We are all so so busy. Can’t eat right, can’t think straight, have to make a list just to go to the gas station kind of busy. Can’t remember if I’m coming, or going, or which day it is, or what appointments I need to schedule, or cancel, or rearrange, and what homework needs done and then there’s always that pile of laundry to do before the busy week begins all over again. And just when I think I’m getting a handle on the busy, something happens. Doesn’t something always happen? Like the flu. Or a little one needing breathing treatments so he can breathe easy at night. Or a car that needs repaired and a dozen or so bills that are still lying on the counter, waiting to be paid. Yeah, something always happens and I lose control of the busy and everything gets derailed and suddenly there are goldfish crumbs smashed in the carpet and the vacuum is broken because the kids tried to help and the laundry’s not done and the dishes have piled up and I know you’ve been in that place where there is nothing but busy. I know you’re busy, too, and you’re probably sitting here reading and drinking your coffee and trying not to think about being busy because you just can’t stand one more minute of the busy.

So make it stop.woman-hand-smartphone-desk-(1)

You heard me. We have control over most of this. So just make it stop. If you don’t want to be so busy, make it stop. I want to stop the busy.

Sitting here, on the sofa, during naps for 4 children with my 10 year old laptop that is barely keeping up with the words I am typing and the thoughts I am thinking, this is my respite from the busy. And I get a few moments of peace so that I can clear my head from the busy and straighten my thoughts out on this little computer screen until it’s time for the naps to be over and some of that busy begins again.

Why should I waste my life on the busy? Busy just makes for stress, and stomach aches, and weariness, and aching bones, and tired all the time because I am up so late at night finishing up the stuff that makes me busy that I don’t get to sleep. And then the next day’s busy is so much harder to complete because I am still worn out from the busy the day before and I just need to make all the busy stop.

I need to stop the busy. Everyone is busy.

There are so many good things in my life, happy things, right things, positive things, hopeful things, great things, good things, but they are all things that make me busy so what I need to is figure out which ones are the most important things and let the rest go.

You heard me. You have to let go of good things so you can enjoy better things more. You have to stop the busy.

We didn’t get in this place overnight. Busy happens gradually, it sneaks up on you in little bits and moments, a little today, and yes, you can coffee-cup-apple-iphonehelp out tomorrow, and ok, you’ll add those projects to your work deadline, and oh, alright, you can help make a few extra dioramas for reading class, and wait, there ‘s a science project, too…. and next thing you know, the schedule is overflowing with things that make you feel busy and you just can’t get anything done because you are just plain too busy and the things you really want the most are getting lost in the shuffle of the busy.

So let’s make it stop.

Problem is, when I get too busy, and I’m tired, and I’m not sleeping, and I’m not getting enough done, the thing that is most important to me is the thing that really suffer and get lost in the busy. My time to spend with God, it just gets gypped because yes, I can pray in the van while I’m waiting in the pick up line, it’s not bad. And I can listen to Christian music on my phone when I need a devotional moment, and I can talk to God later when the kids are in bed, but oh wait, I still have to finish that laundry and do that thing for work and pay some bills that I forgot and I’m just too tired so God will have to wait to hear from me until tomorrow. And then I don’t get to visit with God and my soul suffers and my heart withers and resentment creeps in where love used to be and it isn’t pretty at all. And that is the number one reason I need to stop the busy.

Let’s make a plan. Let’s stop the busy. Let’s let something go. Pick a thing, any thing, it might be a good thing, and let it go so you can be one thing closer to stopping the busy. Together, let’s do it. Let’s stop the busy.

 

 

 

Instant death. Game over. End of movie. End of my hero. End of my world.

I sat there, completely transfixed, eyes unblinking, frozen, sweating, shaking, knot in my stomach worried for my favorite hero as he deciphered the scribbles in his little notebook. No wonder it’s called the last crusade – he’s going to be dead. He’s going to jump from the head of the lion and fall down and be dead. And that would be it. There’s no other way, no hope for survival, he’s just going to be dead and how am I going to get out of bed tomorrow when my hero didn’t survive his own movie? Life cannot possibly go on without Indiana Jones. It just can’t.

