What To Do When an Hour, a Day, or a Month Seems Wasted

Check numbers. 

That’s all it was about. Check Numbers.

In case your third grade Math curriculum didn’t cover this base, check numbers are a (relatively) simple way of quickly checking the answers to math problems without having to go back and rework the entire problem. 

I promise this isn’t a Math lesson — don’t get antsy on me.

A sweet little nine-year old of mine and I were gathered at the homeschool table, going through the steps over and over again. We practiced finding the check numbers. Adding them to each other. Using them to check the problems we’d worked.

When the game in the math lesson was too complicated, I made up a simpler version where we just practiced the process over and over. We kept score and Blake won. 

At the end of it all, it felt like an hour well spent.

I hustled to the kitchen, a few minutes late to get started making lunch.

A few minutes later, Blake sauntered in.

“155!” I shouted, just like I had in the game we’d played fifteen minutes earlier. “155! What’s the check number??!!”

He furrowed his brows and lifted a hand to his forehead — the way he does these days when he is asked a difficult question and he just can’t get his brain to help him with the answer.

After a pause and a few more eyebrow furrows he responded:

“What are check numbers again?”

My heart sank for a moment. We’d spent an hour — an entire hour — just practicing check numbers. 

Fifteen minutes later, Blake didn’t remember — couldn’t remember — what I was talking about.

It would have been so easy to feel frustrated. Defeated. Overwhelmed. Discouraged.

Instead, I decided to smile. 

If I could take a step back and distance myself from the situation, it was almost funny, right? 

You probably know that last year we almost lost that nine-year-old. A brain aneurism almost sent him home to Jesus sooner than any of us were ready.

He’s a walking miracle. That he can read, jump, run and play is a gift. That he is able to do Math at all, that he still remembers the multiplication tables he learned before any of this happened is nothing short of glorious.

So the very thing that would make me want to throw my hands in the air in desperation? It’s also the thing that makes me realize how very blessed we are to have a day together to practice check numbers. 

Even if that concept won’t stick and we have to try again.

Sometimes I give myself a moment to wonder — what sorts of things has God spared me from? How many almost-losts almost happened, and where, but for the grace of God, might I be?

I think someday we’ll find out — and we’ll be overwhelmed when we realize how miraculous every breath we get to take truly is. Just how much each day is a gift.

When we have a brush with death of any kind, gosh, aren’t we suddenly grateful in a whole new way to breathe, to feel… to be alive?

One Psalmist prayed it this way:So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. {Psalm 90:12}

In the midst of these complicated moments, when unemployment, scarcity and fear loom in the doorway, when sickness and loss lurk in the corners, we will gain a heart of wisdom by counting these days as gifts. 

Here’s what I’ve learned in a nutshell:

The Big Picture: 
It’s hard to hold the idea that every day is a gift in our minds when life is hard or things go wrong. We forget every moment is a gift, and I think maybe it took me nearly losing a kid last year to gain this perspective. I’ll forget again and need to be reminded again, and so will you. We aren’t promised tomorrow, and it would behoove us to hold onto that thought!!

The Baby Steps:
When an hour seems wasted, or a deficit seems overwhelming, try counting up instead of down. Calculate how many days you’ve had already. I’ve lived well over 13,000 days! Nearly 14,000 gifts. Nearly 14,000 opportunities to grow and change and learn and breathe and be. You GET to be here and live this day! Your perspective on its giftedness is really up to you!

So let’s count our days, take a step back to remember the big picture, and, when we can, try to laugh instead of crying. 

Considering so many of the might-have-beens, today is a good day.

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Also — just in case you missed the Ten Simple Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Kids freebie I shared recently, you can find it on the brand new Parenting Resources page I ALSO created for you! Find all the good stuff at https://www.carolinecollie.com/parenting/

Feeling Tension? Why to Pay Attention

It all started with a well-designed laundry table. The hubs built this perfectly-dimensioned beast to make space for folding and to hold four laundry baskets on two shelves underneath. Adjacent to the shelves, there’s a slightly higher surface with hanging space underneath where the no-tumble-dry clothes live until I put them away.

It seemed like a glorious thing, built, assembled, and ready to make me a laundry-diva. Kicking dirty clothes in the bum and taking stains prisoner. 

Until it wasn’t.  Or I wasn’t.

Weeks and months went by and I felt almost every bit as frustrated with laundry as before — even though I had the perfect space to get it done.

Finally, I paused and just listened to the tension I was feeling. Why was entering the laundry room still filling me with dread?

It took me all of thirty-six seconds to place where the issue came from:

I always felt behind. Laundry always felt overwhelming. 

I gave a few minutes to ponder this dilemma and to start asking questions. Laundry isn’t going away. It makes me feel like rubbish. What am I doing wrong? How can I change this situation?

A simple “what-if” question came to the surface.

What if I create a simple routine that means I do one load every day?

I mentally scanned my morning routine and came to a conclusion: in the amount of time it takes the hubs to make our morning coffees, I could come into the laundry room and start a load every day. Around our mid-morning snack time, I could come back in and switch those clothes over to the dryer. 

Another ten minutes in the afternoon while a pot of water is boiling or dinner’s in the oven, and the load for the day is done.

It’s a simple story, right? 

A small parable of intentionality, if you will?

But it turns out doing that one load of laundry per day, even for our family of six, seems to be enough. 

