Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Begins


Tis the season.

Its the time of year we rush and spend and stress. The time of year so many look upon with dread.

The Christmas season should be so much more, yet, year after year, we add more to our to do lists. We add more to our credit card debts.  We add unneeded negativity to a beautiful season.

Can we just not?

Can we just pause and reset?

Can we anticipate the gift of Jesus instead of the gifts under the tree that we feel obligated to purchase?

And thus, let's celebrate Advent.

Advent, in Natasha Terms,  is the anticipation of the coming of Christmas.....and all that it entails.

For me, its yearning to be near to Christ in every possible way

To soak myself in scripture that hints at His coming

To sing hymns of praise and adoration

To give thanks for the gift of Christ, eternal life, and all the blessings in between

To focus on Christ instead of commercialism


Would you join me?

This Advent season, I will be reading from The Voice Advent Reading Plan.  It starts today, and each daily reading is short.



Starting December 1, I will begin reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  This will be my second journey through this wonderful book.


Not only will I reset during this Advent season, my family will also.  Each night beginning December 1, we will take a book from our Advent calendar and read and pray over the scripture as a family.  Each book will then be placed on our Christmas tree.


And yes, that is an elf in that picture, our dear Bill Skylander Hotdog, who by the way has a friend this year: Penelope Skylander Hotdog.  We will still continue our usual fun family traditions. However, our focus will be on Christ.  Regardless of the number of gifts or parties or cards or carols, we will pause this holiday season and keep Christ at the center it.

So, Friend, will you join me in anticipating Christmas the way Christmas is meant to be?




Friday, November 04, 2016

Journey

These kids y'all.

They have a journey ahead of them.  A journey they just don't even know.

As I spend time with them each day, as I get to know them, as I see what our world is like today, my heart aches.  They don't even have a clue.

Our world is in a mess and these kids have hope and dreams.  Some have a grasp on reality. Some have no concept of reality. And for some, oh, my! We would not survive in their reality.


For some of these children, I fear what the end of their journey will be like.  For others, I'm afraid they will waste the journey.  And then, there are those that their journeys will end in success and joy.

I want to make the path straight.
I want to make the path well lit.
I want to make the path easy to follow.


But what then?  What would they get from that? What would they learn?

I saw a question posed on social media the other day asking why this particular person's journey was so tough.  There are many reasons: our choices, our sins, the sins of others. And there is this: If the journey was easy, would we feel the need for Jesus?  I've found strength and growth in my hardest journeys, and as difficult as it is, we must let these little ones do the same.



 Thank you for joining me today, this lovely finally fall feeling Friday.  If you haven't stopped by Kate's yet, please do so.  She has a great giveaway going on!


While you are there, spread the Five Minute Friday love.






Friday, October 28, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Eat

Y'all, I like food. A lot.  I wake up in the morning wondering what I will have for lunch.  Before lunch, I wonder what I will have for dinner.


I used to be a pretty picky eater. But growing up on pork chops and pinto beans, I eagerly began trying new foods.  I found that I love seafood and Chinese and Japanese food.  I love Reese's Pieces and Rolo's.

I like to eat.

Sometimes that can be a problem.



I've had problems with the eat to live versus live to eat dilemma.

At one time, it got so bad that I lost 32 pounds in a short amount of time.

I'm also an emotional eater.  Happy? Eat. Sad? Eat. Bored? Eat.

I have to be careful because I know that food can control me. I've been there and done that. Thankfully, at that pivotal point in my life, I escaped the chains that food held on me.


However, I know that I can easily fall back into that trap.  Those moments of weakness or deliciousness can grab hold of me quickly.  Too quickly. I've had those moments, moments I haven't been proud of myself.  But I thank God that He is with me, giving me the conviction of my sin and weakness and picking me up when I have failed.





Thank you so much for joining me for Five Minute Friday. Would you do me a favor?  Would you stop by my class blog and show some Five Minute Friday love to my students.  Three of them posted their first FMF prompts today.  Just click HERE to check them out.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

When the Bible Tells Me So

God's Word.

The Bible.

We have to decide for ourselves this one thing.....


Do I believe that the Bible is God's Word and that it is Truth?


It is all or nothing.




