A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

Posts tagged ‘adventure’

Hello Monday…the celebration version

We spent a fantastic weekend in North Georgia celebrating at the wedding of our cousin Michael.  I say our cousin because he is actually related to both me and my husband by blood.  What?! His daddy is my fifth cousin on my Granny’s side and his mama is my husband’s second cousin on his Maw Maw’s side.  Michael was also the ring bearer in our wedding, which coincidentally was 18 years ago today.  And so we spent our anniversary weekend surrounded by friends and family celebrating the beginning of a new marriage and the continuing journey of our own.

Ross, Gracie, Noah, Amber, Silas and Georgia

Ross, Gracie, Noah, Amber, Silas and Georgia

Michael and Julie were married at an old camp meeting campground.  They had perfect weather.  All four of our children were in the wedding – Georgia and Amber were flower girls, Gracie was the guest book attendant and Ross was an usher.  Ross also got to pull the white runner down the aisle just before Julie walked down.  My nephews, Noah and Silas, were also in the wedding.  Julie went out of her way to include all the kids in her wedding, a true reflection of her heart to make the day about family.  It added a lot of details to her planning but it was so appreciated and it was worth it to her to see them thrilled to be a part of the special day.

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Let’s say hello, shall we?

Hello Monday…

Hello family…

While I was in Georgia celebrating the wedding, I got a phone call that my grandma went home to Jesus.  My grandma had not been well for quite a while and I was expecting the news to come any day now.  This week my cousins and aunts and uncles will all gather to celebrate her life and the legacy of her faith in our family.  My grandma raised five boys, two of whom became pastors and another who has been on several mission trips, and was blessed with 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.  The influence of her love for Jesus runs deep into our family tree.  She lived her life well and so we cry, we miss her, but we celebrate her arrival into heaven.

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Uncle Eddie, my Daddy, Grandma, Uncle Kenny and Uncle Mark – Uncle Gary was waiting for her in heaven when she arrived, along with my Paw Paw, two of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild

Hello anniversary…

Today is my wedding anniversary.  I’m still so in love with the wonderful man God gave to me.  He gives me butterflies every time he smiles.  After 18 years of having children, being broke, buying a house, foster parenting, deaths and births, heartache and joy, I would do it all over again.  We spent yesterday afternoon in Helen, GA visiting an old grain mill, a winery and an antique store in a house more than a hundred years old.  We had the best southern meal we’ve ever put in our mouths.  And we drove six hours in the car, talking and catching up with each other while the kids were mesmerized by movies and iPods.  It was a glorious day.

What are you saying hello to this week?

The God of Immeasurably More

immeasurably more

After an almost eighteen month sabbatical, I’m finally coming back to writing!  The past year and a half has been a whirlwind of change and activity as God knocked down obstacles, challenged us to shed old crutches and habits, and stretched us in new areas of ministry.  It has been a season of preparation and our prayer through it all has been that God would make us “fit for service” so we could live a “life lived loud” instead of just a life in survival mode.  We wanted to thrive and grow and be used by God in whatever means He saw fit.  We are beginning to see the fruits of those prayers.  Here’s a quick update to catch you up to all the changes and goings on:

 

made to crave1. One of the first major changes in my personal life was reading Made to Crave.  This book defeated my idolatry to food and helped me see that God was my strength and strong tower, not doughnuts or brownies.  He is all I truly need.  I first went through the book with a friend.  Then, in January, I assisted another friend of mine in teaching it at Morning Grace.  Now God has opened the door to allow me to teach it at my own church to my dear sisters in the faith beginning next month.  Teaching and being an active part of women’s ministry has always been an unfulfilled passion of mine so I am excited to see what God has in store for me as He gives me the desire of my heart.  I’ve set up a Facebook group for those who would like to follow along online as we study the book in class.  You can request to join the class here.

