Raising Accountable Kids

I shared on my Instagram that I was super happy to have set up the Accountable Kids system in our home, and my friend Mrs. Lo Tanner challenged me to explain more on my blog, so here it goes.

Disclaimer: I’m not an Accountable Kid representative or affiliate.  Please follow the link to their site for more info!  I will not receive a dime if you click on the link.  I was also not paid to give my opinion.  I purchased this program out of my own pocket and this is just my honest review.  My blog post is not to be considered as a statement from the company.

But if you are like me, you can easily find yourself in this circle of repetition that wears us moms down to the bone.  How much time have you physically spent reminding kids to do what doesn’t come naturally?

If you have a child with ADHD you understand me.  It’s not laziness or unwillingness.  They just sincerely can’t remember a series of instructions over the course of the day.

CalebI read a couple of books on ADHD and, as far as discipline goes, the suggestion was not to “engage in battle” or “lecture” the child (as it just builds frustration and can be ineffective) but instead to develop habits through positive reinforcement and natural consequences.

That is why this program works well for my family! We brought it home and watched the video.  As a family.  My kids were excited to do this!  My youngest (who has ADHD) said, “Mom this is a perfect way for me to remember all the things I have to do in a day!”

In the most basic description I can give, the program sets up chores on tickets they flip once completed.  They get rewards in “tickets” for the chores they do – in my house, they can earn a ticket for completing all their morning chores, day time chores, and evening chores.  I basically go through their flipped tickets and see if they did everything they were supposed to in the time frame alloted.  Tickets are then used in exchange for rewards or privileges.

AnakinOur family decided to use tickets on everything electronic (Family TV time, computers, xbox, pads, etc) and  activities outside the house.  So each ticket is 15 minutes and they need to have 3 tickets before they’re allowed to turn something on.  If they want more time, they can choose not to spend tickets one day (not turn on an electronic device) to use another day.

The chores are very simple.  They have cards that say, “Brush your teeth”, “Take vitamins”, “make your bed”.  They also have chores like, “Dishes”, “Mop”, and “pet care”.  My kinesthetic learners don’t have to rely on memory for EVERYTHING.  They go to their board, read the task, do the task, then flip to the “Finished” peg.  In doing so I have eliminated HOURS of asking them to do things.

BrielleIt’s also effective because it doesn’t take away their volition; they can choose to not make their bed… then they don’t earn the ticket… then they have to go sit in their room while the rest of the family watches “The Flash”.  The natural consequence of the system has lifted discipline off my shoulders too.

Why would you spend money on this instead of setting up a chore chart?

  • Chore charts are visual. My kids are kinesthetic learners.
  • Chore charts show you the day or the week.  That is visually overwhelming and distracting for children with ADHD.  They only need to worry about one task at hand.
  • Chore charts leaves me entirely responsible for providing the consequences of success or failure.  With Accountable Kids, that responsibility falls entirely on THEIR hands!
  • Chore charts don’t provide a tangible and immediate reward for success.  These tickets provide that satisfaction even if they can’t “spend” that reward immediately.
  • Chore charts have to be consistently followed through to be effective.  Accountable Kids makes that easier on the parent.
  •  A Chore Chart is a list of things to do (how much do we like those as adults?), Accountable Kids helps my kids feel successful and in control.

I would say its a great program for any family and any child.  It is definitely worth reading their book on it!  If your parenting heart is like mine, we want to raise children  who are responsible for their actions.  We want them to take ownership of their contributions to our family so that as they mature, they’ll contribute to society! To that end, every family can strive to raise accountable kids.

 

 

Living From Rest


It is said that kids learn best if they are learning from rest.  But I have come to learn that LIFE is done best if we approach it from a position of rest.

I think it’s the world’s way to be always busy, always stressed, running from one thing to another.  Lysa TerKeurst says it well in her book, “The Best Yes”: An overwhelmed schedule is an indicator of an underwhelmed soul.

Disclosure: I do not receive compensation from the entities that I link to. I have not received anything from Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries in exchange for my recommendation. This blog is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own.


What does it mean to be underwhelmed? It means to lose the WOW factor of God in your life.  To be mundane and mechanical about your existence.  To feel purposeless or ineffective.  To have an “absent father” relationship with God.

