Oh, momma! 

This one goes out to all the busy mommas out there that need to slow down for a moment and take a deep breath. If you are like me, you feel like you have been running a race with your arms full trying to not drop something along the way. And, then May is here! And, we all know how busy May can be. End of school activities, end sports season for some – gearing up for others, graduations, parties, Mother’s Day,  weddings, travel, camps – all the on top of the regular every day stuff that needs to get done – like feeding the family and orthodontist appointments. If you have more than one school-age child, multiply that exponentially! 

I haven’t spoken to one mom lately that hasn’t used the word “busy” or “tired” at least one time in conversation. We are busy people. And, did I mention it is May? Oh, momma! I am right there with you. Not one mom has said, “Wow, I had so much free time today that I didn’t know what to do with it.” Not one.

So what keeps me from losing my ever-lasting mind during these seasons? It is this:

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I love The Message version:

““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭MSG‬‬

It is slowing down for a few minutes and taking a quiet pause. Sitting with Jesus. Letting His living water refresh my worn out soul. Letting it wash over me, refuel me. 

If I skip it, well…just ask my husband. 😂 It ain’t pretty! 

It is easy to say that I don’t have a few minutes, but I honestly know – even in the midst of the busiest seasons – I have a few minutes here and there. Maybe it is while I am waiting to pickup at practice or during lunch or right before bed. Maybe it is turning down that back road and setting my pace a little slower so I can hear His still small voice.

It is amazing what a few minutes with Jesus can do. It can turn my perspective around. Instead of approaching the month with being overwhelmed at all the stuff on my calendar, I begin to see it with new eyes. Every little thing can become a reason for celebration and thanksgiving! 

Oh, momma! Take a moment to slow down. Take a quiet pause in your day. Those few minutes can breathe life into a weary soul. I am praying for you! 

in the silence

When my kids were little, I slept with the door open and no fan on. I wanted to hear them if they needed me in the middle of the night. As they have grown into the teen and young adult years, I purchased a fan to drown out the noise of their coming and going and late night video games. I am a light sleeper and I can hear everything including the cat walking into the room. I have grown to love my fan because I love my sleep. 

However, Elijah had surgery yesterday. So once again, I slept with the door open and the fan off just in case he needed me. I heard him wrestling the oatmeal creme pie wrappers in the kitchen around 3:30 am. 😊 I heard the cat shredding the tissue paper under the Christmas tree shortly after. 🙄 

Then, I noticed the silence. And, in the distance the call of the Barred Owl that lives near us. I hadn’t heard it in months because of my fan. The first time ever I heard it, it was midnight years ago. I ran to my oldest son’s room. Grabbed him and we ran outside to listen. Ok, I know what you are thinking. “Jennifer is a crazy bird lady like in Home Alone 2.” Well, maybe that or a crazy cat lady.  My son is use to it. He is a night owl himself and loves nature as much as me.


Tonight, I didn’t run outside. I lay and listened as the call came several more times in the stillness of the night. That’s when I was reminded that we can hear things in the silence that we can never hear in the noise. 

Had my fan been running I would have  missed it. What else am I missing because of the noise in my life? I know that sometimes I miss hearing God speak because I have too many other voices and noises around me. I know that when my life is full of distractions and details and deadlines, I don’t take time to stop in the silence and listen to His still, small voice. From my own experience, He speaks to me most often when I quietly pause and spend time in His word. 

I think that is why Sabbath is important, too. God himself paused from his work. He stopped. He rested. He gave the command to keep the Sabbath. Shabbat in Hebrew means rest or cessation. To me, rest does not equal noise and busyness. Instead, it means silence, quiet. A stopping of the usual. Taking time to reflect. To listen in the silence. To build in Sabbath moments in our noisy days and busy weeks. And, maybe then I will hear the lonely call of the Barred Owl again or the still, small voice of God. 

lessons from little feet

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When I get the gift of spending a few minutes with my little friend, Madison, she teaches me things. Here are a few lessons I learned from little feet:

Slow our Steps…

Mads (my nickname for her) and I had to stop by the grocery to pick up a handful of things. Normally, I am running through the store to get to the next stop. In fact, a man told me a few days ago to slow down in the store – there was a speed limit – as I nearly ran him over. Poor guy. Yeah, seems like life has most of us running these days. Well, if you feel like you need to slow down a bit, take a 4-year old with you to the store. I asked Mads if she wanted to ride or walk. She said walk. So we did. Slowly.  At first, I thought about picking her up so we could go faster. Instead, I decided to set my pace with hers. The simple act of slowing my steps allowed by soul to breathe.  I could literally feel an exhale.

