Show Me Your Friends

IMG_5176Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.  My husband and I heard this quote in a movie years ago and it’s stuck with us ever since.  I think about friendship often.   I need friends.  I need good friends, and so do you.

We were created for relationship.  We were not created to be alone.  We were created to feel, to communicate, to embrace, to share, and to “do life”  with the people around us.   We were not created to be loners, to be friendless, to be isolated.  Scripture begins and ends with relationship.   In the beginning God created the earth, the Spirit hovered over the waters, and when God said, “let there be light.”  He was speaking Jesus! (Glory!!! Revelation my husband shared with me about a month ago.)  Think about that!  Trinity.  At the end of this age Jesus will come for His bride, the church, and we will worship the Lord together, for all of eternity.

My husband is my best friend.  Eric and I have known each other since we were young teenagers. He knew me back when I wore pink canvas shoes that matched perfectly with my pink and purple shorts, my purple shirt, my hot pink lip stick, and my crimped hair.  I knew him before he had any facial hair, when the hair on his head was dyed 3 colors, and he wore saggy pants.  When we hooked up we were quite the combo….  Eric knows me better than any one else knows me, and I know him better than anyone else knows him.  I share most everything with Eric; struggles, joys, laughter, hurts, fears, accomplishments, insecurities, victories, you name it.  He’s safe.   I’m safe.   We love each other and are committed to each other.

The past couple of weeks have been challenging.  I could give you a list of everything that’s gone on, all the good stuff, all of the bad stuff, but I won’t.  I’ll just tell you that multiple times I felt like quitting.  I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, disorganized, taken for granted, hormonal, like a failure…..blah, blah blah….. My house was a mess.  By a mess I mean a total mess.  I’d never seen my children’s bedrooms so disastrous.  I wish I had taken pictures as proof.  My bedroom had piles of clothes from our trip to Lake Providence still on my floor waiting to be put away a week after our return. I don’t want to even talk about the toilets or my fridge, or our big white van…yuck…gross…. Kids were more “difficult” than they had been in a long time, and I was behind in getting things ready for a new year of school and dance.

I had those familiar feelings of NOT ENOUGH swarming through my body and my brain.   You should just quit homeschooling.  You’re not good enough to lead Rez Dance.   Make a blog post, are you kidding?  You’re no example.  What a horrible home-maker you are.  You are not doing enough…. you’re not pleasing enough….again, blah, blah, blah…you get the idea.   Negative thoughts. Negative self talk.  Ugh.  Not okay.

Then….I had a melt down.  Not pretty.  I  cried and I screamed. (yes, I screamed) I was not ok….

So…my amazing husband took me with him while he ran errands.  He let me cry in privacy of our van.  I talked to God.  I asked Him for help, and then, I texted a couple of my good friends.   Here’s where I get back to friendship.   Eric’s my best friend, but sometimes I need more than Eric, I need my girl friends, and Eric needs me to have these friends.

I have some really good friends.  They know me well.  They know my struggles and my strengths. They rejoice with me when I am blessed, and they cry with me when I’m hurting. They speak truth to me.  They pray for me.  They don’t share my crud with others.  They don’t laugh when I fall.  They don’t get offended when I speak truth to them.  They are kind.  They are fun.  They are all different. My friends don’t all have six kids, nor do they all home school.  3 of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away.   They are not all 35 years old, and they don’t all share the same movie, music, and clothing preferences.  Like me, they’re not perfect, but they long to be like Jesus.  One of my best friends I’ve known since I was 5 and a few others have become close friends just in the past couple of years.

When I text or call a friend for prayer, they pray.  They speak scripture or words of encouragement to me and I find myself strengthened and my perspective gets back on track. My friends can’t fix me or my problems, but they point me to Jesus, my husband, my family, and my purpose.    My life is richer and fuller because of my friends.

God has a lot to say about friendship. Here are several verses from Proverbs.

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

“He who has friends must show himself friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

“He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of the enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

“As iron sharpens iron.  So one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Jesus had friends.  Those twelve disciples were his friends.  Peter, James, and John were his closest friends.  If you look at the gospels you’ll find that Jesus had a whole lot of friends and he had different circles of friends.

So what happened when I texted my friends?   They prayed for me.  They spoke truth to me.  They reminded me to reject that “not enough” lie.   They spoke scripture to me.  They encouraged me. They pointed me to Jesus.

I have to admit, I had another crying fit this past weekend.   To be honest, it was a pity party and I was out of line, in the flesh, and NOT seeking Jesus.  One of my best friends whispered in my ear and said, “Melissa, you’re being a jerk.”  “Melissa, you are out of line.”  “Melissa you’re speaking whatever foolishness comes to mind and you need to stop.”   Hold up. What?!!!   The Holy Spirit, one of my best friends (It’s true!) told ME that I’m being a jerk.  Oh crud….but you know what, Hebrew 12:5-6 almost immediately came to mind.  It says, “My Son(daughter) do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens and scourges every son He receives.”

