I’ll just let the photos do most of the talking this time…
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. —Colossians 1:16
This time of year I’m always intrigued by the tulips in my front flowerbed that pop up and open with seemingly little effort or notice to the cold. In Nebraska we have temperatures that dip below freezing in the evenings, sometimes until May. There’s a reason I typically don’t plant any flowers or garden goods until around Mother’s Day weekend and that’s why!!
…But those tulips, which showed up a few weeks ago, are hardy little showstoppers and never seem bothered by the cold. They’re a perennial flower (meaning they come back on their own each year) and always, without fail, they make an early entrance, almost with a wink and twinkle to their petals, as if to say, “welcome Spring.” And then just as quickly as they appear, the petals gently but persistently drop off one by one, leaving only their tall, green leaves to admire over the Summer months—just in time for the salvia and mums to continue their gradual growth journey which last until Autumn.
For myself there’s much to be learned from the tulip, in all of its charm and bravery.
I’m taught that beauty can blossom even in the coldest of times. When my feelings long to utter cries of despair I can rise up against them, drawing strength from the Lord…I don’t need to wait around for more comfortable circumstances or a more favorable environment, much like the tulip doesn’t wait around for the temperatures to warm up and the sun to shine without clouds blocking its view. The tulip plant, instead, obediently listens to God’s cue and at just the right time it burst through the chilled ground, forward and up. What a powerful way to display God’s work of art.
Colossians 2:6-7 (see above) reminds us we have the opportunity and choice to grow—even in hard times. We don’t need to sulk or become dormant, regardless of how cold our world gets. Rather we can lean into God’s goodness, relying on His direction. We place our hope and trust within His flourishing garden of mercy and grace and experience growth.
Within my own personal, mental battle there have been many times where I’ve felt like simply wilting away. But the truth is, wilting doesn’t come that easily…a flower or plant must be overlooked and ignored for a period of time before the wilting process begins. And for us as God’s people that’s just not how God plans our days.
Despite our lowliest times, when we feel forgotten, He shows up and whispers to our heart—through the reminder of a comforting Bible verse, a call from a friend, a word of encouragement from a family member, the whimsical fluttering of a butterfly’s wings, the light shining through our windows at the dawn of a new day. He is in all the details, working it all for good and for His glory.
I was recently reminded how important it is to push forward and do the fun things even if my feelings were telling me otherwise. A few months ago I was at a time where all I wanted to do was say no to everyone and everything, but instead I made the choice to disregard the negative and to say yes. To say yes to a couple of 4-H pigs. Yes you read that right! Pigs are a first for us, a completely new experience on our little acreage but had I answered out of satan’s efforts I would’ve missed the blessing that has followed. And boy has it been entertaining, educational, and downright amazing.
Though I’m still in the ups and downs of anxiety and depression I’ve just said yes again…yes to another new adventure…yes to a trio of Nigerian Dwarf goats and I can already feel the anticipation of God’s favor growing as we prepare to bring them home next month.
Sometimes, when we know something is good, harmless, and right…the best thing we can do is say “yes”…even if our emotions long to urge us in the opposite direction.
Feelings (or emotions) aren’t always reliable, and when they’re negative we must counter them with truth and positivity. Every. Single. Time.
Just like it may not be in the most desirable interest of the tulip to push through the sometimes still freezing ground, it does so anyway at the will of God, and there is so much beauty wrapped up within its little colorful body as a result. If we want to be a people following in God’s steps may we be encouraged to do likewise.
I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted but I’m just writing as God prompts—my once, regular, weekly Friday posts are on a break for an unknown period of time.
So here’s what I have this time, a little different than my usual posts…
A while ago my amazing counselor gave me an analogy and I thought it was too good to pass up sharing with those who may be struggling with past or even current trauma.
There are lengths of time where I feel I’m not making much progress toward the positive side in my mental and emotional healing. Or I’ll wonder why any negative thinking I might be struggling over mimics so much of my past trauma that’s decades old. As a side note I’m over thirty years past due on counseling sessions so there’s a lot at heart to sort out.
My counselor compared navigating negative thoughts and emotional patterns to the condition of a dirt road compromised by rain or snow—an easy analogy for me to grasp since the last part of the drive to our house consist of dirt roads which at times create less than desirable driving conditions.
A good dirt road is typically (or should be) smooth when well-maintained, but once it gets muddied up from loads of rain or inches of melting snow it makes navigating through it a chore, sometimes even causing a person to get stuck for a time in the deep mud. Once the road begins to dry out a little, ruts form as people drive over the soft road. When completely dried out and the rough path is traveled over, a person will likely bounce down into those deep laid, ruddy tracks.
