaning….don’t wait for the plan, take a step of faith or action before the answer is revealed

You have to do all three or the prescription doesn’t work. You can read your Bible, but if you don’t believe it’s true for you, or you don’t act upon it, well, the same-old, same-old will happen. If you want a revelation you have to do all three. For me, step three is the hardest.

She told a story that God called her to sing on the school bus, Amazing Grace, when she was 12 years old after her mother was raced to the hospital.  Her mother’s possible death would have left her in a very difficult situation as her mom was a single parent with three children. Her God shared with her that singing would cast out fear–PRAISE ME! She stood up on her bus and shared her heart and sang–off  key. Pretty soon, after the teasing, folks started singing with her. The bus driver called her over after the bus was emptied. She started crying. “When you sang a wretch like me, God touched my heart.” She told Sharon of her life story and how wretched she felt, but that morning she believed if a 12 year old girl could stand up and sing off key, certainly she  could begin to know this Jesus who loves us.

Your Challenge:

1. For 30 days read the following verses:

  • Ephesians 1: 16-21
  • Ephesians 3: 16-21
  • John 7: 20-24

2. Eliminate anything from your life that does not glorify God. If it distracts or goes against God’s glory–fast from it.

3. Journal your days, and be honest about what God is doing in your life. Be real and open to His amazing love for you.

If you do the 30 day challenge, and you want to share, I’d love to hear what God is doing in your life.