Friday, May 31, 2013

One Situation, Two Perspectives: Will You See Beauty Inside the Storm?

I don't do storms well.

I love them outside my window but not inside my heart raging strong.

I look at the phone knowing there is a call I need to make.  A storm is brewing and I've been asked to be the calm.  A friend has asked for prayer as she awaits her phone to ring.  A different storm strikes but fear cripples just the same.

So we both hold tight.  The common denominator to all our hardship is some type of wait where we ask How long will this last?  How do we get through it?  What will this look like in the end?   Unknowns that circle us and give Satan a stronghold.

The rain hitting my window feels healing.  A temporary let up causes me to run, camera in hand, for closer viewing of the sky.  The angry clouds growl with warning that more storm is to come

And yet a quarter turn of my body reveals breathtaking beauty in the very same landscape.

The same situation can yield two totally different perspectives.

This is true of your internal storms too, Melissa

Where we place our focus will make all the difference in the way we see our situation.

I rotate my body one final time and see the most amazing end to the lesson He's chosen to illustrate in the sky tonight.

In between thunder's cry, God created a double rainbow.

His hope, promise, and presence in every storm of life.  Always.  For each of us.

The question is, will we choose to see the beauty inside the storm?

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ephesians 1:4

This morning my girls are I took a trip to the Butterfly House.  They love touching the sting rays and sit much stiller than they ever do in our house in hopes of a butterfly landing on them.  Wonder fills their face as the delicate creatures swirl around them and tease with ideas of a potential stop. 

Most of the time I'm so caught up in their joy that I miss many little details myself. It is a portrayal of my life, I suppose.  Often I'm so busy with my own agenda, to-do list, or have my focus so narrowed on what I want to see that I miss God's sweet gifts placed before me.

Ava wandered off towards a big group of butterflies, not totally understanding that her tiny running body probably wouldn't help her cause, and opened her arms out wide.  I let her wait and watch.

And, in a rare moment I did the same for myself. 

My eyes slowly scanned, taking in sites I normally miss when I'm not down on toddler level.  And, when I did, I saw this

A love letter from the Creator reminding us how much we're cherished.

Ease up and widen you focus today, friends.  Our creative God is lavishing His love upon us...if we'll just take the time to see.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rebuilding the Ruins of Life

The children were outside running amidst the grass and dandelions enjoying the carefree joy of summer's play when I turned on the TV to confirm the news filling my twitter stream.  Immediately images of heroic teachers sharing how the saved little ones, parents being reunited with their children, parents painstakingly waiting to see their children, dogs finding way to their owner, and incredibly brave first responders going through the rubble filled my screen.

Rubble everywhere.

The destruction seemed to offer more chaos than clarity and I slowly lowered myself onto a stool trying to wrap my brain around the mess in front of me.  Tears blurred my screen as I heard Hannah say, "I'm going to make a dandelion bouquet for mommy" and another mom with children the same wondered if she would ever hear the same again.

The reporters cut to a live interview with a man filling the trunk of his destroyed car with pictures of his family.  "What are you doing?"  My annoyance for a question negating the obvious made me want to change the channel but I held it strong.  His car wasn't going to work anymore but it offered a place for him to gather the pieces remaining close to their family's heart.  "What are you going to do now?"  My frustration multiplied a thousand fold.

How is anyone supposed to know what to they are going to do when they're living in the shock of their world suddenly uprooted?

Literally in this case.

Lucky for the reporter this man was more patient than I.  "I don't know," he answered honestly.  His plan was simply to save what he could, put one foot in front of the next, and make plans as he was able.

The quiet strength in the midst of the wreckage birthed a new kind of tears.  

This morning I found myself preparing for Bible Study in the book of Isaiah.  And, as I read, I thought of that man....of all of us.

Our ruins aren't the same but devastation resonates strong.  Diagnoses destroy, unexpected losses distress, dissolved relationships overwhelm, jobs fizzle, finances fluctuate, and the list goes on. We sit in the mess of the "stuff" of life and wonder what our next step is and, even more, what the future holds. No one escapes this side of Glory without news that somehow shatters and requires strength we know not ourselves to have.

And we hear the voice of our ever-present God draws near, reminding us that He will give us the humble strength that we need to get one foot in front of the next.

For myself, this doesn't come with a loud voice of confidence or the banner cry of Christian faith, but rather the knowledge that in our brokenness He helps make us strong.

So we pray for Oklahoma

And with resolve we all rebuild the ruins of life with hope.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

Yesterday was a momentous day.  Our sweet Hannah graduated from preschool.

Ever since Grace started school Hannah was been excited to dig into learning of her own this year proved that to be true.  She has grown and flourished in so many ways.  During the ceremony she recited several scriptures, sang songs, and then received the "teacher award."  Apparently when she grasps a skill she is eager to help her friends- LOVE that giving spirit in her!

