Friday, October 31, 2014

The Attitude of Gratitude Tablecloth {A November Family Exercise}

I don't know about your family, but the Nesdahl's are in need of remembering our abundant blessings.

Yes, I write a Christian blog but my family is no different than yours.  Sometimes the kids bicker and have selective hearing.  My husband and I can be guilty of looking through the Sunday advertisements with wishful eyes or complaining about the old carpet and feeling like we are somehow lacking even though compared to most of the globe we are rich. {Did you know that if you have any money saved, a hobby that requires some equipment or supplies, a variety of clothes in your closet, two cars (in any condition), and live in your own home, you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy? True story according to Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions and Eternity}

So for the month of November we are going to intentionally focus our hearts.



I made a pumpkin centerpiece, bought a cheap plastic tablecloth, and fell victim to the heavenly smell of the cinnamon pinecone packets in the storefront. Together they make up our November dining room table d├ęcor.



Starting on the first we will each write one thing a day that we are thankful for on the tablecloth.  Any dinner guests we have during the month will be invited to join in as well.  And, as days pass and the notations multiply we will have an amazing visual of just how blessed we are.

If my kids were a little older I'd go with a nicer tablecloth, but with the tiny tot on the house I'd be a fool to think we won't have several spills :)  The party aisle plastic will wipe nicely and no thanks notes will be lost in the process. It's the meaning, not the look.

One of my favorite Proverbs is "Above all else, guard you heart, for everything you do flows from it" (4:23).  I earnestly believe that in intentionally focusing our heart on noting the many blessings we have the natural outflow of that will be a more grateful life.

And I want that for everyone under my roof, don't you?

Now, as for how I'm going to break Ava of writing on tablecloths after this month, I am not sure. Suggestions welcome :)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Daughter, Let Me Tell You A Little Something About that Beauty Commercial

I’m emptying the dishwasher when I hear the beauty defying cream commercial begin to play. My girls, eating their cereal while watching innocent children’s programming, hear promises of younger looking skin in an effort to resist the clock.

“Mom, do you use that stuff?”

Grace, old enough to be in tune to the inferences of these commercials but young enough to still take a “guarantee” at face value, wants to know.

“Nope.”

“Why not?,” she instantly inquires.

I pause to give Jesus time to return and gift me a get out of jail free card. He does not.

Teach.

 


As a mother in the trenches facing worldly Goliath’s, I fill my lungs with air, hoping that infused in the oxygen will be the answer made simple. My heart knows this tiny question has huge ramifications.

“Well, I like make up and, when you’re old enough, you can wear it too, if you wish.”

I’m not anti beauty products, and it’s critical she hear me say this because I don’t want her to think that it is the actual cosmetics that are the enemy. Like most women, I apply some make-up every morning. And, as the mom of girls, I can already imagine fun bonding times in front of the mirror. My mom applied my wedding makeup. A moment I will forever hold dear.

“But, just because they say that a product will do something doesn’t mean it actually will.”

Nobody in the commercial mentioned that 75% of new beauty products on the market fail. To do so would make us question these promises they are touting and we are buying hook, line, and sinker. American’s spend $426 billion dollars a year in beauty and personal care .

“Sadly, people try and make a lot of things in this life sound really good to make you think something that isn’t necessarily true.”

Like our “need” for the products. Knowing that all women have to wrestle with the beauty issue, brands have now gone so far as to prey on our insecurities to secure their profits. In a new study to “identify when women feel most vulnerable about their appearance throughout the week in order to determine the best timing for beauty product messages and promotions,” mornings were found to be the time females feel the least beautiful. It follows then that this would be a prime time to lure us in and explains why my children saw the ad when they did. Isn’t that nice? Beyond that, teenagers, who will arguably struggle most with this issue, wear a target. During television shows most often watched by teen girls, 56% of commercials used beauty as a product appeal. There isn’t a concealer in the world that can cover up what lies beneath the timing of these ads.

“Grace, the thing is they try to tell you you need these things to be beautiful and true beauty comes from God not from any cream in a bottle.”

And that is what I am anti – the enemy is found in the message that...

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Miss the Diamonds


This past weekend I took my annual trip to Women of Faith.

I did some power shopping, ate life-changing food with a very special group of ladies, and listened to moving messages and powerful concerts that dusted off the weary places and polished what was already shining to nurture an exchanged life. 

I’m always certain I will enjoy myself.  I’m never certain how God will shake me.
 

Sheila Walsh took the stage Friday night with story of her childhood. “When I was young I used to love to walk along the shore after a big storm and find all the treasures that washed up.” Paralleling it to storms in our own life and the riches placed by the One who knows our story and loves us through it, she went on to communicate, “One time I even found an engagement ring.”

The visual got under my skin.

After an amazing Natalie Grant concert, we filtered out of the Xcel Center a huddle of women thinning in the night sky.

