Soul – not “Sole” mates …

 

Movies, TV, common understanding of the term “Soulmate” always meant to me that we each had one. People say they “finally found their soulmate.”  Who are you thinking of right now when you hear that term?

But what happens if the soulmates get divorced, or their spouse just doesn’t “get them” or their spouse dies?  Whammo – there goes their one soulmate!  Or for those that never marry…do they not “get” a soulmate?

I am 100% sure tonight that “soulmate” does not mean “sole mate.”

My wish and hope for everyone is that throughout your life you will have many soulmates. Maybe it will be the person you marry…but it could also be the person you re-marry, or do real life with, cry with, laugh until you almost pee, the one that blesses you over and over… or your soul mates could be ALL of these. Maybe a soulmate for you is an author whose writing causes you to say “Yes, me too!” You relate, their story is your story, and you feel connected, even though you may never meet.

I remember first hearing this multi-soulmate concept while watching “Sex and the City” years ago. (I’m declaring that I loved that show –especially the dedicated friendships between the four girls. They were always there for each other with a shoulder to cry on, brutal honesty, and lots of laughter).  In one scene when they were talking about what a treasure their friendship was, and how they were tired of searching for their “one true soulmate” they decided they could be each other’s soulmates.

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(Photo credit: Darren Star Productions)

Friends will come and go. God puts different friends in your life at different times for different reasons. Sometimes you have to let them go and make room for new ones yet to come. I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of lost friendships. But these soulmates that I have….incredible. They just keep calling and giving and showing up and blessing.

One of my favorite soul mate stories is of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible (Ruth 1: 16-17).  Naomi’s son married Ruth. Naomi became widowed, and then later Ruth became widowed as well.  Ruth refused to leave Naomi. They were soulmates, I believe, and did life together after hard times. The words of this song, “I’m with you,” were written based on this story. I get teary-eyed every single time I hear it and thank God for my several soulmates. I actually said my friend Jolynn’s name out loud the first time I heard it, as if it had been written about her and I.

Have a listen…and maybe a good cry if you are thinking of that friend or friends that this applies to…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHZZyNGvOVY  (Capitol Christian Music Group – Nichole Nordeman & Amy Grant).

Tonight I am praising God. I mean, hands in the air, crazy thankful for all of the soulmates that have been there for me and continue to be there for me….these friends and neighbors and family are SO good for my soul. Blessings are overflowing in my world and it makes a sometimes hard life completely enjoyable.

Most importantly, thank you to God – my ultimate soul mate. It’s deep – but He’s always there and always will be. When he can’t tangibly help me, he sends these angels that have been my soulmates to help me stand and keep standing.

Who are some of your soul mates?  Comment below and direct them to this blog – call out and thank your soul mates!

(Next week, I will return to my “Gifts” post, but due to my heart just overflowing with gratefulness, I had to write this today).

Winner ! Winner!

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And….the winner is……mentioned at the bottom of this post!  

 Winner, please let me know for sure if you can attend this Friday, Nov 18th at Cornerstone Church in Caledonia. Two tickets will be yours!!

(If she cannot attend, I will do another random drawing Sunday night).

Thank you for all of you that subscribed to my blog!

It is not too late to still buy tickets for this great show….go to blessedbybrookelyn.com and you will find a link to i-tickets.  This show will be an up-close and personal event with great seats! And, the tickets support the legacy of Brookelyn Elias by providing scholarships to Caledonia High School students, providing soccer gear to Caledonia and Kentwood players, provides soccer equipment to Haiti and so much more that the Elias family is so dedicated to.

Here is my favorite song by each artist:

Chris August:  Center of It – Chris August

(But also check out Restore, The Maker, Starry Night, Unashamed of you)…..

Jonny Diaz: More Beautiful You

(Also check out: Breathe, Scars, Beauty of the cross)

******For listening to at least one of each of their songs (listed above), and commenting below which is your favorite, I will be giving away one of their CD’s, too!!   (Delivery or mailing after the concert!)

(Can you tell I just LOVE give-aways?)

MICHELE SYTSMA – you WON 2 tickets!!  They will be at “will call” this Friday! 

Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace -Part 1

Friends………Check out this insightful blog from my friend Stephanie Miller. I met her this summer but feel like we’ve been friends a lot longer. PLEASE take the spiritual gifts test (link in blog) and feel free to share yours below the blog!!! I can’t wait to take mine!

