Helpful Little Hack of the Hour: Introduction and Intent

My precious friends, gather in close for a second. How are you? No really… how are you?

We read each other’s blogs and we interact in the comments. We are able to make incredibly meaningful connections despite our distance and differences of all kinds. And yet I still wonder… is there a way I can be more helpful to you?

Introduction and Intent

I began this blog as a mom whose kids were becoming adults. Not just my own five children, but also the dozens, with no biological relation, who called me “Mama Lava”.

My original tagline was “A Dose of Maternal Love”. I intended to create a “comfy spot”, which I likened to hanging out on my Back Porch. I planned to share recipes and tips, and to encourage the next generation toward Godly living and maturity.

Somewhere along the way, as God knew from the beginning would be the case, my audience expanded. I think the median age of my audience is now closer to mine than my kids. I tried to adapt my approach to align with what God was doing.

I updated my tagline to read “A Place for Rest and Encouragement”. My “Back Porch” became a place of greater reflection. My focus has been to share the joy of the Lord and remind you, my friends, that even in these crazy times, God is always good.

I am so thankful to have this little platform from which I get to bless others with my words. And yet, it is not lost on me that words are just words. I wish there was more I could do.

I’ve been mulling this over for a whole year. I know because I wrote Words or Actions? 3 Reasons Why “Well Done” is Better Than “Well Said” last August. The question I’m wrestling with now is, “What can be done over a blog?”.

I wish I could help you with your chores. It would be fun to cook for you sometimes. I would love to show you some tricks I’ve learned that have made my life easier, and watch you demonstrate yours.

Sun rays bursting upwards and downwards from behind the clouds
The simplest prompt can lead to great inspiration!

Helpful Little Hack of the Hour

Today I had a sort of “ah-ha” moment, courtesy of Jillian Michaels and her fitness app. I logged on to fetch my workout and saw her “tip of the day”. I always like those. They are poignant and practical. Some of them I already know, some I disagree with, some amuse me, and others I find completely life changing.

I’ve decided to start something similar. It won’t be the same as being physically alongside you. But I hope it will be a way for me to pop in and share something I find valuable. Just a helpful little hack of the hour.

Don’t worry, I won’t actually send them every hour. But I do hope to send several in the remaining days of August.

I sincerely believe Jesus is the single, most valuable thing I can share with you. Any time I can testify of His goodness and love I want to do it. If I can encourage you toward Him in any way, that is my greatest intent.

In addition, I’d like to make daily living in this world, easier for you wherever I can. Helpful little hacks are a way to do just that… I hope!

It’s hard to know if an idea is a good one until you’ve tried it. Will you indulge me in this experiment? I’d love to hear your initial thoughts.

Do you like the idea of frequent, shorter posts, each containing a helpful little hack of the hour? Are there certain facets of life for which you could use a few helpful hints and tricks? How can I be more beneficial to you?

Thank you, my precious Back Porch friends. I hope I can add to you even a fraction of the value you bring to my life. You all are – you each are – a tremendous blessing to me!


What Breakthrough Does Your Mind Miss When You’re Too Busy?

Have you ever been too busy to notice what was happening around you? Can you recall a time when you were so deep in thought you completely overlooked details that were right there? I sure have! And it makes me wonder.

What Breakthrough Does Your Mind Miss When You’re Too Busy?

Blinded by busyness, Example 1

I have an example from recent experience. My apologies if this is TMI (too much information), but I was seated on the porcelain throne next to the bathtub. The shower curtain was closed and hung mere centimeters from my right shoulder.

I lingered there, physically. But my thoughts were elsewhere, occupied with mental lists, strategies and plans. When my business was done, I leaned over to flush. Because of the tight space, my face practically brushed the shower curtain.

My mind suddenly dropped all other thoughts and joined me in the moment. Something was not right! You know that feeling? My scream was choked into silence by my heart as it jumped into my throat to hide from the hockey puck-sized black spider just chillin’ on that white curtain.

Black spider on a white surface
Photo by Paul Knut on
Not the actual spider. I didn’t have enough wits about me to think of taking a photo.

Had it wanted to, it could have reached with one of its long legs and touched me as I sat, I’m sure. My eyes frozen wide, I stared at it. How had I not known it was there?

There was certainly no missing it now!

I had been too busy ‘in my mind’s eye’ to see it, but now that I had, I couldn’t take my gaze off it. I am not a fan of spiders, especially big ones! I gathered my wits, a wad of toilet paper, and all those legs. A second flush and my heartrate returned to normal.

