A Solid Foundation

Last Saturday my husband and I ventured out to his great grandparent’s retired farmstead to cut firewood. Since I’m no Paul Bunyan I let Nate do the wood cutting and in the meantime I went and explored, (no worries I helped carry and load the wood later). This is probably my third time throughout the past ten years nosing around this particular property…but for me it never gets old. I feel like there’s always some new little nook or cranny just waiting to be stumbled upon or observed. And safety precautions….well out there you just have to enter at your own risk…

Seeing all the antiqued equipment and many dilapidated structures is proof enough that the work in those days was no doubt extensive yet the idea of it creates such a desirable nostalgic feeling deep within me.

As I light-footedly stepped throughout the worn out abandoned house I began thinking about how back in the eighties it was still being occupied.

Walking through each room I paid close to attention to the dingy furniture still perfectly placed in the rooms in which they belonged. Boxes filled with dusty magazines lined the walls and light from the sun pierced through openings in the roof and crumbled ceilings.

Once I made my way back outside I wandered through tall grasses and faltered over broken tree branches.

While crouching under cratered beams in the chicken coop and weathered barn I imagined the numerous chickens and calves that surely occupied the area at one point.

It’s crazy how quickly a house, building, property, etc can become so run down once neglected; it takes just a very short amount of time.

I’m reminded of how this can be so symbolic of the heart and soul as well. I’ve noticed that when I’m not making it a priority to attentively focus and get into God’s word daily then the healthy spiritual condition of myself starts to slip and I mentally begin falling to pieces, similar to the family’s old farmstead.

I love these practical verses below (from Proverbs 4) to help keep on track:

‘My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.’ -Proverbs 4:20-27

As I keep my mind focused on God I do better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The same is true of anyone who refers to themselves as a Christian.

At the end of Luke 6 (I’ll paraphrase) Jesus says through a parable that those who hear His words and put them into practice are like a man building a house, who digs down deep and lays the foundation on a rock, and when the flood comes the house cannot be shaken by the torrent because it was well built. Verse 49 follows with this: “But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Goodness the imagery of those verses compared to venturing through a barren farmstead speaks boldly (and with warning) through sunken floors and cracked foundations…

As interesting as it is roaming the premises, it also serves as a stark encouragement that my faith can’t endure through negligence and never wants to be represented like a house built without a solid foundation.

Making time to get closer to Jesus helps me maintain a healthier me—and then my heart is truly grounded on a solid foundation that doesn’t settle on a chance of coming apart haphazardly. This type of committed growing-faith requires care and dedication from deep within in order to stand firmly against all odds.

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Going

It seems like once the New Year arrives people have often times moved beyond the Christmas spirit or season and are now fixated on new beginnings, keeping trendy resolutions, and sometimes creating outlandish goals for the upcoming year.

It’s almost as if the New Year pours in and Christmas is drowned out, right?

I’m seriously as guilty as they come with quickly moving on to my New Year resolutions.

In fact, a few weeks ago my husband commented that he wanted to start running to help get in shape. But then nothing came of it. Oddly enough some of our good friends contacted us the other day asking if we’d like to participate in a half marathon happening at the beginning of May. With the idea of motivation to spur us along in our new goal of running this year, we reluctantly committed…so now we’re signed up to compete in this half marathon that we’re absolutely (equally) unprepared for and clueless about.😂

In entertaining the process of training I honestly don’t want to get too hung up on this new adventure of ours. Yes I will train by coming up with a workout plan that fits my lifestyle, and I’ll watch my food intake and how my body reacts, etc. My overall strategy will be to focus on those physical elements rather than the mental-side of things. Because I know that if I concentrate on how crazy it seems (for me) to run thirteen miles on a Sunday morning in a few more months (when I’m currently out of shape), then that could seriously mess with my mindset — leading me to pre-self-elimination from the race, rather than a finish line destination.

OK so going back to that Christmas spirit thing…several times during the month of December I made it a point to read through Luke chapter 2 (Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth) and verse 20 caught my attention every single time. It says this: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Goodness I just love those words!! These shepherds had just witnessed the very first Christmas, firsthand, as they visited a Baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. We see by the words in verse 20 that afterwards the shepherds returned back to their regular business — but not unchanged!!! They were glorifying and praising God because of what they had experienced. The shepherds were, no doubt, sharing this unique adrenaline-rushing, exciting birth announcement with others.