I am no longer feeling overwhelmed (about laundry). And that, my friends, is a very nice feeling.

Why am I sharing this with you today? 

One simple reason.

Now is a great time to…

Pay Attention to Tension.

We’re, globally, in a season of transition. As the limits and restrictions of COVID-19 are gradually lifted and we slowly work our way towards our new normals, there will be tension.

We’re likely to wrestle with the discomfort of moving back into busier schedules.

Maybe you will feel tension about:

  • Eating Habits
  • Exercise routines
  • The screen time you’re allowing yourself or your kids
  • The number of items on your calendar

I don’t want to introduce any tension you’re not already feeling. I simply want to encourage you to take the time to slow down and observe the tension you may discover.

Sometimes tension, whether it comes to the surface as a tightening in the stomach or a pang of anxiety in the chest, is our body’s way of telling us something we’re moving too quickly to notice.

When you get the sense that there is tension, don’t immediately assume something is awfully wrong. Sometimes something as simple as adding “start a load of laundry” to your morning routine can solve the problem.

If you’re feeling tension about something bigger than the chaos of your laundry room, I have a second little piece of advice to encourage you with:

Think Big Picture, Take Baby Steps.

Start by looking at the big picture and asking where the tension is coming from. Are you feeling some tension about your eating habits? 

Great! We’ve identified something! We have information we can work with instead of a vague uneasiness plaguing our underbellies.

What is one baby step we can take to help us move forward? Let’s brainstorm.

  • Pick one night each week to add a new healthy recipe into your rotation at home.
  • Decide to only get take-out once a week, maybe Friday nights?
  • Research healthy recipes that you can double or triple and freeze and add them to the rotation.
  • Search online for a nutrition course or Master Class to help you learn more.

Look at that! We’ve gone from identifying a problem to thinking through numerous small steps that can help us work toward the bigger goal of making positive change.

You get to decide the next step, set the next goal, and keep working forward from there. Sometimes the first step is the hardest to take, but the momentum you build once you start moving will ramp up and help you push toward bigger change than you could have imagined.

As you face the season of transition ahead, I encourage you to pay attention to tension, friends. Remember, it’s often your body’s way of helping you observe something you’re moving to fast to catch on to.

Is there somewhere you’re feeling stuck today? Some tension you’re feeling that you’d like some encouragement about? 

I’d love to welcome you to hit the comment button or shoot me an email and let me know. One of my foremost goals for the year is to serve you well. I’m here for you!

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Also — just in case you missed the Ten Simple Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Kids freebie I shared recently, you can find it on the brand new Parenting Resources page I ALSO created for you! Find all the good stuff at https://www.carolinecollie.com/parenting/

Seeing the Wisdom through the Weeds

So…did you get a breath of fresh air this week? {It was a little prescription from wisdom last week!} Did anything tug at your heartstrings or speak to your soul? I hope you were able to take a moment, and if you weren’t, I hope you’ll try to today, or tomorrow… or the next day… and if after three days you haven’t found that moment, we might need to think about those yes’s you’ve been yessing, yes?

Last week we talked about the Wisdom that is plain to see if you take a moment, with a heart ready to learn, and wonder at the creation around you.

Today, I’d like to ponder that Wisdom that was intentionally placed deep inside that one precious heart of yours. That God-stamped “Know it in your knower” place where we inexplicably know things before anyone tells us — that stealing or killing is wrong, for example.

While “Conscience” might seem like a word borrowed from outside the Christian realm, Paul speaks plainly about it in his letter to the Romans, where he talks about the Gentiles who were never exposed to the Law (that being the Law of Moses), but who still do the things in the Law, “who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them…” (Rom. 2:15).

So often I’ve been in situations where deep deep down I just knew, this is the way or that is the way — inexplicably. I believe this is part of God’s thumbprint on us as His creation — part of the way we were created in the Image of God — to think and reason and sense His Will because our consciences accuse or excuse us as we ponder the road we take.

Once upon a time, back in our old abode, I took some time outside to breathe and think and to ask God to teach me. I looked at the new Hibiscus plant stretching toward the sky. Marveled at a patch of Oregano, spreading in a cosy corner. I gazed at the moon, low in the sky and more white than a good glass of milk, and then my eyes finally rested in a rather unexpected direction.

The Hubs had built raised garden beds for me, and in the springs and summers that followed we weeded and planted and tended and watched and tried our best to bring good things out of the soil. We had mixed success with cucumbers, heaps of Basil, a few butternut squash, bumper crops of Italian tomatoes, and times where the tomatoes just never really seemed to “get going right.” 

That year, we had a big trip planned right in the middle of the summer, so after throughly weeding the garden with the help of a tenacious four-year-old, I stirred up the dirt and then just left it, still pondering whether to plant something now and leave it to the elements for three weeks, or to rather wait and see what late bloomers I might try when we got home again.

A couple of months later, my garden was chock-a-block full of plants of different shapes and sizes. Green and verdant and teeming with life. Unfortunately, none of the plants growing in those beds was edible, or even useful.

Every single plant stretching up toward the sun in those beds? Was a weed.

Did you notice how the foolish woman started out repeating the words of Wisdom in Proverbs 9? Just like Lady Wisdom, she says “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” But Lady Wisdom offers those lacking in understanding a meal, and an invitation to forsake foolishness and go in the way of understanding.

