This hope.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. "
~Hebrews 16:19  

Life gets real, doesn’t it?

It seems like in your 40s, it gets really real.  Marriages end.  You can no longer control your kids exposure to “the world” as much as you might want to.  People get sick.  Maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be at this point in life.  Your own body starts to turn against you.  You lose your job.  You lose loved ones.  Someone close to you gets cancer.  Your kids make mistakes – maybe big ones.  There are new challenges to deal with.

All of these with increasing regularity.

Really Real, I tell you!  I feel it and I see it and I experience it in and around me.

But this.  God has been providing us with some amazingly beautiful sunrises lately.  Not only does the sun rise every morning, even on hard days – but the creator of all things gives us a bonus and makes it beautiful for us.

sunrise

It has just been a reminder for me that my hope is solely in God.  He is faithful, unchanging, and loves me more than I can fathom.

This hope.

This hope is an anchor for my soul.

Happy 2016!

Merry Christmas (a few weeks late) and Happy New Year!

Here’s a picture of our family at church on Christmas Eve.  It’s been so long since we’ve actually gotten a picture together as a family and it kind of shocked me to see how tall my kids have gotten!

22

So 2016 is here, the kids have been back to school for a week now, and I guess it’s time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I feel God calling me in this new year.

Although I just posted in December about these verses having been laid upon my heart last year, I feel God continuing to tell me I need to keep these in focus for 2016.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

This is what I wrote in my prayer journal a few days ago – so that I could put these themes into practice in my life.

Rejoice always – find joy in being present with my people (not being distracted by to-do lists or technology), live life to the full as if today is my last day (John 10:10), focus on the positive

Pray continually – continue to spend time with God each morning, get better at seeking Him during the day before responding/reacting to situations, pray instead of worry, make a habit of praying as a couple

Give thanks – continue my thankfulness journal, search for the good that God might bring out of every situation, be content with what and to where God has brought me

Feel free to remind me of these throughout the year if you think I’ve forgotten!

Where do you feel God calling you to focus your energy in 2016?

He will make your paths straight.

It’s funny how many turns a year can take, isn’t it?  I guess that’s just part of life.  And I can’t even handle that it’s nearly mid-December.  But I am so glad that God promises us in Proverbs 3:6 that if we acknowledge him, he will make our paths straight.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you may know I set goals at the beginning of every year.  I never posted them, but here were my goals for 2015:

  1. After losing a paycheck and feeling like my house (and in turn my mind) were basically in chaos, one of my goals was to (daily) make sure my kitchen table and dining room table were cleaned off.  In January, I did great.  In the same vein, I wanted to reduce clutter so I joined a clutter free challenge (link here in case you’re interested) and it went really well.  With each piece of “stuff” I got rid of, I felt free-er and lighter. Then life happened.  Ha!  You should see my kitchen table this morning, piled up with papers and books and bags and mail, and whatever else my kids dropped there!!  But in between there has been what my favorite author, Lysa Terkeurst, calls “imperfect progress”.
  2. Another of the things I wanted to work on this year was being a more constant pray-er.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually” and I really wanted to have a more constant connection with God in my daily life.  Again, there has been imperfect progress here.
  3. Enjoy life more.  I tend toward seriousness and I wanted to lighten up a little.  One way was to try to play more games with my kids and that has definitely added a bit of fun to our lives.  We’ve been playing backgammon a lot this year and now my two youngest usually beat me!

As 2015 wore on and I was having some health issues, I added another focus for the year – to be more content and thankful for what I have.  Laying on the couch all of July made me realize that there is so much to life that I take for granted!!

So here’s what’s so neat about the way God works.  As my kids started school in September and I was struggling to get everything in order (even the kitchen table!).  I was going to write 1 Thessalonians 5:17 on my chalkboard in the kitchen so I would be reminded to abide with God each moment during  week.  As I looked it up, I read the whole passage:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Isn’t that interesting?  I started just with intentionally working on just verse 17 at the beginning of the year but what God has really been working in me has been all of verses 16-18!  Through the course of the year these themes of rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness have just been rewritten on my heart over and over again.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Amen and amen!