What’s more, is that if we back up a few verses we know that the shepherds had had an encounter with angels before they went to see Baby Jesus. I’m going to paraphrase to shorten and explain the setting…while the shepherds saw Baby Jesus they spread the words of what they had been told by the angels; they shared with those around them that the angels had referred to Jesus as their “Savior” and “Messiah.” And then verse 18 says, “All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Don’t miss the beauty in these words…ALL who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Whew!! I gotta take a minute to soak that up. I love it.

We, as Christians, are given the same opportunity to share the Christmas spirit with others just like the shepherds chose to do, so long ago. All it takes is for us to be mindful of the Christmas story and be willing to pass that story on (regardless of the technical Christmas-calendar-date) …or even share with someone how Jesus is working in our lives. For the shepherds, spreading the word made a huge “Christmas spirit” impact, not only for them, but in the lives of those around them.

The thing is, making New Year’s resolutions, healthy changes, and fun goals are all fine…BUT we must remember how important it is to keep the Christmas spirit active and alive all year.

If I get too hung up on my goals then I get distracted or side-tracked and risk limiting the Christmas season to really just the month of December. I believe the purpose of the Christmas spirit isn’t meant to be set to just a particular season, but rather a powerful reason to make Christ known anytime of the year.

It’s a bold, true, and shareable story that can change lives if we’re willing to feel it in our hearts and live it out — even in the midst of New Year’s resolutions beckoning our attention.

Patience Required

I was introduced to someone this past year and as necessary have needed to maintain communication and a relationship (with this person) due to responsibility.

This relationship has absolutely tore me to pieces as we haven’t connected too well.

There have been times I feel like I’m walking on egg shells—not knowing if the next thing I say is going to offend or build positive character…wondering if my quirky demeanor was understood or rejected…if the quietness of this person is caused by something I’ve done or if it’s just a normal characteristic of theirs.

It’s interesting because I had plenty of time to prepare for our meeting one another. I can literally remember beforehand praying the words “God help us to show (said person) an amazing Jesus. Help us to not miss the opportunity for *** to see you through our family, for your glory…” and now here we are months in and goodness as my patience has been tested, stretched, and grown I’m the one experiencing Jesus in a whole new way. I’m praying with 100% reliance on God to work through me and in this.

In the past I’ve probably been guilty of praying yet doubting God’s capability or His timing, and not fully trusting God with my request…but this has been such an incredible game changer. Yes this experience has caused me more mental battles than I could’ve ever imagined possible, more tears of frustration, or worry of failure…BUT, with that, I’ve been challenged to press into God on a deeper level and hold onto His word as I study scripture to live out peaceful hope.

This morning as I was reading a devotion I came across Matthew 7; verses 1-5 say this, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye, and all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Ouch…conviction time.

Although I have many times felt confused or irritated by this relationship, and have had to pray repeatedly for more grace, these verses grab my heart with conviction and remind me that God is in this and it’s not for me to judge or try to figure out all the details.

As I mentioned this deal has tore me to pieces but the beautiful thing is when something important to God gets torn up, purposeful rebuilding happens. I’ve seen it in my marriage, through people who have overcome addiction and given their life to Christ. There’s evidence all throughout the Bible—look at the hardships and later success of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), or the devotion of Daniel regardless of the adversity he faced (book of Daniel), and even the sins of David yet the remorse and heart for God he had (Psalm 51).

…all torn apart (emotionally) and nevertheless beautifully rebuilt.

There is definitely something for me to learn through this, especially in the area of patience. And recently, as time has passed, I’ve seen positive changes on both sides, surely God is at work…I can actually feel this relationship gradually twisting from acquaintance to friendship and God alone is to be glorified for answering prayer.

Sharing this post causes me to feel a little guilty…but I’ve noticed that when I put my thoughts to the blogging world I’m then held accountable on a different level and honestly that’s what I need right now.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year if I don’t post again soon!!❤️

-Alicia

A Lasting Season of Joy

This past month, in my fourth and fifth grade Sunday school class, I’ve been working through a lesson on the topic of joy with the kids. They’ve shared about circumstances that seem unfair and yet they can pinpoint how joy can be found in that situation nevertheless.

For example when a friend breaks a promise, doesn’t keep their word, and let’s us down we can choose to find joy in the fact that God always keeps His promises. He’s the author of the Living Word. And He will never let us down; Psalm 54:4 reminds us that ‘God is our helper and the upholder of our lives.’ People are imperfect and fallible, but when we consider our relationships we can find joy in the truth that God is always trustworthy and capable with us.

Joy, simply put, is finding a way to be happy even when things don’t go your way. As a Christian that type of joy is found through our faith and relationship in Christ.

