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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Givin' In

Today I came home and gave in.

Monday I started Weight Watchers. I know it'll be a challenge, because I am a picky eater and even though there are a zillion (ok, 200) foods that are worth 0 points, there isn't much on the list that I've considered edible.

Apples. I love apples.

But some of those foods- I wouldn't even know what some of those fruits look like.

And while I know in my head that they are good for me, I still struggle.

I like what I like.

I like sweet stuff and salty stuff, and I'm not big on texture.

A lot of those fruits and other foods on that zero point list are high in fiber, which means they have lots of texture.

It makes me want to gag.

And have I mentioned that salad tastes like dirt to me?

Y'all, I really, really want to eat healthy.

I do.  I know I need to for my life's sake...

but today I needed some chocolate chip cookies and milk.

As in they were calling my name.

The box on the counter almost jumped into my hand.

And the milk in the fridge may or may not have expired yesterday, but it still smells good, and I need to get rid of it since it's expired, right?

So I crumbled up some cookies in a bowl and poured that cold milk over them. I let the cookies soak until they were just the right consistency, kind of crumbly, but full of chocolate chip goodness, and I ate my treat.

This weekend I'm going to go shopping for some good food. I'll resolve to try at least one new thing every day and to try to force myself to stick to my points because I know it'll be good for me. And if I'm willing to do the work and stick to the plan, it'll be worth it. We can train our palate...

At least that's what I'm trying to convince myself.

But since I enjoyed those chocolate chip cookies so much, I'm also going to remember that I'm not perfect, so a slide every now and again won't kill me. It won't help me, but it won't kill me.

Unless I give in every day to the stress eating, which is why I craved those chocolate chip cookies so much this evening. It's funny how you don't ever want something until you can't have it.

So many times I don't think I'm hungry- in fact, I know I'm not hungry... but I'm working on something and need a salty bag of chips to go along with my work.

I know what I need to do. It's just a matter of making myself actually put it into play.

So hopefully this weekend I'll have time to peruse my weight watchers book and try to think about what I can have to eat that keeps me within my point budget.

And then I need to remember to actually record what I eat, when I eat it.

I think even if I'm just more conscious about what I eat it will help. And also more conscious about when I eat... as in, when I'm stressed or overwhelmed, or bored like I was during the snow days (even though I had TONS of stuff to work on!!!)

And I'll have to train my mind to NOT think about nachos loaded with cheese and chili and red velvet cheesecake and queso and chips and every kind of sweet thing known to mankind...

One day at a time...


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Reading This Week (Or Other Tales of Nonexistent Dreams)

Not got much to say...
Busy week...
But I can always talk books. Not many changes from last week. And this one won't be 500 words but it's better than nothing =)

 (Graphic borrowed from Taking on a World of Words, where I'm linking up).
On WWW, folks around her site answer three questions:
What are you currently reading?
To be honest, I'm not reading much of anything right now because I've been too busy working on lecture and lab and a zillion other things that I don't feel like I'm making any headway on, but...

Same books I was reading this time last month:
Daily Guideposts 2018, because I like a daily devotional
My Chronological Bible, a little bit a day
66 Ways God Loves You: Experience God's Love for You in Every Book of the Bible  by Jennifer Rothschild... reading this along with my Chronological Bible, so I'm just on Genesis because that's where I'm reading in the Bible
The Rejected Writer's Book Club by Suzanne Kelman- fabulous, no-thinking read about a group of ladies who write and celebrate rejection
The Ice Princess- a thriller with a dark turn- has some language- but had me captivated early on in the reading
Hello Mornings by Kat Lee- because I desperately need a morning routine and I am not a morning person, and while most days I don't want to be, I'm going to have to learn to be to be fruitful this year.
The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn, because kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
Daughter of the Legend by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart
Stronger by Jeff Bauman because I want to see the movie and we all know you have to read the book first
Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke because I love these murder mysteries, and I love Hannah, and I can read them without contemplating anything serious, which is great for days like today when I don't have a brain
The Lombardi Rules because everything you need to know about life can be summed up by a quote from one of the greatest football coaches of all times.
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman because the song is powerful. This book tells examples of how real-life people have related to the lyrics.

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince because, hello, it's Harry Potter and I still haven't finished the series.
Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson because they are classics. I'll be reading these all year, I'm pretty sure.
The Philadelphia Chromosome about CML and cancer treatment- interesting read.
All in All Journaling Devotional because Sophie Hudson is just as awesome as Melanie Shankle.
Chazown: Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life by Craig Groeschel
In Bloom by Kaylee Aimee. I'm on the launch team for this one and it is delightful. Totally relatable, and laugh-out loud funny.
I Am Loved by Wendy Blight for P31 OBS... I know I'll not finish on time with the study, even though I am leading a group because this one is so good.
A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry... just started this one.

 What did you recently finish reading?
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand- Great book. I miss the beach.

 
What do you think you’ll read next?

I've got several hiking books about trails in Kentucky that I'll probably start working my way through.
The second book in the Outlander series. The second book in The Little House on the Prairie book series.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham, because I love Gilmore Girls and Kami bought me this for Christmas last year but I hadn't watched Gilmore Girls so I had to wait until I had finished.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Beartown for a book challenge
And I got a new Wendell Berry book in tonight but can't remember the name.

and I also have too many books downloaded on my Kindle, especially for the beginning of the semester... so, happy reading!

Answer the 3 Ws in the comment section because a girl's to read list can never be too long!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Just An Everyday Monday

Somehow it's January 22 and I'm only on Day 13 of this #My500Word 31 day challenge, but I've written every day but one, which is an improvement for me.

Today I really didn't want to log on here and write, because it's been a crazy day and to be honest I've been looking forward to my head hitting the pillow since I dragged myself out of the bed... and it's just Monday...

But, I'm determined to try to do more follow-through this year, so write I will.

I just can't promise it will be exciting.

Today's prompt is to write about my day.

A typical Monday.

Get Caleb up.

Get up and get ready.

Get a text from Nora that Sawyer's back in surgery. Say a prayer.

Drive from Frenchburg to Morehead.

Read a couple of pages from a book as I wait in the line at McDonalds.

One plain biscuit, one small Diet Coke.

Office work for less than an hour as I tackled a to do list that I don't even know where to start...

Class from 10-1250. Teaching about oxygenation. Prayers for Sawyer.

Meet with an adjunct faculty member. Go over clinical assignments and blackboard.

Work on to do list. Don't even make a dent. End up adding more than I cross off.

Meet with another faculty member about a clinical assignment.

Head to Weight Watchers for the first time. Stand in line to get on the scales- there has to be some kind of irony there, because who wants to step on the scale? Think about why I want to lose weight... I want to be more active. I don't want to have blood pressure problems. I want to be able to buy clothes wherever.

Drive from Morehead to Frenchburg.

Sit with Caleb at the ballgame and cheer for the Wildcats.

Wash a load of clothes.

Walk 2 miles on the treadmill and feel like I'm going to die.

Go downstairs only to discover that the clothes I thought were washed had not, in fact, went through the whole cycle. Got worried the washing machine was broken. Ironed.

Came upstairs and watched videos reviewing the skills I'll cover in lab tomorrow.

Write for the P31 OBS Facebook page.

Try not to think of how nonproductive today was, and instead, concentrate on how each of these small, mundane tasks can lead to something bigger. A better life for me. A better life for someone else. A new friend. A connection made.

Thank You, Lord, for the everyday. Redeem my time so that it is Yours and so that my tasks are Your priority. As I think of all I need to do, help me not neglect to be...