At a sheltered age of 13, what did I know about taking a leap of faith?

I followed the rules. I did my chores. I was pleasant and polite at all times (or so I thought, at least). I played it safe. I did everything that was expected of me. And as an adult, for the most part, I still play it safe. I make my bed. I do my chores. I’m pretty sure that I don’t break any laws. I try to to meet other people’s expectations of me. I even get my taxes done on time. I’m pleasant and polite (or so I think, anyway). I’m on time, even with 6 kids in tow. And yet, I am not wholly satisfied with life as it is. I have played it safe. I have played it too safe, I think.  I will not cannot and am not even designed to be content until I am exactly in that spot where God would have me to be. The best choice, the right choice, the choice that God has designed for me to make, may not be the one that seems safe to my finite mind. Sometimes, God would have us take a leap of faith.

A couple of friends reminded me of that recently (one of which habitually jumps out of airplanes for fun and is quite familiar with that terrifying leap of faith). They reminded me that God does His most amazing work when we trust Him. And sometimes, that trust requires a leap of faith. I am more like Jonah, who ran from God’s plan than I am like Daniel, who had stories to tell his grandkids after he had to face a den full of hungry lions for his faith. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s.  I play it safe. I count heads, I double check car seats. I eliminate choking hazards, mini blinds, and electrical cords. A dear sweet relative thinks I over-cook all of our foods in order to stay safe from food poisoning, but I am determined to keep things safe. Maybe I can keep my kids protected from random Legos and salmonella, and rightly so, but not everything in this world needs to be so “safe.”

I’m going to screw this up, aren’t I? When I finally convince myself that it’s ok to take that leap of faith, when I get my courage and my stuff together and I am finally ready to jump, I’m going to mess up and fall on my face and it’s going to be the end of the world because how am I supposed to get out of bed in the morning when I fall down and there’s no hope to get back up? I’m pretty sure Abraham screwed things up a bit, too. He lied about his wife, not just once, but twice, by telling a wealthy, lusty man that his wife was his sister. But he also took that leap of faith, and listened to God, time and time again, and now we know him not because he played it safe but because he had faith.  Faith in God to stand up and make the right choice even when he was afraid.  (See Hewbrews 11 for how to please God by having faith).

I’m not quite sure how God is going to amend my safety first ways. Oh, I’m sure He’s not going to ask me to give up my habitual child-proofing or ask me to go jump off of a cliff or two. But I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want me to sit around and play it safe, either, living life with a dull sense of dissatisfaction and incompletion, mildly bored and annoyed and boring and safe.

I love that Indiana Jones movie, and surely it wasn’t his last crusade because another movie is finally in the works. And it wasn’t that my hero didn’t have fear – it was that in the face of fear, and unknown, and the unsafe, that he had courage. He had faith. He leapt. And lived to tell about it. Sometimes, we just need to make that leap of faith.

What leap of faith is God calling you to make?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think that I am not alone in this.

I think a good night’s sleep is important, kind of critical, in fact desperately needed. For my sanity. And everyone else’s. Beauty sleep, they call it. Attitude sleep is what I think it really is. And I need it. Especially for Sunday, when I lead worship. When I want have myself together, be at my best, so I can help others to worship their Savior. Sleep is as critical as breathing.

But I think that Satan must love Saturday night.

 

It’s 11:30 pm. Lights off, my head sinks into the pillow, my body gives a  big sigh of relief. I love my bed.

Sadly, Sleep doesn’t come, so I pray a bit, and rest.
It must be just about midnight, when I finally doze off. It is bliss.

Oh no! At 12:10 I am awakened by a mini heart attack as the sound of elephants stampeding through the house quickens my heart to a jolting pace. What’s going on? Is the house falling down? An earth quake? Are there really elephants above me? What?
Oh wait it’s just the cat.

The really old cat who barely, rarely, gets out of bed is running around the house like a stampede of elephants.IMG_4033

Ok, I can go back to sleep.  Just as soon as my heat rate gets back to normal.

12:20 Once, again, dozing off and returning to sleep. Ahhhh, bliss.