Stephanie Miller, Personal and Spiritual Growth Coach

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Fruit of Faithfulness Series: Day 24

So after I brought up spiritual gifts in my post last Wednesday, God placed on my heart to really explore this topic further.

Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 4:10

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

We need to be a faithful steward of God’s grace to go and advance His kingdom. I love this idea on paper, but I really want to know what this means practically.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

The verses above…

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I’m thankful for…nothing!

Ouch!   That sounds horrible, right?  Maybe you have never said that. I don’t think I ever have, but I sure have acted like it. Have you?

I’m willing to bet I can include you in these thoughts…We have complained about little things that don’t really matter. Someone cut in front of us in line at Target’s check out (who really cares? You’ve filled your cart with things most of the world can’t afford).   Your neighbor across the street has failed to rake their leaves and it is hampering your view (really? Then go do it yourself. Be kind).   Once again, Wendy’s failed to include the ranch dipping sauce and you are not going to drive back there, but you thought about it for a minute (come on! You should be so lucky to have a body that can tolerate eating that food, finances that can afford to buy that food, and safe transportation to get there and back).

It’s all about perspective.   God knows our private thoughts but our kids and those around us just see our behavior. Are you showing thankfulness?

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This weekend I visited my brother’s family and they have such a great ongoing tradition I have to share it. (I’m sharing a lot today).  Each member of the family gets a turn to say what they are thankful for. It can be something simple or deep – doesn’t matter. It gets everyone in the practice of being thankful.

Why do most people tend to only do this on Thanksgiving? Or wait until November and do it just during that month? Why?

I’ve created 5 options when you are feeling and acting ungrateful:

1) Send a card to someone who is going through or has been through a hard time (even if their loss or struggle happened years ago. Pain lasts longer than you might think…And by card, I mean a real, send-through-the-mail, card. Spend $5 with your Amazon Prime and you’ll have a box of cards at your doorstep in two days.)

2) Look around you:  turn on your water (fresh, clean, cold & hot), open your fridge and cupboards (you aren’t starving), step out into the sun, fresh breeze, or refreshing rain….

3) Look at your kids (or nephews/nieces):  miracles, God-sent, reflections of you…

4) Pray to God and ask for help! “God. I don’t feel grateful right now. Help me. Help me to be humble and not take you or anything you’ve put in my life for granted. I pray for those who don’t have even the basic necessities. I pray for patience. Please and Thank you.”   **Hey – it’s already working – you’ve thanked Him at the end of your prayer!**

5) Turn to scripture for the truth about gratefulness. Here’s one:

 

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalms 9:1)

****As a special THANK YOU to all of my subscribers, I am doing a give-away.  If I can get 100 subscribers by November 1st, I will randomly select a subscriber to win 2 FREE tickets to see Chris August and Jonny Diaz on Friday November 18th at Cornerstone Church in Caledonia. Please subscribe and tell your friends to!*****

Picking and choosing.

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In writing these last few blogs, I’ve discovered an ugly truth.  I decide what my position is about something, and then pick out verses to fit my position. It works out great. I rely on myself – my knowledge, experience, opinions….and then keep scripture in my back pocket to prove to everyone that what I am saying is backed up by the One and Only.

Ouch. It does not sound nice when I actually write out the truth.

Thinking back, I actually have been doing this for a while. In writing papers for college classes, I would decide my position and then find internet research to support that.  If I found research that didn’t support my position, well, I just didn’t quote that. After all, for better or worse, you can always find evidence on the good ole’ internet to back up whatever position you hold on any given topic.

Now, please don’t start a campaign to revoke my Bachelor of Arts Degree or my recent MBA. I really did earn those (and am still paying for the latter!), but I think it is time for me to treat scripture differently.

What about YOU?  Do you highlight scripture that you already abide and live by?  Do you pick and choose to apply the easier verses like you pick out pumpkins in the patch? You skip over the ones that you aren’t comfortable with.  It certainly makes us feel great when we are already practicing what the bible teaches. Woo-hoo-I have never murdered anyone!  Correct-I have donated generously (most of the time).  Yes, I am thankful every day just as my before-dinner prayer recites. Hmm….

The harder scripture about being generous with giving (all the time, in all circumstances not just when we have ‘extra’), or helping the orphans and widows, or only letting holy (and kind) words come out of your mouth….do you kinda skimp over those? Do you obey those only when it is convenient or when you are with certain people? Remember that one time when you made a meal for a widow? Recall that time you thought seriously about sponsoring that child overseas? (But then “something came up.”)

Are you (like me) hesitating to apply “harder” scripture to our lives?