Be still and know You are God. Every day of mine is written down in Your book.

Help me not get overwhelmed by all I have to do; rather, help me concentrate on all You have already done and will continue to do in my life.

Help me appreciate little moments, and savor these.

Help me identify my time-wasters and address these.

Thank You for today, just a typical, Manic Monday...

because every day is the same to You, and You are in control.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Knit Together

We all start from something smaller than a speck of dust.

I'm not talking the big bang theory or evolution here, and I'm not going back to the creation of man and woman in the garden of Eden.

I'm thinking about conception, and the miracle of human life.

I'm amazed by how we get here... the complexities is our very breath.

At just the right time...

we are formed.

Unknown to anyone, but God.

We are His masterpiece, after all. In all of our intricate makeup, He knows us...

before we are formed, His word tells us in Jeremiah.

In Psalm 139, we are told we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are covered in our mother's womb... knit together.

so surely He continues to protect us. He is our shield, our exceeding great reward, our fortress and our strong tower.

There is nowhere we can go to flee from His presence if we wanted to. Psalm 139 talks about the depths of the sea and the highest mountain- He's there. There is no darkness that can hide Him from us, because in Him there is no darkness, only light.

Light to illuminate all of our imperfections.

Verse 16 tells us, "Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began." The King James Version says when I was inperfect...

but He knew. He knows all about us, numbers every hair on our head.

We are knit together... but for some reason, sometimes things that are knit unravel.

My sweet cousin Sawyer Grace was born with three holes in her heart.

Two of those have knit up on their own, with the help of the Master, that is...

and tomorrow she'll go into surgery. They'll open up her little chest and the surgeons will use their God-given skills to suture up the broken pieces, so that she'll be perfect, just like we already think she is.

And why we may not understand why sweet babies are born to face difficulties (or why kids get cancer), God knows, and He is sovereign. He knew before we even knew Sawyer Grace what January 22, will hold...

and He holds tomorrow in His hand. He's already been there. Every day of our life is already planned.

Children are a gift from God, and His Word is sure.

Family was established before the church, and His legacy is passed down from generation to generation. My Mamaw Na and Papaw Jr. were faith-filled people.

Their children... and their children's children... and now, this next generation of Caleb and Sawyer Grace...

One generation shall commend your works to another, and tell of your mighty acts... (Psalms)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. (Psalm)

Tell the coming generation the wonders He has done.

Saved us. Redeemed us.

Threw two people together and helped them survive 60+ years of marriage, raising 6 children in the process.

Covered me as I drove over Picnic Hill.

And used a surgeon's hand to knit together a little girl's heart...

"But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children"





Saturday, January 20, 2018

Intentional

I love basketball, most of the time.

I love the squeak of the shoes and the adrenaline that courses through a gym during a close game.

I love the mouthing of the fans (in most cases) and the bounce of the ball on the hardwood floor.

I love close games, especially when I really have no emotional investment in the outcome (i.e., now that Wallace isn't coaching the ending doesn't really impact the emotional barometer of our household)...

Except when the last two minutes take ten thousand hours.

You know, if you're a basketball fan...

the team is behind by four or five and they think if they put the other team on the free throw line the player will miss because PRESSURE and then they'll get the rebound and have a chance to make up their deficit...

so the point guard rolls the ball up the court and then they stage a dance behind the three point line as the other players spread the floor and run a four corner offense to play keep away.

Inevitably, the point guard just won't be graceful enough to dodge the bullet, and usually his jersey gets pulled and it sends him to the free throw line.

The player totally meant to foul him, to stop the clock and get him on the line, but that's not how it's called.

Although sometimes in the game, if a player lunges at another player and performs a "flagrant" foul, it's called for being intentional.

What's the difference, I've often wondered? I mean, I know one is out of bad sportsmanship and could quite possibly injure someone, but intentional is intentional, right?

Or is it?

Because in life, we often set out to do things, but get sidetracked. Distracted. Our intentionality goes out the window as we have to change our plans.

Or we swipe at something, hoping that it will fall in our lap.

We hold our breath and pray that what we want will just happen.

We put everyone else on the free throw line and hope that we can get the rebound and then finally do something to gain ground...

but they make the free throws, and we are left struggling to even the score.

Just praying that something will happen isn't good enough.

And truth is, sometimes even when we swipe our arm to grab that other person's jersey, we'll get it wrong.

Being intentional takes effort. We have to want something... and not just say we want something, because often acting is the hardest part.

So tomorrow, think about what you want. Think about how you'll gain ground, and step up and do something about it. In this case, it's ok to be flagrant...

because usually the refs don't make the right call, anyway =)

Linking up today with Five Minute Friday (one day late) where we write for five minutes, unedited, on one prompt. The prompt this week is Intentional, a good word to be thinking about at this time of the year, because if we aren't intentional in how we work toward our goals, we certainly won't be successful.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Liar, Liar...

Here's looking at you, kid...

I see you looking at me.

I'm the one who's got it all together.

I set my alarm clock early, and as soon as my feet hit the floor I'm smiling, ready to face the day. It's full of possibilities! Anything can happen! I'm in charge of my life and it. is. grand.

I exercise without complaining. I treat everyone that comes into my path just how I'd want to be treated, with a smile on my face and sunshine in my heart.

I cross everything off my to do list, even as I concentrate on people as my priority. Have I got time for you?

Yes, sir!  Yes, m'am.  Come on in, have a seat, and talk an hour or three. I give everyone whose path a cross my rapt attention, looking into their eyes and not spending my time thinking about what my next response will be.

I am patient with Caleb, and we spend the evening hours with family time, where we discuss our highs and lows of the day and talk about all we are grateful for and all we are blessed with.

I always pray and read my Bible- and it's not something to cross off my list!

Yes, that's me. Pinterest perfect. Instagram interesting. Facebook family-focused.

I am the epitome of perfection...

In my dreams.

These are all things I wish I was like. The prompt for #My500words was to lie... as much as we could. And these words above are pretty much all lies, because even though some of them may be partially true, a half-truth is still a lie.

I set out to be all these things, but then I get out of bed. I see I'm running late, and somehow, in the hustle and bustle of getting my ten bags out the door, I lose my sense of purpose and my sense of calm and get that hurried, wildwoman look that we all so often have but nobody posts on social media.

The fact is, it isn't hard to lie. I mean, as I typed  those words out, even though I knew that some of them were the polar opposite of me, I could almost squint and view my life from that perspective and see maybe how sometimes I am that woman. But I also cringed, because it seemed pompous and a little conceited.

The heart is a deceitful thing, but we too often listen to our feelings. We allow our small imperfections to convince us that we are less than, because we can never be the person we desire the most to be.

What if that person that you most deeply desire isn't who God designed you to be? What if  the imperfect, wild-eyed woman who sometimes exercises without complaint and sometimes throws up a "Help Me, Jesus" as she checks off her daily reading after a day of only adding to her to do list is really who God created you to be... because others see you and see you leaning into Jesus and see you putting people first most of the time and see you loving with action most of the time... and want to be like you, imperfect and all?

Let's stop lying to ourselves and trying to convince ourselves we have to be perfect... because imperfectly pushing toward a better self through Jesus is so much better. And that is the perfect truth.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 17th Link-Up with Three Ws

There's not much that I like to think about more than books. I love books. Love the feel of new books in my hands, love running my hand alongside the spine when a book is new (or used) on a bookshelf in a bookstore. I love hardback books, paperback books, books on Kindle- I'm not picky. I'll read most genres and I am one of those people that if I start a book, I'll finish it, even if it takes me two years.
That's why I love linkups with other blogs that involve reading. I can never have too many books on my to read list, and I love perusing other people's lists and seeing what they recommend. So, today, I'm taking a break from #My500Words to link up and share my answers to three questions: What I'm reading, What I just read, and What I think I'll read next.

