Happy Father’s Day Dad!

My girls have each put together a poem for their Daddy so I told them we’d surprise-share it with him today via the blog!!

But first a few thoughts…

Here’s to you Nathan! You are an amazing dad and I’m thankful we get to do this parenting thing together, couldn’t do it without you!! I love you so much! Love hearing you encourage our kids and teaching them your talents and interests! I love that you blare Taylor Swift for the girls when we’re riding in your teeny bopper truck and that you enjoy it yourself too.😉

I love that the kids ask a million and one times when you’ll be home from work before the day is even half over (they get that from me you know?!) We just love being with you!…I love watching these kids clobber you the minute you finally do walk through the door after work. I love that they adore you! I love that they witness you praying and reading God’s word. I love that you make sure they know how important it is to be involved with church. Mostly I just simply love seeing you raise our kids to know, love, and respect the ultimate Father above.

I love that you love as good as my dad loved me during the quick, short, sweet years I had with him…he would’ve been so proud to have you as the dad of his grandkids…here I am with the sting of hot tears at that thought…once again!

Gosh these kids are so darn blessed to have you!! We love you babe! -Alicia and kids

 

DEAR DADDY

Father’s Day is finally here,

It’s been another year!!

I love you so,

I hope you know!

You are the best,

I know at times I can be a pest,

But one day I’ll leave the nest…

So always know I love you so, Daddy!!

Love,

Paige

FATHER’S DAY

Father’s Day is bright Spring colors.

It tastes like snacks.

It smells like Dad’s coffee.

It looks like cards and gifts.

It makes me feel happy!

I love you Dad,

McKenzie

*Seriously just look at his sweet grin! This was last night and the kids had just finished singing loudly and wildly to T-Swizzle!…He puts up with so much from all of us and he does it with grace in our best interest! Love him bunches!!❤️

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An American’s Thoughts From Germany

For almost two weeks now my husband and I have been on vacation in Germany visiting our sweet foreign exchange student we hosted a few years ago. To say we’ve had an incredible time so far wouldn’t even come close to describing just how amazing it’s been. This place is remarkable! When we get home (to the states) and time is on my side I’ll do a follow-up-post filled with pictures to hopefully convey bits and pieces of the experience.

But right now I have to write…

We’re traveling by train (currently) from our girl’s village to a larger city a few hours away for some last minute fun with her before we head back to the U.S. in a few days. I have downtime so I’m reflecting on moments from our time so far in Germany and there’s a reflection I just haven’t been able to shake…

We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Berlin while we’ve been here and one of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the large amount of homeless people. I know it’s common in larger cities but being on a longer vacation caused me to take more notice. Even while walking through packed sidewalks and crossing busy roads it still can’t be overseen. I couldn’t help but think what their story is, how they ended up this way..no doubt some of these very men and women had it together at one point of their life. **If you ever need practice on not judging others spend a few days in the city and consider the fact that even Jesus was homeless. (see Matthew 8:20)

Our time in Berlin was an eye opener for sure…to be honest I struggled a bit…you’re surrounded by both wealth and poverty, but it was the latter of the two that choked me up—because every time I’d cross paths with one of these homeless people, scripture would graze across my heart yet I felt so helpless. The Bible calls us to care for the homeless (read James 2) but when you’re in an area where it’s sooo heavily saturated with homeless men and women who have little to nothing, and there’s a language barrier to top it off, what can you do???

Recalling our last evening in Berlin…we left the busier downtown area of the city and headed toward the tram station—a rough-looking, middle-aged man in dirty clothing could be spotted resting on his knees rummaging through the bottom opening of a trash can.

Enna (our foreign exchange student) had told us days before that the homeless people will collect empty plastic and glass bottles from the garbage and then deposit them into recycling bins in return for cash.

This man was clearly doing just that as he meticulously filled a rickety cart with other people’s “trash”. And then, just as we were about to slip past him, like we had so many others in similar situations, he turned his head and made eye contact with us and I could see the look of humiliation and desperation across his face…and I couldn’t even offer a smile, I chose not to because I felt shame for our complete opposite circumstances. Smiles are a beautiful and contagious expression, but in this moment my lips wouldn’t allow me to go there…and all I could give was a silent prayer in my heart over this man as I quickly moved beyond him.

