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I have posted before about being obedient. It is something that God keeps challenging me with lately. It is not easy. Just like it is not easy for my three year old to keep her play kitchen cups empty of water, along with the rest of her kitchen set and the floor and any bowl in the vicinity.

Pure obedience. I have been searching for what this looks like in my life personally, so naturally I looked up the definition in my bible's concordance for further study.

Obedience: submissiveness to authority; following orders.

It is about following what God has to say through the bible. Obedience and listening go hand in hand. Without listening you will not know what you need to obey and if you hear what God has said, you should then obey.

Hearing God through the chaos and distractions can be tough. This is another topic on itself. I highly recommend the book Hearing God by Dallas Willard. It is sure to change the way you listen.

We are called to not to be merely hearing but doing what it says (James 1:22). Your stomach may be in knots and sweat may be collecting. Being obedient takes courage and bravery and trust in God in what he has asked you to do and for him to follow through.

For me this week, it looked like writing about this. For the past few months, it has been sharing my writing in general. It may seem silly to you but it is not easy for me. Being obedient refines you. It takes you out of yourself and in to God's plans and works for you. It makes you do things that seem crazy to others and possibly yourself. It keeps you relying on God to pull through on the plan he has.

The bible has a lot to say about obedience, with numerous accounts to back it up. From Abraham to Moses to David and Solomon. Their lives all demonstrated it. But what does this look like in the 21st century in your life? I pray that you would seek God for guidance and open your heart to his words. Search the bible and be in prayer.

I pray that if God has asked you to do something already that you would take the first step toward whatever it may be. Fill out the application. Make the call. Say the words that silence has filled. Do something. Whatever your something is. Whatever God has called you to do.

You will be blessed by it because God's word does not return void.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

God does not ask us to do things that will hurt others or ourselves but those that help them and glorify him.

Here's to tuning in to the still small voice of God and being obedient to his calling. And more prayers to help you answer the calling towards obedience. Here's to opening your eyes and heart to God's guidance. 
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4
I was gathered with some friends, when the topic of our culture came up. Relating to people. The importance of knowing pop culture to relate to others.

This is one of the issues my husband and I differ on, too. For me, this does not settle well. When God called me out of my life of sin, the majority of pop culture went with it.  Music and movies and books and celebrities and their gossip. I have a hard time getting involved in it. It is so void and being caught up in it offers only null returns.

This was a conviction that God showed me and perhaps you cannot resonate with it all. That is okay, too. I am not here to judge; just to be obedient with what God wants me to share.

I have bad lyrics creep in at inappropriate times, and I have to find new ones to overcome them - I do not need to know more. And more importantly, I do not want the lips of my children to be singing them. Why fill their heads with words that are going to return void? I pray that you would not have to have this struggle or pass that down to your children.

And watching movies that promote premarital sex and drugs and violence. I am a visual person. The images and quotes get stuck in my memory and I can repeat the lines of inappropriate scenes as it is. I pray that you would be filled with the love of Christ and his word, not the world's.

As I listened to Hosanna by Hillsong, these lyrics really resonated with me. Have a listen. 

I see his love and mercy washing over all our sin the people sing Hosanna Hosanna in the highest. I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith.

I pray that this generation would not be so caught up in the media that the love of God is drown out by it. That their songs would be those of praise to God, not to the world. That their thoughts would be pure and embedded with mercy and love.  That their faith would be based on what Jesus did for them and in doing so would be fruitful and full of life. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be self - controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14

We have been called to be holy. To live lives that are different from the world. Not to conform but to love. They will know we are Christians by our love, anyone (John 13:35)?

Not all music and movies are degrading and inappropriate but a lot of them are. Unrealistic expectations are engrained and inapt comments are instilled in your memory to be used at just the right time.

Our culture needs more knowledge of scripture and biblical principles and less of the ability to quote the latest movie or songs from the top 40.

Everyone has their own filters as to what is acceptable but God calls us higher than our own thoughts and judgments. To his thoughts and his likeness. To be holy like he is holy.

I pray that when you stand in lines at check out and see the magazine covers with celebrities and their shenanigans, that you would pray that they will find Christ and ache for their mishaps and trials they are going through and for the people who are writing the articles that are not composed of truth. It is a sad, vicious cycle full of anger and malice. I pray you would not want to be a part of it all.  

I pray that the next time you push the on button to the media, that you would think about what you are allowing in to your memory and time and space. Is it going to build yourself up? Help someone else? Praise God? Would you like your child and the God of the universe to be sitting next to you on the couch with your viewing choice?

