It’s Never Too Late **plus a giveaway**

Woo hoo! Today marks the first full week of blog posts on PBnJGrace! That, my friend, is something to celebrate.

New habits, like writing, taking vitamins, or making the bed, or reading some scriptures every day, are hard to form. At least it’s been that way for me. I had no problem developing an insatiable need for caffeine way back in high school. Diet Pepsi was often on my nightstand at bedtime. After my second child was born it became very clear that cans of soda were not going to even get me through 7am. Soon I began to hit the hard stuff…coffee. I didn’t even like it at first, but mixed with enough cocoa it became a chocolate lover’s dream. Although I knew I was addicted, I convinced myself that if I ever needed to stop I could. I mean, it wasn’t crack. Right?

For some reason unhealthy habits are easy to come by, but making healthy habits are really hard for me. I won’t even tell you how many times I’ve began an exercise program and stopped…with a very good excuse every single time. Nearly every single ‘healthy’ habit I have embraced has come down to choosing relief over a lot of pain. My body has rejected most of the standard American diet. Caffeine got the boot a few days after my 40th birthday. Happy birthday to me, right? I’d like to tell you that I don’t think about it anymore because I feel so great, but that would be a lie. I do feel better, but I think about coffee every single day. It’s like an old boyfriend that I can’t quite seem to get over even though I know I’m better off without him. To make things harder, I bump into him all of the time. It’s a high drama break-up.

What I’m saying is that it’s never too late to make changes that will make us healthier. As long as we’ve been given another day to breathe in and out, we have another day to choose differently. His mercies are new every morning. I don’t know what kinds of choices you’re facing right now. But I do know that there are people who love you an awful lot and are depending on you to fight to do whatever it takes do be ‘healthy’. Chances are good that you know in your gut what you need to do and just need to take the first step. The Lord will help you. One step at a time, one day at a time. When you’ve used up all the strength you have for today, he’ll give you more tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. You’re not a victim. You are more than a conqueror. You are.

To celebrate His daily faithfulness, I’m giving away a copy of ‘Jesus Calling’ to one random winner. All you have to do is fill in the blank:

I _________________ every day.

in the comments here on the blog (not on Facebook) by Sunday (8/12). I’ll draw and announce the winner on Monday (8/13). Even if you already have a copy of this book, I’ll bet you know someone who needs it.

Thanks for stopping by this week. I pray that you’ll continue to experience the daily faithfulness of the Lord in a powerful way. He loves you more than you can imagine.

See you Monday.

Jesus Calling is a devotional filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year.  After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her.  It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue.  She knew her writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but journaling helped her grow closer to God.  Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages.  They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.  It is Sarah’s fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.–Publisher Notes

Trust vs. Stuff

One of the most difficult things about getting my house ready to sell is decluttering. I am one sappy sentimental sister. Like I feel emotional pain when I find a birthday card that someone has given me. My inner-sap wants to save it forever because that person could be hit by a bus tomorrow and I’ll never see them again. I’m not kidding. My struggle to hold on to all that stuff means packing it into boxes and probably paying to have them stored, even though they may never see the light of day again. I romanticize the thought of my sons treasuring my treasure when I’m old and gray and remembering me with fondness. It’s important that there are tears in their eyes as well. Anyway, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were just old cards, but it’s not. I have cabinets full of dishes we never use, boxes full of books we’ve already read, drawers full of clothes we rarely wear, and it’s time to move them. Again.

I hold on tight because I have a hard time trusting that I’ll ever have anything nice again.

If you live in the United States, you’re probably aware that we are a nation crazy about having more stuff than we could ever possibly need. We stuff our homes and fill our two car garages until we can’t park our cars in them with all of our glorious stuff. Then when Christmas and birthdays come around we ask our kids what they’d like to receive as gifts and they’re completely stumped. Like we have to give them ideas for more stuff. Does anyone else have to do this besides me? It’s CRAZY. Hello, you’re reading a crazy person’s blog!

We might even be able to justify all of our awesome stuff because we need it or might need it in the event that war-torn refugees come to stay. We’re always thinking ahead. Obsessing. Planning. Worrying that we won’t have enough. But somewhere deep down we believe that if it all falls apart tomorrow, we’re screwed.

Remember the bible story about Moses leading the children of Israel through the desert? God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt. He had performed miracle after miracle on their behalf. The Red Sea wasn’t just a story to them, they walked through it on dry land and then watched it drown every single soldier that tried to take them back. And yet it didn’t take long before they started to freak out about not knowing what they were going to eat every day. They had been so used to being in captivity that they were used to settling for what they got from the slave masters. This new found freedom stripped their security away and exposed them for what they were. Afraid.

