Hope for the Days When You Feel Like You Got Nothing Done

My eight-year-old always stops and says “hi” to his baby sister when we pick him up at the bus stop. He climbs straight over little brother, who blocks his way and clamors for his attention. But he lingers a while over Elise. He smiles and grabs her hand while she coos.

Our four-month-old is teaching us all the art of savoring. She’s showing us how to slow down a bit, to stay in those the little moments.

But oh, how I fight it. It takes an intentional choice to be present, to look my kids in the eye, and focus. To stop thinking about what I have to get done. To stop scrolling through my phone.

A few weeks ago I shared how I felt overwhelmed as I navigated life with three kids, but I think another translation of that statement is, “I’m not getting enough done.”

It’s how we base our worth, isn’t it? The dishes are out of the sink. Check. The laundry is in the washer. Check.

But what if we put a check mark next to the time we spent cuddling the baby? What if we added another item to our to-do list: roll around on bed with five-year-old.

What if we placed as much value on the time spent loving others as we do to getting that work project done?

When my firstborn was a baby, I didn’t savor the time. After leaving my full-time job where productivity was measured in numbers, I felt like I had no compass or boundaries. It took years for me to navigate a life with no commute or schedule.

There are still days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. But every now and then, God gives me a glimpse into his heart. He shows me what’s important, even when I’m forgetful and stubborn.

Jesus was intentional about every moment he spent on earth, but he didn’t rush. And perhaps more importantly, he didn’t make people feel rushed either.

Last week I went through a short study highlighting seven things Jesus said before he died, and what struck me was this: He loved people right up until his dying breath. He didn’t check out emotionally or ignore the people who stood there mocking him and watching him die.

Even while he hung there and suffered, he thought about his mother. He made sure his family was taken care of.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 John 19:26-27 NIV

Time spent loving others is never wasted.

When we take our last breath and the people around us look back on our lives, they won’t remember how clean we kept our house. And I’m not saying the never wash another dish, although that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

They will remember the way we loved others. They will remember the relationships we formed and spent time cultivating.

With each child God gives me, he’s teaching me. And baby girl is teaching me how to savor. She’s teaching me how to love all over again.

 

Joining these link-ups: #ChasingCommunity

A Love That Pursues

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 NIV

It was easier for me to say nothing. I kept reasoning to myself that I didn’t want to create a rift in our relationship or cause unnecessary awkwardness. But the more I tried to make small talk, the more impossible it became.

Years of past hurt swelled in my heart. So with gentleness and restraint, I told my loved one how his choices affected me. To my surprise, he received it without bitterness or resentment.

What did surprise me was this: He didn’t know. He didn’t see how the ripple effect of his choices extended further than those he was in contact with on a daily basis. It affected his entire family, friends and loved ones.

As I look back on our conversation, I wonder how long he would have continued in oblivion if I’d said nothing. Years? A lifetime?

When I see a brother or sister veering off the narrow path God has for them, I often assume they know. I think they are aware of the consequences of their decisions and see the long-term effects, but often this isn’t true.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m honored to be sharing what these verses from James taught me over at Deeper Waters today. Click here to join us.

When “I’ll Pray for You” Is An Insult

when-%22ill-pray-for-you%22-is-an-insult

Sometimes words said with good intention can be insulting. We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to comment on a friend or family member’s trials, triumphs, and everything in-between. But do we stop to think before we insert our like, love, or laughing face?

I will be the first to say I love emojis and use them often in texts and on social media, but I often wonder what all this instant, no-thought-required communication is really doing to our ability to communicate. Take, for example, the statement, “I’ll pray for you.” Or the comment I see more often, “Thoughts and prayers!”

Now, by no means am I saying we shouldn’t pray for others. Sometimes, as I stated in my previous post, it’s all we can do. And let them know you’re praying. It can encourage a person’s heart to know there are people rallying behind them in prayer.

But what if there is something else we can do? What about the times when someone desperately needs help, and we could be the ones God uses to provide it?

