Do You Ever Get Stuck?

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My morning routine has been sidelined lately by something quite unexpected: my husband!  For most of our marriage (20 years and counting) he has gotten up each week day at the crack of dawn…at o’dark-thirty…before the early bird…you get the picture.  But in the last few months, he has started working out at Gold’s Gym near our house rather than the gym on Luke Air Force Base.  He has changed his workout regimen so that some days he gets up earlier and does a longer workout, other days he gets up a little later and does a shorter workout, some days he has a rest day, some days he works out at home.  And if you are having trouble following what I am saying, imagine how I feel!

I have shared in the past about my idol of perfectionism.  I sought to overcome my natural procrastinator tendencies (read gluttonous wasting of time here) by super adherence to schedules and to do lists (read pride and exaltation of self here).  Neither is a good place for me.  The place of gluttony — whether that is overindulging in shopping or eating or time wasting is a trap for me that leads into a low place.   The place of perfectionism — whether I work a 60 hour week outside the home or I try to be a homeschooling, Bible studying, husband pleasing Martha Stewart…well this is a trap for me too that leads to a low place.  Both extremes cause me to focus on myself: my wants, my desire, my schedule, my list.  The Lord calls me to moderation.

So confession time: these past few weeks I have stumbled.  This roller coaster schedule, first thing in the morning, has been my undoing.  I know that I need to be consistent with my workout time and Bible study and prayer time AND I know I need to be available to my husband as he readies himself for his workday.  Plus, I need to be ready for the rest of my day when my kids get up.  So moms, what gives when push comes to shove?  Your workout?  Your Bible study time?  Your prayer time?  Taking care of your husband?  Your kids’ schedule?  For me, it has been the workout.  And then every few days I have missed my personal time with the Lord.  Since the kids and I do a devotional and scripture memory work together, I have let myself off the hook on this…but I can’t.  This is no way to find #aSimplerJoy !

Today, I started following my own schedule, rather than fluctuating with my husband’s.  I’ll keep you posted, but I am more at peace already.  I got up and worked out right away and then I prayed and read my PinGod1st reading.  I am in between Bible studies with HelloMornings, but starting one at our church this week that I will help lead.  Our church study I will read in the afternoons.

Yes, for me this challenge is about learning to live in moderation.  When I am more schedule minded I have always struggled to choose between tasks and people; the to-do list looms so large that interruptions can cause anxiety.  When I am all about flexibility, inertia causes me to hover, waiting for something else to happen; then I find that everything and anything else is driving my life.

  • The Lord would have me glorifying Him with an active body and mind, while being still in my spirit.  Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)
  • The Lord would have me moving forward, but also willing to stop for His appointments.  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand (Proverb 19:21).
  • The Lord would have me at peace when waiting, always remembering that He never tarries, He never forgets, He never gets sidetracked. But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Is 40:31).
  • I can rest in Him…but I have to be diligent about the work that He gives me. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).

How about you?  Do you ever get stuck?

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Photo Copyright: vadimmmus / 123RF Stock Photo

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Prodigal Living: Emily Thomas

heyemilythomas.com Lam 3.23

This month, in celebration of marking two things off my to do list, we are looking at the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son (Luke 15:11-32).  This summer I wrote a 5 Day Devotional for the Prodigal Daughter, a free gift for you (click here to receive it) and I wrote my first book.  Yippee!!  Keep your eyes open for Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles the Lead Us Back to the Father (release date coming soon).  I am so excited!!  I hope to add a study guide for the eBook soon, as well.

In celebration of all this wordiness, I want to feature some of my favorite bloggers, giving us their take on Prodigal Living, a life drenched in God’s lavish Grace. My friend, artist and blogger Emily Thomas, answered my questions on the topic this way:

  • So often we tend to extremes. I think God calls us to moderation. Do you struggle with “all or nothing” thinking? How has God shown you a better way?

I do struggle with that! I didn’t actually realize it was an issue until I got married. My husband couldn’t be more different than me in his thinking, and so having him around and watching (in amazement) how he navigates life so differently than I would (in most all situations), has been a solid and practical model for a more balanced approach.

  • Name two or three emotions you feel as you read over the parable of the Prodigal Son. How does this story engage your heart? 

Thankfulness, that we have a God who not only engages us, but goes the extra mile and actually LIKES us. Conviction, as I know I have played the role of both sons at different points in my life.

