Heart of the Matter

It’s the time of year when it’s hard to walk into any store: grocery or department and not notice a host of hearts. From t-shirts to boxes, hearts adorn most every surface reminding us that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. One favorite confection certainly speaks to the heart of Valentine’s: conversation hearts. Every year eight billion, yep, that’s billion with a B, hearts tucked neatly away in heart-covered boxes line the shelves of our favorite stores. That is 100,000 pounds of sugar, and most stores sell out within six weeks of stocking the shelves. The original hearts, from over 100 years ago, heralded pleasant platitudes like “Married in Satin, Love will be Lasting” or “Married in White, Love will be Right.” The sayings got shorter as the years progressed and “Be Mine” and “Love’s Kiss” became more popular. A recent update currently leaves us with modern versions of “Tweet Me,” “Text Me,” and “Soul Mate.” It is a fun way to communicate our affection with a favorite confection.

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Fasting As a Spiritual Discipline

My journey into fasting began nine years ago with a simple prayer after a study of Nehemiah: “Lord break my heart for what breaks yours.”  What followed this simple, sincere prayer was a whirlwind of soul searching, seeking, and studying.  Not a Fan, Follow Me, Interrupted, Radical, and 7 are just a few of the books I devoured.  One book, 7, which was an invitation to practice 7 types of spiritual fasts forever changed my view on fasting, which forever changed my life.  

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The Longest Day

It’s the time of year when many of us reflect on all the events of the previous year: the highs, the lows, the mundane, and the unexpected. As many of us look back on 2020, we are likely to see more time spent in the valleys than on the mountaintops. Storms ravaged my state followed by a pandemic that put the globe on pause, yet despite all this year has thrown our way, one day stands alone as the most unforgettable day of the year and perhaps, my life. August 20, 2020. My family and I have kept the events of that day close to our vest because honestly, it kept us all reeling. We’ve spent months trying to put the pieces of our brokenness back together, to undo the damage of careless words, overlooked pain, and a heart so heavy and hopeless that it wanted to die.

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Announcing….

This quarantine has given us the gift of time, and in that time, I’ve been contemplating some dreams that have gotten shoved to the side in the crush of busyness that has become everyday life for so many.  They’ve gotten lost amidst the grocery lists, to-do lists, work, homeschooling, and so many other wonderful, worthy endeavors.  In this time of quieter days and less harried schedules, though, these dreams have been springing up like the green shoots of new life that welcome this season, and I’ve been listening and praying that if this vision of mine is shared by God for me that He would give voice to the vision.

I love stories; I love listening to stories, and I love telling stories.  This love is what led me to major in journalism in college.  I longed to become the next Ken Burns or Charles Kuralt or the first female storyteller in this genre of journalism, but along the way, life happened, and I lost sight of that goal.  Now, with YouTube and blogs, this dream is much easier to grasp.  I am announcing the birth of a YouTube channel to accompany my blog where I hope to tell stories of inspiration and overcoming.  So I invite you to join me on this journey.  Some coming attractions are a series on anxiety, where my daughter and I share our journey with this debilitating disorder, a series on female small business owners, book reviews, and other educational content.  It is much like my blog, a place where I share what I hope are valuable lessons that I’ve picked up on this sojourn through life.  I hope you will join me.  Welcome to Stickseeds, the Channel

Like and subscribe to my blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

The Tragedy of the Golden Egg

This is a special guest post.  My daughter Annie’s short story 🙂

“Today is the day” said Scarlett.

Emily raised her head up, “What’s today?” she asked through a mouthful of goldfish.

Scarlett gasped, “It’s the Easter egg hunt today, and the golden egg will be mine this year! We are going to crush those puny kids!”

“Aren’t we too old to be doing stuff like that?”

Scarlett grabbed the closest thing to her, which was a pillow, and threw it at Emily. She fell down, picked up the pillow and threw it back. Scarlett pushed the static-y red hair out of her face after the pillow hit it. She got up, grabbed Emily’s hand, and ran down stairs. Continue reading “The Tragedy of the Golden Egg”

What I’m Learning In the Storm

Unknown-2Can I be completely honest for a minute?  This week has been difficult for so many.  I know it has been more difficult for those in the frontlines of fighting this disease, and I don’t want to take away from that fight. While my troubles this week pale in comparison to that, it doesn’t diminish the financial toll this is taking on so many.  My husband has spent most of his week trying to secure a Payroll Protection Loan for his company; he’s attempted to file for unemployment only to be denied.  Our doors have been closed for over two weeks, and who truly knows when this safer at home order will end?  We have no income, and rent for our three stores is past due; vendors are trying to collect payment on invoices.  And this post doesn’t even cover the anxiety or sadness from the toll of the disease itself on so many in the world. We also have our own bills to pay like most families in America who ride this wave of uncertainty in the same boat we occupy, a boat that seems to have no captain, no lifejackets, and no oars, so we drift aimlessly until we either see the salvation of the lighthouse or run ashore and watch our boat splinter to pieces on the jagged coast.

