The Reflection

For quite some time now I have grappled with the idea that grace and discipline can coexist. Like Paul, I have become frustrated with myself, my flesh, over and over again. My spirit is offered grace, but my flesh needs discipline. It has been so hard for me to understand.

And there there was an epiphany…

When my insides feel troubled, my heart and soul need healing.

This year, on the way to our vacation spot, I had a realization…

We are to be reflectors.

Driving on a mountain highway, one of our children asked, “What are the shining lights on the road?”

“They are reflectors,” I said, “Ah ha!”

I had been seeking a metaphor for what I was feeling – If I am intended to shine brightly, why do I feel so dark?

Comparatively speaking, my “dark” is likely brighter than some others. The toils and troubles of my life currently pale in comparison to those in other battles. Yet the strength of our faith stands up in real battles, tough battles, insurmountable battles. We rely on God like no other time – but what about the little foxes?

I realized then and I am articulating now that I had let the little foxes creep in and steal from me. Stolen joy. Stolen peace. Stolen hope. The essence of light, stolen.

So my ah-ha moment when Emmy asked the question had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. For with Him, I am strong. Without Him, I am nothing. Without light shining from headlights, the reflectors cannot, will not, do their one job – shine!

So this life is all about that. Growing as close as we can to God so that we can do our jobs.

What is that?

Love others.

Before we can love others, we are to love God, but more now than ever, I believe that if there is ever a problem with our love for others, it is really a problem with our love for God. He made us to reflect His love. We have to receive it to reflect it.

And just the other morning, I saw two young foxes scurrying across the main street of our town, and I thought, “Beware of the little foxes.” If you don’t know the reference, I’ll share it with you before you go. And you can ponder the little foxes of your own life. They were so, so cute, but I am sure they could do some damage.

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”

Song of Solomon 2:15 NIV

Running in Pajamas

I just ran four miles… in my pajamas. I was supposed to run six, but I only finished four. And that’s OK for today. Here’s a story…

Once upon a time, there was a girl who turned into a woman and then a wife and then a mother. She loved the Lord with all of her heart and loved her family so so much. (Author’s Note: I just googled Tom Petty lyrics.) Loved her mama, Jesus, and America, too. Yes, all of that. Though this woman had lots of love for others, it was really hard for her to love herself. Then one day, she got on the treadmill in her pajamas.

The last year has been so odd. In some aspects of my life, everything has been a dream, in others, there have been nightmares. My relationships have taken a toll, and my health has plummeted, yet I have been ready to redeem all of that for a while now.

So I started spending more time in with the Lord. Started treating my family with more kindness. Started leading as He’s called me to. Started getting back to healthy. And I am in a really good place. Today.

One of my “get back to healthy” tactics was to sign up for a half marathon. I’ve done a few in the past so I know that a training schedule is extremely helpful. This morning, my training schedule called for six miles. I had the time. I had the space. But I haven’t kept up with the training schedule yet, so it seemed nearly impossible for me to even run a 5K straight thru.

I got on the treadmill optimistically. Started it up and got to about mile 2.5 and and then the pain started. My feet felt as if blisters were imminent. I tried to focus on my stride and take the focus off of my pain, but it didn’t work. I was going to stop the treadmill and be done for the day, but I hit pause instead. In that moment, I remembered I had an extra pair of socks in my workout bag in my car. Have you ever run in the wrong socks? It happens, and it is usually painful.

After switching into the new pair, I got back to it and in the podcast I was listening to, the speaker started talking about Genesis 41:52. It’s a single verse that I’ve read over a hundred times, but it hasn’t held significance before. The Bible is the Living Word of God. It changes for you as you find it more and more significant.

Genesis 41:52 says, “The name of the second he called Ephraim, โ€œFor God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Joseph was naming his son and was paying tribute to the fruit that came out of a difficult place.

My difficult place of developing blisters was nothing compared to what Joseph had been thru. But do you know what was the same? The enemy trying to convince me that I should give up.

