Who Gets To Say Who You Are?

Have I ever told you about my first job after college? 

I moved to a new town to do an internship at a new church, but the only paying gig that opened for my Masters-degree-toting, wet-behind-the-ears-self was at a Pawn Shop.

It was pretty different from the desk job I left behind as a graduate assistant in the Honors Program, but I held onto those lovely words from Colossians about doing everything like you’re doing it for Jesus, and tried my best to show up wholeheartedly, scrubbing chainsaws and learning the ropes of used jewelry appraisal. 

One day, my boss called me into his office for a rather discouraging conversation.

The comments were vague and varied, but the overall opinion was that he expected a little bit more ‘momentum’ out of a Masters-degree-toting, Spanish-speaking employee. 

Whatever the mark was, apparently, I was totally missing it.

When the generalized chewing-out was finally completed, I excused myself to head to the restroom and promptly burst into tears. 

Awkward: the restroom was adjacent to the boss’s office.

As I dried tears and glanced in the mirror, my brow furrowed into the question that suddenly mattered more than any other to me. I whispered it, but my heart shouted it:

Lord, what do you say about me?

And right there, in that painted-cinderblock bathroom, as I leaned against that wall-mounted sink with a rust stain at the drain, my heart suddenly swelled with joy as God whispered back:

I say well done.

God knew my heart. Today I flipped open sixteen year old prayer journals to see it in those days. I was hungry to please Him. To treat every customer with kindness (while also trying to be shrewd and not get swindled.) 

I knew I was in the fire and I was wrestling to stay faithful in it. I was wrestling with pride. I was asking the Lord to take that Pawn Shop cup from me, but I was telling Him I was willing to stay as long as He wanted.

Turns out, a year was about how long that fire was to last, and the lessons of those days were many. Many, many, many.

But perhaps the most important one was to turn to Jesus and ask Him the question He asked Peter: “Who do You say that I am?”

Darling friend, life has a surprising way of throwing us a curve ball we didn’t expect. We are wise to choose to walk with humility, to be teachable, and to learn to listen.

But the approval that should always maintain first place in our hearts and stay on the top of our list of goals is the approval of the Father. If we have committed our lives to Him, then He’s the one we’re doing all that we do for anyway, right?

No matter what the world has to say about you or me, Psalm 34 challenges us to be the kind of people who can look to Him and be radiant. The people whose faces are not ashamed.

I dried my tears that day, and left the bathroom with my head held high. Maybe there was room for improvement in my performance at the Pawn Shop but the most important truth was forever etched in my soul, and I encourage you to let Jesus etch it into yours, too.

I live for the well done of the Father. I may have flaws, fail and fall short. But only my Creator can tell me who I am.

P.S. I have a question for you! I’m working on a Bible study, similar to the 30 Days Deeper study many of you enjoyed a few years ago. Would you rather have a printable workbook to work through, or emails delivered to your inbox? Or a workbook that corresponds with daily emails? I’d be so grateful if you’d let me know your thoughts! You can find me on Facebook or Instagram at the links below, or use the contact form on this page!

P.P.S. The meal planner is still around if you want to grab it and get step-by-step meal planning instructions and recipe favorites! Just click the link below to grab it!

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 your love and support!

At Our House Last Week: The Whiff of Death

What do Buddy the Elf standing on a bridge in New York, Queen Esther’s “If I perish, I perish” speech, and my five-year-old at the dinner table have in common?

The whiff of death.

It’s a powerful element of good storytelling, and you can spot it in many-a-Hollywood film these days. 

A goldfish, belly-up in a bowl just before the main character has to face his greatest foe. 

A flower, wilted before being delivered to the intended recipient. 

The whiff of death reminds us that the stakes are high and things might not go the way we were hoping.

Funny thing is, I think we’re sometimes more likely to pull this element into our own stories than we realize.

At the dinner table last week, an ahem older sibling requested a little extra of a tasty little cajun spice mix on his chicken. I love the stuff, but it makes me sneeze every time I cook with it.

I sprinkle, I sneeze. Repeat.

