Leaving a Legacy

As a mom of three little ones, it’s probably safe to say that approximately 85% of my TV-viewing consists of cartoons. One show that my daughter particularly likes is Sofia the First. If you’re not familiar with Princess Sofia, let me introduce you…

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Sofia is a young village girl who became a princess overnight. From the theme song, we learn that she and her mother were commoners living in the village when her mother met the king, got married, and became part of the royal family. Part of Sofia’s journey is learning how to adjust to her new life as a princess.

One morning while in the kitchen, I overheard a conversation between Sofia and another little girl named Lucinda that caught my attention. Lucinda is known as a trouble-maker. She play tricks (aka “hexes”) on the other kids in the village. As a result, Lucinda is an outsider. Lucinda learns about a birthday party that all of the children in the village are invited to attend, except for her. Sofia wants to protect her friend’s birthday party from being ruined, so she decides to have a talk with Lucinda.

Sofia: “If you want friends, why do you act so mean?”

Lucinda: “I don’t know how else to act.”

Sofia: “WHAT?”

Lucinda: “Hexing is all I know how to do. My parents are witches. My grandparents are witches. My great-grandparents are witches…”

[This is when my ears perked up. Inspiration jump out at me from the most unlikely places. Bear with me…]

Lucinda’s response sounded strangely familiar.  Her excuse sounded like the kind of excuse I am tempted to make when I stumble and fall; when I let down my guard and revert back to my old ways of thinking and reacting. When my words and actions towards the people whom are closest to me are unintentionally unkind or brash, my first reaction is not to apologize, but to make an excuse….”I’m tired…I can’t help it. That’s just my personality.” 

Each one of us comes from a unique background of learned behaviors — ways of interacting, responding to, and reacting towards life and people. Some of the things we picked up along the way are good and some of the things we picked up along the way are not so good.

At some point, we all have to become big boys and girls and decide what kind of legacy we want to leave. We must sort through the stuff that we’ve experienced and choose what we want to pass on to the next generation and what we’d rather leave behind. This requires change and change requires being intentional because habits are hard to break.

Unlearning an undesirable behavior requires us to wake up from a comfortable state of automaticity and, instead, pursue a different way. To openly pursue a new way require us to learn how to walk in a new way. Like a toddler learning how to walk for the first time, we must regain our balance, take baby steps, stumble, and maybe even bust a lip.

Like Lucinda, we feel like we don’t know how else to act.

We are creatures of habit. Our minds want to do one thing, yet our bodies do another. It’s the reason some of us get defensive, withdraw, or blow up instead of engage,  listen, and communicate. It’s the reason some of us are blind to our own selfish ways and fail miserably at putting someone else’s feelings in front of our own. Our flesh too often steers us in the wrong direction.

Real change requires something much bigger. True transformation requires someone much bigger. God’s power working in and through you has the power to make you a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Recognizing that you need to change and admitting that you can’t change on your own is the first step. Surrendering control of your life to a sovereign God and giving him all access to the most broken and damaged parts of your heart is the next step. Both will bring new life and restoration to your soul.

So the question you have to ask yourself is do you want to stay stuck where you are and pass on a legacy of insecurity, over-indulgence, infidelity, selfishness, anger, un-forgiveness, etc…? Or will you invite God to begin a transforming work in you, so that you may leave a very different legacy – one that honors God?

 

Before I Knew You

 

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When I was a child,

I sensed you in the sunlight.

I felt you in the breeze.

I heard you in the birds’ song.

 

When I was a little older,

I saw you in a concerning glance.

I felt you in the consequence.

I experienced you in my sleep.

 

I didn’t know you, but I sensed you always…

watching me,

guiding me,

protecting me.

 

Then one day, You opened my eyes to see…

You give Life.

You bring Hope.

You reveal Truth.

 

And, now, I know…

Your Way is better.

Your Way breathes life.

Your Way brings hope.

 

Now, I have children of my own and my heart whispers,

Open their eyes.

Give them Life.

Show  them Truth.

Make them Yours.


“See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God and so we are.”

1 John 3:1


Image credit: scheirmad.wordpress.com

Me…Without Him

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Without Him

I am…

a despiser of Truth,

a destroyer of relationships,

a vessel of pride,

lost in the darkness.

Without Him

I am

distracted,

joyless,

harsh,

selfish.

Chaos and desperation crash down.

I cling tightly to the solid surface beneath my feet.

I strain to see the Light through the haze of clouds that surrounds me.

In His great mercy, He touches my searching hands.

He reminds me, once more,

that He is near.

That He Is Here.

