Don’t Act Like an Orphan!

Raising kids is hard. Really hard. Can I get a witness? It seems like when you start to feel like you’re getting a handle on the whole parenting thing, something throws a wrench into it and you’re back to square one wondering what in the world you’re doing.

I think it’s almost impossible to truly appreciate your own parents until you’ve become a parent yourself (no offense, all you non-parents out there … this has just been my personal experience). You have no idea how much they sacrificed, put up with and dealt with until you’re doing it with your own kids. … and then that “ah-ha” moment happens … and happens … and happens … and you have an incredible appreciation and new-found respect for your parents. All of a sudden, your perspective has changed, and so has your opinion or judgment about how they handled certain situations because now you’re the one facing those same situations, but now from the viewpoint of a parent, not a child.orphan

Life has a way of maturing us by bringing things full-circle, wouldn’t you say? Some call it karma; I call it sowing and reaping. Either way, our perception is affected and changed by what we experience. Since becoming a parent myself, I can’t imagine growing up without parents like many orphans in our world do. Surely, living life without the love and care of parents is one of the most tragic things anyone can experience.

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10:18a)

Recently, we had a situation with one of our kids that broke my heart. I couldn’t reconcile or understand it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (I’ll just use “they” and “them” to represent my child so you don’t know if it was a son or daughter.) Why didn’t they come to us? Why didn’t they let us know that they were struggling with something? What prevented them from seeking advice and help from 2 parents who have deperately tried to keep communication and love at the forefront of their relationship with them?

Why were they acting like an orphan?

Why were they acting like they were all alone in this world with no one to help them? Why were they behaving like someone who had no parents to consult or care about them? Why were they trying to handle all these decisions on their own instead of seeking help from the people who love them the most?orphan2

It was heartbreaking, but I tried not to take it personally. In some ways, I think the answer to these questions is this: They are trying out their wings. It’s normal and natural for kids to want to try to solve some of their own problems to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are capable and competent decision-makers — that they are growing up and maturing — that they can handle some things on their own without mom or dad.

But … sometimes they find themselves in “over their heads” and they don’t even realize how deep they are … but we, as parents, can see … and often we rescue them … sometimes before too much damage to their heart or life has occurred … sometimes not. Sometimes we let them feel the consequences of their choices so they learn from them … but I still have that nagging question: WHY do they act like an orphan who has no one to help them?

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)

And then God … He said His piece. He asked me why I act like an orphan sometimes, trying to take care of myself and fix my own problems instead of coming to Him for help.

OUCH!

Oh MAN! He was right (of course). Why did I sometimes try to figure things out on my own and only come to Him as a “last resort?” Why did I struggle needlessly when God was right there all along just waiting for me to seek Him? Could it be that I was too ashamed to come to Him for help? Or too proud? I knew exactly how God felt about my acting like an orphan because I felt the same way toward my own child. (And I also began to better relate to my child’s actions because I’ve done it myself!)orphan3

Sorry, God. I’m so sorry that sometimes I act like an orphan with no Heavenly Father to help me, guide me, and provide for me. I’m sorry for pridefully thinking I can take care of myself and that I don’t really need You. I really do need You! Help me to remember that I’m not an orphan; I have a Father who loves me, provides for me and helps me whenever I need it. I don’t need to try to do it all on my own in my own strength. Help me remember that You are just a prayer away, and that just like I long for my kids to come to me for help and advice and wisdom, so do You.

Amen.

orphan4

 

Advertisements

Cracks in my Floor

I’ve been doing a LOT of writing and editing for clients, and it’s been great! I’m SO thankful for the opportunities that are coming my way. Some of the projects and topics are really stretching me, so it’s been good!

The only downside to this is that I don’t have as much time to write for myself, and I have 4 topics that I want to share about. So TODAY is the day that I’m writing for ME!

This first topic happened just last week ….floor cracks

My husband and I bought our home 5 and a half years ago. We still love it … it’s not huge, but it’s not small either. It’s just right for our family of 6 with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 living spaces (one upstairs and one downstairs that we use as a family game area), and a beautiful kitchen. In fact, in the 20+ years that we’ve been married, this is the best kitchen I’ve ever had the pleasure of cooking and creating in.

