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Over the past year, God has opened my eyes to small things that I thought I trusted him with and made me realize otherwise. He has shown me how some responses have been rooted in fear, instead out of pure trust. These days, he reminds me to ask myself what my decision is based on before answering. If it is rooted out of fear - what might happen or the possible side effects - then it is not of trust or him. Good judgment is crucial and trusting God that if something were to happen that it is all in the palm of his hand. Entirely depending on him for the outcome.

It is small daily fears that so easily entangle. Yes, fears of heights and alligators and sharks may be typical but usually do not pose a daily threat, whereas the fear of a school shooting or car accident or failing at a presentation at work or school may hold you captive and instill an automatic no response. Fear of your child being at school during a shooting or not get the best education, so he is moved to another. Fear of your child being in a car accident with a loved one driving, so she stays home. Fear of not being able to meet work expectations, so you decline the promotion or project. Fear of people looking down on you, so you do whatever is required. Fear of the unknown. Fear of something outside of your control. These are little snares that so easily entrap you throughout the day that you may not have even noticed them.

Tis so Sweet by Jadon Lavik is a beautiful version this classic. Have a listen.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

It is sweet to trust in Jesus. And rest in his Word and his promises. To not have to worry about anything. Scripture has so much to say about trust and testimonies of those who have gone before us with the benefits of trusting God. Abraham trusted God to go to a new land. Moses trusted God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Noah trusted and built an ark. Trust is not something that happens over night. It takes time. It requires a giving up of yourself to be able to trust God. To gauge his dependency status. To give him a chance to come through or if you will have to do it yourself. To allow him the follow through.

Praying that you will put your complete trust in God. Praying that you would not lean on your own understanding of the situation because sometimes we are not meant to understand but simply follow in obedience. Praying that you would be conscious of what you are basing your decisions off of and that God would guide you to one that requires trust. Praying that trust in him would be built and would be a constant in life. Praying that fear would not have a grip on you and for trust to be embedded in your being.

Here's to decisions and less fear. Here's to more confidence in God.

Lemon is typically a flavor that you either love or cannot stand. For me, it is one of my favorite flavors  and its yellow rind has worked its way in to my favorite color category over the past few years because of its fun demeanor.

A sweet friend with a lemon tree brings them by for me when they are in season and the possibilities become endless. Lemon bars. Lemon meringue pie. Lemonade. A little lemon slice to perk up ice water - it's like a little burst of sunshine in a cup. 

The old adage, when life gives you lemons, seems appropriate to add here. It tends to have a negative connotation to it. Like lemons are a bad thing. Oh man, you got lemons again? Guess you better make some lemonade. It states things are not going as planned. There is a pot hole in the road or a detour or broken bridge ahead. And you now, you are forced in to juicing some lemons. You have an unplanned interruption and encouraged to make something out of the bad and ugly and unwanted in to something desirable and sweet and quenching. You have a choice - to keep the lemons as they are or make something with them.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

God is always working out the best for those who love him. He is always providing a way out and a solid foundation to stand, you just have to see it. He is working out the suffering for his good.

Homemade lemonade is a favorite beverage in our home. The key to making it perfect is melting the sugar in a pot of boiling water, eliminating any floating sugar particles, and then mixing it all together with the rest of the water and lemon juice, making sure not to add too much sugar as to over sweeten but just enough to still have a little kick. Just enough sweetness to accompany the sour.

Life is like that. You need just enough sweetness to accompany the sourness that comes your way. Smiles to overshadow the frowns. Compliments to overcome the putdowns. Surprises to outweigh the let downs. And for God to provide the sugar. 

This is where prayer comes in and resources. Prayer asking God to open your eyes to see the sugar through the situation. Through the illness or lay off or temper tantrum or traffic or foreclosure. Through the surgery or therapy. And to see the resources around you. The little grains of sugar and the overflowing spring of water.

Praying that whatever seems like lemons would be made into another testimony of God's faithfulness. Praying that your interruptions and detours would be seen as opportunities. That you would see God's favor resting on you throughout the situation in ways only he can work. Praying that you would see God's provision and resources around you and that you would have the wisdom to use them in accordance with his will.

Praying that you would drink in the goodness of God's promises, knowing that everything works together for those who are called according to his purposes.

Here's to lemons and prayers.  

For craft night this month we are making note cards for a local senior home. A simple text or email may be sent, which is great and can mean a lot but there is something about getting a tangible thing to hold with someone's own handwriting that makes it all the more special. So much can burst out of a word or two. Or more.