My answer is YES.  I believe the Bible. All of it.

I don't understand everything in it, but I believe everything in it.

I don't believe the Bible because someone told me to.  I believe it because of what it has done to me.  God's Word is living. It has changed me.  God's Word has given me hope, wisdom, and conviction.

Ah, conviction.

We don't like that very much. Maybe that is why we stay away from the Bible. Maybe that is why we stay away from churches that preach ALL of the Word.  We get convicted of our sin.

Oh, another word we don't like.


Let's just get it out there.....We don't want to be told we are wrong.

There.

Some see the Bible as a list of rules. Don't..... Don't..... Don't......Oh, the negativity of it all.



But really, the Bible is not a list of rules.  For me, it is a book of life instruction....that if I follow what it says, then I will be better off. Not that my life will be perfect and pain free --- the Bible tells me that isn't so ----- but I can find joy in the sorrows of life, I can have hope for tomorrow, I can be free of the things that hold me back.

Bad things happen. Why?  Because we are sinners.  We chose to do the wrong thing.  When I yell at my kids, that is wrong.  It affects our relationship. When I gossip about a coworker, that is wrong. It affects our relationship with each other and our relationship with others.  If I were to steal, that is wrong.  If I were to get drunk, if I were to cheat, if I were to lie, if I were to put anything other than God first in my life.......all of it is wrong, wrong, wrong.  The Bible tells me so.

Our world would be a different place if we all accepted the Truth of God's Word.  But it isn't because we don't.

Some choose to believe it all.
Some pick and choose.
Some dismiss it completely.

The Bible talks about some hot topics: the sanctity of life, homosexuality, drunkenness, marriage, idolatry, gossip, gluttony, laziness, theft, causing others to fall into sin, blasphemy, adding to and taking away from God's Word.....shall I go on?

And I don't see this as list of DO NOT..... I see this as "If I follow God's instructions on these things, I won't have to deal with certain problems."

I believe a sin is a sin.  A sin is anything we do that God doesn't want us to.

I'm not going to rank sins on a scale of 1 to 10.  That's being judgmental and that is God's place to judge our sins.

Some people say gossip isn't really that big of deal, but I beg to differ.  I'll admit that I have gossiped about people.  After doing so, I've felt guilty. I've worried over what would happen if that person found out. I've lined up a set of lies to get myself out of trouble if I was confronted.  Not really what you want to hear from me, but it's true.  I've seen what gossip has done to people, the pain it has caused, the broken relationships.  I've walked away from gossip sessions that I was a part of and that I just overhead and felt dirty and disgusted.

I've seen what idolatry can do.
I've seen what laziness can do.
I've seen what drugs and alcohol can do.
I've seen what abortion can do.
I've seen what homosexuality can do.
I've seen what sin has done.

I'm not saying any of this to be a bigot or judgmental or hypocritical or unloving. I'm saying this because I know what God's Word says, and I've seen the effects of what happens when we don't obey it. I've also seen the effects of what happens when we thrive on God's Word.

Don't take my word for it.

I challenge you......

Take God's Word for it.



Get a Bible in a translation that is easy for you to read.  I prefer the NKJV, NLT, and ESV translations.

Wholeheartedly, say this prayer: God, if you are real, if this book is Holy, if it is Truth, show me.
(Hey, You really have to mean it.)

Start with Matthew in the New Testament and read at least 15 minutes each day.

Read the entire New Testament, say that prayer each and every day before you start.  Try it to live the way it tells you. See what happens.

I have found truth, love, grace, mercy, patience, hope, and wisdom in God's Word. I don't feel the need to change anything that God says. I believe and I pray you do too.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why Hello There #write31days

Yeah.

There's this thing called a blog that I committed to write every day for 31 days.

I failed at my #write31days commitment.

As a child of God,  I have to set priorities.  As much as I love this space, my priorities don't always include this space.

Sure, I could put my bible study and family on hold, but I'm not going to.  Sure I could put my laundry and housework on hold - wait- I do that, but not for the blog, just for my family. Working full-time, taking care of my family, volunteering after school 3 days a week, keeping up with my church responsibilities, and keep up with a blog is challenging.

Part of being a child of God is being able to identify areas of struggle, areas of temptation, areas that will pull us away from our priorities.