Eventually, given enough time and favorable weather conditions for the roads, plus normal driving wear (and someone with a road maintainer) the dirt road gets filled back in, levels out and becomes smooth for ideal traveling once again. But it takes time…
When compared to the human mind (emotionally and mentally) and the complexities of trauma it’s similar to this…the mind is functioning in a healthy state until trauma hits. Oftentimes deep rutted trauma tracks with negative impacts are laid. The deeply embedded trauma tracks become a normal and habitual part of living life and left further untreated irrational thoughts and behaviors form, creating tough areas to cognitively navigate. It leaves us with a mess of unhealthy mental pathways.
The hopeful goal is that a person is made mindful of these negative effects, the sooner the better. Smooth paths is what one should be after. Reversing the negative deep-laid ruts is important and a lot of work BUT can happen by:
getting honest about any current or past struggles or thoughts
holding a strong faith in God which leads to hope
leaning into God’s truth and time spent in prayer
finding a compassionate accountability partner who’s supportive in our mental health
seeking professional maintenance through a trusted therapist (mine happens to be a sister in Christ which is a huge blessing for keeping God in the big picture)
Healthy thought patterns can and will eventually form but it requires a hope-filled attitude, communication, and time—and therefore an abundance of patience. The negative deep rutted trauma tracks need to be filled in with positivity, grace and mercy, forgiveness…whatever hostile void that has been laid must be replaced and filled with truth, hope and encouragement. Those things, and all things positive, reinforce new and true thought patterns and smooth pathways. Again it takes much patience and consistent affirmation.
Though the ruts may seem deeply entrenched, we must remember it’s Satan who attempts to take away hope, freedom, and joy in effort to create those trenches. But it’s the Lord who abundantly pours out an endless supply of each. Satan will never be able to keep up when we fully trust and allow God to fill in the negative trenches with His healing truth!!
This has to be an ongoing, daily-process because as 1 Peter 5:8 states, ‘we have an enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ He would love nothing more than to dig back in, causing us to slip down into the ruts again and again.
Therefore, ‘we must be alert, standing firm in our faith, (believing God is for us and with us always) making us strong, firm, and steadfast!’ (1 Peter 5)
To Him, as our Great Road Maintainer, be the glory in the midst of healing.
Thank you God for sending your Son to walk an earthly life, setting an example for a people in desperate need of someone perfect to follow. The selfless love through the cross and resurrection sets believers in a place of undeserved grace and salvation. I pray that we would never take that for granted but instead we’d walk in obedience, closer everyday, toward you. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful Easter season.
If anyone gets to know me very well one of the first things they’d probably note is that I like things to be simple and make sense. And when something goes against that or I don’t understand, I’ll problem-solve to understand or fix it as best I can. (This is probably a good indicator of control-freak behavior.😅)
So let me explain what happened recently…
I was trying to simplify my phone—get rid of extra things I no longer needed on it. When I went into the phone settings and discovered (under my Apple ID) that there were several former phones of mine still listed from the past five or so years I decided I’d ‘simply’ delete them. To me it seemed reasonable to have only my current phone connected to my Apple ID. So off went two or three old phones and when I came to the listing that read IOS (and whatever else after it) I thought, “well I have no idea what this one is, don’t recognize the name, out it goes!!!”
Within seconds my current phone, as I held it in my hands, began progressively and ambitiously deleting. And there was not a thing I could do to stop it!!!!
My phone was almost instantly back to fresh, right out of the box, factory mode.
“Okay! Easy!” I thought to myself, “I’ll just reload it by inserting my Apple ID password and everything will flood back in.”
However, thinking I knew my password after three different tries, Apple locked me out! For security reasons! For two weeks!! Not even an Apple representative could override my issue even though I had backup verification methods.
I’d love to report that I dealt with this like a sweet, mature Christian gal—but far from it. I was so irritated, realizing I had none of my contacts, no email, or apps, no iCloud, and all 6,000 plus pics gone. Basically I had a working phone but with absolutely no personalized settings.
I did soon discover though that since I knew passwords to my email, WordPress and some other things I use, that I could still access them after bringing them up through Google. In the end it worked out fine but felt inconvenient and wasn’t my typical, simple style of doing things. First-world problems, I know.
I finally was offered to reset my Apple ID password on Wednesday (after the two weeks) and wasted no time in doing so and am happy to say all is back in working order on my phone.
I share this because I actually hadn’t realized how personalized my phone is until this happened. Over the years of having an iPhone I’ve been able to choose which apps to have or not have on my phone, which numbers to save with a name or not, and so on.