Blinded by busyness, Example 2

Maybe you can relate to another, less creepy, example. Have you ever had trouble with a word search puzzle? With so many letters creating busyness on the paper, sometimes a word can seem impossibly hidden. Then, once someone points it out, it almost appears to jump off the page.

Word search with one word found and highlighted.
As if this puzzle understood it was an object lesson, I had to ask my son to show me where “Memorable Impression” was. I couldn’t see it until he showed me. Now it is obvious!

The breakthrough my mind missed when I was too busy

I missed a breakthrough last week. Well almost. The two examples above helped me understand how it happened.

I cannot write all that was going on in my heart and mind – the busyness on my life’s page, if you will – so I am leaving that to your experienced imagination. I am just going to point out the pertinent, connecting letters. Let me know when you see the spider. (Can I merge my two examples that way?)

  • My husband and I have been talking and praying about a way to serve at our new church. We’ve been hesitant to dive into anything because our fall season is full of uncontrollable unknowns (medical procedures, travel, etc.).
  • The Youth Pastor asked my husband and I to take part in a Vision meeting for upcoming year.
  • Cindy Dawson printed the following quote in her

“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God.”

D. L. Moody
  • We attended the Vision meeting. We saw a need we could fill. We were assured our help would be welcome, even with the uncertainty of our schedule.
  • We left the meeting, still praying for God’s direction. (I’m sure you see the spider. We didn’t yet. We were preoccupied.)
  • Meanwhile, I walked the trails. God showed me his amazing wildflowers and I wrote the “Something to See” mini-series.
  • I had hurriedly written the rough draft of post #4 just before attending the Youth Group meeting. I wasn’t sure it made sense. I almost erased it, but I didn’t have time.
  • The next morning, I opened the blog to “fix” what I had written. When I read what was there, I broke down and cried. One paragraph stood out especially.

And, just like a summer blossom, my time to display His wonder will fade away. It is imperative that I invest in others, especially those younger than me, while I may. I need to sow seeds of my own.

Mama Lava, Spaces Surging with Stunning Splendor are Something to See #4

Suddenly, the dots connected, the letters fit in order, and I saw the spider in front of me. We were supposed to get involved in youth ministry.

God had practically paved the way in neon. Looking back, I could see the signs. But until then, each was isolated. My busyness obscured the connection.

Now, it seems so obvious!

God was answering my questions and I didn’t get it because I couldn’t focus. My mind missed the breakthrough because I’d been too busy.

Instead of scolding me, my Heavenly Father directed my attention to His beautiful flowers. He showed me the seeds in various stages of their lifecycle. He stirred me to write what He ministered to my heart. And then He used those words to inform me as He unveiled the breakthrough.

I published that post, exactly as I had written it. Turns out, it resonated with some of you too. How great is our God!?

What about you?

Are you busy? I am not only referring to the errands, commitments, and chores of life. It could be anything which drowns out the voice of God.

Music, screens, and people provide constant distraction. Worries, daydreams, and replays of conversations fill our heads. We can barely finish our own sentences, let alone listen while God completes His.

Are you too busy? What breakthrough might your mind be missing?

Devotions Emotions

Angry and Convinced Someone Should Die? Make It Quick!

When my blood starts to boil, and I feel myself getting really angry…

(I know you’ve been there too!)

It’s like fire raging from deep within, bursting out of control…


(Know the feeling?)

Someone needs to die!

(Yes, definitely!)

And that someone is me.

(Wait, what?)

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’”

1 Peter 2:23, 24

To be clear, I am not advocating for suicide. This is not about physical death. But there are many natural instincts, with which I was born, that need to die. My need to be right, my desire for revenge, and the longing to have things “my way” are just a few.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do it alone. When I gave my life to Jesus, He gave me a Helper. The Holy Spirit convicts me of what needs to die in me and provides strength and motivation to put it down.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Galatians 5:24-26

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Romans 8:13

Someone once pointed out to me that a dead (wo)man has no preferences. (S)he may have wanted certain things while (s)he was alive; enough to stand, strive and fight for them, even. But not anymore. Once (s)he dies, (s)he no longer has rights or desires, and therefore can not be imposed upon or offended.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:2, 3

If I have truly died to myself, and Jesus is living in me, there should be no struggle for control. I shouldn’t be consumed with pursuits of things I used to want. I am no longer relevant. My life is His.

