Thursday, June 16, 2016

Appreciation Journals

For years I have been writing in journals. Writing is a part of me that I believe God placed inside. Every morning with my breakfast, I journal in my notebook. It's my time with God. It helps me to focus on what He is doing in me. It changes me.

For years I was a very negative person. I suffered from depression and anxiety. I lived my life focusing on all the bad around me. I didn't try to look for the good. It was much easier to have a pity party for one. Every single day.

I heard a challenge on the radio to write down 3 things God does for you each day for 30 days. That challenge changed my life. I am a different person. My life has beauty and purpose. I see the good in people and situations. I focus on what God has done each day in me. I have joy like I never had before.


The challenge didn't stop after 30 days for me. Every single day I discipline myself to write one thing that God did for me that day. Since I write in my journal each morning, I write about the previous day. I've been doing this for a few years now. In the beginning it was very difficult to come up with something to write down each day. I struggled to find good in my life. Every time I wrote, it became easier and easier to find the good. Now it's become like a second nature. I see God in my life all day long. I'm constantly making a mental note to add things to my journal the next morning. I don't struggle to see the positive. I've trained my mind to focus on the good around me. My life isn't perfect, but I feel incredibly blessed. I have thousands of tiny things to be grateful for. I have hundreds of big things to give thanks to God for. My cup overflows.

I recently have challenged my family to start their own Appreciation Journals. After a few weeks, we take time to go out for ice cream or some other treat and we read what our journals say. We take turns going through each day. It has turned into my favorite thing we do together. We have met as an entire family. And I've met one on one with each of my kids. We leave the date inspired. God has done so much for each of us, and it's life changing to give Him credit for it. I know God is pleased that we are taking time out of our busy schedules to thank Him for what He has been doing in our lives. He is always up to something good.

Jesus healed ten men with leprosy on his way to Jerusalem. (Luke 17:11-19)

"When he saw them he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' On the way there they were healed." Luke 17:14

ONE of them came back to Jesus, and threw himself at Jesus' feet worshiping him and thanking him for the healing.

This is not just a healing of a little scratch. This healing completely changed his life. He would be treated now with respect and kindness. The life that had been taken from him was given back to him on a silver platter. His gratefulness went down to the very core of him. He threw himself at Jesus' feet. I imagine there were tears. This wasn't a cute little card given in the mail expressing thanks. The man humbled himself at Jesus' feet. He made himself lower so Jesus could be raised up.

The part of the story that is most shocking is that he is all alone. 10 men suffered from this debilitating disease. Only one man recognized Jesus' gift and returned to thank Him. We aren't talking about remembering to say thanks when someone opens a car door, or brings you a birthday gift. We're talking about being given the gift of LIFE verses DEATH.

I sincerely hope we can remember to thank the one who saves our life.

We probably don't feel like we have a debilitating disease that God must save us from each day. But we do! Without Jesus we are outcasts. We can never make ourselves good enough. We will always mess up and be less than perfect.

BUT the good news is that Jesus came to heal us. We don't need to live with a disease that is slowly killing us. We can be free from it every single day!

It's not enough to one time fall at Jesus' feet thanking Him for changing our lives, allowing us to go from outsider to insider. It's a daily decision. It's a lifetime of thanks.

Every day I make the choice to come back and fall at Jesus' feet, humbly thanking Him for the gift He gave to me that day. I can't do life without Him. I don't want to even try.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bible Egg Hunt

Our Easter egg hunt this year was very simple. BUT it was still fun for the kids. We didn't want to do a traditional hunt for eggs filled with candy. I've always tried to come up with something different each year to remind the kids it's not just about finding candy. I like to use every opportunity I can to point my kids back to Jesus. And Easter is a perfect time for that! After all, Jesus is the reason we celebrate.

For our egg hunt we had a present for each kid. You could also do a basket of candy. This was the ultimate goal they would be searching for. To get to the goal, they first needed to find 12 eggs of their own color. We always have a color assigned to each kid to make the hunt fair. I've seen way too many kids have a greedy monster come out of them in an egg hunt, so we eliminate that by having equal eggs hidden to their own abilities. The younger they are, the easier their eggs are to find.


The eggs were not filled with candy. We found a different Bible verse for each kid. It was used as a clue to point them to their final gift destination. We wrote the Bible verse out on a sheet of paper, and cut the paper in twelve pieces. This would be a puzzle for them to put together later. We tried to cut odd shapes instead of just straight squares or rectangles. Each egg contained a piece of the puzzle.