 (Graphic borrowed from Taking on a World of Words, where I'm linking up).
On WWW, folks around her site answer three questions:
What are you currently reading?
I'm an overachiever. When I was young I always had a book open in every room, and I've kind of carried that on... This is a little different from my Goodreads profile because sometimes I'll start a book (especially an actual book) and get distracted after only a couple of pages, only to go back once I finish another book.
I am also reading some books not on my Goodreads profile. For example, I'm reading several marital help books... not because my marriage is in a bad place, but because I'm trying to be more fruitful, and I'm often the least patient and kind to Wallace, so I'd like to do better.
Same books I was reading this time last year:
Daily Guideposts 2018, because I like a daily devotional
My Chronological Bible, a little bit a day
66 Ways God Loves You: Experience God's Love for You in Every Book of the Bible  by Jennifer Rothschild... reading this along with my Chronological Bible, so I'm just on Genesis because that's where I'm reading in the Bible
The Rejected Writer's Book Club by Suzanne Kelman- fabulous, no-thinking read about a group of ladies who write and celebrate rejection
The Ice Princess- a thriller with a dark turn- has some language- but had me captivated early on in the reading
Hello Mornings by Kat Lee- because I desperately need a morning routine and I am not a morning person, and while most days I don't want to be, I'm going to have to learn to be to be fruitful this year.
The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn, because kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
Daughter of the Legend by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart
Stronger by Jeff Bauman because I want to see the movie and we all know you have to read the book first
Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke because I love these murder mysteries, and I love Hannah, and I can read them without contemplating anything serious, which is great for days like today when I don't have a brain
The Lombardi Rules because everything you need to know about life can be summed up by a quote from one of the greatest football coaches of all times.
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman because the song is powerful. This book tells examples of how real-life people have related to the lyrics.
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand- some sexual content and language but she's one of my favorites and also her books make me think of summertime which I desperately need
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince because, hello, it's Harry Potter and I still haven't finished the series.
Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson because they are classics. I'll be reading these all year, I'm pretty sure.
The Philadelphia Chromosome about CML and cancer treatment- interesting read.
All in All Journaling Devotional because Sophie Hudson is just as awesome as Melanie Shankle.
Chazown: Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life by Craig Groeschel

New:
In Bloom by Kaylee Aimee. I'm on the launch team for this one and it is delightful. Totally relatable, and laugh-out loud funny.

 What did you recently finish reading?
Church of the Small Things study guide because Melanie Shankle is basically me, with best-selling books and awesome hair.
Nathan Coulter by Kentuckian Wendell Barry because reading his work in on a Kentucky Bucket List and y'all know I'm all about Exploring Kentucky.
Sacred Space- this is a book to be read during Advent but it has some bonus reading so I'm still soaking it up. After all, shouldn't Advent be year round?
Winter Storm by Elin Hilderbrand, which was the third in her Winter series and perfectly delightful.
 What do you think you’ll read next?
I Am Loved by Wendy Blight for P31 OBS
I've got several hiking books about trails in Kentucky that I'll probably start working my way through.
The second book in the Outlander series. The second book in The Little House on the Prairie book series.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham, because I love Gilmore Girls and Kami bought me this for Christmas last year but I hadn't watched Gilmore Girls so I had to wait until I had finished.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Beartown for a book challenge

and I also have too many books downloaded on my Kindle, especially for the beginning of the semester... so, happy reading!

Answer the 3 Ws in the comment section because a girl's to read list can never be too long!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Almost Persuaded


Today's post for the #My500Word challenge was to persuade someone of something. The line that kept running through my mind is a line from Acts. The apostle Paul has gone before King Agrippa and presented the gospel, and at the end of his discourse, King Agrippa  says, "Almost thou has persuaded me to be a Christian."

There are lots of things we could debate. When I was younger, I enjoyed an argument with the best of them... but nowadays I avoid conflict. There are so many things in today's society about which we get fired up. Debate and discourse is a commonplace occurrence on social media, and sadly it is not always civil, so often I stay silent. Or I furiously type a response and then delete it soon after, because there are some things that aren't worth fighting for.

But there are some things that are worth fighting for. Some things that are worth debating, and one topic that is an essential decision that you need to make.

I think it is so sad that Paul laid out the gospel, including the first-hand account of how he had been changed, but Agrippa wasn't persuaded.

Too often our eyes are blinded. We choose to believe what we believe, and to see things how we see them.

And the gospel is sometimes hard to believe. Even His Word tells us that the gospel seems like foolishness to those who don't believe. and that God often uses the foolish things to confound the wise.

Why would Jesus willingly humble Himself to leave Heaven's glory to be born a lowly child in a manger? How can the Virgin birth really be explained? And why on earth would He choose to die a criminal death for someone that hadn't even been born?

But He did, out of His great love. Because He is full of mercy.

I am not always good at sharing my witness, but in today's time, this should be the great debate... and not necessarily a debate... but we should be willing to step out and boldy declare the gospel. I'm not always sure I'll have words. How can I express His love enough if the greatest orator in the Bible was unable to persuade King Agrippa?

It's not my job to persuade you, though... it's the Spirit's. One sows, one waters, but God makes it grow. My job is to speak it... but also to live it, because actions speak louder than words. To truly persuade someone to desire the gospel message, I have to demonstrate it.

Love when it is hard to love. Choose to humble myself. Bite my tongue when I really want to spew unkind words.

By their fruit you should know them...and by us demonstrating that there is something different within us, it will draw others to Him. I can't describe adequately how He makes me feel... but when you experience it yourself you'll not be almost persuaded.... and you won't want to keep it to yourself.

This world needs Jesus. Let's not grow weary in persuading others to know Him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Farther Along...

What do you say when you have no words?

I think that often as I stare at the blinking cursor on this white page.

So often, I feel the pressing need to write... anything... just to release the ticking time bomb that I feel in my chest... but then, nothing.

Nothing will come.

Sometimes it's the same way with praying. I'm really good at "Lord, help me." Or sometimes just, "Jesus."

And His name is enough...

It seems like this world sometimes has too many words, and maybe that's why I'm often at a loss. We spew out thoughtless words without thinking of the consequences, of the hurt that will come as a result... or maybe we just don't care.

And then there is the lack of words I so often feel because I am so overwhelmed in situations. I am socially awkward by default. I feel uncomfortable when it is just me or someone else. I'm not good at making idle conversation and I often come off as stilted or even stuck-up.

This is even worse when someone is grieving or hurting.

I've been told that in those situations, sometimes the best approach is just to be present with the other person. We don't have to offer words... because sometimes those words actually can make the situation worse. We don't know how they feel. We can't promise it will all be ok.

Tonight, as I scrolled down my newsfeed on facebook, my heart got heavier and heavier. So much sadness...sick babies, sick adults, loss of loved ones, people facing impossible diagnoses.

My heart physically hurt.

I felt like I needed to write, because I'm writing 500 words a day, but also because my heart is so overwhelmed.

When we don't have the words to say, though, there is one who does. We are told in His Word that when we don't know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes, groaning on our behalf. How fitting that the Spirit groans... because in our flesh we are prone to groans and moans.

We are also told that our hearts will be overwhelmed. David said, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

The rock.