  • In Matthew 22, Jesus calls us to love God first and then to love others before ourselves. Which is easier for you, loving God, or others?

Um, I think I have a pretty big crush on myself actually, but that wasn’t one of the choices. ;) If I had to choose, I would say loving God is easier for me. I know He is faithful and perfect and His plans are ultimately for my good and His glory. People around me are messing up all the time and they are selfish. That collides pretty hard with all the messing up and selfishness I’m up to, so it can get irritating for everyone involved. ;) 

  • Do you think relationships with our parents and siblings can color our view of God or of being part of His family? If yes, can you share about this idea?

Most definitely. Having an absent father really did leave me completely at a loss regarding the roles of Protector and Provider. As a child I couldn’t verbalize it, but I often wondered how important could I possibly be if my own parent didn’t want to see me?  [Experiences like this help us to appreciate the steadfast love of our Heavenly Father, don't they dearie!]

Emily nameplate

I love Jesus, am married to my best friend and I have two kids. After a 6-year struggle with infertility, we have been blessed, through the gift of adoption, to parent the two best kiddos on the planet. No offense to your kids.  I’m sure they are a close second.

Last year, I stopped working as a nurse, and now I stay-at-home with the small Thomases.  Staying home is fun but I like to be busy.  But not too busy.  It’s a delicate balance.  I found I needed an outlet and thus, all the writing. I also love making art and even more, I love helping others get what’s in their heads out onto a canvas and put on the walls of their homes.

Me: I love God, my husband, I spend my days lovingly wrangling all the children, gluing paper to canvases, and writing (at heyemilythomas.com) when I have a hot second. My hope is that when you visit my website, you’ll see all of this in me, and laugh and be encouraged. [Y'all need to subscribe to her updates.  She is really entertaining and encouraging!]

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Are You a Consumer or a Producer?

brittalafont.com Is 648My friend shared an article with me this week: Today’s Culture of Meaninglessness.  And it talks about the changes in our culture, as it moves further away from its Judeo-Christian roots.  Needless to say, it’s a little depressing. But, let me share the part that intrigues me:

  • “If you define a human being as essentially an animal with material appetites … then it’s a very short step to saying, ‘Well, the most important thing is the satisfaction of those appetites,’ and the pursuit of pleasure becomes … the highest good in the culture.”  – Dr. Stephen Meyer.
  • “Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ In our culture, it’s ‘I shop, therefore I am,’ ‘I consume, therefore I am,’” Stonestreet said. “Our culture has convinced us that we are nothing but consumers, [but] what we are made to do is produce. And this might be the most dramatic generational difference between the Greatest Generation (and today).” – John Stonestreet.
  • Most [of today's college] students are looking for meaning in a Godless world – and when they find something to glom on to, they embrace it…[but] We have a culture that’s offering them nothing except playing video games 13 hours a day.” – Dr. Stephen Meyer

I am fascinated with the connection between being a producer, rather than a consumer, and the feeling that life has meaning.  I think the underlying principle of the article is that we are made in the image of our God, and He is a Creator.

And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands (Hebrews 1:10).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

And what occupies our time?  TV or movies?  Shopping? Social Media?  Going out to eat?  Playing video games (even adults)? This article is about secular culture.  But most of us Christians, who know that we are made in the Lord’s image, reflect this secular value of consumerism.

Women!  Think of how our work at home and our hobbies have changed in the last 75 years:  Homemakers used to sew, knit, garden, preserve their homegrown fruits and veggies…and there for a time, there was macrame.  According to Jane Austen, in the best book EVER (Pride and Prejudice, amazon link), an “accomplished woman” of her day (the early 1800’s) was expected to excel in music, singing, drawing, dancing, modern languages, and be well-read.

This is not meant to criticize.  I see that I am more of a Consumer than a Producer.  I watch TV.  I surf the internet and hang out on social media. I love to go out to eat and to shop online. On the other side of things I write, I make graphic mages, I decorate our home for each season, open my home for the ministry of hospitality, I teach women and children at church (and my own for homeschool), and I like to cook new recipes (when I make time for it).

I see now that in my life, I haven’t prioritized producing.  The thing is, being a producer of things is harder, but more rewarding.   The easy thing is to bring the store-bought dessert or a veggie tray for a gathering, rather than making a dish.  Buy the decorations instead of making them.  Listen to the music, instead of learning to make it.