“I can’t shake what Sheila said,” I told my friend Carol as my feet moved on autopilot toward the hotel, “because really life is a storm. Not in the sense that there is always catastrophe or big problem, but just in the sense that we are busy and have a million things on our plate. I don’t want to miss the diamonds washing up in my everyday because I’m so focused on all the things, ya know?”  She’s a sweet friend with a steadfast spirit and I had to know, “What stuck out to you tonight?”

And then from behind a woman we did not know fused herself into our conversation. Although the only light to be found was from the streetlamps above, there was an undeniable moisture glistening in her eyes. 

“My daughter-in-law arranged this trip for her and I but she was just diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized to her liver so she can’t be around the crowds because she’s started chemo.”Alone and saddened by the swelling waves of life, she gently unfurled her story. Blessed to be invited somehow in, I asked for her daughter-in-law’s name so that I could pray. She happily gave it to me, and then parted ways with the smallest smile on her lips. 

SLOW DOWN. PAY ATTENTION. God smacked me upside the head.

It was a diamond moment honestly made easy for me because I was in a setting stripped of my normal life schedule and demands.  The only thing on my mind during this yearly trip is Jesus and drawing nearer.

“So how do I transpose this desired awareness from the bubble of a faith conference to the surge of everyday life?” The call/question rolled off my lips to my group.

God makes himself fully available to me but do I make myself fully available to Him? The honest answer is no.  Sometimes in my routine I’m guilty of tunnel vision.  I get so caught up in the chaos of human experience to make life roll smoothly that I lose sight of the treasures intended to make life richer.  

Will we see the diamonds or walk on by?

I’m working on it…

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Friend, What Did You See In That Selfie?

Friend,

I noticed you just took a selfie. Can I ask what you saw when you looked into it? Don’t worry. You’re safe with me.
 
 

This world is rapidly changing.  Gone are the days of planned picture sessions with dropped off film in a bag whose results remained a mystery.  Now we are a 24/7 ready people with cameras on our phones and our phones always on us, creating mirror moments all the time.  The outcome of this change is a mixed bag, at best.

Selfies can be so much fun. I love their ability to capture any moment in time. I love how I can actually appear in a photo or two with the fam because before I was always the one taking them and rarely actually in them. :) These documented, unplanned photo moments make for a better scrapbook of life, and that is awesome.

But there is the flip side. The ugly side when we gaze into our phone screen and see ugly in us. I am a faith-filled woman but I still live in human skin. Maybe if I just changed my angle I’d look skinnier or if I lower my chin my nose look better or…you fill in the blank with whatever critique just ran through your head.  So one picture turns into another picture followed by more critique and then another picture until the quest for imagined perfection blinds you of all the beauty staring back at you.

A light-hearted, random moment gets twisted into something frustrating and staged. Because we take the picture often with intention of posting it and since we want people to like what we see the purity of the moment can morph into an acting job complete with filters as our airbrush. 

Do you see yourself in that picture, friend? Or are you a character?

Social media pushes us to the seek the approval of many when we’re really just here to gratify the heart of One.

And He says,


Child,

I KNEW YOU BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S WOMB. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN I SET YOU APART.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes” 1 Peter 3:3

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

So Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

 For we are God’s masterpiece.” Ephesians 2:10

“Be strong and courageous.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“YOU ARE ALTOGETHER BEAUTIFUL, MY DARLING, THERE IS NO FLAW IN YOU.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Love, God

Paint your moments, friend, not an image.  For you have been uniquely crafted by the Maker of it all.  This world of technology has changed things but it doesn’t have to change us.

As you read this today please know I’m praying over you.  And, if you’re a tween/teen who has found your way here, I ask a special hedge of protection around your heart.

May we all live boldly as our authentic selves and redefine beauty along the way. 

 
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Monday, October 6, 2014

What Does a Purity Ring Say, Anyway?


Mom, Can you come in here? I think there’s a mouse in my room. A Barbie just fell.”

For the record, I hate mice and if I had any fear there actually could be a mouse I would’ve sent my husband.  But, with a history of zero mice in the house and a brimming over the top of the basket Barbie collection, my confidence in the situation led me right into her room.

“Honey, there is no mouse, “ I assured.  “Were the Barbies piled high over the top?”

“Yes”

“So do you think it’s reasonable that you accidentally just knocked her over getting back into bed?”

“Ya, that makes the most sense.”

I thought our conversation was done and pivoted to exit the room.

“Mom, how do you know who you are going to date? I mean, you can’t just be walking around and then all of a sudden be dating.”

Why do these conversations always come from left field? Weren’t we just worried about a mouse?

She loves 19 Kids and Counting and on recent episodes Jill is preparing for marriage.   Knowing this was going to be a longer chat, I crawled into bed beside her.

“Long before you date any boy you think about the qualities you want in a date.  Things like knowing them well, that they love Jesus, and that they treat girls nice… because you only want to go on a date with someone that respects you and dad approves of. It’s important to be slow and selective.”

“I know some boys who love Jesus and treat girls nice in my class, mom,” Hannah pipes in from the top bunk. “Should I start a list of potentials for when I’m older?”

That girl is always good for comic relief and, while it came from a true place of sincerity in her heart, I was grateful for the laughter it bubbled, lightening the moment.