It is so easy to come here and post for the sake of posting. You know, getting those likes and shares.  We want to know that people have a desire to hear our words. But that's a temptation.  A temptation to put what you want ahead of what God wants, to put my self-centeredness above my family and other obligations.

When I come here, I want my heart to be in the right place.  I want this to be a place where I can focus on what God will have me say.  All to often we are quick to talk just to be heard.  I don't want you to hear me; I want you to hear God.

In my busyness of life (mama, teacher, robotics coach, academic team mentor, chauffeur, laundry doer, butler, maid, cook, custodian, counselor, nurse, psychiatrist, -----), I yearn for my quiet time. My time to be still and listen for His still small voice.  I yearn for my prayer time, my bible study time, my praise and worship time.

And He wants me to yearn for Him, to desire Him above all else.  And when I do, He can make me into the woman He wants me to be.

So, after reading this words......
turn the TV off
put the phone away
say goodnight to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat

be still
listen
breathe
yearn for Him
feel His closeness
take Him in



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Where I Stand

Tonight at dinner, I got a very interesting phone call.  The caller identified himself and asked if I remembered him. I did, and then he proceeded to tell me the purpose of his call.  This young man had called on behalf of a local political party encouraging me to vote in the upcoming election and to vote for that specific party's candidate.

I was very proud of this 15 year old for being an active and responsible citizen, for doing what he felt was right.

We had a nice chat.  Well, I asked him some questions concerning the major topics at hand, since he was trying to persuade me.  He was prepared for some of those questions, but others he wasn't.  However, I had to admire him for "campaigning."

Are you curious as to where I stand on the issues at hand?


First and foremost, I am a Christian.  Before I identify as a republican or democrat, I AM A CHRISTIAN.  My desire is to have political representation of Christian values.  Isn't that after all what this country was founded upon?  I want leaders who will defend Christians and not allow God's Word to be thrown to the wayside.  God's Word is very clear on morals, ethics, and sin. I also know what the Bible says about forgiveness and judgement.  So when I look at the sins of the politicians, I have to keep those things in mind. Both of our presidential candidates are sinners (we can't say one more than the other). A sinner is a sinner.


Next, I am a military spouse.  I have a husband who has been to war. I want to know with utmost certainty that whoever is in our highest political positions will support our service members at all times.  Our service members make up a very small percentage of our American population.  However, without them......well, I don't even want to think about it. Until you live this military life, you can't not fathom the uncertainties, the unseen scars.  I have to determine which candidate I trust with my husband's life.



As a mother and educator, I am concerned about the educational system in our country.  When parents can not help their first graders with their math homework, then there is a problem.  I understand the importance of a good, solid education.  However, when businessmen and politicians make education and testing a moneymaker, then the wellbeing of our children is taken out of the equation.


A friend of mine just became a grandmother again.  Her grandson was born at 28 weeks gestation.  He is growing and doing very well for a premature baby.  Do you want to tell me and his parents and grandparents that aborting him would have been ok at 28 weeks because he wasn't really a baby yet????? Really????


What is wrong with having secure borders?  What is wrong with requiring voters to be US citizens? What is wrong with requiring those who want to live in our country to go through the legal process of doing so?  America is an amazing country, however, I don't understand how it can continue to be when others who are here illegally are allowed to have the same rights as those who obey the laws. My feelings about this are not racist. Wanting people to follow the law is not racist.

These are my feelings on some of the major topics at hand in America today.  With that being stated, let me also say this....

I am offended.

I am offended by BOTH presidential candidates.

I am offended by many Americans.

I am offended each and every time I turn on the television.

I am offended when my radio strays off WayFM.

I am offended by those who fuss about the lady in the welfare office being rude.

I am offended when people think I am a hypocritical, judgmental bigot/racist based on my beliefs.

I answer to God.  I will have to answer to Him when I vote in November.  I will have to answer to Him for all I have said and done.

So here is where I stand....I stand with Jesus.  I trust Him to lead me and guide me when I fill out my ballot in November.

Instead of calling the candidates bigots, racists, and lunatics, why not pray for them?  Why not ask God to touch their hearts?  Why not ask God to convict them, to turn away from their sins and put HIM first instead of their own agendas?