I’m loved by my Father God.   When my husband, my girl friends, or the Holy Spirit speaks truth to me, I need to listen.   They speak truth and correction to me because they love me and they care.   I don’t want to stay stuck in my flesh, stuck in my pity party, stuck in my disorganization and overwelmedness(is that a word?).  I want to flourish, thrive, and daily be transformed in the image of Christ.  I need my circles of friends to do this!  I need friends to grow!

Over the past two weeks my house has become cleaner.  Bedrooms are organized.  Laundry is put away (at least until the next load comes out of the dryer).   My fridge is clean.  My toilets will be soon:).   I said no to some things I needed to say no to and yes to some things that needed a yes.     We are getting back into the routine of homeschooling.  I apologized to my kids for saying some things I shouldn’t have.  I apologized to Eric for being a jerk. Most of all, I apologized to the Lord for thinking foolish thoughts, speaking lies, and for not putting Him first.

Who are your friends?  Do you have friends?  Do your friends point you to Jesus?  Do they encourage you when you are down? Do they love you for who you are.  Do they speak truth to you? Are they faithful?  Do they support your marriage, your dreams, or your other friendships?   Do they pray for you?

What kind of friend are you?  Do you gossip? Do you get jealous of what your friends have or do? Do you get offended when they speak truth to you?  Do you judge and criticize your friends or do you build them up?  Do YOU pray for YOUR friends?  Are you faithful?   Are you kind?   Are you there for them when they need you?

You won’t be close to everyone around you.  You won’t share the most intimate details of your life with every friend that you have.  You’ll have different circles of friends and each circle is important and valid.   But you do need a few close friends.  A few “kindred spirits”.  A few “bosom buddies”. These are the friends who you are safe to share your heart with.  Safe to share your struggles and dreams with.  These are the friendships you need to nurture.  These are the friends you call or text or get together with when you need some prayer and encouragement.  These are your iron sharpens iron friends.  Two are better than one friends.

Where is a good place to find friends?  Here are a few ideas.   I highly recommend church small groups.  This can be womens or mens ministry groups, or couples groups.  At our church this means dance classes, art classes, and other common interest groups that meet every week.   MOPS is a great resource.  If you home school, find out if your community has a home school group where families go on field trips together and encourage each other.  You might find a good friend in a neighbor.  Once a month our family invites a bunch of other great families we know for a great big time of fun and fellowship where mamas can connect and all the different age groups of children can play.

I encourage you to look at your current friendships.  Which friendships do you need to grow? Which friendships do you need to lay aside?   Be the friend you want your friends to be.   If you don’t have those close friends ask God for them.  Daily ask Him for good friends.   Don’t stop asking until He provides and I promise, He WILL provide!   Be on the lookout. He cares about your friendships even more then you do. And don’t forget.  God is your friend.  Jesus is your friend.  The Holy Spirit is your friend.  Listen to their voice and let them do their mighty, precious work in you.  God loves those whom he disciplines:).

I’ll close this post with my very favorite verse regarding friendship.

“Two are better then one because they have a good return for their labor.  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls, but has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered.  Two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

*Note to parents.  Our children’s friends are so influential as to who they become and what their future is like.  Help your children pick their friends.  Help them pick friends who encourage them in relationship with Jesus.  Teach your kids to be good friends.  Teach them what qualities to look for in friends.   None of their friends will be perfect or act godly all of the time, but as a parent, take note of how your child acts when they’ve spent time with their friends.  This will tell you a lot about which of your child’s friendships you should nurture.  Don’t be afraid to say “no” to certain friends in your child’s life.   You’re their parent for a reason.  Part of our job as parents is to protect and train our children for their future.  If your children need good friends, pray for those friends and be on the look out for them.  Again, God WILL provide.   I could make a whole new blog post just on the faithfulness of God to provide friends for us and our children when need them.   I’ve cried out to God many times for friends and friends for my kids.  He’s come through every time.  He will for you too.

P1000044This man is my ultimate best friend.  I love him so much and I enjoy sharing life with him.

This man is my ultimate best friend. I love him so much and I enjoy sharing life with him.

My family members are some of my closest friends. Above is my mom, my sister Kaitlyn, and my sister Hannah on my 30th birthday.

My family members are some of my closest friends. Above is my mom, my sister Kaitlyn, and my sister Hannah on my 30th birthday.

Me on the right, my childhood best friend Katie on the left with the crown.  We are still friends.  Though we live hundreds of miles a part, we text each other for prayer and encouragement.

Me on the right, my childhood best friend Katie on the left with the crown. We are still friends. Though we live hundreds of miles a part, we text each other for prayer and encouragement.

This old picture is from 1994.  These girls, Angela and Jessica are two of my forever friends.  These girls have been with me though a whole lot of stuff.   I thank God for them in my life!

This old picture is from 1994. These girls, Angela and Jessica, are two of my forever friends. These girls have been with me though a whole lot of stuff. I thank God for them in my life!