 

 

2. Our house has undergone a major transformation! As we prayed for God to make us fit for service, asking Him to remove anything that might hinder us from being effective in ministry, He quickly helped me see that Satan was effectively keeping me occupied within my own four walls, constantly battling clutter instead of reaching out to others.  The devil is so cunning and crafty and he definitely had a stronghold in this area.  I went through our belongings with a new level of determination, got to know my local Goodwill drop off crew members really well and finally took back control of our home.  Last month I finished the final room in the house and we all feel like we can breathe again.  Clutter sucks the life out of you and you really don’t even realize how much it takes away from living your life until you actually get rid of it all.  This big step led to #3.

 

3.  In the spring, we made a major move from our long-standing Community Group at church to a new group – one closer to our house, full of couples about ten years younger than we are.  God is growing us as mentors, using us as examples (talk about accountability!), and stretching us into deeper roles of participation within the church.  This week, we will also begin hosting our new Community Group at our house – something that would have been impossible to do eighteen months ago.  What a testimony it is just to be able to tell the story of how God brought us to this place in our journey!

 

g and occ4.  Gracie (our little future missionary) has been busy with a big project for Operation Christmas Child.  Inspired by my friend’s son, who set a goal to pack 100 shoeboxes for OCC last year and then surpassed it with over 160 shoeboxes filled, Gracie decided that she wanted to pack 100 shoeboxes too.  What started out as a little Facebook page to tell friends and family about this and her endless parade of other mission projects she gets involved in, has turned into a major display of God’s faithfulness and care for the heart of a ten year old girl.  Gracie has over 120 fans on her Facebook page, Cup of Cold Water.  She’s watched in amazement as God multiplied her efforts and provided $700 to pay the shipping costs for her 100 shoeboxes.  She was overwhelmed by the number of people and the amount of items donated when she hosted an OCC packing party last month.  Every day, when she walks in the front door, she’s greeted by 80+ shoeboxes stacked almost to the ceiling, waiting to be shipped to children around the world, all because she asked God to help her do something big with her very little.  It is so exciting to see her faith come to life.

 

Over and over again, these past eighteen months have given us glimpses of the God of immeasurably more.  Time and time again, we’ve given Him our hopes and dreams and plans, then watched as He blessed us with over and above our wildest imaginings.  I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I know Who holds the future and He is willing able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.  I’m excited to begin to write about all the things that God is doing!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

Freezer Management 101 Part 1

Today’s post is moving us in a new direction.  So far I’ve shared adventures in my faith walk and in trying to exercise and lose weight.  Now I want to start to share a new adventure with you – the adventure of homemaking!  We will start in my favorite room of my house, the kitchen!

Many of my friends and family have asked me a lot of questions about how I manage my kitchen, from grocery shopping to meal planning to pantry organization to freezer management.  I’m going to start with freezer management because it generally gets the most questions.  There’s a lot to share so this will be the first in a series of posts.  If your question isn’t answered today, be sure to ask me in the comments area so I can be sure to cover it in a future post.

Freezers are generally used for two things:  keeping frozen items like ice and popsicles  frozen and preserving other foods like meats and vegetables until we are ready to eat them.  Freezer management is just using the functions of your freezer in the most frugal and efficient ways to make meal times easier to manage.  We will start with the preserving function of the freezer and at the end of the series, I will share several recipes for frozen treats so you can stock your freezer with yummy stuff to keep you cool this summer.

I started out small in freezer management, using my freezer as a storehouse for meats when I found a great deal.  When I shop for meats, I go to the grocery store searching for markdown stickers.  Grocery stores will lower the price of fresh meats when they are close to the sell by dates in order to move them out the door.  You can buy these markdowns at a great discount and stick them right into your freezer until you are ready to cook them.  For example, on my last meat shopping trip, I found one pound packs of ground chicken regularly $3.69 each with $3 off markdown stickers.  There were nine packages marked down and I grabbed them all at $0.69 each.  Later I will show you how to bring your meats home and prep them into a meal or main dish before freezing (I’ve got an 1/8 of a cow coming in a few weeks!), but for now just focus on adding to your freezer stock.  Once your freezer is stocked with markdown meats, you can plan your meals based on the meats you have on hand and start lowering your grocery bill.