I love my kitchen. Lots of cupboards. Stainless steel appliances. Smooth-top stove. Large sink. Lots of counter space. Giant island where 2 people can sit and enjoy breakfast or a snack. And then there’s the floor. I loved the 12×12 travertine tiles and noticed them right away when we first viewed the house. Gorgeous!

We purchased the house and have been enjoying it ever since. As we expect, things start to wear down and seem not so new. We lose the excited feeling of living in a new house because … well … it’s not so new anymore.

And that’s exactly what happened to my kitchen floor. Unfortunately.

We began to notice that the tiles were cracking. I was truly sad. My husband is a handyman at heart and fixes all kinds of things for us (which I’m super grateful for). I asked him why the tiles were cracking, and he said that it’s because whoever intalled the tiles didn’t put the proper underlay material down before installing them.

This made me sad and even a little mad. Why didn’t the installer do it right?

I’d like to fix or hide the cracks, but once the tiles are busted, there’s nothing you can do but replace them (and how are you going to find the right color and pattern?), replace the whole floor, or put up with them. So, we’ve just dealt with the cracks. I try not to look at them because they bug me. I hate how dirt and gunk get stuck in the cracks making them even more prominent!

A friend came over last week, and we started talking about my floors. I mentioned something about the cracks and how disappointed we were with them even though the floors are pretty. She remarked, “Oh, I just LOVE the cracks! They give the floor such a unique and beautiful look!”

What?!?!? I could hardly believe my ears!

Did she just say she LIKED the cracks in my floor? No way! How could she?

It never dawned on me that I could like the cracks. Embrace the cracks. Choose to view the cracks as marks of character and beauty in my floor. But it’s true.

floor cracks2Each crack developed as my family walked on the tiles and lived life on the tiles. In a way, the floor told my family’s story.

And I felt God speak to me: we don’t need to be upset about the cracks — the shortcomings — the mistakes — in our lives. Sure, there are cracks in our surface, but they help tell our story. We can learn from our cracks about how to do things better next time. Our cracks are what make us unique and help us develop character. Our cracks remind us of where we’ve been.

So instead of being upset with the appearance of cracks in our lives, maybe we can accept them and even celebrate them for the lessons we learn and the character we develop from them.

And as we allow the cracks in our lives to be seen instead of trying to hide or fix them, others are freer to do the same. No one has to fix anything. We are all uniquely cracked. And that’s OK. In time, Jesus can mend our cracks.


Perspective is EVERYTHING, right?

I’ll never look at my cracked floor the same again. Thanks, Heather Whitworth, for helping me have a better perspective on my floor … and my life!

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Life Lessons that Cancer Taught Me

One year ago today, I was having my second surgery to create bigger margins around where the surgeon removed the cancerous tumor from my breast and to remove some lymph nodes to examine as well.life lessons

It has me thinking … when you’re facing a potentially life-threatening disease, you can’t help but think about life differently. It just happens. All of a sudden, what seems so important doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore … and the truly important things come to the surface. Tragedy and challenges have a way of helping us decipher what really matters in life and what doesn’t. Many of these lessons I knew in my head before cancer, but after cancer, I know them more fully in my heart — they’re more real.

So as crazy as it sounds, I’m thankful for the life lessons that cancer has taught me:

  1. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so don’t take a single day for granted.
  2. Live each moment to the fullest.
  3. Hug a little longer; cling a little tighter.
  4. Don’t put off what you need to say to someone; say it.
  5. Laugh more often.
  6. People matter way more than things do.
  7. Deeply appreciate your family & friends.
  8. Invest in the lives of others; put down the phone, turn off the TV, and enjoy family & friends.
  9. Be thankful for every morning that you wake up because it’s another day to make a difference on the planet and to enjoy the people in your life.
  10. Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.
  11. Honor yourself by not saying “yes” to everything.
  12. Be OK with letting others down if it means taking care of you.
  13. Be at peace with your decisions, even if others disagree.
  14. Make decisions out of peace and faith, not fear.
  15. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. (I’m not talking about being selfish, of course.)
  16. Your daily choices matter to your health, your relationships, and your future.
  17. The past has passed, so let go of it and be present.
  18. Your mindset and self-talk affect everything, so aim for Philippians 4:8.
  19. Reject anxiety and worry; talk to God instead and receive His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  20. Let go of anger, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness; life is too short and it takes a lot of negative energy to hold onto these negative emotions. Set people free and free yourself in the process.
  21. Don’t watch the news; it’s too negative and depressing.
  22. Never give up hope.
  23. Just because I’m going through something bad doesn’t mean that God has abandoned me; in fact, He’s closer than ever.
  24. Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people (and distance yourself from those who are not).
  25. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing!
  26. Time is one of our most valuable resources, so we need to use it wisely.

