Bloom & Grow

Bloom & Grow

One of my girls thrives on verbal affirmation while the other seeks out lots of snuggles.

It is my absolute favorite to see a smile climb up the cheeks of my older child. She is much less likely to outwardly reveal when something touches her inwardly, so when I see the evidence, I soak it up and store it in my heart. This usually happens at bedtime, when I whisper words of life over her and she thinks it is too dark for me to see her delight.

A few nights ago, I read the girls a library book about the process of planting flowers, watching them grow, and seeing them spread their seeds for new flowers to have a chance to bloom. I turned off the lights and whispered to my word-loving daughter, “You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

My favorite smile spread slowly across her face and I knew she would drift to sleep that night feeling loved and having purpose.

I turned to my snuggler to say the same thing, but her response was to giggle, “Mommy! I’m not a flower!” Perhaps she isn’t old enough for metaphors just yet. I made sure to squeeze her tight so that she too would feel affirmed and loved.

I’ve since been thinking quite a bit about flowers and their seeds.

Notice the seed. Before a flower can bloom, its seed must succumb to the process of transformation. When a seed is planted, it goes into the soil never to look the same again. 

It’s not an easy process. The germination (sprouting) of the seed requires the nutrients of the soil, the moisture of water, and just the right amount of sunlight. Each seed has its own needs for life to form.

The hard shell of the seed melts away as the greenery of the plant reaches through the dirt and stretches to find light. In the right environment, the plant will begin to flower and feed the life around it.

New flowers will have the opportunity to bloom and grow as fresh seeds are scattered to the ground.

Did you know that your life resembles that of this flower?

For us to bloom into our greatest beauty, we must die to ourselves. We must succumb to the process of transformation so that our hard shells can melt away. It isn’t easy, is it? Sometimes we feel pressure, maybe a bit of loneliness. It may feel like we are drowning, that we are too hot, or too cold. But when we allow ourselves to submit to the process, we realize that our Gardner knows just what it is that will bring blossoming flowers in our lives.

There will be seasons when we feel the ache of our growth, and also seasons of rest as we wait for the sunshine to warm us again. But the result of these seasons of growth and rest, is the season of beauty. At our peak, we are beautiful flowers offering nourishment to those who come near. Our scent is alluring and our seeds spread with the promise of new life to come.

Whatever season you are currently in, do not forget this truth, my friend:

“You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

Stay close to your Gardener. He will give you what you need, when you need it. Remember that the difficult moments will not last forever. New growth is coming.

“…When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed.” 1 Corinthians 15:36-38

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Clothing My Imperfections

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I have a thing for skirts.

Skirts have a lovely, feminine, endearing vibe to them. I can dress them up for a more elegant look, or down for errands around town. They also have this delightful ability to hide the little muffin squish that most of my jeans seem to enjoy emphasizing.

I discovered skirts shortly after my second baby was born. My tummy didn’t deflate immediately, which made for some rather awkward inquiries from strangers about whether or not I might be pregnant. Nope, my baby was born a month ago, but thanks for asking!

Whether it was my need for bigger clothes or my need to feel less self-conscious, I went shopping for something that might disguise the tummy pooch. I stumbled across a simple, midi-length skirt that sat at my natural waistline and I have been hooked ever since.

However, as fabulous as skirts are, there is an even better type of clothing!

Check out this verse: “…clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 13:14a

I have been thinking about this idea for DAYS. Clothing ourselves in a new style can be positive and make us feel beautiful. Clothing ourselves in Jesus Christ can be LIFE CHANGING.