12:29. A giant thump in the foyer gives me another mini heart attack. Did someone fall down the steps? Is the house caving in again?

Really cat? That was you? You sleep 92% of your life away, why can’t some of it be now?

12:45 Return to bliss after mini heart attack subsides.

1:10 Jolted awake by the sound of a small child’s coughing fit. It quickly subsides.

1:12 Is that more coughing? Do I need to get up and do something?

No, this time it’s the cat. Hacking up a hair ball

On the bed.
Jump up and move cat to the floor to save the comforter.IMG_4028
Clean up the yuck.
Crawl in bed. Sink into the pillow. Relax. I really really love my bed.

1:17 The baby begins to fuss. She’s hungry. Or maybe needs changed.  Both, probably.
Tap the hubby. It’s your turn.
No response from hubby.
Tap the hubby harder.

Still no response.
Shake hubby. Get up get up I want to sleep. And my attitude clearly reflects it.
Doze, but not quiet sleep, as hubby feeds baby for the next hour.

2:20 Everyone gets settled.
Head sinks into pillow. Eyes closed. Sleep comes quickly. Bliss. Oh, how I love my bed. Maybe someday, I will marry my bed.

3:20. More coughing.  It’s the cat again.
Hacking up a hair ball. In the freaking bed. This cannot possibly be happening.
Move cat to floor to save the comforter. Forget the yuck.
Climb in bed. Head sinks into pillow. Eyes close.

4:07 Eyes pop open. Breath catches. Gulp. Someone’s staring at me. Two someones, actually. Preschoolers. “Mommy. Mommy wake up. We need tucked in.”  Ok. Ok. I’ll tuck you in.

4:12 Bliss is tainted by crazy dreams about Target and shopping and houses and elephants and hairballs.
And then the phone rings and rings. Somebody answer the phone. Please. Please because I love my bed and I want to sleep. I need bliss.
Oh wait.
4:45 am. It isn’t the phone. It’s not someone calling me in the middle of the night.

It’s the alarm and it’s time to get up.
It is Sunday. And I will do my best with what I have to praise our Savior, and create the opportunity for others to do the same.

But first, coffee. I love my coffee. Coffee is bliss.