Here's to more God filters and less media. More time spent dwelling on him alone.
It has been over three years since I have clocked in, taken breaks and had a paycheck with my name on it. Oh, the work place. Since I have been out of it, my perspective has shifted quite a bit. Being on the other side seems to do that, along with God's guidance of course.

My last job was not one that I thought it would be. I had great hopes for it. The description on paper sounded better than it was when all was said and done and with my pay cut in half from my previous job I wondered why I had taken the job in the first place. I did not like going to work and could not figure out why I was there and why this was the only job I could get.

Looking back, I can see God's hand in it all and some reasons and conversations. Looking back, I wish I would have embraced the situation more and gone to work with more of a positive attitude and with the joy of the Lord. I read Ephesians 6:10-18 each day, as each day was a personal battle to get there. To work with these people. The people who asked if I felt I did not have to work as hard because I was pregnant. The people who randomly threw a co-worker and I a baby shower, even though I hardly knew them. These people who showed up and came to work with my same attitude of not wanting to be there.

I told people I would pray for them and I would. I tried to give encouragement. I wanted to be different and let God do his thing as he does but I did not let him. I let frustration and anger subtly win the battle. I stayed quiet in the break room and read. I was caught up in my own issues instead of looking outward at others.

I have talked to a lot of people over the past few years and it seems like the same rings true for them, as well, which breaks my heart. Somewhere along the line, these people who share the same office space and employer become enemies and annoyances. Your adversary. The person whose work slack you have to pick up. The person who is so negative and you get to hear it daily with possible play by plays scattered throughout your shift. The person whom you have come to despise.

But you listen. You will listen to them boast and brag and enjoy the short coming and failures and maybe even relish in them.

Jesus said to love your enemies as yourself.
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28.

I pray that if you find yourself in a work situation that seems hopeless, that you would ask God for guidance and seek wise council (Proverbs 12:15) to stay or to go. To make a difference. For him to change the hearts of your co-works but more importantly, yours. To be present both physically and mentally for them. To offer second changes. That you would seek out ways to serve them. Bringing coffee to your cubical buddy or some yummy donuts for the office or a compliment to that person who seems hopeless.

I pray that you would be the change you want to see in the your co-workers. That you would rise above the words and harsh reprimand and exchange them for love and kindness. I pray that your words would speak truth in to their lives because most likely they do not know Jesus, really know him. They need your love and encouragement, even if they do not want to admit or acknowledge it.

Your life is your testimony. Your actions are reflections of your heart. Your words can start a revolution. You can be the transformation.

I pray you enjoy the location God has strategically placed you in for such a time as this. Your personal mission field. Look for opportunities to do good.

Maybe you find yourself out of the work place, as well. I pray that you would encourage and build up those around you who are. That you would help them see the significance of their placement and the blessing of their employment. You cannot fight the battle for them but you can pray. Perhaps even make a small gift for them to share. 

Here's to less conflict and more gratefulness. Less negativity and more compliments. More unity and laughter at the water cooler. 
In light of all the chaos that is constantly emerging in the world - crashes and shootings and wars and on and on - I find myself enjoying my life more than ever and being more intentional in the day to day and listening better to God's leading. Time is not guaranteed and I want mine to be spent with purpose. I do not want to get to the end of my life and realize I would have taken more chances or done this or that. 

The. time. is. now. To listen. To act. To love. To do. 

When the final chapter of my life is written and my story ends, I do not want to be mourned with sorrow but rather rejoiced in great celebration. The celebration of the life and hope and love that Jesus gave for me and knowing I am safe in his arms.

Matthew West wrote this song, The Motions with this sort of mentality in mind. Have a listen.

I don't wanna go through the motions. I don't wanna go one more day without Your all consuming passion inside of me. I don't wanna spend my whole life asking, what if I had given everything instead of going through the motions? 

I want to have loved fiercely and given freely. I want to have enjoyed the moments and forgiven the wrongs. I want to have a nonexistent comfort zone and God inspired life. I want to have enjoyed s'mores and campfires and have picked time over money. And savored the way Penny tells me Jesus loves me. Read tons of bedtime stories and embraced early morning snuggles. And eaten lots of chocolate covered almonds, for the health benefits, naturally.

I want to have given more than I have had and relied on Christ to supply the rest. I do not want to have left behind material possessions, as they are only of the flesh, but a legacy in Christ, which will last for eternity. But most importantly, I want to have finished the race strong, thriving in the work God has given me, as a wife, mom, friend, sister, aunt, cousin and whatever other title he has bestowed on me.