Some guilt has claimed over me on that deal, but I know that’s part of Satan’s lies; and in the days since, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that prayer has power even when the one you’re praying for never knows ‘you’ are doing so. It’s Jesus who deserves the glory over a right heart anyway, not me, so I can’t pat myself on the back for praying even, but Jesus can take that prayer and do immeasurably, remarkable things with it.

I have to remember that at times all I can offer is a prayer—but prayer is huge and it points to Jesus…

He can move mountains by our very prayer. And since He’s the living Stone (see 1 Peter 2:6) we have to trust He’s fully in control when our help feels inadequate.

After all, in the moments leading up to Jesus’ death, and while He was hanging on the cross, Jesus relied deeply on prayer— and His obedient, sacrificial love landed Him at the place of highest honor in Heaven next to His Father. (see Philippians 2:9, Mark 16:19)

I want to choose prayer above all—especially in the moments when nothing else seems tangible—because prayer is the one thing that’s always readily available and worthy of remembrance, leading us straight to God! (see Philippians 4:6)

What about you—how do you respond or interact with the homeless? Or do you notice? What lengths are you willing to go to offer compassion if so?

What about in bigger cities where it’s so common, what’s your response to homeless men and women then?

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I’m Being Weird

All over scripture we can find the words, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’…

Leviticus 19:18, ‘You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.’

Matthew 19:19 says, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

And James 2:8 reminds us, ‘If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.’

If I noted each of the many times scripture encourages and directs us with, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ then writing and reading this post may be the only thing you and I do today. Some verses note word-for-word, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and others simply offer heavy implication of the idea. It may sound exhausting to think of repeat instructions, but the beautiful thing about that, is the fact that when something is repeated over and over it’s often for our own good and to navigate us in the correct way. In this case, through God’s word, it’s so we don’t stray wayward of His perfect intentions in calling us to love one another.

Sometimes I try to over complicate this “loving others” command, but what Jesus spoke in John 15:12 gives us simple, straight-to-the point directions of how loving your neighbor looks:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” -John 15:12

…However we have to understand what that love actually looked like. And studying the One who (first) gave us this command seems to be most fitting…

Jesus cared as he healed a man with leprosy. (Matthew 8:1-4)

Jesus showed up when His disciples feared the raging waters surrounding their boat, he walked to them on water, and the wind died down along with their fear. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Jesus helped by feeding the five thousand when their hunger grew. (Luke 9:10-17)

Jesus served when He humbly washed His disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-20)

Jesus listened while John the Baptist’ messengers came to Him with John’s question of doubt and He eased any concern. (Luke 7:18-23)

Jesus cared for others. He showed up for others. He helped others. He served others. He listened to others.

All of these ACTIONS are forms of love.

It’s that simple! It’s that whole idea of treating others how you want to be treated! Obviously we aren’t going to have supernatural powers, performing heroic miracles such as Jesus did. We don’t even deserve that kind of glory, BUT the concepts of care, showing up, helping, serving, and listening to others are certainly tangible and doable ‘love-applications’ that we should be mimicking.

Lately God has laid these words, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ on my heart, and it’s causing me to be more mindful of others…So the other day when my son’s friend (our neighbor) came over to play and his two little brothers tagged along behind, I sought opportunity…

Those little brothers are some of the cutest little guys I’ve ever met, needless to say they require some extra attention though, and often times when they’ve been over I’m too consumed with chores to entertain or visit…BUT this day, with God’s sweet prodding on my heart, I made sure to keep those little guys feeling extra welcomed—and when the one boy bumped his knee outback and I heard a wimper in his voice I quickly showed up. I helped with his owie. I invited them inside, and cared for his sad feelings.

I listened while they enthusiastically shared stories with my girls and me and left us laughing hysterically.

As the youngest boy spotted me removing cookies from the pantry he piped up before he even knew my plan, “hey tan I hab one of dos tookies?” I smiled at him and knelt down to his level, and served him a “tookie”.

And it felt good.

It felt good to show ‘love to my neighbor.’ Five different forms of love happened in a matter of moments through one encounter with our little-guy neighbors. Completely infectious…Think of the many opportunities we have day-to-day to make a positive difference in someone else’s life by choosing to follow God’s command to simply and humbly—’love your neighbor as yourself.’