At mile 2.5, I could have shut it all down and gotten on with my day. My workout would’ve been completed and things would have gone just fine. But God… God gave me perseverance and a new way. After switching socks, I ran faster than before. I was running easier than before. There was fruit in my affliction.

So when I crossed over the four mile mark, I knew that six miles was on my schedule. I have a tendency to do what others tell me to, not what God lets me rest in. Today was different. I rested in the fact that I could’ve stopped earlier, but God gave me a future and a hope for better things. And He can do the same for you.

Blessings from a Quarantined Housewife

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT

#walkart day 2 of 21

As I sit in my family’s guest room on day nine of quarantine, I have some wisdom, given to me by God, to share with you…

If you are reading this, you survived 2020, the most difficult year in my adult life for sure. I have tried to process all of the things that happened in real-time with God, but the year did a good number on me. Maybe you have been more scared than ever before. Maybe you’ve experienced loss and grief like you never have before. Maybe your vices took control and self-guilt plagued you. Or maybe you were pleased with the slowed-down pace of a world that is required to collectively pause. I am all of the above.

Coming out of the year where you couldn’t seem to agree with anyone on anything, I embraced my right to remain silent. And for the most part, it boded well for me. But it made my heart sick.

I am not going to start rattling off unresolved hurts, I’ve shared those with God all along. But I would like to offer some words of inspiration to you that have helped me process and move forward with great anticipation.

Your whole life is determined by how you spend today. You don’t have any guarantees, and I know that is not breaking news. The way your morning goes, the way you love the people in your presence, the way you feel about your relationships and your body when your head hits the pillow at night. One day will determine how your next days go.

The Holy Spirit is ever present, whether you believe in God or not. If you open yourself up to noticing how the Lord is showing His love for you, you may be surprised in what you start to see. All blessings are gifts from God.

Your body is a temple and you don’t have to listen to anyone else’s advice on how to take care of it. Your body itself will tell you how to take care of it. This may sound silly to you and if so, just move on. Here’s what I am learning – I have spent sooo much time taking the advice of well-meaning people that I forgot to ask God how I should treat this one body He gave me. When I sit with Him, I know what I am supposed to do to feel 100% each and every day, even while battling Covid. I am not going to give you the ways He is telling me to make small, lasting changes to take better care of myself. Instead I would implore you to surrender any plan, diet, or strategies given to you by anyone but the Lord himself. Sit with Him and He will lead the way to health. He is the Ultimate Healer after all.

When you decide how your day should be spent, how your love should be shown, and how your body should be cared for, do not let Satan steal your focus. It is extremely easy to allow our thoughts (then actions) to be determined by our circumstances. But if you decide ahead of time, when you are tempted to go back on those plans, you are more likely to hold true to decisions that you made when your mind was clear and your day was empty. That said, God is not a list-keeper. He wants you to live in peace and freedom, loving Him, yourself, and others as you go. That’s the easy way. Take it. Do not let Satan trespass into your heart; it belongs to God alone.

Finally, I encourage you, my dear brothers and sisters, be true to yourself. Make sure your heart is filled with joy. Do what you need to do to take great care of every part of your life. You have the power to leave a legacy of love, and that is an eternal blessing to those around you.

May God bless you today and the whole year through!

With Love,

So Much to Write… So Little Time

I heard Oprah reference her favorite moment in life the other day – she said that her favorite moment in life is the moment when she is in an airplane and taking off on an overcast day. The moment that the aircraft breaks through the clouds and rises above them. The moment when you can see the blue sky and sunshine that was there the entire time. Though we might experience cloudy days from our vantage point, the sun and blue sky remind us that there is hope, even when we are experiencing current darkness.

As a writer, I process my thoughts through writing. Like, all of my thoughts. As a mother of three young children, I am needed from the time one child wakes up until the time all of them are asleep. And in these crazy times, I have had so much to say, but not enough time to say it. I can’t write and mother simultaneously. Nor do I want to.

Here’s what I know: this is an unpredictable time, lots of people have lots of opinions, and God is sovereign.

