Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life


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6 Wonderful Things I Learned on my August Crazy Train

August crazy train

Even when life turns into a crazy train, God never leaves us for a moment. August was a whirlwind.  My husband went to El Salvador for 3 weeks to see his mother before she went to heaven. My kids and I emptied two bedrooms in our house in Izmir for the people who will rent it nine months. We packed our suitcases, said our goodbyes, and flew to Dallas, where we rejoined Jose. Then we spent two weeks on the road before finally landing in Mesquite, Texas.

August was topsy turvy, but I learned a few things:

1. We Really CAN Do All Things Through Christ

Life looked daunting on August 1st as I grieved for my mother-in-law and missed my husband’s company and practical help during our move. But God reminded me to trust Him for grace and strength as I did the next task in front of me each day. The hardest thing was when my daughter’s guinea pig, Robin, died.  I cried more than Camilla did as we drove to a nearby forest to bury him.  In 100 degree heat the two of us managed to dig a hole in rocky soil. Sweet Robin was gone, but we had one more reason to marvel at God’s enabling grace.

2. No Treasure Outweighs Family and Friends.

I was gladder than glad to see my brother Richard at the Dallas airport. We spent a week laughing and having fun with my two brothers’ families and my mom. Then we went to Austin to visit my home church, where I have friends who go back 30 years. Spending time with people you’ve known forever refreshes you like nothing else.

3. Attitude is Everything

Okay, so I wasn’t looking forward to 2 weeks on the road, 4 suitcases, 3 driving days, and 4 different houses. But you know what? I remembered how my stinking attitude affected my whole family when we made a similar trip last year. I decided to try a fast from complaining and to choose gratitude each day.  I enjoyed our trip so much more this time around.

4. There’s a Time for Everything

We took our oldest son Andres to Baylor University and got him settled in. He was so excited to start his new life that he hardly said goodbye when it was time to leave. I realized I’d miss my son terribly, and I cried when we drove off. The next morning, God spoke to me through Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything…” He reminded me that it’s time for my 18 year old man child to start college, and it’s time for me to embrace a new stage.

5. Family Heirlooms Connect You to Your Roots

When we arrived at our new home in Mesquite, where we’ll spend 9 months, culture shock set in. The house, beautifully furnished, was a gift from God, but it was a long way off from Izmir, Turkey. What were we doing here? My parents gave us several family treasures for our new house. My daughter and I unpacked my grandmother’s china together and hung several paintings. Those gifts reminded us that even in a new place, we have a history, and we know who we are.

6. It’s Never Too Late

After years of being happy enough with our simple cell phones, thank you ma’am, my husband and I finally broke down and got smart phones. We had fun discovering all the whistles and bells. It feels like we finally joined the 21st century!

6 things I want to remember pin

I hope September will be slower, but I’m grateful for the ways God blessed me last month even when life got crazy.

Now comes the best part of this post: What did you do or learn in August?

Linking up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned, Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesdayKelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup,  Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

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The Beauty of In-Between

Finding God in your everyday

This is the last post of  “Finding God in Your Everyday,” a series highlighting how God shows himself to us in our everyday, messy lives. This week’s guest is my friend Abby McDonald, a writer with an encouraging message for women who wonder if what they’re doing matters. (I love Abby’s writing. I think you will too!)

The Beauty of In-Between

It was the season of slow.

I pushed my ever-cautious son to try a new activity and he resisted. With further coaxing he took a step forward only to take two steps back.

I submitted my writing to various publications and waited. Then, I waited some more. Weeks passed until finally received a “no” from one with still no response from the others.

Our church prepped for a new outreach geared toward local moms. Anticipation mounted as we discussed plans for our first meeting. Then, more waiting.

One evening as I minced garlic and boiled pasta for dinner I thought, “God, am I really making a difference? I longed to see tangible results, but in ministry and the tedious days of raising children some of our greatest impacts go unseen. We pour love and life into others and hope it will produce fruit, but the real Life-Giver is not of this world.

I needed a sign. I yearned for a little slice of encouragement.

I nearly missed it when it came.

One night a few of my friends gathered around the coffee table in my living room for a direct sales party. Kids romped around the floor and played with the children’s books spread around the room.

“I do this icebreaker at the beginning of all my parties,” the consultant said. I squirmed in my chair. Could we just get on with buying the books?

She asked everyone to name one trait they liked about me. I fidgeted some more, certain my awkwardness was as visible as my chipped toenail polish. If this was what being in the spotlight felt like, perhaps I wasn’t made for it.

One by one my friends named aspects of my personality they were drawn to. And what shocked me and lifted me all at once was this: I didn’t even see it.

They said I was welcoming and always smiling. I saw how I behaved when my kids were fighting. They saw someone who gave a warm “hello.” I saw a mom who diverted her eyes from the acquaintance at the supermarket.

When we focus only on our worst moments, we miss the victories in-between.