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  1. Get some sun!
  2. Take a brisk walk.
  3. Go for the gabfest.
  4. Be kind to someone else.
  5. Make music.
  6. Preferably with children. Especially your own.
  7. Clean out a cabinet.
  8. Donate clothes you don’t need.
  9. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  10. Read a book.
  11. Meditate on your favorite Bible verse.
  12. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  13. Sing a song to God.image
  14. Make a list of blessings. All of them. Hang it up.
  15. Offer to clean house, make meals, or babysit for a new mom.
  16. Bring puzzles to a nursing home. Stay long enough to put one together.
  17. Eat chocolate alone.
  18. Eat kale with a friend.
  19. Take slow, deep breaths and let go of all the tension.
  20. Exercise! Even for 5 minutes.
  21. Create a sacred space in your house – a cozy spot for prayer, Bible reading, or whatever.
  22. Craft.
  23. Sail paper airplanes with kids in the neighborhood.
  24. Take flowers to a lonely widow.
  25. Diffuse frankincense essential oil.12718245_10209123865354261_6862987505419495670_n
  26. Sit by the fire and listen to it crackle, breathe in the scent of smoke, and relax.
  27. Plant flowers.
  28. Set up a bird feeder.
  29. Talk to chickens. Or guinea pigs. Or puppy dogs.
  30. Take a nap!
  31. Drive with the windows down.
  32. Have relay races with your kids.
  33. Handwrite a letter to a friend or family member.
  34. Tell knock knock jokes to elementary students.
  35. Create a dance party for your family.
  36. Paint your nails a crazy color.
  37. Tell God all the things you love about Him.
  38. Tell your spouse all the things you love about them.
  39. Tell your children you’re proud of them.
  40. Learn a yoga pose.
  41. Try something new – art, music, archery – no matter how old you are.IMG_0255
  42. Write a love letter to your significant other.
  43. Write a love letter to God.
  44. Write a love letter to yourself, detailing all the great parts that make up you.
  45. Spend some time reading your Bible, and ask God to speak to you.
  46. Drink a great cup of coffee.
  47. Read some awesome blogs (see the blogroll for ideas).
  48. Send a digital gift card to a friend for no reason.
  49. Buy your groceries at a farmer’s market.
  50. Plan a vegetable garden, or at least a vegetable plant.
  51. Write a song, even if you’re not a musician.
  52. Turn your phone off and enjoy the peace and quiet.12274560_10208341969687358_974294269506600596_n
  53. Research a Bible character or story. Ask God to help you apply it to your life.
  54. Take funny selfies and text them to unsuspecting friends.
  55. Throw your kids a tea party with tea sandwiches and tiny cups of juice.
  56. Watch ridiculous facebook or youtube videos.
  57. Try a new recipe.
  58. Start a blog and write about your favorite things.
  59. Hold a mock photo shoot with your children or pets. Order the prints from Snapfish.
  60. Ride a bike.
  61. Forgive someone who has hurt you.
  62. Forgive yourself.
  63. Pray for people you don’t like. Pray for people who do.
  64. Ask Siri to show you how to beat box.IMG_0166
  65. Sit in silence and listen to God.
  66. Sponsor a child from World Vision.
  67. Mow your neighbor’s lawn.
  68. Make a list of things that make you happy. Pick one and do it.
  69. Set a timer and then clean something.
  70. Buy a box of Joe for the teacher’s at your kids’ school.
  71. Make fried bananas.
  72. Ask God to give you joy.
  73. Scroll up and sign up for the newsletter on this blog.
  74. Plan your dream vacation, even if it’s 5 or 10 years down the road.
  75. Start saving for it. Every penny counts.
  76. Buy pizza for a foster family.
  77. Adopt a dog. Or a gold fish.image
  78. Go to a foster care informational meeting and find out how you can help children in care.
  79. Make a list of things that bring you joy. Do at least one a day.
  80. Set up your living room like a movie theater. Eat popcorn and watch a favorite movies.
  81. Find a Bible reading plan at biblegateway.com. Then use it.
  82. Look for God’s hand in nature.
  83. Look for God’s hand in your life.
  84. Do someone else’s chores without them knowing.
  85. Make your kids beds while they are at school.
  86. Sneak little notes into your loved ones’ lunch boxes.
  87. Sell something and use the money to help someone else.10402817_10209321482294561_5875413210361805778_n
  88. Eat a nutritious breakfast – even if it’s dinner time.
  89. Make fresh salsa.
  90. Eat off of the good china.
  91. Daydream.
  92. Plan your garden.
  93. Doodle.
  94. Facetime someone.
  95. Listen to the bird’s sing.
  96. Ask your family questions about their likes and dislikes.
  97. Start a new hobby.
  98. Go outside and gaze at the stars after dark.
  99. Plant a tree.
  100. Share this blog post!

How can I be beautiful?299151_2631227900455_1240598665_n

Peering, squinting, staring, turning, looking and sucking it in all at once and holding up my head, and pushing out my chest and tightening up those abs and turning in my tailbone doesn’t help me, cannot make me see that beauty in my reflection or let me look at me with satisfaction and or gaze happily, with joy, at the amazing body God has given to do good works for Him when my ridiculous, sticky fingerprinted mirror cannot airbrush out my blemishes, or photoshop more thinness to my thighs? Why can’t it just adjust the the ruddy in my cheeks or smooth away the dimply skin that comprises my back side? How can I walk with head held high, and skipping steps, and lightness in my soul when I cannot come close to the beauty I think that I should be? How can I be beautiful at all?

When am I beautiful?

Can I truly leave the house and gain respect only if and when my face has been painted and colored and smoothed, with just the right amount of sparkle and shimmer in just the right places and all the right shades?  Am I only beautiful with highlighter dusted on the bones of my cheeks and bronzer squaring up the lines of my jaw? When I’ve waxed and washed away the things that don’t belong? Do I only look good when the clothes that I wear slim my shape, and boost my curves, and hide the hideousness of imperfections? When can I be beautiful at all?