I feel so much for all of those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. I am not in their shoes, but I am praying for them nonstop. The daily challenges that I face are NOTHING compared with those of my family, friends, and lots of people I will never meet. There is true suffering in the world right now. On so many levels. From those stuck at their jobs to those that lost their jobs; those that are confined to their homes to those that wish they had a home; those that are enjoying the slower pace to those that are tormented by it; those that know Jesus to those that don’t; those that have been battling physically to those that have been battling mentally. There are millions to pray for right now.

And still… there are overflowing opinions that are surfacing and being shared on an hourly basis. I’m not going to give my opinion about people giving theirs, I’m just going to lift each opinion and each opinion-holder up in prayer. That is really all we can do.

When you reach the point where you raise your eyes above the clouds and find the sunshine, you realize that God is always here. He has always been. He will always be. He is sovereign. He has good plans for you and for me. His purpose will prevail, no matter what the enemy tries to use against us.

Two verses I will leave you with to ponder on your own:

“If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place.” Proverbs 24:10 MSG

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

For two weeks now, my family has been home. One Exception – We’ve made regular visits to my mom’s house, who has also stayed home. We have played outside each day that the weather allows and then we come back into our home.

At first, I found myself checking on the daily news, most of the time on my phone so that I could shield my children from the unexpected updates that are sure to come during a time such as this. Watching the news is not the norm in our house because we have young children and the world is negative when portrayed by news media. If my husband and I want to stay informed, we check out the headlines on personal devices, which can cause headaches and the need for filler injections to make the eleven lines (google it) go away.

But somewhere in the middle of last week, I thought about why I’m scrolling and reading headlines. There are good reasons and dumb reasons, but I felt a need to figure this out. Are you too sitting on your phone daily to check out how many people are sick and dying? That may be good or it may be dumb, I think it depends on the person. And no judgment either way.

Here are the reasons why I was/am falling into this habit:

  1. I care about humanity
  2. I want to be informed
  3. Information guides my prayer life
  4. I get bored
  5. I get fearful
  6. I get discouraged

As I said, some good reasons, some dumb. The top three are driven by peace. The bottom three are driven by fear. So right there in my self-reflective list, I understand that we have two choices: always only two choices. We can choose to live in peace or in fear. We can choose to fill our spare time with acts of peace or acts of fear. We can calm ourselves with peace or rial ourselves up in fear.

And that one distinction gives me great freedom. In a world where we can’t control much, we can control if we are driven by peace or fear. The Bible puts it this way, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

We get to decide how we live during this pandemic. Each day, and sometimes each moment, we can choose peace or we can choose fear.

I am praying God’s blessings over you and yours during this time. Wash your hands and look for the unexpected blessings in each day. Although the days may seem long right now, we all know that time flies by. Accept this gift from God of time to enjoy all that He has created and made just for you.

Fat Tuesday and King Cake

When you live in New Orleans for five minutes, you feel the vibe of the city. Sure it has its oddities – sights, sounds, smells – but there is such a celebratory way of life there. When you grow up in a place that is only sunny part of the year and the weight of the emotions of the residents kind of matches the color of the sky, living in New Orleans is a breath of fresh (well mostly) air.

Reaching major milestones in life while living in New Orleans makes it a part of your story. Meeting the man of my dreams in the most unexpected of places led to the best wedding I’ve ever been to, the only marriage I ever want, and our sweet little Louisiana princess.

When we migrated back to the Midwest, we didn’t leave a piece of our hearts in New Orleans; we brought pieces of our history with us. So always and forever, we will celebrate this day – Fat Tuesday.

We will celebrate because it was such a part of the beginning of our story. We will celebrate because it symbolizes a feast before a fast awaiting the Savior of the world to rise once and for all to save us. We will celebrate because my fun-loving husband always enjoys a reason to celebrate and if it involves Who Dat or Mardi Gras, even better.

But as I was making my last batch of king cakes this season, something new struck me. You see, this is the only time of the year I make a pastry with yeast. So I let that thought linger…

Sometimes we get so busy in life that we don’t let thoughts do that. And the power of our thinking is diminished by the next task or need that we have to meet. If you believe in God in any way, shape or form, you are probably aware of a conscious flow of thought that comes from the Spirit. You can choose to pay attention or stay busy. You can choose to listen or dismiss. You can follow the Spirit’s leading or let the world get in your head.