The Foolish Woman has a quite contrary idea: “Stolen water is sweet. Bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

What does all this have to do with a garden full of weeds, if you please?

Well — stolen water is water you didn’t work for. Bread eaten in secret is probably bread you didn’t earn and shouldn’t be eating. The easy things come easy — but they are not the best things.

Likewise, it was absolutely effortless for me to grow a garden full of weeds. Truly! And feel free to try it sometime! With no effort whatsoever, you just stir that soil up, leave it alone, and see what treasure awaits you!

But the good things? The precious things? The things you’ll be proud of, the things that will feed your family, body and soul — they are not the easy things.

It would be a complete cinch to raise my children to be brats, right? If I just left them to their own devices, never corrected any wrong behavior, never spoke to them of kindness or sharing or thinking of the feelings of others, that inherent sin in their nature, that selfishness that we’re all born with — it would grow quite a garden in their hearts, wouldn’t it?

But would I be pleased, in the end, with those results?

Of course not.

Instead I’m trying my darnedest to model kindness, to cut out words of sarcasm because I don’t want to hear them repeated back to me, to touch gently, speak softly, listen carefully, and to encourage these little creatures in my care to do the same.

They also have that God-whisper in their hearts — built in. 

Once, a darling eighteen month old heard me say “Don’t touch that” and I watched her wrestle. She looked at me, and then held out a finger again to the item I’d told her not to touch, wondering if perhaps she could get by on the pretense she hadn’t heard. But when I said it a second time, that little finger dropped to her side, and she turned and walked away from temptation, and back to me. She just knew it in her knower.

Deep in our hearts there’s a whisper of Truth from the One who created us. And Wisdom has an open invitation extended for us to come to her house and dine. We can feast on the wisdom of Creation — observe how easy it is to grow weeds, but what a challenge it is to grow good things — and we can learn.

We can feast on the Wisdom God breathed into our own souls — listening for and learning to recognize the whisper of His voice in our hearts, accusing or excusing so that we know the path to take.

There will always be the easy way.

Krispy Kreme donuts and fast food are easy. Preparing good, wholesome meals for our families is not.

Couch surfing and binge watching late night TV is easy. Getting up early to do the good work that is waiting for us is not.

Ignoring undesirable behavior and moving right along is easy. Having a heart to hear with a struggling child who needs correction… nope, once again… it’s not.

Take a moment today to ponder how you hear from God when you want His direction and guidance. Is it easier to hear outdoors, in the quiet? Do you often find direction when you open the Bible and dig in? Does the godly counsel of a trusted, faithful friend do wonders for your soul when you’re at a crossroads? 

Wisdom cries out from nature, as well as from the depths of our own souls. Be still, listen, and take off your shoes.

And maybe? It helps to just know: the easy way is very often not the best way. Let’s pray God will refine us, and lead us deeper into longing for His very best.

Psst… Did you catch the news about a new resource I created for you? It’s called Ten Simple Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Kids, and you can find it on the brand new Parenting Resources page I ALSO created for you! Find all the good stuff at https://www.carolinecollie.com/parenting/

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Fresh-Air Wisdom That Makes You Want to Go Barefoot

Fresh-Air Wisdom That Makes You Want to Go Barefoot

A couple of weeks ago we looked at Proverbs 7, and if you read it, it might have made you squirm uncomfortably in your seat. This brash woman is lingering in dark alleys, waiting to seduce and deceive. (You can catch that post here if you missed it.)

Now, I have great news. Proverbs 8 is this beautiful opposite picture. Sigh of relief.

It shares the story of Wisdom, (again personified as a woman) crying aloud in the streets. 

Now, you might pause with a question reading Proverbs 8. If Lady Wisdom is crying aloud in the streets, where is she? How do I hear her? What is this extended metaphor even talking about?

Honestly, the only people I’ve ever seen shouting about Jesus to strangers in the streets seemed… nuts, to put it delicately.

This great contrast to the seductive secrecy of the brash woman we read about in Proverbs 7 — this Truth that can be proclaimed from high hills and at city entrances. It’s not dishonesty and secrets that are whispered in dark alleys. But, again we ask, where is Wisdom for us to hear her?

To make things tidy and organized for you, over the next few weeks we’re going to look at a few different places we can look for Wisdom. If She is so plainly shouting in the streets, is it possible that we’re missing her? Or what sense can we make of this passage?


First up, Look Up

Do you know those beautiful verses from Psalm 19 that speak about how the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, and the skies show us His handiwork? I loved discovering the way The Message translates these thoughts:

God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
    Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren’t heard,
    their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

Even though the heavens don’t “speak” in the literal sense — they still tell the truth of a faithful, consistent, unchanging Creator who dreamed sunsets into being, and decided what the patterns sunlight would make as it filters through the leaves of each and every tree and scatters on the forest floor. The God who breathed both constellations and caterpillars and decided giraffes only needed seven vertebrae in their neck, just like humans. That still puzzles my puzzler.

Remember that beautiful Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem that says —

Earth is crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
{Elizabeth Barrett Browning}

Only he who sees takes off his shoes. We can not must not lose our sense of wonder at Creation, the handiwork of God. 

I stood under our big magnolia tree this afternoon, just looking up the great knobby trunk and at the branches, stretching out in every direction like spokes around the wheel of a bicycle, and I couldn’t help but marvel and think: What whispers from the Creator would I hear a little better, if I just made sure to take a little time to slow and experience His Creation? 