I’m sure there are more … and maybe I’ll expand on these in the future … but I wanted to share these to encourage you to not wait for a tragedy to make you realize some of these truths.

The Testing of our Faith

So I was reading the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Issac, in Genesis 22. It’s a fascinating story for sure, and I had so many questions come up as I was reading, and many things I hadn’t noticed before:

abraham

Things I noticed/Questions:

  1. Verse 1 grabbed me: “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith” (emphasis mine). Yep. This “crazy” command that God was about to give Abraham was to test Abraham’s faith.
  2. Abraham must have had a very good relationship with God because he knew God’s voice. He knew that it was God telling him to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering (v. 2). I don’t know about you, but I probably would have questioned, “God, am I hearing you right?” (And who knows? Maybe Abraham did question that to some extent.)
  3. The VERY NEXT MORNING, Abraham obeyed God. I’m SURE Abraham didn’t really want to do this, but he didn’t delay in obeying God’s command.
  4. Even though Abraham surely didn’t want to go through with killing his son, he spoke in faith, “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back” (v. 5, emphasis mine). Abraham was hopeful that no matter what, his son would live, and he lined up his words with that belief. (NOTE: Hebrews 11:19 says, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.” It’s clear that Abraham understood God’s limitless power!)
  5. It’s no secret that this whole story is a foreshadowing of how God would give His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for us and our sins. We see this in verse 6 where Issac carries the wood on his shoulders similarly to how Jesus carried the cross on His shoulders.
  6. Issac knew God’s ways because Abraham had taught him. In verse 7, Issac asked his father about the sheep for the offering. Issac knew the proper way to sacrifice to the Lord; a sheep or other animal was needed. Abraham responded again in faith saying that God would provide a sheep (verse 8).
  7. Verses 9-10 describe how Abraham tied up his son and place him on the altar. Sources say that Issac must have been between 18-36 years old at this time (which makes sense; a small boy couldn’t carry a large load of wood on his back). What did Abraham tell Issac? What was their conversation like? Issac must have WILLINGLY allowed Abraham (who was over 100 years old) to tie him up and then WILLINGLY climbed up on that altar. What TRUST there must have been between this father and son! And this beautifully foreshadows Jesus’ willingness to obey His Father and lay down His life for us.
  8. With Issac lying on the altar and the knife clenched in Abraham’s hand, the angel of the Lord said, “Abraham, don’t lay a hand on the boy” in verses 11-12. Do you think that Issac also heard this voice?

If you don’t know how the story ends, God provides a ram caught in a thicket for the burnt offering. Just like Abraham spoke in faith, he and Issac worshiped the Lord together and then returned together.

I wonder … Issac was no doubt the most important thing in Abraham’s life. Issac was the answer to Abraham and Sarah’s many prayers for a son from their own “dead” bodies and the fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations (Genesis 17:1-8). But God still asked him to give up Issac. And in verse 12, just before Abraham was going to kill his son, God says, “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son” (emphasis mine).

Notice, Issac WASN’T Abraham’s only son … remember Ishmael? Remember the plan Abraham and Sarah concocted (Genesis 16) to “help God along” in fulfilling His promise to them? (Because of course, God needs our help to fulfill His promises, right? Oh boy …) But God calls Issac Abraham’s “only son” because Issac was the son of the promise, not conceived in the natural way but the supernatural way (just like Jesus was).

But I digress. Back to verse 12. When we obey God, even when it’s incredibly difficult and doesn’t make sense to our human brains, we demonstrate that we fear God (which is another way of showing that we respect and honor Him). So it makes me think … when we DON’T obey God and give Him what He asks or do what He asks us to do, we are demonstrating that we DON’T fear Him. (Lord, have mercy.) I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fear anyone or anything but God.

Have you ever thought what would have happened if Abraham DIDN’T obey God? How would the story have ended? What would have happened? We’ll never know for sure, but we do know this: Abraham never would have come to know God as Yahweh-Yireh (“the Lord will provide” – verse 14) if he had not stepped out in faith and obeyed and trusted God.