I pray that you would live like there is no tomorrow. Not arguing or ruffling your feathers over the small things and coming to realization that everything is small. I pray that as you come to the end of your day and week and month and year that you would stop and focus on what matters and not fill up your calendar with events that add to chaos but rather those that add to the deepening of friendships and giving and serving.

I pray that you would find what matters to you in life. That you would see the significance in your life and the difference you personally make in the life of others - the words you speak and actions you do. I pray that you would see Jesus and commit yourself to his unfailing grace and love and mercy and that when your life comes to a close that you would hear the words "well done good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

Here's to more big picture thinking and having a leaving your own legacy. Here's to getting out of the motions and in to God's symphony. 
As I wrote recently about seeing beauty in yourself, it made me think about a Women of Faith conference event I attended several years ago. Sheila Walsh spoke of witnessing her mom speaking badly of herself. She put herself down and was not happy with her own appearance and yet would compliment Sheila. The impact it made on her as a child seeing her mom so unhappy with her appearance was immense. I cannot recall all the details of it but the message is clear.

Putting yourself down in front of your child takes away from her seeing the beauty in herself, as she looks up to you for guidance.

Life happens in the moments, the little ones that you just about miss, with two little eyes watching you closely. The things you say and do become ingrained in to their memory and a part of who they are: the way you pronounce words, the way you comb your hair, the way you eat your food and the silly way you move your hands when you talk. All of your mannerisms, for better or worse, get compiled in these little people. Your own disciples. 

With my affinity for singing, bath time commemorates with my own version of the chorus from "I Feel Pretty," with Penny in my arms, gazing at ourselves in the mirror. I know, cheesy. It is one of those things that just happened and now simply cannot be missed, her in my arms and all, even though she is more than half my height. The fact that her baby bath was on the bathroom sink, with her mirror right there probably had something to do with it.

I think it is in these moments that children feel loved and know that they are valued. As a mama it is crucial to instill worth on your child, especially in a society that degrades women and is forced to compare themselves to fake, photoshoped ladies. The power of words play an important role. What you do not say may have more impact than what you. No mama wants to hear how her daughter cannot stand her shoulders or her hips are too big. It was God who blessed her with the practically webbed toe and strategically placed mole when he knit her together so carefully, so be sure to remind her.

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.  Song of Solomon 4:7

God says you are beautiful. Your daughter is beautiful. The lady next to you on the bus is beautiful. The woman across the coffee shop counter is beautiful. And the one in the cubical next to you. Perhaps God wants you to tell one of his daughters how beautiful she is today. 

I pray that if you are a mama or not, that you would build up those around you. That you would instill a positive message of beauty on others. That you would not give in to putting yourself down as others around you may so easily do. I pray that you would stand your ground and hold tight to the beauty God has lavished on you. That you would build others up and reveal to them the beauty in themselves.

Here's to making sure she knows how beautiful she is and how God made her flawless. To more compliments and less put downs.
Growing up I read the latest magazines. Teen Vogue. CosmoGirl. And of course, Seventeen, way before my age matched the number. With two older sisters, it was easy. I watched all the teen movies and did a great job at comparing myself to everyone on the screen or magazine page. I wanted to have hair like her. Make up like that one. Outfit like hers over there. No not that one. The other one. My hair never fit the bill for me. My unruly, wavy hair never held a light to the silky smooth straight hair in the ads. It always seemed to mock me. No matter how hard I tried.

I always kept make up simple. The feel of cover up on my skin was an easy aversion and my freckles were never covered up no matter how hard I tried, anyway. Mascara, eye liner and eye shadow were my go to with some sort of lip gloss to tie it all together.

About six months before my wedding, I started having issues with my contacts. And then a sudden onset of makeup allergy to boot. Bulging red, stinging eyes are not fun or pretty.

I tried different brands of makeup. Made sure my brushes were clean. Still nothing but red, swollen and stinging eyes. Then one day I stopped. When I say me, rather it was God who answered a prayer he put in my heart months earlier. When I looked in the mirror he allowed me to see me in his beauty and light, the way he sees me and the way he created me to be. I did not need makeup or contacts to feel beautiful or secure in my looks.

I tried the contact route a few weeks ago. There are new brands and types out these days, so I thought I'd give them a whirl for fun and some change but the stinging eyes and redness returned with them. My glasses are great, any who, and less hassle and maintenance. And they serve as a little reminder of God's continued faithfulness to answered prayers.

Beauty is not found in magazines. That is where Photoshop is found, along with air brushed cheeks and shiny skin.

For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things he planned for you long ago. Ephesians 2:10

He made you. He made you perfectly. You are beautiful and full of the life that God has so carefully breathed in to your lungs to do amazing things. You have more potential than you know. Makeup is only skin deep but truly loving who God made you to be and embracing the skin you are in is a blessing.