We are in a strange place, friends. We’re walking through uncharted territory in unusual times.

If God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and we trust He is the Creator, it might do us some good to breath fresh air and marvel at His creation for a while. All these things that were before we came to be and will be when we’re gone. What does He whisper through His creation?

Stand outside and look up at the trees or down at the all tiny insects you might find in a section of grass on the ground no bigger than your hand — could this be seeking Him? And could you be rewarded by finding Him? 

Wisdom truly is plainly on display for us to see in the glorious Creation all around us. So this is my hope and my challenge and my encouragement for you to go one day deeper in the Lord today: step outside and look for a reason to wonder. Take a moment without kids, or spouses or an agenda, however much of a moment you can take, and watch a bird fly or look at the intricate design of a single blade of grass. Examine the moss on a tree trunk or rub the veins of a leaf between your fingers, even if it’s just the potted plant by the window.

Then, point your soul toward heaven and just ask for wisdom with a teachable heart, like a child. Ask God to help you see something that makes you, like Moses, want to take off your shoes. 

This season is not forever. The sun will rise again. Let your bare feet touch the grass. Breathe and trust the Author, Who saw this coming and hasn’t stopped writing your story.

Wisdom cries out for us, friends. Perhaps we need to quiet down a little to listen.

Psst… Did you catch the news last week about a new resource I created for you? It’s called Ten Simple Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Kids, and you can find it on the brand new Parenting Resources page I ALSO created for you! Find all the good stuff at https://www.carolinecollie.com/parenting/

*** 

I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide… Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business.) 

***

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

The High Temptations of Hard Places (Prov. 7)

I recently watched an interview with Beth Moore. She encouraged young authors with stories from her own journey and shared examples of how she listens for the Holy Spirit, chooses what thoughts are best for a quick tweet or a blog post, or what material might be the making of a book to be published. She was delightful and engaging all-around, but my favorite moment came at the end of the interview when she was asked about what she was working on and how viewers could support her.

She quickly shared about the book she has coming out (The audiobook version is free on Audible right now). and the Bible study she hopes to release in September. Afterwards was eager to ask specifically for prayer. She shared that the most important thing to her is that she surrenders to ministry because she loves Jesus — and that’s how she wants to go home. “I want to make it to the finish line, that nobody hijacked that — that nothing hijacked that.”

It was a precious and beautiful inspiration to me to see this woman of the faith who has spoken to millions, published more words than can be counted and sown into so many hearts for the kingdom of God, asking for prayer that she would finish the race she began, holding tightly, faithful to Jesus. 

I’ve often heard that pride is at the root of every sin. I feel certain humility is the antidote — because if we don’t believe we can fall — well, buddy, look out.

Right now? So many of us are in hard places. We’re facing the fear of a significant illness for ourselves or our loved ones — and so much more. We’re facing the fear of missing paychecks. We’re facing the fear of our children falling behind in school while we attempt to make education happen at home. The list goes on.

It’s easy to feel pretty scared right now, right?

And let me tell you from personal experience, when we are scared or hurting or facing hard things, we’re at a much greater risk for falling into temptations we would never consider when life feels easier and breezier.

In Proverbs 7, Solomon tells this story about this young man who’s really not looking for trouble — but he’s not really looking for a way out of trouble either — Wisdom is not the sister he talks to and Insight is not his BFF.

It’d make a good story for Hollywood — and if the story wanted to lend itself to telling the truth, it would start with this seduction scene, and then the seductress would go on her way, and we’d watch this young man’s life start to spiral out of control, because the path he chose is like turning on to a street hoping to find a different route to where you want to go — but completely ignoring the clearly posted “Dead End” sign right at the top of the road.

Consider this: we’ve all inherited a sinful nature. Not just quirks and opinions and voting tendencies and denominational preferences. We have all inherited a nature that wants to follow temptation when it waits for us in the street. It comes in many forms. Makes us feel good about bad choices. Even uses religion to justify many vices.

What hope is there for that kid who got caught in that trap? What hope is there for all us sinners who can follow a million different paths, ignoring the Dead End sign at the top of the street?

It takes a humble soul to know it: There, but for the grace of God, go I.

But it’s absolutely by grace that any of us are saved from any of the traps and snares of the enemy of our souls. And what a dangerous trap — perhaps the most dangerous trap — pride can be. 

Read Solomon’s words here with a humble heart, and do exactly what Jesus tells us to do: make “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” a daily prayer.

Many a greater woman than I has fallen prey and gotten caught in a trap of one kind or another. Walked a dead end street looking for God knows what.

The Good Word puts it this way in 1 Peter 5: Be sober, be vigilant, because your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

This — the place of temptation — is a powerful place to be most honest. Years ago, I was struggling with a temptation that wouldn’t leave my thoughts alone, and it troubled me that it was troubling me. I knew what the right thing to do was, but fear of somehow falling meant this struggle was never far from my thoughts.  I called a friend I trusted and said, “This is going to sound weird, but I feel like I need to confess this thing I’m struggling with to you.”

The moment the words were out of my mouth, it felt like an arrow of the enemy that was whizzing straight toward my head had fallen to the ground.

There is so much power in the secrecy and shame of temptation. The enemy holds the upper hand in the darkness — but he cannot stand when we bring things into the light. 