As consumers, my kids love video games and movies.  On the producer side, they both play music.  She loves ballet.  He loves martial arts.  But when they have free time?  They would choose to consume rather than produce (Minecraft just came to our house).  Here is a great article about the downside of that!  My kids and I have the same conflict.  Don’t we all?

Because I am made in God’s image, and meant to reflect that image, I cannot be a more of a consumer than a producer and find #aSimplerJoy.  My mom is a quilter, and I have considered and rejected that.  My mom and dad and sister are all gardeners, but I have had that brown thumb thing.  So I am going to dive into my cooking a bit more.  And me and the kids have just started voice lessons together.  But I am still on the lookout for another hobby.  I have been looking at a tutorials for producer wannabes on Craftsy.  And this week I am signing up with my kids up for the free mini course on figure drawing.    It’s a start!

Here are some creative people that have inspired me in this direction:

How about you?  What are your hobbies?  Favorite creative people?

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Potter Image Copyright: danymages / 123RF Stock Photo

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Prodigal?

brittalafont.com prodigal definition

This month I am sharing with you about Prodigal Living. I am celebrating marking two things off my to-do list!  This summer I wrote a 5 Day Devotional for the Prodigal Daughter, a free gift for you (click here to receive it) AND I wrote my first book.  I can’t believe I just said that!  Hopefully, the first of many.  Getting this baby ready for you has taken longer than I expected (it is especially hard now that we have started our homeschool year).  It is finished, but I am proofing it again and working on the formatting, so keep your eyes open for Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles the Lead Us Back to the Father (probably out in the beginning of November).  I hope to add a study guide for the eBook soon, as well.

Today, I thought it might be good to talk about the meaning of the word Prodigal as we see it in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Parable of the Lost Son, from Luke 15:11-32..  Some of you already know that this title, “Parable of the Prodigal Son”, has fallen out of common use because of a popular book by Tim Keller, The Prodigal God (amazon link).   And others of you have only heard of it as “The Parable of the Lost Son” or “The Parable of the Two Sons.” Jesus Himself opens the story simply with, “There was a man who had two sons” (Luke 15:11).  The word Prodigal never appears in the His narrative.

For most of my life, I thought that Prodigal meant wayward.  I understood the word only from the context of the parable about a son who loses his way, wanders away from his family and right-living, but returns in the end.  I didn’t know the actual definition of the word.  This led me to miss some important things about the story.  There is an interesting lesson here about Bible knowledge.  We can get a little too comfortable with the Bible sometimes, so that we take it for granted.

mosesFor one thing, no matter how long we have studied it, no matter how many Sunday school lessons we have taught, no matter how many verses we have memorized, we must always remain students.  Every mature Chirstian I know says the same thing: when I study the Bible, I constantly learn new things.  It is not one of those books where you can say, “Oh yeah, I read that Book.”

For another thing, we can get confused about what WE bring to the text and what is actually there.  Some of us have a cultural understanding of the Bible that conflicts with the text.  We might get the Moses we read about in Exodus confused with Charlton Heston’s Moses in the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments.  Or we could confuse the Noah in Genesis with Russell Crowe’s Noah.  Books and movies take liberties with the Word.  Friends, Bible teachers, and sometimes even pastors can make mistakes when they instruct us.  For casual readers of the Bible, it is easy to be misled.  Even if we are students of the Word, inaccuracies in the retelling of it can sneak up on us.  We should always approach the Word humbly, ready to see the things we have overlooked or misunderstood in the past.

Next week, I am teaching our kids’ Sunday School class on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  What a neat “coincidence,” to be teaching this story, since several of us rotate.  I am inundated with the idea of being Prodigal.  It will be interesting to hear what the littles have to say about the reading of this Parable.  In my preparation for teaching, I ran across this video.  If you have some young ones at home, you can show it to them and tell them that Prodigal means lavish, extravagant, costly, over the top…and be sure to tell them that God’s love for us is totally Prodigal.  What Good News!

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Prodigal Living: Carey Bailey

This month, in celebration of marking two things off my to do list, we are looking at the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son (Luke 15:11-32).  This summer I wrote a 5 Day Devotional for the Prodigal Daughter, a free gift for you (click here to receive it) and I wrote my first book.  Yippee!!  Keep your eyes open for Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles the Lead Us Back to the Father (release date coming soon).  I am so excited!!  I hope to add a study guide for the eBook soon, as well.

