Welcome New Readers!

If you just jumped over here from my lifestyle blog (That Mommy Blog), welcome!  And thank you so much for taking the time to check me out.  You will find a few of my favorite posts about faith already re-published here, and new content going forward.

I don’t want you to miss a thing, so please look over there in the sidebar——-> to sign up for new posts to be delivered to you via WordPress or email! You can also check out my About Page to learn what this space is all about.

Thanks again for being here; I can’t wait to get to know you better!

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Where We Find Peace

Didn’t mean to drop off the planet for the last two weeks!  Between traveling and school starting, it’s been a busy time.  Despite the blazing heat I feel the seasons changing–new routines and schedules as we settle into school and the coming fall (bless it can’t it get here already!?!)

In the midst of this season of transition I’ve also been reminded that this fickle, random, broken world will disappoint us, will knock us around and sometimes bludgeon us nearly to death.  Last week I found myself at the hospital, hugging and praying with an old friend while her little boy suffered in agonizing pain.

Once again, Lord, we cry out: why?

Why is he suffering?  Why is anyone?  We want to understand…but these things can’t be understood. The other day I stumbled across a re-broadcast of a Charles Stanley sermon.  I love him.  He was preaching about suffering, and about why God sometimes puts us through some things.  (Can’t you just hear him saying “Watch this?”)

I love Charles and that man’s got wisdom, but watch this: not all of this hardship is from the Lord. Does God sometimes allow or cause trouble in our lives?  Sure, I believe that.  But I also know that most of the time, he doesn’t need to.  The world does enough of that on its own.

The good news–sometimes the only good news–is that we are never alone in our suffering.  As we cry out, Jesus is right there crying alongside us.  Remember, He’s already suffered under every sin of this fallen world, including those that make no sense.  And remember, in Him alone we find our victory.  In Him alone we find peace.

In painful moments sometimes all I can do is bring my broken heart and hand it over to the one who knows it best.

Today, if you are asking why, look to Jesus.  He may not answer the why but He has already overcome it…and through Him, so can you.
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P.S. These pictures were taken at Graylyn and in the nearby Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC.

Seeking Beauty in All the Small Things

This article originally appeared on That Mommy Blog on November 19, 2015.

Recently I was here talking about the way God has been calling me to seek beauty in the everyday. You might be wondering what exactly that means, beyond noticing actual beautiful objects in the world around us.  Yes, I am into beauty for its aesthetic value, or else I wouldn’t get all foolish over Target’s Christmas section.  Gorgeous.

But what I really mean when I talk about seeking beauty in the everyday is this: catching a glimpse of the holy.  Catching a glimpse of God’s face here on earth, experiencing his peace in the midst of turmoil, turning my ear toward his voice.

How?  Well I have quite a few thoughts about that, too many for one blog post.  But for now I just want to talk about seeking beauty in the small things.  Most of our lives are spent in small moments. Preparing meals, caring for babies, cleaning house, working at jobs we may or may not love.  What I want to say is that these moments, be they boring or irritating or simply required, are the gist of our lives.  I’m one to fall into the trap of waiting on that next big vacation, promotion, or celebration…looking so much forward to it that I discount what’s right in front of me.  But God didn’t place me in one long vacation of a life.  He placed me in a life of small moments, and every single one is brimming with potential.

So I’m trying: when I fold the laundry, to enjoy the smell of it.  The accomplishment of another load washed and folded.  The feel of the fabric in my hands.

I’m trying: when the kids are a wall of noise, to revel in their giggles instead of focusing on their volume.

I’m trying: when the dog is bonkers and needs a walk, to notice what’s beautiful about that walk. Appreciate the exercise.  Enjoy the repetition of the same old route.

I’m trying: when everyone wants to eat yet again and usually just when I cleaned up the kitchen, to at least give a brief “thank you” that we have plentiful food and multiple ways to prepare it.

I suppose this has something to do with mindfulness.  Lots of people have written about that practice. My specific inspiration is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Always means always.  Every moment, big or small.  Every moment, happy or sad.  Every moment, pained or healthy.  (That last one is a real thorn in my side.  Also cleaning toilets.  I hate cleaning toilets.)