And those victories can be as simple as starting a conversation with the new mom who’s visiting your church. It could be offering a smile to the social outcast who your neighbors avoid or helping the widow across the street.

We will never appreciate the pinnacles in life if we don’t value the small, everyday moments connecting them.

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That night, as my friends gathered around my living room floor, eating chips and salsa and chasing little ones, I saw for the first time in months that I was making a difference. But it wasn’t in a way I expected or even realized.

In all my laser focus on the end goal I missed the beauty of the journey.

Leaning back in my recliner I felt a renewed sense of purpose. And it was right there in my home.

Image Abby

Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesdayKelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup, Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeforYourHeart, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

 


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When You Don’t Want What You Get

Finding God in your everyday

Welcome to “Finding God in Your Everyday,” an August blog series. Each Tuesday a different writer shares a story highlighting how God shows himself to us in our everyday, messy lives. This week’s guest is Kristi Woods, a friend with a knack for telling a good story that relates to our spiritual lives.

 

When You Don’t Want What You Get

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. 

Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Luke 22:42 NLT

 

The day bubbled with excitement. Family and friends from miles around gathered with both their presence and their gifts. It was wedding day.

I always had a strong will, a desire to “get what I wanted.” It often created internal turmoil. Wedding day and its subsequent gift opening were no different.

Paper ripped. Ooo’s and ahhh’s filled the air. A cooler, towels, and cookware were revealed. Silverware was as well. I look back at the generosity and can certainly say, “We were blessed.”

But there was one gift that didn’t fit my trivial desire: the silverware. Its nice, somewhat common pattern didn’t match the registry. I was disappointed.

Receiving the unwanted is sometimes life’s reality. Getting what we don’t want is, at times, exactly what we need.

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Mom taught me to be gracious, and I was…on the outside. In the shadow of graciousness, I tucked the new pattern into our silverware drawer and put the utensils to use. Only later did I realize what a perfect fit the new silverware was.

I thought I wanted a sleek, contemporary pattern. It ended up being a horrible solution for my family. It didn’t fit well in either my husband’s or my grip. The nice, sleek pattern slid right out of our hands, and so did the food! So much for function. So much for good.

The pattern that birthed disappointment became the appointed one. Although it wasn’t what I expected or thought I wanted, the gift-giver knew better. (I dearly love that gift giver, by the way.) The silverware was just right for our two-person family; we loved it and used it well.

It’s often best we don’t always get what we think we want – silverware, ministry, talent, or otherwise. It’s best to get what God desires.

Setting his face like flint, only speaking and acting in the Father’s will, Jesus submitted. He trusted. His feet stepped forward in our Father’s will, taking his place upon the cross and showing us the way. Joy found Jesus and us on the other side.

A rejection now can feel heavy, nearly overwhelming, somewhat like the wrong pattern of silverware. But it might be the needed “gift” of strength-building for that which is coming.

The gift of a loving and truthful, albeit slightly hurtful, word from a precious friend might not be a choice selection, but it’s often what our ears and heart need for the race.

Jesus’ death didn’t seem such a glorious gift at its onset. However, his resurrection and ascension proved powerful and beyond compare.

I long to be like Jesus. You too? Having a heart that pumps with trust for my Father’s will and offering an open hand for whatever “silverware pattern” he sets in mine – that’s how I long to be.

The fork and spoon reaction now brings a cringe. It was trivial. But walking in our Father’s will is anything but trivial. Let’s challenge one another to walk there.

Lord, Your way is right and brings life. Show me how to walk in trust, how to have an open hand for your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever gotten something you didn’t want and later realized it was what you needed?

Woods Family_0154

Kristi Woods loves a warm, sunny day and to write, read, and talk all things Jesus. She’s passionate about seeing women walk deeper in their relationship with the Lord and clicks her words of encouragement onto the screen of KristiWoods.net regularly. Kristi, her retired-from-the-military husband, and their three children survived the nomadic military lifestyle and set roots, along with their furry, rescued pets, in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup, Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeforYourHeart, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.


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When Helping Hands Show Up

Finding God in your everyday

Welcome to “Finding God in Your Everyday,” an August blog series. Each Tuesday a special guest will share a story highlighting how God shows himself to us in our everyday, messy lives. This week my talented friend Katie Reid shares her story about real-life “angels.

When Helping Hands Show Up

Sometimes angels come in the form of a sister-in-law with latex gloves, cleaning supplies and a willingness to help.

I wasn’t planning on attending two writing conferences on back-to-back weekends. We weren’t anticipating closing on our house while I was gone and then moving the week between the conferences. But that’s what happened. Continue reading


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God’s Plans Include an Evacuation Route

Finding God in your everyday

Welcome to “Finding God in Your Everyday.” I believe God wants to show us more of himself in our everyday, messy life, not just on Sunday mornings. So each Tuesday in August, a different writer will share a story about God revealing himself to her through a life experience. I hope these stories by women seeking God will encourage you to look for more of Him in your life as well!