 

 

 

how to have that hard conversation you’ve been putting off

This topic has come up  so much recently that I thought I’d write down some thoughts I have about it.  Conversations with friends and with MOPS leaders I work with – How do I approach a hard topic with a friend?  How do I tell someone on my team that they aren’t pulling their weight?  How do I talk to someone who is overstepping my boundaries?  I think most people at some point find themselves in a situation where they feel like they need to have a hard conversation with someone – and it just seems to come naturally to some people and not so naturally to others.

By nature, I do not like conflict.  In fact, my natural reaction to most conflict is just to quietly back away.  But I’ve learned most times that’s not the best way to deal!  I am not an expert by any means, but I feel like God has taught me a lot about this over the years.  Eighteen years of marriage, three kids, and many years in women’s ministry leadership has given me lots of in-the-trenches experience that I’ve been able to learn from – and I’m still learning!  When I first thought about this, I was thinking from a leadership perspective – interacting with people you lead or work with.  But as I re-read, I think these really can also be applied to friendships, marriages, and even parenting to a degree.

So here goes… some things to consider when you’re feeling like you’ve got to have a tough conversation with someone.

  1. First of all, does this issue even need to be addressed?  What is my motive in this?  Proverbs 19:11 says “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  Simply take it to God in prayer and let him work in your heart and lead you.  Oftentimes  things (offenses!) that are slight, momentary, or inadvertent are best overlooked.
  2. Am I the person to address this issue?  Sometimes in leadership you may see an issue/conflict arise with another person, but you may not be in the best position to address it.  There may be someone either with the authority or who is simply closer to the person or the issue who is in a better position to discuss it with them.  We must take care that in trying to figure this out we do not resort to gossiping.  Prayer is really the best way to find out if God is calling YOU to have the conversation.  Pray, pray, and pray some more, asking God to give you a clear calling and pure motives.
  3. Once you feel that God is calling you to this conversation, do it as soon as possible.  Sometimes we think (or hope!) problems will just fade away on their own, but more often than not, they will just get worse if we give them time!  Plan ahead and think about the setting you want for the conversation and then make that happen.  Privacy (initially it’s always best to have these conversations one-on-one ) and a location where you won’t be interrupted or distracted is always best.  Make sure there will be enough time to do the conversation justice.
  4. Again, ahead of time, think about the best way to phrase what you want to say.  Use “I” statements as much as you can.  Don’t generalize (in other words don’t use the words “always”, “never”, etc.).  Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  If you cannot figure out how to say what you have to say in love, then God is likely not calling you to this conversation – or at least not yet!
  5. When you do have the conversation, start out with some positives, and be sincere!  Then move on to seeking deeper understanding about the issue at hand.  Using the phrase, “Help me understand where you’re coming from.” is so useful.  Maybe you don’t know the full story!  Listen and look for common ground – because that’s where you start coming up with a solution to the conflict.

So what do you think?

What are your best tips for having a hard conversation?

Trim Healthy Mama – How to Get Started

So this post is for those friends and family who’ve asked about my dietary changes… if you’re not one of them you may want to skip!  :)

One of the things I’ve struggled with for my entire life is my weight.  About 9 years ago I was successful at losing about 40 pounds by counting calories and exercising – the type of weight loss plan recommended for years and years.  I maintained that weight loss for about 3 years (I’d stop counting calories, gain about 10 pounds, then start over again to lose it).  Then I stopped counting calories for good and the weight crept back on.  Honestly, I hated constantly counting calories and spending so much time focusing on my food.  It depressed me to think about having to live that way forever in order to keep the weight off.  I think all that focus actually encouraged an unhealthy relationship with food – I would become obsessed about what I was going to eat next and started a lot of emotional eating when I was stressed or upset.

Last year my nephew was getting married and my sister wanted to have a family weight loss contest.  Perfect motivation.  Around the same time, I started hearing about the book Trim Healthy Mama and because I was altering our family meals so much already trying to eliminate gluten from my son’s diet, I thought I’d try it.

The basics of the plan:  eliminate sugar and processed wheat products, eat every 3 hours, every meal/snack should be based on a protein, and don’t mix fats and carbs.  In other words, each meal/snack will have protein and carbs, or protein and fats.  Easy, right?