Jesus.

Who said in red letters, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world."

He's overcome, friend... no matter what you're facing.

Your illness. Your grief. Your anxiety. Your hopelessness. Your loneliness.

He.  Has.  Overcome.

And while now we see as though a glass, not fully, someday we will see Him plainly and we will understand what we don't understand here. In the meantime, I think He understands when our heart asks why... when we are brokenhearted over something that doesn't seem fair.

After all, He cried out at the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

But He wasn't forsaken. And we aren't, either.

Cling to that, tonight... when your heart is overwhelmed, let Him be your perfect peace.

"Farther along, we'll know all about it. Farther along, we'll understand why. Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine. We'll understand it, all by and by."



Sunday, January 14, 2018

On My Writing

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. I think my fascination began from my love for reading. I devoured as many books as I could as a young child, and the ability of words to transport me to another place, to change the way I felt and looked at things, prompted me to have a great love for the written world.

As early as 3rd grade, I considered myself a writer. One of my best friends and I wrote an illustrated a scary story, about a haunted mansion. I can't even remember what the story was about, but I know that I felt accomplished when I looked at those stapled pieces of paper.

Whether a journal, an essay, or short stories, my love for writing continued through my schooling. (Just not poetry. I don't really even like to read poetry, although I am trying to acquire a taste for it by reading Walt Whitman right now). I was in journalism and loved writing articles for the newspaper. I was the nerd who actually enjoyed writing persuasive pieces and reflective pieces. In college, English 101 and 102 were two of my favorite classes and I actually enjoyed writing my research paper (although I have to say that after hours of reading research articles and writing responses and developing a portfolio academic writing isn't my favorite).

I got away from writing for a while as work and school and life in general called... but as an introvert I feel like I have so much to say and writing is a safe way to get it all out. I felt limited by the number of characters allowed in a facebook post (when there was a limit) so I decided to start this blog. I recognize that some days I don't have much to say. There are a lot of days when my writing is just rambling, and may not make sense to anyone but me... but then there are days when I've got a message and I just have to get it out.

When I'm not writing, I feel unbalanced. My soul gets heavy. I don't know how to explain it, exactly, except to say that I process better when typing out my feelings. I'm appreciative of all of those who may read what I write, because it's written for an audience of One (God alone), but sometimes some of you tell me that what I've written has impacted you.

I used to say I wanted to be a writer. Now I say I am a writer. My dream is to write a book... but I'm not sure that it will happen. I just ask that God uses this space and my words to bring Him glory... and to bring whomever reads these words hope, comfort, and peace... and the realization that you're not in this world alone.

That blinking cursor haunts me at times, but sometimes I feel like there's a mighty river flowing as my hands pound the keyboard, and I often find that what I mean to say isn't at all what comes out. I start off with one idea and then it goes in another direction. I'm learning to let it go because chances are it's something I need to read myself... or something that someone else needs to read. Not that I have a huge audience, and that's ok. I'm not about audience, as I said. Writing, to me, is therapy. It helps me make sense of the chaos. It's cleansing. It's purifying... and I hope it's a blessing to others.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Not a Gamer

So, the post for today (Day 8) in the Write 500 word challenge was to make a list, and I just don't think I want to make a list with 500 words. After all, I've been all about crossing things off my list today, trying to get ready for next week. And the Day 9 (because remember I've skipped a couple of days of the prompt) was to teach someone something, and I figured I'd save that up for next week, too..

So basically I'm just going to skip those two things and free-write. Surely I can ramble on for 500 words.

Today we had dinner with Nana and Papaw and Will was there. He's a true gamer in every since of the word, and after we ate he asked us if we wanted to play with him. I am not a gamer, never have been good at video games (although I do enjoy Candy Crush and Bejeweled and I used to really like Solitaire)... but since Will asked me to play, I gave in.

We played some version of Mario on some game system that I'm not even sure what it was, and I enjoyed it. All three of us were playing the board at the same time, which got confusing, and I'm pretty sure that I got stepped on by a turtle (or whatever those things are and whatever they do) a couple of times because I wasn't sure who was the good guy and who was the bad guy...

which is a lesson in life, now that I think of it. Sometimes people appear like they are on our team when they really aren't.

Anyway, after I won one game and Wallace won one game and Will one game and we got a couple of draws because we couldn't figure out how to get out of the stinkin' level (another life lesson... sometimes you're stuck in a world of your own making and you don't know what the ending looks like)... we decided to head back to the house, where I promptly leveled up on Candy Crush to give myself a sense of accomplishment that I could, in fact, do something better than a 5 year old (although he doesn't play Candy Crush... otherwise he would probably beat me). And I worked on some stuff and headed down to Mom and Dad's to sit in on a therapy session and then forced myself to walk 2 miles on the treadmill.

As I was sitting thinking of writing I started thinking of how we all have our own unique talents. I am not good at video games, but I am good at putting words on paper (at least I like to tell myself that I am... it may be a false delusion, and if that's the case I doubly thank whomever is reading this rambling). We each need to appreciate each other for our uniqueness and our abilities.

Here's the thing, though. You don't have to be good at something to enjoy it. I had a good time just being with Will, and playing that game brought back memories of my childhood with my Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I spent a lot of time playing Super Mario Brothers and Tetris and Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong, even though I wasn't the best at it.

In our society, we all have to be the best... except we don't. Tonight, I'd like to challenge you in the coming week to do something you'll enjoy doing just for the sake of doing it... even if you aren't good at it. Even if it is a challenge. Even if it makes you feel stupid.

Because sometimes we learn more from stinking at something than excelling...

Friday, January 12, 2018

FMF: Simplify

We tend to complicate things.

We complicate relationships.

We complicate work requirements.

We complicate our New Year's Resolution.

We complicate God...

and He is complex, and mysterious...

but He promises us that He will show us His mysteries.

And it's really simple.

We're told in Micah that we have a specific purpose: Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

Justice for whom? In another chapter of the Bible we're told that the church is meant to care for the widows and the children. In other words, those who can't care for themselves.

Mercy? What's that, in this world where it's dog eat dog? Mercy is hard to give because it means that we surrender our right to hold grudges... but we were given mercy. Out of God's great mercy, we don't perish... but His mercy is new every morning (that's several verses thrown together... I'm not direct quoting God's Word there!)

Walk humbly?  Humble??? Being less than? Yes, because pride cometh before a fall and God despises pride.

We're also told that the law hinges on two commandments- Love God, and love each other...

So, in this complex world when we may question our purpose and what we are meant to do, God tells us to simplify the process.

Love.  Love Him. Love others. And we love by seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly.

Don't complicate. Simplify.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday as we write about one topic for five minutes, unedited. Today's topic? Simplify...

(And I'm going to break the rules because I'm also participating in #My500Words writing 500 words a day and the above was just 246, so...)

Here's some thoughts on how you can simplify.
1. Forgive someone you've been bitter toward. Forgive yourself.
2. Let someone out in front of you in the parking lot... or return the shopping cart to the corral.
3. Tell someone you like their shirt, their hair, their car, their whatever...
4. Put down your phone and listen to the person sitting across from you.
5. Tell someone Jesus loves them and you do, too.
6. Hold the door open.
7. Write someone a thank you note.
8. Look for someone who is vulnerable.
9. Refuse to consider someone is less than.
10. Be kind to others... and yourself.

Don't take on too much. Make time for something you enjoy, and make time for others. Love in word and deed.