Side-note: Your neighbor doesn’t have to be your physical kid-across-the-street neighbor either. For further study read: Luke 10:25-37

Final thoughts: If you made it this far in the post you’ll soon learn why I titled it ‘I’m being weird’…congratulations!

First off, we got the results back from, my daughter, McKenzie’s biopsies. She does have Celiac Disease but we’re honestly praising God, because we have answers and a solution: gluten free diet! She was pretty bummed when she first found out, but I told her since I mainly eat dairy and gluten free I’ll pull myself together and get strict, eating completely gluten free right along with her! Thank you all for your prayers and concern over all of that!❤️

Also I made it through the past few months as a fraud (sub) music teacher!! It was a fun experience, but I’m ready for a “rest” and thankful for summer break!!

To end my post today, I gotta tell ya, I need a little extra prayer!! …With all those substitute teaching days I’ve had over the past year I badgered away my earnings and last Fall booked Nathan and myself a trip to Germany to see our foreign exchange student we hosted two years ago. Now our trip is right around the corner and I’m freaking out. I’m having anxiety a bit about being away from the kids for a few weeks, even though they’re going to be in good hands! I’m just being plain weird!! So honestly I just need prayer that God would cover me in His peace, give us safe travels, keep our kids safe, and help me to enjoy this time!!—because deep down I know it’s going to be amazing, and such a wonderful blessing!! Thank you all for reading!

Love,

Alicia

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”  -1 John 3:16-18

Weeding With Purpose

Surrounding our front patio are a variety of colorful flowers—and oftentimes, nestled snug within, are gobs of weeds…it depends on how busy I get with life as to how well my flowerbed fares. In fact the weeds had become such a distraction (recently) that any pleasure and beauty of the flowers could be easily overlooked. Thankfully the other morning I finally made time to get out there and pull those pesty weeds!

With every pull and tug the area began to shape up nicely. The irises stood taller in their purple splendor, the salvia seemed fuller with its many leaves being able to spread out, and the roses now look as if they’re bursting with the anticipation of revealing their soft, velvety petals before too long. And my favorite, mums, now have room to expand as they work on growing bigger so they can fully impress me come Autumn when their flowers finally bloom.

Y’all the pulling-weeds-part is tough work though!! I about landed on my bottom more than a handful of times! Goodness!

Nevertheless removing those weeds is necessary and makes such an incredible difference! …Once the weeds are gone, it causes those flowers to radiate with hospitable charm.

As I worked along, I considered the characteristics of unpleasant “emotional” weeds I occasionally have embedded deep within myself that show through my words or actions—impatience, selfishness, lack of appreciation. At times, my best representation of myself is that of a weed. I came to the conclusion that I sometimes just need a good, thorough weeding just like my garden area.

In Matthew 13 (verses 24-30) Jesus tells a parable using weeds as life application…I’m gonna paraphrase for the sake of our eyes and time…Jesus describes a man sowing good seed in his field. An enemy comes along and sows weeds among the wheat while everyone was sleeping. When the wheat sprouts the weeds appear as well.

In this parable Jesus was referring to the wheat as believers and the weeds as unbelievers, implying that the two live and grow side by side. He follows up in verses 37 through 43 by explaining…

“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I didn’t paraphrase those last verses for the purpose of driving home this point—the end times will come and those who’ve made the choice to continue to live and remain as weeds among the wheat won’t stand a chance when the harvest comes. My heart sits unsettled when I think of people I love who don’t know or understand this truth.

There’s a motto my church uses that states:

Because of the grace of God, we at MEFC will be the hands and feet of Jesus, willing to get dirty in the weeds of life.’

We (who are believers) have a mission to get crazy-busy because I don’t believe for a second that all of these weeds among us are meant to perish eternally. We have such an amazing opportunity to share Jesus and His unconditional love with others.

In my flowerbed I have a ridiculous amount of bindweed. If you’re not familiar, it’s an obnoxious vine-weed with soft, colored flowers that quickly grows and suffocates out other plant life. The funny thing is that I actually like the looks of bindweed. I think it’s pretty and the flowers that bloom on it resemble that of a morning glory.

But left undone or unmaintained it can create quite a mess among the flowers you really want to nourish.