Once again, my heart finds rest

because I am…

with Him.


Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 


 


 

 

 

The Art of Spending Time

“I wanna help.”

My neck stiffens. I’m barely awake and struggling to function. The words, “No, just let me do it,” come out of my mouth.

My 3-year-old is insistent, “No, I wanna help.” I take a deep breath and say, “Okay.”

A task master by nature, I struggle when things get in my way or slow me down. While this might be good for getting things done, it’s not always good for the people in my life. Unfortunately, this kind of “git ‘r done” attitude has caused me to miss many opportunities for quality time with the people who are most important to me-my spouse and kids.

There are times when I grunt in frustration when my spouse stops me for an embrace while I’m at work in the kitchen. I’m also guilty of repeating the phrase, “Ok, I’ll be there in just a minute,” five or six times to my kids who are waiting anxiously for me to play. I even ignore the dog barking at the back door sometimes, hoping that someone else will get annoyed and open the door while I peck away at my computer.

Overtime, I’ve learned to release my grip on life and give way to slowing down and surrendering to life’s little moments. I try to focus more on who I’m “being” in the moment, rather than on what I’m  “doing”. What I do doesn’t mean much if I’m being an ogre in the process. God says it best in this verse, …if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. {1 Corinthians 13:2}

In other words, who cares what you do or what you gain, if you don’t have love. That to-do list you’re determined to complete, that ladder you’re dying to climb, that body you’re working so hard to have–what does it matter if it’s causing you to be unloving and disconnected towards the people in your life?

Slowly I’m learning not to push away opportunities to connect with my spouse. I kindly welcome loving embraces from my husband mid-cleaning. I surrender to invitations to spontaneously dance in the kitchen mid-cooking, instead of jumping back and hissing like a cat. I have even given in to him dipping me consecutively 5 times. Then, laughed when he exclaimed, “See Honey? We can dance with the stars.”

I’m learning to recognize teachable moments with my kids. I patiently welcome my 3-year-old to help me make breakfast. I gladly accept an invitation from my 8-year-old to play an invented game of Legos. And I  gladly {ahem}  let my 18-month-old help unload the dishwasher.

The result of surrendering to life’s little moments may take longer and result in less than perfect days, but beneath the surface things are better. My spouse feels wanted and loved. My children feel accepted and affirmed.

I imagine our heavenly Father looking down on us feels much the same. He can do all things. He is the Creator. He is sovereign. He doesn’t need our help, but He wants our help. Like a parent, He wants to spend time with us. Unlike us, He is perfect. He doesn’t ever force us or try to control us. Instead He invites us. He invites us to join Him in His work because He desires that relationship with us. He is at work all around us. We just need to slow down and open our eyes, so we can recognize the opportunities He has placed before us. We need to be willing to be interrupted, so that we may surrender and enjoy life’s little moments.

 


Reflect

Do you intentionally keep people in your life at a distance for the sake of efficiency or gain? Could selfishness be causing you to disconnect from your loved ones?

Where do you fall in terms of ‘doing’ versus ‘being’? Do you need to focus on being more present to the people God has placed in your life?

Thank God for never being forceful or controlling, but for loving you and wanting to spend time with you. Ask Him to open your eyes to His invitation in your life and don’t be afraid to accept it.


Resisting God’s Gifts

Like most toddlers, my 18-month-old loves exercising what little independence she has. Recently, she’s discovered that she can sneak in and help herself to some grapes when one of us unsuspectingly opens the refrigerator door. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t know is that the grapes she’s eating are dirty.

I usually don’t rinse fruit until right before we eat it, so when she helps herself without permission she’s getting grimy grapes straight from the store. When I catch her in the act, I intervene, grab a handful of grapes, and rinse them off for her. But rather than accept the bowl of freshly rinsed grapes I offer her, she throws a fit, turns her back, and reaches in for another dirty grape. It’s really quite ridiculous. What I’ve come to realize, is that it’s not about the grapes at all. It’s about doing things her way, even if what I have to offer is better.

This scenario sounds oddly familiar…{and here I go putting my spiritual spin on things…}

We live in a world where we’re told to work hard and be independent. We’re made to feel that accepting something freely is free loading. We feel like in order to get something, we must earn it or, at the very least, return the favor. It feels awkward to simply receive. Think about it…when was the last time you received a favor or a gift without feeling the slightest twinge that you should do something in return.

But isn’t that exactly what God, often, calls us to do?

To receive His love.

To receive His grace.

To receive His forgiveness.

But our human nature fights this.

