Fuel

So, we have officially started trying to feed the baby solid foods. He’s not the best eater, but he’s only six months old. Generally, he eats the first couple of bites just fine. But then he’s a drooling mess and not much more is actually consumed. But he’s just learning. We will keep trying- obviously!

Anyways. Yesterday morning as I was feeding the kids breakfast, one of my kids brought me a jar of sweet potatoes.

“Mom, why does he have to eat sweet potatoes, and green beans, and squash…” her voice trailed off.
But her brother quickly gave some input, “Wouldn’t it be cool if they had pizza baby food.”

“Or macaroni baby food.”

“Or fried chicken baby food.”

They went back and forth listing their favorite foods wishing they could share them with their baby brother.

But me… I’m thinking- “Gross! Why in the world would I feed my baby fried chicken, macaroni, or pizza…” Then my thoughts continued, “Wait why do I feed my big kids that if I wouldn’t feed it to my baby? Why do I eat that?”

Because it tastes good. Because it’s easy and convenient. But definitely not because it’s good for me…

fuel

You know our physical diet and spiritual diet have quite a few similarities.

What we put into our mouths gives us energy and fuel for our physical bodies. Likewise, what we allow into our hearts affects our spirit.

I remember seven years ago; I was watching TV. My boys were very young. But as I was watching I thought, “I don’t want them overhearing this content.”

So, I shut their door and turned the volume down.

But as soon as I did, I was overwhelmed with conviction, “If you don’t want your children hearing this, why are you watching it?”

This was the start of a strong conviction to guard my heart. I turned the TV off for a solid 7 months. I still rarely watch TV. But when I do, I am now more aware of the worldly content and able to distinguish what I should let influence me and what I need to disregard.

I have learned that what you allow into your mind, will affect your heart. And you need to guard your hearts, for everything we do is an overflow of our hearts.

Our world is full of hang-ups for Christians.

When listening to the radio the songs are filled with chasing love, drinking, and partying. Is this what you would feed your baby?

When watch TV the shows are filled with drama or inappropriate sex jokes.

Is this what you would feed your baby?

Then why do you feed it to yourself?

I am in no way telling you to stop listening to secular music, stop watching TV, and go join a convent. But what you allow in mind will affect your heart.

Moderation. Use moderation. And recognize what you are putting in. A sugary treat every now and then is ok. But eating cookies, cake, and ice cream for every meal will have an impact on your physical appearance as well as your mood. Your body needs fuel. What you put in your body fuels your body.
The same is true of your spiritual diet.

What you put in your mind fuels your heart. So use moderation.

How do you know if you are using moderation? Well, I’m not you. But for me, it’s when my mind keeps going back to that thing. Maybe it’s a TV show that I am clinging to wondering what will happen next week. And I have my schedule completely surrounded by making sure I can be home then.

Maybe… it’s a game on your phone… I can actually remember being addicted to Candy Crush. I had dreams about crushing candy. Obviously, I was not using moderation here.

If something consumes your thought outside of the time you are dedicating to it. You probably need to pray that the Holy Spirit will convict and guide you to make better choices.

It’s an easy trap to fall into.

My boys just recently realized they did it with video games. (We don’t even own a console- on purpose.) But they love playing it, learning about it. They checked out books at the library about this game. They were constantly drawing pictures of these characters. The video games eventually consumed their little lives.

I pointed out to them that it was a god. They were like, “No mom, we just like it.”

I asked them, “What did you draw today? What did you read about today? What did you pretend to be when you were playing today?

This look swept across their faces as they realized I was right. “Anything that consumes your thoughts is a god.”
Video games are a lot of responsibility to put on young minds. We have to teach, model, and discuss moderation.

Or we and our poor children will fall into the traps.

Not just for video games, but anything that could consume their hearts…. TV… drama… romance…chasing after boyfriends/girlfriends… money… food… social media… sports…

What you allow in your mind is fuel for your heart.