The sibling joked about taking a big, deep whiff of the stuff, but instead took a gentle little sniff to see if he’d sneeze. The five-year-old wanted a turn, and before the rest of us realized what was happening, she’d listened to the older sibling’s suggestion to take a big, deep whiff of the spice.

And then?

There were many, many tears.

Apparently inhaling a really big whiff of a spicy spice mixture really stings, causes the eyes to tear, and burns like the dickens. The whiff of spice quickly turned into the whiff of death and despair, as the weeping little one at the table declared between sobs:

“I guess I am going to feel like this forever!”

With a tissue and a hug, I encouraged her that those tears were doing exactly what they needed to. The tears were busy cleaning out her sinuses, and before too long, it would be okay… all would be well. 

But I marveled at how quickly her little mind went to the foregone conclusion, “It’s going to be this way forever,” – and then I wondered how often my mind follows that well-worn path, too.

I can remember the earliest days of being a mother of three – with little ones whose ages seemed so close together, laundry that seemed never ending, diapers that always needed changing. The sense of feeling so very, very needed seemed so overwhelming – and it was  hard to believe all the well-meaning ladies in the grocery store who warned me the time would fly and I should enjoy every minute. 

The grief after losing a loved one (at least in my experience with my Dad) was so full of despair. I felt abandoned to wonder, “Will I get through this and ever truly feel happy again?”

Life can feel really hard. And the whiff of despair can come really easily.

Darling friend, is there anything you’re facing these days that has you convinced “It’s gonna be like this forever?” 

Can I encourage you that it’s not? God’s goodness is absolutely unstoppable. And while you may not fully understand why you are facing the hard things you’re facing on this side of eternity, you can be sure that change is coming. It always, always does.

I wonder sometimes if we seem like the five-year-old crying at the dinner table to our Father. We’re hurting and, most of all, we’re afraid the pain isn’t going to stop – that this thing is forever.

I imagine Him coming near to you and me with a tissue and a hug, saying, “Those tears are doing exactly what they need to right now, my darling. Let them flow. Let it out. I promise, I promise, I promise: it won’t be like this forever.”

P.S. I have a question for you! I’m working on a Bible study, similar to the 30 Days Deeper study many of you enjoyed a few years ago. Would you rather have a printable workbook to work through, or emails delivered to your inbox? Or a workbook that corresponds with daily emails? I’d be so grateful if you’d let me know your thoughts! You can find me on Facebook or Instagram at the links below, or use the contact form on this page!

P.P.S. The meal planner is still around if you want to grab it and get step-by-step meal planning instructions and recipe favorites! Just click the link below to grab it!

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 your love and support!

Meet the World’s Worst Boss (In the Mirror?)

Did you know you might be the world’s worst boss?

It’s true.

And not just because Seth Godin blogged about it and mentioned it in his book, The Practice. 

Let me frame it for you this way: you know that little voice inside your head? Not the whisper of the Holy Spirit which makes you want to be braver and kinder and leads you toward peace.  

That other voice.

The one that talks down to you a lot. That asks why can’t you just get it together. Why can’t you just keep it under control. 

You know the voice I’m talking about, right?

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was staring out the window one morning, and the bare branches of winter trees were gently swaying in an early breeze.

Remembering something encouraging I read last year, I thought about how those trees weren’t dead, even though they looked like it.  

Those trees are quietly resting, preparing to burst into life again when the timing’s right.

In my own life, I was feeling frustrated and “behind” – there’s that word again. As if more should be done, and it should be done better and faster and yesterday.

I felt as if the Lord was drawing my attention to those trees to say, “Look what that rest is going to make possible. It is a good season to rest. Productivity can wait. It will come in good time.”

In a nutshell, I think that’s the difference between the two voices:

  1. My internal dialogue questions my choices and ability at every turn, and makes me feel a) behind, b) not good enough and c) least likely to succeed. At everything, ever.
  2. The voice of God is the voice that calms the waters, the voice that parts waters, and the voice that whispers, “Come to Me, all you heavy laden. I have rest for you.”