In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, we find a bit of advice from Paul regarding yeast in bread. It says, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

As I watch the dough rise, I think to myself… “Do I want to be puffed up with selfishness? Envy? Vanity? Reliance on anything but God?” The answer to those questions for me is an Oprah-style resounding NOOOO! Instead I prefer the unleavened style of love, peace, patience, and joy.

And my favorite part of the above verses is, “so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are.” If you believe in Jesus, you are a new creation. You already are. You don’t have to try harder, be better or attempt to be the best version of yourself all of the time. You really already are new… so let’s celebrate that today!

Happy Mardi Gras Y’all!

Love in Action

The day after the world celebrates love, I’m bringing you some Biblical wisdom on how we do that the rest of the days of the year. These words are not mine, they are a man named Paul’s.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.

On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12 NIV

Now, that is a loooong list of how to live out love. What I plan to do, and my challenge to you, is to read this every morning for the rest of the month. Then let your heart and eyes settle on one statement to apply to your day. Before you know it, we will be loving as we were created to, as close to Jesus as possible.

On The Horizon

Can you tell that horizon pictures are my favorite? Do you know why? Maybe they are yours, too. Maybe you’ve never considered them the way that I do…

As we close out 2019 and head into a new year, there is so much symbolism behind the picture of a beautiful horizon. To believe that you are embarking upon something fantastic and magical is the optimism of life that I want to live with. Each new day is an opportunity. But sometimes I take that for granted. It’s easy to do. But as we look forward to 2020, I encourage you to see the newness with an improved outlook on what is to come.

It is so easy to fear the future… to worry and fret over things that are out of your control. The difficult thing to do is to live every day believing that things will get better. That we will be more. That the world will heal.

If you want to start the year out positively, take a look back on all that you accomplished this year. You’ve done a lot, likely made it through some tough stuff. Be proud of all that you have finished.

Then evaluate things that didn’t go as planned. I fully believe that the reason people make jokes about new year’s resolutions and them not sticking is because they didn’t do the work of analyzing their real-life patterns and habits before taking on a new year. If you make the same resolution every year, don’t this year. Instead plan for success and switch it up.

For me, the new year is always about resetting and I love doing that. Luckily we can reset our habits and form new ones. Instead of reaching for our phones to scroll, we CAN reach for a book or play with our children. Instead of stuffing carbs in our mouths, we CAN choose veggies. Instead of drinking alcohol/soda/other sugary drinks like they are in limited quantities, we CAN drink water. Instead of dwelling on the negative, we CAN think positively. I know that we can.

So I pray that as the year winds down, you set aside some time to celebrate all that you’ve done, realize how you want to experience the one life you have, and make a plan to live that way. Share all of that with your spouse or a trusted friend and you are more likely to succeed.

I believe in you. The horizon of your life is a breathtaking one. Go make that beautiful life happen.

A Day of Wait and See

I’ve been convicted by the way I spend my time. For those of you that don’t know, conviction is an inner upset or feeling of guilt. Most of the time, the word is used in its other meaning, pertaining to laws and courts and judges, but in this form, it is an inner judge. Sometimes those feelings of mine are prompted by love (God), other times those feelings are prompted by self-hate (Satan). And I wanted to share my revelation with you here in case you have felt the same way.

Last night, I attended my church’s monthly service that is easily the favorite of lots of members of our church. Every time my family and I go, there is tremendous blessing, reset, and relief. But getting us there is another story. I’ll just tell you the story of yesterday…

The day started with three different crews of workers on our property (still recovering from the Memorial Day tornado). I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer in my son’s class, but that meant I had to get my other two cherubs up and out to Nani’s. Once there, we were late to school. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

After our short school day, I retrieved the other kiddos and headed out to our afternoon plans – lunch and taking the car to the shop. I’m gonna stop right there… I don’t believe that I am Wonder Woman, but sometimes I take on ridiculous things to prove to myself that I can and will handle it. Who takes three kids to the car dealer’s service shop lobby? Yep, that’d be me. The fun started before we ever got there.