Mind you I came from Florida to help with Hurricane Relief, attend court hearings, catch up on doctor’s visits and then move.  Even now I’m having to generate income to meet our new set of expenses.  God definitely provides, but I’m in no way feeling like I’m on “vacation”.

However I learned to live from a position of a rested soul.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Psalms 62:5-6 NIV

A rested soul doesn’t panic.  Doesn’t worry.  A rested soul won’t anxiously berate their family members because they are not meeting expectations.  A rested soul finds joy even in difficult times.

It means I don’t have to nag my pre-teen into reading his Bible or attending church because I know that his soul belongs to God first.  I can take my concerns about his spiritual upbringing to my prayer closet and leave it there.  And I smile as I type this now because we’ve had some very spiritual conversations and his faith is growing.

I’m free from judgment and condemnation.  All I’m worth is held by God’s scales, not mine!  So my less-than-clean house or my less-than-perfect kids aren’t a source of friction for me.  I am His, and He is mine.  We can work on the rest together and little by little.

There’s no rush to keep up with appearances.  I don’t ever worry, “What will our Pastor think?” I figure if he’s ever truly concerned he’ll call us.  Transparency is a beautiful thing.

Our prayer closet is the greatest rejuvinating source for us – more than a nap or a spa day.  It gives us the strength and the peace that supernaturally helps us overcome each situation we face.  Prayer helps us approach battles from a position of rest.  The Bible gives us the wisdom to not put ourselves in battles we weren’t meant to fight in the first place.  A solid, gospel preaching church gives a spiritual refreshing in a corporate setting.  A small group or bible study setting helps us bear each other’s burdens so we don’t feel overwhelmed and alone.

And actually resting as God has commanded us releases the tension in our bodies, clears the brain fog, slows down the adrenaline, and keeps our emotions balanced!  I don’t know why Christians feel like they are always to be “doing” something for the Lord – maybe it’s that one proverb about the ants – but we can sure be a whole truck full of Martha’s in what is supposed to be a Mary walk.

The difficulty lies in that you can’t achieve rest without boundaries.  You have to set boundaries for your energy so you don’t spend yourself in meaningless pursuits.  You have to set boundaries from your children so you can have your prayer closet time.  You have to set boundaries from friends and family when you can’t keep up with all the activities that month.  The Bible says that boundary lines fall for us in pleasant places; they are designed to be our comfort, not our restraint.

I wish I knew all this before I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Now my body is a barometer of activity and like a vehicle with a busted fuel tank, I hit my limit more often than others.  I pray these words encourage you to find your rest in Him.  Together we can tackle this life with the optimism of a three year old who had a wonderful nap!  Let us not miss out on the blessing of living with our souls rested.



Boys, Girls, and Scouting


I’m going to weigh in on a very controversial subject, with the disclaimer that the views I’m expressing are entirely my own.

A few weeks ago Facebook was blowing up with commentary from Stacy Dash, Matt Walsh, and all these other conservative pages, about Boy Scout’s decision to include girls.

Most of the feedback ranged from, “Why can’t boys be boys and girls be girls?” to “America is going to hell, the transgender have indoctrinated even something as sacred as scouting.”

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Pumpkin Carving and “Running With The Pack” belt loop work for our Wolf Den.

This bothered me.

Nobody, in those articles about an article, cited the reason behind Boy Scout’s decision or their statement.  But I received their statement first because I am a scout mom.  It actually says, and I quote:

“Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before [1], making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing. Additionally, many groups currently underserved by Scouting, including the Hispanic and Asian communities, prefer to participate in activities as a family. Recent surveys [2] of parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with 90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts. Education experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women.”

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Our Boy Scout troop retired a tattered American Flag ceremoniously.

Regardless of how I feel about the position that they took (and I will share that in a minute), this was never – EVER – a push by the LGBT community.  Because it was never designed to incorporate girls into boy scouting through some vague, androgynous definition of boy or girl.

So food for thought towards those who put their opinions of social media, as entitled to them as you are: you just slandered a massive organization composed of loving, invested parents such as my husband and myself.

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My favorite Pop Corn seller Scout!

The truth is many parents within the BSA had problems with this decision.  Many parents in the very troops I’m involved with threw a fit because they don’t believe scouting should be co-ed.  Likewise, I was also privately messaged by MANY moms not involved in scouting who told me, “My daughter has always wanted to join boy scouts.  She is more into the stuff that they get to do.”