We need Jesus to be our fuel. Read His word. Pray. Join in fellowship opportunities. Change the radio station to Christian music. Read books from a Christian worldview.

If you want everything you say and do to point to God, it starts with what you allow to fuel your heart.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

Guarded

While at the library Thursday, my daughter checked out a bunch of books. Since she forgot her library bag, the librarian gave her a plastic grocery bag to carry her books. As she was walking out of the library, the bag ripped, and her books fell all over the ground. She scrambled to pick them up, but since they were all different shapes and scattered, it was no easy task. Her brother went over to help her, but she quickly covered her books and said, “These are my books.”

“I know,” he said. “Would you like me to help you and carry some out to the car for you?”

Immediately her expression changed from anger to relief.

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Oh, what a perfect image of how I must be when people are trying to help me. I’m so overwhelmed by the problem at hand, that an act of help has me responding poorly.

For whatever reason I’m guarded. I’m prideful. I don’t even realize they’re trying to help.

My poor, poor husband. As I am typing this, I can recall so many instances where he offers me help, but I hover over my scattered books and say, “Leave me alone. I’ve got this.”

In my defense, no one likes being told your wrong. Even if that’s not exactly what is said, that’s how I internalize it.

Internalizing messages has been a major heart ache in my life. I learned from a young age to “read people,” but not based on their words. More like their emotions, facial expressions, and body language. Sadly, I thought there were two conversations being had. The one that was being spoken and the one that was meant.

It took me a long time to realize, most people say what they mean and mean what they say. You don’t have to read between the lines. But I still do it.

I still try to find the hidden message in what’s being said. And it causes my heart so much agony.

I suddenly think people don’t like me, when they barely engaged in conversation with me.  Now I am wondering what I did wrong, when maybe they just had a bad day, a headache, a problem, or lacked the time to actually talk to me.

When I’m running late, I start the negative talk wondering why I can’t ever be on time. When I say something dumb, I feel dumb. When someone makes a joke and it takes me a minute to get it, I feel stupid. If I make a Pinterest dinner flop, I think I’m a horrible cook. When I fail, I tell myself I am a failure.

It has taken me some time to realize that I internalize things because I place other people’s opinions higher than my own. I place other people’s opinions higher than God’s.

I need to see myself as God sees me. “Perfectly and wonderfully made.” I need to recognize the good work that He has started in me and know that He is faithful to carry it out to completion.

Yes, we are going to mess up, but we are not a mess. Yes, we will fail, that doesn’t mean we are failures.

We are daughters and sons of the God! Our creator! Our Lord. He cares for us. He knows us by name. He has a plan for our lives! Once we can wrap our heads around all that, we can begin to see ourselves as image bearers of God. After all that is the way God sees us. The good news is that we do not have to see ourselves that way before we can begin a relationship with Him through His son Jesus Christ.

Let me take a bit of burden off of you for a moment and tell you something that maybe you haven’t heard before. Your worth and your identity is not in your marital status, family achievements, occupation, accomplishments, or any other worldly things. Your worth is in Christ! You were bought with a price. Christ paid that ransom. God loves you so much and he knows what you are worth and that is exactly why He was willing to die for you personally. As you go on with your life, I want to encourage you to remember that Jesus died once and for all. There is no need to stick Him back on the cross to die a second time. Once was enough.

Let down your guard. Accept help from those offering it. And look up. Thank God for what He has done in your life. Walk in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Embrace your identity in Christ!

“The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children. The reason the people in the world do not know us is that they have not known him.”  1 John 3:1

Breaking Down those Boxes

“Mom, the recycling trash can is already full!” my son told me after bringing the trash cans around after Trash Pick Up.

“What? The trash truck just came this morning!”

“We had some boxes to put in there. Now it’s overfilling,” he explained.

Well, we went outside to the trash can, and I realized that this overflowing trash can would make it the rest of the week with no problems at all. “Boys, we have to break down the boxes.”

I showed them to pull the tape off and fold the box back up into a flat shape. In no time at all our recycling trash can’s lid closed with some room still left on top.