Some of my dance friends.  I love these gals more than words can say.  We all share a passion for dance, for worship, and for teaching.

Some of my dance friends. I love these gals more than words can say. We all share a passion for dance, for worship, and for teaching.

This picture my sister Kaitlyn took at my niece's 3rd birthday is just too cute not to post. Just picture them in 10 year.

This picture my sister Kaitlyn took at my niece’s 3rd birthday is just too cute not to post. Just picture them in 10 years.

 

Lake Providence-Our Second Home

 

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Colorado is my home.  I love Colorado.  I love the mountains, the wide open views, the sunsets, the smell of Colorado air, the four seasons, the people, my church, and so much more.  There is much to do, see, and experience. I am thankful that I live in the flourishing town of Loveland.  Colorado is a wonderful place to live!

We now have a second home.  This past Spring my family purchased a lake house known as the “Fish Camp” on Lake Providence in the town of Lake Providence, Louisiana.   I have a special love for our new home and the town it is located in.

Lake Providence is beautiful! I love the Cypress trees surrounding the lake.  I love the lake.  I love the changing colors of the water, a wide variety of vibrant greens during day and then gentle pinks, lavenders, and blues at sunset.  I love the green farmland surrounding the town.  I love the humidity (yes, I actually do).  I love the mist rising over the soybean fields at dusk.  I love the quietness and peace I feel here.  I love the people.  People here are kind, extremely kind.   They are generous, whether or not they have a lot or a little to give.  They are welcoming all around.

How did we get here?  Why Lake Providence?  Why purchase a vacation home in a town that’s been labeled the poorest and most unequal town in America?  Why invest time, money, and love into a town with no movie theater, no public swimming pool, no mall, no Starbucks, no Walmart…..?

Let me take you back a few years.  My  husband Eric had dream that we purchased a house in a city with black people outside our front door.  It was a two story, green house, with wood walls in the interior.   Our church’s involvement with this town was the reason we were there.   One of the pastors was sharing the vision for this town outside of our house.  In the dream Eric was crying because he knew that the hand of God was on this town and the work that was happening there.   He woke up, shared the dream with me and then wrote that dream down.  We prayed about it and forgot about it.

Our senior pastors Jonathan and Amy Wiggins are from Louisiana.  They moved to Colorado about 6 years ago and became the senior pastors a little over 4 years ago.  They have a daughter named Madelyn who dances in the Rez Dance  ministry and who has a huge heart for Lake Providence.  I remember hearing about her love for Lake Providence and wanting to go there to see why she loved it so much.   Long story shortened, Eric and I decided to take a dance and art outreach trip to Lake Providence summer of 2013.  Around this time our senior pastor, Madelyn’s dad, presented our church with a vision and dream to adopt the town of Lake Providence and over time show the people there our love and commitment to them.   Through a series of sermons, many people’s hearts, including ours, were stirred for this town and we had no trouble putting together a team to go to Lake Providence.

On this outreach trip we were able to lead a dance camp at the local community center. Black children and white children participated in this camp.  We got to build a parade float, and dance in a fourth of July parade.  We ate A LOT of delicious southern food!  We had a wonderful experience making friends, and feeling so much love from the people in LP.  My husband Eric had the privilege of starting a mural on a big building that sits on the main highway that runs through town.   Our oldest son, Josiah, felt a deep love for Lake Providence the moment he arrived.  He felt like he was home.  A feeling he had never felt any where else we’ve been.

Over the course of this past year our son Josiah went to LP on two more outreach trips.  Eric went there with the deacons.  We took an art team to finish the mural,  took another dance and art team this past June and we bought a fish camp.   When we entered into our contract on the fish camp I remembered Eric’s dream.  He pulled it out, we read it, and we were amazed by God’s divine PROVIDENCE over the past few years and how He knew and prepared us before hand for HIS work in LP.  Wow!  God is awesome!!!!

We believe Lake Providence  is a town marked by God for His good and glory.   Just think about it’s name. Providence means the protective care and nature of God. This is God’s plan and destiny for LP.   This is a town named after Him and His character. The words Worth, Hope, Change, Love, Vision, Unity, Respect, Impact, Courage, Forgive, Serve, and Believe are painted on the LP Mural.  These are the words God is speaking over this town! This is why we love Lake Providence and why we are here.

Destiny Words Mural

We have met so many amazing people in this town:  Brother Don and Miss Linda Boyett who pastor Providence Church and run Jehovah Java (a coffee shop and cafe that puts Starbucks to shame!),  Andrea of My Dream Eatery, town historian Larry Brock and his author and Prayer Pastor wife Ann,  Shellie Tomlinson of All Things Southern, Sucletter Brown leader of Morning Star’s Power and Diversity Dance Teams, just to name a few and we think about how much good is in and has come out of Lake Providence.

When people heard that Jesus was from Nazareth they said, “What good can come out of Nazareth?”  The GREATEST Good there is came out of Nazareth!  People today ask what good can come out of Lake Providence?  I say, look how much good as ALREADY come out of and is currently in Lake Providence right now!   I want to be, my family wants to be, a part of the work that God is doing in Colorado, and also a part of the work God is doing here in LP.  It’s huge!