*Lindsey Van Stelton photography*

This time of year we see the word joy displayed on ornaments and Christmas decor, we hear it belting from department store speakers as we shop, or we sing it out during worship time in our churches. If Christmas were labeled with an emotion, joy would be of the top choices. It’s a word people often times associate with, or even accentuate on, during the Christmas season; however our soul can feel disconnected from the feeling of joy if our lives aren’t instep with God’s will — and honestly, the bottom line is that joy should surround our lives year-round.

Worldly desires and material possessions such as Christmas gifts provide us with temporary pleasure and can cause us to feel happy for a short amount of time. But maintaining a healthy relationship with Jesus each day brings about a lasting rush of inner calmness that settles over us with a blessing of pure certainty and peace and is ultimately defined as true JOY.

Months after the tree is down, joy is the only gift that shouldn’t have lost its luster; it’s the one gift that keeps on giving. The best part is we can take it anywhere and everywhere and when people question us about the joy we wear, not only across our faces, but the joy they notice within our hearts, we get the opportunity to open up and share the Christmas story and the gospel.

Beautiful right?

If joy feels absent, foreign, or far from your feelings dig into God’s word, study scripture on the topic of joy, and humbly ask God for a fresh start at a life filled with unending joy.

…and take it from my wise fourth and fifth grade Sunday school class, ‘just because you may be going through a hard time doesn’t mean joy has to elude you, God can use that trial to produce perseverance and maturity in Him and that is definitely something to celebrate joyfully about.’

Applicable verses:

Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful. -Philippians 4:4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4

Quiet Time Necessity

Sometimes when I substitute teach, my job assignment stretches beyond the classroom.

Recently I ended up in the school’s lunchroom to supervise bubbly elementary students. An extended squirming hand raised high let’s the adults know when attention is needed—usually indicating milk cartons are being stubborn and extra help is needed in opening them, maybe a kiddo wants permission to pass on their veggies, or he or she is ready to dump their tray once they’ve finished eating.

While I helped a few weeks ago, a hand went up and I walked over.

A little girl, probably second grade, looked up at me with sad eyes and I knew we weren’t dealing with regular lunch issues. I knelt down beside her and asked what was wrong. With tears welled in the corners of her eyes she spoke through pouty lips, “I want to sit alone right now.”

“Well why? What’s going on?” I asked with concern.

The tiny voice responded, “I’m just sad, it’s too loud in here, and I want to be alone.”

“If you sit alone though, then you’ll be lonely.” I stated with matter of fact reasoning.

“But that’s what I want! I want to be lonely,” she persistently replied.

In my unprofessional opinion I’m not sure anyone chooses to want to be ‘lonely’…Determined to get down to the core problem I asked the light-pink shirted cutie if there was something causing her sadness and she revealed that her great grandpa had passed away and she was missing him. Together we decided she could stay seated where she was and didn’t need to visit with anyone around her, she could just sit quietly—reflecting on the good-time memories she had with him.

Seeing someone hurt is hard. I want to be able to fix the worry, the trouble, the pain—and bring it all to an end. But at times, a little alone time is honestly the best option. It’s there that we can take a deep breath, quietly sort thoughts, and recollect a positive mindset.

As a Christian I thoroughly look forward to my own “quiet time”. I’m addicted to it in a healthy sense and when I don’t get it I’m kind of a mess. Having quiet time (or me time) means I can spend time, not technically alone, but with Jesus—studying His word and embracing scripture that deals with my matters. It’s then that I find soul-quenching refreshment and the most beautiful thing about it is…I’m left satisfied. Every. Single. Time.

Jesus set the perfect example for us as He purposefully spent quiet time with the Lord in prayer and then reconnected with his followers shortly after, surely feeling a deep sense of fulfillment after doing so.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” -Matthew 26:36

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. -Mark 1:35

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. -Luke 5:16

When we follow Jesus’ footsteps and mimic his character (spending time before the Lord) we too can find ourselves feeling refreshed—replacing disappointment with contentment, and sorrow with gladness.

…Later that afternoon when I ended up back in the classroom, I heard some giggling coming from the hallway. Turning my attention toward the laughter I saw a once teary-eyed girl from the lunchroom now walking beside a friend…with a large grin spread across her sweet face.

This time when her hand went up she gave an excited, big wave and quickly I returned one—thankful to see her in such a delighted, cheerful spirit.

Sometimes just a bit of quiet time followed with a mixture of friendship and laughter can make all the difference in creating a positive outcome…but the best kind of “alone time” is no doubt when we invite God to be a part of it.

Truly Thankful

Normally on Thanksgiving Day our family heads over to my grandma’s house as a tradition. My girls and I show up earlier than everyone else so we can help her out where needed.