I pray that you would embrace the uniqueness that is found in the dimples on your cheeks and the wrinkles that are starting to form around your nose and the hairs that constantly fall out of place no matter how hard you try to train them to go the opposite direction. I pray that you would see yourself as God created you. Past the imperfections. Past the scars and comparisons. To the child he made you. You were made perfectly.

Here's to true beauty and more smiles. Less time looking in the mirror and more time spent looking at who God is and who he created you to be.
I spent most of my college career working as a barista. It was busy. Multi-tasking was a must. With twenty or more drinks to prepare on one slow espresso machine and forty tired eyes staring, eagerly waiting for their morning pick me up, it got a little crazy. 

These days, my busy time seems to be the five o'clock hour. When the clock strikes 5pm, it seems as if the entire house goes bananas. The baby cries. The toddler whines. Dinner on the stove starts whistling a burning tune and I stare at the mess that has accrued on the living room floor from the past hour of play time. Overwhelmed? Perhaps a bit.

I take a minute to digest it all and get a game plan going. The game plan has been more on the offense these days as this routine has brought itself about. The crock pot has become a good friend and earlier prepping has been the wisest of choices.

I know this is just a season and shall too pass but in the mist of of it all, it can be total chaos. I have to keep calm for the sake of everyone else and have a clear head to cook and feed and bathe and clean all by six. It's in these moments that this song becomes my anthem and my prayer:

If my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear your voice. I hold on to what is true, though I cannot see. If the storms of life they come and the road ahead gets steep. I will lift these hands in faith, I will believe. I'll remind myself of all that you've done and this life I have because of Your son.

Have a listen. 

It is in these moments that God grants peace and patience and somehow everything comes out okay and we arrive at six fed and clean and calm. It is in these moments that thankfulness has new meaning. No, I am not thankful to have the crying baby and whiny toddler but I am thankful they are there in the this moment that God has blessed me with them. And for their health and the ability to provide a meal for their hungry bellies. And for the little place we call home to shelter them from the heat and cold. Thankfulness takes over and as the song states, I'll remind myself of all that you've done and this life I have because of Your son. 

Everything I have is because of Jesus. Because he died. Because he loves me. It is in the crazy that prayers come to life and the bigger picture unfolds, if you let yourself see it. I pray that when you find yourself in the midst of the chaos and daily stress that God will whisper the little prayers of thanksgiving to your heart and the small reality around you will melt away with gratitude and joy. 

Here's to more thankfulness in the busy and more calm in the daily storms.
There is something about the way the words dash across the screen and the cursor dances with each pause and the pencil scrapes the page that makes writing so intriguing. Half the fun is not knowing exactly what will come out. And when the letters form words they become subject to the readers themselves. The writer paints a picture but it is the reader who openly interprets it and imagination and emotions spring to life. What was the color and shape of the pencil scraping the page? Perhaps similar to my favorite grey mechanical who lost his eraser years ago but keeps on trucking along. And the paper. Yes. The paper. Is it typical three whole punched binder paper? Or is it bound in a fancy notebook brimming with colors and quotes and doodles in its margins? Those are the juices that are allowed to run wild as the reader is taken through the words so carefully selected and pieced together.

More or less. Vague or scattered with details. Oh the choices and possibilities on the page are endless. Stories unfold and pictures are painted, without acrylics or canvas. Just pure imagination and life experience. Yes. We must not forget life experience. It weaves in emotions and memories that correlate to the words we read on the page and allows us to sympathize. To smile. To cry. To love. All because of some black type. Oh, the beauty of the written word.

The bible says that God's word is truth (Psalm 119:160). That it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is amazing how reading words can change your life. How each time you read a passage something sweet and new is revealed. Like unwrapping a piece of fine chocolate and anticipating its taste. Sometimes it does not taste like you had imagined and the aroma seems a little off but you keep unwrapping and take another bite because it is chocolate after all. And God's word is like that. It is not always sweet and pretty but it has substance and depth that nothing else can compare to. How God uses the word to breathe life and hope and love is remarkable. My own words cannot do it justice but I am okay with that.

After all, does the clay say to the potter, 'what are you making?' (Romans 9:21)

I pray that if you have never taken the time to read the bible, to open up its pages and let the word speak life in to your life, that you would do so. Reading books about the bible or bible commentaries or blogs or other articles are all great resources but you are missing the meat of it all. What God has to say to you through words that span centuries and millenniums is nothing like you can get through other means. And just in case you need a little help in your own study, this method might come in handy.