This is why we so deeply need wisdom, and why we look to the one who endured every temptation without sin — and we trust Him to take us by the hand, and lead us always toward the path that leads to life. We lean into Jesus, and lean on the friends that will help us walk the walk we want to talk.

Lean hard into Jesus today, my friends. This hard season is not forever. God will see us through this, too! And we will see how He worked it out for our good when we get to the other side.

xCC

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I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide… Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business. 

***

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Jump Out of the Good Stuff Trap

Want to jump in to Proverbs 6? Click here.

Hi there! In case you missed it, I extended an invitation a few weeks ago to join me in walking through Proverbs. Jump in ANY time. You can read the chapter we’re looking at before reading on (optional but definitely good for you if you can swing it!) I also recommend asking a friend to join you on the journey. (Click this link to take you to the introduction to this series if you want to know more.) I think we might need this wisdom these days more than ever!

First things first, beware! This section of Proverbs can seem a little “irrelevant” to us if we’re not careful. Aren’t we long past the days of lending large sums of money to friends? Doesn’t everybody just go to the bank? Do people still co-sign on loans for people they’re not related to?

While I’m certain there are still folks signing on the dotted line when they shouldn’t be — it’s not just a matter of saying you’ll cover something when someone else is receiving the benefits of a loan. The core point might be stated like this. Every yes is also a no. Be careful, therefore, what you’re willing to say yes to.

Disney Dreams

A few years ago, a friend shared a crazy story with us at a small group meeting. One year, he’d worked particularly crazy hard. He’d taken on extra speaking opportunities and been a director at special events. He said the “warm blanket of significance of importance and affirmation” along with the people-pleaser genes pushed him to say yes again and again.

He began justifying all these extra “opportunities” by planning a Christmas trip to Disney for his family, spending significant amounts of time away, way more often than he’d ever intended. Pulling into Orlando for the big event the family stopped at a grocery store to pick up some provisions for the week. Next, his 5 year old threw up on the floor of the grocery store. And like that — all the saving and work and time away from his family? It seemed to disappear like a puff of smoke, right before his eyes.

I interviewed him about this crazy story, because he had a few key take-aways to share, and this bullet point list about sums it up:

  1. The stomach bug usually only lasts 24 hours
  2. Until the second kid catches it on day 2 of the epic family vacay
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  4. Don’t put any puke into a paper fast food bag in the minivan
  5. Wasted money is way more replaceable than wasted time
  6. When it comes to time with your kids: quantity over quality, always
  7. If you say “no” to the extra job or whatever, they’ll just ask the next person on the list

Our world is in a crazy place right now. We all feel kind of upside down and sideways. We’re wrestling to figure out what ‘normal’ is supposed to look like in this season. Life feels kind of scary, am I right?

I keep thinking this one thing that I want to remember (and share):

Inside every challenge, struggle, or problem, there’s always an opportunity.

Even facing the possibility of losing a child last year, we discovery opportunity. To grow in our faith. To share our faith. To experience the incredible love and care of our community. To strengthen our family. 

This is something God does: He takes indescribably, unimaginably hard things and turns them into something beautiful. 

So what are we going to do with the time on our hands?

And can we all recite this key point my friend made, one more time? Wasted money is way more replaceable than wasted time.

Reflect with me for a moment. There’s this crazy warning here in Proverbs 6: Don’t get caught in the snare of debt. Don’t put your family at risk by taking on a debt you might someday be asked to repay. And maybe we need to consider that the debt can sometimes look less like a loan at the bank, and sometimes more like the things you’ve said yes to, the contracts you’ve signed, the commitments you’ve made. Wasted money is way more replaceable than wasted time.

A yes to something is always, always also a no to something else.

Rethink that word faithful we talked about back in Proverbs 5 and remember: faithfulness will look different for you from how it looks for everybody else. God can, and does, write 7 billion stories simultaneously. What does He want to write with yours? And is it possible you’ve been committing yourself to things that make following the story He wants to write with you impossible?

This is the quiet our souls have probably been waiting for. Before the world gets loud again, embrace the quiet and get still. You are going to jump back into life again. This thing is not forever. 

Ask: What do you want to be true a month from now? With regard to your life, or your routines, or your family relationships… is this slowing down of the pace showing you anything?

It’s not that it’s wrong to take your kids to Disney or save up for some other big and special event. Heaven knows we believe in traveling around these parts!!

But the good, friends, the good is so often the enemy of the best. 

And we can find ourselves trapped in chasing after the good, while the best is the opportunity cost we just can’t have if we choose the good.

The Message puts it this way: 

“If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back
    and now find yourself shivering out in the cold,
Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess…”

Let’s aim at saying yes to God’s best…
xCC

Now… Could you give a few moments to some yeses and no’s you’ve made recently? Is there a common denominator that typically ties together the yeses you wish you hadn’t “yes’d”? Or to the no’s you should’ve “yes’d”? Could there be a Disney dream you’re chasing — and at what cost? Ask Jesus for wisdom and perspective. 

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I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide… Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business. 
***

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Four Simple Thoughts For Facing This Season of Unknown

Four Simple Thoughts For Facing This Season of Unknown

Right from the outset, I think you and I have something in common to talk about, no matter where you are on planet Earth. We’ve never faced a pandemic like COVID-19. But here we are, friend. We’re facing it. And my sole purpose in clickety-clacking my fingers across the keys today is to encourage you with a few simple ideas. I hope these practical steps will help you face this thing with bravery and perseverance so that someday you’ll look back and smile, thinking about what important things were forged in your soul in this very hard place.