(Photo from gardeningknowhow.com)

However, as I’ve studied on bindweed I’ve learned that (more recently) people are discovering positive uses for it. The flowers can be made into a laxative tea and the tea doubles as an astringent to clean damaged skin. The petals and vine are sometimes dried and then used to create vintage art projects; still others leave the bindweed in its natural state to present as a floral arrangement. Perhaps one of the most interesting uses is the idea that some prefer to snack on the stalks and roots of the bindweed, which are said to leave a bitter aftertaste.

The truth is, bindweed can serve many uses, which transcend the idea that it was ever a weed to begin with, finally giving it the opportunity to fulfill meaning and purpose.

Likewise, when we notice unhealthy, weedy character-traits within ourselves we must rid the disorder so that our best, useful areas can be put forward and be of positive benefit, bringing glory to God. On the other hand we may quickly want to point out the disruptive weeds (or unbelievers) in our lives—but we never know the purpose God calls on one’s life (no matter how messy it may seem at the time) if we don’t offer someone help or a chance to grow purposefully. We must trust and never give up hope that ultimately God cultivates spiritually, and He can take a weed (the person type😉) and pour living water upon it so that something beautiful and productive comes as a result—worthy of a place in His Eternal Garden!!

I’m More Concerned Over Your Heart

This will be a vulnerable post—but since I’ve gone down the “vulnerable path” in many of my other blog posts I figure what’s another? Besides, most generally, I get someone who thanks me for being real and raw and for helping them sort out some part of their own mess, plus writing out my thoughts helps me process…and if there wasn’t a devotional reflection to go along, I wouldn’t bother making a post at all.

With that, here it goes…

I hate debt!…There! I said it.

We don’t have a ton of it—no student loans, no credit card debt, no lines of credit, etc…BUT we do have a vehicle loan and a house payment. And for nearly two years my goal has been to power pay that car loan off. I “planned” to make the last payment in February 2019, but unexpected medical expenses came about last year when my oldest daughter ended up with a ruptured appendix. Our kids’ health always trumps all. That being said, any money that was to go to the car loan went (instead) to a high insurance deductible…five digits high. That bill is now done and over and we’ve moved on…

This year I planned (once again) to power pay on the vehicle loan, hoping to pay it off sometime next year. But another wrench was thrown into the mix when our youngest daughter ended up sick. This Monday we’ll head to a GI specialist where our girl will have a double scope. They’re checking for Chrons or Celiac, so prayers for answers are seriously appreciated.

I’ve been on edge because she’s been feeling and looking great the past month so I don’t want this to be a procedure that could’ve been avoided. We’ll hit that very high insurance deductible once again. Peace of mind will make it worth it and I’m holding onto the hope that they’ll find the reason to the positive celiac blood-test results from last month, but if they don’t, I’ll be frustrated…I know myself well these days.

If I’m honest I’ve been pretty bitter about all of these doctor bills because it throws off my plan—my plan to finally kick the vehicle loan to the curb—my plan to be one step closer to debt-free—my plan that has caused me to see just how much of a control-freak (about money) I truly am…

My husband is the breadwinner in our house and I take care of the finances, that’s just how we’ve operated and it seems to work. So at the end of last month I toyed with the idea that we should move, and when I told my husband my reasoning he was like, “okay, sure”. Continue reading “I’m More Concerned Over Your Heart”

Eleven-Years of Maternity Leave…and a Giveaway Item

A little early Mother’s Day celebration post…

My husband isn’t really too far off from the truth when he tells people I’ve been on an eleven-year maternity leave.

In 2008, when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I was working at a small bank and training to be a loan officer. It was a sweet opportunity and I was looking forward to coming back after maternity leave and beginning this new career venture.

But then that tiny little bundle of joy came and five weeks later I carried my new baby girl into the bank to proudly show her off to my fellow bankers, while my bubbly toddler pranced about merrily at my side. I was one week away from maternity leave being up and when they asked if I was ready to come back, I gave them the game changer—I had decided I’d rather handle dirty diapers full-time over dirty money.

Fast forward several years…

Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t easy…I’m home, but the dishes still pile, laundry overflows, and sometimes I serve cereal for supper—and I’m probably (for the thirteenth year in a row) not gonna win the ‘Mother-of-the-Year award’!!…And honestly I’m not even sure that award actually exist anyway! Who’s ever known any mom to ever physically receive one?!!