We love Lake Providence! We’ve been vacationing in Lake Providence for the past two weeks. I am thankful for our time here.  There’s been nothing to distract me from doing what I really want to be doing, and that’s spending quality time with my husband and children.  We’re playing in the lake, putting together a puzzle, watching movies, reading, writing,  playing board games.  We’ll be here for a few more days before we head to our Colorado home to get ready for the new year of school and dance.   Before we go, we get to be a part of a fundraiser called LA Delta Field of Dreams.  The money for this fundraiser is going towards building a new sports complex for the community.  Si Robertson and Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty will be there!  I am hoping to get my picture taken with Uncle Si:).  People from our church in Colorado are coming to support this event.

There is so much hope for Lake Providence!  It’s a city named by and after God!  It’s beautiful here!  The people are kind, generous, and welcoming.   I am so happy to call this place my second home.  I am excited to see all that God is doing here and all that He is going to do.  I look forward to meeting more and more wonderful people who are a part of this community.

I encourage you to visit Lake Providence.  I encourage you to experience the beauty of this town marked by God and to serve this community in some way.   For more information as to how you can serve Lake Providence watch this message from our Senior Pastor and check out Hope for LP.

Please also feel free to ask me personally how you can get involved.

Last, but not least, please pray for Lake Providence.   Pray for unity.  Pray for blessing.  Pray those destiny words I mentioned earlier over this town and community.  Add Lake Providence to your Prayer Box.  I have a feeling you’ll draw it often!

Here are some pictures that bring me joy from our time here in Lake Providence.

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The whole fam having great fun on the Lake.

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Eric’s Fish Camp.

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We are renting our fish camp out as a vacation rental! Please let me know if you would like to stay here sometime:).

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This is how we ride the dog!

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Lake Providence is great for all sorts of water sports including paddle boarding.

Me and Tirzah having some fun.

Me and Tirzah having some fun.

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Date night. Eric and I took a drive in the boat over to The Dock restaurant. Delicious food and a beautiful sunset. Time together alone is always a good thing….:)

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Crawfish Etouffee and Catfish Margaritte from The Dock. Yummy! This town has some seriously delicious food.

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View of the sunset from our boat. The house came with a boat!!!

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I got to celebrate my birthday here in Lake Providence.

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The girls melt my heart.

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Plenty of fish to catch in the lake. Judah discovered the joy of fishing during our vacation.

Josiah and Judah.

Josiah and Judah.

Bald Cypress trees line the lake.  I pretty much adore these trees.

Bald Cypress trees line the lake. I pretty much adore these trees.

My Dream Eatery.   You can't get more delicious food than what Miss Andrea serves here.

My Dream Eatery. You can’t get more delicious food than what Miss Andrea serves here.

There are beautiful horse pastures and horses in Lake Providence.  We were delighted to see this newborn horse and it's mama.

There are beautiful horse pastures and horses in Lake Providence. We were delighted to see this newborn horse and it’s mama.

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Emmanuelle and Isabelle.

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Lake Providence at sunset.

P. S.  If you are interested in renting our Lake Providence house, please comment below and I’ll give you my contact information.

 

 

 

Prayer Box and Bible Time

Our children picking names from our Prayer Box.

Our family has evening and morning Bible (devotional) times together almost every day. During the school year, I lead our kids in a Bible time during breakfast. We read a passage of scripture, work on a memory verse and often a hymn, and then pray for our day. During the summer we aren’t so consistent and we feel this lack of consistency.  By the end of the summer (like right now as I write this) we are ready for those regular morning times together again.

Throughout the whole year, almost every night, Eric leads us in family Bible times together. Eric reads a story from a children’s Bible and then asks our children questions about what he just read. Then we open our Prayer Box and pray together as a family. After our time of prayer, we all praise the Lord together at the same time. We will speak out praises like “You are the kind God.” “Lord you are strong.” “You are wise. You are loving. You are fun.” We end our spontaneous praise by singing the songs “Praise the name of Jesus” and “Jesus loves Me”.  Sometimes we may sing another song.  We end our Bible time with listening to the Lord. We all get quiet and ask the Lord what He wants to speak to us. Our little ones usually get an instant word or picture from God while it takes the rest of us longer. We often have to make Tirzah and Judah wait to tell us what they heard from God so the rest of us get a chance to listen. When we travel, we add high point/low point to this mix. Everyone shares the high and low point of their day. Then it’s time for bed for the littles.

Why do we do this? We want to put God first in our home. When we daily spend time in God’s word, pray, and worship together, we grow closer to Jesus and to each other. There is more peace in our home and we feel connected.  Deuteronomy 11:19 tells parents to teach children the Word of God at home, on the road, and when you get up and when you go to bed.  Our children, oldest to youngest, do not like it when we miss a night of family Bible time together. If it’s a super busy week, we will even do Bible time in the van, sharing verses and doing “imaginary” prayer box.