So if you give this a try today please let me know your thoughts about it.  And if you figure out how to rejoice in cleaning toilets, you must let me know!

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Inspiration for the Messed Up

This article originally appeared on That Mommy Blog on June 22, 2014.

People who know better, do better.”  Have you heard this saying?  It’s from Maya Angelou, who was a sage among us mere mortals, and it was popularized by Oprah.  I think it means that in any given area of life, people won’t do better until they’re educated in that area.  We can forgive ourselves for mistakes we’ve made when we realize we just didn’t know how to act right.

But what happens when we do know better, and we still don’t do better?  I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately, as I struggle with some familiar shortcomings.  I’ll just look up one day and think, “My God, haven’t I already conquered this?!?”  If you are even remotely self-aware, you might begin to notice that when you go astray it’s down a very familiar road.  There are the same stumbling blocks, the same places you’ve been bruised before.  Possibly, you too find yourself walking that dark and dreary road in spite of believing that you’ve already conquered this area of struggle in your life, that God has enabled you to move past this issue or temptation.  For me, I can get so discouraged when I realize that my negative attitude is repeatedly an issue for me.  Maybe for you it’s relational drama, food, anger, or a sexual sin.  What I have noticed is that we don’t all just “do better” even after we struggle, go to God, learn how to behave better, and move on.  Sometimes we find ourselves, against our better judgment, repeating the same old stuff, different day.

I’m not immune from discouragement here, but I do have a few thoughts and I wanted to share them in case you ever find yourself in this scenario.  First, I know God works with us through our issues, even when we repeat them time and time again.  Just as he doesn’t always offer immediate cures for physical illness, he doesn’t always heal our psychological hang-ups after our first bout either.  Sometimes, he is allowing us to continue to grow by showing us there is more work to be done.  Sometimes, he is humbling us and preventing pride from leading to a greater fall.  Sometimes, we haven’t genuinely asked for healing.  Sometimes, he wants us to seek him more, or teach us about a specific type of prayer, or show us any number of truths.  I’m not advocating dwelling on past issues if you are truly over them (if you are, great!  Praise God!)  but I am saying this: you are not alone in repeating yourself.

A second thought here: perhaps, in the places where we struggle most, it isn’t so much about knowing as it is about doing.  Do you struggle with envy?  With attitude? With pride?  Be intentional about asking God to give you contentment, to soften your harsh mindset, to make you humble.  Your shortfalls are guideposts to where your character needs work; use them to direct your prayers for God’s intervention in your life.  Then simply do.  Once you have done better once, it becomes something you can practice and it gets easier over time.  And once you have done better, you can know better because the truth will play out in your own life and give you wisdom.

I’m reading a study right now by Dick Woodward called A Spiritual Compass.  Woodward points out that Jesus himself advised us to first do and then to know.  In John 7:17 Jesus tells us to obey the instructions of the word of God, and then see if by obeying we can tell whether they are true.  That’s shorthand for letting your actions lead you to faith.  Don’t stop trying, because each small victory makes it easier to grasp, deep in your heart where change “sticks,” that the path of righteousness is superior to our chosen path of sin.

Finally, please don’t be discouraged when you try and fail.  I say when, not if.  You are a person, and this is a process.  When I was working as a child advocate I had to learn to meet parents where they are.  I couldn’t meet with a single mom who hadn’t even graduated from high school, who lived in public housing and struggled with addiction, and expect her to be the role model her kids needed.  It was enough to just make sure the kids were safe at home; I couldn’t expect her to have deep insight into why they were acting out or to recognize the importance of curfews or tutor them in algebra.

Similarly, I believe God meets us where we are when we earnestly seek him.  And because we are human (meaning flawed) we may have to earnestly seek him from the same sinful place over and over, broken in self-disgust, humbled by our inability to “do better” this time.  The good news?  He meets us there.  I know, because he has met me here, time and again.  I hope that you can be encouraged to know you’re not alone and no one is perfect: don’t give up!  Seek him, and keep on doing better.

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