Categories
Reflections

Out In the Pines, I Understand The Popular Mountain Vibe

“What is the vibe of Northern Arizona?”, our friends asked us. When we first fell in love with the place on our vacation in fall of 2020, people wondered why. I don’t think it was the vibe then, although we definitely noticed there was one.

“Outdoorsy”, was our answer. People ski, play disc golf, raft, climb, bike and hike, just to name a few of the most popular pastimes. Residents of the area work hard and play harder, outside in the fresh mountain air.

In the first week after moving here, I commented to a friend that the whole region smelled like Christmas. The fragrant cover of fresh cold pine reminded me of tree lot excursions and piles of bough wreaths. Being outside and inhaling deeply made my heart happy in an almost giddy way.

“The smell of pine needles, spruce and the smell of a Christmas tree – those to me, are the scents of the holidays.”

Blake Lively

I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

Mama Lava
Blooming cactus coming up amidst the pine needles and pine cones.
When you live in the mountains, but it is also the desert, you get pine cones and cactus. This is spring in the mountains of Northern Arizona.

But now that spring has sprung, and the sun has warmed the pine needles, the musky scent is an altogether different kind of wonderful. It smells like camping trips and adventure. I can barely stand to be inside. I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

I suspect it is the latter. Out among the pines, I understand the popular mountain vibe. It beckons me to join, and I feel helpless to resist.

“The ground’s soft with pine needles and the occasional crunch of a cone. The air smells like it’s just been born.”

Libba Bray

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Helen Keller

“God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.”

A.W. Tozer

“Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Psalm 90:1-2
Categories
Celebrations

Happy Mother’s Day with Love For Every Imperfect Mom

I recently watched a TV show where a woman was looking for a sperm donor. She took a long time to consider. In addition to the DNA of the men from whom she had to choose, she thought about character.

How involved did the men want to be in raising the baby? On what parameters, if any, did they insist in regard to religion, schooling, and household rules as the child grew? Whose genes and influence did she want in her child’s life?

I don’t know how sperm donation works, or if this was a typical situation, but it was a beautiful illustration. I believe God considers carefully when choosing the people who will co-parent His kids with Him. Our children really have 3 parents, do they not?

I went out for a run to think this over and pray for so many women I know who feel like anything but a good mom this Mother’s Day. What follows is a collection of my breathless thoughts.

I think we feel inadequate because we compare ourselves to the best in the moms around us. We fail to remember our inherent worth. It is inherent because Jesus built it right in.

I saw this post on Facebook:

A painting of three women, wearing swimsuits, in knee deep water
Watercolor and poem by Rachel Toll

“Three good friends went for a swim.
The one who was fat wished she was thin.
The one who was curvy wished she was clever.
The one who was clever wished she swam better.
The really great swimmer wished she was witty.
The one who was witty wished she was pretty.
All three friends thought the other two were just fine.
If only they could let their own bright light shine.”

Ladies – I think moms in particular – know we are flawed. And we usually feel we are more so than the next gal. We think our kids would be better off in the care of someone more _______. (Fill in the blank)

Have you ever stopped to consider that God knows everything about you? And yet, He still chose you, and an imperfect father, to parent the children He gave you. He wants you to do your best. But He is prepared to make up for whatever skills and wisdom you lack.

Children who blame their earthly parents for their faults might have a point. We aren’t perfect. But their Heavenly Father is. He offers them flawless parenting.

Purple flowers sprouting in spring.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

And you know what? God is a perfect parent to us too. We have the ideal example from which to model our parenting efforts.

He takes away every excuse. We cannot blame other humans for the faults we carry. Sure, they may have contributed to our inadequacies, but we are individually responsible if we choose to stagnate in them.

One day, we will stand before God alone. No one else will be there for us to point fingers. The only one in front of us will be our perfect Father, who gave us everything we needed for the pursuit of righteousness and Godliness.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

2 Peter 1:3

Just as the woman on TV thought long and hard about who to pick as her co-parent, God has been purposeful with us. He knew His intention for each child He would create. He took our strengths and flaws into account, and decided we were the ideal moms to raise the babies He gave us.

This Mother’s Day don’t beat yourself up because you don’t measure up.

