Hey, “What’s your story?” Has anyone ever asked you that? It’s a question that can often catch us off guard and maybe even put us on the spot for a minute. You might answer, “Well, what do you want to hear? My resume?” Or perhaps you think to yourself, “I don’t really have a story. Nothing I’ve ever done is very interesting, or important enough to share.” If you find yourself in either of these camps, I want to tell you right now that you have a story, and it’s not just regurgitating your list of past accomplishments. But even better than just knowing you have a story, being willing to share it is where the power comes in.
A big chapter in my life story thus far, has been my cancer journey. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through that physical and emotional rollercoaster has been one of the biggest trials I have ever faced. However, looking back on it now, I see how God used that time to teach me so much, and grow me as a person. He also encouraged me to share my story and to let people into that part of my life.
When I began pulling the curtain back on my struggles and started allowing my story to speak to others who were also experiencing similar trials, I watched as God took what was a huge bump in my road and turned it into a blessing.
Reflecting on that season from the day my nightmare began until now, I have seen four specific stages of this storytelling process that I want to take you through. I believe that you have a story that someone needs to hear, and my hope is that you will begin to realize what it is you have to offer.
The first stage is PAIN. One of my favorite verses is John 16:33. In the middle of that verse it says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We all experience pain in our lives. It may be a cancer diagnosis, divorce, addiction, abuse, depression, or anxiety. Having painful moments or seasons is just the unfortunate reality of our world. Is there a pain point that you went through that is coming to your mind right now? Maybe you’re going through it at the moment, and that’s okay! Acknowledge whatever that struggle is, or was, and hold onto that for a minute.
The next stage that I feel is very important after you’ve identified your pain point is called PROCESS. When I look back at my cancer journey, there was a period of time when I needed to do some major emotional processing of the trauma I had just gone through. This took time. When I allowed myself to reflect on all that had happened, I began to realize everything I learned from that experience now that I wasn’t knee deep in the trenches.
The third stage is what I like to call PROJECTION. When I hear that word, I get a picture in my mind of an old-fashioned movie projector. I have memories of being a kid and having movie nights in our basement. After the sheet was taped up on the wall my mom would break out the old projector and home movies. I remember the big reels of film stored in metal cases stacked on the counter ready to be played. Unless the case was labeled, we didn’t know what was on the reel until we clicked it onto the machine and turned the projector on. Once we did, the story was suddenly bright and animated on the screen for all to see.
I think the projection stage of telling our stories is probably the most exciting, but also the scariest. It’s scary because what it requires is vulnerability. It’s very easy to wrap our painful moments in pretty boxes, and bury them deep somewhere where no one will find them.
Letting someone into your life, even a little bit, and sharing your hurt can be terrifying. I totally get that! I remember finishing the first draft of my book, in which I shared some very personal moments about my cancer journey, and getting to that point of sending it to my editor. I think I hovered my finger over the “send” button on my computer for five minutes! I wasn’t sure I was ready for someone else, let alone the whole world, to have access to my heart in that way.
But I believe true power comes when we are vulnerable and authentic, and we don’t hide behind perfect Instagram filters all the time. I had to get over the worry about what people might think, and tell myself that this was not my story. It was God’s story. If they didn’t like it, they could take it up with Him.
When I released that pressure off of myself it freed me to let those insecurities go. I knew I had done my part. My new mantra became:
Here it is…praise the Lord, Period.
I had to put it out there, and then just let it go.
If you’re feeling led to share your story, don’t worry about what people think of you. Remember that no one can refute your story. Your story is uniquely yours, and you’re the one who experienced it. No one has any say over that, so don’t give them that power.
Now, remember. Being vulnerable and sharing personal moments is good, but there is a time and a place to share, or not to share. That is up to you to discern for yourselves. Make sure you have peace about what you are wanting to offer.
The last stage, and I think the best stage of this process of sharing your story is called PURPOSE. We may never understand why we had to experience the pain that we did, but I believe that telling your story will create purpose for that pain. When I was going through my fight with cancer, I felt completely and utterly out of control of my life. In some ways that was good, because I grew a lot through learning to rely on God and not my own strength.
In the end, I made the decision that cancer would not have control over me, or define my life. I wanted to write the final chapter in my story and take what I had been through and use it to help others.
This gave me PURPOSE.
So many people are struggling and are thinking, “No one could possibly understand what I’m going through.” But YOU may be the one person who can tell them that you can relate and understand.
If you are willing to be vulnerable with your pain that you have processed, and project that for someone else, you will find purpose that will bless you beyond anything you can imagine.
You don’t have to write a book to tell your story. It can be sharing it over coffee with a friend. Or maybe it’s reaching out to someone you see who is going through a hard time and simply telling them they’re not alone. Telling our stories, and coming alongside each other can be so healing not only for the person you’re sharing with, but for you as well.
That’s what I call, PURPOSE.
If you don’t think anyone would want to hear your story, or maybe you need a little push to get that story out, I want you to know….
We all have scars. I think it’s probably safe to say that all of us have experienced hurts and pain that have left their mark in some way. Some scars are physical in nature and very visible for all to see. Other scars are internal and find their home deep in our hearts. Regardless of what our scars look like, they are a part of life.
When I think about my own scars I am reminded of the nine separate markings that were left on my body after my double mastectomy and biopsies. I remember when my port-a-cath was inserted in my neck and upper chest, preparing the way for chemotherapy treatments, I actually asked the doctor as he was prepping for the procedure if the scar would be very visible. My first, very prideful, thought was about the appearance of the scar. The thought of having a very obvious “blemish” on my neck was a bit disconcerting at the time.