There are times when I see people on Facebook crying out for help. Sometimes, it’s a home that’s flooded and they need a place to stay. Or they’re sick and could really use a hot meal. The possibilities are endless.

If we have the resources and ability to help the person in need, are we really displaying the love of Christ by saying “I’ll pray for you,” and then carrying on with our lives? While I’m certain God is all-powerful and able to swoop down, make the person some soup and deliver it to their front door, do you think maybe that’s what he’s called us to do instead?

when-to-stop-praying-and-act

When Jesus walked the earth during his earthly ministry, he prayed. A lot. He and the Father were in constant communion and he often removed himself from others completely so he could be alone in prayer.

But I don’t recall a single time when someone walked up to him, begging for help, food or shelter, and he said, “I’ll pray for you.” He knew there was a time to pray and a time to act, and he wasn’t going to mislead others by confusing the two.

John, who was with Jesus during most of his ministry, says it like this:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18 NIV

Friends, prayer was never intended to be used as an excuse for inaction. And I am convicted. I am guilty of turning the other way when I know God was asking me lend a helping hand, but he is showing me that if we are to be his hands and feet, we must act. We must move. We must do something other than say, “I’ll pray for you.”

I know there are seasons when we are stretched thin between little ones, jobs and other responsibilities. Prayer may truly be the best we have to offer. I know there are also times when we aren’t the best person to help.

But if we are constantly turning the other way, we need to reevaluate. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask the question every person who attended VBS as a kid knows: What would Jesus do?

I can guarantee you, he would do more than sit. Let’s follow his example and do the same.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Tempted to Climb That Soapbox {Plus a Fun Giveaway}

when-youre-tempted-to-climb-the-soapbox

I come from a long line of opinionated people. When you get my family together, there’s bound to be a clash of views, but most of the time we’re able to walk away with smiles and laughter.

Usually, the subject is as miniscule as college football, but every now and then it’s more serious. I remember one adventure when we were visiting a National Park in Moab, Utah and a family member who shall remain nameless insisted on taking an off-road route to see the arches. They were in a mini-van, but the route’s sign “highly recommended” a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Needless to say, after a few miles a park ranger coming in the opposite direction suggested we turn around. We were able to get back on the paved road and see all the main attractions without getting stuck, but there where a few times when the little van was scraping rock.

We’re able to look back on the incident now and chuckle, but disputes with loved ones don’t always end this way, do they? When we feel attacked, it’s difficult to put aside our emotions.

All too often, I see an issue as black and white when in fact, there are many shades of gray. I want to have the last word and race down an ugly path of pride and narrow-mindedness instead of trying to see the other person’s point of view.

Even when I’m speaking truth, I sometimes forget about love. Instead of trusting the Spirit to speak to someone’s heart, I try to chisel away at it with words that are callous and hurtful.

Friends, there is only one person who can open a person’s heart and mind to God’s truth. He is the Spirit, and he doesn’t speak through resounding gongs and cymbals. We are his vessels, but when we approach others with a voice of pride we accomplish nothing.

when-the-soapbox-tempts-you

There is a reason why scripture warns about controlling the tongue so many times. Because it truly does have the power of life and death.

Whether the issue is big or small, we will never agree with everyone on everything. And you know what? That is good. We were never intended to. But we can learn to approach disagreements in a Christ-like way.

I am a work in progress and on this side of eternity, I always will be. Through the arguments and the heartache, here are three questions his Spirit prompts me to ask when my blood pressure rises.

  1. Do I love this person? This is a question my pastor asked a few years ago and it stuck with me. If the answer is “no” then walk away. Even if you are speaking truth, any words that are not spoken with love will accomplish nothing.
  1. Is this my pride talking, or am I speaking the truth out of love? If I can’t find scripture, wise counsel or experience to back what I’m saying, then I may be speaking out of a pure need to be right. And what’s right for me may not be right for every other person on the planet.
  1. Am I giving this person grace or exercising judgment? While it is healthy to create boundaries, there is only one person who sits in the judgment seat, friends. It isn’t you or me, but Christ alone. Let us hand over the gavel to the One who can handle its weight.