Simplify... even though it seems so complex. Getting rid of the "too much" so you can take care of the important. Don't stress out if it doesn't seem like it's enough, if you don't feel like you are enough. Learn to take one thing at a time, breathing deep and living in the present, appreciating what is right in front of you.

We all need breathing room. Without breathing room, without oxygen, we become brain dead and are unable to serve others. We're unable to love. We're unable to fulfill our purpose... so give yourself permission to ask God what's important, and let go of the other things.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dear You...

This week has been a busy one, prepping for the coming semester. I never feel as though I have enough time and I guess that's ok, because I don't think I'm alone. This week has also ushered in new student orientation, so it's fitting that my prompt is a letter to someone looking back some years ago.

Hind-sight is 20/20, and it's easy for us to say, "I would have done this" or "I should have done that"... 

but looking back in the rear view mirror gets you nowhere but in the ditch because you aren't looking at the road ahead of you.

I am reminded of teenage drama so often because I have a teenager under my roof, and while I can't speak to what he's going through because he's a guy, here's what I'd like to tell him and his friends right now, this freshman year of high school.

Life seems tough right now, and as adults we often joke that you have no idea what the real world is like, but the challenges you face are often unimaginable to us. You can do it.

You are smart and resilient and able to conquer the world. After all, one day your generation will be running it, and as scary as it seems, you'll be the adult. (Just like it's scary to me right now that I'm the adult).

Make friendships and keep them. Don't allow yourself to drift away from people unless there is a reason not to stay tethered. Know the difference between who is good to you and who you need to let go.

Never allow anyone to make you feel less than... but don't convince yourself you are more than, either.

It's ok not to be perfect. It's ok not to be good at things. It's not ok to allow fear to keep you on the sideline, afraid of trying new things because you are afraid you won't be perfect or good at something.

Watch your words. They matter. They make a difference.

Always be the bigger person, and make decisions in light of the Golden Rule.

Lend a helping hand.

Smile at the person you meet on the street.

Take the time to converse with the custodians, the bus drivers, the lunch ladies... because without them, you can't be where you are. They are the backbone of an organization and are often underappreciated.

Always err on the side of being kind.

Have a plan A. Have a plan B. Don't get frustrated if things don't work out.

Be thankful and gracious.

Learn something every day, and keep learning.

Be you. The you that may be different. The you that may be misunderstood. The you that you may not necessarily like.

Every day, look in the mirror and mouth "You.  Are.  Awesome.".. ok, maybe that's going too far, but a little self-pep talk never hurt anyone.

Love others, even if it hurts.

Above all, bask in knowing that You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who handpicked you for where you are right now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

LInkup with Three Ws

So, I'm taking a break from the #My500words challenge because those prompts require thinking and I've thought too much today.
I'll still write 500 words, but I'm going to do a link-up and talk about something that I can easily write 500 words about without thinking- books! 
I saw this link-up and thought this would be something fun to do on Wednesdays around here because I know so many who enjoy to read and even though we rarely have time, we're all looking for good books, so...

 (Graphic borrowed from Taking on a World of Words, where I'm linking up).
On WWW, folks around her site answer three questions:
What are you currently reading?
So if you're around this blog at all, you know I read a lot of books at once. I wouldn't say I actively read them all, because a lot of paperback/hardback I'll start and then get distracted and then come back to... so, if you look at my Goodreads profile, it says I'm reading 28 books... but what I'm actually reading right now is:
Daily Guideposts 2018, because I like a daily devotional
My Chronological Bible, a little bit a day
66 Ways God Loves You: Experience God's Love for You in Every Book of the Bible  by Jennifer Rothschild... reading this along with my Chronological Bible, so I'm just on Genesis because that's where I'm reading in the Bible
The Rejected Writer's Book Club by Suzanne Kelman- fabulous, no-thinking read about a group of ladies who write and celebrate rejection
The Ice Princess- a thriller with a dark turn- has some language- but had me captivated early on in the reading
Hello Mornings by Kat Lee- because I desperately need a morning routine and I am not a morning person, and while most days I don't want to be, I'm going to have to learn to be to be fruitful this year.
The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn, because kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
Daughter of the Legend by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart
Stronger by Jeff Bauman because I want to see the movie and we all know you have to read the book first
Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke because I love these murder mysteries, and I love Hannah, and I can read them without contemplating anything serious, which is great for days like today when I don't have a brain
Sacred Space- this is a book to be read during Advent but it has some bonus reading so I'm still soaking it up. After all, shouldn't Advent be year round?
The Lombardi Rules because everything you need to know about life can be summed up by a quote from one of the greatest football coaches of all times.
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman because the song is powerful. This book tells examples of how real-life people have related to the lyrics.
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand- some sexual content and language but she's one of my favorites and also her books make me think of summertime which I desperately need
Nathan Coulter by Kentuckian Wendell Barry because reading his work in on a Kentucky Bucket List and y'all know I'm all about Exploring Kentucky.
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince because, hello, it's Harry Potter and I still haven't finished the series.
Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson because they are classics. I'll be reading these all year, I'm pretty sure.
The Philadelphia Chromosome about CML and cancer treatment- interesting read.
Church of the Small Things study guide because Melanie Shankle is basically me, with best-selling books and awesome hair.
All in All Journaling Devotional because Sophie Hudson is just as awesome as Melanie Shankle.
Chazown: Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life by Craig Groeschel

 What did you recently finish reading?
Operation Christmas Child: A Story of Simple Gifts by Franklin Graham. I loved this book because I love this program. This book gave real-life stories of recipients of shoeboxes and also talked about how the ministry had grown.
God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer- this book took letters and sermons from Bonhoeffer and pulled out Scriptural references for the days leading up to and following Christmas.
A Christmas Flower by Bryan Mooney- nice read about a doctor trying to save a small-town hospital and learning to love.
 What do you think you’ll read next?
I Am Loved by Wendy Blight for P31 OBS
In Bloom by Kaylee Aimee because I'm on the launch team
Beartown for a book challenge

and I also have too many books downloaded on my Kindle, especially for the beginning of the semester... so, happy reading!

Answer the 3 Ws in the comment section because a girl's to read list can never be too long!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Write Their Story- Or Not...

I'm participating in a writing challenge for 31 days. To be honest, I don't feel like writing. I really want to be asleep, because it's been a day and tomorrow isn't looking to be much better, but I usually stink at follow-through and I know if I let one day slide it'll turn into two, and then three, and then this space will be blank like it was for much of last year. I know there are so many things I need to do, but my heart tells me that writing, even if nobody else reads it, is something that I need to do for me.

The prompt for today's challenge is to write someone else's story. There are so many people I could choose for my topic, but they all seem so personal. It's good to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to try on their perspective, but to pretend like we can relate to how they are feeling seems presumptuous to me.

So here I sit, with a tad touch of writer's block, around 400 words to write to meet my challenge, and I can't help but think that's just like life.

We get stuck and can't find our way.

Don't know how to take the next step.

Are afraid to presume too much... or maybe we do presume too much and it leads us in the wrong direction.

The thing is, everyone around us who seems to be on the fast track goes through the same thing. They get stuck, too.

But unless we allow ourselves to look deep into who they are, we'll never see it.

It's easy to get frustrated with someone when it seems like they've got the world being handed to them, or when it feels like you are the only one making an effort.

But you don't see the back story.

We don't know what goes on behind closed doors. As I wrote in a previous post, we have no idea what an impact we can make just by listening and noticing, because a person is so much more than what they appear to be.

One of my favorite quotes is to "Fake it until you make it.' (I read somewhere we should change it up and say, "Faith until you make it", but let's be honest, I'm much better at fake than faith, even though I wish I wasn't).