This so clearly reminds me of my schedule. Overflowing. Full. I couldn’t squeeze another thing in there if I wanted to.

But when I start to break down the boxes, I see that not so much energy is needed in some spots. If I can just rearrange the boxes that are broken down, I will have more than enough room.

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Growing up, my life was full of boxes. We were constantly on-the-go. This sport. That sport. This activity. That activity. Volunteer here. If there was an unplanned day we had to go “do something.” Shopping, movies, bowling, arcade (yes, I’m that old), out to eat, Six Flags, the Zoo… it didn’t matter what- we just had to “do something.”

This mentality was great when I started dating my husband. I mean that’s the whole point of dating, to go out on dates- right? But once we got married and life started, the urgency to be on-the-go was still there. But the reality was not. Let me just say this in an off-topic rant- American dating culture does not prepare you for marriage… suddenly instead of going out to eat, your eating at home. Instead of “doing something” every time you see each other, you sit together in a room doing two separate hobbies. Yes, we still went out on dates, but not every day… not every time we saw each other…

Ok back to the topic- I had to learn the art of only saying yes to meaningful. And yes, I was saying no to myself. Prior to this, I said yes to every opportunity I could. I busied my schedule. I was constantly on-the-go. When I did have some time, I was looking for the next thing to do.

Emotionally I was drained. I was beat. I was snippy with my husband and kids. I was putting all this energy into things that didn’t matter and taking it out on my family. I was convicted that the people who mean the most to me should also get the most of me.
God slowly stirred my heart and showed me that less is sometimes more. If you go out and “do something” every day, those outings are no longer meaningful; they’re expected. Additionally, I didn’t have the time, money or energy to do that any longer. Instead of being on-the-go, stay put and make the most of your time where you are. Doing this, instantly broke down the majority of those boxes.

I will say, I do still tend to feel the urgency to go do something. But I have learned, that doesn’t mean make a trip to Six Flags, the Zoo, or some other attraction; it means spend some time with the people you love on purpose. Go push your kids on the swing. Pull out a deck of cards. Start a crafty project.

You know, when the boys and I were breaking down those boxes, our other trash can lid was also open receiving the trash that was mistakenly put in the recycling bin. My schedule is no different. There are things on my schedule that are not necessary. There are other things that I fill my time with that are really just a waste of time… like games on my phone… mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

Before I know it, those mindless games, scrolling through newsfeeds, and such have filled my day.

Sadly, I’ve known this was going on, but it still took a hard conviction to do something about it. After this, I started thinking about the fact that my kids are only allowed 30 minutes of tablet time, and 30-60 minutes of educational television. We made this decision because we want our kids to experience life, not be consumed by electronics. Why should my time be any different?

Something that has taken me a long time to fully understand is that this life is not mine but God’s. My time is only mine because God has given it to me. It is my job to steward that time appropriately. We can’t get back the day once we close our eyes at night. Therefore, I need to make the most out of days. I need to be sure that I am doing my part in pointing everyone who comes in contact with me to the love of Jesus Christ.

One of the things that I hear from fellow Christians more frequently than not, is that they just don’t have time to focus on things that help us to grow closer to God. I get it, reading our bible takes time, prayer takes time, serving in our church takes time. The truth is if we were to really access our daily lives and get rid of meaningless activities, we would likely find plenty of time to develop our personal relationship with God.

So, if this post has spoken to you- awesome! Please know, you are not alone. I am still breaking down boxes and sorting out the trash that I allow to consume my time. However, I know with the Holy Spirit’s help we can both use our time to glorify God in all that we do! Be blessed my friend!

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

Part of the Story

My boys have gone a kick where they enjoy making books. They draw sequential pictures to their stories and occasionally add some words. Then they will assemble their books with a three-hole punch and three pieces of yarn.

Earlier today my son was sharing one of his books with me. I opened up what I assumed to be the cover and started to “read it.” He quickly corrects me flipping the book to the last page. “Mom that’s the end. Start here.”