How naive I was. Little did I know that as time went on, I would become very proud of those scars. Proud, say what?! You’re probably thinking that even after all these years my brain hasn’t quite recovered from the anesthesia and I’m officially off my rocker. “Proud” probably sounds a bit harsh or completely unrealistic to you.
But yes, I am proud of those scars and I’ll tell you why. First, I want to share a quick story.
I recently had a text conversation with a friend that had just undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, and she was in the hospital. She had sent me a photo of her scar which was extensive and in a very visible place on her body. My immediate response to the picture was, “Girlfriend, now that’s a scar you can be proud of!” But after I sent that message, I immediately felt regret and major conviction. Here is a woman going through a tremendously difficult time in her life, and I am flippantly telling her to be proud of this very visible scar.
I felt so horrible about what I had said, that I reached back out to her to apologize. The last thing I wanted was for her to take it the wrong way, or even worse, be offended. I quickly explained the meaning behind my comment, and thankfully she was neither taken back by it or offended.
The reason why I so quickly responded in the way that I did was because my mindset on scars has completely changed. Years ago my idea of a scar was something that was ugly or undesirable. Gosh, even kids are taught to fear scars. Isn’t the bad guy in the animated movie, Lion King, named Scar? But I want to challenge you to think about scars in a different light.
Scars are proof that we have gone through battle and have overcome. They are reminders that life can be hard sometimes, and we often get kicked around, knocked down, and beaten up in the process. However, those wounds that we experience eventually close up. Some are barely visible and others are screaming reminders of a very difficult time in our lives. But remember, if you have scars, that means you are still living and have persevered. Your body has healed and you are in, or entering, a new chapter of your life.
I know that emotional scars often don’t heal as easily or as quickly as physical scars, but so much can be learned by those wounds if you allow yourself to acknowledge them, learn to forgive, and work through that pain with God’s help.
I think it’s very timely that this concept has been bubbling in my heart this morning because it happens to be Easter weekend. The time that we as a family celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is a man who suffered a horrific death to give us life and He had the scars to prove it. He had nails driven into his hands, and feet, and a sword pierced side. On the third day He rose again and appeared to the disciples. They were afraid and initially doubted that who they were seeing was truly Jesus, so to prove His identity He showed them…..
Luke 24:37-38 says, They were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!…”
John 20:19-20 says, …. “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
Jesus was proud of His scars. They were not only reminders of His pain and suffering, but more importantly, proof of His victory over death. They were a part of His story and a very important part.
If you have scars, I am truly sorry for the pain you have experienced, and I feel that acknowledging that pain is an important part of the healing process. I hope that you too can be proud of your scars and show them freely. (I can’t show the majority of mine or I might be arrested. Ha!) But I will always gladly display the ones I can because of the deeper meaning they will always have for me.
My prayer is that you can look at your scars and not see a flawed human being, but instead see a beautiful and loved,
I haven’t posted in awhile mainly because I’m still flying by the seat of my pants with our ”new normal”. Every morning when I wake up and look at the clock I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s all been a bit surreal, a tad challenging, and a lot enlightening. To spare you from a monstrously long post I thought I would give you a few of my random thoughts/realizations, and a smattering of pictures from the last few weeks. So here we go:
1. I’m realizing I need some better loungewear. Maybe even something that actually matches.
2. Man, do you go through a lot of dishes when the majority of your family is home ALL DAY LONG!
3. I have no idea what day it is.
4. I never thought I would get so excited about getting in the car to pick up dinner. It’s officially an “OUTING”!
5. My kids thought homeschooling was super cool for about the first 24 hours. Yeaaahhhh….now…..not so much.
6. Our dog is getting massively spoiled with having us home ALL THE TIME. This is not going to be good once things go back to normal. She may need therapy.
7. I might be binge eating chips and salsa. Okay, I am. Yikes. My elastic waist loungewear “look” may need to extend through the summer.
8. I am deeply grateful for our medical and essential workers that are putting their lives on the line for all of us. THANK YOU.
9. Yep. My kids get ”TV Time” EVERYDAY. Not ashamed. Don’t judge. It’s this non-drinking mom’s version of a glass of wine. So there.
10. My husband is a rockstar, and I’m so proud of how he is handling the stress that has come from all of this. Not only as a leader at his business, but here at home too. He seeks God daily and I see how life-giving it is for him.
(Lately he’s been asking me if I feel comfortable cutting hair. Nope. Not unless he likes mohawks.)
11. I am LOVING this time with the girls. It’s given me an opportunity to pour into them in ways I’ve always wanted to, but “never had the time.” It’s taught me that there is always time. Especially when you make it a priority.
12. I really miss my friends and seeing their actual faces. I never want to take for granted the ability to spend quality time with people, in person.
13. My faith in God and His promises to carry us through any and all trials has only deepened. Even those times when stress and anxiety want to creep in, He reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9…”But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
I am FAR from strong and my house often looks like a tornado hit it, but I‘m doing my best and trusting that like ALL things….
GOD’S GOT IT.
Twenty years ago I was an elementary school teacher. I taught second grade in Austin, Texas, and worked with a lot of children who came from troubled homes. I wanted my classroom to be a place that felt cozy and safe because many of my kiddos didn’t know what “safe” felt like. Some had parents in jail. Others lived in homes where family members were dealing drugs.
So one of the small things I did to try to create this environment was putting this cute lamp on my desk, and every morning I turned it on as the children entered my room. It was a way to create an inviting and warm place for them to know they were loved.
My teaching days are far in the past, but now that we are all “safer at home” because of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m putting my teacher hat back on for my own girls. Incredibly, I still had the lamp, and now it sits in our sunroom where we “do school”. Every morning I turn it on as my girls get settled and ready to learn and I’m reminded of how our past prepares us for our future.