Here are some of my thoughts on this:

  • I spent quite a significant amount of time searching for my new style. Similarly, I should be spending quite a significant amount of time searching for Jesus and wrapping myself up in His Word.
  • Clothes are worn all day long. Clothing ourselves with Jesus means He is part of our lives 24/7. Not just Sundays. Not just during our quiet time. All day, everyday.
  • One reason I love skirts so much is because of the way they cover up the “I’ve had babies,” blob. They mask my imperfections. Clothing myself with Jesus goes beyond masking my imperfections. He takes all my blemishes and nakedness and makes them like new. I am a new person in Christ!
  • Clothes have the ability to define who we are. Our clothes can tell someone whether we are successful entrepreneurs, whether we have a fun outing planned, or if it’s a work-around-the-house kind of day. When I am clothed in Christ, my identity is more than my outward appearance. He defines who I am from the inside out, and the evidence is there for all to see.
  • I could spend all day in my jammies if I wanted. I have to make an active choice to get dressed and then choose what to wear – it doesn’t just happen on its own. In the same way, clothing myself in Christ is an active choice. The word “clothe” in our verse is a verb. I must choose daily to put on His presence!

The first step to changing your wardrobe forever, is to get rid of the clothes that don’t work. Romans 13:12 says, “…remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” He will get rid of all of our stains, but it requires us to bring them to Him first.

If you haven’t yet decided to surrender to Jesus and make Him King over your life, I’d highly encourage you to do so. A relationship with Him will make you see your beauty and value far more than any garment ever could.

I love skirts, but my favorite fashion? Clothing myself in Jesus. He’s just right for every body type.

 

*Photo credit to Alexa Stutts Photography.

The Opposite of Toxic

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How many of you have seen articles like the following?

  • “10 Signs You are Toxic Parent and Your Children Will End Up in Counseling Because of It”
  • “5 Phrases You Should Absolutely Never Say to Your Child Unless You Want to Singlehandedly Ruin Their Life”
  • “You are the Worst at Parenting and Here is an Article that Lays Out Exactly Why You are Failing”

I’ve clicked on them. I’ve said/done some of the things in them. The natural conclusion is that I am ruining my kids and they would be better off elsewhere.

Except NOT.

I am far from perfect at this parenting thing. But aren’t we all? I have yelled at my children and immediately regretted it. I’ve bribed, I’ve stomped around like I was the child, I’ve cried… I’ve had some bad moments y’all.

I have even gone to counseling because I was struggling so much with feeling angry most of the time.

I am convinced that no matter who we are, if we look hard enough, we will find an article that lists one of our behaviors as toxic. And then what happens? We leave that place feeling defeated and hopeless. Every time we repeat that behavior, we beat ourselves up for it, wallow in our awfulness, work really hard at never doing it again…JUST TO DO IT AGAIN.

What a way to live.

Can we agree not to do this to ourselves anymore?

Instead of running to the internet, let’s run to Jesus. His words are far, FAR different from the ones we see in those negatively titled articles. Jesus absolutely will not make a list of our failures and shove them in our face. Instead, He speaks life and truth to us while showing us a better way.

When I look to Jesus, I’m able to use my worst moments to lead me to be a healthy parent. I find strength to stand in prayer and hand my anxieties over to Him. I take the responsibility off of my own shoulders and place it on His. The more I do this, the less often I find myself yelling out of frustration. I am grounded in who God has created me to be!

I still have moments. Just this week, I got frustrated and yelled at my girls. I hate it. But instead of going into a dark, deep, negative spiral about what a failure I am, I use it as a teaching moment.

My girls know 100% of the time that my anger is NOT THEIR FAULT. Because I tell them this! I repeat to them why I love them and list off the reasons of why I am so grateful for them. I remind them that certain behaviors are not appropriate for them to do, but that is never an excuse for mommy to yell at them. I can say to my children, “I’m feeling frustrated, so I’m going to have a moment to myself and pray to Jesus.”

And THEN, when they have an outburst of anger or respond inappropriately, I can lead them in healthy alternatives of how to handle their emotions. I can tell them that I understand how they feel, but that we are still responsible for how we react. Because I am leaning on Jesus to show me a better way to live, I get to lead my girls in a better way to live. 

Talk about empowering!

If you fear that you are living in a negative cycle, get help. Pray to Jesus. Talk to a friend. Sign up with a counselor. But know that there is HOPE.

Jesus is in the work of transforming lives. You don’t have to stay in the darkness because He is the Light! Live in the freedom that is found in following Him.

And friend, I’m with you. I’ll be here to encourage you and pray with you. You are not alone!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

All or Nothing

All or Nothing

You require nothing, yet ask for everything.