How many times have we missed coming to know God more deeply because we didn’t follow through in faith? James 2:23 says, “And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.” WOW! Do you see that? We are “right” when we believe and obey God in faith, and our relationship with God grows deeper too.

Bottom Line: Realize that God tests our faith from time to time, so don’t be surprised when He tells you to do something that doesn’t make sense to your human understanding. Decide right now to show your love and respect for God by saying YES to Him, no matter what! You’ll find that your relationship with God deepens and that you know Him in ways you never did before.

Things I’ve Changed to Fight Cancer

IMG_7358

Football moms appreciation night!

One year ago today, I received the horrible news that the lump removed from my breast was cancerous. I was only 43 years old when I received this news.

I remember exactly where I was at 2:15pm on October 28, 2016. I was teaching Spanish 2 when I noticed my doctor’s office calling. I slipped into the hallway for some privacy, and there, next to the cold, brick wall, I heard the words, “The tumor we removed is cancerous.”

I’m not sure how I remained standing because it felt like the blood was draining from my body. The surgeon explained that I would need to come in to discuss the details and talk about a second surgery to check lymph nodes and treatment.

Treatment? Huh?

So today, 10/28/17, is not my favorite day. But I’m going to redeem the day by dedicating it to sharing with you, my readers, the things I’ve done to reduce my chances of developing cancer again.

So here goes!!!

#1 Cut sugar — even natural sugar (like in fruits). I’m super careful with this and stay away from added sugar especially. I use stevia or xylitol to sweeten things now. This has been VERY difficult, but when your life depends on it, you do what you gotta do.

#2 Exercise 150 minutes/week (30 minutes, 5 days) — I still hate exercising, but research shows that this reduces your chances of cancer AND many other diseases. Plus, it helps us manage stress … which brings me to #3.

#3 Manage/Reduce stress — I’ve had to make some difficult decisions in this area concerning jobs & relationships. I made changes to reduce stress, and it’s been worth it.

#4 Essential oils — I’ve added some specific essential oils to my daily routine, rubbing them directly on my breasts, including frankincense, myrrh, lavender, and sandalwood. I also use Thieves oil regularly for immune support.

#5 Supplements — Per my doctor’s orders, I’ve added some supplements to balance my hormones and neurotransmitters and support my liver and digestion.

#6 Foods & Beverages — My doctor wants me only eating and drinking warm things, so that means no raw foods — everything is cooked. This is to hopefully help my body not make lumps & bumps (this is based on Chinese medicine), and so far, I think it’s working! I also eat as much organic produce as I can afford.

#7 Water — I drink only distilled water (with minerals added) now which is free from fluoride and other toxins found in our water supply. My next goal is to get a filter for my shower so that I’m not bathing in toxic water either (got my fingers crossed for Christmas!!!).

#8 Put myself first — As a mom and wife, this one can be hard, but I have to take time to take care of myself or I won’t be around to take care of anyone else. My sleep matters, my nutrition matters, and I’m worth investing in. This means saying “no” sometimes when I want to say “yes.” I’m still growing in this area.

#9 Down time — This is related to #8, and I’m still working on this one too, but making time to RELAX is super important. We were not meant to work & go 24/7, but naturally, I’m kind of that not-sit-still, always-gotta-be-doing-something gal. This isn’t healthy. So I’ve had to force myself to relax and have downtime without multitasking … again … I’m still working on this. Habits die hard! 😦 Balance is key.

#10 Mindset — I’ve had to learn how to emotionally just let some things go. Emotionally holding onto things that I cannot change, worrying about things, wishing things were different — these are not healthy mindsets. I’m examining my self-talk and my thoughts to make sure they are positive and full of hope. I’m choosing to enjoy my life no matter what’s going on, no matter what I’m facing. Again, this is a process, but I’m trying.

#11 — Spiritually strong — Finally, last but certainly not least, I’ve dug into the Bible, prayer, and connecting with spiritual friends more over the past year than ever before. It’s been wonderful, and I continue to do this. These things continue to be a huge source of strength, hope and peace for me.

So, as you can see, fighting cancer is multifaceted: it’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. My best advice: don’t wait until you get a diagnosis to make the lifestyle changes you need to make. Make them now. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m thrilled to announce that my cancer numbers continue to decline and are almost in the “negative” category. God has been SO good through it all. I’m SO thankful, and I’m looking forward to a long, full life!