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough food for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions…”-Exodus 16:2-4

Every day the Lord rained down manna for breakfast and flew in quail for dinner. Those that tried to gather up more than they needed were met with a nasty maggot mess the next morning. He would not allow them to hoard his goodness. They had to trust him for it every day except for the sixth day when he would allow them to gather enough for the Sabbath.

It seems kind of mean to test people when they’re under a lot of stress. Kind of like having a fire drill when there’s a tornado coming. Testing shows us what skills we’ve mastered and which skills need more practice. Ugh.

I don’t think God hates my stuff. I don’t think he thinks my stuff is a great big sin and needs to be burned on the altar. I think he knows I’d be less stressed if I wasn’t constantly worried about what may or may not happen to my stuff and where I’m going to put it. My trust matters more to God than my stuff.

He says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”-Matthew 6:25-27

Every day his mercies are new. Every day is a chance to trust him again. Every day is another day to learn to master my stuff instead of allowing it to be my master.

I’ve been using this FlyLady decluttering challenge to get my house ready.

I’d love to hear some feedback today. Any tips to save our sanity would be treasured, but not stored. 😉

 

The Cost of Being High Maintenance

A little more than eight years ago I entered a mentoring program at House of Hope to face my depression head on for once and for all. The mentors told me that God could heal me and I was desperate enough to give him a shot because nothing else I tried had worked. The medication my doctor prescribed had worked well in the beginning, but my body stopped responding to it. Even though I tried different medications, the side effects were starting to outweigh the benefits from my initial experienced. My daily ‘happy pill’ wasn’t working anymore.

The medication had given me enough hope of feeling ‘normal’ that I began to depend on it. I gave regular testimonies about how good I felt. When ‘normal’ evaporated, hopelessness moved back in. This was a normal I wasn’t willing to accept. My boys deserved better.

House of Hope’s program was intense. I was expected to not only participate in group therapy type sessions, I also had to attend bible studies, personal development classes, and do my homework. It was hard. I hadn’t had time to read a book that didn’t rhyme and have pictures in years. I still don’t know how I was able to pull it off other than I know that a small army was praying for me.

After I graduated from the mentoring program depression free, I tried to do life the way I had before. It didn’t work. Joy felt too good to not be my permanent ‘normal’ and my circumstances hadn’t changed. My kids still needed more than I had to give on a daily basis. I had a choice to make. Fall back into my old habits OR learn how to make the truth I’d learned during those three months continue to transform my mind and heal my heart? I chose Truth.

For me, this means doing my homework. I have to have some kind of bible study to work on almost every day. My family had to learn that this was an important step in staying healthy. Like taking medicine. If I begin to feel funky, I can almost always relate it to not being in a study.

The truth is that I used to resent the fact that I needed that kind of maintenance to feel ‘normal’. Finding time isn’t any easier now than it was all those  years ago, but the stakes are too high to ignore the facts. I am a different person than I was eight years ago and I will never go back. Whatever it takes.

Some of us need more maintenance than others. That’s OK. I don’t know what it is that you need regularly to feel ‘normal’ or experience peace and true joy. Perhaps you’re not even sure. This I do know, the more you allow God to be part of your everything, the more you will not want to go back to life without him.

He loves you with an everlasting love. Every single day.

**Some of my favorite resources have been studies and books written by Beth Moore. Not all of her studies have intense homework. I highly recommend The Inheritance series as a great place to start. Priscilla Shirer, Jennifer Rothschild and Kelly Minter have also written studies that are about six weeks long. These are fun to do with some girlfriends and all of them have digital video downloads for as little as $5 per week. It costs about the same as my favorite Starbucks drink, but lasts a whole lot longer.**

Daily Delusions

It bothers me that I need the Lord every day because I don’t necessarily have time for Him every day. Not the quality time I imagine everyone else spends with Him. I have this picture of my spiritual heroes up at 4am sipping their hot beverage with their Bibles on their beautiful wrap-around porch overlooking their lake shore property. There are no interruptions because their perfect children are asleep in bed. To show his pleasure, God sends a beautiful mist to hover over the lake as well as a graceful swan for dramatic effect. It’s glorious. For them.

My mornings aren’t anything like that. I drag myself out of bed hoping that the boys will be asleep. My oldest has the energy of Tigger from the moment he opens his eyes until he passes out and always has, unless he’s sick. People need breakfast. Dogs need fed. I used to believe that the ever elusive romantic ‘Quiet Time’ the Lord desires was just another way for me to disappoint him. Then one day while I was throwing a little bit of a fit after being interrupted for the 6th time while reading my Bible, he reminded me that he would meet me where I was. Even if that was in the kitchen. Or the bathroom. Or vacuuming dog hair up off the floor. Or driving the kids to class.

