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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fear Filled Faith

I sat sobbing on the bed, gripped with fear.  The boat was rocking so hard, throwing us forward and back.  Loud thunks, eerie groans and creaks filled the room. Try as I might to truly believe God would bring me to safety, I was beyond fearful - I was fear filled.  

You might say that I knew in my head we'd be fine - but that's a stretch. I wasn't certain - at all. You see, we'd just had an encounter, days before, of being stranded in a foreign country. 
We were in dangerous territory. We had no money left and it was nearing dark. 
Locals were coming out of the hills to help - but some were armed with machetes (I'm sure used as a tool); one man had a pistol. Scared does not come close to how I was feeling. 

I was able to hold it together while our family was stuck in a ditch in the countryside. I told the children that God knew this was going to happen and he would provide for us. He would provide safety, he would provide a way out. I reminded them of scriptures they had learned that speak of these very promises God makes to us. "Do not be afraid, do not be terrified for the Lord your God is with you where ever you may go."  "Be not afraid, I go before you always."  As I was giving them comfort in our Great Protector, I was finding comfort in those words, too. 

I kept my wits about me for the sake of my children; but I'd used up all my bravery and now had nothing left.   I could no longer hold in the emotion that had pooled up inside me from the earlier debacle. It spilled out through heavy sobs and shaking shoulders as I rocked and dug my fingernails into my flesh. My husband did his best to comfort me, but I was an emotional wreck.

Every scripture I'd ever memorized, I recited aloud. Instead of reminding my children of God's promises, I felt like I needed to remind God of his promises of safety and provision. 
What he taught me was that even when my fear is great, he is still greater. 
Exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep. I'd like to say I slept soundly, but the boat rocked hard and continued to shake me out of any semblance of peace.  

Daylight brought more of the same. Fear had given way to sunshine and I was no longer the mess I'd been just hours before. I cannot say I found peace. I can say, God gave me a supernatural comfort found only in faith. God proves our faith in every trial - we are made stronger, we believe more, we have new stories or testimonies to share. God will use absolutely anything to bring you closer to him and to prove to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are HIS! 

Be claimed as a child of the Lord!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crafting your Gift Giving

I am an impatient crafter.  I really want to be creative, but I want my finished product NOW.  I don't want to wait for glue or paint to dry.  I want to find all the supplies I need at the same store - and on sale.  I want the project to go exactly as I envisioned.  Oh!  And I want others to see said creation and ooooh and ahhhhh over it.

Insert deep, heavy, laborious sigh here.

Am I speaking anyone's language?  This is where Pinterest will be the death of me.  The cutest pictures of the most adorable creations are posted online.  Upcycled t-shirt in five easy steps.  100 Christmas Gifts in a Jar. 50 Gifts for $5 or less.  Decorate your home with Subway Art printables.  All I can tell you, is that I've tried these - really I have.  I have read the instructions over and over and over again.  I have done the project only to redo it thinking "I've got it this time."  Only to be saddened by my results.  Every time, it looks like a preschooler has done the work.  Actually, I think a four-year-old could probably do better - he'd have his crafty Mom's help!

I console myself that writing and encouraging other women is my gift.  I cannot wrap it up and give it to someone.  I cannot put it under the tree.  You cannot spend it at Starbucks - but hopefully, it is a gift that lasts ... and at least it won't clutter up your home.

What's your favorite go-to gift for teachers, co-workers, neighbors?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sleeping in on Sunday

It feels weird to sleep in on Sundays.  It feels like I'm cheating.  Saturday evening worship is new to our family.  We've long attended weekly church services on Sunday morning.  This year brought the beginning of Youth Group activities for our oldest child.  

Our church holds the youth service on Sunday evenings and they take over all the rooms where the elementary kids usually meet. This means, our younger children cannot have their lesson at the same time our older child has his lesson.  Saturday evening has been our answer.  Our oldest attends the regular church service with us on Saturday night while the younger two head off to their worship service/lesson.  This allows our oldest to break up his time at church - and alleviates Mom & Dad from the back and forth shuffle on Sundays.

This new worship time has been a great blessing to our family that we wouldn't have made a priority if it weren't for the Youth Group meeting time.  This season, our children are involved in sports that take place most of the day on Sundays - none of which are at the same locations or close by.  Each location is an hour away.  None of the game times overlap, so we really do spend the entire day driving or at these events.  But, with the advent of Saturday Evening Worship, we aren't missing time to worship with a body of believers!