Another way to stock the freezer is with fruits and veggies.  First, go through your fridge and pull out any fruits or veggies that are just slightly past their prime.  These are foods like limp celery or apples that aren’t as crisp or very ripe berries that need to be eaten quickly before they spoil.  Instead of losing these foods to the garbage disposal, save them while they are still viable and get them in the freezer.  I chop things like onions, celery, carrots,  mushrooms, and bell peppers into very small pieces (usually with a food processor – I’m all about working quickly!) and then spoon them into ice cube trays.  Put the trays into the freezer until the veggies are frozen solid, then pop them out and put them into freezer ziploc bags in the freezer.  When you are making dinner and you want to add a little something to a sauce or rice, grab a couple cubes from your freezer stock and toss them in the microwave for a minute to thaw, then it’s ready to add to your recipe. You can also slice veggies and freeze to add to pizzas or stir fry – just slice and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen, then remove and put them in freezer ziploc bags.  The same procedure can be used for fruits like apples, peaches, berries, even bananas – just peel, slice and freeze on a cookie sheet then bag them.  Berries, grapes and pineapple chunks make a great frozen snack – they taste like bite-size popsicles and they’re healthy too!  Once your fridge is cleaned out, head to the grocery store and scope out the markdown produce.  Many grocery stores will pull bruised or very ripe produce off the shelves and bag it up to sell at a deep discount.  Just take it home and process it for the freezer right away and you can enjoy lots of produce for really low prices.  You can do the same thing when you find a great deal on in-season produce like a bushel of peaches.

The last way to stock up the freezer is with baked goods.  Most grocery stores will markdown breads, cookies, bagels, and pies that are nearing their sell by dates.  Once you get them home, wrap each item in foil before placing in a freezer ziploc bag.  I will often separate things like bagels, pies and cookies into individual serving sizes and put each serving in foil then a sandwich bag and then put all the sandwich bags into a larger freezer ziploc bag.  Then I can easily pull out a bagel or dessert to add to my hubby’s lunch, make a quick breakfast or serve to a visiting friend.  The rule of thumb here is to not just throw the baked goods into the freezer in their original packaging.  The packaging is meant to keep it fresh but isn’t designed to protect against freezer burn, so be sure to wrap it then bag it before you freeze it.

A few important things to note here:

1. Use name-brand freezer ziploc bags.  This isn’t the time to cut corners with off-brand bags or using storage bags instead of freezer bags.  You’re preserving food so use the best quality stuff to do it and you will get a better result.

2.  Don’t skip the ice cube tray/cookie sheet step!  This allows the food to freeze in separate pieces before you bag it so the pieces don’t stick to each other.  If you skip this step and throw it all into the bag and then freeze it, you will end up with a big frozen chunk that’s only useful if you are going to use it all at once and have the time to thaw it.

3.  Be sure to label and date everything.  If you are going to go through the effort of preserving the food, make sure you can identify it later or you won’t ever use it.

4.  Organize your freezer.  Keep all your meats in one section, your fruits in another, your veggies somewhere else, etc.  This is easier to do when you have a full-size upright freezer but it can still be done if all you have is the freezer above your fridge.  When you keep like items together, it’s easier to see what you have and find what you need so you can use what’s there and not forget about any of the frozen treasures waiting to be eaten.

The next post in the series will cover utilizing big batch cooking and #10 cans to stock your freezer.  As always, comments make my day!  Be sure to leave your questions in the comments so I can cover them in future posts.

 

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The Beginning of My Greatest Adventure

Dear Son,

I can hardly believe you are 13 today!  Your birth was the beginning of my greatest adventure, the adventure of motherhood.  It seems like just yesterday I was talking to Grandmama and Grandaddy while they were celebrating their anniversary in Hawaii, telling them they were going to be grandparents.  It’s only been a blink of an eye since your first steps, your first words, your first haircut.  How could it have been more than a moment since you last called me Mommy?  And yet, here you are, standing beside me now, almost eye to eye.  You are becoming a man right before my eyes, but before the day comes when you will leave the nest – and it will even more quickly than the last 13 years, I’m sure – I want to be sure there are things that you know.