I probably wouldn’t be the world’s worst boss to anybody else. And neither would you. 

Far from it, friend!

But, what if just for a week, we give some attention to how we might be bossing ourselves? 

Ask yourself:

– If you had a boss that talked to you the way you talk to yourself, would you fire her? 

– If you had a boss that wasted your time the way you do, would you quit?

Remember, our God who knows our frame and remembers we are dust, His mercy reaches to the heavens. His goodness never fails. 

His is the voice to listen for. His are the words that make us ready to be brave, to be kind, to try, but not to strive.

There are times for work and times for rest. Be gentle with others, and remember: be a good boss to yourself, too.

P.S. If you’re a creative of any kind, or just need a practical reminder about the power of showing up and doing the worth, I think Seth Godin’s book The Practice is worth your time. {That’s an affiliate link for you to grab it on Amazon.}

P.P.S. My Five Step Meal Plan Guide wants to hit your inbox and revolutionize your kitchen. It’s a meal plan strategy plus favorite recipes extravaganza, and you can grab it below! Add some umph and some kid-approved new recipes to your repertoire this year!

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 your love and support!

Would You Call This Dog Torture?

Blake came up with a new game a few weeks ago. 

Much to Hallelujah, our golden retriever’s dismay.

It’s called Hide-and-go-Halle, and as I understand it from the details Blake scrawled onto a blank sheet of paper, the rules are as follows:

1. You call the dog. “Halle! Halle!” 

2. When Halle comes, you pretend you can’t see her and keep calling her.

3. You continue walking around the house, pretending to be looking for her, even when she’s right beside you.

4. If she growls in frustration, you earn a point.

Poor Halle, right?

Apparently, feeling invisible is really frustrating, even to a dog.

I wonder if anyone has ever lived more than a few years as a believer and not, at some point, felt invisible to God.

When you’re holding onto hope, praying your heart out, and pleading for something – for a thing that’s hurting to end, for a place of suffering to cease, for something it feels like you can’t live without to show up on your doorstep.

You want to ask, “God, don’t you see me?”

Hannah Hurnard, the author of the beautiful allegory Hinds Feet On High Places, wrote:

“As Christians we know, in theory at least, that in the life of a child of God there are no second causes, that even the most unjust and cruel things, as well as all seemingly pointless and undeserved sufferings, have been permitted by God as a glorious opportunity for us to react in them in such a way that our Lord and Savior is able to produce in us, little by little, his own lovely character.

We prayed for the entirety of 2020 that our son’s left field of vision would be restored – that the visual field loss brought on by his brain aneurism would be completely healed. But January 1, 2021 came and went – and those circumstances haven’t changed.

Instead – I think maybe we have.

The experience of having a child on death’s doorstep brought out in Mark and in me an unexpected opportunity. Each of us, unbeknownst to the other, had a moment in that season where we said, “Lord, I’m going to trust you. No. Matter. What.”

Standing at the beginning of a new year with unanswered prayers, but with such a powerful experience in the rear view mirror, we are both convinced:

God uses the hard, the hurtful, and the heartache in our lives as pathways to holiness.

Do we want the path of heartache? Of course not.

But I mean every word of this ridiculously incomprehensible truth: I somehow simultaneously see what we walked through in 2019 as the hardest season of life I’ve ever faced, and the season most full of the presence of God, where I was most closely aware of His presence, goodness and gifts.

Somehow, He can and does turn sorrows into joys, in the most literal sense. And while He’s at it, He’s busy conforming us, transforming our character, helping us look a little more like Jesus on the inside.

Dear friend, if you only hear one thing today, let it be this. You are not invisible to God.

He hears your prayers, He sees your hurt, He knows the deepest longings and pains no one else in the world knows. Don’t lose heart. Keep sowing good seed with your life.

Even better news than that old saying “Every dog has his day” (although that is good news for Halle) – God’s truth promises a harvest of goodness awaits, if we don’t lose heart.