Neither of us have much experience in this particular area, I know. It’s hard to know what next steps to take. But last year, my eight-year-old, Blake, was in the hospital for a long and heavy seven week period. (Many of you who’ve read here for a while know this already!) Living in crisis mode for an extended period taught a few lessons to my soul —  both because of successes and because of great mistakes. So from one human being to another, I’m hoping to impart a little bit of hope and strength and grace to you, out of one life-or-death journey, believing it can speak to another life-or-death journey — the one we’re all facing right now.

I’ve put this advice inside four simple points, and I hope they will be a breath of encouraging fresh air to your soul…

1. Establish a (Temporary) New Normal

One of the greatest things you can do for yourself right now is decide how you are going to live during this unique season. For many of us, the new normal is confinement at home. Isolation is hard. We were created to live in community. Out of love for our neighbors, isolation and helping reduce the spread of this virus is a great choice. For those who are health care workers, we are praying for you. As you may find yourself isolated at a hospital instead of outside of it, I pray you can find a temporary new normal as well. Here are some suggestions for what establishing a routine could look like.

  1. Get up at the same time every day. Shower and get dressed. Just because you’re not leaving your house doesn’t mean you don’t still have a life to live and work to do. Many people who regularly work from home speak to the benefits of getting dressed and treating their day like a work day, even if the commute is from the kitchen to the home office.
     
  2. Exercise. Your body needs this now, like always. Try downloading an app on your phone to guide you through a workout or hit your own home gym if you have one. Exercise will boost your mood, reduce the risk of depression, and mean you don’t develop a COVID-15 during COVID-19.
     
  3. Plan your day. This is especially helpful if you have children. {I’ve shared some ideas for all you suddenly homeschooling parents right here.} If you can continue to work from home, schedule the hours where you’ll be doing that work. When is lunch? When is quitting time? Don’t let the hours drag on and blur together. A schedule and rhythm for the day gives peace and order to the souls of the children in our care — but I’m confident it can benefit us adults just as much. Sometimes, when we’re feeling discouraged by the weight of what’s happening in our world, we need a little schedule to tell us what to do, to encourage us to keep going.

    “One foot in front of the other” was forged into our souls last year, and it’s great advice. Maybe this is a great time to check in with old friends — schedule some catch-up calls. Maybe it’s time to finish that project you started and shoved in a closet last year. The point is, don’t let your day happen to you. You get to decide what to do with the time you’ve been given.
     
  4. Go to Bed at a Reasonable Time. This is the shampoo, rinse, repeat part of the equation. Now is NOT the time to start a bingewatching habit. Go to bed at a reasonable time so that you can get up, exercise, get dressed and live fully into the routine you’re establishing for yourself. Your body needs rest — probably more rest than you were giving it a few months ago. This could be the time to establish a new normal that you’ll want to carry on once the world is back in business.

2. Stay Informed, But Don’t Stay Afraid

When we had no idea whether or not our son was going to survive, we did everything we could to understand as much as we possibly could understand about his condition. We knew what each of those wavy lines meant that moved across the vital signs monitor above his bed. We knew when his ICP’s were getting too high. We watched pulse Oxygen, blood pressure, heart rate and EEGs with fierce affection. With a non-medical educational background, I was swimming in foreign territory, but I learned the waters quickly and began praying very specifically. 

Sometimes, though, there was a whisper that came to my soul and taught me something new about trust: Keep Your Eyes Above the Waves. Those six words were a whisper to my heart that spoke volumes. Yes, Blake was in grave danger. Yes, those numbers on that screen mattered. But God was (and is) still on the throne. I had to trust that He had the final say in whether Blake would survive. 

It is important for us to know what is going on in our communities. If there is a Shelter in Place, barring some significant internal conviction of the Holy Spirit, it is right for us to obey it. If help is needed in our community, we should be aware and help when and how we are able. The bell curves and bar graphs will continue to fluctuate like waves across our screens. More people are contracting this virus. More people are dying. We must come to a place where we are certain in our hearts that the voice that spoke and calmed the Sea of Galilee can speak and calm the waves crashing around our world right now. We will trust Him and we will pray for Him to do exactly that, and be glorified in all of this.

3. Live On, and Live With Gratitude

If you’re reading these words, you are still here. You still have breath in your lungs and a life to live. Don’t stop living this one precious life you’ve been given. We learned this in our own forty-eight-day fire last year: every hard place is also an opportunity. We grew closer as a family. We experienced this incredible wrapping-around-us love from our community that was unlike anything we’d ever felt before. And we felt the nearness of God — as He truly does come close to those who are weary and heavy-hearted, burdened and facing hard places. And, as incredulous as it sounds to say it, there are precious moments from that season that we look back on with fondness and even miss, now that they are in the rear-view mirror.

If you see this season as an opportunity, and you choose to hold tight to the hand rails, trusting God to bring you safely through this roller-coaster ride, you might find gifts in unexpected places. We are losing loved ones, and it is heavy. It is right to grieve. It is right to feel sad. This is not an encouragement to force yourself into unrealistic emotions. But it is a challenge to remember to keep living. To trust the sun will shine again. To remember this season is not forever. 