A tiny plant in a handful of soil
Photo by Akil Mazumder on
Just as a seed will die to live as something much greater, so must I.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Colossians 3:5-10

I committed my life to Christ many years ago. The Holy Spirit has been hard at work. But friends, I’m not there yet. My sinful flesh does not quiet quickly.

In the words of Paul, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12) And it sure is on my mind! By God’s grace, I hope to resemble Him more, and me less, every day.

When I feel provoked, angry, and convinced someone should die, I need to make it quick. I’m the one who needs to die. My sin, my fleshly desires, my arrogance, my rights – I need to lay them all down for the joy of the Lord.

“We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. 

Romans 6:2a, 6-8, 11, 13, 14

A Gift of Love from God’s Heart is Special Anytime!

Hello everyone! I hope you’re feeling loved today! Because, you know what? You are! Think about this for a minute…

Jesus, Creator of the whole universe, loves you so much that even if you were the only person on earth, He would have willingly died on the cross to make a way to spend eternity with you.

“He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed. For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:24, 25

I really believe that! I don’t understand it… but I believe it! I was telling my husband the other day that it makes no sense to me that God is so enamored with His human creation. We are ridiculous, are we not? And yet, we cannot even fathom the depth of His love for us!

“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure”

Stuart Townend

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38, 39

At the end of January, I proposed a photo challenge related to Valentines from God. Click here to see that original post. Since then, I’ve been finding hearts in all kinds of places.

Let’s be honest, all of nature is a gift from our Creator. He didn’t have to make it so pleasing to our senses, but He did! It is spectacular in every way. But when it comes shaped like a heart, I can’t help but feel the love. Here’s one of my recent favorites:

A heart shaped tuft of grass
A little “Psst, I love you!” note from God as I walked past the medical office the other day.

It’s just a little tuft of grass, but God designed it, gave it life, made it grow, directed my eyes toward it, and touched my heart with it. I’m hoping He uses it to encourage you today too! Don’t think for a minute that God doesn’t care that much about grass or about you…

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”

Luke 12:27, 28

A gift of love from God’s heart is special anytime, right? Tokens of His affection feel good all year round. So, I decided to gather the hearts I’ve been finding and restart the photo challenge. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for tokens of affection that God has placed around you. Please share them! Tag this original post, Sunning Valentines from God Photo Challenge, when you do, so we can compile them all in one place. Awesome, thanks! I can’t wait to see what you find!


The Powerful Gift of People in Battle-Worn Armor

The final whistle blows at the end of a high school football game. The coaches call the players into a brief huddle, then dismiss them to the locker room. They don’t make it too far in that direction before the sea of proud parents, close friends, and maybe a reporter or two, flood onto the field and block their way.

Proud words are exchanged and photos are taken. Some of the athletes look and smell great, and their families gather in close. But others look tired, smell like they need a shower, and their loved ones may be reticent to touch their dirty, sweaty, and sometimes even blood-stained uniforms.

The truth is those people who are battle-worn have been a powerful gift to the game, their teammates, and the fans. They’ve dug deep, fought hard, and look and smell worse for wear. Grime on a player is an indicator of hard work. It shows diligence in the off season, extra effort at practice, proven skills, and a willingness to do whatever was needed to excel in the game.

Football players in the mud
Photo by Pixabay on
Grime indicates grit.

Spiritually, we need to perceive people the same way. Sometimes, we seek out the appealing scent of those fresh from the sidelines. Don’t get me wrong, we can find friends there. But we must recognize the powerful gift of people in battle-worn armor. When push comes to shove, and the enemy comes hunting, we need those who can, and will, put it all on the line to battle with us and for us.

We should seek out prayer warriors, soldiers of the cross of Christ, people decked out in worn-out Ephesians 6 armor. We need those who diligently train for spiritual warfare, fight hard, and emerge victorious in Jesus’ name.

People who are equipped and ready to speak the words of God over us are an invaluable gift. We want friends with battle-worn armor, because those are the ones with experience. They have expertise to lend.

The words "Find friends with battle-worn armor" against a cloudy sky.
Pristine armor probably indicates someone who is ill-equipped or reluctant to join the battle.

Like it or not, we are called to Spiritual Warfare. Don’t look first to keep company with someone whose armor is shiny and neat. Seek out the sword that is tattered, the helmet that is worn, and the shield that is scarred. The bearer of those arms is a true warrior who will battle for and alongside you with determination and valor. Never underestimate the powerful gift of people in battle-worn armor.