When we stopped by the lunch place with a play area for the kids (perfect idea – wear the kids out, right?), my youngest, potty-trained-ish son decided that he would not let me know that he had to go. When I got him back to his seat to game plan clean up and new clothes, he started coughing so hard that other moms were packing up their stuff, getting ready to head out just from the sound of my little baby. Then he made himself puke up his just-eaten lunch. Luckily, God had sent me an angel, a friend that just so happened to meet up with me on a whim. She was able to help me tremendously! After cleaning up, changing back into p.j.s, and corralling the other two Metz babes, we had to get over to the car dealership.

Once there, my kids were well-behaved, given the circumstances. If you call well-behaved scavenging through the waiting area’s snack station multiple times, running into a sales lady’s office and doing dance moves, and making all of the sensible adults that decided to go solo to the car place shake their heads. It was fun.

We made it through, and the rest of our day carried on. I knew that we “should” go to church at 7, but when my husband called to let me know he was going to be home a little late, I started questioning if we should even try to make it. And for an hour, I decided we were just going to stay home. But I knew that we would be blessed by going. Have you ever been there? You know that something good will happen, but you go back and forth trying to talk yourself into something or out of something? It’s an annoying place for me. Jesus himself calls it “the evil place.” The Bible tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matt. 5:37). I think that’s because when we are in between, it’s half-hearted. God wants our whole heart. That’s a much more peaceful place.

In a last-minute decision, I told the kids that we would eat a quick leftover dinner, make a to-go plate for daddy to eat on the way in the car and that was the final decision. That is exactly what happened. Praise Jesus! But the journey of getting to the final decision was filled with doubt and frustration. When we got there though…

It was amazing! The worship was so good. We took communion with our church. The message was outstanding. And I felt conviction… like God himself said, “You decide how you spend your time. If you are seeking Me first, I am not a wait-and-see decision in your life. You plan to meet with me. You don’t see how the rest of your day goes and then if it is convenient for you and your family, show up. No, you show up so that the rest of your life is in line with the truth and wisdom I want to share with you. Write me in your calendar first. Each day.”

Take what you want from that revelation. Maybe that resonates with you. Maybe you stopped reading a long time ago. But rest in this: God made you. He loves you. He wants you to seek Him first. No matter how your day goes.

Goals v. Rules

Sometimes when you sit and reflect on your own shortcomings, you begin to feel God’s grace and can choose to give yourself the same grace He does. In my morning writing time, I wrote down “What is the difference between a goal and a rule?” That might seem silly to some, but I start each new day with rules. I need to make a shift to start each day with goals. Maybe you do, too. I looked up the difference in the definitions and the old third-grade teacher in me was beaming with pride as I was actually using a skill that I have taught a million times in my life.

When you don’t know, look it up. Most of the time, I go to the Bible to see what God’s word says when I’m allowing the other false information available to us today to cloud my vision. Today, I went straight to the dictionary… well, the digital version.

A goal is the result when effort is directed toward an end/aim. It’s also achievement toward that end. Thank you, Dictionary.com! This means that when I set out with a goal for the day (i.e. stay away from nachos), I know it’s a goal if I am putting effort toward achieving it by the end of the day today. If I make it to bed tonight and haven’t had a nacho, I can have a met goal celebration.

A rule is a regulation governing conduct or actions. Just the word “regulation” feels gross to me. I am a rule-follower by nature, but you know what? I don’t really love that about myself. I live a life of adhering to others’ rules, and while I have no plans to switch up and become a rebel starting today, I would rather live a life of freedom. You too?

So let’s decide… if just for today, you give yourself the same grace God does, how would that look? I’m not saying to go swimming in a tub of nachos cause who cares, but set one goal and work to achieve it. Celebrate if you make it. Give grace if you don’t. And maybe, just maybe, if we can learn to apply this goal/grace principle to ourselves, we will be able to love others better, as well.