In college, I wrote a small thank you to a professor telling her thanks for all of the work she had put in one of the classes I had taken from her. It was so much work and so much to learn and so much for her to teach and  to grade. When I transferred schools I had to retake the class. Same book. Same amount to learn but hardly any teaching occurred that came close the my previous professor's. I felt sorry for the other students in the class who were trying to figure it all out and had no idea what to do. This was where my note was born and sent it out to my teacher in full thankfulness for her efforts.

Later, a friend mentioned that my professor was really encouraged by it and placed it on her desktop as a reminder while she was going through the daily grind. I had no idea the impact that it would make for her and did not think she would remember me.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
   sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
    Proverbs 16:24

Writing is like the essence of life in word form. God spoke the whole word in to motion and then wrote it down for us. Words are powerful and I do not think I will ever understand the power of them. They hold gifts of encouragement and wisdom and thanksgiving. They bring out smiles and tears and comfort. They bring up memories of past days spent and let us to peer in to lives of fictional people who will never walk in ours. 

Praying that you would not look at words the same but would be transformed by their context and arrangement. Praying that you would hear the truth and build each other up with them, as they are meant to do. Praying that you would find time this week to send a note to someone the Lord has placed on your heart. 

Here is a little packaging tag if you would like to give them away. They fit perfectly around an A2 invitation envelope. Click image to download. 

And of course, if you are in the area and would like to join us, we would love to have you!

Here's to notes and words and encouragement. 

Read more about what Pocket Blessings is all about here
Growing up with six brothers and sisters, the word "quiet" hardly describes the environment. It was noisy and loud and full of life exploding from all parts of the house. My room was a little sanctuary but it being shared with my younger sister, was never truly quiet either.

When I moved out on my own, the quietness was eerie. I moved in with my older sister and her boyfriend, both who worked opposite hours than me. No one was running around or invading my room with a dire announcement or pounding on the bathroom door because they really needed to use it. Naturally, I filled up the silence with music.

Over the past few years, God has shown me how to turn off the music and enjoy the silence. Especially the silence of sleeping babies. Silence. It is when your breath becomes the loudest thing your ears can hear and the beating of your heart reminds you that you are alive and God is not going to waste a single minute of your life.

God has reminded me to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10).

It is in the quiet when the listening occurs. In the quiet is when the learning and wisdom and grace tend to heard all the louder because there is nothing else to hear. It is in this place, that the presence of God can almost be touched and God reminds you that this is holy ground and you will never be the same.

It is here that transformation begins and the spirit stirs and God's plan for you unfolds.

Praying that this week you would seek to find the quiet. That you would find a moment to stop the busy and chaos and just be. Maybe five minutes. Perhaps ten. Maybe more. Praying that you would get to a place of silence. Not reflecting or praying or lamenting. Just stillness. Pure quiet. Praying that your ears and heart would be opened to hear and feel. 

Praying that you would learn to listen and search and hear and know that God is there. Praying that his power and majesty and peace would transcend your understanding and guard your hearts and mind in him. Praying that you would embrace the silence that goes unnoticed amongst the noise of the day and truly enjoy the lack of motion or words or thoughts. And that in the midst of it that the presence of God would forever change you.

Here's to silence and listening with open hearts. 

We sat playing inside the house listening to thunder and the patter of rain drops falling on the roof, until we heard the loud taps come. We raced to grab our shoes and rain coats and quickly opened the door. I did not want Penny to miss it. She had never before experienced hail, that I could recall. We walked out the back door and starred just as the last of the hail fell and the rain subsided. We turned our eyes to the ground to pick up some pieces and marvel at God's handiwork. 

Hearing thunder and seeing lightening and watching hail fall from the sky always reminds me of how big God is. The unknown timing of the thunder takes me by surprise and the sheer volume startles from time to time. A lot like God's nature. He's intense and surprises and is something to marvel and stand in awe about.

Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee when they were caught up in a big storm. The waves were sweeping over the boat, which was nearly swamped, all the while Jesus was sleeping. His disciples on the other hand were in panic mode and woke him up saying they are going to drown. Jesus asked why they were afraid and if they still had no faith and immediately got up and rebuked the wind and waves. At once, everything became calm. The disciples then asked:

"What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:27)

This moment is explained in three of the gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke - all of which are very similar. It is interesting that in Mark's gospel, he adds that Jesus was sleeping on a cushion (Mark 4:38). Jesus must have been pretty comfortable sleeping in the boat, despite the circumstances around him. God had provided a place to lay his head and get rest, which he was taking advantage of, whereas the disciples were in caught up in fear and worry, unable to rest or remain calm. But despite their panic, they knew where to run for help during the storm - to Jesus.

The ability to be calm in the store requires faith and trust in God. Truly knowing that nothing will happen outside of God's control.

Strong Enough to Save by Tenth Avenue North is a perfect fit here. Have a listen.