First, know that Mom and Dad will fail you.  Your closest friends will disappoint you.  There will even be a special girl or two who will crush your heart.  But in all the shortcomings of humanity, there is a God who is faithful, who never disappoints, never leaves you wanting, always supplies, always provides, always cares for you.  Don’t be afraid to follow hard after God, even when it means being different than those around you. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.  They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.  He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever – holy and awesome is his name.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  To him belongs eternal praise.  Psalm 111:7-10

Second, know that you don’t have to wait until you grow up to impact the world with your faith or the gifts God has given you.  Do not waste your youthful energy and enthusiasm, your ability to dream big and then run after it – use that energy, that enthusiasm, those dreams to begin to do the work God has given you to do.  Pursue the passions He has placed in your heart with all that you have.  Give yourself wholeheartedly to your education and recognize how everything you do now is preparing you for what He has in store for your future.  But also be aware, keep your eyes open, for all the ways He is already using you now.  He has given you such a gift of compassion for others, use it well.  Be on the lookout for those who are hurting, minister to those in need, pray with those in need of comfort.  Cultivate the rich prayer life God has already begun to grow in you.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

 

Third, plan your future with open hands, being willing to go where God leads you and do what He has in mind for you.  He has planned your greatest future, with your best in mind, and He will help you achieve all He has planned for you if only you will trust Him and follow His leading.  Place your relationship with God above all else and everything else in life will line up as it should.  The Lord has made it clear over the years that you will be a “mighty man of God” – whether as a Christ following faithful husband and father, or as a dynamic preacher or missionary.  Be willing to follow wherever His calling takes you and know that your Dad and I will support you every step of the way.  “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.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

Fourth, begin to pray for the woman who will one day be your wife.  Pray for her home life, her spiritual  life and her purity.  Ask God to begin to prepare her for the life He has for you both.  Pray that God will keep your own heart and mind pure while you wait for the day He brings her into your life.  Pray for patience to wait and contentment in your relationship with Christ while you are single.  Bring each girl you take an interest in before the Lord in prayer and be willing to walk away if she’s not the one for you.  A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  Proverbs 31:10-11

Fifth, learn now how to properly manage your money so that you will not be restricted in following God’s calling because of financial difficulties.  Develop the habits of saving and tithing and paying cash for things from the beginning.  Be generous in giving to those in need and in blessing those around you.  God is faithful to provide for your needs.  He will bless you for your good stewardship and generosity if you give out of a heart overflowing with gratitude for all He’s given you and not out of obligation.  “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”  Malachi 3:10

Lastly I want you to know how proud we are of the young man you have become.  From the time you were little, we’ve seen a love and passion for God in your life.  We are excited to see that love and passion grow and develop into whatever calling He has for your life.

The following verses are my prayer for you:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  Ephesians 1:15-19

Happy Birthday Ross!

Love, Mom and Dad

 

He Ruined It For All the Girls

 

 

Being the firstborn child can be both a blessing and a curse.  Firstborn children are usually independent, strong willed and natural leaders…and guinea pigs.  Face it, your firstborn has the greatest learning curve of any of your other children – you learn what not to do through the experience of your firstborn, so that your second, third, etc children have a better chance for survival.  I know my parents learned a lot with me as a firstborn – always make sure your child isn’t standing in front of the swings if you decide to go really high or you might kick her across the playground; never chase her little fingers with the vacuum cleaner teasing “I’m gonna getcha!” because eventually you will; and always verify there is indeed not a child riding on your shoulders before walking through a doorway.  These are all valuable lessons that saved my younger brother from pain and suffering, all learned at my expense.