Never discount what you have been through. Whether it was good, bad, or simply a training ground. God is always preparing you for something. I challenge you to take the experiences that you have lived through and really think about the lessons they have taught you.
Maybe they were simply times that felt like you were in a holding pattern. Those are valuable moments too. God’s timing is perfect and the seasons that feel like an uncomfortable pause could quite simply be opportunities for God to align what it is He has for you next.
They always say “hindsight is 2020”and I believe that is so true. Be proud of, or at the very least accepting of, your past and be open to how it has readied you for your future.
We did something utterly insane a few months ago. We got a puppy. Some would argue that that is either insanely crazy or insanely wonderful. I say it’s both. Our daughters have been asking, or should I say desperately groveling, for a puppy for years, but we have always told them, “No.” “But when, Mommy?”, they ask. “When pink flamingos start driving Ubers”, I say. Okay, I didn’t really say that, but there were definite moments that those were my specific thoughts.
Andrew and I grew up with dogs, and we are dog lovers at heart, but we also knew that having a puppy is a LOT OF WORK. We wanted the girls to be a bit older before we pulled the dog-ownership trigger. We felt it was important for them to learn about the amount of responsibility it takes to care for an animal, and we also wanted to have peace with the decision. So for many years it was a hard, NO. But then we met our match….
A praying child.
Darn it! All those lessons we try to teach our kids about the power of prayer are obviously sticking! Lauren started praying for a dog and low and behold, our hearts started softening to the idea. Before I knew it I was on Amazon buying dog treats and portable dog dishes. Then entered Luna. Our mini double doodle.
Luna’s mother is a mini labradoodle, mini goldendoodle mix and her father is a mini poodle. She’s cute as bug, full of energy, loves chasing ice cubes on the kitchen floor, and has a boyfriend at doggy daycare. (He’s a morkie named Turbo. We’re SO not ready for her to date yet.)
And like most new “mothers” I dove into all the puppy training books and materials I could find in search of the best tips for cultivating the perfectly behaved pooch. Hmm. We’re still working on that last piece, but I will say I learned a lot from all of the different sources I drew on.
One was the book, The Art of Raising A Puppy by the Monks of New Skete. There was so much wonderful information in this book and it became my nighttime reading for quite some time before we picked up our new addition.
I also relied heavily on the trainer that had Luna before we picked her up. She gave us a great document of training tips and tricks to help address everything from barking to housebreaking.
As I immersed myself in these resources I began to have a very interesting revelation.
Training dogs is like training kids!
Wait, what? Did I just say that? How can training a four legged furbaby who can’t speak English, squats on your rug, and eats other animals’ poop be anything like training your sweet child, you say? Oh, sister. I thought the same thing until now. Let me break it down for you. Ready? Here we go…
1.“Look At Me”
Dogs: Multiple sources that I read talked about the importance of eye contact with your dog both when enforcing discipline and creating emotional connection. When teaching your dog a new trick for example, having them look at you first brings their attention to the upcoming task at hand. It also helps block out distractions like blowing leaves or squirrels that may vie for your dog’s focus. So I started saying to Luna, “Look at me”, to draw her eyes on mine before I attempted to teach her to do something.
Eye contact with your dog can also be a comforting thing if they are scared or unsure of a situation. There are many times when I’m on a walk with her that she will look back and check to see if I’m still there. A different kind of eye contact can also be a way of correction when she’s doing something wrong. I have definitely given Luna “the look” when she trots into the kitchen with yet another hair scrunchie in her mouth that she sneakily stole off the living room hassock.
Kids: This was the first training concept that made me start to realize that there was a similarity between training dogs and parenting. Moms, how many times have you told your kids to do something whether it was to set the table, or turn off the TV, and your request was met with zero movement and crickets? You know, that selective hearing that our kids love to turn off and on at their convenience.
Well, I put on my dog training hat and changed my approach. Now whenever I have a request or a task for my kids to do I say, “Girls, look at me.” I get their eyes and then I give them the direction. OH MY GOODNESS. This was a game changer. Something so simple got them focused quickly on what I needed them to do and I was no longer Charlie Brown’s teacher (waaa waa waa waaaa) as their eyes glazed over looking off in another direction.
It also made me think about the importance of connection with my kids. As much as I try to give them my full attention at all times, that just doesn’t happen. I’m still guilty of having one eye on them and the other either on my phone or on the stove cooking dinner. And I know that my inattentiveness and lack of full eye contact is not creating meaningful connection for them. So when they need you or just want to talk, give them both of your eyes. It matters. Oh, and the look of correction? Ya’ll don’t need me to go into that one. I think we moms all have our “look of death” pretty perfected!
2. “Say It Once”
Dogs: This was a big learning moment for me. We had a local dog trainer come to the house to work with Luna when we first brought her home and she taught us something that kind of blew my mind. “Say it once.” She showed us that if we want Luna to sit, then we were to say her name, then the command sit, and wait. I had been doing this all wrong. My impatient self would say the command, and if she didn’t respond in the next millisecond I would say it again, and again, and again until she and I both got frustrated and nowhere. The trainer taught me that it’s better to give the dog a chance to think about what you’re saying and mentally process what you’re asking it to do. This teaches the dog to be a thinking dog. And doggone it (pun intended) it worked.
Kids: My children have the advantage over most animals that they can actually speak English. Therefore, they know exactly what I’m saying when I ask or tell them to do something. But how many times have I found myself constantly repeating my commands to them simply because I am not patient enough to just let them do it?! I am now working on stopping that tendency and not repeating myself until I know they have had adequate time to process and act on what I’ve said. In taming my own lack of patience I hope to raise kids who can find peace in this fast paced, anxiety laden world.