My walk with the Lord has been a journey of learning to surrender my life to Him, one area at a time. For years there was one area in particular that I struggled to let go of. I would go through the same agonizing process every few months for years. I’d “surrender” it to the Lord only to take it back and feel defeated all over again. When it finally became too heavy of a burden to carry anymore, God opened my eyes to how stubborn I was being. It was as if I was saying, “Okay, God, I trust you with everything else except this one thing. I’ll figure out how to deal with it myself.”

But God in His great mercy revealed to me that He was offering me healing, but that I was refusing to accept it. In His great love, all that He was asking of me was to simply receive it and trust Him. His path to healing was much different than what I expected, but His ways usually are.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” 

Isaiah 55:8

God knows the big picture of our lives, we don’t. His ways are good even though we may not understand them. His plans are to give us hope and a future. Never to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We must trust Him at His Word and hold onto this truth.


 Pray & Reflect

 How difficult is it for you to freely receive a favor or gift? How does that translate into your acceptance of God’s work in your life?

Have you been resisting Him and trying to do things your own way? Confess anything that you are struggling to completely surrender to Him. He wants to restore you, but you must ask and be willing to trust and follow His ways.


 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

Ephesians 3:20

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He is at work within you. Preparing you for something far beyond what you can imagine. Accept what He is offering. It is good.


 

Image credit: flickr.com

 

Soccer Moms Sin, Too

This year my husband and I coached our 8-year-old daughter’s soccer team. At the beginning of the season, we had three girls who had never played soccer and two who weren’t excited about playing. Our goal was to make soccer fun! 20140913_113203

My husband’s gift for motivating kids along with his competitive nature resulted in a great season with only one loss.  By the end of the season, the girls had gained confidence and developed a love for soccer. You can imagine our excitement when our team made it to the championship game.

The week of the final game was crazy. Due to impending storms, the tournament schedule was pushed up and the girls had played three nights in a row. The night before the big game, the girls had played through the rain. By game day, everyone was pretty worn out.

All season I had been intentional about keeping things positive even when mistakes were made. I had been the girls’ #1 cheerleader, but for this last game something felt different. Even though I wanted to encourage the girls, the words that came out of my mouth felt forced and insincere. Instead of shielding the girls from the grumbling on the sidelines, I found myself joining in.

My thoughts became suspicious and I became “huffy”. I was convinced that the other coach was trying to trip up our girls. I was ready to accuse the other team of playing “dirty”. Unfortunately, the championship game ended up being our 2nd loss of the season. The loss was probably more devastating to the parents than the girls. Some of us had speculations about why we lost, but the truth is, we were simply outplayed.

At home, Jeff and I couldn’t stop talking about the game. Our 8-year-old daughter, being the mature soul that she is, was the one encouraging me, instead of the other way around. After confessing my ugly thoughts and attitude, she spoke wise words to me…, “Who would want a trophy more than God anyway?” 2015-04-25 10.21.28

She was right…

In the end, the evening was a much-needed reminder that no matter how spiritually mature I think I may be, I am still prone to wander no less. Paul, an apostle sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, gives us a solid reminder in his letter to the churches of Galatia…


“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature for the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

Galatians 5: 16-17


That last sentence says it perfectly – “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” I’d venture to say, that we all want to do the right thing, but if we are not living by the Spirit, we become slaves to our flesh and don’t do the very thing our Spirit knows we ought. Our flesh is weak.

If we are not “gratifying the desires of the sinful nature”, we bear fruit which takes on the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

A better example, of this was my husband on the day of the championship game. By nature, he is very competitive and he knows it, so the day of the big game, he had intentionally sought God. Throughout his day, he had prayed, read Scripture, and confessed to God his need for Him. By game time, he was submitted to the Spirit.

With God’s grace, Jeff was able to let things roll off his shoulder and hold his tongue when his flesh wanted to do otherwise. While the rest of us grumbled and complained on the sidelines, he was self-controlled. He was walking in the Spirit.


 Reflect

How are you doing when it comes to living by the Spirit?

Have you been forsaking the Spirit and trying to do things in your own power?

Confess it to God and ask for forgiveness. Ask God for a Spirit of (fill in the blank) >> [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control].


 Be intentional in every situation

In Paul’s words,

“Watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

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{…even if it is just grumbling at your daughter’s soccer game.}

Waiting on Something Good {In Honor of Mother’s Day}

“I want a “big girl” cup…I don’t want a lid…Not a green straw…I wanna make the chocolate milk…I want a pink fork…I want to pour the syrup…Not a little bit of syrup…I want a lot of syrup…Hold me…I want to sit on your lap…”

This  is a “conversation” my 3-year-old had with me one morning. Within 5 minutes of preparing her breakfast, she had already begun whining and making demands–10, to be exact. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant way to start the day, not to mention exhausting – and that was just 1 out of 3 of my children.