P.S. The book Hind’s Feet on High Places is such an incredible story that powerfully illustrates the truth that God can use Sorrow and Suffering as companions on our journey that strengthen us and draw us closer to the High Places He created us to walk on. I can’t recommend it highly enough! {This link is to the beautiful new edition with journaling and doodling space!}

P.P.S. Did you get the meal planner?!? I’ve heard from a few subscribers who signed up to receive the 2021 version and the magical email elves just didn’t send it! Those rascals! If you didn’t receive yours, please try the fresh link below, or use the contact form to let me know!

Don’t know what I’m talking about? You can grab my Five Step Meal Plan Guide, a meal plan strategy plus favorite recipes extravaganza, below! Add some strategy and some kid-approved new recipes to your repertoire this year!

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 your love and support!

Hero Hubs and His Too-Tight T-Shirt

“Why do my clothes feel so tight today?”

With a quizzical brow, Mark emerged from our closet wearing a long sleeved t-shirt soooooo tight, it looked like it should be cutting off his circulation. 

After puzzling for only half a second or so, I replied:

“Because you’re wearing my t-shirt.”

Last year, the hubs and I were each given a lovely dark green t-shirt from our friends at the Children’s Miracle Network. With white lettering and that trademark hot air balloon, the only difference is that my shirt is a small… and Mark’s is a large.

The folder and sorter of the laundry (yours truly) made a minor… error.

He leaned over and stretched his arms toward me so I could peel off the offending article, but as I turned back to get ready for the day, my giggling quickly changed to that quizzical brow Mark had at first:

How often do I try to fit in someone else’s clothes?

If I only had one last message to share with the world, I think I would want it to be this:

You were created with a race to swim, and a lane to swim it in. 

Stay in your lane. Swim your own race.

Though the oldest of my four kids is only twelve, I can already see how often each of them compare their gifts and abilities, and even their appearances with one another.

As their Mama, I marvel at how different each of them are, and I ponder how God is going to use each of their talents for their good and His glory.

I think sometimes we forget, though, that while we were all created for a purpose – we weren’t all created for the exact same purpose. Just glance at the list in Ephesians 4:11 and you can see, God’s hand is there, with different plans and accompanying gifts:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…”

And yet sometimes we get distracted by what someone else is doing or achieving, creating or arranging.

Friend, I hope these words will serve as a reminder to you that you are God’s poetry. Truly, the word Paul chose in Ephesians 2:10 translates “poetry.” God intends to write a beautiful story with your life – and it is not going to be like anyone else’s.

So don’t try to squeeze yourself into someone else’s shirt, or someone else’s hope or dream or New Year’s resolution. There is space a-plenty for you to walk into the destiny God had in mind when He created you, precious you.

P.S. Last year I enjoyed Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak, very much. If you feel like you might be trying to live in someone else’s t-shirt, I recommend finding a copy to help you identify your own gifts and abilities from a thoughtful, peaceful place of faith. {Click here to find it on Amazon.}

P.P.S.  Just for fun… I updated my Five Step Meal Plan Guide with a month’s worth of our favorite weeknight meals in 2020. If you’re hoping to eat well at home this year, I’d love for you to grab the free updated guide by clicking below. It’ll walk you through setting up a meal plan system in five steps, and it includes 40 recipe ideas to get your wheels turning!

And please, if it’s helpful, please share this link with a friend so they can enjoy it, too!! 

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 your love and support!

Science Experiment Lessons : Be More Contagious Than Corona

My dining room is currently the location of a small but important science experiment. 

We have a GoPro and an ICE Light (this photography lighting tool that looks like a light saber) hovering over dishes containing lemon juice, apple juice, orange juice, and good old-fashioned air. 

This morning we dipped some apple slices in the various liquids (or air) and we’re waiting to see how the liquids (or lack thereof) affect the browning of the apples.

I’ve peeked in throughout the day and lemon juice is a definite front runner, but apple juice has held her own pretty well. No juice is definitely not a great choice if you’re trying to slow the browning process, so that hypothesis has been nailed down pretty tight.

It has got me thinking though: 

What’s stopping you and me from turning brown? Anything?

Ask ten people about their life in 2020, and you’ll get ten stories. But some common themes will surely emerge… words like tough, challenging, difficult, discouraging. 

