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

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!

Categories
Celebrations Conversations

Stunning Valentines from God – Photo Challenge!

Friends, do you know what next week brings? February! I love February. It is the month which contains both my wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day. And I propose a photo challenge!

Whether you prefer Valentines (celebration of love), Palentines (in appreciation of pals and friends), or Nilentines (anti-Valentines but still a reason to get together), I know one thing to be true. God loves us all! He loves us with a stunning, unconditional, and everlasting love.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

The other day I read a post by Windsofchange18 called Signs, Moments, Smiling. She posted a photo and described how she noticed hearts formed by the knots on the tree in her yard. I commented that it was like a Valentine from God.

Shortly after, I went for a walk and found this.

A heart shaped leaf stuck on a rock wall: Stunning Valentines from God - Photo Challenge!
My own Valentine from God

God sent me my own Valentine! I felt so personally romanced. And I’ll bet, if you look around, you’ll find one He has set out for you too! My mind immediately said, “Photo challenge!”

Will you be on the watch for hearts from God? When you see one in the clouds, in the shadows, in the trees or anywhere, snap a quick photo and share it! Be sure to link back to this post so we can all soak in the love!

God makes the most stunning Valentines! I can’t wait to see what He shows to you. Thank you for participating in this photo challenge.

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”

Psalm 33:5
Categories
Celebrations

Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social!

You’re here! I’ve been waiting for you – Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social and you’re a guest of honor!

This weekend, the Back Porch Blog turns 1! And because of you (yes, YOU!), my cherished reader and friend, this is something to celebrate.

Mama Lava’s Back Porch has become a special place. I always look forward to meeting with you on this site, enjoying social connection, and sharing both the heaviness and happiness of our lives. I pray you’ve been blessed here as much as I have!

I want to publicly thank
God for giving me the motivation to write,
You for spending your time reading and conversing with me,
and WordPress for providing the planks upon which the Porch is built.

Happy Birthday written on a chalk board
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
This celebration is because of YOU!

The other day, someone asked me to name the best thing that happened in my life last year. I had to give two. The first was my daughter’s wedding. The second was the birth and growth of the Back Porch.

Those were big things, but in all honesty, every day has contained happiness. Since the Back Porch was designed as a place to be encouraged, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate with 12 happy things, one for each month of the year.

And Surprise! This is a participatory party. I’m counting on you to help me emphasize the happy in this birthday. Here is a list of 11 things that make me happy. I want to hear yours for number 12. As you read, be thinking about what you would add. Don’t be nervous, there are no wrong answers!

My List of Happy Things
(in Alphabetical Order)

  1. Activity – dancing, sleeping, hiking, playing, the ability to both move and rest
  2. Fragrance – cookies baking, fresh laundry, country flowers, ocean air, newborn skin, the wafting aroma from a barbecue
  3. Humor – creative chuckles, finding the funny, belly laughs with tears of joy, the art of being silly
  4. Lights – sunlight, firelight, twinkly lights, city lights, the miraculous beauty of illumination
  5. Love – The unconditional love of God, romance, friendship, familial ties, the discovery of a kindred spirit
  6. Salvation – the free and unmerited gift from God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9
  7. Scripture – encouragement, admonition, the instruction it contains. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
  8. Solutions – immediately given or finally found
  9. The Sky – the glow of dawn, the colorful burst of sunrises and sunsets, the moon, sun and stars, billowy, feathery, and fluffy clouds, birds, airplanes, the expanse of blue
  10. Unique Creation – the colors, sizes shapes, contrast, depth, and dimension of people, animals, plants, bugs, and topography
  11. Vibration and Sound – music, laughter, chirping birds, a heartbeat, pounding surf, dripping rain, the song of a cricket

Now it is your turn! What happiness would you add next? If you wholeheartedly agree (or disagree) with one or more of mine, let me know. With all of the negativity threatening to pull us down, it is good to remember all that we have to smile about.

Thank you so much for helping me put the happy in this surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday social, and for all you’ve done to make this first year so fun!

Colorful, helium filled balloons: Surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday Social
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash
“Together” is how we put the Happy in Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Back Porch… and here’s to many more!

Categories
Reflections

My New Year’s Handle Verse is One to Hold On To for 2022

It was before dawn, Friday morning, New Year’s Eve. All was quiet around me, but not inside me. I sat in the dark, thinking about what has transpired in 2021 and feeling off balance, heading into 2022.