On the flip side though, firstborns are trendsetters.  My mother-in-law wanted to be called Granny by her grandchildren just like her sister was by hers, but Ross as the firstborn grandchild called her Nanny instead and so now she is known as Nanny to all 7 of her grandchildren to this day.  And a lot of “mom rules” – you know what I’m talking about, those nonnegotiable policies that are written in stone because you’re gonna make sure THAT never happens again – are also made into law because of something the firstborn did.  In our family, for example, we do NOT go to Toys R Us.  Those who know our family well know why and are probably laughing hysterically at the memory of why we have that rule, but that story is for another day.  Today I want to tell the story behind two other “mom rules” that at first don’t seem related to each other, but once you hear the story, it makes perfect sense and may actually cause you to make a mom rule of your own.  The two rules?  1. No balloons in the car and 2. No chocolate milk in restaurants.

When Ross was four and Gracie was only 10 pounds of spunk and cuteness, we would have a weekly lunch date with Michael on Fridays.  Those little outings with Daddy were something we looked forward to all week long.  On one particular lunch date, we chose to go to Macado’s.  They have a huge sandwich menu, the kids meals were cheap and Ross would get crayons and paper and a balloon to entertain him while we waited for our food to arrived.  Ross really wanted chocolate milk, but when it was time to order, the waitress said they only had white milk.  He pulled the oldest trick in the book, poking out his lower lip and fluttering those mile-long eyelashes at her and in no time, she was at the bar mixing chocolate syrup into his milk just for him.  She even gave him extra chocolate because he was so sweet (insert wink and a smile).  Ross loved it so much, he slurped it down before his food came and had to get a refill to go with his meal.

After lunch, I loaded the kids into the car, kissed my hubby goodbye as he went back to work and headed to Gracie’s well child checkup.  Ross was being really good, talking to his sister to entertain her while we drove and holding his balloon in his lap so it wouldn’t obstruct my view through the rearview mirror.  As we waited at the stoplight just across the street from the doctor’s office, I heard the sound every mother dreads – someone in the backseat was throwing up.  I whirled around to check on the baby and saw Ross puking all over the top of the balloon in his lap.  And then he let it go, just as the light turned green.  I rolled down the window and beat furiously at the balloon, trying to get it out of the car as quickly as possible as it bounced around above us, vomit dripping from every spot it touched.  I somehow made it through the intersection and into the parking lot, where I whipped into a parking space and flung open the door of the car.  The balloon drifted away, the baby began to cry, and Ross lifted up a little hand covered in puke crying “My balloon!  Mommy, my balloon!”.  At that moment I vowed to never, ever allow balloons in the car or chocolate milk at restaurants ever again.

Now whenever we go out to eat or leave a Harris Teeter and one of my littles asks for a balloon, Ross sighs and shakes his head and says, “I’m sorry girls.  I ruined it for all of you.”  And they all beg Mommy to tell them the story again of Ross and the balloon and the chocolate milk.

As always, comments make my day!!  I’d love to hear your “mom rules” and the stories behind them.

 

 

 

 

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

ImageWhen you open the door to adventure, you never really know what might come through that open door.  It’s part of what makes it thrilling, the possibilities are endless!  It’s also a bit scary, because really…the possibilities are endless!  What if God calls me to do something way out of my league, completely out of my comfort zone?  Sure I’m good with stretching myself and learning new things, as long as I can do it in baby steps!  But when God steered me toward my latest adventure, I knew this would be no kiddie pool experience – He was taking me straight to the deep end, sink or swim!

My brief time in college was nothing short of disaster.  After going through some of the most challenging times in my life, I came home a complete mess emotionally, spiritually and especially physically, a victim of rape with an eating disorder added in for good measure.  I learned to stuff my feelings with potato chips and chocolate icing and built a wall of Snicker bars and pound cakes around my heart so tall, I was sure I would never, ever be hurt again.  At my lowest point of life, in my worst state, my future husband came into the picture.  Somehow, he saw through the hurt and the pain and the empty candy wrappers and saw who I could be if only someone would take the time to teach me to love and trust again.  And so he did.