I'd be willing to bet that a vast majority of people who seem to have it all together are faking it...

and inside, their in just as much as a tailspin as me.

Yet we write our own version of their story and allow it to color our impression of them... and sometimes our impression of us.

Here's the thing. While I understand this exercise was a means of creativity, of imagination, of forcing me as a writer to get into another mindset, the direction I'm leaning into tonight is this...

Write your own story. More importantly, let God write your story. And be avid readers of other people's stories... not editors. Not critics. But the kind of readers who dive into a fiction novel just for the love of words. The type of reader who voraciously consumes a book on his or her favorite topic just to gain new insight. Read their stories with eyes wide open, with an open heart and an open mind. Read between the lines, too, because that's often some of the most important information... that, and the fine print.

Allow their story to change you in a positive way. And use your story for change, too.

We all have a story to write... won't you share yours?



Monday, January 8, 2018

Write What You Know

There's heart knowledge, and there's head knowledge, and sometime the two contradict one another...

One of our biggest desires is to know and be known. We were created for relationship, for community, and part of that is to be recognized.

But what does that mean? What does that look like? And how can we be known when sometimes we don't even know ourselves?

Can you relate? Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, "I don't even know who that is, and I sure don't know how she got here."?

When I think about what I know, it seems like a short list for someone who has been in school the majority of her life. I mean, shouldn't the degrees on my wall (well, technically in a storage box in my living room waiting to be transported to my office to be hung on my wall) indicate that I do, indeed, know something?

In teaching nursing, we've often used a phrase to help our students prioritize their studying. "That's need to know... that's nice to know... that's nuts to know." The need to know stuff is what students absolutely have to know as practicing nurses. Things like CPR and how to start an IV and how to assess a patient. The nice to know is things they could possibly use, like if they are planning on working a specialty. And then the nuts to know are those minute, trivial details... they make good table conversation, but may not always be the most practical thing when caring for a patient... or knowledge of that fact may really impress someone.

Life's kind of like that, too.

There are things we need to know- how to treat other people. How to treat ourselves. How to turn on the washing machine. How to download books on the kindle.

There are things that are nice to know- how to cook a signature dish. Somebody with an inside connection.

And then there are lots of nuts to know things- and sometimes those are the ones we get hung up on.

If I were to try down to narrow what I know... here it is... this is what I know to be true.

God is good, even when things may not be. And He knows best.
Family is everything, even if you can't choose them and you sometimes question why God stuck y'all together. (See my first one...)
A good walk in the fresh air really is the cure to a lot of ailments... or at least gives one time to think about what the cure is.
Quiet time is good, even for extroverts, but is absolutely necessary for introverts.
It is truly better to give than to receive.
Laughter can make a difficult situation somewhat improved, even more so if you have no clue why you're laughing.
It's never good to hold anger in. It only makes you heart sick.
Same for bitterness.
Always err on the side of kindness.
Fear and regret are your two biggest enemies. Self-doubt is a close third.
Attitude is the defining characteristic of success.
Reading a good book is the solution to many of life's problems.
Idleness really does lead to trouble.
There are good people in this world; sometimes you just have to look long and hard to find them.
We can not be afraid of the success of others. Their success does not mean our failure.
Words can, in fact, hurt you.
A little music is good for the soul.
I'll never know everything... but that's a good reason to try to learn something new every day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Staring and Eavesdropping

My Mom always taught me it was rude to stare... and to eavesdrop.

Yours, too?

And I get it, because I know how uncomfortable it can make you when someone is staring at you unashamed. How violated it can make you feel when someone is listening in to your private conversation.

But sometimes, I can't help myself. As I sit in a restaurant, I can't help but watch the people around me.

The lady sitting at the table by herself, mindlessly stirring the creamer into her coffee...

Did she choose to be alone? Did someone stand her up? Is she a Mom savoring a few minutes of quiet time while her little girl is in gymnastics class?

The couple sitting at the bar. She leans over and casually places her hand on his arm as she laughs at whatever he just said. Are they married? Surely not, because  most married couples just sit and blankly stare at each other as they pretend to have something to talk about, right? Maybe they are a newly dating couple... or maybe they have just reconciled. Or maybe they aren't even a couple at all. Maybe he's dating someone else and they just went out for drinks after class, but she's madly in love with him even though she knows it's hopeless.

There's the family sitting behind me. They're getting ready to order and the teenager moodily retorts, "Just leave me alone, Mom.  I'm tired of you asking me all these questions. I'm not hungry anymore."

The waitress comes to their table and it's not in what she says, but more in how she says it, a soft restraint in her voice as she waits one.  more.  table.  in a long string of one dollar tips as she worries about the sleeping baby at home with the babysitter.

Then, there's those tables around me where the entire group stares at their cell phone the entire time...

And I get that, too. An escape from reality. I don't feel great about my life, my connections in real-life, so I'll scroll down the screen and pretend like the "like" on my status means that somebody gets me, somebody understands me.

Yes, it may be rude to stare and eavesdrop, but in today's society it is absolutely necessary to pay attention... because you never know the lifeline those around you may need.

That kind word spoken to the waitress at the end of her long shift as she worries about her baby?

It may have been just the word needed to convince her to seek shelter at the local domestic violence center and finally get her freedom.

That touch on the arm from the lady at the bar? It may have been comfort because her coworker was just fired, and she's encouraging him to not give up on his dream of venturing out on his own.

The waitress who brings that woman sitting alone another refill before she asks, smiling and complimenting her sweater, may have been the very sunshine the young lady needed before heading across the street to her chemotherapy appointment.

Meeting that mother's eye as you leave the restaurant, nodding at the sullen teenager but smiling at the Mom and telling her through your eye contact, "I get it. Mine is grown now, and you'll get through this and so will she" in just that brief glance may be just the thing she needed to keep on encouraging the girl who seems like she doesn't want encouraged.

We never know.

Look up. Listen. Offer yourself. Live present. Be kind.

You may be someone's saving grace.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Prayer- Even When You Don't Know How

The Bible is truly the greatest book I've ever read, and is just as exciting as any thriller, There are twists and turns in stories that I can't comprehend, and I keep a running list of questions that I'm going to need answered when I get to Heaven... or maybe I'll see they were so inconsequential that I'll just forget about them.

I read this morning in Genesis about Sodom and Gomorrah. There are so many things about that story that I find disturbing. The fact that only Lot and his family (wife and two daughters) were considered righteous in the whole city...

when the world had already been destroyed once for lack of righteousness.

The fact that Lot offered up his daughters when the angels came to protect the angels. I mean, I know they were angels, and visitors, but to say, "Here you go, here are my two daughters. Do what you will." And then, I think, that's righteousness???

The whole incest thing with Lot's daughters sleeping with their dad so his lineage could continue- that really blows my mind. And I couldn't help but see how, like Eve, they exaggerated their situation. "There are no men on earth." (Except their was. Abraham was standing across the way watching Sodom and Gomorrah burn up.)

But what really struck me this morning is the power of intercession. All my life, I knew prayer was powerful. My Mamaw Na was a true prayer warrior. I wish I had a dollar for every time I left a patient's room to go home with them saying, "Tell your Mamaw to be praying for me. I know if she's praying God'll hear." (I won't get into HIPAA here. Grandma was ALWAY asking me who was in the hospital. She wasn't being nosy. She just wanted to pray. I'd always have to say, "Nobody I really knew" or "I can't really tell you that information."