Work on your shortcomings with your Heavenly Father. Remember that your children have a perfect parent. It isn’t supposed to be you. God will make up for whatever inadequacies you have when the need arises. It is entirely possible that the character being produced in your children, as they live with your imperfection, is the exact reason God put your household together the way He did.

The scale was never set to register perfection from you. Exhale. God knows what He is doing. Do your best and commit the rest.

With love for every imperfect mom out there…
and that would be ALL of us,

Happy Mother’s Day!

Categories
Celebrations

You See, Mom Is Beautiful Forward, Backward, Up Or Down!

As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t seem to shake an image I saw in a recent ad. It was a coffee mug with the words “I’m a plant mom” on the side. God uses the wildest things to catch my attention and make me think.

I guess I’m a plant mom. I have exactly 1 plant and I’m happy to tell you I’ve kept it alive for almost 3 weeks. That might be a record for me.

I bought it the day before my dog died. And with all my kids grown, I think I may have transferred my desire to nurture something onto this tiny basil plant. My husband, who has always been the green thumb of the family, suggested he care for it and I surprised even myself with how emphatically I declined his offer.

I have a startling number of friends who have lost their moms this year. I know women who have miscarried. I think of others who cannot be with their mothers or children for countless reasons.

But Mother’s Day does not have to be exclusively about biological connections. Oh, if you have them, celebrate them for the precious gift they are! But if not, I want to encourage you that Mother’s Day is for you too!

The word MOM, spelled forward, backward, and up and down, against a backdrop of pink flowers
You See, Mom Is Beautiful Forward, Backward, Up Or Down!

You see, just as the word MOM reads beautifully forward, backward, up or down, the reality of MOM is the same way. There are so many angles from which to celebrate Mother’s Day. And they are all tremendous gifts!

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, including:
Plant Moms
Pet Moms
Small Business Moms
Car Moms
Blog Moms
Project Moms
Whether the “baby” you care and sacrifice for is human or otherwise, Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to children of all ages, including those with:
Adoptive Moms
Step Moms
Foster Moms
Team Moms
Work Moms
Church Moms
Chosen Moms
If you have any maternal figure(s) in your life who care about you, love and sacrifice for you, or encourage you to become the person you were created to be, Happy Mother’s Day to you and to them!

And a special Happy Mother’s Day to those with Moms and/or children who are no longer here. I suspect you have the most real understanding of the preciousness of motherhood. God bless you.

Hopefully you see that MOM is beautiful, forward, backward, up and down. Whether your Motherly relationships are clear cut or more creative in their makeup, they are unique gifts from God. There is much love and appreciation to be cherished and shared on Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Who and why will you celebrate this year?

Related post: 5 Things About Me That Are My Mother’s Fault

Categories
Reflections

10 Little Updates and Latest Looming Praise Reports

Good morning and Happy May! I wanted to come to you today with 10 little updates and latest looming praise reports. I know many of you have been praying for us as we’ve settled in a new situation, in a new house, in a new state. There have been glorious answers to your prayers regarding our move to Arizona and it is my privilege to share what God has done!