We’re ridiculously, nearly pathetically, spoiled when it comes to our phones. We personalize them in the way we best see fit. And most of us probably take this for granted until things go haywire.
I always try and pull a life lesson from my experiences—the good ones and the bad ones and here’s what I’ve reflected on through this particular one…
As a Christian, what I put into my faith journey is up to me. I can choose to draw closer to the Lord or on the flip side lazily trail behind. I decide if I’m going to read my Bible this day or let it sit on the table collecting dust. I pick if I’ll pray before a meal or let my “hanger” take over—with me plunging a fork into my meal before even considering a word of thanks. Reaching out to others with love and care, that’s also my own choice.
Just like I choose how I want to personalize my phone, every day I get to choose how I’m going to personalize my faith.
And if I’m honest sometimes I really stink at it. There are times when worry or fear overtake my thought patterns and prayer is far from my arsenal of choice. On numerous occasions, my impatience has resulted in un-concentrated Bible reading rather than soaking in the heartfelt words of Jesus. When I initially chatted with the Apple representative over my own phone foul-up, he experienced Raging Alicia rather than Compassionate Alicia.
These things mold my faith journey for better or worse. All of it matters and makes for how I’m choosing to personalize my faith.
Just like my phone went to factory reset settings so it will be when Jesus’ returns to call home those who have placed their faith in Him. For some, there will be a time when it’ll be too late to decide to follow Jesus. Personalizing our life with Him as Lord and Savior will have made an extraordinary difference. For the ones who haven’t chosen to place their faith in Him, their lives will be as useless as an old iPhone with no identity or personalization linked to Him.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words regarding the servant in Matthew 25:21a, ‘well done, good and faithful servant!…’
As Christians we’re servants of God, and it’s absolutely our choice how we’ll personalize our faith. It doesn’t always look simple, the way I usually prefer, in fact it’s often times the opposite BUT through Jesus it will always make sense as we trust His leading.
Are we personalizing our faith and pressing into Jesus in a position where we’ll one day hear, ‘well done, good and faithful servant?!’
My oldest daughter, Paige, is now mid-season in her second year of girl’s high school wrestling. Last year, watching wrestling, this mama was a real hot mess; I had no idea the amount of throwing around, twisting unnaturally, and bending forcefully that would be involved in this sport. You could say I was very much a nervous rookie wrestling mom, smacking madly on my Doublemint gum before any flavor could even hit my tastebuds!
This year, however, I’m a little more relaxed having sat through almost another completed season. Although, recently, my mother-in-law wondered why the gymnasium bleacher we were sitting on (while Paige wrestled on the mat in front of us) was shaking rapidly, only for her and I to both realize it was from my leg bouncing up and down uncontrollably. Okay so maybe I’ll never be 100% chill while Paige is in a match, and that’s okay!
It really has been a fun year so far watching these girls wrestle. They’ve learned quickly, as girl’s high school wrestling was only sanctioned into Nebraska just last year. For most of the young ladies wrestling, this is a completely new-to-them sport.
Paige’s technique, skill, and knowledge have improved so much. She has a lot more control out on the mat than she did last year. Sometimes she pins her opponent and sometimes she doesn’t, but regardless she wrestles hard.
I’ve noticed, though, that once her opponent gets Paige on her back it’s typically game over for Paige and she ends up getting pinned almost immediately. There’s a strategy Paige could use to her advantage to help keep her from getting pinned and it’s called “bridging”. Paige won’t do this, ever. Shhhh, don’t let her opponents know this.
Bridging involves lifting the pelvis off the ground so that the body weight is supported on the shoulders (or head) and the rest of the weight is supported on the feet at the other end of the body.
When I asked Paige ‘how come she never uses this move,’ she said ‘it’s because it terrifies her and she’s afraid she’ll get her neck broke.’
Well okay then, no argument from this mom. I get it and I’m in complete agreement. I would never dismiss her concerns and ask that she give it a try just for a chance at a win. Never. So we’ve indisputably settled and you won’t get a bridge out of Paige…reasonably so. On the other hand, there are other ways out for Paige to utilize and get out from under her opponent before a pin would happen and I’m certain as she gains more muscle and experience she’ll opt for those instead.
In learning of Paige’s issue with bridging during a wrestling match I could have argued the matter and urged her to try it regardless of her concerns. But instead she felt comfortable enough to share her biggest fear in wrestling, she opened up, and was met with limitless understanding and no frustration.