Nothing magical happens when we flip the calendar to a new year – so what can we do with the control we do have to live a different story this year?

Here’s the thing, friend. You and me? 

We’re like apple slices. And every day we get out of bed, the world wants to convince us that it’s full of reasons to be mad, angry, sad and completely hopeless. 

We could go along with that. Because there seems like a lot of evidence to credit that point.

But a writing coach/mentor of mine this week pointed out something I’m still thinking about. COVID has spread from person to person, right? It’s contagious like that, so one person has it… and then they can pass it on to another person, and so on.

But lots of other things are contagious, too. The kinds of things that stop us from turning brown. Kindness can be contagious. Hope can be contagious. Watch a stadium of fans in the last thirty seconds of a tight game. Respect, gentleness, patience, perseverance… so many good things can be contagious. 

The best way for us to go out and spread the good stuff is to get absolutely smothered in it, every day.  

We dipped those apple slices, and then flipped them over to wet the other sides, tapped off the drips and sat them out for observation.

And you and I? We can get saturated in God’s goodness. 

We can soak in it. We can dive deep in the Word. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Read it aloud. Study it. Listen to it being read.

We can swim far in the ocean of prayer. Long and deep on our knees prayer. Quick and quiet under our breath throughout the day prayer. Big group prayers and all alone prayers.

We can worship, praising God for the beautiful sunrise out our window, giving thanks for the food in the pantry, singing at the top of our lungs, or just holding onto a tune in our hearts. We always need reminding: we can feed on His faithfulness.

Three hours have passed and that lemon-juice-soaked apple slice might be starting to show the faintest signs of browning. 

Sitting out in the world without preservatives will do that to us eventually.

But this is where the story departs for you and me: we can go boldly out into the world, ready to be a contagion of light – and then when we need it, wherever we are, we can come home to Jesus and get soaked again.

P.S. Just for fun… I updated my Five Step Meal Plan Guide with a month’s worth of our favorite weeknight meals in 2020. If you’re hoping to eat well at home this year, I’d love for you to grab the free updated guide by clicking below. It’ll walk you through setting up a meal plan system in five steps, and it includes 40 recipe ideas to get your wheels turning! 

And please, if it’s helpful, please share this link with a friend so they can enjoy it, too!! 

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 your love and support!

Me: Undressing in front of an open window

True story. The Hubs and I have a pretty dialed in routine. 

He makes the coffee while I start the laundry.

I fill the bowls while he pours the juice.

And apparently?

He closes the curtains to our cloffice. (Ya know, the closet/office.)

He was away for a shoot this week (the kind that involves cameras and drones, not guns) and I was deep in thought, pulling off layers of exercise clothes with nary a care.

It was only when I grasped the waistband of my yoga pants to tug them down that I happened to look up and realize – ugh, whoops – I’m changing clothes in front of an open window.

My goodness, I was grateful I still had a shirt on as I walked to the window and pulled the curtains shut.

Looks like I need to do a little bit more paying attention.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s can be pretty weird right? 

I often feel fuzzy about what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing. Do I have to pack up the Christmas stuff now… or can I leave it out until February?

But collectively – perhaps globally – we’re also in this period of transition. It’s not just about flipping the calendars and saying goodbye to 2020, though that’s part of it, it seems like something more. As vaccines roll out and we think maybejustmaybe there is an end in sight for this pandemic, there’s an awful lot to think about. 

What does that mean for you and me?

It could mean a lot of things. So instead of nailing down resolutions for 2021 or preparing to foist yourself back into your life pre-pandemic routine, I’d like to encourage you to just give yourself some time to pay attention.

Maybe while you’re paying attention, you can direct that attention to a few specific questions.

  • What gifts can I remember with gratitude as I say goodbye to this season?
  • Has living in a pandemic brought on some fresh anxiety for me?
  • Are there new worries or fears that I perhaps ought to get into the habit of bringing to the cross?
  • Has my pace changed in these pandemical times – and was any of that change perhaps for the better?
  • How is my body feeling? How might I care for it better in the year ahead?
  • Does the idea of new resolutions fill me with excitement or dread?

