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!!

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”

His Work Was For You And Me

Over the past few weeks I’ve been substitute teaching each afternoon for a woman who’s out on maternity leave. I’ll finish out the school year as long as the kiddos don’t scare me off!

Wednesdays are still my hair day where I go to the nursing home and doll up salt and pepper colored hair, so I’m not at the school that day.

Interestingly the class I’m teaching is music class and my knowledge is slim but growing. I tell the kids I’m learning right along with them. It’s been fun. They’re fourth and fifth grade and easily humored, but can also be a handful some days.

If every day goes like this past Tuesday I’ll probably shed a few tears when it’s all said and done because I’ll miss it. I’ll miss teaching music. I’ll miss the kids.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been peaches and cream the whole time, there’s definitely been challenging days! And it’s on those days I have to take a deep breath and simply and quietly ask God for His help.

I came across Colossians 3:23 recently, which says, ‘Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people’.

I’ve been keeping this verse close at heart. It’s reminding me that even on my most challenging days, my work needs to be for the Lord.

Some of these kids come from bad situations, a horrible home life, and when they show up to school a smile from a clueless, but fun Christian music teacher could be the only love of Jesus they witness…actually the beautiful thing is, this particular school has several Christian teachers. It’s a positive place for these kids to come to, but nevertheless attitudes happen.

On the contrary, and thankfully, working with enthusiasm for the Lord can happen anytime, anywhere, anyplace…in the worst of job conditions. When our hearts are right with Jesus it makes the task of hard work seem like it serves a purpose. But when we’re oblivious to Jesus’ desire for us to be right with Him, our work seems overwhelming and impossible at times.

I’ve heard of Jesus’ crucifixion as His ‘work on the cross.’

Work….

There’s that word again.

When we consider the crucifixion in this way, it causes us to consider the way Jesus handled work, which could easily be named the ‘hardest work ever’. In the time leading up to Jesus’ destination of the cross, we read how He kept in communion with His father through prayer (Matthew 26:36-39). He remained at His Father’s will (Matthew 26:42). And in verses 52-56 we read of Jesus’ humble and faithful attitude through His difficult last hours.

Three components we too can utilize when dealing with hard work:

  1. Remain in prayer
  2. Stay in God’s will
  3. Be humble and faithful

Jesus didn’t finish His work while hanging on the cross though…three days later He rose from the grave victoriously (Matthew 28). Jesus’ work on the cross lead to the glorious resurrection and it paid for the debts of sin— for my sins, for my student’s sin, for your sin…It’s why we can celebrate Easter and it includes work through a right heart and attitude modeled by a Perfect Jesus.

Have a blessed Easter!❤️

Colossians 3:17- And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Romans 3:23- For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8- God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:9- If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

Even If (part 2)

Part two of Even If…

After learning my daughter’s recent celiac test results came back positive, I’ve thought about how Satan could have a heyday with this, because before I knew that, I’d celebrated with a blog post (last week) on how McKenzie was better, her blood work was great the second time, and we were out of the woods praising God for healing…but then in the days since, the outcome has changed, so do we still have reason to celebrate and praise Him?

Absolutely!!

Do I still believe God can totally heal McKenzie, or that the positive test results may have shown up as a fluke deal, and that when we go to our next appointment to see the GI doctor later this month they’ll tell us she’s completely fine and to go back home?

Absolutely!!

BUT even if it’s not in God’s plan, even if our circumstances don’t change, even if McKenzie is fully diagnosed with “silly yak” disease we’re going to praise God regardless, and our faith is going to remain solid—because God is still God, He’s in control, and His ways and plans our better than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

‘Even if.’

It’s the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter three as King Nebuchadnezzar threatened their lives with a roaring fire if they didn’t bow down and worship his gold statue.

Remaining true to the Lord, the three men refused to serve any such false god, and when Nebuchadnezzar taunted them, they proclaimed their faith even bolder: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

The men held onto an “even if” kind of faith, while their lives lied at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar’s hot orders.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were securely tied up and banished to the scorching furnace, while maintaining their loyalty to God.

But in amazement, the king noticed not just three men walking around in the fire, but four men, unharmed and unbound, and he declared the fourth man looked like ‘a son of the gods.’

King Nebuchadnezzar called the men out and he saw that their bodies hadn’t been touched by the fire and their clothing was completely intact, and he praised the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and acknowledged the power of God.

I have to tell you, last month when McKenzie started really looking ill, I had this mama-instinct we weren’t dealing with the flu. She needed to see a doctor, and as we sat waiting in the clinic at the start of all this—before any blood had been drawn, before any tests had been ran—my girl asked me to read her the Bible story of Queen Ester. So as we waited for the doctor to come in, we read about Ester’s bravery, and courage, and her very own “even if” faith, not knowing how much it would mean to us in the weeks to come.

When those first blood test results came back abnormal, concerns were present, and someone threw out an ugly six letter word that starts with ‘c’ and isn’t celiac and that’s why I was a hot mess.

I was struggling to carry an “even if” faith. But because I know I’m weak without God, I clung to Him through prayer and encouragement in His word, nevertheless…and strength came.

What good would faith be if all our prayers were answered immediately, on the spot?

God provides safety and an opportunity for our faith to build when the emotional fire rages around us, and He’ll carry us out if we obediently allow Him to, but it may not always look the way we planned. Even if our faith is smoldering in a bed of hot ashes, God is able to ignite that very glow and turn it into purpose, for His glory.