Anyway, I have always desired to be that kind of pray-er... but I never have been. I always have good intentions, but if I pray at night I go to sleep and to be honest I usually forget to pray in the mornings. I talk to God throughout the day, but to say that I'm a true intercessor, well, that just wouldn't be the truth.

This year, though, I decided to start a prayer journal. So many people have talked about how they've kept one and they can look back and see how God has moved. So here's what I've done the past few days. I've got a page dedicated to prayer requests. When I see something posted on facebook or someone asks me to pray, I jot down their name and situation. I've added the date at the top (one page is for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th because I didn't have many prayer requests those days). Then, if something is answered (like somebody went home from the hospital), I jot that down next to the request.

The other component is a written prayer every day. I've been trying to do it in the morning, but I'm not going to get legalistic about it. I have a prayer prompt that I found online: Click here. I use that to get me started, and then I just talk to God. A lot of times I feel like I'm just throwing a grocery list of needs at Him, so I really try to add a Scripture or some praise report in, too.

Prayer does change things. If you don't know where to start, it's just like talking to a friend. Just pour out your heart, because He knows it all, anyway. I don't think God minds if we get mad at Him or if we ask Him questions, just as long as we keep the dialogue open.

There's a really good template you can use. It's found in the Bible, where Jesus's disciples ask Him to teach them to pray. If you get stuck praying, use this as a guide. I've done this before in my head, going through and saying the line from the Bible and then making it personal.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Your name (Hey, God! It's me, Lauren! I'm down here and You're up there but You are with me. You are Holy and Sovereign and indescribable.)

Your Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven (So, this world is pretty messed up down here. We're tired, and looking for Your Kingdom through the return of Jesus. It has to be soon because things are so crazy. And until He comes, may Your Kingdom come through me, as I walk out my life. May others see You in me. Your will be done in my life and in the life of others. Help me stay out of the way.)

Give us this day our daily bread (This is where my part gets long... because I have a lot of needs. But you know my needs before I ask, Lord, and You know what are really my needs and just my foolish desires. Thank You for all You have given me. Help me be content with what I have today."

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. (This one is tough, Lord. Forgive me for my pettiness, my gossip, my bad attitude, my lack of love and joy. Forgive me for my idle talk. Forgive me for getting angry at the person driving slow in front of me. And LOrd, I need supernatural help because I don't like to forgive. I don't like to stop holding grudges... but You've forgiven me and shown me grace. Help me do the same.)

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Temptations are on every corner, and it is so easy to rationalize. Keep me close to You. Protect me and my family and those I love.)

For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen (It's all Yours, God. You are all powerful. May You get glory from me, Lord. In Jesus's name, Amen).

I've also been writing a prayer for a specific person and at the end of the month I'm going to give them the notebook with those prayers in it.

Because prayer isn't the only thing we can do... it's the best thing we can do. And Abraham proved how God listens because He interceded for Lot and Lot was saved.

Friday, January 5, 2018

FMF: Motivate

So, every year I swear this will be my year.

My fit year.

My organized year.

My happy year.

I've ditched the setting of resolutions because every year I make myself a liar.

Instead, I create goals and hope for the best... not a lot of planning. Not a lot of thinking things through. Not a lot of following-through.

As I scrolled down my newsfeed the last week of December, I saw that I wasn't alone. So many of us feel like we don't have our lives together. We feel like we are less than when compared to everyone else, like we're not good enough, like we've not done enough.

It's kind of like how you're never satisfied with your hair... Ladies, you know what I mean. If it's straight, you wish it was curly. If it's curly, you wish it was straight.

We are never satisfied... and that's ok. I don't think we're meant to be satisfied, because God is doing a perfect work in us. He put in us a desire for Him, and somehow we misconstrue that desire for anything and everything else on this planet.

We learn at a young age to strive, to push, to fill our calendar with meetings and appointments and classes and whatever the next new thing is...

only to find ourselves falling into bed late at night sapped of energy and not even wanting to think about getting up and getting on the hamster wheel the next morning. Nothing to motivate...

There's a verse in the Bible about not having a vision- where there is no vision, the people will perish.

Once we have that vision, though, we have to work together. Notice it said people... plural. That tells me something.

When we want to do something, we need each other. (End five minutes)

So, seeing all those other people talking about their desire for change and to do better, I threw out a little post about accountability, knowing that if I wanted to do anything, I needed some help.

This group, in just four days, has encouraged me. I've seen conversation between people who don't know each other, with tips and Bible verses and kind words and prayers. There's been pictures posted and music and just lots of fellowship.

Mostly, though, I've seen encouragement to spur each other on, just as we are told to do in Hebrews.

A synonym of spur? Encourage, incite, provoke... and motivate.

This group has shown me a in the flesh version of secondary motivation. Sure, we have to be motivated eternally, but we all need somebody else to kick our butt every now and again. And mostly I need someone to say, "Hey, Lauren, where are you at? Have you moved from the couch? Are you still covered up in the bed?"... or when I go back to work, "Make some time to slow down and take care of yourself."

I'm so thankful that a friend encouraged me to start a group for accountability. And I'm so thankful for their willingness to motivate. I'm sure I'll need it in the coming year.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes unedited, on a prompt. This week's prompt, motivate. I went over my time limit just a tad!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Lesson From a Snowflake

Have you ever read the story about the starfish?

There's a couple of different versions that have circulated on the internet, so I'm not sure the exact source (I just know I didn't come up with it), but here's a rundown. There's this little boy walking the shoreline, and every few feet he stops and throws a starfish in the ocean. The shoreline is filled with them. His Dad said, "You know you can't save them all", to which the little boy replies, "Yes, but I made a difference for that one, didn't I?"

I love that because it shows that a little effort, even if just for one person, is a Kingdom work. I'm all about the ripple effect, too. We never know what our one action will do in the life of someone else, who then acts and affects other people. I will always believe that even the smallest person, with the least resources, can make a difference.

Today, though, I'd like to go a different route. Yes, you can make a difference solo...

but working with others, that difference can be exponentially higher.

This morning we awoke to a light dusting of snow... just enough to cover the roads and give Caleb another day off from school. As I sat looking out my window, I thought of how there are some people in this world who love snow.  It's not me, personally, unless it's on Christmas morning, but there are some people who live for snow days.

 I loved snow days, because they meant good books and homemade breakfast... I still enjoy a good snow day if I don't have to get out and try to drive in it. As a young child, I liked to bundle up and go out and play just as much as the next kid.We'd build snowmen and make snow angels and go sledding at my grandparents' house. I especially loved to try to catch snowflakes on my tongue.

I was amazed at snowflakes. As a grade-school teacher, my Grandma was an expert at cutting out snowflakes and we'd often sit down at her kitchen table with some paper and scissors and have at it. It was one arts and crafts project I didn't ruin because here's the thing- there is no perfect snowflake. Each one is different (or so science says).

Kind of like us. Each one of us is different, and even if we try really hard, there are no perfect people.

Here's the other thing about snowflakes. Have you ever noticed just one snowflake? You may see the first one floating down, or the first one hitting the windshield of your car, but chances are outside to a field of white, you don't see the individual snowflakes. One snowflake doesn't get school called off.

It takes all of them, adding up in their uniqueness, to create havoc in our world... or to create beauty, depending on your perspective and if you have to get out and travel in it. Together, those snowflakes add up to a brilliant white, and when the sunlight hits it just so, it's a sight to behold.

Let's work together to create beauty, using our unique talents to compliment and add up to something good.

A

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Those Lasts...

Do you ever wonder about those little moments that become the big moments?