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Finding Time to Read With Your Children

If you asked my children (or anyone who’s close to me) to describe me, I have no doubt their list would include:

  1.  She loves to serve Jesus through volunteering.
  2. She’s clumsy.
  3. She LOVES to read.

Pretty accurate assessment of their mom.  Anyone who knows me can attest to my love of reading and to the importance I place on reading with my children.  In fact, I’ve written about how important time spent reading with your children is here. While most of you don’t doubt the importance of reading with your kids, you may be wondering where to find the time.

I hear you.  Finding time for our children to read or for us to read with our children can be difficult.  It seems our schedules are crammed with activities from sun-up to sun-down, but it is possible to find more time than you think to read with your kids, especially this summer.  Here are a few tricks I’ve discovered to make the most of our time. Continue reading “Finding Time to Read With Your Children”

Creating a Culture of Learning This Summer

As end of school busyness ramps up to a frenzied pace, it’s hard to imagine that the lazier, slower days of summer are just a few weeks away.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to be more intentional in my parenting, and I’m looking forward to the slower pace of summer to implement that resolution even more deliberately. I find it is sometimes so easy to get caught up in the activity of life as my children and I run from one event or task to the next that taking the time to mindfully consider the goals I want to create or the character traits that I want to cultivate in my children get lost in the shuffle of everyday living.  This summer my goal is to create an environment of intentionality in my parenting that hopefully fosters a culture of education, where I continue to model for my children that learning is both a lifestyle and a lifelong endeavor.

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Looking Ahead with Joy

It’s that time of year again:  time to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future.  New Year’s Day, while it should be brimming with expectation, is often wrought with self-evaluation and melancholy reveries of what might have been.  This past year has been lovely, yet tough:  tough in a we moved two years ago and opened a brand new business and are hanging on by a thread financially tough.  Yet, lovely, remarkable, even, in what my husband and I have learned about our God, ourselves, and each other through the struggle.the-road-1361700-640x480

Every year, my husband, kids, and I draw up a list of resolutions, practical goals, we believe that will improve us in some way:  read four books a month, walk three times a week, fight with my brother less (we are still waiting on this one to take effect.)  For me, resolution setting also involves a great deal of prayer, and every year, I expect God to simply speak into existence my resolution.  For instance, help me get fitter, and voila, I wake up fitter, or help me be a better steward of my money, and voila, I am within the budget every month.  This past year has taught me more than any other that God doesn’t transform that way.  I know, I’m a stubborn one, and though, I’ve known this to be true my entire life, I still pray that I will somehow be transformed into the woman of my dreams overnight, weird quirks- gone, extra weight- gone, bad habits- done.  James 1: 2-4 says, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  And Romans 5:1-4 states, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we  also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  It seems that while God could clearly transform me in an instant, He is big on process because He is more concerned with our holiness and character than our comfort.

I’ve always been a bold pray-er.  After this past year, though, I’m not going to lie; I may have called into question my boldness because God has been faithful in answering in unanticipated ways.  While it may not be the way I would have hoped He would answer, looking back, I see that prayers I have been praying for years have been answered this year in mighty ways.  Yet, they’ve all been answered through trial, and you know what, I would not trade one minute of the trial for the results.  Easy and comfortable produce arrogance and self-dependnece while struggle and trial produce humility and dependence on God.  I’ll take the second every time.

Help Me Be More Humble

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6.  I’ve never considered myself an arrogant person, but the past few years have revealed to me that the stock I place in my accomplishments, the praise I crave for a job well done, the desire to do it all and all by myself are glaring symptoms of pride.  Recently, I heard 1 John 2: 16-17: For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride in one’s lifestyle- comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  I’ve probably heard or read this verse one thousand times, but this time conviction at the phrase “pride in one’s lifestyle” fell on me like an anvil.  I often feel a sense of pride when I look at what I’ve been able to accomplish in life, especially my academic or career achievements, as if I created my gifts and talents myself.