Knowing God makes it easy to love Him; loving God makes it easy to trust Him.  -a.m. witt

My daughter’s future may include celiac disease, but even if it does—our faith will remain strong and our hope will stand firm because of Jesus’ faithfulness to us along the way!

Romans 8:28—And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Even If it’s ‘Silly Yak’ (part 1)

Last week I posted with the celebration of my daughter’s second blood test coming back “normal” after previously learning that the first test was abnormal, with iron-deficiency anemia and weight loss as the key concerns. I blogged about how worried I’d felt over my girl during that time of waiting before we could see the pediatrician to find out what was going on. I struggled in trusting God yet I remained in His word and in prayer. And then after we met with the pediatrician and later received a call saying the blood work came back normal with the second testing I felt like I could finally breathe again.

Here’s what I didn’t mention in that blog post though, because it was never a possibility in my mind, I’d already mentally crossed it off..the pediatrician we saw last week suggested we run an additional test for celiac disease which would take a few extra days to get results back. Meanwhile during that waiting period I had blogged celebrating God’s work of healing with the thought of a clean health status for my girl because the blood results were now good.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the celiac disease term, if not, here’s a quick run down: celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barely) leads to damage in the small intestine and difficulty digesting food. If left untreated it can also lead to other autoimmune disorders and complications…and in the state of California someone probably thinks it causes cancer—that’s my own thought though. (I was born in California so I’m justifying that comment.)

So last Friday the pediatrician called with a spoiler alert—McKenzie’s celiac test results had come back and they were positive…sidenote: Did you know that when you use talk-to-text on your phone to say celiac it’s more than likely going to translate as ‘silly yak’ or ‘silly act’? Just a little random, useless knowledge for you!!

When I got the call I was surprised, but handled the news rather well, thinking about how we already have a head start on this deal. I eat gluten-free, although I stumble every now and then.

In fact I was on quite a gluten-free roll at the beginning of the year but then about four weeks in I caved to some dollar chicken nuggets from Burger King. A month ago I succumbed to a strawberry donut from a family owned bakery in town, it was much-needed after a rough day of subbing. And birthday cake, don’t get me started…It happens!! But for the most part I stay on track, and now my little Mc can join me.

I’ll simply stock up on more gluten-free products and purchase double the produce so her and I can satisfy our dietary needs. We’ll get creative in the kitchen together and explore new recipes while sipping lemon-flavored ice water and snacking on handfuls of popcorn.

1 Thessalonians 5:11—Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

I’m just not intimidated by the word celiac and I won’t allow it to define my girl. I’m actually seeing it as somewhat of a blessing. We now have a potential answer as to why her tummy bothers her so often, and I’ve also learned that iron-deficiency anemia and weight loss are two side effects of celiac disease. Her being sick so often just makes sense now, and although it’s a chronic sickness, it’s definitely a manageable one for us.

Mc’s already taking interest in some new foods, so she may very soon ditch her longtime nickname “Picky Micky” (she earned it years ago for obvious reasons.) The other night at supper she looked at me and said, “alright mom I’ll have some broccoli, but it has to have ranch, and I’m not eating it because I like it, I’m eating it because I want to grow!”

…I’ll take that mindset!!!

We have an upcoming appointment for McKenzie at the end of the month where the doctor will decide if they need to do an endoscopy, the final procedure that confirms or rules out celiac disease. She’s still eating gluten foods for now, this way the biopsy will have an accurate reading, but she’s also expanding her palate these days with a wider variety of healthy foods that don’t contain gluten as she knows it’ll help her feel better and get stronger.

Now for the devotional part of this post…which I’ll post tomorrow, for the sake of your eyes and your time.

But I’ll leave you with a ridiculously yummy gluten-free recipe and some scripture encouragement, McKenzie’s favorite Bible verse: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Grilled Chicken with Avocado and Mango recipe

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When Our Head and Heart Just Don’t Feel It

This isn’t the post I intended on writing this week, but when I see God working it prompts me to write and share!

My younger daughter, McKenzie, had been sick the past few weeks off and on…headaches, fevers, tummy aches…

The first time it happened I chalked it up to nothing other than the flu and when it showed up a few weeks later I thought ‘ok here we go again.’ After a few days though, when no other family members were getting sick, I began to worry. I loaded my girl up Friday morning and took her into the clinic and asked to have blood work done.

Poor girl, but a mama just knows.248B519C-E29A-4D80-AA81-DAD2BE5532DE

The blood tests came back with abnormal results and the physician grew concerned and referred us to a pediatrician a few hours away…the biggest concerns were weight loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They needed to know what was causing this. Our appointment with the pediatrician was set up for Monday afternoon.

Goodness, I don’t do well with waiting and wondering but I’m fantastic at worrying!! It was an incredibly looooong weekend and the anticipation of that appointment was killing me. Honestly I bet I gained a hundred new gray hairs over worrying and would probably be a perfect candidate to join the “Golden Girls” if they were still casting members, not only because of the gray hair but my dramatic flair too!!

While my girl was experiencing flu-like symptoms I was sick with my own: panic attacks, trouble breathing, pacing…I was a big, hot mess! I think that’s what my husband was getting at when he finally said, ‘Alicia, I don’t understand you; you’re such a strong person, but the minute trouble comes you let Satan right in and you don’t trust God!’ 

Ouch!

He didn’t say it with any sympathy either, it was just short, not sweet, to the point, and just what I needed to hear! But it didn’t change my frame of mind at the time either. Continue reading “When Our Head and Heart Just Don’t Feel It”