Mama Lava

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

This is a good time for self reflection as well. What kind of friend are you? Is your armor in used condition? Do people find you to be a powerful and prepared, battle-worn gift when they need one most?

Is your Belt of Truth securely buckled? Is your Breastplate of Righteousness in place? Are your Feet Fitted with Readiness to share the Gospel? Have you taken up your Shield of Faith? Have you accepted your Helmet of Salvation? Do you have the Sword of the Spirit ready in hand? Have you assumed a Posture of Prayer? Are you resting on an Attitude which has been grounded and founded upon Christ Jesus? Is your outfit appropriate for a dress code which requires full armor? And most importantly, is your armor tested and battle worn?


One Insider Tip for Handling Searing Dread

Dread. It’s one of those experiences which, once felt, lingers just under the surface for easy access. I’ll bet you sensed the shudders of it as you just read the word.

I can tell you, verbatim, the stories which have accompanied my encounters with searing dread. I had reason to share one of them with my son the other day, along with one insider tip I gained. A good thing about a strong emotional experience is that the accompanying lessons stay close for recall.

This story took place thirty years ago and yet my blood pressure still rises with every thought of it. Chances are, you’ve lived through a similar situation. Let me set the scene.

I was newly married and starting life with my handsome groom. We had one car between us. I needed employment, so my grand plan was to find one near where he worked and commute together.

I got dressed up and drove in with my husband one day. I had 8 hours, the duration of his shift, to visit the businesses near his job site and collect applications. I gathered several, planning to complete them that evening and return them the following day.

After a few hours, I had covered several large city blocks. I walked into a sandwich shop and asked if they were hiring. The man behind the register surprised me by motioning to a table and asking me to have a seat. He brought me an application and a pen. It felt nice to sit for a minute after walking such a distance in heels, so I completed the paperwork.

The words "If I'd only known then, what I know now..." against a blurred brick wall backdrop
Hindsight is 20/20

Just as I was finishing, the man – who turned out to be the owner – joined me at the table. He looked over my application and told me I was hired. He handed me an apron and started my orientation. I was so surprised and so completely taken off guard, that I just went with it.

Before I left, he handed me a schedule. My first full shift was to be the next day. I walked back to the car, just as my husband was getting off work. We felt celebratory! As far as we could tell, my day had been an unexpected success.

I worked a few days at the sandwich shop. I discovered that the manager enjoyed putting people ill at ease and watching their reactions. His move of hiring me on the spot and expecting me to complete orientation in my heels was part of that power play. He was pushy. He found entertainment in causing and reveling in the discomfort of others. I found it awful.

So when the proprietor of the cozy café just behind where my husband worked suddenly offered me a job, it took me less than 2 seconds to accept. But I had to quit the sandwich shop. Enter the searing dread.

dread /dred/ verb: great fear or apprehension.

I knew the owner would not make it easy on me. This was before the days of cell phones or email, so I had to face him. As expected, he displayed great satisfaction from throwing a fit and embarrassing me in front of everyone. I tried to give a 2-week written notice. He tore it up with flair.

His reaction confirmed for me that I’d made the right decision for myself. But I will never-ever forget the lump in my throat as I walked the longest few blocks in my life to go resign. The searing dread was real! I had to will my feet to move against what felt like a wall of bricks that got heavier with every step. Do you know the feeling?

I’ve shared that story several times because I’ve known others in similar dreadful positions. The most recent one was my son. He had a choice with his. He could ignore the difficult situation, not have the dreaded conversation, and just walk away. Or he could face it and put it to rest.

I told my story to my son and pointed out how well I remember it. I warned him that he’d probably always remember his too. I expressed to him what I believe is the key, the one insider tip I know for handling searing dread.

Situations of searing dread need to be handled with utmost integrity.

If the experience is going to stick with him, he needs to know that he handled it correctly. Wouldn’t it be awful to recall shame on top of dread?

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Psalm 34:4, 5

I will always feel badly about quitting a job so soon after being hired. I do not like to disappoint or inconvenience others. But I am grateful for a clear conscience about it before the Lord. The few stressful days I spent at the sandwich shop really made me appreciate the sweet café job He gave me instead.

Yes, I remember the searing dread. Boy do I! But I gained one insider tip about handling it with integrity, which has served me well over the years. Hopefully it will now benefit my son, and maybe you.

Can you relate to my story? Have you felt searing dread that you will never forget? How did you handle it? Do you have any insider tips to share from your experience?