3. “Give Them Treats!”
Dogs: Well, this one is pretty obvious. Training your puppy requires a lot of positive reinforcement. This can come in actual edible treat form or in verbal praise and petting. I knew I was in full puppy training mode when I went to a semi-fancy event recently, and when I reached into my coat pocket I found a ziploc baggie full of dog treats. Yep. I’m that girl.
Kids: This was a good reminder for me regarding positive reinforcement. So often as parents we are quick to jump on the things our kids do wrong. And yes, there are times when there needs to be a consequence for bad decisions or behavior, but it’s so easy to forget to praise them for the good things they do. This can be very valuable when you’re talking about parenting currency.
For example, I have been trying to teach my daughters to be aware of others especially when going through doorways. We constantly stress the importance of simple etiquette like opening and holding doors for people. The concept was not hitting home and I continued to watch my kids fly through doors with no regard for the people behind them. It was driving me crazy! But then I noticed one of my daughters very slightly hold the door for another student when I dropped them off at school one morning. Now mind you, this was a barely there door hold and the poor kid may have gotten their bottom bumped by the door as it closed quickly behind them due to the lack of being held open properly by my child however, it was a start.
Well, don’t you know I praised the heck out of that shoddy door hold when the girls got home from school. I made a very obvious point to say how incredibly proud I was of the unbelievably selfless act of opening the door for a fellow student, and how it made my momma’s heart beam with unexplainable pride for the stellar manners that my daughter displayed that day. *Cough, choke, sputter*.
As I praised her for even that small step toward greatness I could see her little heart swell and by golly, that next morning you should have seen the door hold!! She swung that door open, stood by it straight like a Queen’s Guard at Kensington Palace and let not one, but THREE students walk into the school ahead of her. Praise Jesus! The power of a little positive reinforcement. Bottomline, be quicker to praise for the good things, (even if they’re small), and always look for opportunities to call your children up!
4. “Saddle Up Beside”
Dogs: Many of the resources I read talked about the right way to approach or greet a dog. One of the wrong things to do is to hover over it or come at it from the front, especially if it’s a dog you’ve never met. Instead it’s best to come to the dog’s side and not greet it face-to-face. This face-to-face approach could actually be interpreted as confrontational to a dog.
Kids: I immediately saw the parallel with this one to parenting. Some of the best conversations that I’ve ever had with my girls are when I’m either walking alongside them strolling in the neighborhood, or snuggled next to them at bedtime. It’s when I have the approach that “I’m here to walk alongside you in this life”, and not the confrontational in-your-face posture that they tend to open up and be more receptive to teachable moments.
5. “Rub the Heart, Not the Head”
Dogs: I never knew this. Some dogs don’t like to be pet on the head! Some much prefer to be rubbed under their neck and chest instead. I just always assumed that the act of petting a dog’s head was loved by all dogs and they found great pleasure in it. Now I’m sure there are many that love a good head petting, but I can definitely tell that mine is not in that camp! She will let you pet her, of course, but she really loves it more when you rub her under her chest.
Kids: My desire, like most parents, is to have children who grow up to be smart, kind, loving members of society who use their heads to contribute their time, talent and treasure for the greater good. But what does that mean exactly? That’s such a vague statement. I too want them to work hard and do well in school and in life, using their heads and brains to make wise choices and add their creative flair to this world, but truthfully I care more about their hearts.
I want my children to have a heart for God and everything that He is and stands for. I want their hearts to be open and receptive to His wisdom and His calling on their lives, and strong enough to withstand the opposition this world will throw at them because of it. I want their hearts to be tender to His voice and His gentle leading, and to break for the things that break His. I pray that their hearts will love others above themselves, and for hearts that put serving before being served. This is far more valuable in my eyes.
So Lord, help me not to only pat their heads, but instead stroke and nurture their hearts for YOU.
So there you have it. Train a dog, train a child. Oh, and mine just threw up on the couch. Totally not kidding. I’ll leave it up to you to guess which one.
I’ll give you a hint, there are NO cliche “resolutions”!
The year 2020. That just sounds cool, doesn’t it? Every new year brings new possibilities, new goals, and new resolutions we get excited about and commit to for the first three weeks of the year. Then reality and routine set in and so many of those good intentions go flying out the window like confetti in Times Square. This was always my story in the past as I tried to use the beginning of each new year as a time to make life changes for the better.
I always felt like I knew what I needed to do, or change, to live up to that “New Year, New You!” mantra I always hear playing like a broken record come January 1st. Inevitably I would make resolutions like commiting to working out more, eating more healthily, or maybe doing something a little out of my comfort zone for “personal growth”. But again, these were always things I thought were good for ME.
Therein lies the problem. This is why so many of my past resolutions lost steam, gave me zero passion, or flat out failed. I thought I knew what was best for ME. Wrong approach.
If you are sick, do you ask yourself for a complete medical diagnosis so you can get better? No, not unless you are actually a doctor. If water is leaking through your ceiling in your living room do you use your massive internal knowledge of plumbing and house construction to fix the leak? No! Not unless you’re a skilled plumber and a fabulous contractor! The same goes for your life. How can you expect to know exactly what you need to live an exciting, productive, and ever growing life? You can’t! And why put that kind of pressure on yourself?
If you’re trying to figure out what you need to improve upon or change in order to live out your God given purpose while using your specific gifts and talents, stop asking yourself! Instead, ask the One who knows you better than you ever will! Take the pressure off of YOU to figure it all out and put it on the One who created every fiber of your being.