You see, friend, even if all of us have lived through 2020, each of us has lived a different year. We’ve had different wins and different losses. Different highs and lows, successes, and failures.

And God’s plans for you, precious you? They are different from His plans for everyone else.

So in the midst of ringing in the New Year with a bang or a quiet, peaceful hooray, consider this your permission slip to take some time to just pay attention to what your soul might need in this season of transition. 

While you’re at it, remember:

Be kind to yourself. Don’t ignore the unease or dismiss the discomfort. Our most important lessons often come out of the hardest seasons we face. So grab a notebook and a pencil if it helps, and see what you can learn by just paying attention.

Looking back can be a precious gift to our souls before moving forward. 

And maybe? You won’t undress in front of the neighborhood because you’re paying attention.

P.S. My favorite/most popular New Year’s Post from ten years ago – when we had just one little kiddo in the Collie family – will bless you, heart and soul, if you can take a moment to read it. (It’s really good news.)

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 your love and support!

One thing I learned when I tried to write our story

Did you know that a typical screenplay has about 40 scenes or scene sequences in total?

Unlike lining up batteries (positive to negative) the scenes should line up so that one starts on a high (positive emotional value) and ends on a low, and the next begins low and ends high. 

This year I began sticking index cards to my wall, arranging them into scenes and sequences that would eventually become the backbone of a screenplay. This was perhaps the biggest learning experience of 2020 for me.

Even if a lot of tears hit the keyboard while I was doing it.

Longing to retell the story of our experience with Blake, his aneurism, coma, and 48 day hospital stay, I pored over every Facebook update, reread countless prayers in my journal, and reconstructed the details of all the life and emotion packed into the journey.

Tears were expected.

Then came the part I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes in order to tell a story in a way that fits inside a structure in terms of time or character count, choices have to be made. Not every moment and person can be included.

And you may have to make a choice between telling it the way it happened, or for the sake of time or interest or character development, you might have to make a change. 

When it came time for me to make a creative choice, I found myself thinking about what I wanted at the time, what God actually wrote, and it always seemed – His way of writing the story was so much more beautiful than mine. 

At the time, it was painful. So. So. Painful.

But now? I see how it was so much more meaningful than what I would have written if He had handed me the pen in the days when it was all actually happening in our lives.

For many of us, 2020 has been a “How long, Oh, Lord?” kind of year. 

You know what?

The Book of Psalms is full of Psalms of Lament and Psalms of Praise – Lament outnumbers Praise in the early part of the book, but then the Praise ones outnumber the Psalms of Lament as the book progresses toward its conclusion. 

As we reflect on a year that has been very different, and for many of us, very hard, perhaps we all need reminding that there is space for whatever we are feeling. 

There is a time for lament, and a time for praise. And sometimes, it’s the same time.

Hallelujah for Advent! We can pour out praises to Jesus for coming down to Earth. Hallelujah, for Lament! We can also pour out our hearts in honesty, asking God to continue His great rescue plan, to do a new thing and to remake this world the way He intended in the beginning.

Who would believe God would choose to write this story? The Great Rescue plan hinged on sending a tiny baby, like a loaf of bread, to the House of Bread, Bethlehem.

He became the Bread of Life that would be broken for the world.

This life in between can be so challenging, friends. It’s true. I hope you can take courage in the knowledge that God is actively, intimately acquainted with the details of your story. 

Even when it’s painful at the time, He so often uses postponement to make the best become possible.

Reflecting on the journey this year, I’m more convinced than ever. We can be honest, we can be patient, and we can trust: the Lord, the Lord our God? 

He writes the best stories.

P.S. If you’re in gift-giving mode, I’d love to welcome you to visit my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. It has ideas for different ages and budgets and I hope it’ll be a helpful slice of inspiration for you! Peace and GRACE to you today, friend!!! Click the link below to see the Holiday Guide and Grab the Hassle Free Holiday Guide I created to help you plan and prepare for more peace during the holidays!

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 your love and support!