On her graduation certificates Hannah dreams of becoming a artist or dance teacher.  She's super talented in both.

(We're totally framing this)
And it will be fun to see where God leads her in the years to come.

We are so very proud of Hannah and look forward to watching her excitedly enter our incredible elementary school.  Joy is sure to follow whatever classroom she enters. :)

May God continue to show Hannah the unique and special gifts He's given her.  We're beyond blessed to be her parents.

Reminder: You only have until Monday at noon to enter to enter to win my KraftyKash custom bible verse necklace giveaway.  Wear your favorite Biblical promise of hope around your neck as reminder of His love.

And, through May 24 you can order any KraftyKash item with this 20% off code.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

10 Comforting Bible Verses in Times of Distress

Yesterday I had a wonderful Mother's Day, but there were many years where I wondered if or how I would get to be a mother, and it was during that prayer time reflection last night that my mind drifted to a dear friend whose arms are still waiting, a young girl who lost her mom this year, and the woman behind QUINNcidence.

My act of kindness for QUINNcidence was helping another mother going through an unexpected family change feel the Lord's love through her trying circumstances with a shared Bible verse a week.  I wrote her a letter saying I would be praying over her, but even more importantly the God of the Universe was near, promising to save those "crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

It's been 10 weeks and today I extend them to you because while the trials we face are different, we all have them and the same powerful Lord loves us through them all.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah  29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and NOT to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."

Psalm 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling. He will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tend and set me high upon a rock.

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him and He helps me.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Exodus 33:14 The Lord replied, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you, when you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Regardless of what you and I face we know a God who walks before us, holding each situation in His hand, and personally walking us through it all.  The One who put the stars in the sky tenderly extends his hand to wipe away our tears (Revelation 21:4) and bring new hope.  Rest in this love, friends.

Reminder: You only have one more week to enter to enter to win my KraftyKash custom bible verse necklace giveaway.  Wear your favorite Biblical promise of hope around your neck as reminder of His love.

And, through May 24 you can order any KraftyKash item with this 20% off code.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Mother's Day Gift that Captured My Kids' Love {With a Coupon Code for You!}

Today was an amazing day. Four generations of Merrill/Peters/DeGroot/Nesdahl ladies gathered together

around the table with our incredible men and shared a meal together.  I'm blessed to have married into a family that relates well to my own and chooses to share in holiday love together.

The great-grandmas were here thanks to Grace and Hannah's dance recital. They both love dance and would choose to live at the studio if given a chance.   At the moment, they dream of becoming dance teachers and watching these beauties


of course brought a tear to my eye each time they took the stage.

There is something magical about seeing your child do what they love best. In discovering their God-given gifts, smiles overtake them and make way onto our faces too. We can't help it. Our hearts beat in stride and radiate joy as we see them take to the stage of life - in whatever activity that might be.

Needless to say, when I opened this KraftyKash gift this morning, I gained a staple jewelry piece for every recital plus daily wear.

I wore it all day as a proud dance mom - a visible sign of the place mommyhood most takes me.

Where does mom life take you? Are you a dance mom, soccer mom, band mom, basketball mom, or baseball mom? Use this listing and Kashoan can make you a custom piece with your team/event words and colors. AND, she is offering 20% off for ANY order you place between now and May 24 with the code FAMILY. Look around her etsy to find the perfect bible verse or dictionary made pendant for yourself or the friend you're searching to gift.  Beware, you'll quickly become an addict :)

AND, if you haven't yet entered my bible verse pendant giveaway, HURRY UP! I wear my Isaiah 41:10 necklace all. the. time!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our Bitty Baby Turned Two! {American Girl Bitty Baby Theme Party}

They say time flies when you're having fun.  I guess that means our family is filled with joy because somehow in the blink of an eye our baby has entered the terrific twos.  Today we had an American Girl Bitty Baby theme party to celebrate our bitty baby entering this new year in life.

Ava's bitty baby is basically an extension of her.  She carries it around all the time.  She takes it with her everywhere.  And, she sleeps with it by her side.  In fact, she loves bitty baby so much that when she sits down to potty train she pages through the bitty baby section of the American Girl magazine and, even when she goes, she lacks excitement for the potty dance and treat reward because she just wants to keep looking at the stuff.  It's an intense love.

For her party I made invitations using Picasa with some pictures of her and her baby.

Then we went to the store to dig into the party theme.  Hobby Lobby was THE place for my finds.

Since she's always feeding her baby a bottle, I purchased cute bottles and filled them with these cute (and really yummy) pacifier candies.

They also had tiny baby rattles with a star in them, which was perfect because American Girl always has a star on their boxes.

Together they made the perfect party favor for the little ones.

Since cake plus jewelry is a double bonus in the eyes of a young girl, I made cupcakes with baby themed rings (from a local wedding store) on top.  My new pampered chef mini spreader made the frosting all kinds of beautiful. :) 

Ava had strong feelings about the frosting.  Purple is her favorite color and when I tried to grab a different color she pushed it away saying, "purple."  At least I can be sure that she will express her true feelings to me. :)

Grace and Hannah helped me with a Bitty Baby banner

And it all came together perfectly.