I am tangled up and caught in a growing, looming battle for perfection in my looks, a vanity that runs too deep to quell with just a tube of lipstick or highlights in my hair. I am a body shamer.

I am conflicted in my inner me as I look at you and feel ashamed. I will never measure the size of your thighs, or the width of your calves or the span of your backside when you walk by and I cannot bear to calculate the angles on your face or imagine the number on the inside of your skinny jeans or crane my neck to look for muffin tops or dumpling rolls or little bits of fluff poking out from under your shirt.  I’ll never say that you’re too fat, that you’re too thin, or something’s just not right about how your glorious perfect body appears before me. And I won’t call out a Hollywood celeb if they’ve got a dimple of cellulite on their left butt cheek or an outfit that belonged to yesterday’s style or a top that isn’t cut low enough to show off all the goods.

But still, I am a body shamer.

Gratuitous workout selfie.
Gratuitous workout selfie.

I shame my veiny legs from a pregnancy that wasn’t long enough and I had to lie too still for too long and left me with scars I hide and streaks I loathe and weakened abs that could never be the same and a sweet perfect little boy who is nearly 9, and I shame my crooked hip that makes a funny lump of fat stick out on just one side, and I shame my uneven skin, and too-big ribs, and I shame my lack of a pretty waist and without wearing all the right clothes and all the right makeup and just the right hair all of the time to hide what I think is imperfect when you see me, I am ashamed.

But until I learn and live and know that I measure up just exactly how I am; until I learn that I am beautiful in the now and the then, and until I love myself for every part of me that is good, that works hard, that carries small children and cooks nutritious food, and that works  to mend breaking hearts and share Jesus and kiss booboos and feed chickens… until I love myself enough to stop hiding behind long pants and thick shirts and black eyeliner and cute shoes and trendy things, until I am happy with the me that makes up myself than I am a self-righteous contributor to all that is body shaming. If cannot let myself be less than perfect than I, yes I, am a contributor to all that demands perfection and thinness and thick hair and great skin and high heels and great gams and tight bottoms and anti-aging in glorious amazing women.

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect on the outsides, He rejoices over us because we are His; He loves us.

I am a body shamer. And the body shaming must stop.

 

 

IMG_0174I never saw myself as much of a gardener, until last year when I suddenly developed an appreciation for being able to plant, nurture, and harvest vegetables right in my own yard. Maybe it was the joy of my 5 year old, who would grab a juicy tomato right off the vine, and bite into like a golden delicious apple. Or maybe it’s how my very picky 8 year old will crunch away at fresh green peppers just as willingly as a chocolate chip cookie. Or maybe it was knowing where my food was coming from. Likely, it was the peace and joy I found from connecting with God in my garden. When things got hectic, I would steal away and visit my garden, and enjoy a little alone time with God over my precious tomatoes. My husband called it therapy. Tomato therapy.

Well it must have worked wonders, because last summer, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I mean, massive amounts of tomatoes. I mean, had I sold them at the grocery store, the profits from the tomatoes alone would have covered the cost of putting in the entire garden, from renting the tiller, to buying the fence, to buying all the pre-started plants for the garden.  But I didn’t do that. Instead, I learned to make salsa. I love salsa. And I especially love homemade salsa, because I can completely customize it to my taste. We ate  lot of salsa last summer, froze a lot of salsa last summer, as well as a few other tomato based dishes. It was completely successful, so I am planning my own little ‘salsa garden’ within my garden. You can do this too, and you can start it now, inside. (Keep reading for the link to my homemade salsa recipe).IMG_0171

Salsa gardens do very well in pots, raised beds, and in regular gardens. They are pretty much fool proof, even for beginners like me. Tomatoes and peppers are self-pollinating, so you should be able to bring your pots indoors at the end of the season to get at least a few more weeks out of your plant. Just be sure to bring them back in before it frosts!

Here’s how to start – Fill up a couple of empty cardboard egg cartons with organic seed starting mixture (yes, you can buy organic dirt! ) Plant your peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro seeds in your egg cartons. Keep them moist and place them in a warm sunny location inside, away from frost and cold. After the sprouts have started, you can cut apart the cartons and plant them right in your pot, green house or garden (after the danger of frost is done). You’ll also want some onion sets! And anything else you’d like to put in your salsa!