“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  Mark 4:18-19.

Do you fit Jesus into your life where you have already made a specific place for him? Or do you build your life around the place Jesus has made for you?   He wants us to live our lives according to the Bible lessons within. Not use the lessons to support our way of living.

Read that again:

Do you fit Jesus into your life where you have already made a specific place for him? Or do you build your life around the place Jesus has made for you?

Is there a verse you can share with me that is difficult to live by? Please comment below and I will try to navigate it with you and find out how we can infuse it into our lives.  (I’m no Bible expert, so bear with me. I’m a work in progress).

Good ‘Nuff girl

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I used to be more of a perfectionist. I used to try to control everything. I used to want to know which roads the driver was taking and see if there was a more efficient way. I used to freak out if a cake I was frosting wasn’t perfect. I recall scrubbing my apartment bathroom toilet on my hands and knees with a toothbrush. (And I lived alone! No men, no toddlers!).

 

Then…life happened. Kids came along and I had different worries. Kids’ fingerprint marks showed up everywhere and I couldn’t keep up. Toys stayed in the middle of the floor all night (gasp!) and guess what: I slept fine.  Life got busier and I stopped caring about every little detail. I started taking more photos and I laid on the floor letting my son crawl all over me instead of wiping down the countertop again. When my husband and son were playing and my husband said, “B-you’ve gotta see this” I ran into the living room to witness it and didn’t care that I had one more dish to rinse.

 

Then, my husband died. I didn’t care about details. A weed-filled yard, cobwebs in the corners, flipping the mattress…whatever. I’ll take care of it eventually. When I realized God is in control and I’m not…I became a “Good ‘nuff girl.” God is perfect. I am not. I don’t have to cross every “t” and dot every “i.” I do my best with what I have, and I enjoy life. If I don’t do something perfectly, I call it “good ‘nuff.”

 

That being said, I don’t want anyone to think this applies in absolutely every area of life. I do thoroughly shower, take excellent care of my kids, and try my best to cook meat to the proper temperature. For safety’s sake, “good ‘nuff” doesn’t always cut it. Be assured I’m not skimping in these areas. Professionally, I am detailed and follow the rules, so I’m no slacker there, either.

 

My point is, are there things in your life that YOU should become “good ‘nuff’ at?  Should you stop trying to be a perfect housekeeper? Are you trying to win a competition with that birthday cake?  (And I do have friends that are passionate about these things and if you love it, keep doing it. But if you love to hate it – stop it.)

Do you have to bring the most creative snack even though it stresses you out and takes way more time that you thought it would? Would you feel guilty having a “cereal and toast night” for dinner? Why? What can you change this week that will make life easier for you? What small details can you let go of…in order to more fully pay attention to your family and God?

 

Take it from the girl who once brought Little Caesar’s Crazy Bread to a potluck (major hit, by the way).  

 

Let someone else drive (Hmmm…God?) and take the long way or different way home. So the Cinderella cake isn’t perfect….well, it’s kinda funny and it’ll taste just as good.

Let all that you do be done in love (1Corinthians 16:14).  Do your best, but for God -not out of desire for perfection, not to compare yourself with others, not to exhuast your stress level or get in the way of time with your family and God.

You are Good ‘Nuff for Him.

***** Addition:  If anyone is interested in this topic of giving up control, my friend Shannon Popkin’s book, Control Girl, will be coming out in January! I am very excited for this book. Click below for more info!  

Click, click record & repeat!

Do you take a ton of photos on your phone? What about video? Who is the subject matter most of the time?

 

When my husband died suddenly  seven years ago at age 37, I was lucky that I had taken so many photos and videos. But, it was all about my son…which is typical. We wanted to catch him making that funny face, documenting his  new wiggly dance, listening to him speak in complete funny sentences at such a young age. But the result was not many photos of mom or dad! In the videos I can hear my husband’s voice occasionally, but rarely see his face. I see this happening with other couples. We stop taking photos of each other, and just focus on the kids.

 

This fall season, while picking out pumpkins, tasting fresh apples, getting sticky from donuts and cider, please make it a point to capture photos of the kids but also the Mr. or Mrs. AND BOTH Mr. and Mrs.  For single moms this is especially hard, but ask people around you to take photos. Better yet, ask your 3-year old to take a photo – you know they have years of experience with your phone! Find another family and offer to take family pictures for each other.  I guess “selfies” have helped tremendously in this area, too.