Take a computer for example, and imagine this scenario. You’re sitting by yourself at a diner having breakfast. A man you’ve never met sits next to you and orders a cup of coffee. Then he proceeds to slowly push a laptop down the counter to rest in front of you and says, “I need you to make two Powerpoint presentations, send five emails, and compile this data into two Excel documents in the next hour. If you complete these tasks I’ll give you a million dollars.”
Now here’s the catch. Also imagine that you have never SEEN a computer before. What would you do? Other than the obvious reaction of, “Who in the world are you mister, and why are you disturbing my morning with this weird square metal contraption?”, you might actually be intrigued by the challenge and try to complete the task. That hefty reward is a bit enticing for goodness sakes.
This is where you have two options. You could struggle to figure out this crazy machine you’ve never seen before all by yourself and get extremely frustrated because you don’t know the internal workings of a computer. Or, you could ask the gentleman who charged you with this challenge, for assistance.
And would it help to know that this man’s name is Bill Gates, a brilliant software programmer and co-founder of Microsoft? Uhh….yea, that would help. Anyone with half a brain would ask the expert, who practically built the computer, how to navigate this challenge instead of winging it with limited to no experience in the field. Right?
So why do we put this pressure on OURSELVES every new year to know what is best for us, where we should focus our efforts, and what areas of our lives we should work on? We shouldn’t! Instead, ask the expert! God!
Once I shifted my mindset from this “me centered” approach to a “God centered” focus, my “New Year planning” took on a whole new look.
It actually began about three years ago when I had just completed my breast cancer treatments and my husband and I were finally able to exhale. The stress and trauma of what a cancer diagnosis puts you and your family through is nothing short of exhausting. We were in dire need of some quiet time together as a couple to recharge, reconnect, and process everything we had just been through, so we decided to get away.
We cashed in some gift cards we had received to a spa, about an hour away from our home, and booked two nights and a few relaxing massages during the day. Because this difficult trial had brought us so much closer to God we knew that we wanted to dedicate this time to express our gratitude to Him for His many blessings, and seek His will for our lives in this next season of continued healing for me. That dedicated time away, just the two of us, has become a wonderful tradition that we have continued to do every year since.
It isn’t just the quiet time together that is so nice, it’s what we intentionally do during that time that has become absolutely critical to us each year.
Here is how we structure our “New Year Retreats”.
A week or two before we go we individually begin praying that God will prepare our hearts and plant seeds of direction in our spirits. We like to choose specific words to be our theme for the year and these words are also something we ask God to start sifting out in our minds. During this prep time Andrew and I are both spending quiet time with God, reading our Bibles and devotions separately, and jotting down anything that sticks out to us, or seems like a nugget we should remember.
Something else we do during this process is fast. For us that means fasting from food or certain foods while we go through this process. This can look different for everyone, but we believe in the power of submitting this basic need to the Lord for a time, and have personally seen how it brings us more in tune with Him.
2. Put Away Distractions
Once we are away, whether it’s a one night “staycation” in a local hotel, or 6 hours of solitude in our own home with kids off at the grandparent’s house, the first order of business is turning off the cell phones. This needs to be a distraction-free zone so we can focus on each other and be free to listen to what God wants to share in His still small voice.
3. Get Out the Tools
When we begin this yearly session we always bring the necessary tools to the table. A Bible, (preferably a couple of versions; we like the NIV Life Application Bible and the Message Bible), our Jesus Calling Devotional, and a journal.
4. Set the Stage
Again, beginning everything with prayer is so important. So before we dive in, we thank God for seeing through us another year and ask him to bless this time as we seek His direction for the coming year. We specifically ask Him to show us what to pray for and to guide us in this process.
This is where the handy dandy journal comes in. Andrew started recording our prayer requests and goals for the year in his journal, and we have found it to be so enlightening. Looking back on the previous year to see how God has answered prayers is one of our favorite things to do. It’s amazing to be reminded of His goodness in this way. Oftentimes our requests aren’t answered in the manner we THINK they should be, but when we are able to reflect on how God did it HIS way, it’s always better. We also take time to evaluate the goals that we recorded from the previous year, and celebrate the ones we have accomplished. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss the ones we still have to work on.
Now it’s time to think about the coming year and begin writing down the prayer requests and goals that have come to mind. Andrew and I make a point to sit in silence for a few minutes, listening and waiting for God to impress upon us exactly what those things are. Remember, it’s not about what YOU want those requests and goals to be, it’s what HE wants them to be. Be still, and give Him the space and stillness to tell you.
7. Determine Your Theme “Words”
This is one of my favorite parts of this process. Giving your new year a theme is super helpful. We like to pick one or two words, or a phrase that will be our anchor for the year. It helps us stay on track with the plan and mindset that God has put on our heart for the next twelve months. Use your Bible to research the words that you choose. If your theme is “Be Bold”, then look up verses in the Bible about being courageous. Meditate on those verses, and write them down as a reference. I will talk more about theme words in an upcoming blog so make sure to check back soon.
8. Lock, Load, and Let Go
Finally, take all of your dreams, requests, and goals, and release them from your hands. Begin praying…out loud…together…(yes I said that…OUT LOUD) through your list. If praying with your spouse isn’t something you’ve done before, I encourage you to do it. It’s awesome. Andrew usually starts off and then we volley back and forth like a tennis ball, each taking turns praying. Not only is hearing your spouse pray powerful, but the Bible says in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Make sure to allow plenty of time for this prayer process, and don’t be afraid to cover EVERYTHING, including the kitchen sink, in prayer. Family, work, marriage, country, etc. Nothing should be off the table.