Through the years of dating, early marriage and having babies, the emotional and spiritual wounds healed but my weight continued to climb.  Over and over again, I lost then gained the same thirty pounds.  I slowly learned to let go of the binging and take my hurts to the Lord.  But the weight was a sort of safety blanket I held onto, a protection I relied on.  Until the day the Lord revealed that He is my strong tower, my rock and my fortress – anything else is built on shifting sand, including the wall around my heart and the fat around my middle.  I spent the next month wrestling with where my security truly lies and finally, gratefully surrendered my safety to God.  I thought that was the end of it.  And then He threw me a left hook…literally.

My adventure began when I started considering joining the gym across the street from our neighborhood.  I’ve grown to love my body and be content with my weight, but the constant ache in my hips and legs, lack of energy and inability to do so many things I wished I could were starting to get old.  It was time to work out some stress and frustration and get some good exercise at the same time.  Just a few short days later, I found myself not puttering around on a treadmill while I watched television as I had imagined, but in a workout studio with a personal trainer, a bunch of weights and some strange looking equipment that looked more like torture devices than exercise gear.  Through a series of events only God could have coordinated, I was in the deep end of the pool and I was sure I was going to drown here!

Cindy became my lifeguard.  She guided me through the shark infested waters of healthy eating and helped me develop a plan to keep my head above water.  My two workout partners, Michelle and Eileen, arrived and we began our circuit training.  I was surprised to discover it was much easier and more enjoyable than I expected it would be.  Every rep, every set, every circuit completed made me feel stronger and more capable.  I repeated to myself over and over again: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  He was there with me in the deep end of the pool and I didn’t have to be afraid, even if all I knew how to do was doggie paddle.

At the end of our workout, Cindy showed us how to put on handwraps so we could spend a little time boxing.  I watched carefully – as a leftie, everything always feels backwards when I try to do it – and managed to wrap both hands without a do-over.  I walked with Michelle to the punching bag and half-heartedly slugged it.  I felt a spark in my heart.  I hit it again a little harder and the fire was lit.  Out of nowhere, all the hurt and pain and feelings of helplessness bubbled up inside me and threatened to explode.  I began to pummel the bag.  Inside my heart raged and the wall fell.  I wanted to pound the bag, knock it to the ground, jump on top of it and punch it until my arms gave out.  It was a symbol of everything that had been locked up inside me for the past 19 years and I was ready to tear it down.  Outwardly, I continued to beat at the bag and visualize what I really wanted to do to it.  Cindy called me over to punch at the mitts she was wearing as she rotated her arms in different patterns.  I threw the first couple punches and she said, “Woah! I’m gonna take another step back.  You’ve got some power there.”  I continued to punch at the mitts and finished my workout.  On the outside, I was quiet and calm.  On the inside though, I felt like Rocky at the top of the stairs.  I had jumped into the deep end of the pool, learned to swim and claimed my victory.  God would keep me safe.  I just had to keep swimming.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense, he has become my salvation.”  Psalm 118:14

Comments make my day! Share your adventures with me – I’d love to cheer you on.

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

My adventure started out as a routine trip to Aldi during Gracie’s dance class.  Because the littles were at home napping while Ross did his schoolwork, I was driving my shopping cart solo.  I whizzed through the little store, systematically grabbing groceries, throwing them in the cart and checking them off my list.  In less than 15 minutes, I was finished and standing in the checkout lane.  It’s amazing how fast I can shop when I don’t have Georgia poking her finger into my produce, Amber constantly asking if we can go to Harris Teeter (because they have cookies, Mommy!), Gracie being the little mommy to both of them while simultaneously trying to read my chicken scratch grocery list, and Ross asking me what HFCS is and why we don’t want it in our food.

I guess everyone had decided it was a good day to buy groceries because the store was busy.  I had already seen two other moms whose daughters were in dance class too.  The line to checkout went halfway to frozen foods.  I pulled out my smart phone (instant entertainment while waiting!) and tried to avoid looking at the big box of Snicker bars calling my name from the nearby empty checkout lane.  And then I saw the flowers.