As a result, the time we're spending 
 on Saturday at church gives us time 
 on Sunday to reflect 
on the message we've heard.  
It's time we didn't have before to unpack the sermon.  It's one of those happy accidents that's been a huge blessing to our family on many levels.
Do you need to shake up your worship routine for your family?  Has it become routine?  Encountering Christ should be a regular part of your life, but should never feel routine.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Praying for One More

Recently I posted about praying for and with the kids each morning before they head out to school.  We pray for someone else each time we circle up, too.  We pray for Tamimy.  Tamimy is our adopted child through Compassion International.  Tamimy joined our family about two years ago and we've been praying for him, writing to him, and supporting him financially ever since.

How do I remember to pray for him?  Whenever I pray for my own children, about anything, I pray for Tamimy.  I don't have to know exactly what's going on with him and his life to offer him up to God.  God already knows!  I pray for his safety, his family, his schooling, his health, his spiritual walk.  I pray that he and his family have enough to eat; that he has time to play; that he has friends.  I pray that his teachers are kind and he likes school.  I pray all sorts of things for this little boy.

I admit, I wasn't faithful about writing to him like I should.  And if you know me, you know I'm worse at using the postal service than I am about returning phone calls - and I'm terrible at returning phone calls!! One day I was visiting the Compassion website to learn more when I found out that sponsored children have a chance to write to their sponsor every Saturday.  If they hadn't received a letter - they were "left out."  I was crushed with guilt.

I could only imagine my little guy saddened that other children were receiving and reading great blessings from their sponsor family while he sat by idly.  Crushed, I tell you!  Then I saw it ... I the link to send a letter ONLINE.  Now, that's something I could get onboard with!  I bookmarked the page, set up an online account, and put a reminder on my Google calendar.  Now, every Wednesday, I type up a letter to Tamimy.  The online feature even lets me upload a picture, if I want.  My children will often wander by while I'm writing to him and ask to send him a letter.  Now, he's getting lots of mail from us - along with our daily prayers.

Learn about how Compassion works today!
Sponsor a Child

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Self-Imposed Exile

Do you ever periodically become overwhelmed with life that you retreat for a while?  You know, where you pull back from as much as possible and just surround yourself with the solace of family or work or cooking - that which feeds your soul.  A place that is safe and devoid of conflict or drama.  I find I do this self-imposed exile a couple times a year.  I retreat to the confines of my home surrounded by my family for refreshment.  I take time to watch movies and read with my kids.  I sit and talk with the hubs.  We figure things out together.  I organize rooms, clean closets, put things in order.

Any good shrink will tell you, that you put things in order in your home when things are "out of order" in your life. My mom used to re-arrange the house all the time!  Ha!

So, while I'm entrenched in family or accomplishing tasks, I'm thinking about the situations in life I'm retreating from.  You might read this as running away.  You'd probably be right!  I recently heard a sermon on how Moses ran away to the middle of the dessert after committing murder.  He had this self-appointed exile for 40+ years.  Now, I'm not that extreme - and I haven't committed murder, so my brief retreats to restore my mind/body/spirit seem appropriate to my suburban-homemaker life.

The thing about exile is that something has to change if you plan on returning.  A change in perspective, a shift in values, cutting things out of the schedule, removing yourself from other peoples' lives.  Or maybe you need to start something: intentionally investing in relationships around you, exercise, healthy eating, getting a pet, volunteering, writing, reading, daily time with God.  Your lists on either side, pairing down or adding value could go on ad nauseam.

What needs to change?  Since, I continue to indulge in these extended retreats, I'm not sure I've figured out the answer - or what needs to change isn't truly within my realm of control - or what needs to change, keeps evolving (life is a journey, you know!).  If it's not within my realm of control or keeps changing, I have to just figure out how to deal with my circumstances along the way.  Roll with it.  Continually realign my perspective with what's right and true.  If I'm just putting myself in the same situations again and again - that's a different story:  if you keep doing things the same way, you'll continue getting the same results - which, by the way, is defined as insanity.

This go 'round, I'm reminding myself of what true friendship is.  True friendship isn't self-serving and isn't limited by distance.  I'm identifying the blessings in my life - we live in a world of excess - and our family, our community has so much.  I'm finding my way back to surrender - fully leaning on God - which is exactly where He wants me.

Wondering how you retreat - how you find refreshment - what life lessons you learn along the way - and how often (like me) you might have to learn the same lesson.

Monday, September 17, 2012

No Toys at the Table

We have a standing rule in our home: no toys at the table.  Toys, in my world, is a very broad term.  It's anything that poses as a distraction during our mealtime.  It could be a stuffed animal, toy car, or doll - but it could also be a stack of papers, pencils, scissors, etc.  And parents/teens aren't off the hook either - smartphones, iPods, iAnything ... they are all off limits at our table.