And he'll break
Open the skies to save
Those who cry out his name
The One the wind and waves obey
Is strong enough to save you

Praying that you would run to Jesus with whatever storms you have in life. Praying that you would be so comfortable and firm in your faith that you are able to go through them without the panic. Praying that his guidance would startle your life in a thundering-good-wakeup-call kind of way, and you would marvel at his works throughout it. Praying that you would stand firm in the faith and know that God is for you. 

Praying that your fear and worry would be transformed in to pure, unfailing faith. Praying you would cry out his name knowing full well he will save you. 

Here's to calm during the storms. 

The past few years I have learned a lot about gardening through trial and error and some brief advice in conversation. It has been fun experimenting and learning as I go but there has been some casualties because of it - the lettuce and banana peppers and cilantro. They did not live through the experimenting / learning process. This year, as gardening season rolls around and we work on starting seeds in the window sill again, I am hoping to have a veteran gardener show me the ropes and point out where to plant and when with special care instructions, so that the garden with not just survive this year but thrive. There is nothing like someone coming along side you to teach and help.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning,
And let the discerning get guidance.
Proverbs 1:5

Without being taught something, it is harder to learn. It is not impossible. Trial and error is always an option but usually not the best.

Experience is a key factor in learning. If you never spill, you will not learn how to clean it up. If you never admit you are wrong, you will not learn how to apologize. If you are never wronged, you will not learn forgiveness.  That being said, having someone to show you around the situation and what it looks like from a godly perspective is a life changing experience.

Humbling yourself enough to ask for help allows you to thrive and avoid casualties. It may feel like you are an inconvenience or be just plain uncomfortable but it is the first step toward growth. When the rain comes, you will have someone to guide and shield you directly from it, which will allow you to grow in the right direction - financially or career wise or in your marriage or parenting - whatever it may be for you in whatever season you are currently in.

Praying that you would listen to God's guidance and teaching more so than any person and that this would be the year that you ask for help. That you would prayerfully find someone to teach you how to write a budget or be a godly spouse or parent or how to follow the Lord or fully use your spiritual gifts. Praying that you would also seek out someone you can teach and guide because everyone is in different seasons and learning never ceases. 

Praying that you would have discernment to listen to advice and accept discipline. Praying that you would have guidance and encouragement through your spills in life. Praying that you would see the opportunities of sharing your experiences with others that they may learn and grow from them. 

Here's to asking and learning. Here's to more wisdom and less casualties. 

It has been interesting to see the progression of Penny's favorite songs. What in the song does a three year old resonate with? The beat or the singer's voice or the lyrics or numerous radio plays? I have no clue. Recently, Kari Jobe's I am Not Alone has made its way to the top of her list. Each time its tune plays over her speakers, she stops what she is doing to sing. In the car. Laying in bed to fall asleep. During quiet time. She stops to sing it out. Every word. The lyrics are beautiful and I pray that they echo throughout each of her years to come. If you have not had chance to hear it, have a listen. 

I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

God is always with you. He sees you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He thought of you before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4). He will never leave you. Recognizing that you are never truly alone allows you to turn your focus from the lack of people to the awe of God. It forces you to change the trajectory of your thoughts from yourself to God.

While community is extremely important - having a group of people who pray for you and give wisdom and bounce ideas off of and give you things to smile about is - sometimes it is not found in your daily proximity, which can give way to isolation. A place that will wear you out and have you questioning and has bits of hope seeping through the cracks. The perfect spot for the enemy to come to steal and kill and destroy and make you feel sorry for yourself, unless you keep your eyes on God and keep refocusing and pressing in to him, which in turn will mold you in to his likeness.

There are seasons were God gives time to spend with people and time to spend with mainly him. To purify you and give you compassion for others who will go through similar struggles. You can sympathize with someone on a matter but unless you have experienced it first hand, it is impossible to truly know the dynamics in its entirety.

During our brief stint in Washington state, it was surreal not to have a job or social circle or my immediate family nearby. It was the first time I prayed for friends, which seemed really odd at the time but God provided them in his time and I learned more about him than I had ever known and he used those sweet friends to teach me more than they probably realized.

Basking in the quietness of a tiny social circle allows for more time with God, if you allow it. And opens your eyes to how the new person in the group feels.

Praying that you would not give up on God when you feel lonely but would press in to him instead. Praying that you see the lessons being taught through this season and that the truth is constantly ringing in your ears: you are not alone. Praying that you would see God going before you and never leaving your side. 

Praying that God would put someone on your heart to connect with, whether you feel your social circle is too full or not full enough. Praying that you would see the beauty in the quietness and that you would always remember how it feels to be new in town or at work or church or group. 

Here's to loneliness and God's ever present presence.