This isn’t the first time that God has impressed this lesson on my heart.  And, He is so good to remind me again and again.  And, to stress the point….the very next day I found myself behind Antonio again. The first time in 10 months.  Read about Antonio HERE.

Wide-eyed in Wonder…

Little people are known for their ten thousand questions. One of Mads’ favorite questions is “what’s that?” because she notices every little thing. She isn’t caught up in a to-do list or have a phone stuck in her face. She isn’t rushing around (see paragraph above). She sees the world in wide-eyed wonder. She told me all about studying bugs at preschool. You have to open your eyes wide to see a tiny little bug. But, when you do, you can’t help but notice the intricate detail of God’s creation and its beauty. Keeping my eyes wide open in wonder will allow me to experience the beauty and blessings of this world that I would otherwise miss.

I love that little people can teach us so many things.  Maybe that is why Jesus used little children as an example to us when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14.

Thanks for the lessons, Mads.

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sufficient grace

I am a restless sleeper.  Always have been.  As I get older it has gotten worse, I seem to be awake more than asleep at night.  Like many others, when I wake at night it doesn’t take long for mind to start turning.  To Do Lists.  Worries. What Ifs.  The more I think, the more I stay awake.  There are times when I have to literally will myself not to think.  I pray. Sing songs to myself. Recite scripture. Drink milk. Count sheep. Anything to go back to sleep.

A few nights ago when I awoke, I had a different experience.  Almost as soon as my eyes opened, the first thought was “My grace is sufficient.” Now, I know that wasn’t my thought, but a prompting from God.  Why?  Because unfortunately, my first thoughts aren’t automatically spiritual in the middle of the night. They go everywhere else and then turn spiritual when I am desperate for sleep.

“My grace is sufficient.” That was my first thought.  Then, the very next thought was a question, “Hasn’t my grace always been sufficient?”  It was as if God himself was reminding me that indeed His grace has been sufficient. As I look back over my life, I have seen his hand time and time again work through frustrations and trials. He has worked through the very things I didn’t think I could get through.  And, he has worked them for good.

The next morning l wanted to find the exact scripture because my brain couldn’t recall the address.  With some google help, (don’t you love google?) right there in 2 Corinthians is the verse we have heard so many times:

He said :”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

But, listen to the Amplified version:

“but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.”

Paul goes on to write “Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.”

Many times I have read that verse.  The difference in then and now is that usually I read it when I am in the middle of a trial.  I read it and it says God’s grace is sufficient and his power is shown best in my weakness. However, in the middle of a trial, I can’t always feel God’s grace or sense his power.  At times it is like a fog descends on me and I can’t see clearly. Often, that verse has left me with more questions than answers.  But, this time, rather than look at my current circumstances or looking ahead wondering what if, God moved to me to look back and remember.  Remember all the times that he has walked with me in the flood, stood beside me in the fire, carried me when I couldn’t even crawl. He has shown his power over and over again in my weakness.

Yes, I can say that His grace has always been sufficient.  There has never been a time that He has left me. And, it is with that truth that came so clearly in the middle of the night that has given me a new sense of peace.

When I look back, when I remember, my thoughts often land on my mistakes or difficulties, but what if I began to look back and remember all God has done. Then, I could walk confidently today and everyday knowing that even on my weakest days, his power has been and is still working and his grace will always be enough.

“For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

 

simple life

The Simple Life sign. (Referred to in my earlier post “small things, big reminders“.)

It was a fun find from a downtown Franklin store. Since living a simple life has been a part of our family’s DNA since we have been married, we grabbed it.  In our early years of marriage, we read two books “Simplify Your Life: A 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Matter” and “A Place called Simplicity.”  These books taught us to look at all aspects of our life to prevent us from being over-extended and over-whelmed. They made a lasting impact on the last 20 years of our life especially with our time and commitments.

One of the things I have learned is that living a simple life is not so much about a place. Everyone can’t live in a cabin in the woods like Thoreau or in a farmhouse in the country.  And, not everyone would want to live there. Simplicity is more about an attitude and priorities. You can have a simple life in suburbia, the city, or out in the sticks.