On our own we are unable. We cannot muster up salvation with human hands. The only work You require is to simply believe. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Human effort accomplishes nothing. We could wear ourselves out for the trying, the working, the earning of this free gift you offer. Yet, anyone who believes has eternal life.1 It is not reserved for the holy, the good, the kind, the successful, the perfect ones. It is intended for the broken, the needy, the searching, the desperate ones.2

So nothing is required, but You ask for everything.

With this belief comes surrender. To believe in You is to set aside our preconceived notions of what our hearts desire, for our hearts are no longer our own. They belong to You. Those previous desires melt away as our souls cannot get enough of You. We want what You want. With our belief in You, a transformation occurs.3 We cannot think the same way anymore, even if we tried. For we have seen something better, something true, something real. We have new-found purpose and meaning and now nothing else matters except to accomplish Your will. It is an undoing as our bodies turn inside out. We are forever changed, a new creation you might say.4

It’s the sort of process that isn’t really noticeable all of the time. We have massive growth spurts, but most of the lasting growth happens with consistent pruning over time. It doesn’t hurt, really, for we see the flowers blooming as a result.5 This gradual, continued effort of giving everything to the One who requires nothing turns us into more than we could have ever hoped by our own striving. We aren’t the same anymore. One day, we look in the mirror and hardly even make out those old details of who we used to be. Did that person really exist? She did. And we realize every bit of the process was worth it. And then we wonder…if He has brought me this far, where will He take me next?6

Sometimes, I wish the pruning was a bit more immediate. Can’t You just lob off this whole branch? Is it really worth saving? But to You, it is. And deep down I know this slow, steady process of cyclical surrender and growth allows me to move forward, whereas I might topple over if I tried to make it all happen at once.

Your way is better than mine.7 I see that again. You are not slow, but patient.8 You love the process as much as You love the result.

So here I am again. Surrendering. Believing. This is all You require. It isn’t much, but it is everything. I don’t want my everything anymore. I want Yours.

 

A Time to Meet

A Time to Meet

Have you ever thought about the fact that the King of the Universe invites us to speak to Him personally?

How would you feel if you were given the opportunity to grab coffee one-on-one with one of your favorite celebrities? Or a chance to receive personal training by the person you admire most in your job/craft/hobby/passion? Wouldn’t we drop everything for such an opportunity?

Our prayer life with God is like that… but taken to the next level. It’s more than that once-in-a-lifetime 30-minute coffee appointment, more than a 2-hour training session. It’s a lifetime of Him whispering a personal invitation to meet with Him, talk with Him, and get to know Him on a personal level. 

Beyond the ability to have a conference with the King to get His perspective on the latest politics, we can know who He is. We can dine at His table, receive His counsel, express our frustrations, and make known our requests all while He seeks to know us better in return.

I was once told that God seeks our friendship. Isn’t that such a beautiful element of prayer? God didn’t create humans simply to leave us to figure out our lives on our own. Rather, just as He invites us to spend time with Him, He longs to be invited into the inner workings of our lives. He is ready to get in the mess with us. He wants to be the place you turn for a vent session. He desires that you express the deepest needs of your heart to Him. He looks forward to every second you carve out of your day to just check in and say “hello”. 

God is all-knowing. Do we really have to tell Him our needs for Him to know them? Of course not. He knows it all before we even utter a sound. But doesn’t it make it so much more meaningful that we should entrust it to Him? There is a difference between knowing about a thing, and being included in a thing. 

He sees us pushing, striving, running, and seeking advice from all sources but Him. What He wouldn’t give for us to turn to Him so that He can lift our burdens and tell us how much He loves us.

God isn’t a moody taskmaster we have to tip-toe around to keep from setting Him off. He invites us to spend time with Him because He cares and He wants to ease our pain and suffering. The more we meet with Him, the less weight we end up carrying.

Don’t ignore His request. Just like you would if that celebrity wanted to meet with you, give Him priority above all else. Take a moment and thank Him for His invitation. Mark your meeting time on your calendar and show up early. You won’t regret it.

“Look! I Stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20