My first guest is Kristine Brown from morethanyourself.com. Kristine has a gift for devotional writing and for discerning God’s voice.

God’s Plans Include an Evacuation Route

Packing and preparing a teenage boy for youth camp presents quite a challenge. Especially when I’m attempting to spew out as many directives as possible while stuffing the suitcase full. “Is he even listening?” I ask myself as his eyes glaze over. Continue reading


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How I Almost Lost My Kids in a Circumcision Parade

How I almost Lost my kidsWhen neighbors invited us to their son’s circumcision celebration, we had no idea what to expect. We’d only lived in Turkey 4 months. When we arrived, cars were lining up at the curb with doors open. Kids were piling in, thrilled to participate in a parade to celebrate Necat’s big day. A drum boomed and a clarinet screeched. My 5 year old boy, Andres, immediately jumped into the big red convertible where Necat sat, accompanied by the drummer and horn player.

A neighbor coaxed 3 year old Camille out of my arms and into the convertible.

“Can’t I go with my kids?” I asked.

“There’s not enough room,” she explained. “Don’t worry. They’ll be fine. It’s always the kids’ favorite part of the celebration.”

Horns honking, drum and clarinet playing, the procession took off, and my kids disappeared while I stood at the curb watching…

I’m honored to be guest posting for my friend Katie Reid today. Follow this link to read the rest of the story and find out what a Circumcision Parade has to do with trusting God. While you’re there, have a look at Katie’s beautiful site. She’s a kindred spirit who uses her photography, singing, and writing to point others to Jesus.

I love linking with these communities: Arabah Joy’s #GraceandTruth and Susan B. Mead’s #DancewithJesus.

Join me Tuesday, August 4th for a new blog series:

publicity finding god


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How to Thrive in the Face of Challenge

how to thrive in the midst of challenge

When I met my Salvadoran husband, I had one problem: I’d already fallen in love. With a country.  I’d lived in Istanbul two years and hoped to return. When Jose asked me to marry him, I thought long and hard. Did I love him enough to give up my dream of living in Turkey?

I decided I did. When we married, I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life in El Salvador, eating mangos and learning to love rain.

God had other plans.

I still remember the day we landed in Izmir with 17 suitcases and 2 preschoolers. My husband handled the suitcases; I kept the kids in tow. We moved into a spanking new apartment with dark pistachio green walls (which I did not love.) We unpacked those suitcases and set up house.

Every day we made new discoveries: Turkish coffee, Turkish delight, and Turkish music blaring on the mini-buses we hopped on to get around. We heard the call to prayer, explored open air markets bursting with produce, and learned to love eggplant. We scouted out the surrounding area: beaches, Greek ruins, and olive trees. Olive trees everywhere.

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We loved the people most of all. Friendly neighbors who knocked on the door with plates of cake or stuffed grape leaves. New friends with hospitality we could NEVER outdo. And tea. That went along with the people. We drank lots of tea with our new friends.

I thought God brought me to Turkey to share His love, but He also had other plans.

I thought He would work through me, but He wanted to do a greater work in me.

I’d come to teach others, I didn’t know what God was going to teach me.

I didn’t know how hard it would be. I didn’t know that this country, for all its beauty, can suck the life out of you because it’s a spiritual desert where few know the Savior.

But I looked at the olive trees and figured if they could flourish on this semi-arid landscape, then so could I. My daily quiet time became my life line because God refreshed me each day, even during discouraging times.  My Turkish brothers and sisters were another life saver. In a desert where most people say, “No thanks,” to the waters of eternal life, my faith family reminded me that God was at work. I learned that when we stuck together, met together, prayed together, and worshiped together, our lights shone brighter.

Like those olive trees, I learned to thrive in the face of challenge. (Even though I didn’t always feel like I was thriving.)

Olive Tree Scripture

I don’t have any magic formula, just two secrets so simple that we sometimes overlook them.

1. Make Sure You’re Planted in the Right Place

It’s tempting to center our lives on our calling, family, ministry, or career, but sooner or later those disappoint. We can only flourish if we’re planted in God, with our lives centered on Him and our eyes fixed on Him no matter what.

2. Grow Roots Down Deep

We need God’s Word and God’s Church to grow roots that anchor us down.  As we read God’s Word, as we believe it, speak it, and live it, our roots grow deeper. As we meet with His people on Sundays and during the week at prayer meetings and over coffee, our roots become interconnected. We grow stronger.

What challenges are you facing, friend? Are doubt, discouragement, and unmet expectations knocking on your door? I write this with a prayer for you. We may feel like we’re barely surviving, but as we plant ourselves firmly on the Rock, we become the kind of people that thrive no matter what.

Now it’s your turn:  Has God ever surprised you with plans different from your own? How have you learned to thrive?

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

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Photo Credits: Olive Tree 1, Olive Tree 2

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