I love fresh flowers.  I think they make a house look so fresh and pretty.  It’s really one of the few really girly things about me, this love I have for a fresh bouquet in a pretty vase – a thing of beauty in the middle of the chaos that is my kitchen.  I’m also not above buying them myself instead of pouting and waiting for Michael to be inspired to bring them home.  I  wandered over to the floral display and looked past the daisies and carnations, eyeing my prize.  The first sign of spring in my book is tulip bouquets and here they were, brightening up their corner of the dingy little grocery store.  And they were on sale! Only $3 for a little spot of sunshine.  I chose some pale pink blooms and went back to waiting in line.

All of a sudden I heard the one sound you can never truly get out of a store without hearing at least once – a wailing child.  Her mama was trying her best to stay calm and comfort her preschooler, fully and uncomfortably aware that all eyes were now on her.  Her daughter had decided to help mommy put the groceries onto the conveyor belt and dropped her jar of pickles.  Glass shattered, pickle juice oozed, girl wailed and mama was somehow calm through it all.  The cashier helped her take her groceries to the next lane, voided her order and started over scanning everything.  Meanwhile, the lady in line behind the wailing little girl high-tailed it to the pickle section in the back of the store, grabbed a new jar and thrust it toward the mama.  But the little girl was well past hysterical by now and even baby kosher dills wouldn’t console her.  The mama kept repeating “It’s ok, almost done, the pickles are in the cart now.”  I wasn’t sure if she was talking to the girl or to herself but the stress of the whole situation was all over her face.

Finally I paid for my groceries and went to bag them on the counter by the door.  There was the same little girl, still sniffling and whining about her pickles on the floor.  And there was that mama, still repeating the same phrase, shoving groceries into bags as fast as she could.  We both went to our minivans and proceeded to unload the groceries from cart to car, all while the girl continued to whimper and cry about her precious pickles.  This child could test the patience of Job, but this mama somehow remained calm.  As I put the last bag in the car and reached for my beautiful tulips, I felt the Lord nudge me.  “Those tulips would really encourage that stressed out mama.”  Really Lord??  My tulips, my little bit of sunshine – You want me to give it away?  I don’t even know her Lord! She’s gonna think I’m crazy, giving flowers to a stranger.  “You want to live life loud don’t you? Step outside your comfort zone? What about those prayers for boldness?  Do you really want it? Show me.”

I returned my cart to the corral and stood there holding the tulips, feeling like a fool, just standing there waiting on the mama to return her own cart.  But when she finally walked up, courage surged up in my heart and I couldn’t give her the flowers fast enough.  “I want to give you a gift,” I blurted out.  I walked up to her and pushed the tulips into her hands.  “Sometimes, us mamas have really hard days and we just need someone to encourage us and let us know we are doing a good job.  I’m amazed at your patience with your daughter.  You’re doing a great job.”  Before I knew what was happening, I had my arm around her shoulder and I was hugging this stranger, this fellow mama, in the middle of the parking lot while she held my tulips.  I looked at her and saw tears in her eyes.  “Thank you so much. I saw these in the store and I thought they were so pretty,” she said.  And then she stunned me.  “You must have really been listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice.”

And now the tears are in my eyes too.  I have no way of knowing what that mama is going through or how those simple flowers will impact her life, if they do at all.  But the God who hears my prayers asking for boldness in sharing Him with others is the same God who knows the needs of a mama with a crying preschooler and a broken pickle jar.  It was all I could do to walk back to my van and not run into the store to buy every bouquet they had, just to give them away to other mamas.  We need to remember we aren’t alone.  Other mamas struggle with sleep deprivation and potty training and moody preteens and husbands with long work hours.  In the midst of our struggles, we can look up and see those around us who are struggling too.  Then we can reach out (maybe with some flowers in hand) and remind them they aren’t alone either.  We can spread the little bit of sunshine.  This praying for boldness, this desire to live life loud for Jesus, is pushing me and stretching me.  I never know what adventure will come next.  But I’ve had a taste of the excitement and joy that comes when I push past the fear of being a fool and I want more!!

Comments make my day!  Let’s share our adventures together – whether it’s a spiritual adventure like my grocery store experience, or something new you are daring to try.  I want to cheer you on!

 

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