My habit is to consume a bottle of water first thing in the morning, and I often browse WordPress Reader while I drink it. I follow Cindy Dawson’s blog, on which she posts a ‘verse of the day’. That day, December 31, it was as if God had her share one just for me. The words sunk deep into my soul and the tears flowed as I felt my equilibrium return.

The text of Luke 1:45 against the background of trees and the ocean.
My handle verse:
one to hold on to for 2022

I have been holding tight to some specific promises God made. I have been repeating them and defending them and believing them, even though they seem further from being fulfilled now than they did when God made them. I think I was growing weary. I was yearning for the moment when I would see the reward of my fervent belief. And this verse clearly states that I am already blessed, simply because I believe.

I know the Bible is full of verses to ‘mankind’ which apply to women equally. But when I come across one that uses female pronouns, it really hits home. I clicked over to my Bible app and looked up the verse in context. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist was talking to her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus.

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”

Luke 1:40b-45

I read it twice and I ‘heard’ a voice in my spirit say, “This is your handle verse”. “My handle verse? What does that mean?”, I challenged. The answer came immediately, “It is one to hold on to.”

I don’t know what 2022 will bring but God does. I don’t know if He will answer my questions or resolve my concerns. But I do know He wants me to rest in the knowledge that I am blessed for simply believing that He will do what He has said He will do. With that, I can be at peace.

I made a new lock screen photo for my phone. In case anyone else feels like this is a handle verse they want to hold on to for 2022, here it is in the format that works with my device. Maybe it will fit for yours too.

My New Years handle verse - one to hold on to for 2022
Handle verse for phone wallpaper

Do you have a handle verse? If not, I encourage you to pray for one. Of course, the entire Word of God is of utmost value, and I hope you will find yourself deeply immersed in it this year.

God was faithful to give me a New Year’s handle verse – one I will hold on to for 2022. Nothing which has happened or is happening, in my life or in the world, changes what God said. He knew all of it when He made the promises He did. There is blessing in simply taking Him at His Word!

“Standing on the promises I cannot fall,

listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,

resting in my Savior as my all in all,

standing on the promises of God.”

A stanza from the hymn “Standing on the Promises”, written by Russell Kelso Carter in 1886.

I own the photos in this post. I give you permission to use them, if you like, and would appreciate a link back if you do. Also, please visit Cindy Dawson’s Real Christian Women blog and follow her, if you don’t already. I think you’ll be glad you did, I know I certainly am!

Categories
Conversations Reflections

When You Frame It Like That… Both/And is a Beautiful Thing!

I like things neatly wrapped in concise little packages. I prefer most foods stay apart. I eat cake or ice cream, but seldom both. If I have both, I prefer them in separate dishes. I can multitask, but I’d rather not. I am often an either/or type of person.

That is probably why this beauty bothered me. It contained Autumn and Spring. Both/and mixed together in the same frame.

It had come about by indecisive weather. The temperature had turned decidedly toward Fall, with cooler air and cloudy days. The leaves began to turn, and all was well. But then we got some warm rain followed by several sunny days. It was as if nature thought Spring had sprung. As a result, we have both blooming bushes and Autumn leaves. I wanted either/or, until I realized my folly and looked again.

Blooming ivy poking through large fall leaves: When you frame it like that… both/and is a beautiful thing!
Both Autumn and Spring in the Same Frame

Both fall and spring is a beautiful phenomenon. And what a fool I’d be not to take it in with appreciation! In fact, as I chose to be open and notice, I saw it happening all around me.

Our rosemary bushes were not alone in their confusion. We had all sorts of flowers blooming when they should be resting. My beautiful gardenia against the backdrop of fallen leaves is just another of many examples I found.

Gardenia bloom against a background of fall leaves: When you frame it like that… both/and is a beautiful thing
Spring Gardenia and Autumn Leaves

Lord, you are far more creative than to be boxed into an either/or corner. You are both a consuming fire and a still, small voice. You are both the great “I Am” and my All in All. You are both wrath and mercy. Your glory is full of both/and. Thank you for this visible reminder of how beautiful it is.

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord…”

Psalm 96:12, 13a

I don’t need things to be either/or. Autumn and spring are spectacular together. When you frame it like that, both/and is a beautiful thing!


“When You Frame It Like That…” is a hosted prompt. Feel free to join in with a thought and a photo (or several!). Please click here for details.