“You can wait, Hannah. We aren’t dating anyone before we’re 16.  You’ve got some years to focus just on friendship.”

I’m ready to go but the wheels are still clearly spinning in Grace’s head.

“So if you’re careful about who you date then how do you know if the person you date is the person you are supposed to marry?”

She’s N-I-N-E! I know this is the planting of seeds and falls directly into the lap of my work but I’m still a normal parent, desperately praying to get this right.

“That takes time too.  And a whole lotta prayer.  As you date and talk to God and that person about how you are feeling God shows you if you are better together. Your dad is my best friend.  We love being together but we also strengthen each other in tough times or when we are sad, and he inspires me to live for God in all the decisions we make. God gave me a ‘for sure’ feeling that I didn’t want to spend a day without him.”

“Okay. So when should I be married by?”

I smiled through the darkness at the innocence of a curious little person trying to figure out what makes a fulfilling, successful life. “Not everyone gets married. The best life comes in living for The One not in finding someone.  You just need to listen to His voice and trust it always because God has a plan for your joy and ignoring what He desires for you always leads to pain.”

“Alright. Thanks for the talk and picking up my Barbie.”

I exited their room and promptly rewarded myself with a huge peppermint patty stuffed chocolate cookie bar.  Holy cow did I deserve it and boy was I thankful to return to the mundane folding of the laundry.

However, as I folded, I peered into their room.  Two tiny little heads, crazy hair all over their face, who mean the world to me.  Two girls I wish I could shield of every pain.  Two girls I pray never settle.

So what of the purity ring thing?

Like many of you my husband and I intend to one day have special one on one dates with each of our girls to accompany the “big talk” and gift them with a reminder of their value, giving object permanence to the importance of their life, body, and purity.

But, why?  What is the end goal of these rings, necklaces, or whatever we choose?

 
 

And God makes very clear ALWAYS POINT TO ME.

In a world of Barbie and Disney where happily ever after most often comes in the finding of a spouse we need to be mindful as parents that the underlying messages and giving of these somewhat common gifts doesn’t sell self-completion through marriage.  To do so is to set some of our children up for feelings of failure and it makes their primary focus finding “the one” instead of keeping a steadfast mind on “THE ONE” who truly has their best at heart.  Motivation is found in the flesh rather than experiencing true reward in the Spirit.  It sends the message, “I am not complete until…” 

I never want that for my girls and I’m quite confident you don’t want that for your kids either.

So it is with that in mind that one day we will present a gift with the message, “Wear this as a reminder of The Bridegroom that loves you more than any human ever will.  Trust in His heart and his boundaries and live for Him because then eternal fulfillment will be yours.  Please wear this as a reminder that you ARE whole.  And if, one day, a man of God blesses your life, take it off for the ring symbolizing a life committed to jointly serve, but always keep this as memento of who you are.”

And then I shall promptly reward myself with dessert once more J

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I Love These Faces {Family Pictures 2014}

My girls love to get their picture taken.  When they play house, one of them is often "Michelle" with a V-Tech camera in hand :)  Needless to say, when the calendar date actually read, "pictures with Michelle," they were squealing with excitement.  We gussied up, headed to the park before sunset, and I can't stop smiling at the personalities perfectly captured...

Grace - 9



Hannah - 7



Ava - 3


And this



I love these faces!
 
 
Our girls are no longer babies.  I look at these stunners and yearn with everything in me to protect their innocence and keep their inner light aglow.  Navigating that in today's world will be a challenge, but God has set on my heart discussing a few of those issues this month.  I hope you'll join me!


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Who Is Your Solomon?

I open my Bible Study and begin to fall in love with him. Solomon, a king whose leadership I’ve somehow missed in all my years, is only a child when he takes the throne, but his wisdom bears spiritual fruit I want to eat of.

In a dream, God grants him opportunity to ask any one thing he wants, and Solomon’s answer is, “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).

It is granted and this wise leader immediately stands out amongst the rest because his motives are different from the rest. Humble rather than heady, Solomon became a vessel. “From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom,” Lucado & Frazee write (The Story), leaving inspired, enlightened, guided, and stronger in the faith. Even when the queen of Sheba tried to test him, he remained steady. In Solomon’s presence people seem to feel the presence of the Lord.

Enamored, I drive to study and join my gal pals around the table. “Can you imagine a leader guiding like this? Whose desire above anything else is to know God’s heart and act accordingly?” I ask.

So often we shake our heads and bemoan what we see in the world around us. Messes feel too big. Hurt runs too deep. And, we just want to throw our arms in the air pleading, “Jesus, come.”

And He reminds I have, and I am.

“Is there anyone you admire in this way?,” I dare inquire. A leader who seeks God first, becomes a magnet by virtue of their acumen and whose warmth is as inviting to the spirit as the coffee I’m sipping is to my soul.



And I immediately identify a Solomon in my life.

She opens her mouth with wisdom & on her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:26

This person sits on a throne of sorts, though you will rarely find her there. In this woman’s life...

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