What is Prayer Box? Our Prayer Box is a box filled with names of family members, friends, missionaries, pastors, and random people God puts on our hearts. Every night, each family member draws a name out of the prayer box and that person prays for the person or family name written on their piece of paper. We all love prayer box! Prayer box is FUN!!! We get to see how the Holy Spirit orchestrates who we all pray for. It’s no coincidence when we draw names of people from the same family, or we draw the same person’s name night after night, or when one of of us draws my name after a really exhausting day and I need prayer. Prayer is not boring and prayer box teaches our children the value and fun of prayer. I got the idea for our prayer box years ago when Josiah and Emmy were little. I cannot remember exactly where, but I think it was from an Above Rubies book or article I read. We been having family devotional times since Josiah(13) was a baby and using the prayer box since he and Emmy (11) were very young.

Here is what your need for your prayer box:
A small box with a lid (can be a shoe box, or a pretty wooden box, or plastic container)
Small pieces of paper (we use colored 3 by 5 cards cut in half then folded)
A pen

Write down names of family, friends, and anyone God puts on your heart onto those papers and then put them in the box. Each person in your family can pull out a name and pray for the person they drew when you have your family Bible time.

Over the years I’ve had some women ask me how they can help their husbands be the spiritual leaders of their home. Family Bible times are a great way to do this. I encourage wives to pick out a simple children’s bible story book and/or a simple devotional book.  Ask your husband if he would be willing to read one of these stories to you and your children each morning or night or whenever works best for your husband (if your husbands schedule makes this difficult, even once a week is better than never!). If he says yes, wonderful, if not, pray for him and start doing this with your children yourself. If your husband does decide to lead in this way, don’t criticize his reading or add a whole bunch to what he reads or does. Let him lead! Simplicity is great and sufficient. Prayer Box takes the pressure off of him to pray “perfect” prayers. Have fun as you spend time with God as a family.  Our kids often get seriously goofy during Bible time. For the most part we let them, laughter is good, and we’re not trying to be religious. We are putting Christ first and prioritizing our family.

If you have teenagers who grumble when you start this, don’t let them stop you, and don’t be offended by their grumbling. They need family Bible time and will thank you eventually!

Statistics show that couples who pray together stay together and I believe the same is true for families who pray together.

So…..start having Bible times together as a family and make your own Prayer Box!   See what God will do!

 

Who’s Your Daddy?

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My daddy is Kerwin Glenn Stover.   He is a good man.  He is a kind and hardworking man.   Growing up I heard him tell me that he loved me every day.  He sang “Jesus name above all names” to me every night.  He played with me, cuddled me, and took care of me.  I have memories of laying my head on his chest while sitting next to him on the couch.  I would listen to his heartbeat and think how blessed I was to have him as my dad.   For many years of my childhood I actually thought that my dad might be Jesus.  I laugh to think of this now, but it’s true.  As a young girl I never saw him lose his temper, never saw him sin.  My dad was the visible image of Jesus to me and so, I thought, maybe he was Jesus, come down to earth again as my father.

As I entered adolescent years, I came to the realization that my dad had sin like everyone else. He wasn’t perfect.  He wasn’t Jesus.   This realization actually brought a lot of hurt with it.  My super hero, Jesus, father, wasn’t as super heroish as I thought any more, but, he was and he still is a good daddy.  I am thankful!

Who is your daddy?  As I ask this question, I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes because I know that some of you have a daddy who hurt you, abused you, lied to you, or withheld affection from you.   You may not even know who your dad is.

How do we have an intimate relationship with Jesus if we don’t trust the Father, or we don’t fully know His love for us?   How do we get to the secret place and hear the Holy Spirit’s voice if we are afraid of what the Father is going to say?  We all have an earthly daddy.   Some of us have good daddies, some of us not.  We ALL have imperfect fathers. And we ALL are asked to forgive our fathers for whatever they did or didn’t do.

When we receive Jesus, we also we receive His Father.   God, King of the Universe becomes OUR dad.   HUGE!   We are now ROYALTY in the kingdom of God.  What does this do to our identity?!  What should it do to our identity?!  Did we have to clean up our lives to be called a child of God?  No.  Jesus’ death gave us this.  Do we have to clean up our mess now in order to be intimate with Jesus?  No.  He wants us to come just as we are.  God is a good dad. He IS a perfect dad.   He is a kind, safe, strong, providing, listening dad.  Our Heavenly Father wants to hold us, comfort us, strengthen us, and send us out to do his will.

Jesus was so trusting of the Father.  Jesus did and said what He saw His Father say and do, even to the point of doing crazy things like spitting on the ground, mixing his spit with mud, and putting it on a blind guy’s eyes.   He let a sinful woman wash his feet with oil and tears, not worrying about his reputation but receiving her love because he was so connected to the Father’s heart.   Jesus often withdrew to a quiet place just so he could get alone with his Father. God wants US to have this kind of relationship with him too.  WE are God’s children and WE are the visible image of Jesus to those around us.  YOUR DADDY IS FATHER GOD!