You can live this out practically by cooking good meals. Enjoy the loved ones that may join you in isolation. Try something new that you might continue to do when all this has passed, like watching a cooking class or learning to identify different species of birds. Try learning a new language or try your hand at calligraphy or watercolor. The key ingredient is to look for the gifts. Give thanks when you hear a bird chirping outside. Give thanks for the food you have on your table. Give thanks for the loved ones you have nearby, or the ones you can communicate with thanks to technology. And give thanks for that tech!


4. Choose to Believe ‘It is Well’ — No Matter What

Last, I’m reflecting on one more moment in my journey last year that built strength into my soul and gave me peace for the journey. Close to two weeks into our hospital journey, I was pacing the halls trying to articulate something to a friend on the phone. I came to this conclusion. “I have to come to a place in my soul where I’m not putting my hope in Blake surviving this. I have to put my faith in the goodness of God, no matter what.” Was I going to pray like crazy for our son to be healed? Absolutely. But I also just felt I couldn’t live in this limbo, I needed to get to a place in my soul where I could say, “Lord, I’m going to trust you — No Matter What. I believe You are good. I believe I will see Your goodness here. Somehow, You will make this good. I won’t stop loving You or following You. No. Matter. What.” 

If you are a believer, I want to encourage you to find a place in your soul to say the same thing. Goodness is in the very character, the very nature of God. There is brokenness in this world, yes. There has been ever since the Fall. But He is always in the business of redeeming. He is always in the business of making broken things beautiful.

Friends, this is indeed a hard place. It is hard to live in uncertainty. It is hard to live not knowing what tomorrow will bring. But Corrie Ten Boom put it so eloquently when she said,

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

We truly never know what tomorrow will bring. But we should never stop believing in the God who does.

xCC

I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide…  Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business. 

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

A How-To for Working Parents Suddenly Homeschooling

A How-To for Working Parents Suddenly Homeschooling

My last post for folks who are Suddenly Homeschooling spread far and wide pretty quickly, and I was SO GLAD to be able to share some of what I’ve learned from seven years of trial-and-error with homeschooling my own crew. I was immediately asked for tips and ideas for parents who have their kids at home AND have to keep working. My heart immediately dropped, thinking about you many parents… and then specifically about all the amazing nurses, doctors and therapists who cared for my son during his 48 day hospital stay last year and I thought… gosh, I need to think long and hard and do what I can to help!

Out of those thoughts, I’ve created a simple step-by-step system for creating a schedule that your child should be able to complete with minimal help from whoever is watching them while you’re at work. I hope this will be a gift to you working families trying to get through this craziness, and especially for the medical staff that are most likely working overtime right now. I welcome your thoughts and questions and hope to help any way I can!

Ready to jump in?

Step One: Gather Your Materials

The best place to start? Simply thinking about a handful of things your child would benefit from working on while you’re at work. Before we get into a list of ideas, I want to make one important caveat. You should not try to (and cannot) replicate public school at home. It’s just different!! I highly recommend starting out by creating a routine solely based around the two pillars that most educators agree are essential: Math and Reading. Once those pillars are in place, and you’re getting into a groove, by all means look at Science and Social Studies and a second language… but really know that if you guys are getting Math and Reading done every day, you are doing great.

Keeping that Math and Reading tip in mind, here’s a list of ideas (in no particular order — you already know what I think is essential!) for collecting materials to help your child continue making progress at home. Also — if your child has some schoolwork to do online, GREAT! Don’t try to overdo it — let that start your list!

  • Order an age appropriate Math Workbook like this one. Just completing one or two lessons a day will help your child continue practicing their math skills, and perhaps even strengthen some weak spots/gain some ground during the break. Have some time/want to save some $? You could also google “fifth grade multiplication worksheets” (or whatever fits the bill) find what you think is appropriate, print it, and put it in a folder.
  • Handwriting Books. How’s your child’s printing? Are you wishing they were learning cursive? You can print out free handwriting pages online, or visit a curriculum vender like The Good and the Beautiful (they’re our favorite for handwriting). Again, a page or two a day can take you a long way.
  • Shop your house for books your child could read and create an age-appropriate worksheet (or find one online like this) that will help them engage with the book in a fun (not school-ish!) way. Make multiple copies! For example, ask, “Who was your favorite character?” or “If you could rewrite the story, what would you change?” For older students, you could ask more in-depth questions.
  • Similar to the Math workbooks, look for something to strengthen your child’s Spelling, Reading or Writing skills. I know you don’t want to drop loads of cash on curriculum for just a few weeks, so remember there are loads of resources online and a half an hour hunting could produce enough work to keep your child learning for weeks!
  • There is SO much your child can learn online with the appropriate adult supervision and the right guidance. Khan Academy has loads of instruction videos on dozens of subjects for free. Maybe now would be a good time to sign up for a trial of ABC Mouse. (We haven’t used that one so I don’t know much about it!) Pick a subject and spend a few minutes googling — you might be surprised how much wonderful content you discover. Please just remember — I REALLY don’t recommend your younger children have unsupervised access to the internet. Check your parental control settings and be wise in this regard.
  • Choose something that’s just for the fun of it. Art For Kids Hub is a fantastic YouTube channel for drawing and other art projects. They’ll lead your child step by step to gain skills and confidence. KiwiCo has several great learning lines delivered to your doorstep, like Tinker Crate, Atlas Crate, and Doodle Crate. Definitely a fun and exciting way to learn!
  • Look for audiobooks online. I shared this in my last post but can’t recommend it enough! Start an Audible Trial or use your Library Card to access audiobooks. You can also check out Librivox where hundreds of books in the public domain have been read by volunteers. If your child is listening to great lit, they are learning! My kids love to gather around the coffee table with popcorn, crayons, and blank sheets of paper and listen to a story and create. Pull out a puzzle, build with blocks — and listen and learn at the same time! THAT is learning at its finest in our house! Also, blown away by this: Audible created a website called Audible Stories — as long as schools are closed, they are going to be open with free audiobooks! AMAZING! Well done, Amazon!!!
  • Shop your house (or the internet) for poetry books, or interesting pieces of information your child could practice memorizing. Many famous poems are online that they could listen to or read over and over. They could learn the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, a song of the US presidents or the States and Capitals, or a passage of scripture set to music. Really, the sky is the limit! Pick something they’ll enjoy and let them amaze you by showing you what incredible sponges their brains can be! Hint: Encourage them to aim for repeating it seven times for seven days — their brain will master so much with that amount of effort!