 

Take more videos. Record the everyday ramblings of not just the kids but of dad cooking bacon on a Saturday morning. Record mom as she asks the kids to pick up their rooms…because someday they will miss that voice, even asking them to do chores. Record the contagious belly laughter. It might make you cry someday to hear it again, but you’ll be glad you captured it.

 

Finally, DO something with these photos and videos. Take time each week to at least email yourself your photos, or upload them to a photo site like dropshots or shutterfly (or dozens of other options). Move the videos to a safer place or get them transferred to a DVD. You will be glad you did.   I have spent many hours making photo books on Shutterfly and Snapfish. (I wish they were compensating me for advertising for them!). My books generally take 10+ hours to make, but I do it in stages over several nights: upload photos, choose book, edit/crop photos, add text & stickers and review. I save the book in my cart until there’s a half off sale…which is often. (Traveler’s tip: Great Wolf Lodge offers a free 8×8 Shutterfly book – be sure to ask for the coupon!)

 

So this fall…………click, click, record and repeat…a lot. Enjoy the moment without needing to get “the perfect” shot. Instead, focus on getting mom & dad’s photos and voices documented. Record the laughter and the tantrums. (You heard me. Document those, too!) Instead of checking facebook while at a family outing, record the chillens picking on each other or holding hands. You’ll miss their squeaky little voices! And as a family, look at the photo books together and recall those quality family moments. Even if the kids moan about watching the footage, they’ll be grateful for it…someday. And, as scary as it sounds, you won’t all live forever, and to be able to listen to voices again…trust me – it’s a great thing. 

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It’s a dirty job – and I’m an expert.

Do you remember that show “Dirty Jobs?” I remember thinking, who in the world wants to do that for a living? Who wants to work with sewage, or be covered in mud on a daily basis? Who wants to shovel manure all day, or work in a meat-packing plant? There are many grungy jobs I would never want to attempt. 

Which dirty job would you never want to do? Realistically, someone has to, or should do, this job in order to make the world function, right? They may not be fun jobs, but we rely on others to do the dirty jobs in this world. For a lot of people who do those dirty jobs, they are actually really good at it, passionate even. It doesn’t matter so much what job you are doing, as long as you do it with all of your heart and soul; you are helping someone, you are creating to help others, you are servicing others and you work hard while doing it.

I never had a dirty job. With the exception of diaper duty while babysitting, I’ve had pretty clean jobs. Well, until….the last seven years or so.

In 2009, I was thrown into a full-time job that I never wanted. I didn’t dream of becoming an expert at this. I never wished that people would consider me a “go-to” person in this field. I dreamed of a wedding (singular)  and babies and vacations. I didn’t hope that someday, people would call me for advice on this awkward topic. I didn’t want this dirty job….GRIEF. It just may not be as visualy dirty as Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs but people hope to avoid it.

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Grief is a dirty job. It is messy, unpredictable and lasting. It is downright hard. It might get easier one moment and then throw you right back to where it all started, with a smell, memory, song, or the way the wind blows. Grief doesn’t end at 5pm or at the end of 5 years. Grief lingers. But here’s the thing – grief affects everyone. Every single human being. And it’s awkward. We struggle with what to say, or what not to say, or how to help – really help.

And now God has given me the experience so that I can call myself a sort-of “expert” in the field. I’ve been through the variety of emotions, experiences, learned practical tips, attended and led support groups and grief conferences, read a lot of books, and made many friends along the way who have been there.

What about you? What are you an expert at…that you didn’t want to be? What have you gone through, that has equipped you to be a “go-to” person? If you are open about it, please comment on this post.

“God allows pain because it is the secret to our purpose.”  –Emily Wierenga, author/speaker.

Most importantly, (read this twice): Do you recognize your painful experience as a gift from God? Do you realize you’ve become an expert, maybe unwillingly, in order to help others? 

 Share: “I am an expert in ________.” 

Just Breathe…

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When is the last time you absolutely dreaded a conversation? I mean, ache in the stomach, sweaty palms, wishing-you-were-on-a-sunny-beach somewhere-not-here…feeling??  Maybe it is a work-related scuffle with a co-worker, or giving someone bad news, or admitting you’ve made a mistake, or calling someone out on an important issue, or finally coming clean about something?

There are all sorts of reasons we get anxious about conversations. We anticipate what might be said, what we will say in response or in defense. We fear different outcomes. We fear the “not yet known.” We fear things won’t be the same, or will be the same, despite the difficult conversation. I think that is one of the many reasons why Facebooking, emailing and texting is so popular.  If you don’t have to face that person, if you don’t have to see their reaction and emotions, it makes it easier on you (and maybe them). But sometimes there is no option – in person it is.