Oh, my bad… I didn’t realize that I was starting at the end. Or that his book was assembled backwards. Nonetheless, I needed to read the book in “order.”

This got me thinking. How many times do I start in the wrong spot of a story?

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It’s easy to walk in on someone else’s story and assume I know the beginning, middle or the end. I may have one important detail; therefore, I know everything… This couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who “know” me, it’s easy to make assumptions about who I am. You may read my blog, follow me on Facebook, or watch my family while we’re out and about. Based on all these interactions you may assume you know me or know my character. I’ll be honest, you may make some pretty accurate assumptions. But I know you may give me too much credit… or possibly not enough…

Some people may know me from high school or college. These people have a part of the story but have missed chapters that have made me who I am today. These people have a piece of the story that some people I know today do not have.  When I was younger, I was crazier. I was wild. I chased what the world had to offer. I did not really know God, and I definitely did not try to walk with Him.

Other people may not really know me, but they know someone who does know me. The stories they hear about me are filtered. Whether or not these people like me is completely dependent on the perspective of the person who claims to know me.

If I’m really honest, not many people have the full story of who I am. Parts of my story are purposely not told. Not because I do not trust you with it. Not because it is not important. But because some things have a time and place to be shared.

It does no good to share a sob story when everyone is celebrating life. It does no good to share my success while others are mourning. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who are mourning.

I think all too often people forget to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone experiences joys and disappointments. Just because someone responds, “I’m good,” doesn’t actually mean that’s how they are doing.

There are so many days that I do that. So many days I put on my Sunday best- including a smile, and walk into Church. These days can be crazy and hectic. But as I walk into church, no one knows the story of the morning.

Like last Sunday when I had to go to the grocery store before Church. I only had 3 items to check out- but they had to be purchased before leaving for church. I had these items in the cart and ready to check out in less than 5 minutes… But I got in line at 8:57… three minutes before Schnucks will sell alcohol.  Guess what the four people in front of me were trying to purchase… beer, liquor, wine, and wine coolers. I guess the cashier decided to scan the alcohol before nine o’clock, so when the first person in line tried to pay, he was unable to do so. Instead of re-scanning the items, they decide to wait. Well, at 9:05… now 8 minutes after I had been standing in line… she calls a manager. This manger cannot figure out what’s going on. So more waiting. And more waiting. And finally the four people in front of me check out with their adult beverages. I can check out. But the cashier decides she needs to talk to the lady at the next counter about what just happened. Here I am- trying really hard to stay patient with my six children in and beside the cart. Knowing I have to be at church- 30 minutes away- in 40 minutes.

I am frustrated. I just want to leave. My time feels wasted. I feel rushed. But I am holding it all together. I turn on my Jesus Jams and head to church. As soon as I get to church, I start smiling at everyone and telling them I am good. I am good. I just had a rough morning. It’s part of the story that feels inappropriate to tell even my mother-in-law sitting beside me.

Every single person at church had a morning story. I bet some of them had a happy breakfast with their families. I’m sure someone overslept. I’m also positive someone else felt rushed. Me- I had a frustrating shopping trip.

We are all human. We all have stories that do not feel worthy of being shared. Share them anyways. Someone can relate. But more than that, we are the body of Christ. If I am feeling off, it is important to ask someone to pray for me. They don’t need all the details about why it was frustrating (we need to avoid gossiping and putting down others), but there really is something powerful about knowing you are not alone. What is even more powerful is inviting God our heavenly Father into the situation. He cares and wants to be apart of it, but God will not force His way into it. Invite Him in and watch what a difference it will make.

Remember we all struggle. We all fall short. We all have days where we feel like we are on top of the world, and then days where nothing seems to work in our favor. But as sisters and brothers in Christ, it is important to ask each other for prayer and support. We do no have to do life alone.

One of the most amazing realizations I had, was when my husband and I were sharing our early marriage struggles with another Christian couple. They laughed at each other and then said, “What do you think we used to do?”   I don’t know what they did- I wasn’t there for that part of their story. But those few words lifted a burden off me. I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. They’ve been there. They got through it. We can get through it too.