Ha ha, I know it doesn’t sound easy, but honestly this is the “easiest” way I’ve been able to lose weight, ever.  It quickly becomes second nature, and even though it’s a huge change to my diet I feel as though I can eat this way the rest of my life!  I’ve lost nearly 35 pounds in 16 months – which isn’t a fast pace for sure, BUT – the other changes have really been more important than the weight loss.  I have more energy.  I am completely satisfied with what I’m eating – I don’t feel at all deprived.  I no longer turn to food for emotional satisfaction (which is HUGE for me).  I don’t have cravings for sugar-laden foods.  My diabetes is under much better control.  And I feel like for the first time I have a healthy relationship with food.

Here is a link to the Trim Healthy Mama website, where you can learn more.  The original Trim Healthy Mama book is huge and there is a ton of great info in it.  (FYI, Just recently they came out with a new, more condensed version).  Ordering the book is highly recommended because at least at first, changing your diet completely can be hard!  The authors of the book go into a lot of detail about why this way of eating works, and as a diabetic it just makes so much sense to me!  They are Christians and their faith is also a part of the story.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Buy a book and READ it.  You can get the original Trim Healthy Mama on the Trim Healthy Mama website or you can get the new Trim Healthy Mama Plan at your favorite online bookstore.
  2. Ask questions!  I’d be happy to answer any, and the THM Beginner facebook page is also a good resource.
  3. Start out simple.  Don’t go crazy buying a bunch of special ingredients you’ve never used before.  Simply try to separate your fats and carbs for a few days.
  4. Look through your well-used recipes or meals and choose those that are THM-friendly or that can be made THM-friendly by either leaving out or substituting ingredients.  You’ll be surprised that many are!  And remember a meal can be as simple as protein, veggies, and if you have kiddos, you can add something for them that you won’t eat.
  5. Know that you may experience some withdrawal symptoms from sugar within the first week.  I had a headache and felt pretty cranky for about 5 days and then it was gone.  And amazingly, with it went all my cravings for sweet stuff.  I couldn’t believe it!!
  6. Once you get used to separating your fats and carbs, then you can branch out and buy some special ingredients to give you some variety.   The first ones I’d recommend – truvia (or some other stevia or erythritol-based sweetener), almond flour, and almond milk.  These are pretty readily available, too.
  7. Know that when you first start using those ingredients you’ve bought, things might not turn out right.  Baking with low carb flours and stevia-based sweeteners is completely different.  My hints:  I always use about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sweetener recommended in a recipe to start out with, then taste before baking and add more if needed.  I also find that the low carb flour recipes that come out the best usually have something in them to add more moisture – like sour cream, zucchini, etc.  Just know there will be a learning curve!!

If it’s something you’d like to look into more, there are a whole bunch of bloggers who have been amazing resources for me.  Here are a few:

Gwen’s Nest – she has a Quick Start Guide which is really helpful when you are just diving in!

Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen – she has some great recipes that my whole family loves

The Coers Family – another site for delicious THM recipes

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!!

 

MOMcon 2015

As I type this, I’m sitting in the Baltimore-Washington airport on my way home from MOMcon (formerly known as MOPS Convention) in Indianapolis.  It was amazing, as always.  It really is an experience that is not duplicated anywhere else.

I am so blessed and privileged and thankful to serve this life-changing ministry and be able to hear such skilled and godly speakers.  I always learn so much!  The days are always filled with God-moments. And this year as never before, my team just had a blast together.  I really can’t remember when I last laughed so hard.

I just wanted to quickly share some quotes/ideas that resonated with me.  And by resonate, I mean that they are in tune with the stirring of my heart that God has already been doing this year.  I share because I hope that they might help you find the beautiful notes of God’s story working in your life, too.

Bob Goff –

  • Live in grace, walk in love.
  • Love lavishly- give it all away.
  • Don’t make it about you, make it about Jesus.

Jen Hatmaker –

  • We are loved children with a love-sick father.

Margaret Feinberg –

  • Noticing goodness is fighting back with joy.  Pursue joy.
  • Marinate in the truth of God’s love for you.
  • Remain suspicious that God is up to something good.

Arlene Pellicane-

  • Ask yourself if technology use is drawing your family together or driving it apart.  Act accordingly.

And lastly I’ll leave you with this.  Several times over the course of my time at MOMcon we sang this song -Holy Spirit.  I’ve decided this is going to be my anthem for the rest of 2015!  It truly is the prayer of my heart.

image

Regardless of whether you were at MOMcon or not, what is God stirring up in your heart these days?