Why?  I'm so glad you asked.  Like I said, it's a distraction.  When the kids were small, distractions meant messes.  Something got spilled.  The spoon missed the mouth.  Now that the family is growing older, distractions equal disengagement: not talking because the mind is elsewhere.  Tuned out, in other words.

We use every mealtime to connect.  We do our best to stay away from yes/no questions that result in a grunt of sorts from boys.  We celebrate everyday victories.  We share high points and low points.  We share other people's successes from the day.  We make plans.  We teach etiquette.  We squeeze every bit out of mealtime we possibly can.

Is this a daily thing?  As often as it can be.  I sit at the table with my coffee with each of my children before they head out the door.  "What's special for you today?"  "What did you dream about last night?"  Lunches are at school and work.  Sometimes I send a note.  I'm famous for scrawling something on the outside of an apple or banana - usually something corny!

Football season begs the question, "what about when the game is on?"  Let me ask you this question,
How long does having
a meal together really take?
10 minutes?  15 maybe.  Longer with family or friends visiting.  Shorter with infants, toddlers, preschoolers.  Surely you can switch off the game for a few minutes to truly connect with the family.

Isn't that what the DVR is for, anyway?  Pause the show.  Click the record button.  I'm forever telling my kids that they are in charge of the TV, not the other way around.  That goes for all electronics.  It's up to me (the user) to switch off volume on my phone or computer so I'm not distracted by it.

Live committed to the moments you're in.  If you're working - be working, fully focused and productive.  If you're playing - really play, have fun, let go, stop working in your mind.  When you're with family - be there, invest in those relationships.

How do you make the most out of
mealtimes with your family?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pause with Prayer

I pray for my children daily.  Each morning we circle up to pray for the day ahead.  I ask them, "What do you have going on today?" or "What do you want to pray for today?"  They often reply with special things happening that day, "I have band for the first time today.  I hope it's fun!"  "I have music today - I hope I get a music fuzzy."  "We have a math test today."  "We meet with our buddy class today."  It's a great way to hear about what they are anticipating for the day and to hit the pause button before they run down to the bus stop.

Their response always gives me a chance to respond with a question to learn a little more about their prayer request, too.  "What are you excited for about band?"  "How do you get fuzzies?"  "Are you ready for the math test?"  "Who's your buddy?"  Short, but meaningful conversations in the midst of an often busy morning routine help us really connect before we all go about the day's events.

Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch) offers a fabulous email resource to support you in praying for your child and their school.  It comes daily to your email with a prayer complete with fill-in-the-blanks.  Sometimes the email is a prayer for your child, other children, school staff, school, or yourself.  I receive the email and read it aloud, inserting my kids names into it - or whomever else it might be designated for.

This was today's email:
Add the name of a child you know in the verse below.
Lord, may _____ know that the very hairs on his/her head are all numbered. May he/she not be afraid; may _____ know that he/she is valuable to You.
From Luke 12:7 (NLT)

I love this form of prayer for me to intentionally pray for all the things surrounding my children as they move through their school-life.  You can join the Worldwide Prayer Movement at:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School - Finding Balance

You know that Staples commercial where the parent is shopping for school supplies while the Christmas tune plays merrily in the background, "It's the most wonderful time of the year ...."?  Well, that's not me this year.

This is probably the very first year I was not ready to send my children back to school.  We were busy all summer long with sports and camps that we never did really get a vacation together.  We were up early with a schedule all but the last two weeks of summer.  Did my kids squabble?  Yes.  Did they complain of boredom?  Yes.  Did they miss friends and routine?  Yes.  But we had such a great time together all summer long, none of us wanted to return to the "grind."

We longed for routine, friendships, the more fun parts of the school year, but not the homework, backpacks, locker combinations, and lunch packing.  We had enjoyed practices and games that were the main focus of the day instead of squeezed into the week.

This school year, my prayer for our family is to find balance.  We need the routine of the school year coupled with the downtime of summer.  When we work, we will focus and commit.  When we play, we will really play.  You cannot play with a smartphone in your hand, checking email.  Our adventures do not need to be instantly uploaded via Instagram.

What does "balance" mean to you and your family?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Crunch

I've heard, "Whoever talked about the lazy days of summer didn't have children."  Well, there's a resounding AMEN to that phrase in our home again this summer.

Our children all participate in one of the local summer swim clubs which gives us early morning wake ups.  We are up, out the door, and at the pool earlier than we get up during the school year.  That is somehow just so, so wrong.  The only saving grace is that the kids just throw on a suit and go.  Goggles and towels are hung by the door so we grab 'em on our way out.  It's a painless as possible for the non-early riser.