We have done better in some seasons than others. Living simply that is. As our kids have grown, it has become more complicated to keep things simple when we are running here, there and yonder.  But, we have learned the value of the word “No” (even to good things) and to constantly evaluate our schedule.  We try our best not to have more than three nights per week scheduled, so that we have adequate down-time at home and dinners together. Doesn’t always work when Jimi is traveling or we are in baseball season.

In fact, this past spring, our family had 14 straight weeks with commitments every day (with the exception of only 5 free days). That is way too little white space for me! And, far too many Sonic runs for dinner. Everyone needs margin. After that season, I certainly did. It made us take a hard look at our life again and make some tough, needed changes.

My simple life sign reminds me to reevaluate and refocus when life gets crazy like that.  If I am not careful, my life can become full and overflowing with too much stuff and too many commitments. Proverbs 13:7 says”a plain and simple life is a full life.” Even though saying “No” is hard some times, I want my life to be simple, but full of what matter most.

 

 

 

the rest of the story

Yesterday, I posted a “nice” little blog called “nip the worry”.  You can read it HERE. God is always teaching me lessons about worry because I am such a worrier.  He had shown me clearly how my little worries can direct my path and make me run in fear at times. And, when worries start, to claim scripture – God’s truth – over them.

Well, it was only a few hours later, after posting that blog, that I received a text that sent me into a tizzy. All my worries flooded back to me.  I told a couple of friends to pray over the situation.  I shed a few tears and prayed over the situation, too.  I may have eaten half a bag of chocolate covered pretzels to comfort me a little.  🙂 Then, it hit me…

Didn’t I just write a blog about worry?  Didn’t God already show me what worry does? Face palm!  Seriously! Oh, how quickly I forget!

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I can tell you that about 99% of all the things I worry about never happen or don’t happen to the extent of catastrophe that I imagine.  I sometimes think I would be a really great writer of thriller or horror fiction. Ha! Most things that I worry about resolve themselves fairly smoothly. Why is it so hard for me to learn this lesson?

Scripture even tells us this: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) We all certainly know the answer to that. Yet, I have wasted many minutes, hours, and days of my life worrying. Not to mention the gray hairs that I have as a result of it.

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Here and Now”, he says this about worry: “So the real question is: Can we do anything to worry less and be more at peace? If it is true that we cannot change anything by worrying about it, how then can we train our hearts and minds not to waste time and energy with anxious ruminations that make us spin around inside of ourselves. Jesus says: “Set our heart on God’s kingdom first.” That gives us a hint as to the right direction.”

Nouwen is referring to Matthew 6:33 from Jesus’ teaching on worry. I love the way the Message version words it:

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

 Jesus goes on to say: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

I may need to put that on a Post-It Note and stick it to my forehead!

 

 

 

 

 

nip the worry

 

I watched as a little bird nipped at the table feathers of a huge hawk…chasing it…forcing it to flee. The large bird could have easily taken on the small bird, but instead it allowed this small, tiny creature to determine its path.

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It reminded me of how we allow our fears and worries to nip at us.  They can control us…making us run. Flee. Isn’t it also similar to the rudder of a ship? It is small, but determines the ship’s direction.

What am I allowing to determine my direction? Is it fear? Worry? Is it anxiety nipping at my tail? Or, am I trusting in God, who is faithful? These are questions I have to ask myself every day.

Then, when little worries start to chase me, I have to remind myself that I don’t need to run or flee.  God’s word says…”The Lord will fight your battles for you.  You need only to be still.”  (Exodus 14:14) He is able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work with us.” (Ephesians 3:20) There is power in claiming scripture over my worries. It changes the direction of my thoughts – it helps me nip the worry rather than worry nipping at me.

 

 

no need to waste a bloom

Everything needs pruning once in awhile.  At least that is what my hubby tells me.  And, well, scripture speaks to it, too.  But, I always hate the process.  And, more often than not, I fuss about it. Jimi was recently trimming back some overgrown, summer flowers.  He thoughtfully stopped and handed me a beautiful bunch for a vase.

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I quickly ran to the street and rescued a few more blooms from the growing pile.


No need to waste a bloom.