This past year, my daughter was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and ADHD.  Our journey has been a long, difficult one that has often taken an emotional and spiritual toll on Travis, A, C, and me.  (More about this on a later post) In context of this past year, though, God has opened my eyes to how I don’t have all the answers, I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t have to be.  While I strive to keep everything looking like Mary Poppins runs our household, there are times that I am barely keeping it together.  My children don’t always behave in the way I’d like.  I don’t always know how to help my baby girl respond to the crushing anxiety she experiences on a regular basis, and that’s ok.  Through His grace, God has used our situation to humble me into complete dependence on Him.  Where I am weak, He is strong.  Where I can’t take it another minute, He steps in and shoulders the load.  When I am foolish in understanding, He gives wisdom.  When I get overwhelmed and want to give up, He gives me the endurance to keep going.  Walking with my girl through this has shown both A and me God’s faithfulness and how His power is truly perfected in our humble weakness.

Help Me Be a Better Steward of My Finances

I’ve been praying this one for years.  I just always felt this nagging sense that I tend to overspend, usually in the form of therapy.  Y’all, I get a thrill from purchasing seasonal scented Method household cleaner, even though I have three bottles under my sink from last year.  I tend to believe if I buy a cute sweater, it will somehow mapiggy-bank-2-1241226-639x651ke me look like I’ve magically achieved the body of my dreams, but just like all the other sweaters, it’s about what’s underneath that keeps me frowning at the image in the mirror.  God calls us to be good caretakers of all with which He has so generously blessed us.

Two years ago, we moved to Nashville to open a new business.  For anyone who’s ever opened a new business, you can feel my pain.  My husband and I are both self-employed entrepreneurs, and oftentimes, that means everyone else gets paid before we see a dime. The past two years have been tough, but we never really put into motion a plan.  This past October my wise husband came to me and said, “We need to list out our priorities and focus on those things that really matter.”  A few weeks later, “We need to stop using the credit card and come up with a cash only budget.”  Internally, my stomach knotted and my heart sank because I now saw in black and white how tight money was, but I also knew he was right.  The only way to get our financial house in order was to face hard facts.  Since that conversation, God has revealed to me areas where I spend needlessly, areas where if we sacrificed temporarily, we could reap real gains that mattered later.  If we stopped giving in to the world’s call of instant gratification and said “no,” we could patiently wait until we could pay cash to purchase those things that were desires not needs.

Living with no instant credit is teaching us so much about patience; it is teaching our kids to think before they purchase, to discern the difference in a need and a want.  It is also making us more aware of how our purchases affect others; it makes us more globally aware and forces us to look outward rather than always looking in.  God is also showing how faithful He is in providing us what we need when we need it.  More than anything, financial scarcity is teaching us true dependence on God.  He has us exactly where He wants us, looking to Him rather than to ourselves for provision, and He always provides in clever, creative ways that delight us.

Grow My Husband and Me Spiritually

Another prayer I’ve been praying for years is that Jesus would truly be enough for me, that my husband and I would grow spiritually and in our separate and joint relationship in Christ.  Nothing pushes you to your knees like trial.  Not knowing from day-to-day what to expect, meltdowns from my daughter to no money in the bank, forces you to live in a posture of humble expectation.  My husband and I are learning to turn expectantly to Jesus to meet our every need.  We are being transformed from entitled, prideful, and self-reliant to humble, grateful, and patient.  Y’all this only happened through struggle.  This only came about through trial.  I’ve always said I wanted Jesus to be enough, but until He’s all you truly have then you’ll never discover that He is all you need.  My husband’s faith has grown more in the past year than in the eighteen I’ve known him.  The peace we’ve experienced in the midst of difficulty can only come from a relationship with the Prince of Peace.

I’ve been asked what it means to follow Jesus, what is the “benefit” outside of salvation, as if that weren’t enough to drive us to our knees in gratitude and astonishment.  Friends, until you’ve come to the end of yourself, it is truly hard to understand all the benefits of Jesus.  He is our Provider, Peace-giver, Sustainer, and Friend.  Walking through difficulty pushes us to the end of dependence on our feeble efforts and forces us to look up, to readjust our focus and to lean on Him.  Is trial fun?  No.  Is discomfort appealing?  No.  But how do we stretch and grow until we take that leap of faith and jump out into the unknown, where we find He’s been all along, waiting to catch us and show us that He is indeed enough.  So, in the New Year, I encourage you to embrace the struggles and challenges that God allows to come your way and to face the uncertainty of the New Year with faith.  Rather than: Why me? Speak: What are You trying to teach me?  How are you using this to transform me?  Because our ultimate resolution, truly, should be to look a little more like Jesus at the end of the year, so friends, step into 2019 with joy and anticipation, knowing that whatever comes your way, Jesus walks beside you.

We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18