 

Celebrating 1 Year Being Caner-free!!!

One year ago today, I had surgery to remove a suspicious lump from my breast. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried as both my mother and grandmother had had benign lumps removed themselves when they were my age. I honestly thought it would be no big deal; I would have it removed and get on with my life. After all, my surgeon said that only 20% of lumps they remove end up being cancer. No problem ….

But 2 days later when the surgeon told me that the lump was cancer, my world stopped.

Stopped.

Unless you’ve had the “C” word spoken over you personally, you cannot begin to imagine what that does to you emotionally and mentally.

I was in shock.

How could *I* have cancer? I was young and healthy. I ate pretty well, didn’t drink soda, gave up gluten a long time ago. What was going on???

THIS WAS A WAKE UP CALL.

I began to question everything I ate, drank, breathed, and put on my skin. I began devouring books, articles and webinars. I had to learn what I could do to prevent this from happening ever again.

At the same time, I began to wonder about chemo, radiation, losing my hair, blood tests, medications … I was suffering from information overload for sure.

But through it all, my FAITH IN GOD is what kept me strong, confident, and secure. My husband was my rock, comforting me when I needed it and supporting my treatment decisions. My immediate family stood by me continually. My church family relentlessly fought for me.

If I said I didn’t fight fear, I’d be lying. But I can tell you this: I didn’t fear death. It was the strangest, most wonderful thing. Of course, I didn’t WANT to die, but I resolved within myself that if I ended up dying from this, I would be OK; I would be with Jesus in heaven, and I’d be free from cancer.

BUT … there was NO way I was going down without a fight!

I decided to do my part (changing my diet & lifestyle), and I would trust God to do His part — no matter how things turned out, I would trust Him, love Him and continue to serve Him. I figured, “if the devil thinks he can get me to deny Jesus or renounce my loyalty to Him because of cancer, then he is sorely mistaken!!!”

So, I celebrate today — the day that cancer was removed from my body — and I’m SOOOOOOOOOOO thankful for LIFE. I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness to me and my family. God is good ALL the time!!! And He ONLY has good for us.

PS — If you’re not sure where you would go when you die, or you fear death, I’d love to encourage you and share my experience with you. Shoot me a message!

PSS — On Saturday, exactly 1 year since I was told the lump was cancer, I’m going to share tons of anti-cancer info that I’ve learned — things that I’ve changed to greatly improve my health and reduce my chance for another diagnosis. This is my way to FIGHT BACK and “redeem” that horrible day in my life. So stay tuned …

This is my BEAUTIFUL family that I’m SO thankful for and blessed with!

Experiencing God’s Peace

So I get emails each day with the “verse of the day.” Today was this one:download

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NLT)

So … I read this and thought, there is NO way you can read this verse and NOT read the verse before it! After all, this verse starts out, “THEN …..” You can’t have what’s in the “then verse” without DOING what’s in the verse before it.

So here’s the verse before it:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

NOTHING is supposed to cause anxiety in us. But if we are experiencing anxiety instead of God’s peace, then that’s our signal that we need to PRAY and ASK (supplicate) God for help and answers while maintaining a thankful attitude. Now, we aren’t thankful for the difficulties or trouble, of course, but we choose to think about what we’re grateful for instead of focusing on the anxiety-causing issues.

I think about my kids. If they need something, I want to get it for them. But if they come to me with worry or doubt or ingratitude for everything else I’ve done for them and given them so far, I’m not likely going to hear what their current needs are nor will I be feeling overly generous toward them. But if they come with humility, thankfully acknowledging all that I’ve done for them so far, I’ll be very open to trying to meet their current needs and helping them.

Finally, since we looked at the verse before verse 7, let’s look at the verse following it too:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Keeping our thoughts on track will defeat anxiety and definitely help us have a more peaceful mind. We have the responsibility to CHOOSE our thoughts; no one can do this for us. We must be careful who and what we listen to, from music and other media to friends and family members. Instead, flooding our minds with God’s word and uplifting music and spending time with encouraging, life-giving friends will help us maintain our peace.

Peace and anxiety cannot coexist; you either have God’s peace or your anxiety. Reject anxiety. Pray and put your requests before God, be thankful for His faithfulness, and keep your thoughts focused on positive things. And soon you’ll find that you’re experiencing God’s peace, guarding your heart and mind, no matter what’s happening around you.