  1. We LOVE it here! We aren’t as content as we will be when we finally reach our eternal home, but while we’re on earth, Northern Arizona is awesome! We are so grateful for the kick in the pants God gave us. My faithful readers know that I waivered a bit, but God was clear with His direction and I am fully awed by His gracious faithfulness. (*See photos below.)
  2. We found a great church! That might not seem like a big deal to some, but it was priority for us. We did a lot of on-line research, and we only had to visit two. The first one was nice, but we quickly discovered some theological differences and decided not to return. The second one checked all the boxes and then some! We’ve been attending ever since. Praise the Lord!
  3. We have been unaffected by the fires. You might be aware of a couple of major wildfires burning in Northern Arizona. A few of you have even reached out to check on me. Wow – thank you! We have not been “in the line of fire” but have been daily reminded to pray for those who are. It seems the hard work of many firefighters is paying off and the danger is subsiding. There has been no loss of life reported, but several homes have been lost and I’m sure those affected would be blessed by your prayers.
  4. I have a “prayer chair”. I’ve always wanted one. Several years ago, I read a challenge by Anne Graham Lotz to create a dedicated space for devotional time with the Lord. Since then, I’ve had my “typical spots” but, because I lived with so many people, my spots had to serve several purposes. That was ok. But now, I have my own prayer chair in the corner, overlooking the pine and oak trees. (**See photos below.)
  5. God has been so faithful! I found a prayer list I’d written last fall in regard to, what was then, our upcoming move. It had 4 specific requests. All of them were answered above and beyond what I could have imagined. The most touching part is that this list had gotten misplaced shortly after I’d penned it. I hadn’t prayed over it daily, as I’d planned. But you know what? Our God is not dependent on us to be organized. He answered every item on that list, buried as it as, and I was blessed and blown away when the piece of paper resurfaced today.
  6. My son got a job! 4 of my kids stayed in California for the time being. My youngest, Marcus, is 18. He left a job he enjoyed to move to Arizona with us. We expected he would continue working for the same company here. They don’t do transfers, so he had to quit and reapply, but he had great experience and glowing recommendations from the managers in CA. They had open positions in AZ. He applied. He went in person to introduce himself and drop off his resume. Nothing. He called. He went in person again. It was shocking to us when he couldn’t even get an interview. After a month, we had to assume God just didn’t want him to work there anymore. So, he applied somewhere else. He got called in for an interview the next day and was hired on the spot! Well, to God be the glory! He made His will abundantly clear!
  7. I’m enjoying quality time with my youngest child. By the time Marcus was born, we had a loud and busy family. It is true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil and he is the quietest of my bunch. I’ve told him over the years that his time would come. Eventually, he’d be the only one left in the house and he’d probably get more attention than he wanted. Well, that time is now, and we’ve found something fun to do together. He has a YouTube channel and we’re making a series of reaction videos. I’ve not seen any of the Marvel movies, so Marcus and I are watching them together, one by one, and he is recording my reactions. Who knew people would take an interest or would consider my newbie questions and expressions as entertainment, but apparently that’s a thing. I’m just enjoying the time with my son.
  8. My girls are doing well. One of my biggest concerns, which I wrote about before I moved, was the wellbeing of my daughters and grandkids. They needed to find affordable places to live. I put it out there, you prayed, God miraculously delivered. They are teaming up, taking care of each other, and this mama’s heart is at peace. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, prayer warriors!
  9. I’m settling into my new job with my old company. I had expected to quit before I moved but, at the last minute, was offered the opportunity to stay in a new role, working remotely from Arizona. The logistical transition has turned out to be more complex than any of us realized. I’m happy to report that I’m at least 75% settled in – maybe more, depending on the outcome of an open ticket with IT. God is faithful!
  10. I’m getting to explore the Arizona Trail! I am concluding my list of 10 little updates and latest looming praise reports with this detail because it was like a housewarming gift from God. We had no idea, when we applied to rent this home, that it was right across from the Arizona Trail. This relatively new trail runs the entire length of the state. North, it goes up to Utah. South, I can take it all the way to Mexico. I’m not likely to hike for days on end, but it is a wonderful escape which intersects countless other trails and offers hours of interesting exercise and conversation with Jesus. (***See photos below.)

I feel certain this update and praise report post would have been different if it weren’t for you all. You have prayed for me, encouraged me, and been an amazing support system. Today I find myself steadied, strengthened, and settled. Glory to God and gratitude to you! God bless you, my precious friends! Please enjoy some photos below.



Categories
Reflections

A Complete Reset To The Factory Settings Of Life

I had an outlandish dream last night where something was going terribly wrong. I don’t remember the specifics, only that I was on a high balcony, of sorts, looking down on a skirmish.

skir·mish /ˈskərmiSH/ noun
an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting
(definition from Oxford Languages Dictionary)

The right side of the rectangular space, onto which I peered, was elevated above the left side. People from both sides were yelling at each other. The tension mounted quickly.

Someone from the higher side picked up a huge, stone statue from the corner, and hurled it down on the lower side. Just as it was about to crush the people below. I yelled “RESET TO FACTORY SETTINGS” and everything immediately returned to normal. The statue stood in the corner, and the people – all minding their own business, were eating, dancing, and chatting quietly amongst each other. Whew, that was close!

Dreams are often unrealistic like that. And sometimes, they are meaningful. Those words “reset to factory settings” have been reverberating in my mind all morning.

Girl biting her pencil, looking at computer
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
If you choose a complete reset to a device’s factory settings, your customizations will be erased, whether you like it or not!

I accidentally reset a device to factory settings once. I lost everything I had worked hard to customize and save. That was devastating!