If we want American great, we have to allow God to take over.  We have to have leaders who love the Lord and are lead by the Lord.

I beg you....PRAY.  PRAY for God's Will to be done in America.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Mail

My favorite writing time of the week: time with my Five Minute Friday friends, both old and new.  We breathe deep as we read Kate's one word prompt. We exhale. Then, we write for five minutes flat.

Today's prompt: MAIL.



Mail. It's one of those things we get a love/hate relationship with.  I love mail from friends and family, learning how they are doing, seeing how their children are growing.  I love those birthday cards and Christmas cards.  But I loathe junk mail and bills.  I see bills as a means of survival. You know, doctor's bills are necessary, but the cost......eesh!





I've anticipated the mail many times. Most recently, I've anticipated the arrival of my Five Minute Friday book and sweatshirt (technically, the sweatshirt was mom's mail, but still).





The purpose of mail is to bring us word of something.

I'd like to look at God's Word as mail too.

Psalm 143:8 says, "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love."

And you know what?  I anticipate my time in God's Word each morning.  It brings me word of His love and the hope and peace only found in Him.  It's mail that I want to open and read each and every day.

Mail.  You might think that this is an unusual word to write about, but I encourage you to join the Five Minute Friday community. Head over to Kate's to find out what others have to say about mail.



Don't forget to leave some love when you visit someone's blog.  One of the reason's I love FMF is the encouragement of the community.







Thursday, October 13, 2016

What Other People Think

One of my favorite books is Something to Sing About.  In this book, the son has a history of struggles, struggles with jobs and struggles with marriages.  At one point, the parents were talking about Pate's failed marriages, and Pate's father asked his mother, "What would other people think?"

At this, she replied, "Since when do we live our lives based on what other people think?"

Isn't that an excellent question for all of us?

Even me.  Take yesterday for instance.

Yesterday, my husband had to be in Nashville to sit with a family of a church member who was having a heart procedure done. This meant that I would be taking all the children to school.  My regular morning routine was cut short because I would have to leave the house earlier than normal.  I did my morning Bible study and then began the work of getting little boys ready for school.  After working all day, I had an extra hour and a half after school with my robotics team.  I had enough time to run home and clean up a mess my youngest son had made and then head to church.  After church, we had our usual dinner at Dairy Queen with some of our church family. We came home spent some time together as a family, and then it was off to bed.

My #write31days was put on hold yesterday, and at one point, I worried what you might think of that.  I'll admit that I felt a little bit guilty about that. I didn't want you to be disappointed in me or think of me as a slacker.

But then this......


I realized that it didn't really matter what you thought about my absence from here yesterday, that God knew where my heart was.  He knew that I was being the wife, mother, teacher, coach, and friend that He needed me to be yesterday.  And that meant not sharing words with you.

As much as I love this space, this space to share words, connect, and encourage, I absolutely refuse to neglect the other things that I love to be here.

And I think that is part of our identity in Christ: we recognize our priorities and don't make idols for ourselves.

My love for my family should not be placed above my love for Christ.

My love for writing should not be placed above my love for my family.

Books, social media, friends, laundry, food, exercise.....nothing should be more important that being the woman that God has called me to be.

What you think of me should not be more important that what God thinks of me.

I know you are probably laughing and thinking, "Goodness, Girl! You're talking about writing a blog.  That's not that big of a deal."

But it is.  Because my desire to come here and share words can turn into the desire to get more likes and shares.  When it becomes a popularity contest, I could risk ruining my witness or making an idol out of blogging.

It's just like with anything else.....we care what our coworkers say so we engage in gossip.  We care what our friends think, so we sit around and drink wine with them.  We care what our kids' friends' parents think so we try to live a lifestyle that's just not right for our family.

Caring too much about what other people think can't have devastating effects.  People have been known to lose their marriages, friendships, homes, jobs, and lives.....all for caring what other people think.

Mark 8:36 says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?"

Our souls are precious. More precious than what car we drive, what clothes we wear, what ball team we are on.  Our souls are expensive.  They were bought with the price of the blood of Jesus.  Our souls were created for an eternal life in heaven.  Do we really want to spend a life in Hell because we care what other people think? Do we want to risk losing what we love because of what other people think?