The irony is that without the grumbling, the outcome would have been the same – a warm, toasted waffle drizzled with sweet syrup & a cold cup of chocolate milk. It would have been so much nicer had my daughter taken a seat at the table, waited patiently, and then smiled and said, “Thank you, Mother”. But let’s face it. This is real life and the reality is that 3-year-olds are egocentric. “I want that!”, “I want to do it myself!”, and “No, not that!” are phrases often heard by parents of little ones.

God is masterful in His design of young children. I believe He uses our relationship with our children as an example for us of our relationship with Him. How often do we grumble and complain when He’s patiently preparing something good for us?

“I want that _____!”

“No, not that_____!”

“I want to do it my way!”

Often times we’re too busy whining and complaining to wait patiently for the good things He has in store for us. Maybe it would do us some good to learn from our children. You can learn something from any one, even if it’s what NOT to do.

While we’re learning from our children, let’s also learn from God’s children, the Israelites. They turned what could have been a 2-week journey to the Promised Land into 40 years of wandering in the dessert. Why? Because they were consumed by their grumbling and unbelief.

Let’s not waste time. Let’s not wander aimlessly. God is preparing something good for you. You just need to wait, be patient, and (when God says the time is right) say, “Thank you, Father.”

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11


In the mean time, find contentment where you are. There’s a reason you are where you are, doing what you’re doing–even if it is just feeding the hungry bellies God has placed in your care.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Bunch of pink peonies


“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31


Reflect

Have you been resisting God’s plans for you? Maybe it’s time to stop trying to do things your way, and instead start trusting His way. Ask Him to help you release (fill in the blank)  to Him. Ask Him to increase your faith in your current situation.

Are you wandering in the dessert? Trust God through this difficult season. He is with you and will see you through. Ask Him, daily, to draw you near to Him. Cling to His promises. Write them on your bathroom mirror. Tape them above the kitchen sink. Bathe yourself in His Truth until it becomes reality for you.


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The Woman Behind the Writing (Well, Sort of…)

1. My name is Jennifer. I’ve also been called Jen-Jen, Jenn, Jeffernino, and Shaffe-dog. {My maiden name is Shaffer which explains that last one.}

2. When I was a kid, my dad nicknamed me “Little Round Brown One”. I was chubby & tan.

3. I have one sister who is a year older than me, but I’ve always been mistaken for the older sister because I stand a good 4 inches taller than her.

4.Everyone thought my sister and I were twins growing up.

5. My mom is from the Philippines. My dad is from the North. And I grew up in the South. No wonder I was so confused as a child!

6. When I was a kid I used to go to bed listening to my Walkman. If you don’t know what that is, you’re young.

7. The first cassette tapes I owned were Aerosmith & Paula Abdul. (See #5.)

8. I quit choir in 4th grade because of a boy.

9. I drive a minivan but would prefer to drive an SUV due to the “coolness” factor.

10. I was a foster mom for almost 2 years. {It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Props to you, foster parents, out there. My heart still breaks a little when I see old pics of the kiddos we cared for.}

11. I am a peanut butter junkie. Sometimes I just grab the jar and a spoon.

12. I don’t get coupon-ing. I just shop cheap.

13. I really don’t like “stuff”. I can’t stand clutter. However, motherhood has forced me to adapt.

14. I’ve popped my knuckles my whole life. Fortunately, I stopped biting my nails.

15. I love coffee-flavored ice cream. It’s even better topped with M & M’s.

16. I like chocolate.

17. I’m an Arkansan, born and raised. Go Hogs!

18. I see so much of myself in my oldest daughter. It’s scary.

19. I was pretty silent throughout my young childhood and adolescent years.

20. In my early 20s, I started volunteering to do the readings in front of the church to help me get over my fear of speaking. {I attended a catholic church on my college campus.}

21. I’ve tried a lot of sports…basketball, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, golf. Sports are not my thing.

21. Music and creative arts are my thing. I’ve played piano my whole life. I sketched in college. Now, I write.

22. At sporting events, I have a hard time paying  attention because I’m so distracted by everything else going on. (see #21)

23. I’m the assistant coach for my daughter’s soccer team, but I’m pretty much just a glorified cheerleader. Go Team!

24. I have to answer the question, “What happened to your head?”, a lot because of the birthmark on my forehead. It looks like a bruise.