So don’t judge someone based on the part of the story you know. But more than that, be willing to share parts of your story that may not be glamorous, so that others can see the hope you have in Christ! You never know how much a simple, “I’ve been there,” can change a person’s outlook.

 

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.”

Matthew 18:20

 

 

 

Change of Perspective

My children love to do the Hidden Picture puzzles in magazines. We have a stack of Highlights magazines on our books shelves that have accumulated over the years.  Yet, these magazines continued to be viewed over and over again specifically for the Hidden Picture Puzzles. Recently, my girls realized how much they enjoy doing these puzzles, but it takes them a little longer to do them than it does my boys.

A couple days ago, my 4 year-old asked for my help to find a certain item in the picture. We looked and looked. I almost told her to go ask her brother. Then she says, “Hey mom, let’s just turn the page to the side and see if that helps.” Within a minute or so, she had found the item she had asked for help with.

A change in perspective. That’s all it took.

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Does this ever happen to you? Could you have ever just need a change in perspective? I know I have.

A few years ago, I had a coworker that literally drove me crazy. Just the sound of her voice made me cringe. I was working as an elementary school teacher, meaning my adult interaction was very limited and much appreciated. But when I did get a break and I caught sight of this woman, I tried to turn the other way. At one point I actually felt like she was imposing on my ability to do my job. She was a very strong woman with strong opinions… and I am a more of the keep the peace type of person. I really did not like this woman though I am not sure that many people knew this.

At this point in my walk, I was heavily being convicted on my desire for drama and gossip. I really wanted to vent my frustrations to another coworker. They would understand. They may be able to give me some advice on how to handle her. However, I also knew that doing this would turn into a gossip session… and I was trying very hard to only have positive conversations about others.

So, what’s a girl to do? I came home to vent my frustrations to my husband. Now, my husband is not really the kind of person to just give you a listening ear. He’s more of a Mr. Fix-it type of person.

So, when I took a break in my venting session, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you done?”

Oh, I wanted to keep going, but I knew I probably shouldn’t. So, I nodded and waited.

My husband then said to me, “Renee, it sounds like you need to pray for her.”

WHAT! Pray for her! I can’t even stand the thought of her name! How am I going to pray for her?

“Trust me, Renee. Pray for her,” he assured me.

I did. Reluctantly at first. I don’t really know what I expected. I knew she wouldn’t just magically turn into Mary Poppins. But I started praying for her, her family, her happiness.

As I started praying for her, I did notice a difference. But not so much in her, but in me. I was no longer so easily annoyed by her. My thoughts swaying in my mind when she spoke were no longer the negative- please just stop talking. But I was actually listening. When I saw her during breaks, I would have a short conversation with her and go about my day. I actually ended up enjoying this woman’s company before long.

So what changed? My perspective. By offering up God my frustrations with this person, He was able to change my heart towards her. I no longer saw her as an enemy or as an annoying coworker to escape. I started seeing her as a person, as an image-bearer of God. I started noticing I was taking things she said too personally. She was not trying to impose on my classroom but offer friendly suggestions. She was a person, too. She just communicated differently than I did.

I can honestly say that after seeing the result of praying for someone who drives me up a wall, I have started praying for other people much more quickly and much more often.

When we can see people as people, as an image bearer of God, we can start to see that they too have highs and lows, problems and joys, limited time, different ways of communicating, and the list goes on… But that is no reason to treat them any differently than we would want to be treated.

Sometimes problems we encounter, whether another person or a physical barrier, need a change in perspective.  I have had to learn to stop wallowing in self-pity about things I have no control over and just give it up to God. Instead of feeling like a victim of a circumstance, I ask God how can I grow from this? What lesson are you trying to teach me? Or show me another way Lord.

I truly believe that sometimes God closes doors and tells us no because we need a change in perspective. We need to see people, things, situations, and ourselves the way God sees them.

 

 

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44