I know there will be days when I’m tempted to climb on my soapbox. But you know what? The words I preach from there seldom do any good, unless you count the boost to my ego.

Arguments will happen and tempers will flare, but we can control the way we handle ourselves. Let’s reflect the mindset of the Creator, even when we’re tempted to let callous words fly.

 

GIVEAWAY!

sept-16-giveawayAs a thank you to my lovely readers I’m giving away two fun gifts: a power bank, which can be used to wirelessly charge your smart phone, iPod, camera, etc. and a Hope & Joy mirror keychain! Just comment below and share this post for extra entries. (if you shared the post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. please let me know in your comment) I’ll announce the winner next Thursday! Giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

 

 

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

When Grief is Great and Words Are Weak

the one thing to remember when grief is great

Today we’re saying goodbye to one of the oldest members of our family. She doesn’t wear human skin or express herself in many syllables, but she’s loved just the same.

She’s the four-legged kind. A blondie. A dear friend named Coco.

She and our other mutt brought my husband and I together thirteen years ago with their mutual love for walks and chasing furry creatures. And as they say, well, the rest is history.

Since I’m pregnant and rather hormonal the realization that our companion is dying hit me rather hard. But I believe during those hard seasons God often speaks the loudest, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

As my husband wrapped his arms around me and my round belly this morning, I said,

“It’s amazing how God speaks to us through our animals.”

I’d been observing our two girls over the past couple of days. Our other dog, Zoe, knew something was up and her disposition had changed. She’d become more affectionate, more calm, wanting to be near us often.

One day I let both of them out on our back porch while I cleaned. After about a half hour, I peeked through the window.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Purposeful Faith about grief and how often words are weak. You can read the rest of my post here.

when grief is great and words are weak

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

Why You Shouldn’t Withhold Your Encouragement

Don't Withhold Your Words of Encouragement

I’m a sucker for a good Hallmark card. Don’t make fun. This Mother’s Day with the pregnancy hormones raging, I may have gotten a little teary-eyed as I was reading mine.

It said exactly what I needed to hear. Greeting cards have a way of doing that, don’t they?

You pour your heart and soul into this family

And it shows.

It had been a rough week. As we received notes home from our son’s teacher about his recent difficulties staying focused, I questioned the causes for his change in behavior. I questioned my abilities as a mom and whether or not we’d be able to handle a third child.

I knew as the last weeks of school wound down it wasn’t uncommon for kids to lose focus, but the feelings of defeat still followed me. Especially after the second note in one week. It didn’t appear as though our conversation had helped.

Sometimes when the stresses of life pile up, we need a reminder. And I thank God that Mother’s Day greeting cards aren’t the only time my husband gives me one.

He tells me he sees the love I pour into our family. He lets me know my labor is not in vain. But as I remembered the lines his card, I wondered.

How often do we let those words of encouragement and affirmation go unsaid? Are holidays and cards the only time we say the things that matter, or do we tell the people we love how much we care?

I recently watched a video that had gone viral on Facebook. It was about regret, and talked about how people nearing the end of their lives here on earth didn’t usually regret the things they did.

They regretted what they didn’t do.

why you shouldn't withhold your encouagement

The video talked about pursuing our dreams, very carpe diem in its message. I was moved and inspired.

But the type of regret the video didn’t talk about was things left unsaid. Words of love left unspoken. Words that say, “You matter, you inspire, and you’ve made a difference in my life.”

Not just in a greeting card, but spoken out loud.

I thought about how often God has blessed me with people who moved and inspired me, but I didn’t tell them. I thought about the people in my life who have passed, and wondered if they knew what they meant to me.

They say actions speak louder than words and I believe most of the time this is true, but you know what? Our words matter. They can breathe life into a soul who needs it and turn thoughts into movement.

But we have to speak them. Instead of simply thinking good thoughts about someone, we have to say them out loud.

Words of encouragement never spoken are like thirsty seed. They have the potential to give life, but they don’t.