In celebration of all this wordiness, I want to feature some of my favorite bloggers, giving us their take on Prodigal Living, a life drenched in God’s lavish Grace. My friend, Life Coach Carey Bailey answered my questions on the topic this way:

  • In the story of the Prodigal Son (or the Lost Son) of Luke 15, which of the characters (the younger son, the older son, or the Father do you identify with the most)? What strikes a chord with you about this particular person?

For the majority of my life I lived as the older son. I did everything with a sense of perfection to please God and others. I never saw it as pleasing them for me it was simply doing right by biblical standards and that was of value to me because Jesus was my BFF! I had a strong relationship with my parents, God, and Jesus.

As a kid, youth and young adult I read my Bible daily, journaled, was active in church youth group, and was a kind and loving person that never did anything that would get me in trouble. We all want that in our children, right? The place it began to wear me down and out was that I was in constant judgment of others that didn’t live the way I lived. Not to their face but in my mind. My husband and I joke that if I had met him any earlier than I did he would have been banned from my interest list simply because of what I would have deemed “bad choices” he made in high school and college.

It wasn’t till I was in my late 20’s till this way of being caught up with me. It took walking through the pain of what holding others and myself to crazy high standards was doing to my mind and heart for me to finally feel grace in the truest form. Through some intense counseling and self-care I finally knew how to offer grace up to others or at least I knew how to try. It doesn’t mean who I was early on in my life was fake. I look back and believe I still would have been perceived as a “good girl”. But it does mean I would have gifted myself and others a bit more room to breath around me and be themselves.

  • Do you think birth order plays a role in personality? Where are you in the birth order of your family? Or have you seen it play out in your kids? How?

I do think birth order plays a role in our personality. I know way to many firstborn perfectionist and I am watching my firstborn live it out as well. I don’t encourage my 6 year old’s perfectionist tendencies, but they have been alive and well in him since he was itty bitty.

At the slightest rise of a voice or correction he folds with anguish all over his face. As he does school work or projects, it always has to be just right for him or we are doing it again. At one point we had to put him on a break from Legos because they were causing tears when he couldn’t do it perfectly. We have worked with him on saying “It doesn’t have to be perfect. We just try our hardest.” because my heart broke watching these tendencies in him develop.  I do believe they are a natural part of how he is wired and that will simply be the way it is but if I can support him in understanding that I don’t desire perfection and neither does God. But I 100% expect him to walk his own road towards being able to fully comprehend grace in the fullest extend of the word.

Will I try my hardest to share my own journey as he grows up? You bet! But some lessons will have to be learned on his own just as the Prodigal Son did.

  • What kind of Father is God, in your eyes?

I most relate to God as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). There is no understanding Him,  no better descriptor for Him. He is who He is and my only role is to have faith in His ability to love us beyond any earthly definition. That seems super short and sweet, but that really is the only way for me to comprehend the vastness of God and how He works in this world.

  • In Matthew 22, Jesus calls us to love God first and then to love others before ourselves. Which is easier for you: loving God, or others?

It is so much easier for me to love God than others. I love God with all of my heart. At one point in my life I thought I could have been a nun because I do that so well. Loving others takes so much effort. I have to let them in to know me and I have to be willing to know them. With God it seems easy…He already knows me…the good and the bad.

My personal mission statement is to Love God. Reflect Jesus. It helps me frame the action part of who I am and what I do in the context of Christ. How would He respond to the homeless person I am pulling up to on the road? How would He respond to my defiant 4 year old? How would He respond to my husband who just asked for help with something while I want to watch a show? By running things through that filter I am able to love others better than I have in the past.

love God reflect Jesus

IMG_1814-2Carey Bailey is a woman who loves to dance around the living room with her husband to Michael Jackson, loves Blue Bell Pralines and Cream ice cream, loves reading to her kids in a tree house, and loves having Jesus as her BFF!

She is self professed candy junkie but sugar will never match her deep desire for helping women satisfy their cravings for abundant life. She does this through life coaching, speaking, and by sharing a one-of-a-kind devotional she authored, Cravings {The Devotional}.

You can connect with Carey through her web-site, facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

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