I encourage you to listen to the song The Anthem (all 10 minutes of it) by Jake Hamilton.  As you do, ask the Father to show you that HE is YOUR good daddy!  Ask him to help you forgive your earthly father if you need to.  Ask him to show you who you are as HIS daughter or son.

You Are Enough!

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The other day as I was driving, I noticed a sign on the side of the road that said, “Note to self, You Are Enough.”  For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with feeling like I am NOT enough.  I’m smart, but not smart enough.  Pretty, but not pretty enough.   A good friend, but not good enough.  Good daughter, good wife,  good dancer, good mom, but not quite good enough.   The list could go on and on.  Ugh…Yuck..this is not ok!  This is not God’s heart or how He views me.  This is not how He wants me to feel.

No particular person or people in my life made me feel this way.  I have personal pain and areas of shame that contributed to my feelings of “Not good enough”  but really, it’s a lie I chose to believe starting at a very young age.   There’s also pride involved….

Two summers ago, I was crying out to God, asking him to deal with this area of my heart and heal me.   The women’s group at our church was doing a devotional book called “Freedom From Performing” by a gal named Becky Harling.  Even though I didn’t attend the group, I felt  led to get the book and do the study on my own.  I can honestly say, that this book brought about huge transformation and freedom in my life!   This book has 12 chapters.  At the end of each chapter there is a short devotional section with room to write down your thoughts and answers to the questions.  My book is filled with notes and reflections.  The Lord used this book to deal with my pride, my shame, and my need to please people.   He also spoke some very sweet things to me and showed me more about who I am,  and who He’s called me to be.

He has crowned me with the beauty of being enough!  I wrote this down at the end of chapter two.  I’m not a perfect (you fill in the blank) and that is ok.   I will not do everything without fault at all times and this is ok.  I can be naked before God without shame.  I am His and He made me.   I am fully known, loved, forgiven, empowered, and pursued by Him.   I still struggle with insecurity,  but now when I’m triggered, I recognize the ugly voice that says “You are Not Enough” and I tell it to go.  “I am crowned with the beauty of being enough.”  I ask my closest friends to pray for me, and we shove that lie out the door!

Being enough doesn’t mean we don’t get healthier, fitter, stronger, grow in our relationships, grow in kindness, etc…  We do grow, we do flourish, but we do it all under grace.  We get healthier, fitter, stronger, kinder, under the umbrella of God’s love, His acceptance, and His forgiveness.  We are not striving to please people.  We don’t say yes to people or things that beg for our time because we don’t want to disappoint.  We do what we do because of our relationship with Jesus and our intimacy with Him.  He shows us how to live!  Second Peter 1:3 says, “For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: he even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us!” 

You are enough.  You are enough for God.  You are enough for your husband, your children, your family, your friends, and your ministry.  Whether or not you hear this from others, this is the truth.   You are not perfect and that is ok.  Only Jesus is perfect.   You have what it takes to be the wife and mommy God calls you to be.  You are God’s child and He will equip you as you put Him first.

You don’t have to compare your body to other women’s bodies.  You don’t have to compare your boobs, your butt, your face,  your hair or whatever.   You have permission from the Father to stop comparing yourself.   You can and should take care of your body, but let those comparisons go.   I have stretch marks on my belly.  I’m not crazy about these marks, but I am learning to love them because they are the result of 6 pregnancies and 6 gifts from God.   You have permission from the Father to rejoice in the unique features of your body that make you, you.  You are uniquely beautiful.  How about we as women and daughters of the King be free to rejoice in our beauty acknowledging we are created by God and in the image of God!

You don’t have to compare your talents to others.   I have extremely talented sisters.   My sister Kaitlyn is a worship pastor with an incredible voice and leadership qualities.  My sister Hannah is skilled in leaps and turns that I’ve never been able to do.  She’s an encourager and very prophetic.  My sister in law Carrie is a nurse and does things I could never even imagine being able to do.  I rejoice over their talents, and I thank God for my own.  We are all different and we all have talents.   Find out what God has gifted you in and use that gift!

You don’t have to compare your house, your car, or other “things” to what your friends have.   Be hospitable with what you have.  Be content and faithful with what you have.  Love with what you have.  I read about a lady who was so hospitable she had people in her home all of the time.  She started out in a small apartment, then God provided a bigger home again and again as they were hospitable and acknowledged that all they had belonged to the Lord.

You are enough!  Jesus loves you just as you are, and He will help you be all that He has called you to be.

If you struggle with insecurity, shame, or feelings of not being enough, I encourage you to read Freedom From Performing: Grace In An Applause-Driven World.

I also encourage you to watch Who You Are – A Message to Women

YOU ARE ENOUGH!  

Baby Wearing

Wearing Ruthie in my silk wrap.