Tell someone she matters today. Tell her you see her and notice the love she pours into her work, her family and those around her.

You may never know how much she needs it. You may never know the life you bring with your words.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday

HGTV, Pinterest, and the Things That Really Matter {Link-up}

hgtv and things that matter

I have a love-hate relationship with HGTV. And Pinterest. And all of those fixer-upper shows.

My husband and I moved into a fixer-upper several years ago, and while we’ve done a lot of cosmetic upgrades, there are still things I’d like to change. But life doesn’t stop for remodels and the kids don’t stop needing new shoes, so for now we pushed the pause button.

Most days I’m perfectly happy having friends over to eat in my 70’s kitchen. But every now and then, I hear those voices saying what I have to offer isn’t good enough.

It’s a dismal truth, but it’s there.

Those voices interrupted my thoughts several weeks ago when I was having a dear friend fly in to speak at our local MOPS group. She was staying overnight, and in the weeks leading up to her arrival we made some preparations to ensure she was as comfortable as possible.

I was excited to have her visit and for the chance to connect in person, since she lives several states away. That is, until I visited her home. A couple of weeks before her visit, I joined some friends at her house for a weekend retreat.

Her place was beautiful, and looked like a spread straight out of a Good Housekeeping magazine. Since her kids are grown, her floors weren’t perpetually sticky. Her windows weren’t smudged with fingerprints or dog slobber.

It short, it was perfect.

When she came north a few weeks later, her welcome was anything but perfect. As I was speeding down the highway to pick her up, the GPS drained my battery and my phone died.

I had forgotten my charger.

After finding her at the airport, I could not locate my car. We circled the parking garage on foot several times before discovering an airport car finding service.

I wish I was kidding. And yes, the service does exist.

It was like we were living an episode of Seinfeld, except I wasn’t laughing. I was worrying about my cell phone, getting home to pick up my son and making it to our MOPS meeting.

When we finally got back to my house, I realized we didn’t have time to eat the meal I had been so careful to put in the crockpot before leaving.

And in the midst of all the running around and the chaos, my friend didn’t complain. She was gracious and patient, and when we finally arrived at MOPS I realized something.

Her message was about making the most of the time we have with our kids, but the message God had for me was different.

As I sat there listening, I realized time is all we really have in this life.

home

We can spend it worrying about the age of our kitchen appliances or we can open our kitchens with love.

We can spend it stressing about having the perfect, Pinterest-worthy treats or we can savor the sweetness of each bite.

Yes, the details make a difference. I love a beautiful plate of food. But don’t let the details keep you from looking your guests in the eye. Don’t let them keep you from sitting down and having a conversation.

The perks of a magazine-worthy home can never replace the warmth felt within it.

I’m reminded of a poor widow the Lord asked to feed his prophet, Elijah. She and her son were about to eat their last meal, but at the word of God, she gave everything.

She gave what she had, and the Lord blessed her for it. (1 Kings 17:8-16)

God can take what we have and multiply it into much more than we could ask, think or imagine.

When I visited my friend’s home down south, it wasn’t the décor that left an impression on my heart. It was the welcome. It was the love. It was the what’s-mine-is-yours hospitality.

Those modern appliances? Well, I won’t tell you they don’t make you happy.

But I also know joy comes from a deeper place. A soul-level place. A belly laugh, strolls at sunset, tears over coffee type of place.

That’s the place I want to keep my eyes fixed on. It’s place I try to remember when the weight of this life tries to drown me in forgetfulness.

 

#RaRaLinkup Time!

1. Link up your inspiring & motivating post with the blue frog button below. (it will direct you to the linkup page)
2. Grab the Kelly Balarie & Friends button to display on your blog or just link back.
3. LEAVE A COMMENT ON THE POST LINKED UP RIGHT BEFORE YOURS. Visit others & be encouraged. 

*Note: We will conclude our Rays in the Storm Series on Thursday. Thanks so much to all who have read, commented and contributed to a Spirit-filled series. You rock!