There are times when like the flowers, pruning is required in our own life.  Those parts that we allow the Lord to cut away are never wasted either. We learn from those experiences.  And, we are better for the pruning.  Without it, our spiritual life would be stunted.  Just like the flowers, once pruned we will blossom and bloom more than ever before. Scripture speaks to that very thing…

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”- John 15:2-3 (NLT)

Pruning is never easy. However, pruning produces more than we can ever imagine.

small things, big reminders

Let me say that I have trouble remembering things these days.  Call it age.  Call it a distracted mind. Either way, reminders are important for me to have around.

Here are a few very special reminders that are sitting around my house right now…

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The tiny perfume bottle turned vase.  It was my granny’s. Oh, how I loved my granny. I have used it so many times for small blooms. It reminds me of her. She never had a lot.  Raised a family in a two-room cabin before moving up to the city in a “spacious” 900 sq. ft. home.  Regardless, she always loved well.  And, that love usually included something good to eat. (Her chess pie recipe is the best!) Each time I place that perfume bottle on the window sill, I am reminded to love as my granny loved. To keep my arms open to those around me.  To invite them in and maybe even give them a piece of chess pie (or more likely a piece of frozen pizza).

The purple flowers. They are clippings from my Butterfly Bush. It was given to me by my dear aunt who knows I love small wonders like beautiful blooms and butterflies. These sweet smelling petals remind me to keep my eyes open to all the beauty that God has created. It is alway right before us. Romans 1:20 says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature.” When I open my eyes to see all that God created, I get a glimpse of him.

The candle. This particular candle reminds me of the importance of friendship. A sweet friend gave it to me from our birthday club.  What is a birthday club?  For me, it is a group of four women who met 15 years ago and who still plan time together around our birthdays each year. Although we have all went separate ways and don’t cross paths regularly, we always carve out a little time to catch up (even if that is several months after the actual birthday).  This candle reminds me to not get too busy to carve out time for friendships.

The particular candle is lavender. Lavender is known for its calming qualities and heaven knows we all need some calm every now and then. This candle also says “seeking balance”.  Isn’t that what we are all trying to do? Keep Calm. Stay Balanced. It’s hard some days. That’s why it is also serves as a reminder to me that quiet pauses in my day (especially those with Jesus) are so crucial to keeping my soul calm and my life balanced. I am reminded of Daniel who chose to pause three times per day to pray despite his responsibilities, other’s demands or requirements. A pause doesn’t require an extended period of time. It is more like a breath for the soul.

To love well. To open my eyes. To stay connected. To pause. Big reminders from small things.

Oh, and the Simple Life sign? Well, that is for another blog post.  In the mean time, for those now craving chess pie or those who have never tried it.  Here’s my granny’s recipe.  It won’t disappoint.  Enjoy!

Granny’s Chess Pie

1  1/4 cups Sugar

2 TBS Corn Meal

1/4 cup Melted Butter

3 Whole Eggs

1 TBS Vinegar

1 TSP Vanilla

1/4 cup Milk

Mix well.  Pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 325-350 degrees for 35-40 minutes

or until center is firm and browned.

 

ordinary days

Days are made of the small moments.  Sure the big gifts, events, awards, promotions, successes are to be celebrated.  But, if my eyes are always looking ahead to the next big thing…if I am so focused on the future, I will miss all that God has given me in this ordinary day.

Days are made of hours.  Hours of minutes.  If I begin to enjoy the minutes, the moments, the small things, it would change my ordinary life into an extraordinary life!

I have to stop rushing through my days.  Stop moving on to the next thing.  And, instead savor the moments: the first cool breeze after weeks of summer heat, the leaves gently blowing in the wind, a morning walk with the dog, the laughter of friends-like-family, a gift of prayers answered, the smell of a lavender candle, the beauty of the sunset every evening.

One of my favorite roads in Spring Hill is Denning Lane.  It is a country lane that weaves through farm land connecting two busy highways. After dropping Elijah at the high school, I often take it back home.  Rarely, do I see another car.  However, this morning I was being followed by a truck that was obviously in a big hurry.  And, I was not!  So, as I pulled over to let speedy go by, this sign captured my attention:

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SLOW…there it was. A gentle reminder from God for me to continue to slow down. Yes, that sign has been there all the hundreds of times I have driven by before.  But, for me today, it was again a nudge toward what God is teaching me…to slow down, enjoy the moments.

The best lived lives are those lived in the ordinary moments of each day with a thankful heart.

“Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 MSG