Once they ALL found their 12 eggs hiding in the backyard, the kids had to come inside to open the eggs and put their puzzle together. We adults used this opportunity to go back outside to hide their gifts. We didn't want to risk them finding their presents before they were supposed to.


We planned and prepared the entire egg hunt in about 30 minutes. The Bible verses were a lot of fun to come up with. We tried to be creative, but at the same time easy enough for the kids to know exactly where their prize was located.


CLUE:
“O Israel, stay away from idols!
I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
all your fruit comes from me.” Hosea 14:8


ANSWER: Evergreen Tree


CLUE:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23


ANSWER: Cross




CLUE:
“So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up to [Zech] and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Luke 19: 4-5


ANSWER: Sycamore Tree




CLUE:
““No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” Luke 8:16


ANSWER: Lamp Post


To have even more Easter fun, discuss what the Bible verses mean that you chose for clues. Talk about how you can apply them to your life.

If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, He would have just been another nice man willing to give His life for others. It is because of His resurrection that we have forgiveness for our sins.

"And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless...And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins...But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back." 1 Corinthians 15: 14,17, 23

Because of Jesus we have Hope!
Happy Easter!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Difference

I ordered a couple movies with the site to store option at Walmart. When I tried to pick them up, a sign was displayed that said, "See an Electronics Associate for help." I found the appropriate man and asked for assistance.

When we got back to the counter, another customer had arrived and was waiting. The employee asked if we were together. I answered, "No," and he began to help the other customer.

I was angry.

I was clearly there first. I followed the rules and found help. It was while I was finding service, the other man found the line. I saw him on my walk to get help.

The employee should have been assisting me first. 

And what was wrong with the other customer? He knew I was before him, and he didn't care. What happened to being a gentleman?

I was kept waiting for quite some time. I had plenty of time to stew, and I was furious. I kept biting my lip to keep from spewing my anger.

Finally it was my turn. There was no thank you from the other man, no apology. Nothing. Just felt he was important enough to be served first.

It took everything in me to hold back and only give my order number. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind! At this point, Zechariah was getting restless which didn't help my frustration level. I told him to stop messing with something.

In response the man said to me, "Zechariah. I like that. A Christian name."

My anger immediately fizzled out and I was ashamed of my attitude. I was representing Christ.  I was in no hurry. In fact I was there because I had extra time before an appointment. My attitude was all because I thought I wasn't getting the attention I deserved. I had puffed myself up so big I couldn't see the floor beneath my feet anymore. His response made me feel two inches tall.

What kind of an example would I have been if I yelled and demanded service? I can tell you what kind. The kind that looks exactly like the rest of the world.

One of my favorite quotes says it best, "If they can't tell a difference, what difference is there?"


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Crochet

Yesterday I learned to crochet! I was so frustrated. I wanted to give up. I couldn't understand it. It was confusing and difficult.

I watched my mother's hands for what seemed like hours. After failing so much, I didn't want to try again. She left me for a minute and told me to practice.

I was afraid. I didn't want to fail again. She had expressed her faith in me. I could do it. I took a step of faith, and gave it one more try. This time after patiently watching her for so long, I got it.

Something clicked and it was no longer a mess of string, going every direction. It had order and made sense. It had purpose and transformed into beauty.

I was crocheting. I learned how.


Many times our lives feel confusing and chaotic. They don't make sense and they are too hard. We want to quit and give up.

But... if we keep our eyes on the Master, patiently watching and waiting, it might start to make sense. Where we see disorder and pain too difficult to bear, God sees purpose and a plan.

He has a beautiful, intricate design for our lives. We can't give up before the beauty emerges. We must patiently pursue. One day it will click, and we will see our lives as a masterful work of art.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sukhi Bhaji

This is a wonderful dish of potatoes from the country of India. A friend shared this recipe with me, and even included little containers of each spice. So sweet of her. A few years ago she served this dish to me, and just this week I served my first dish. It makes me hungry thinking about the potatoes. They have the perfect amount of sweet mixed in with spicy.


I have a confession to make. Foreign dishes intimidate me. I feel like I will fail just because it's not my own culture and I'm probably not going to perform to their standards. I had the spices in my cupboard for a year. They sat there tempting me. I ignored them out of fear. I thought it would be hard. I was so pleased to find out how wrong I was. These potatoes are delicious and they only take about 30-45 minutes to make. I love easy recipes!