I love baby wearing!  My friends and family will attest to this. Not only have I been baby wearing for almost 14 years, I’ve given multiple carriers away as gifts and encouraged mommies to wear their babies.  Baby wearing is one of my top “Happy Journal” things in all of life.  I’m wearing my 10 month old on my back right now as I write.  I love having my little ones close to me while I grocery shop, cook, clean, teach, choreograph, and play.   I love knowing they are experiencing the world and learning new things from the safety of my arms and close enough to look at my face.  I love savoring the preciousness of that first year of my baby’s life by having her right at my heart.   I love the convenience of breastfeeding that comes with baby wearing.   Women all around the world for thousands of years have been wearing their babies every day. Baby wearing produces easy going, happy babies!

My baby wearing began when our first born, Josiah, was only a few weeks old.   I was 21 years young.   Josiah wanted to be held most of the time, and I wanted to hold him, most of the time.  I made a sling out of a big white sheet.  Since then, and five children later, I’ve used a Snuggli,  Baby Bjorn, Sling E-Zee, Hava Sling, Moby, Ergo, and Sakura Bloom Slings. Just recently I tried a Girasol woven wrap.  There are more carriers out there than I can count and many blogs and websites devoted to baby wearing.  I’m going to briefly give my baby wearing recommendations and then post some of my favorite baby wearing pics.

If I could only keep one baby carrier which one would it be?   The Ergo!  I’ve used my Ergo a ton.  I’ve brought it to Israel twice, Maui, Jamaica, various road trips, and of course I’ve worn it for walks, hikes, shopping trips, while gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc…  My babies and toddlers also love the Ergo.  You can wear little ones up to 45 pounds or as long as you both are comfortable.  I appreciate the convenience of wearing my little ones on my front, on my back, or on my hip.  It’s easy to get them in and out of.  It’s super comfortable, durable, easy to clean, and doesn’t take up much space.  There’s a zippered pocket for keys, diapers, and it a little bag of wipes.  It also has a little sunshade that can be pulled up and snapped over baby’s head.  There you go.  The Ergo!

Oh how I love the ring sling.   My first ring sling was the Sling E-Zee .  It’s a padded ring sling that comes in a bunch of colors and patters.  I found it to be extremely comfortable and our Isabelle spent many happy hours in that sling. I wore that sling out.  I now have two Sakura Bloom ring slings, one linen sling and one silk sling.  Though I’d have to choose the Ergo if I could only have one carrier, my Sakura Bloom slings get used everyday, multiple times a day. These slings are so comfortable and beautiful.  I recently wore RuthAnne for hours in my linen sling while leading a dance camp in Lake Providence, Louisiana.  I enjoy looking at beautiful pictures of mothers and their babies in Sakura Bloom slings.  I follow several Sakura Bloom Sling Diarists who document their mothering and baby wearing experience on Instagram.   The linen sling is breathable, soft, and great for all climates including heat and humidity.  The silk is grippy, lightweight, and so beautiful.   I love the convenience of a ring sling.  You can slip it on and off in seconds and it folds up easily into your diaper bag or purse.  The ring sling is also convenient for breastfeeding, I often use the tail of my sling as a nursing cover-up.

Then there’s the wrap.  I had a Moby, but it was too hot and bulky for me.  Recently, I tried a Girasol Woven Wrap.  I find this woven wrap to be much more comfortable than the Moby. Woven wraps can be worn in many different ways. There are multiple YouTube videos dedicated to teaching Mamas wrapping technique.  I enjoyed wearing my toddler on my back.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll continue to use the woven wrap.  While it’s fun to try out different carries, I’m not sure I want to spend the time it takes to learn all the carries or to get wrapped up when I go out in public.

For a whole lot more info on baby wearing check out the thebabywearer.com .  Pretty much every question you can think of regarding baby wearing or baby wearing products is located there.

I also recommend reading Dr. Sear’s articles on baby wearing.

So now, here are those pics I promised you.

With baby Isabelle in my first sling.  The Sling E-Zee.

With baby Isabelle in my first sling. The Sling E-Zee.

Judah and I by the Eiffel Tower.

Judah and I by the Eiffel Tower.

Wearing Judah in India.

In the mountains of Rayacotta, India.

Wearing Tirzah in Israel on our first trip there.

Wearing Tirzah on our first trip to Israel.

This pic, just makes me happy. Eric wearing Tirzah as he paints next to our RV parked on the shore of Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico.

Even big kids can be worn.  Judah in Israel.

Even big kids can be worn. Judah in Israel.

With a little Starbucks:).

Sportin my Sakura Bloom Linen in Maple with a little Starbucks:).

Sling back carry as I wash dishes.

Sakura Bloom back carry as I wash dishes.

Front carry in the Girasol woven wrap.

Front carry in the Girasol woven wrap.

Content baby, happy mama.

Content baby, happy mama.

How do you do all that you do?