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If you’re not ready to try your hand at starting seeds, you can pick up already started plants at Walmart or your local garden store. Or get one of these cute little kits from amazon (this is an affiliate link): Salsa Garden Kit.  I’ve already got some seeds started in my library, but I’m ready to plant some more. I’m planning on at least 20 tomato plants and 20 pepper plants this year, but maybe I’ll find room to squeeze in a few more! After all, you can never have too many tomatoes to share. And with your abundance, you can pass on a little bit of the peace and joy and love you feel from God when you spend time alone with Him, over your tomato plants.

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And now… the moment you’ve been waiting for… SALSA! I hope you enjoy the recipe – please let me know if you try it and how you adjust it to make it your very own. And may God fill your heart abundantly
as you enjoy an abundance of delicious summer garden salsa.

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IMG_7393“Mom, close the curtains. I don’t want the darkness to get in.”

Honey, the darkness cannot hurt you. 

“Mom, turn the light on. I can’t see in the dark.”

It’s in the dark that our light shines brightest. 

“But I can’t see in the dark. I’m afraid.”

God is with you, even in the dark.

 

IMG_7380God does not intend for us to be afraid in the dark. Bad times come, but these seasons of  grief, and despair, or times of hopelessness and discouragement, these are not a cosmic time-out sent from far across the universe to whip wayward children into shape. Crippling, crushing fear that stops us in our tracks – this is not heaven sent, the weight of depression that hampers our steps as we trudge through the molasses of sadness or brokenness, this is not the ruling of a strict Father, imposing, decreeing misery on His little ones. Bad times do come, and they have come, and they will come again, and maybe bad times are right now, but they are not the final word on the goodness of your life and mine. Bad times, sad times, grieving times, despairing times, these are the by-products of a world that is not the way that God designed, but a world that has been tainted and twisted and confused by sin, by missing the mark on what God had planned, or because of bad choices, or bad situations, or bad actions.

Bad times come. And with them, darkness.IMG_7403

God does not want us to fear in the dark. 

Do not be afraid, He whispers. Again and again, His Word, His written Word, His Son, the Word, reminds our breaking, crying, screaming, lonely hearts, Do not fear.

This world will give you trouble, but I, the I AM, the Word, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God, I have overcome the world.

Don’t be afraid. 

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

It didn’t catch me off guard.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

I have the very best stuff planned for your life.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

There isn’t one single thing in this world that can keep me from you.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

I am still working even when you cannot see me through the darkness.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

All of this will pale compared to what I have in store for you.

Don’t be afraid. 

The Good Father does not create our fear.

He does not give us despair.

He does not make us broken.IMG_7398

The Good Father gave us His very best – His Son, His Beloved One, His Little Lamb, to walk among us in the darkness, to meet us in our brokenness, to come to us in our despair. He did not fear the dark, but embraced it to be with us. There is no darkness in Him, our darkness cannot dim Him, because He is our Light.

The Good Father is at work in our bad times and our darkness. And the Good Father will create good IMG_7455from the very worst, like an artisan, He crafts something beautiful from the shattered pieces of our bad times.  He smoothes away the rough places, restoring, redeeming, resurrecting what has been broken to bring about beauty, newness, life. He brings light in our darkness.

Do not be afraid, He tells us quivering souls, I will be your Light. There is no darkness that will stop me. There is no brokenness I cannot redeem. There is no sadness I cannot help carry. There is no wrong I cannot forgive. I will be your Light, no matter how deep your darkness.

Do not be afraid.

Chocolate.

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In my house, it’s one of the 4 basic food groups. You know, protein, fruits and veggies, coffee, and chocolate. I’ve been taste testing lots of varieties of homemade paleo chocolate, and finally came up with my own version that I love! It’s totally delicious, decadent, easy, and versatile. I’m sure you’ll love it too, so I conjured up a recipe page so I can start keeping these yummy ideas all in one place. Enjoy!

Go here for the recipe: I Need a Chocolate Fix 3 Ingredient Paleo Chocolate