25. I used to be so self-conscious of my hairy arms.

26. I graduated from high school in ’98.

27. I hit my rock bottom in the winter of ’98.

28. If I had a life motto, it would be: “I make cheap look good.”

29. I feed my kids frozen waffles for breakfast way too often.

30. The idea of being “fit” is nice, but life is too short (and crazy for me, right now) so I do what I can, but I still eat the “bad” stuff way too often and  exercise not often enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afraid to Be Fearless? Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

It was a dark night and a light fog hung in the air. I was in my house with the eerie feeling that I was being watched. As I peeked out my windows, I made the terrifying realization that I was surrounded by wolves. They were silently watching as if zeroing in on an unsuspecting prey. I was trapped in my home…

The above scene describes a dream I had recently. I normally try not to read too much into my dreams, but this one left me curious. The wolves were scary, but the feeling of being trapped was even scarier.

What did the wolves represent? Why was I afraid of them?

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Wolves are fearless animals. They stalk with aggression and are not afraid to advance. Their unstoppable nature is enough to instill fear.

For many of us, fear is all too common. It disguises itself as doubt,  insecurity, and anxiety. It can translate into withdrawing from people and situations that make us uncomfortable. Some of us are so used to living with fear, that the thought of living beyond fear seems like a false reality. Freedom seems out of grasp, so we stay paralyzed. Trapped.

Is it possible that what underlies our fears is the fearlessness that’s required to overcome them?

To be fearless requires us to be uncomfortable. To live in fear allows us to stay in our comfort zone. If we stay where we’re comfortable too long, we forget to move forward. When we don’t move forward, we don’t grow. We become trapped in our comfort zone.

Fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, but the choice to move forward in the face of it. What would the fearless version of you look like?

To be fearless will require something of you. It will require you to be uncomfortable.

So, the question is, are you willing to be uncomfortable or would you rather stay comfortably stunted?

What is it about the fearless version of you that scares you? What would being fearless require of you? Would you have to act on that decision you’ve been needing to make? Would you need to reach out to that person God’s been putting on your heart? Would you finally have to let go of the pain and guilt from your past in order to move forward? Would you have to lay down your plans for God’s?

Does the fearless version of you intimidate you? It shouldn’t. You were never created for timidity.


 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,

but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7


If you walk in the Spirit of God, He has given you a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Your job is to believe Him and to submit to His Spirit. If you walk in your flesh, it is much too easy to slip into fear and timidity. The burden of walking in flesh, alone, is much too heavy. The burden of walking in flesh that is submitted to the Holy Spirit is light.


“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29-30


Is it time for you to stop living fearful and, instead, start living fearless? There is freedom in moving forward with the power of Christ. With the power of Christ, we have the power to stop retreating and start advancing? What will you choose?


 Reflect & Pray

Is there an area in your life where you’ve retreated too long? Is it time to submit to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and advance with the spirit of power God’s given you?

Confess any areas of fear or doubt you have and ask God to replace it with a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Believe His promises. Trust in Him.


Image credit: animal-kid.com

 

 

The Story of a Girl…Rewritten

letter-penThis is the story of a girl…

…a girl who learned that it was safer to stay quiet, than to speak up.

…a girl who learned that it was safer to not try at all, than to try and make a mistake.

…a girl paralyzed by insecurity that she learned to shut down and build walls.

…a girl who felt unlovable, so she acted unlovely.

.

This is the story of a girl who sought relief from her pain in a lot of  wrong places.

…a girl who stood for nothing and spun out of control.

…a girl so consumed by her anxiety that she sank into depression.

…a girl who finally broke.

 

This is the story of a girl who understood that she had to make a choice.

…. a girl who heard the sweet sound of God call her name one night.

…a girl who chose to accept the love of Christ and run into His arms.

.1395936858947..a girl so hungry for truth that she read every book on faith she could get her hands on.

…a girl who stumbled and fell a lot.

…a girl gently led by her Father’s hand.

 

This is the story of a girl who still makes mistakes.

…a girl in awe of the Father’s great love and mercy.

…a girl who desires others to know that God can heal and bring good out of even the darkest places.

…a girl who wants others to experience the freedom that can only be found in Christ.

…a girl who trusts her Heavenly Father because He has shown Himself trustworthy, over and over, again.

…a girl who will seek Him all the days of her life because without Him she has nothing.

 

This is the story of a girl…rewritten.

 

This is the story of me.

 

Are you in need of a rewrite?

 The pen is mightier than the sword. - Edward Bulwer-Lytton


“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:2


Inspired by the Rewrite teaching series from Northwest Community Church.


 

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