This whole process is wonderful and extremely fulfilling, but it can also be a little exhausting so make sure to celebrate when you’re finished. That can look as simple as cooking a great meal together or going for a nice long walk. Celebrate the fact that you are choosing to put God first in your lives. Celebrate that you were willing to sacrifice your most precious commodity, your time, to seek wisdom from the God of the universe.
Remember! You are submitting and trusting your year to a God who loves you and is FOR YOU!! Now that’s something to raise a glass to as the clock turns midnight and your new year begins!
Happy New Year!
When I was hit with a cancer diagnosis, one of the first things my husband and I wanted to do was change some of our eating habits. When you feel completely out of control of your health, being able to control SOMETHING is super helpful. I wanted to make sure that I was fueling my body with as much awesome goodness as possible to help fight those pesky cancer cells and give me the energy I needed to heal.
So, my wonderful husband, who loves to do research, found some fantastic juicing recipes from our friend Cortney who is also a warrior super mom and cancer survivor. So I will take ZERO credit for these recipes, but I wanted to share them. If you haven’t checked out Cortney’s blog, anticancermom.com, do so! It’s fantastic!
If you’re interested in juicing go out and invest in a good juicer. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the energy when we first started this to test out a bunch of them, so my sister-in-law gave us hers which was a huge blessing. It is a Breville Juice Fountain Plus. I’m sure there are a lot of great options out there, but this one has been great for us.
We have found that setting aside a day of the week, like Sunday afternoon, is great for juicing. It can be a bit of a messy and involved process, so dedicating specific time for it is helpful. We typically make two to three recipes and juice in bulk.
Make sure you have a bunch of small mason jars that you can freeze your juice in. We typically make approximately 8 ounce individual servings. Fill your jars leaving at least one inch of room at the top so there is space for the juice to expand when it freezes. You don’t want frozen juice and glass carnage all over your freezer after all that hard work! Trust me, you will cry.
If we pick two recipes and double each one it usually yields around 26 to 30, 8+oz servings.
Once you have your frozen stash of juice you can take one out each morning, place it in a bowl of water and by lunchtime it’s thawed. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE MICROWAVE! You don’t want to kill all that good nutritional gold.
And that’s it! I love my juices and still enjoy them even after recovering from because they feel like rocket fuel for my body.
So here’s the good stuff! The recipes! Again, I give all credit to anticancermom.com for these fabulous concoctions. A couple of these may require a little getting used to in the taste department as they are designed to be cancer fighting. But I have grown to really enjoy them. If you are looking for some flavor variety there are also wonderful books out there with more recipes like Crazy Sexy Juice by Kris Carr. I LOVED this book and we made a lot of juices from this resource too.
(1 cucumber, 8 carrots, 4 kale leaves)
(1 cucumber, 1 medium beet, ¼” piece of peeled ginger)
(6-10 carrots, ¼” purple cabbage, pineapple core)
(1 green apple, 4-6 carrots, 1 broccoli stalk, 1 medium beet)
Apple-Celery-Carrot-Baby Bok Choy
(1 green apple, 6-8 carrots, 1 bunch baby bok choy)
It’s a new year already? Hold the phone! How did this happen? I feel like I just cleaned up the confetti from last New Years’ Eve party. Okay, who am I kidding? There was no confetti, or a party this year. Andrew and I were in bed by 10 pm like we are most New Year’s Eves. Truth. Not ashamed. But seriously, how did another year fly by like this past one did?
Last year was an incredible collection of twelve months, and voted one of our favorites by the unofficial “How did this year stack up to the last few?” poll in our household. It was definitely a year of new births, and no, I don’t mean actual babies. Good gravy, that would have sent me over the edge, and we all know my baby ship has sailed. But God birthed some dreams in us over the past 12 months that were pretty awesome.
I’m sure all you moms can understand and relate; birthing babies and having newborns is a LOT of work! And even though these new dreams and projects are wonderful and exciting, bringing them into existence is exhausting! Please don’t read this as complaining. I am definitely not doing that. In fact, it’s far from it. I am SO grateful for it all, the release of my book, the start of this blog, to name a few of the blessings, but to put it quite simply, by mid-November I was tired. In fact, here is a little snapshot of what my brain was saying on a daily basis….
“Make it stop, Lord! Make the spinning, the constant spinning of my mind and my anxious thoughts stop! I’m FREAKING out!”
Yep, it had happened. My brain had officially become a salad spinner. “A what?” you ask. You heard me. A salad spinner. You know, those cute little kitchen gadgets that look like a big bowl with a strainer type thing inside and a plunger pumping mechanism on the top. It’s what cooking savvy people, a.k.a. my husband, use to put rinsed salad greens in. Once they’re tucked safely inside, the plunger is repeatedly pushed down to make the inside strainer basket spin like a crazy tilt-a-whirl at the fair. Those poor unsuspecting lettuce leaves don’t know what’s hit them and before they know it they’ve been whipped into oblivion in order to draw the excess water out of their leaves. If you’ve ever used one of these before you know that even after you stop pressing the plunger, the inside basket continues to spin until you either manually stop it or let it slow on its own.
Well, my brain had become the epitome of this salad spinner. The pace of the past year and all of the work that went into birthing these dreams was like that plunger constantly pushing up and down on my brain. That consistent pumping was keeping my mind spinning, and fast. Even though all the work and projects were good things, my thoughts were still moving at top speed. Then as November rolled around and the pace of our lives began to slow a bit before the holidays, the “plunger pumping” stopped, but my brain couldn’t stop spinning, just like that crazy salad spinner.