As I think about this, I’m reminded of the way our Sweet Heavenly Coach meets us on our mental or spiritual wrestling mat with mercy and grace over our struggles and insecurities. I think of the way that His understanding opens the door to mercy, and grace kindly follows— simultaneously pardoning any potential grudge-holding.
Wonderful and encouraging mercy and grace.
It’s what helps us want to continue onward.
When we take notice of our shortcomings, communicate our concerns to God, and seek forgiveness, God gives to us boundless mercy and grace. Our posture should be one of gratitude, and the desire to embrace this type of kindness while extending it to others.
Who needs a “bridge” anyway when we have the Lord, and the fullness of His mercy and grace, to walk upon the waters alongside us, leading us to the ultimate victory…
This morning, my neck of the woods woke up to eight inches of snow. I know it was eight inches because my dear husband literally took a tape measure outback to precisely check for himself!!
We typically only end up with a dusting to a few inches when it snows; so this amount of snow is a rare treasure for us—well maybe not for those who aren’t a fan. I’m loving the beauty of today’s winter wonderland though, it’s the messy roads in the days to come I don’t really favor however!
Beautiful, pure-white snow.
Isaiah’s message of warning to a rebellious nation of Israelites comes on behalf of the Lord in Isaiah 1:18-20 and has this to say:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
(Bold and italics added by me for the lesson)
Boy if those words don’t sound like we’re just as in need of that warning (today) as Israel and Judah were all those years ago!!!
There are two “ifs” to choose from in that piece of scripture, and depending on the “if” chosen the results are drastically different.
In verse 20b, choosing the second if, consisting of resistance and rebellion, would leave a person in the permanency or stain of deep scarlet-red sin…devoured by the sword.
But by choosing the first if in verse 19, the crimson color that once stood out so boldly from sin, would be entirely replaced with a pure and calm white—the color of snow or wool. Choosing this if requires willingness and obedience but leads to satisfaction or a reward given by the Lord, “you will eat the good things of the land.”
This beautiful, pure in color, dazzling in the sunlight, white snow outside my house windows sets the stage for the reminder that I want to willingly and obediently stand in the presence of God’s desire daily—to “eat the good things of the land,” as quoted.
The message given in Isaiah chapter one—sin cleansed white as snow—was as much for the people of that time as it is for us now. Jesus’ sacrificial blood shed on the cross and his resurrection washed away those crimson colored sin-stains we once carried; and though we’ll continually sin (this side of Heaven) Jesus makes those sins white as snow as we place our faith in Him, seek forgiveness as needed, and remain in unity with Him through a healthy relationship.
Choosing and following Jesus, points us to choose that first “if” in Isaiah 1:19—may we be ever thankful, never taking for granted, but instead praising God for the removal of permanent crimson stain and the washing and cleanness of our sins, white as snow, all because of His magnificent love for us.
It’s interesting to me that as people get older it seems harder to come up with ideas for Christmas gifts. You would think that the older our loved ones get the better we know them, the easier it is to shop for them! …Not the case for me though!
I’m not quite finished with all my Christmas shopping but I do have a majority accomplished and thought I’d share some of the gift ideas I’ve come up with so far in hopes that it may be a help to you for your gift giving! Feel free to share your gift ideas in the comments section, together we’ll outdo Santa and his elves!!
Our family has a wide range of ages to shop for this year from newborn, to kids and teens, adults, and great grandmas as well.
Here’s a list of gift ideas that I’ve organized by youngest to oldest:
What doesn’t sound more fitting and soothing than the scent of sweet orange vanilla on soft baby skin? As an added bonus, right now, honest.com is offering 20% off your order when you enter your email!!
I ordered an eight-pack of stainless steel (tall) tumbler cups from Amazon last week, one for each of my nieces and nephews. I plan to use my Cricut machine to put their names on them. I’ll fill them with their favorite mini candy bars and then give a bottle of soda to each one also! ($59.99 for an eight pack)
At our house we do “Taco Tuesdays” each week (the name explains it all). My son has a slight obsession with tacos and probably more so it points to the tortilla itself!! In fact most mornings his breakfast preference is peanut butter and strawberry jelly spread over a tortilla and folded in half…so when I came across this tortilla blanket I couldn’t resist! They have other options as well: a cookie, pizza, or waffle!! Super fun and unique!! ($15 to $30)
I don’t understand the difference between the amped-up mouse (featured above) and the original mouse that already comes with a PC??? And that gaming headset seems like an unarguable ticket for a visit to the chiropractor but nevertheless my kids must know something I don’t…here’s to trusting their “gaming” knowledge!