If you remember my post from last year she brazenly informed us before the big day that she “absolutely wasn’t going to cook any of the meal!! Everybody could just bring everything over!!”…her next sentence went like this: “I do plan on making the turkey though, and since I’m making the turkey I’ll make the gravy…and since I’m making those I’ll make the stuffing and mashed potatoes and biscuits to top it off.”

…She’s got some dementia going so not everything makes sense in these more recent years.

I let her know we’d be over extra early Thanksgiving morning to help her—and when my girls and I arrived she had most everything done except potatoes and biscuits…tables were set, relish trays were started, turkey was dried out…and the rest of the family wasn’t due to arrive for another six hours!!

‘Grandma, when did you do all of this?!!”

“I started it last night and pulled an all-nighter,” she replied nonchalantly.

She said she’d gone to bed at six a.m. and woke up at nine! I’m gonna assume that wasn’t the dementia speaking and she really only had got three hours of sleep…which in hindsight would be dementia-default-mode.

So this year she called and said once again that she wasn’t going to host Thanksgiving, and she actually is serious this time. She made plans to go with my uncle to his in-laws which left the rest of us creating a new game plan.

I don’t handle change well. I like routine, habit, and tradition but nevertheless as time moves, change comes at one point or another, sometimes a good thing and sometimes not.

We’ve decided we’ll all gather at mine and Nate’s place tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes it will be different, but honestly I’m not freaking out. I’m not having a meltdown. I’m okay with it…(I actually think I’m starting to grow up somewhat, emotionally. It’s weird.)

My grandma is getting older, it’s a part of life and something I have to accept. I need to be thankful she’s still here regardless of not spending Thanksgiving Day with her. I’ll visit her next week with the kids and put her Christmas tree up and decorate her house and a thanksgiving atmosphere will still be felt within our hearts even if the calendar date isn’t showing November 28th.

Some of you reading this may also be looking at Thanksgiving a little differently than the years before—travel plans might have changed due to weather, maybe finances have left too small of a budget for the abundant feasts you’d hoped for, others have lost loved ones over the past year and healing still feels far away.

Whatever the circumstance—there’s one thing that will never change year after year—God loves us no matter what life has thrown our way. And His word reminds us ‘He is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ (Hebrews 13:8) When life changes, when plans fumble, and tradition breaks—God still remains and He offers a Thanksgiving more gratifying than any turkey dinner can ever, EVER offer. Any day of the year.

Blessings and beautiful Thanksgiving wishes to you all!

-Alicia

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. -1 Chronicles 16:34

A She Shed in the Making part 1

In my last post I announced Nathan is building a she shed for me…I also wrote (by accident) that it was for our ten year anniversary. My husband quickly informed me after reading my post that it should’ve said fifteen year anniversary, not ten. Oops! And then he also reminded me of the wonderful gift he surprised me with for our ten year anniversary…

Nate and I were newlyweds and I can remember the first time I ever spotted a Yorkie, I thought “I need to get me one of those!!!” I BEGGED Nathan for nearly ten years…now we have a sweet and tiny, seizure-filled, five year old Eli who literally falls over at the drop of a feather with fright! Goodness I just love him! He’s so darn cute!! Nate calls him a genetic mutation but I know he actually thinks the world of him!😉

So now for the fifteen year gift…my husband said to me a few months ago he wanted to build me a she shed as an anniversary present. My exact words: “a sh-what?!” I had no clue about these little gems and as he began to describe the possibilities a “she shed” offers I jumped right on the trendy bandwagon.

Just Pinterest or google she shed if you don’t know, and your search will render all sorts of overwhelming results. It’s creative, weird, and exciting all at the same time! I kinda feel like I’m getting my very own ‘mom’s little playhouse’.

We discussed size, material preference, location, and everything else in between.

I’m always amazed at what my husband is capable of doing outside of his oil field work so I cheer him on enthusiastically. Men need that, and in a marriage conference Nathan and I recently attended I learned that a majority of men would rather hear the words “thank you and good job!” over “I love you!” They often identify their worth in this way. I’ve done both for years but this helped me be even more mindful of how important it is to encourage and to be sure to not take for granted the good things he does for our family and especially with this sweet she shed gesture he’s working on.

The number one question I’ve been asked by family and friends, “what are you going to do with your she shed?” And to be honest this was a concern of mine from the get go. I’m not great at accepting gifts but when I saw how excited Nate was to make this for me I was determined to graciously accept it but also wanted to be sure I would use it, it wouldn’t go to waste, and it would serve a purpose. Continue reading “A She Shed in the Making part 1”