Sukhi Bhaji

4 or 5 medium potatoes
5 tbs. oil
4oz. can green chilies
½ cup raw peanuts
half the juice of a lemon
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. coriander powder
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garam masala
5 tsp. sugar
cilantro
salt



Cut your potatoes into cubes and boil them. While that's boiling crush peanuts and green chilies together in food processor. In a separate pan heat oil, put in cumin seed. Add peanuts and chilies to oil. Cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add potatoes, spices, sugar and lemon juice. Use cilantro as a garnish.

It's that easy! If you like a little spice to your food, you will love these potatoes. They make the perfect side dish. All three of my children even gave high compliments.

Monday, June 16, 2014

God Speaks

For almost a year now my daughter and I have been having a Bible study every other Thursday. I felt she was slipping away from me and we needed this extra one on one time together. It's been amazing what God has done through this time we share. Our relationship with each other is stronger than ever and our relationship with God is growing too. It's a winning combination. I have been in awe of the things that God has done through my daughter because of our special time together.

One of the things we do at the start of our study is reflect on what God has been speaking to us about during the past week, or weeks depending on how long it takes us to meet again. (Titus and Gabriel meet on the opposite Thursday for their own Bible study.) Ariel and I both have notebooks that we write down daily in. At the end of the day, or typically the next morning we make a log of what God spoke to us about the previous day. It can be a word of encouragement, or a word of discipline. It could be about a song, a Bible verse, or a fun day spent with family. God speaks to each of us in many different ways so the ideas are endless on what to write about.

This has been very beneficial in my daughter's spiritual walk. I have seen her blossom since starting this discipline. It's really inspiring to get together and share for 20 minutes or so about what God has done the past weeks. Some days our things we share are very similar, as God speaks to us during our time together. I love when this happens. This past weekend God spoke to me and I felt it was worthy to share with you.

We had a backyard family camp out. The problem was we were using a tent we bought at a garage sale that came with no directions.

I wanted to put up the tent for my children so badly but I could not understand how it worked. I was SO frustrated!

I tried to find pictures on the internet of what it "might" look like and still I couldn't make it happen. I stopped working on it for a while. I was getting nowhere. I came inside and played a game with the kids. I felt refreshed and I decided to give it a try again. I was not about to give up. My kids were counting on me and this camp out. I had to at least be able to get the tent up off the ground enough for us to fit inside, right?

While I was praying, me and Ariel were able to get it up. It didn't look the greatest, but it was up. The tent sagged in a few places and we discovered it had a broken zipper and a missing loop for the pole to go through. I was discouraged. But hey, we got it up. The kids could run inside it. They really didn't care that it looked a little funny. I tried to be happy about it. I felt a little bit of pride at our accomplishment.

When I was looking at it through my camera lens I saw our mistake. The tall poles weren't reaching their potential. Why would they make a tent with extra-long poles if you couldn't extend them all the way? It finally clicked in my brain. They were in the wrong place!!

What a message!

We try and try to get our lives on the right track. We find pictures of what we want to look like and be. But it doesn't work out. We look messed up and misshapen trying to mimic other people.

God has an ultimate plan for our life, something He created us to do and be. He has this really "tall pole" that only fits in one place- His place for it. When we are there in His perfect plan we can finally reach our potential. The potential we were created for.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Elvis: The Advent Elf

This Christmas, Elvis the Advent Elf came to stay at our home. I'm sure by now you have heard of Elf on the Shelf, A Christmas Tradition. It seems to be one of those love/hate relationships. You either love the idea, or you hate it.

I'm probably somewhere in the middle. I certainly don't hate him. He's fun! I love the idea of an elf coming to stay for the holiday season. It seemed like it would be so much fun for the kids to wake up each morning and search for their elf friend, finding him in the funniest places. We have never taught our children that Santa was real, so the part about an elf watching them to see if they were naughty or nice didn't fit with our family. I wanted to tweak our elf to incorporate our family traditions.

We have always taught the kids about Santa Claus, the truth. He's a fun pretend character who magically delivers presents on Christmas Eve. We love watching Santa movies. The kids always get a present in their stocking from Santa, which they know comes from their mom and dad. At our house, Santa is the one who gives the ornaments for the tree each year. Every Christmas Eve they leave a plate of cookies with milk for Santa. They know their father and me eat the cookies; sometimes we take pictures to show them. It's fun to pretend. It's good for a child's imagination.