My children were given to me by God. He knows how demanding raising a family can be and the season I’m in. He’s well aware of my schedule…the stuff that’s important and the stuff that’s cluttering up my day.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise…you are familiar with all my ways. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn (or if I stay in bed until the sun comes up), you’re already there waiting.-Psalm 139:1,3,7-10 NIV and The Message (emphasis mine)

Bible reading, scripture memorization, devotions, getting up early to spend time with the Lord….all of those are really good things, but we can’t let those forms of worship rob us of the intimacy He offers us today by allowing his Presence to be enough. He loves helping out with the laundry. He loves the prayer time in the shower. Turns out he’s not really picky about when or where we acknowledge Him as long, as we do…every day.

Have a beautiful day!

 

The Daily Dilemma

Babies are created pretty much the same way they were long before our grandparents had stories to tell. Science has come up with some creative ways to vary the process, but it’s the same recipe. A+B always = C. I love recipes like that.

Regardless of where or when our kids are born, their basic needs are the same: they need to eat, sleep, diapers changed, and lots of loving human interaction. They don’t need it once. They don’t need it twice. They need it every single day. Once a day would be nice, like caring for a goldfish, but no. It’s multiple times a day. They need it right about the time that a hot meal is ready. They need it every few hours during the night. More when they’re teething. They need it whether there’s money for diapers or not. They impose complete dependence on the fiercely independent. And that’s where things get sticky. The fail-proof recipe that produced that chubby little blessing now needs more upkeep than anything else in the house. The recipe’s tricky that way. It’s not in the fine print. It can leave even the most nurturing parent feeling totally duped.

It did me.

I will admit that I didn’t have a clue about how demanding motherhood would be. Hello, I was a babysitter. How hard could it be? It began kicking my butt right around the second I realized that I wasn’t just a few days late and hasn’t stopped since. That was fifteen years ago. My buns hurt. Seriously.

It took me a really long time to figure out that I was just as needy as my kids but didn’t know it. My kids were lucky though because even though their mother was borderline nuts, she jumped through their hoops and gave them what they needed to the very best of her ability. I wasn’t so lucky. I ignored my needs. I tried to anyway. There are very real and serious consequences for parents who neglect their children. There are very real and serious consequences for parents who neglect their own needs and deep down we know it.

You and I are way more needy than we care to admit. We still need to eat, sleep, and handle things in the bathroom. We’re human. Like our children, we were created to need someone else to take care of us. We were never meant to do it all by ourselves regardless of how much of a ‘big girl’ we are now. The recipe’s tricky that way. It’s not in the fine print. It’s why no matter how hard we try to do it right and follow the instructions to the letter, it doesn’t turn out quite like it should. It tastes funny. It’s missing something.

It’s missing Someone.

We need God. Not once or twice a week, but daily. Sometimes hourly. More at Christmas. Now, if this makes you want to cross your arms with a sassy pout and say “I do it myself!”, you’re so not alone. But what if today was different? What if you allowed Him to help you today? What have you got to lose? You can start by simply saying “God, I need you.” He’ll take it from there.

It would be an honor to pray for you if you’d like to leave a comment today. If you don’t want it published, simply say so. You’re safe here.

See you tomorrow.

 

 

 

Mercy’s Mess

Sometimes the mess I’m in seems too big to ever get out of. It’s overwhelming and I don’t know where to even start. Defeat sets in and before I know it, one day melts into the next and I don’t know if I even care anymore. I remember feeling that way when I hit what would finally be known as the ‘rock bottom’ in my depression.

I had been home schooling my kindergartener. My grade as a teacher? A big fat F every single day. I mean, I couldn’t even get him to remember the letters in his name. (Many years later I would learn that he had a learning disability) My three year old was pretty sure he already knew more than I did. (Not much has changed) I vividly remember him telling me from his car seat one morning, “Mom, you don’t know everything.” I responded, “Who told you that?” and cried for rest of the day. If I couldn’t manage to convince a three year old that I knew more than him, I was screwed.

Sometimes we don’t want mercy. Sometimes we just want to be put out of our misery.

During the ‘rock bottom’ phase I fantasized about being divorced. My marriage couldn’t possibly last much longer and I was starting to look forward to it. Having the boys every other weekend sounded like a trip to the spa. Of course, I knew I would need to get a job and would probably be homeless, but I didn’t care. Living in my mess had become more of a burden than I wanted to bear.

Have you been there? Do you know someone who’s there right now?

Friend, if you were sitting across from me at my kitchen table where my fingers are typing this right now, I’d look straight into your eyes and tell you this:

The fact that you were allowed to open your eyes and take a breath this morning is proof enough that it’s not over for you. I don’t care if you’re face down flat on the floor, mercy is keeping you from falling through the floor.  It is because of the Lord’s great love for you that you haven’t been consumed by your mess.

Mercy says, “I see your mess. I know how you got there and I love you too much to leave you there. Please let me help you clean it up.”

Mercy arrests us in our mess, ushers in peace, and empowers us to change. Mercy saves us. One step at a time.