I have also intentionally reset devices to factory settings. It creates a clean slate – a new blank canvas, so to speak. It can’t be done to reverse a skirmish. But I do believe God used my dream to teach me about what He’s done and what you and I can do.

What has He done?

In essence, when I accepted Christ, I was reset to factory settings. He threw my sin as far as the east is from the west, making me – in His eyes – as fresh as the day He created Adam. And every time I make a mistake, I can repent, and He will completely forgive me, taking me back to that setting of life.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11, 12

I have an advantage in that I retain memory of my experiences when I am reset to factory settings. I have a clean slate AND the wisdom of lessons learned. That is the best of both worlds! What a smart program Jesus has built!

What can I do?

I can reset my relationships to factory settings. I don’t mean that I can maneuver other people’s lives before their creator, but I can wipe their slates clean, as far as it applies to me. I can offer complete forgiveness. I can give new chances and fresh starts to my people connections which have gone awry.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18
An iPhone with the introductory Hello screen
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash
Taking it all the way back to Hello!

What can you do?

We don’t have the power to catch people getting out of control and simply reset them to factory settings, like I did in my dream. But God does. We must buy in to it, of course, but the offer stands.

Oh, what the skirmish must look like from His perspective! The statues have been thrown, so to speak. The idols of this world are heavy and we are sure to be crushed by the weight of them. But God.

Does your life need a complete reset to factory settings? Talk to God about it. He is faithful. He wants to wipe your slate clean. He will renew your right standing if you ask.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10
Categories
Reflections

This Is Why I Made SEO ‘Someone Else’s Obsession’

The crescendo had been building and the clash was deafening. It reverberated through my mind and deep into my soul. I’d been dancing with opposing ideas which could no longer coexist. I needed to choose. Was I going to submit to man’s wisdom or God’s? It could not be both.

Excuse the dramatic introduction, but this is what it had come to. From the beginning I knew God wanted me to put people first in my blogging. And yet I was strangely romanced by the idea of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and increased visibility on Google. A collision was inevitable.

This is why I made SEO ‘Someone Else’s Obsession’

I could do both, right? I mean, what would be the harm of optimizing my people-first blogs so they could be discovered and read by more people? If this is your approach, I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with it. But it isn’t for me.

I wrote the title for this blog 9 months ago. That is how long it’s taken me to surrender to it. Since then, I’ve been trying to write the encouragement God has given me to share, while at the same time making little optimizing and self-serving tweaks to the messages.

There is a lot of advice on SEO. I’ve read it, I’ve saved it, I’ve experimented with it. I’ve intended to put it all together “one day”. And it has become a gate, of sorts, through which my writing passes as it leaves my head on its way to my fingers.

A brainstorm bubble about SEO
Photo by Tobias Dziuba on Pexels.com
SEO vigilance is literally a full-time job for some people!

Posting schedule, number of words, trending keywords, proper format, headline length… all this effort offered on the altar of the almighty search engine. And for what? For popularity, to be noticed, and yes – to get my message to the masses.

Human wisdom says SEO. You know what God says? 3 things come to mind.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

Ok, this scripture isn’t talking about optimal google rankings, but it is saying that God knows what I need. And if I seek Him first, He will make sure I have it.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Matthew 6:24

I can’t be completely devoted to both God and any temporal offering of this world. Not money, not fame, not glory, not success.

I like a definition I recently read for the word “despise”. It means “to have it in for”. Yes, when two things battle for supremacy in my heart, one will get the top spot and the other is going down.

Well, SEO, I have it in for you. As far as I’m concerned, from now on you will be Someone Else’s Obsession. I will write what God puts on my heart to say. I will write it when it needs to be written in the way it should be said. I will not abide by your rules or give you any power over my blog anymore. I do not write for you.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Colossians 3:23, 24

Writing for Google or any other search engine is no longer an enticing idea for me. I’ve laid it down, put my priorities in order and solidified my resolve to blog for the Lord with all my heart. The rewards He offers will be my fixation instead.

My dear reader, I’m not telling you how to manage your blog. But some of you may need to hear this. You may need someone to tell you what you already know. If God is nudging you the way He has been me, it’s okay – it’s wise – it’s imperative and necessary to make SEO Someone Else’s Obsession!