I use the time they are swimming to squeeze some exercise into my day, too.  Yes, SQUEEZE.  Because despite not having "anything to do" all summer, "the days," as Calvin & Hobbes puts it, "are just packed!"  I run/walk with some other moms squeezing exercise into their day, too.  I plan on doing it everyday, so I usually get three or four mornings out of it - given schedule hiccups.

My boys are on summer lacrosse leagues for the first time this year.  So we bookend our early swim team mornings with lacrosse practices or games.  Last week, my oldest son had a game at 9PM!  I'm usually powering down for the night by then.  Combining this new lacrosse schedule for our family with Saturday meets, Wednesday night meets, and lacrosse tournaments ... the days are long.  And now that it's July, the days are hot, steamy, and sticky, too.

At least we have the middle of the day, right?  Yep!  You bet.  Well, sort of.  After that morning Olympic year workout, those kids are spent.  The next couple hours are spent being as lazy as humanly possible and still drawing breath.  The afternoons are filled with library trips, bike rides, forest wandering, $1 movies, PlayStation, Just Dance, lots of crafts (for the girl child), more swimming, Monopoly, poker, and the occasional nap.  Accompanied by the usual bickering I assume is standard issue for all out-of-school siblings.

We are squeezing as much of summer as we can into the middle of the day.  In a few short weeks, the swim season will wind up, the kids will head off to sleep away camp, and the remainder of August will be spent finally sleeping in.  It will be insanely delightful.  We are all looking forward to it.  Until then, we crunch along.

The Total and Complete Upside:  Relishing in these days of summer while my kids are still underfoot, wanting to play with me, wanting me to sit and watch a movie with them, wanting my company - I will drink it in like a soothing tonic.  These months are clicking by just too fast for me ... I heard tale of Back to School sales beginning.  I just shake my head.  With all the running and the less than lazy days, I'll take the kids and crunch over empty bedrooms any day (and twice on Sunday).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quick & Easy Pleasing Dinner

Practice schedules and late work nights wreak havoc on everyone's schedules.  Ours is no different.  Here's what we had for dinner tonight.  For those of you with peanut allergies, my condolences.  DH and I could lick the bowl clean on this one!

  • Rotisserie chicken (from Costco) cut into cubes
  • Apple slices & Sugar snap peas
  • Bagels cut into cubes
  • Skewers for dipping in Easy Peanut Satay

Easy Peanut Satay
Combine 1/2 c smooth or chunky peanut butter
3/4 c half n half (could substitute coconut milk or plain milk)
3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
dash of garlic seasoning
2 tsp grated onion or 1/2 tsp dry onion
3 tbs soy sauce
(optional: splash of fish sauce)

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan over medium low heat.  You can give everyone their own dipping bowl or share.  The kids love anything they can dip.  And yes, the apples, snap peas, and bagels all got dipped, too.  YUM!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Banana Muffin Goodness - Mix Up Some Love!

I mixed these up spur of the moment last week in less than five minutes.  They bake up in less than 15 when you use the mini muffin pan (or your convection oven).  The kids loved 'em.  I'm going to make them again tomorrow adding mini chocolate chips to the concoction!!

What I like about this recipe:  I can assemble all the dry ingredients in the blender at night, add the wet in the morning, and VOILA!  What I love about this recipe: it's made in a blender and you pour it into the muffin tin!  What makes this recipe even better: no flour!

The Toothpaste Tube

When I brush my teeth every morning, I scrape off the hardened mass at the end of the toothpaste tube.  My DH doesn't put the top on.  Today, I bought new toothpaste, the kind with the top attached - a flip top.  While this toothpaste may not have saved my marriage, it is the little things that mean so much!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say this--those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,”
Psalm 107:2

Sinful pasts, hurt-filled relationships, broken before man and God.  It is not that we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and move on; it is God’s Spirit at work in our lives that redeems us.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD say this – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.”  When you have been redeemed, you share your good news with everyone.  You’re excited and it’s contagious!

Who is the foe?  The Enemy, Satan.  Satan would like nothing better than for us to get caught in the vicious cycle of negative relationships and heavy baggage.  His great ploy is that we have plenty of time to deal with it.  Now is the time!  Be redeemed!  Be set free!  Soar and to God be the Glory!

As you prepare for this weekend, continue reading a few more verses, Psalm 107:1-15.  Thank God for his unfailing love and his wondrous deeds.  He satisfies, he breaks chains.  He truly does set us free to fly!