I didn't want to pay the money for the famous Elf on the Shelf so I purchased my own at Hobby Lobby. He was much cheaper, and I believe he's adorable. His arms have a wire running through them so you can position him how you would like, and he has a weight in his bottom so he can sit up. He is a little larger than the normal "elf" but I liked him that way.

Meet Elvis, The Advent Elf. On December 1st our kids woke to find Elvis sitting on our dining room table. In his hand was an envelope and next to him laid a letter from Santa. The letter was quite long and detailed the tradition of celebrating the Advent season.

In the envelope Elvis held was the first Bible verses for our Advent celebration. We daily would get scriptures to read, and we would all discuss a question to reflect upon. It would be our evening devotions. The discussion was lively and interesting. I believe it was an excellent tradition to add to our family celebration. I don't know that Elvis will return with his daily activities next year (it was a ton of work), but I do believe we will read through his Advent envelopes again.

To make his envelopes I found a piece of Christmas scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby. It conveniently had all 25 numbers on it. I simply cut each one out and mod podged it onto the front of some envelopes I also purchased from Hobby Lobby. With coupons, the total price I paid on his Advent envelopes was $2. I love how they turned out, and they were super simple to put together.

I had my envelopes all finished before December 1st so each night we would need only pick the next day. The Bible verses were all printed out and folded to fit nicely inside. I chose to use the Message version for all our Bible verses. It's such an easy version for kids to understand.

Day 1
1 John 1:1-5
Question for Reflection: How can we "walk in the light"?

Day 2
Isaiah 9:6-7
Question for Reflection: What name or characteristic of Jesus can you most relate to?

Day 3
Philippians 2:5-8
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Jesus came in such a humble way?

Day 4
Isaiah 40:3-5
Question for Reflection: How can we prepare for God's arrival?

Day 5
Luke 1:5-12
Question for Reflection: What does it mean to live honorably before God?

Day 6
Luke 1:13-17
Question for Reflection: John the Baptist was the first person filled with the Holy Spirit. What do you think life was like without the Holy Spirit?


Day 7
Luke 1:18-25
Question for Reflection: Why do we often doubt God's blessings in our own lives?

Day 8
Luke 1:26-38
Question for Reflection: What "impossible" thing do you need to trust God for?



Day 9
Matthew 1:18-19
Question for Reflection: How do we deal with conflict? Do we do it quietly, or do we make a big scene?



Day 10
Matthew 1:20-25
Question for Reflection: What does "God with us" mean to you personally?

Day 11
Luke 1:39-45
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus?

Day 12
Luke 1:46-56
Question for Reflection: How do you feel about being a "chosen child" of God?

Day 13
Luke 2:1-5
Question for Reflection: Caesar Augustus was a documented historical figure, do you ever wonder if Jesus was real too?

Day 14
Luke 2:6-7
Question for Reflection: Why do you think God allowed His son to be born in a stable?

Day 15
Luke 2:8-12
Question for Reflection: Why do you think the angels appeared to the shepherds instead of someone more "important"?


Day 16
Luke 2:13-14
Question for Reflection: What does it mean peace to those "who please him"?

Day 17
Luke 2:15-18
Question for Reflection: What things have you "seen" that have made you "believe"?

Day 18
Luke 2:19-20
Question for Reflection: Have you been "glorifying and praising" God for all that He has done in your life?

Day 19
Micah 5:2-4
Question for Reflection: Micah prophesied about Jesus' birth hundreds of years before it happened. Do you believe God planned for your birth that far in advance?

Day 20
Matthew 2:1-2
Question for Reflection: A pilgrimage is a long journey made to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. What pilgrimage have you been on lately?

Day 21
Matthew 2:3-6
Question for Reflection: Why do you think Herod feared Jesus' coming?

Day 22
Matthew 2:7-8
Question for Reflection: Herod pretended to be devoted to get what he wanted. Do you ever pretend, hoping God will give you whatever you ask for?



Day 23
Matthew 2:9-12
Question for Reflection: Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience God's presence?

Day 24
John 1:14
Question for Reflection: What does it look like when "flesh and blood moves into your neighborhood"?

Day 25
John 3:16-18
Question for Reflection: Have you accepted God's gift of His son, Jesus?

I put a book together of Elvis: The Advent Elf and his adventures. I wanted to share it with you!

Click here to view this photo book larger

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." James 1:17