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My kids are now thirteen, eleven, and nine (the two youngest are homeschooled). We’ve definitely had our challenges as I’ve watched them over the years provoke one another, cry simultaneously, and then make-up as the best of friends…an overplayed process repeated almost daily…but thankfully the crying is beginning to fade away!8A6287CB-4AA3-43AC-A4D9-4D68417B2AB8

In more recent years I’ve added some ‘out-of-the-house’ work to my life. Once a week I do hair at a nursing home and when it works with our schedule I pick up substitute teaching jobs…I’m currently filling a long-term sub job for a mama who’s on maternity leave.

With this, I’ve realized that moms who work outside of the home AND manage life at home with a spouse and any number of kids are Super Moms! Seriously! It’s tough enough keeping up on necessary housework and caring for a family, but then add-in the responsibilities of fulfilling a work schedule on top of that— and goodness it makes for a crazy week!! I have such a new, deep respect for any mom who does this!!

When I consider women in general though—those with a spouse, those without…women with children and women without—I see how important it is that we remain encouraged and motivated so that we may endure this wildly busy life humbly yet gracefully. A great encouragement for what a noble woman resembles is described throughout Proverbs 31. Verses 11 and 12 note that ‘Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Verses 25 and 26 move on to describe her as: ‘clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.’

Further on in verses 30 and 31 we read: ‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.’

These verses aren’t at all noting a woman’s outside appearance, rather they point straight to the beautiful heart or character of a wise and strong woman. Without these charming inner character qualities she wouldn’t be viewed as a woman, wife, or mom of notable inspiration. To top it off, her many achievements have been accomplished due to her reverence of the Lord. There’s so much to be learned from the portrayal of the Proverbs 31 woman—from daughters to mothers, to wives to widows (even sons, husbands, and fathers)—we can all use Proverbs 31 to encourage those special ladies in our lives. It causes me to see how much I want to live up to the Proverbs 31 woman!

With Mother’s Day around the corner I’m filling my Etsy shop Simply Rustic Looks with fun jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, genuine leather earrings) for women of all ages. My featured item this month will be the MAMA❤️ necklace, regularly priced at $16, but specially discounted to $12 through the month of May. This necklace has been personally metal hand-stamped by me (one letter at a time) giving it a one-of-a-kind unique style and is made of an aluminum bar hanging from a stainless steel cable to make it nickel and lead-free (hypoallergenic).

**Shipping on jewelry is always free in the U.S. and 10% of sales support InFaith ministry.

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**The link provided below will take you directly to the Etsy listing:

Click here: MAMA ❤️ NECKLACE

As an added bonus I will be doing a giveaway item for anyone who comments on this blog post—sharing some wonderful mom-tips, advice, or encouragement—perhaps even a favorite Bible verse filled with some mom-cheer! On Sunday, May 5th, I will draw from those who commented and notify the winner by commenting to their blog (or to my email readers you may personally email or text accordingly and the same rules will apply). Giveaway item will be an aluminum stamped bracelet on genuine leather rope (below), yours to personalize how you choose! I will mail it out (first-class) to the winner on Monday, May 6th.610E6115-4742-4631-917B-805F131847CB

(I am redeemed’ shown as an example).

Blessings!! And Happy ‘early’ Mother’s Day Mamas! 

A Post-Easter Post

Each year, on Good Friday, our church holds an evening service in honor of Christ’ great sacrifice. There’s typically music, some scripture reading, and then the pastor does a little talking.

This year though, my husband and I were asked if we’d speak during the service and share what Good Friday and Easter mean to us, along with a few other questions, and sort of give our testimony through it. Although we were humbled to have been asked to share, the thought of standing on stage combined with public speaking slightly intimidated us.

We agreed to do it nevertheless, and had practiced our answers ahead of time, and were feeling pretty good about it…but when the day of the service came I began to panic. I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of public speaking and the tears began to spill just hours before we were to speak. I wanted to wimp out!!

I couldn’t remember my words suddenly, I couldn’t decide what I’d do with my hands, and the idea of where I’d look completely overwhelmed me. Continue reading “A Post-Easter Post”