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How do you do all that you do?  I hear this question a lot.  How do you home school your children, travel with 6 kids, and lead a dance ministry?  My sister tells me I’m super woman, but I know FULL well that I’m no hero.  I do what I do because of Intimacy with Jesus.  When I get face to face with Jesus, when I’m in His Word, (even if only for 5 minutes), I am strengthened to be the wife and mommy and leader and friend He calls me to be.   When I get so close to him that I can hear his gentle voice telling me what He wants me to do and where He wants me to go, then I’m free.  I’m free to say “yes” to him and find the joy that comes from following His voice.

I recently shared one of my fears and insecurities with a friend.  She asked me, “Is more of HIM such a part of you that other thoughts have no room? We both know how our thoughts trail…God is the Author of Peace! Don’t let someone else write the pages of your life!”

I am so thankful that she told me what I needed to hear.  I was not face to face with Jesus.  I was not so close to him that His voice was drowning out lies.  Good conviction entered my heart.  I had felt frazzled, stressed out, needing a break, etc…  But my problem was not my busyness.  It was my lack of drawing near to Jesus in my busyness.

Intimacy with Jesus is the sweetest thing. There is nothing more precious and valuable then having an encounter with Jesus. I don’t want to do this life in my own strength. I don’t function well that way. When I hear Jesus’ voice telling me what to do, where to go, and what matters, then I’m full of peace.

When I’m intimate with Jesus, he shows me how to home school my children.  When I’m intimate with Jesus, he quickly gives me anointed choreography. When I’m intimate with Jesus, he tells me what I need to do to maintain my peace and joy when travelling with our little ones.  When I’m intimate with Jesus he tells me what I need to prioritize in my relationship with my husband.  When I’m intimate with Jesus he tells me what I need to say “no” to and when I need to rest.   When I’m too busy to listen and get face to face with Him, I become stressed out, full of fear, and “works” take the place of relationship.  I lose my joy and I begin to feel like I can’t do all that I do.  And the truth is, I can’t do all that I do.  Without Jesus, I can’t do what I do.  He’s my source, He’s my vision, He’s my help.  

I want my life to be a constant conversation between me and my Savior.  I want to constantly be intimate with Jesus and everything I do to flow out of my intimacy with Him.  I’m not there yet….but I am thankful that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6)

If you know Jesus, I encourage you to seek Him first.  Get face to face with Him, so close that you can hear His voice telling you how much He loves you, what He has for you, what He wants from you, and you’ll be able to do all that He calls you to do.

Happy Journal

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Having an attitude of gratitude and a thankful heart is extremely important to me.  It’s a huge part of my life and why I have joy even when life is difficult.  I’ve always been impacted by the story of the 10 lepers who heard that Jesus was coming near their village. These lepers had probably heard about the miracles that Jesus had done and hoped that he would provide a miracle for them too.  When they saw Jesus they cried out to him from far away and asked Him to have mercy on them.  Jesus told them to go show themselves to the Priest. So they went, and on their way they were healed.  10 lepers were healed, but Luke 17:15-16 says that only 1 of the 10 returned to thank Jesus who had healed him.  I can imagine what it must have felt like to be a leper, to be an outcast, to be sick, covered in sores, disgusting, no hope, no future, yet in one moment these ten lives were restored. They’re healed.  They’re cleansed.  They’re freed. How could those other nine not run back and thank Jesus….

Gratitude and the act of giving thanks brings happiness.  I learned the power of this about 6 years ago.  I was going through a hard time.   My husband was involved in the most stressful work project of his life, our marriage was struggling, I was dealing with some other family issues, and I felt depressed.   One night, while taking a bath, I read an article in Reader’s Digest called The New Science of Thank You .  This article talked about how people who are thankful are happier and live better lives.  It challenged the reader to daily write down three things that you are thankful for from that day.  Around that same time my sister told me about a lady who kept a “Happy Journal”.  She had a journal with an ongoing list of things that made her happy. I was inspired by this article and the story of this lady and her happy journal.

So, I decided to start my own Happy Journal and daily record three things that I was thankful for, three things that made me happy.  I wrote down simple things like hot baths, candles, the smell of rain, chocolate, a working dishwasher, color of fall leaves, and the list goes on an on.   As I thought about the things that brought me happiness I became thankful and my feelings of depression lessened and then went away. My family got through that difficult season stronger than we had been when we entered it.

 

My first Happy Journal entries

My first Happy Journal entries

I continue to write in my Happy Journal, not every day, but if I start feeling discouraged or dissatisfied, out comes my journal.  You can tell I’m struggling when you see the number of thankful, happy journal entries increase!  Our children now have happy journals.  I get to teach my kids the power of gratitude, and I love hearing what makes them happy.  They write things like apples, noodles, going on walks, scarves, Daddy, fish, Gramma’s house, going swimming, and our pet goats.

Tirzah and her Happy Journal

Are you feeling depressed?  Do you find it difficult to be thankful or content with your life and what you have?  I encourage you to start your own Happy Journal.  Daily write down three things that brought you joy, three things that you can thank God for.  Be like that one who came back to Jesus to thank him for what he had done.

I recommend reading the The New Science of Thank You , and I also recommend reading the book 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It could change your life:).