I found myself unable to concentrate, and I was having a hard time setting aside quiet moments to be with the Lord. Even when I did, I couldn’t focus and I felt anxious. I was beginning to see that social media was keeping my mind in a constant state of stimulation, and I wasn’t allowing it to rest. I was far from the peaceful person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like it. I knew I needed to do something drastic.
Well okay, not drastic like move to Bali and meditate in a cross-legged position on a beach all day kind of drastic (as lovely as that sounds), but I absolutely needed to make a change in some of my daily habits. As I lay in bed one night trying to quiet my mind so I could go to sleep, I started praying and asking God for help. What I heard was a still small voice in my spirit say, “Give up social media for awhile.”
Earlier in the year I may have had a slight heart attack at the thought of doing this, but at this moment it felt like a breath of fresh air and permission to unplug. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until now, but I saw how the frequent scrolling, posting, comparing, and pressure I put on myself to “show up” was keeping my mind from finding those much needed quiet moments.
It was one of the things that was forcing my salad spinner brain to stay in motion and in turn, was keeping out the peace, guidance, and wisdom that God was wanting to let in. So I made a pact with myself that I would put social media to the side and not engage with it as long as I felt God wanted me to. Let me tell you….
IT WAS GLORIOUS.
Like anything, it took a little while before I stopped reaching for my phone in the grocery check-out line, or in the car waiting for my kids at school pick up. That weird need to scroll and kill time was still strong. But like any habit you’re trying to break, the more you work on it the less the desire is there. Anytime I felt an urge to scroll I would change my focus to my Jesus Calling devotional app or my Daily Bread app to be filled with God’s wisdom instead of what someone ate for breakfast that day.
(Disclaimer: I love a great breakfast idea, and I’m sure I’ll be doing an Insta Story on avocado toast in the near future, so no offense my breakfast posting friends!)
As I began clearing my schedule, putting my phone down, and picking up my Bible more I began to feel the spinning start to slow. My thoughts were becoming more calm and less fractured, and I experienced my brain beginning to reset.
Every morning as I began to wake up and be conscious of my thoughts, I prayed Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” The other verse I frequently meditated on and often still say outloud is Phillipians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I think God shines His light on things in our lives that need a little attention, or a little less attention, as in this case. I don’t feel like He was condemning social media or saying it as a whole is “bad”, but I knew He was telling me I needed to step back to refocus my eyes on Him. Just like Ross and Rachel from Friends, (yes this is dating me), I wasn’t deciding to “break up” with social media. I was simply “on a break!”
As I re-engage into this digital world again, my goal is to live in perfect PEACE and to do that by trusting God in all things, and setting boundaries for myself. These boundaries are going to look like specific times that I am allowing myself to “scroll”, and/or post, and making sure I keep that piece of my life (that I do enjoy) in check. I think simply being aware of it is half the battle and often a great place to start.
Stopping the spinning was the first thing that needed to happen at the end of 2019 so that I could effectively vision cast and seek God’s will for myself and our family for 2020! If you’d like to read about what that looks like and the process my husband and I go through to do this each year, check out my post on “How I Begin My New Year”!
I love when some of the biggest life lessons happen over a five minute discussion….in the car. Last year, my morning school drop-off routine consisted of driving my oldest daughter to her school, and then a quick five minute drive to drop my youngest to her’s. I love those rare occasions when I get one-on-one time with my girls. It’s definitely a luxury, and I always looked forward to this brief time with Katherine, my youngest.
Each morning I would try to do a quick check-in with her. Those check-ins typically consisted of short questions like, “How are you feeling today?” “Is there anything exciting happening at school this morning?” Or sometimes we simply recited some of our favorite Bible verses together, to help her prepare for the day, like Phillippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Most days, her answers to my questions were peppy retorts and excited responses about the upcoming day’s activities, but this day was different.
It was a beautiful autumn morning and the changing leaves on the trees were ablaze with color. As we drove the quick route to school, I asked her how she was doing. Instead of her normal, “I’m great, Mommy!”, response, instead she said that she was sad.
She began to explain that something had happened at school that made her feel different than the other kids. She was struggling with being set apart and she didn’t like it one bit. As a momma, my heart was breaking for her, but I knew that this was going to be a good learning moment.
Just a few days before she had pointed out a large maple tree at the edge of the playground whose leaves had turned a gorgeous red color. She mentioned that the kids always commented on how pretty that tree was when they ran outside to play for recess each day. Everyone loved the “red tree”, and she was right, it was stunning.
So as she was pouring out her heart about feeling different, I listened, and then began sharing what started bubbling up in my heart. This is how the conversation went.
Me: “Katherine, you love fall, right?”
Katherine: “Yes Mommy, I do!”
Me: “And you love how the trees change color and create this beautiful mix of yellows, oranges, and reds, right?
Katherine: “Uh, huh.”
Me: “What do you think fall would look like if all the trees turned yellow and there were no other colors?”
Katherine: “It would look pretty boring.”
Me: “You’re right. Fall would look pretty boring and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beautiful variation that we see now. And what if the red tree that all the kids love wasn’t there, or if it were the same color as all the other trees around it? How would that make you or your friends feel?”
Katherine: “They would be sad because they would miss the red tree.”
Me: “Honey, I want you to be the red tree. God made you the way He did for a reason just like He made that beautiful red tree for a reason. There are going to be times when you aren’t going to fit in with the rest of the crowd or you may have beliefs that are different than others around you, but you need to be the “red tree”. Don’t be afraid to stand out. There may be times when it’s not an easy thing to do, but without the “red trees” this world would be a dull and boring place. Be proud of the beauty and the potential that is inside of you, no matter what anyone else says.”