This afternoon we were blessed to have a house full of nearly 30 dear family and friends who love her well.  My man impressed people with his master grilling skills before we sang to sweet little Ava.

Right after I took this picture she nearly stuck her finger in the flame so now we have complete understanding of the whole candle/hot thing.

She quickly recovered and thoroughly enjoyed every second of her cake and ice cream.

Need I say more?

It was a wonderful day celebrating our little bundle of personality. 

Our cup overflows....

Reminder: Don't forget to enter my bible verse necklace giveaway.  You can have your favorite verse made into a custom pendant

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Friday, May 3, 2013

The Necklace & the Touching Tale of an All Pro Dad {with a KraftyKash giveaway}

"Daddy, would you like to join me on a daddy-daughter date to this?"

In my first grader's tiny hand was a flyer inviting students and their fathers to All Pro Dad for breakfast and conversational fun.  Championed by her incredible school principal who cares just as much about her students' hearts and families as she does their success in the classroom, All Pro Dad offered opportunity to bring them together in a new way and the mere idea put stars in Grace's eyes. 

Daddy time is special.

Her gaze never left his eyes and a smile overcame her when she heard Charlie affirm, "I would love to."

Expecting a handful, the leaders were surprised to host around 100 fathers and their children each month.  A new location in the school was claimed and more breakfast was ordered to host the many men who believed that the strongest impact they will make isn't in their career, but in leading the homes and hearts of their family. 

"A man never stands so tall as when he kneels to help a child." Unknown

Month after month I watched out the window as my husband left hand in hand with Grace.  Quickly becoming clear that this wasn't just another thing on Charlie's schedule, time at All Pro Dad was shading the way he viewed time with our children.  He wears a suit each day and runs a bank, but a video sharing one second of each day in a child's life until they were 12 moved him to tears.

"You wouldn't believe how fast it went, honey.  It makes you realize just how fast they grow and the need to slow down really see it."

I'd pick up Grace from school and hear the other side of it.  "Mom, did you know when dad was a kid he sometimes felt like the kid who was bullied in the video."  And a discussion ensued that created more freedom to talk about feelings and a knowingness in human suffering.  "Mom, this week dad and I are going to do a random act of kindness."  And I was gifted to get in on the conversation they had about the importance of giving.

The first Friday of every month became a space of communion that opened up conversation in new ways and reinforced for every child that no topic is off the table.  They can come to daddy about everything. 

My work is primarily with teenagers.  With sadness, I respond to teen after teen who've fallen into the arms of the wrong boy because they never had a father tell her she was special and set the standard for respect.  Statistics tell us that most incarcerated males had dads absent from their lives.  Moreover, teens will reach out to me - a stranger - for help because they don't know how to talk to their parents about bullying, classroom failure, eating disorders, friendship issues and relationship questions, and important life choices all because they don't know how to strike up the conversation.  Mom and dad didn't talk to them about the "meaty" things in their young years and now that they are at a place of thinking through life altering things they find them more a stranger than advisor.  This brokenness is tough to repair.

My daughter and her fellow schoolmates are, for the most part, not at a place where they face most of these issues, but this added time together is showing the young boys what a man of integrity looks like and modeling for little girls how a character man will treat her.  It is opening up important conversations (in perhaps different ways than we might think to in our house) and laying the foundation for a more connected, healthy family future.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy once called the plays in a game on the field.  Now he's helped launch a program that's a game changer in life.

And we are grateful.

This morning my husband left with Grace for the final meeting of the year.  But, before leaving, he gifted her with this beautiful necklace as momento of this time together. 

Made by KraftyKash who cuts all her pieces from vintage dictionaries, bibles, and cards, the intertwining hearts in the center represent his and hers.  The blue and green beads are for Grace's school colors.  And, the lock and key symbolize the opening of great conversation. 

It was a gorgeous moment between a father saying, "You matter" and a daughter hearing once again, "I am loved."

Be still my heart.

When I told Kashoan how much we loved her custom piece she graciously offered a random act of kindness herself and said that I could gift one of you!  And, since I'm the wife to the All Pro Dad, leaning in on God and praying over our family, I chose a bible verse pendant. 

I wear Isaiah 41:10 as a constant reminder of His presence and powerful support. 

What promise  might you want around your neck?  One of you lucky readers (in the continental US) will be able to choose your favorite verse.  Simply comment with your favorite verse to enter.  You can receive additional entries for sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter.  Please leave an additional comment for each way you share.  And, be sure to leave your email with your comment so I can contact you if you are the winner.  I will use to pick the winner at noon on Monday, May 20.

Slow down and invest time in the people you love today, friends.  I'm off to hear about today's All Pro Dad. :)

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