Step Two: Pick a Few Things Your Child Can Do Each Day

Now that you’ve got a plethora of ideas, let’s calm down and just pick a few things for the list each day. We don’t want to overwhelm them, so I’d recommend having a basic number of things you feel “MUST” be done, and then you can consider some extras that “might” be done. Remember: Math and Reading are really the essential pillars, so make sure those are on the list, and know the rest is excellent extra!

Step Three: Get Out a Few Blank Pieces of Notebook Paper

Now you get to put feet on this thing, baby! At the top of that sheet of paper write the date that the work will be completed. Next, draw a little square beside each item that you’d like your child to accomplish. Those squares are important so don’t skip that step! Every time your darling kiddo accomplishes something and gets to check that box, he or she will get a tiny rush of endorphins and gain a little confidence: “I can do hard things! I can keep going! I’m making progress!” My kids love checking boxes and feel a rather large tinge of frustration if I check one of their boxes for them!

Remember: you’re just listing work for ONE day on that sheet. Math and Reading are Essential. Add the to do’s to the list and you’re golden. Each step should have enough information for the person helping your child to get them to the right place to do the next thing, or if the child can work independently, for them to navigate from step to step on their own. I’ve included a few examples in this post to help give you an idea of what this might look like. Arabella (list above) is six, Blake (list below) is nine, and Asher (at the bottom of this post) is 11. The 11 year-old has a good idea of what is expected, so less instructions are necessary.

Step Four: Attach any worksheets, write out any links, put everything together in one place.

When I’m away, it makes life sooo much easier if everything the child needs is all in one place. I try to attach worksheets with a paperclip, or put any workbooks that will be needed for the child to check their boxes.

Step Five: Consider a Reward for the Hard Work

You know what a lot of folks have a love/hate relationship with right now? Screen time. But when your kids are home and you’re trying to keep them isolated (you good citizen, you!) screen time is a likely necessity. Screen time can be a reward for getting all the work done. “No screens until you’ve ticked the boxes!” Or maybe if the child ticks all the boxes all week, dinner Friday night is something special they love to have. Maybe you’ll bake cookies together Saturday. Maybe she’ll earn $1 towards that Lego set she is saving up for. You’ll know you’ve found a great reward when your child is willingly plugging along with the end in sight. In case you’re wondering, I really believe in rewards for hard work because I think that’s real life! When you work hard at your job, you get paid — and hopefully if you’re putting in extra time and effort, you get noticed and get rewarded above and beyond. Work hard in your back yard pulling weeds and cutting grass, and you’re rewarded with that amazing feeling at the end of the day — I did that! This yard looks great! If you can aim for positive consequences and get more flies with honey than vinegar (so to speak), by all means — go for the honey!!

Encouragement for the Journey

Now that I’ve shared these ideas, I just want to take a moment to encourage you of one more thing. Friend, it is not going to be like this forever. Last year, we stared death in the face when my eight-year old son went into the hospital with a massive brain aneurism. The days dragged into weeks and for a long time we felt there was no end in sight. Survival mode is a hard place to live in. We are a lot like ketchup packets — you really only find out what’s inside when you get squeezed.

It’s hard to be squeezed, and it takes a lot of mental fortitude to make it through when there’s no end in sight. But, friend, you are made in the Image of God. He is strong, and so are you. He is creative, and so are you. He can laugh at the days to come, and so can you. We will get through this! This is not forever. The world may be a little different on the other side of all this — but maybe, just maybe, it will be better. Maybe we will have learned a little about caring for our neighbors. Maybe a lot of families will draw closer together, allow some old wounds to heal, make some new and beautiful memories when they have this time together. This isn’t forever, so don’t be afraid. And, this isn’t forever, so make the most of it!

I’m here for you if you have questions! I’d love to encourage you however I can. Brave Moms and Dads and Many Other Caregivers, above all, enjoy those kids. Have fun. Make learning fun for them. They don’t need to be worried or afraid. Find reasons to laugh, and laugh lots and often. Good times are ahead, and the best is yet to come!

xCC

I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide… kind of like this post, but for meal planning. Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business.  

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One more to-do for you to view!

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!