Today, let's live caring only what God thinks, only what He knows about our hearts.  Ask Him to reveal to us things that are not pleasing to Him, things that are holding us back from being all He has created  us to be.  And then, let's live! Let's live with the peace and love and hope and assurance only possible by living for Christ!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Let Me See

To get this day started off right, let's be honest: we can be pretty judgmental and harsh toward one another. Women in particular find themselves caught up in gossip and just plain ugly talk about one another.  Don't deny it girls.  We are all guilty.

We share some "news" we over heard about someone we know.

We look at a coworker's outfit in disgust and say to someone else, "Can you believe she had the nerve to wear that?"

We talk about the past of someone else to overshadow our own dark times.

We get caught up in discussing someone's choice of boyfriends, amount of cleavage shown, tightness of pants, or loudness to get attention.

And we look at others in a different way:
She has her life together, and she always looks so happy. I envy her so much. I can't even get out of the house without yelling at someone!

Look at these Facebook posts! She has a perfect life.

Her kids are so well behaved, but I am a loser mom because my kids can't stay quite for 5 minutes in church.

She looks so put together every day, never looking tired or overwhelmed.  I can't seem to get rid of these bags under my eyes, and my clothes are so out of style.

Basically we are caught up with what we see on the outside, and we fail to look at the heart of others.

1Samuel 16:7 says, "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."




Let me tell you this in the words of my dear friend Sara, "We are all crazy!"

Seriously though. No one is perfect.  The outside  of a person may make us envious, but you don't know what is in their heart.  You don't want the struggles that are covered by the smile and new clothes.

More moms than you realize plaster a fake smile on their faces while walking into church because they have just yelled at their kids in the parking lot.

That Facebook post is meant to portray a particular image because she is striving to fit in with a particular group of people.

The pants of your coworker are too tight because she has an eating disorder she's dealt with since high school.

She is not secure in herself so she must talk about others to get the attention off of her.

She appears to look put together, so the world can't see she's falling apart. She'd be considered a failure if they only knew....

If they only knew what is in her heart.......would they still love her?

Isn't that what we want?  To be really and truly known and still be really and truly loved?
Not judged.
Not ridiculed.
Not gossiped about.
Not left out.

But
Wanted
Desired
Known
Loved
Unconditionally.

We want someone to know our good side and bad side, our sins and struggles, and we want them to still love us and want us.

There is someone who does that.  Jesus Christ.

As a Child of God, I can tell Him:
Lord, I'm falling apart.
Jesus, I feel like the worst mom in the world.
Dear God, I'm tired and worn out and lonely.
Father, I am struggling and can't do this on my own.

As a Child of God, I can rest in the comforting fact that my Lord will cover me with His love, that if I honest to goodness ask Him too, He will reveal what's in my heart and work with me to make it right.

As Christ followers, we need to see like Jesus sees.  We need to look at the heart of others. We need to pray for them instead of gossip about them.  We need to encourage them instead of dog them out.

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ, you are NOT alone.  Like Sara says, we are all crazy in our own way. We have to be there for one another and lift each other up. We have to be transparent so others can see our struggles AND see how Christ works in our lives.

You have along day ahead of you. You will run into many people: coworkers, friends, strangers. Ask God to give you His eyes. Ask Him to help you see how He sees. Then love like crazy. Love people the way you want to be loved. When you do, they will see Christ in you.




Monday, October 10, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Test





As a teacher, one of the things I hate doing the most is grading tests.  I get so disappointed and frustrated when I score them because I know of all the hard work that went into preparing my students for the test and their hard work learning the material.  But when those averages come out lower than I anticipated.....well, it just stinks.

And I wonder if God looks at us the same way.  He prepares us, molds us, refines us for things to come.  For the test.  And then what happens?  Sometimes we pass with flying colors and sometimes we fail miserably.

Any either case, whether my fifth grade reading test or God's test, why do we fail?

I think a lot of time it is effort.  We give up before we ever get started.  That isn't fair to the teacher or the student.

I tell my students to treat everything....homework, pre-assessments, fire drills.....as if it were the real thing.

And as for this life of ours?? We only get this one shot.  One try to pass the test.