By the time we had arrived at her school, her demeanor had completely changed. We pulled into the parking lot and there next to the fence was the gorgeous red tree in all of its glory. I pointed to it and said, “There it is honey. Look at how beautiful it is. Now go and be the red tree today.”
A smile broke on her face and she slipped out of the car and skipped into school. It was a great reminder for me too, of the importance of being okay with going against the crowd sometimes. God made us all different and special in our own ways. If everyone was the same, how boring this world would be.
Psalm 139:13-14 says, “You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.”
It can be hard feeling like you’re the one fish swimming upstream some days. But just like a fall season with only yellow leaves, if this world didn’t have YOU, and all the uniqueness found in each and everyone of us, it would be a boring place.
Don’t let the fear of standing out keep you from stepping into your purpose. You are not an accident. God meticulously created you for a reason. You weren’t meant to blend in or get lost in the shadows. Be the “RED TREE” and don’t be afraid to stand out and shine in all your beauty and uniqueness.
I love a good bucket list. You know, those things you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket” and skip through those pearly gates into God’s heavenly bliss. We all have them. I have one too. It’s filled with things like, going on a true sleigh ride while it’s snowing with horses and jingle bells, and touring Vermont at the peak of the fall color. I may or may not have “dance with Derek Hough” on there too. (If anyone knows Derek, put in a good word for the middle-aged ex-dancer mom!) But having a book signing at Barnes and Noble was never on my list. Not because I didn’t think it was a super cool thing to do, but because I never, in a million years, thought it might actually happen.
But it did. And I’m still kind of freaking out.
When you’re a newbie author like me, you have no idea how this whole “writing a book” thingy goes. But when you feel called to do it, you just put your head down, strap on your noise canceling headphones, and get to work. That’s what I’ve done this past year. It was almost one year to the day since I began this writing journey to when this baby of a book was born into the world. And I’m finding that I’m just as clueless about what happens after the book is released as I was about the book creating process itself. But again, God is good, and He is walking me through this next phase of the journey gently holding my hand and wowing me in ways only He can.
Cue the Barnes and Noble opportunity.
It was the day before my book was to officially launch and my husband sent me a text with a screen shot of a post from our local Barnes and Noble Facebook page. It was a photo of a stack of my books on the information desk of the store with a sweet announcement that the book was available for purchase there. What?!! I hadn’t even reached out to them yet to inquire about having my book there! All the questions began circling in my head. “How did they get the books?” “Where did they hear about it?” So I did what anyone would do in that situation…..
I squealed, clapped my hands like a four year old, and forwarded the screenshot to my mom. (And then called the store a couple of days later to get the scoop.)
I met with the manager of the store, John, and said he had heard through the grapevine that I had written a book and he loves to support local authors. Then he graciously offered to host a book signing for me! The whole conversation is still a little fuzzy because one side of my brain was focusing on trying to answer his questions intelligently, and the other half was acting like a teenager on too much coffee rapid firing comments and excitement like a crazy person. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
Now I’m sure you’re saying, seriously woman, get a grip. It’s a book signing. In ONE store. In a small town. Yea, I know. You’re right. But to me it felt like that exciting moment at a running race when the athletes are anxiously waiting at the starting line for the gun to go off signally the beginning of their event. They have trained and worked, sweat and toiled to get to the place where they’re ready to release what they have long been preparing to do. And now it’s here. That crack of the starting gun telling the runners it’s “go time”. It’s time to see what all this work was for.
This book signing felt like my starting gun.
The day came and I arrived 20 minutes early thinking it would give me time to get settled, gather my thoughts, and pray that maybe one person would show up. Well, those great plans of some prep time didn’t exactly happen. I walked in and there was a handful of people already in line waiting. Uhh…the line for coffee at Starbucks is on the other side of the store people. Are you sure you’re in the right place? They were. Oh my goodness.
The first person in line laid my book down in front of me open to a specific chapter that spoke to him. He was going through some difficulties in his life, not cancer related, and there was something in those pages that gave him encouragement and hope. I so wish I could remember everything he said, but I was too overwhelmed with the fact that God was using my story to help someone with a situation that I had no knowledge of.
The next lady in line was a complete stranger who stood clutching my book in her hands with tears streaming down her face. She proceeded to tell me that her daughter had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Unlike the previous gentleman, her words were few and labored so I simply got up from behind the table and hugged her. I could feel her sadness and I tried to reassure her, the best I could, that she wasn’t alone.
A little later another woman appeared in front of my table with a questioning, yet resolute look on her face. She proceeded to tell me that even though she had a mountain of housework to do, she felt strongly led to leave it all behind, take some time for herself and come to Barnes and Noble. She said, “I have no reason for being here, but I think I’m supposed to get your book.” I happily signed it for her, and said a little prayer to myself that God would bless her right where she needed it that day.
The flow of the rest of the afternoon consisted of some wonderful friends and family just coming to support me, to a recent breast cancer survivor, looking beautiful in her head covering, who had just finished her treatments. After it was all over, we had sold out of Barnes and Noble’s stock. I packed up my things, went back to my car and took a big, deep breath.
Wow, that just happened.
I was so grateful. I was grateful for my incredible friend and publisher, Staci Wallace, for flying all the way from Texas to be there, and beautifully supporting me through this process. I was grateful for John at Barnes and Noble for not only giving me the opportunity, but for making this experience such a wonderful and memorable one. And I was grateful to God for pushing me to tell my story, and for going before me to show me this path. He is faithful and once again, true to His promise to work all things together for good.
I don’t know what the next leg of this race will look like, but I’m thankful for the start.