Here's to more truth and less noise. More of God's word and less of everyone else's. 
Health is something we easily take for granted until something comes up. The test is positive. The x ray reveals what is causing the systems. The prognosis is not looking good. It is at these times that everything else falls at the wayside and the fight begins. The fight for your life. Or the life of a loved one. Perhaps your own child. 

When I came across Alex's Lemonade Stand last year, I knew it was something our family had to take part in and was quickly added to our family's bucket list for the summer, along with dinners and mini vacations. We have been blessed with healthy children but other parents have not. What would I do if my child were sick? Truly sick. With the possibility of death as an outcome. The question would definitely not be what I do but what I wouldn't do to help them. We may not be able to sit next to them in the waiting room or hug them through treatments but we can do a little. We can organize and plan and facilitate events to fund research for a cure or help with traveling expenses. 
The non profit was started by a four year old girl who wanted to raise money via a lemonade stand to cure childhood cancer. The cancer she had been fighting since she was merely one year old. She went to be with Jesus when she was just eight years old but her memory lives on through the lives she continues to touch as new research and hope is given to families fighting the same fight all because of her stand. When God closes one door, he opens another one. It truly breaks my heart to think of Alex' family and their trials but the beauty that has come from it is amazing and the lives of those who have been touched is immeasurable. 

We began praying what this would look like for our family to help. When? Where? Location? And just as God always does, he made the whole thing happen as only he can.

Our neighborhood has a fourth of July parade each year and we had planned on walking in it with our church, as we had done the previous year but this year there was not an entry.

Very last minute, we prayed about doing our stand at the park where the parade ends and it all fell in to place. We got in kind donations from Nugget, a local grocery store, so we did not have to worry about supplies. We had friends and family give yummy snacks, time and monetary donations. The go ahead for the space at the park the parade ends at was given. And my favorite part of all, a few weeks before we even knew when we would do the event, the stand practically landed on our doorstep. I had been praying for something to use that was a little funner and fancier than a table. On a walk one day we found our answer. A neighbor a few houses down was giving away a desk for free. It was perfect. Ricardo noisily wheeled it to the garage.

Here's the before and after.

With exactly enough leftover paint and a chalkboard sign, it was perfect.

It was humbling to see the community come together and respond and God move. We our goal was to raise $500 and we came in at $420, which will fund just over a day of research. Woohoo! I am so thankful for everyone who helped and gave and did something bigger than themselves.

Not to mention we learned what a great barista Penny makes. Who knew?

The scripture says to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). This is a tangible way of coming a long side families who are broken at the core and having to watch their children fight a hard fight and give them a bit of hope. No one can do everything but we can do something that impacts others and changes the world, one cup at a time as their slogan reads. If you feel lead to set up a stand in your area or be involved in one of their many events, have a look at their website for more info on all of the awesome things they are doing and how you can help. 

Penny's favorite song, second only to Build your kingdom by Rend Collective, of course, is Do Something by Matthew West. It seems appropriate to insert here. Have a listen.

I pray that God will reveal to you a little something that you can do. And that you will say yes to it.

Here's to more helping and doing all in the name of Christ. 
An amazing friend recently moved to another state and purchased a home. The first home her family has owned. She had been there just a few short days and I asked for some pictures of the place. I know what you are thinking but I had only seen pictures of the backyard and I cannot help it if I am a visual person. She responded saying it was a total zone but she would try to send some decent ones. I responded that it was just proof of her progress.

After sending the message, God whispered, yes enjoy the process of your life. Enjoy the messy and what I am making out of it. 

I have found myself liking the final outcome of projects more so than the process. Making something is fun but when it is finished it is even better. Life tends to be like that, too. I don't know anyone who likes to share their mess. Who likes to share the disaster that is in their living room or hiding in their closets or their hearts. No one wants to share those parts. But in reality, that is the beauty. It is proof of where you came from. Proof of where God has intervened on your behalf and extended grace and love and mercy. Your mess is God's masterpiece. He puts it back together in a way only he can do so. The sharing of your mess allows others to see how God has changed and transformed and made you in to who he has made you to be.

Scripture says that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the process. This is the change. This is unpacking the boxes and rearranging and moving your life.  Unfortunately, there is not a switch that is turned and all of your bad habits and selfishness and pride are washed away when you believe in Jesus but there is a new life. A new life in Jesus. A new life for God to show you his path. You have to choose to see the beauty. You have to chose to share the story. Choose to open the past and let grace flow in to the present. Choose to be transparent and ready for God to shine through you. 

Here's to more beauty in the messy and seeing God move in the process. Here's to more glimpses of his glory in your life and less shame in your journey.