Trust me, you didn’t make your mess overnight. If I were to take a good guess, you’re probably not totally responsible for the mess you’re in. I know because it’s part of my story too. Regardless of who did what, we are responsible for the choices from here on out. We are not victims. We are more than conquerors. We are entrusted with the next generation. Mercy matters more than ever.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.-Ephesians 2:1-6 The Message

Allow his immense mercy to pick you up off the floor, out of your mess and embrace you with his incredible love. Tell Him that you need His mercy and allow Him to respond.

Thanks for joining me here. I’m asking the Lord to remind you of the ways he’s been merciful to you this weekend. See you Monday.

His mercies are new every morning and He gives good things. He gives Peanut Butter and Jelly Grace.

Arrested by Mercy

When I was nineteen I had the privilege of working in a small publishing office. We didn’t deal with the public at all. I got paid pretty good money to sit and chat with my bosses or watch movies while sorting checks. Most days the company bought lunch and I was out of there by 2pm. Being spoiled like that pretty much ruined me for the dog days of early child rearing.

The company never took any taxes out of my paychecks. I was paid like someone self-employed and was supposed to put money aside for when taxes were due. However, at nineteen, the idea of squirreling money away for taxes was soooooo inconvenient. I needed every penny to cover the bills. Well, tax time rolled around and I filed like a good girl…like I had for the previous couple of years expecting some money back like before. Much to my surprise, the tax man said that this time I owed him. Hundreds of dollars. Gulp. I was in a panic. I didn’t have that money and couldn’t see any way of making it any time soon. All I knew was that the IRS was coming after me and I was in big trouble.

Though I was embarrassed, I shared my drama with my boss. She was so. very. patient. with my daily nineteen year old drama. After I explained my woes she pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check for the entire amount that I owed the IRS. My boss wasn’t obligated to pay any of my taxes. I knew full well that I hadn’t been responsible with my paychecks. I deserved to be in debt to the IRS. She wasn’t my mother or related to me in anyway. She owed me nothing. And yet, out of compassion and Lord only knows what else (maybe to have some peace for just one day in the office) she paid my debt and I will never forget it.

Her single act of mercy arrested me and left a mark.

Jesus told a story In about a king who had a servant who owed him money. One day the king decided it was time for the servant to pay up. The servant didn’t have the money so the king ordered that the servant, along with his wife and children be auctioned off as a slave to pay the debt. The man threw himself at the king’s feet and begged for mercy and a chance to repay the debt. The king took pity on him and decided to cancel his debt entirely.

As soon as the servant left the king’s room, he ran into someone who owed him money. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded that he “pay up”. The debtor threw himself at the servant’s feet begging for mercy, but the servant wouldn’t hear him. He had the man arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. Well, the other servants in the neighborhood were outraged and decided to report him to the king.

Then the king called the servant in “You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?” The kind was furious and made the man pay back every penny he owed. Jesus went on to say this:

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” -Matthew 18:35 NIV

It’s not enough for me to receive mercy when I’m begging for it, no matter how grateful I am. Mercy must be extended to those who are begging for it from me. My sons, my husband, my dogs, my extended family, bad drivers, the flustered cashier at Target, my co-workers, my friends. Mercy knows no bounds.

Who is begging you and I for mercy?

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy. Open our eyes to see who desperately needs the mercy that you’ve shown to us. Your mercy has caught our attention and we will not forget. You’ve marked us forever yours. We want to live worthy of it. In Jesus’ name.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.-Matthew 5:7 NIV

I’d love to hear your mercy story in the comments.

 

 

Good Morning

Good morning.

Have you ever wanted to ask, “What’s so good about this morning?” I know I have.

When my boys were little I pretty much lived in a constant state of defeat. If they were awake, you could bet that I’d already blown it. How in the world was I supposed to wake up feeling happy when my waking was their fault in the first place? If they’d just let me sleep a little longer, I just know I could be a nice mom. It’s what I believed day after day.

What made matters worse was that I held on to the previous day’s failures. And the day before that. My failures piled higher than the laundry and it stunk. Man, did it ever stink and I didn’t know how to change. It seemed like the parenting books worked for everyone but me.

My boys and I both needed a fresh start every day. We needed mercy.

Mercy is a powerful gift if you’re able to receive it.

Mercy empowers us to forgive and to be kind. Mercy allows us to have compassion on another human being. Mercy is a life-saving gift from God. Mercy is required to love others well. Mercy isn’t forced on us. Mercy is Jesus himself.

Mercy is a soothing balm for this irritated, overwhelmed, and just plain tired mother. Sometimes simply whispering the word mercy is enough to calm my spirit. Mercy ushers peace into the chaos.

His mercies are new every morning.

Today you and I get to start fresh. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that…

…This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”–Lamentations 3:21-24 NIV