Stephanie Morris, Mom Encourager


“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1b

Yesterday, we stopped worrying about our belongings, knowing the perfect abundance we’d live in with Christ.  Today, we continue our theme by throwing off “everything that hinders us,” so that we may live a life already “marked out for us,” by Christ.

If we do not cast off our hindrances, we may not be able to even find the path marked out for us.  Scripture tells us the path is certain, “marked out.”  And it tells us how to follow the path, by removing ourselves from sin that “so easily entangles” us.  This is a familiar sin; the one where we’re perched at the edge of the proverbial slippery slope.  My easily entangled sin is different from yours, but we must both stand vigilant keeping it off the path.  We must keep pulling the weeds, so our path remains clearly marked.  To stay on the path, we must “run with perseverance.”  Run is active – it’s continual.  We must persevere in keeping sin at bay – it’s not a one-time thing.

Continue reading a bit further, Hebrews 12:1-3.  Cast off the sin that so easily entangles choosing freedom to run the great race marked out before you.

Stephanie Morris, Mom Encourager

Monday, March 19, 2012

“Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.”
Gen. 45:20 NIV

Isn’t funny how when we have God fully present in our lives, nothing else really matters? All the little things, that may have loomed large, don’t seem quite so daunting. In Genesis 45 Joseph is reunited with his family and they join him in Egypt, where he now rules the land.

Pharaoh decrees Joseph’s family not to worry about their belongings, because they will have all the best things in Egypt. This scene is one of restoration, declaring freedom from past sins.  When we deal with our past, our sins, and bring it before God, he reclaims us, restores us, and refines us. Suddenly, the stuff of our life seems pale when we relish in the Glory and Mercy of our Great God.

Never mind about the stuff, it’s time to be redeemed. It’s time for a fresh anointing! As you prepare for our weekend together, “never mind about your belongings,” and know that God frees you from all sin.

Stephanie Morris, Mom Encourager

First in a series for Blacksburg Women's Conference.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Middle

I'm a big believer in ending well.  As 2011 drew to a close, New Year's Eve day/night was no different.  "How will we spend the day?"  "Who will we ring in the New Year with?"  These were important questions for me.

We spent the day beginning the De-Santification process (please go watch The Santa Clause 2 if you are unfamiliar with this term).  We did not finish.  In fact, it barely looks like we got started.  This is a blessing to us.  Usually, when we undertake a task, we run like the wind. Pacing ourselves hasn't been our strong suit - and so we ended 2011 with a more relaxed air about us.  Success!

True Relaxation at Work!
This relaxed atmosphere is something we've been cultivating in 2011, despite the rapid pace of our schedule.  We are vowed to living in the moment.  Winter Saturdays are filled with back-to-back-to-overlapped basketball games.  When it's Saturday, we all have on our game face to get where we need to be and be fully present in the game.  When it's over, we're committed to rest, relaxation, and resting on our laurels - if only for the day.  

New Years Eve!  We rang in the New Year with friends.  I'm always surprised at how our circles change from season-to-season or year-to-year.  Don't get me wrong, there are always a few families who we continue to journey through life together - but many others ebb in and out of our lives as we do theirs.

This year, we celebrated with families with whom we are building great friendships.  We are learning lots about each other with each new outing or activity.  And, as friendships go, we are beginning to do "nothing" together - which is a true sign of a maturing friendship - not always filled with "something to do," but rather, just enjoying one another's company.

As soon as 2011 ended, 2012 was upon us; I guess, I'm into beginning well, too.  Beginnings are scary - filled with the unknown, great anticipation, and great possibility.  I am filled with immeasurable anticipation for what this year brings.  Some friends will come home from deployments, others will head out.  Some friends are repairing marriages; some are beginning their life with children!  In our home, we are beginning Middle School, moving to double digits, sleep away camps, travel sports, and new ministry.  It's a year full of hope and promise and the ability to fail publicly and go down in flames.

Thinking about what 2012 holds, brings me to the Middle.  That's where all the stuff really happens.  Those are your highs and your lows.  Middle is where you make your memories.  When does the Middle start?  Does it start right after that cherished midnight kiss?  My Middle begins tomorrow - when school, work, and schedules resume. My middle is filled with packing lunches, helping with homework, shuttling the kids to and fro, planning vacations, and plenty of trips to Costco. I'm hoping our Middle is filled with awesome highlights that will bless our family tremendously.  I'm praying God will do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

I hope you all had a promising start to the New Year, left no regrets in 2011, and are ready to embrace your Middle.  Be encouraged - you're not alone, we're all in this Middle together.