Whether it is anticipated or we are blindsided, whether it is work or personal, life-changing or about laundry-changing, with people we know well or barely know…there can be different levels of anxiety.

How do we prepare for those anticipated scary conversations? How do we suit ourselves for being ready on the spot for the unanticipated scary confrontations?

I have one of those anticipated, scary conversations coming up this week. I am analyzing, role-playing, imagining words that might come up, preparing for the worst, praying that I can take the high road instead of saying something I might regret.

I am clinging to a verse I heard today at my church home:

1Peter 3:9: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Our God knows the whole story. He knows what’s been said and done, and what you want to say! He knows your heart, your worth (beyond measure!) and he wants good for you and has good in store for you.

This week, I must remember this and just breathe. I must offer a blessing instead of being defensive  or insulting. Can I really do this?? Can I??  I will have to let you know if I did!

Take the high road. Always take the high road. Bless others instead of insulting them. It’s hard. It’s reeeeally hard sometimes. I’ve not always been successful at it. Because we are not always successful at these things, God provides ways to remind us and equip us.  Seeking encouraging verses from the Bible, attending church, calling loyal friends who remind us to do good, and keep us on that high road.

For those times when we are blindsided by confrontations: breathe. Clench your fists and pray for silence while we let those emotions fly in our mind…until we can say something in response that is calm and less impulsive…and maybe even, a blessing.  While this is very hard, when you’re not sure you can do it, when you’ve got a million things going on in your life and you don’t need this chaos…..JUST BREATHE. Then, thank God for that ability to inhale and exhale…and even bless someone in the hardest of situations.

Breathe – Jonny Diaz   -If you need a reminder this week to “Breathe”….listen to this and read the words. I’ll bet you can totally relate.

 

Let Labor Day be Opposite Day

My family recently had an “opposite day.”  We ate cake in the morning, wore our pajamas to church (we totally did) and had pancakes and bacon for dinner.  I used to do this more often, when my son was younger. I recall making Mac ‘n Cheese at 8am for breakfast, followed by mowing the lawn in pajamas. I highly recommend this tradition.

With tomorrow being Labor Day, we had plans today to drive up north to relax….but with kids is it really “relaxing?” My son is old enough to get himself ready and keep himself happy, but my daughter definitely takes work …. A lot of labor to get everything packed, tossing toys back at her during the ride, and being her constant shadow while she discovers all of the awesomeness that a lakefront cottage has to offer. So, due to the thought of all that “labor,” plus recovering from a fun-filled day yesterday, and still monitoring my daughter’s low-grade fever….we decided to stay home today and probably tomorrow.  (Note: to prevent any tone of ungratefulness, I am thankful to have access to that cottage, grateful for the fun-filled day yesterday, and glad that it is just a fever…but stay with me here). 

In honor of Labor Day, I am doing the opposite: not Laboring. It’s, I guess, “Opposite day of Labor Day.”

I certainly hope this is the case for you, too. We live in a world full of deadlines, have to’s, need-to’s, and miscellaneous obligations. We rush around- not smelling any roses, not looking up at the clouds imagining what the shapes of fluff resemble, not even checking things off of our list – because, “wait, there’s more!”  What is the #1 answer when someone asks how you are or how your summer has been???  “Oh, you know, busy….”  It doesn’t seem to get any less busy…ever.

This Labor Day….no matter what stage of life you are in…I hope you can “not” Labor. As soon as you are done reading this (and after telling all of your friends to read it, ha ha), make an announcement to your family that you are NOT going to Labor this Labor Day!  Play board games, play lawn games,  just lie on the floor and let your littles crawl all over you and bury you with pillows and blankets. (In fact, you might be able to get a 4-minute cat-nap in this way!)  Put a sheet on the grass under a tree and tell everyone to grab a snack and a book and head outside.  Make your “to do” list something like this:  1)    …….and then throw it away!

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

I know, I know! Easier said than done. Someone has to make the food, keep the house (somewhat) in order… oil the machine.  There will always be a hundred things to do.

But come on….if you are weary, if you are burdened, if you are both (like a lot of us)….let “Labor Day” be “Opposite Day.” DO put off today what you can do the next day, if it entails hard work.  Relax. BE with your family-with not just your body, but your mind, your eyes, your hugs, your ears.

Do the opposite of Labor…on this Labor Day.  And don’t forget to thank the Maker…. for …everything. 

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