Gaming headset ($19.99) Gaming mouse ($20.99)
Who doesn’t love giving or receiving a personalized gift? We ordered these personalized doormats for my brother and his family as they’ve just welcomed home a new baby, to make a family of four now! Their doormat will read (The “insert last name” Family).
And my in-laws just became the proud owners of a new home this past September so a doormat seemed practical, especially as it will display, “Mama Thea & Papa’s House!”
Personalized doormats ($25 and up)
I also love a gift that seems to keep on giving long after the holidays. Gift cards are great for this! Can’t go wrong with a Scooters or Starbucks gift card for the coffee lovers in your life! Pick your price!!
For the cow fanatic (which includes both of my daughters) these casual cowprint shoes are ridiculously popular and on the MOOve right now! In fact, I tried to pick them up in the Hey Dudes brand (which typically run around $60) and I might have had better luck finding a needle in a haystack! Cavenders sells the Gypsy Jazz brand though, which are just as comfortable, plus they’re offering 10% off when you enter your email! Gypsy Jazz cowprint ($44.99)
And if you want to “step” it up a notch with something a little more dressier you can find cowprint boots at Cabelas…($49.99)
And for the hunter in your life you can never go wrong with a new camo bag chair! (Only $12.88!!)
Honestly what they usually want most of all is our time! My grandma is now in the nursing home and I try to visit her once or twice a week there.
I bought her favorite bag of ground gourmet coffee from a speciality store in town and also picked up some disposable to-go coffee cups a while back ago and have been brewing up a cup of coffee at home right before I leave to see her. She absolutely loves this and sips away while we make small talk and ohh and ahh over Paula Dean’s dishes on TV. Sometimes I’ll sneak in a soft donut from the local bakery too!
Other little odds and ends that this precious generation enjoys are soft cookies or breads, blankets, socks, a phone call, plants, flowers, homemade drawings or colorings from the littles, family photos, greeting cards by mail, devotion books…anything of this sort. But seriously most of all is TIME. If you have a loved one whose years are mostly behind them at this stage in life, give them the gift of time and fellowship. It’ll be a gift that not only they cherish, but in turn blesses you as well.
Hopefully some of the gift ideas I’ve shared help! Enjoy this time of year and remember our gift giving is in celebration of Jesus’ birth, Christ needs to be our top priority, both now and year round. We can panic, stress and search for the perfect ‘something’ for our loved ones but the bottom line is God has already outgiven us all as he’s offered the best gift ever, freely available to all…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” —John 3:16
I’ll start off by saying I know Jesus is, without a doubt, the one and only reason for the Christmas season. PERIOD! …BUT I’d be lying if I said I don’t get excited about the extra shimmer and dazzle that oozes it’s way into this time of year!
I love decorating with holly and berries while a cozy fire crackles in our wood burning stove, stirring up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, listening to Micheal Bublé’s ‘White Christmas’ …wrapping presents and sipping hot cocoa…
As much as I love the indoor Christmas traditions our family has created, I equally love the part of decorating outdoors.
We live in an area of the United States where pretty flowers and plants don’t do too well in the cold temperatures, so anything that grew in flower pots over the summer usually dries out and then gets pulled once the cold weather comes but the empty pots leave nothing to be desired.
This year, as a first for me, I had dressed up my empty planters with an autumn style and looked forward to changing them up for a Christmas look.
Today I’ll do a quick run through showing how I threw these together!
Empty planters (mine are still filled with soil)
Birch or aspen branches
Yucca seed pods and stems
Faux flowers, berries, icicles (Hobby Lobby)
Evergreen sprigs/wreath (real or artificial)
Pinecones and acorns
Small Christmas sign (Wal-Mart)
I started by adding the branches and yucca stems to the center of my larger flower pot.
I then added the berries, icicles, and Christmas sign, and finally filled in the remaining bare spots using a combination of real evergreen sprigs, pinecones, and acorns.
In the smaller flower pot I first placed an artificial evergreen wreath to fill the outer area of the pot. Then I used two large artificial flowers for the center, and lastly arranged pinecones in the leftover empty spaces.
And here’s the final result!
That’s all there is to it and the possibilities are endless! Let me know if you end up “sprucing” up your empty planters for the Christmas season!
I’m also including an advent reading plan that our family has used over the past few years. While my kids are getting ready for school in the mornings I try to read them the verse of the day from the Bible YouVersion app but during the Christmas season we switch it up to gear toward Jesus and His birth. And below is the reading plan we use by alyssajhoward.com. Feel free to print it off and use it for your own Christmas advent reading plan!
Enjoy and sweet weekend blessings to you and yours!!