You know, the ones that you look back on and you know you'll always remember?

How often are those moments ones that you just take for granted?

My little sister used to pronounce tomorrow "to-morry-o". I can remember the first time I heard her pronounce it the correct way. We were sitting at the kitchen table at Mom's house. She was probably six or seven, and she said it, and Mom and I looked at each other. I think I almost started to cry... but I don't remember the last time she said tomorrow.

My Papaw Paul used to love to grade our road. He'd come down at 8 AM in the morning, just as this nigh-shifter would have gotten comfortable in the bed, and I'd hear him scraping. I don't remember thinking the last time that I saw him climb up on his tractor that I wouldn't hear that again, but I do remember thinking of how much I missed his roadwork the last time it rained and potholes filled our gravel driveway.

We get so excited about firsts in life... especially around this time of year. I'm as guilty as the next person. We live our life in anticipation. Caleb commented the other day, as we were talking about him turning sixteen this year: "Mom, I'm wishing my life away."

And we all do. Wishing our life away until the next big thing. The next holiday. The next vacation.

"Everybody's working for the weekend."

Four years ago, about this time, I left the Coliseum at Breathitt High School following a basketball game to visit my Grandma Na at KRMC. Even though she wasn't feeling well, she was a feisty thing, asking after Wallace (whose self-esteem problems really bothered her). I don't remember thinking that the next day could be the last day she'd take a breath...

but it was.

Too often we live in anticipation... but we also live in regret.

Regret that we don't say that last thing.

Regret that we don't appreciate the time we have.

Regret that we should have... could have... would have done this differently if we had just known.

I'd like to say that knowing that makes me do better, but it doesn't. Even as I focused on the word "live" last year, I still found myself living in anticipation, not appreciating the moment.

So, tonight, in this beginning of this new year, I'd like to challenge you to live in the present.

We may not know the last... may not recognize it as such... and may not know the importance of those moments as they happen... but looking back, they'll be more vivid.

Remembering is much better than regret. I know this as I am full of memories of sitting on Mamaw's couch, discussing Breathitt and Jackson sports (not that she was interested in the games... just the people, her grandkids), and discussing Sunday School lessons. I know this as I think of sitting behind her in church and seeing her nod her head. I know this because even though I didn't spend the time I wish I had, her legacy lives on just a little in me.


(Picture taken in the summer of 2014, of my Mamaw, in the light blue, and her sister Virginia, at the Arrowood family reunion. Mamaw is wearing her favorite outfit... a family joke.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018- The Year to be Fruitful

Every year for the past couple of years I've chosen a word to guide my coming year. I've learned that I stink at resolutions, but a word can give me focus and help me keep myself on track. This year I struggled with finding a word, but then Beth Moore posted a tweet about being "faithful and fruitful", and it kind of clicked.

I want to be fruitful. We are told in God's Word that people can know us by our fruit... and by our fruit they can also know Him. That's truly my greatest desire, even though I don't always show it. I want my life to point to Him, to glorify Him, to bring others to Him.

Being fruitful can be looked at in a variety of ways. Productive. Fertile, meaning ready to grow things. Producing good things.

I want to be those things... but to really guide me, I've chosen Galatians 5:22-23, which describes the fruit of the Spirit, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."


Because that's how they'll know Him through me... through love, even when it's hard. Joy in all circumstances. Peace that passeth understanding. Patience, even when I'm trying to have quiet time and Caleb is trying to watch Netflix. Kindness when I'm feeling oh so not kind. Goodness to all. Faithfulness even when I'm scared and don't know where I'm going. Gentleness when I really want to be harsh. Self-control... oh,boy!  Because I have none.

So, in 2018, that's what I'll be concentrating on. But I also like to set goals, so here's my 18 for 2018. A lot of them are the same from 2017, because we aren't perfect, just works in progress:

1. Exercise. I always put this one first and will do good for a while, but then fall away. This year, though, I am determined to follow through. At least 10,000 steps a day. 1,000 miles in 2018. Run a 5K. Try new exercise options. Lose weight. I'd like to lose 50 pounds- oh, goodness!
2. Exercise my Spirit. Get in His Word. Read through His Word. I'm participating in Wendy Pope's Read Through the Word. I'll have my Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies. And I've got some other Bible studies to work through, as well. Memorizing His Word- Galatians as well as a weekly memory verse. This is something I've struggled with, but I know I need His Word in me.
3. Keep a prayer journal for myself, and one for someone else each month. I saw this in a challenge- you journal prayers for someone for a month and then give them the journal, so I thought I'd give it a try. I've always been someone who struggles with prayer. I found some great prayer prompts I'll be using.
4. Read 150 books. I fell short of my goal of 130 books in 2017, but I'm an overachiever so we'll see how this goes.
5. Hike- 52 hikes this year, which means some week I'll have to do two a year because let's face it, there's no hiking in this weather right now, at least not for this girl.
6. Explore Ky- visit at least 10 new counties this year. Visit 10 new state parks this year.
7. Continue to pursue learning, and try to learn something new this year. I'd really like to learn American Sign Language or Spanish.
8. Write, every day. I signed up for Compel Training through Proverbs 31 Ministries. This may be the year I finally start on that book =)
9. Laugh, every day.
10. Concentrate on the people in front of me and live present.
11. Random acts of kindness
12. Cross something off my bucket list.
13. Clean my car out at least twice a week.
14. Match socks as they come out of the dryer.
15. Make people a priority- nurture friendship. Be vulnerable.
16. 1,000 gifts- be thankful, every day.
17. Take 15 minutes each day to reflect, plan, and straighten up every night before I go to bed.
18. Support Operation Christmas Child by filling a box a month for a total of 12 boxes.

So there you have it, folks! I'll be checking in and keeping myself accountable... and I even have a group on Facebook now to help me!  May this year be our best yet! <3

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018- A Blank Page


New day.

New year.

New opportunities.
Doesn't it just make your heart feel good?

Or... maybe not.

This morning as I was reading one of the books I'm finishing up from Advent (these devotionals go through the Epiphany, which I wasn't even aware of in my Pentecostal background. If you don't know what the Epiphany is, don't feel bad. I just had to look it up...  but it celebrates the Magi's visit to the Christ Child, which was the manifestation of Christ, God incarnate, to the Gentiles...)

Anyway, I'm already digressing in this first post... as I was reading this morning, the author pointed out that the new year really isn't a new beginning to God... and that essentially, we can't create new beginnings because He is the Creator... and while I'm not sure that I like that mindset, I can certainly thank God that His mercies are new EVERY DAY.

Not just January 1st...

But the first day of a new year is a great day to start over. To draw the line and decide that we can do whatever it is we want to do... and I'm only saying this because He makes us able.

And here's the thing. We are all in the same boat. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and every draft we've written have chickenscratch and red marks and huge areas we've tried to erase so much that the page is worn thin. If you're reading this and thinking, "Who am I for new beginnings?"... you're not alone. It's a daunting task to think that you have to start over...

but it's also a beautiful thing to know that through Jesus, you can be wiped clean.

Not because this is a new year... but because He makes all things new.

This wasn't the way I thought this first post of the new year would go. I had great plans of outlining what I hoped for in the new year... but I feel like maybe somebody needs to hear this. Needs to see it in black and white.

HE is faithful. He is enough. And He wants to help you write your story...

In fact, He says we are essentially letters to each other, through the way we live.

Every day is a new blank page.

12 months.

!2 chapters.

You choose... will your life be a love story or a tragedy?

Pick up your pen and start writing with me.