My feelings on the matter?

Thank you!

Thank you, Boy Scouts of America, for realizing how difficult it is on middle-class, working families, to drive one boy to cub scouts, one boy to boy scouts, and one girl to girl scouts.  Thank you for being considerate of our time and not dividing our family up one more evening a week.  Thank you for putting such high value on the family as a unit.  Thank you for not being chauvinistic.  Thank you for being more accessible to everyone else other than white families with a well-paid Dad.  Thank you for turning the hearts of the fathers towards their daughters.  Thank you for not being so sexist that you don’t feel the skills you teach your boys are equally important to girls as well.  Thank you for creating a way for my husband and me to serve with all our children.  Thanks for teaching boys to value and respect girls – because in doing so you are raising better brothers, boyfriends, husbands and dads… and less Brock Turners and Harvey Weinsteins.And mainly, THANK YOU that my daughter doesn’t have to “identify as a boy” or experience a transgender crisis because she’d rather hike and camp with the boys than play dolls with the girls.  Thank you that she can be totally feminine, totally secure in her God-given gender and still reach the rank of Eagle Scout if she so chooses.

Rant over.

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My daughter and her friend working on the Wolf Den Cub Scout activities.

Logistically I don’t know how it will play out.  I know per the Scouting Laws and Regulations that it doesn’t mean boys and girls will go camping together.  For the most part, it seems the plan here in our local troops is to have different dens or patrols for girls and for boys.  It will require a lot more manpower.  It may totally flop! I don’t know.

I’m sticking with our Troop’s Director, who said: What are we telling our girls if we expend more family resources supporting a boy in BSA? All that said, boys do not do well with the distraction of girls, especially before 16. On the flip side, having a wholesome venue for boys and girls of similar values to interact around a common purpose is not bad, and in fact may be a real benefit. As I see it, it all boils down to two questions. 1. To what degree will integration be required. 2. Will traditional views regarding God given gender differences and roles be supported or at least tolerated.”  The rest is really to be continued…


 

Dear New Homeschooling Mom

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Dear new homeschooling Mom,

I’m so excited that you have taken the big leap!  Not because I hate public school or think private school is overrated, but because I know it takes a special kind of bravery to take hold of  your child’s education and put that burden on yourself.  It’s a huge responsibility, and definitely not a step you can take and be a wimp about it.

kidsI pray your husband and you chose this path because you love your children, and you want to redeem your time with them.  Because you envision something different for your children than what the rest of the world does.  I certainly pray it wasn’t under traumatic circumstances like bullying, an abusive teacher, or a learning disability that can’t be worked through.  These are problems you can only run from for so long.  Look instead at all you gain!  Fear is not the best motivator when times get rough.

I love seeing pictures of your new homeschool area!  I’m sure you were stoked to get those cute little desks from IKEA. I love the alphabet and math facts on the wall.  I frequently see all your efforts and questions to create a learning environment.  But can I interject?  Your homeschool area is… your home!  The rigidity of sitting in a desk 8 hours a day is one of the biggest downfalls of the school system.  Don’t be disappointed if that school desk collects a lot of dust while all the kid’s work is on the kitchen counter, the sofa, or his bed.  That’s a good thing!  Comfort is a perk of being home.

petsI also see all your questions about curriculum.  I have a few suggestions on that, but the shocking truth is: It’s not necessary.  There are hundreds of way to homeschool for free.  Between online sites like mathgames.com (completely free), a library card, and a child’s interest you would be surprised how much learning can take place.  I don’t want to discourage you from picking a curriculum, I just don’t want you to put all your hopes and dreams on it.  It will be great – for a season.  Then it will get difficult, and then you’ll love it again.  These rhythms of learning are normal.  So instead of beating your head into the wall when it fails, just set it aside; borrow a book on the subject, read it together, and try again later.  I promise you it will still be ok.tri

Please stop asking for permission to do what is right for your child.  If the question is, “Is it ok if we…?” The answer is, “You’re the mom.  You know best.”  Every child is different and what is good for Billy may not be good for Susy – and these two might be siblings!  Grab a cup of coffee, a good book (I recommend the Bible) and relax!  No matter how a schooling day goes, the household enjoys it more if YOU are enjoying it too.

The only thing I ask of you is that you take this amazing opportunity and become friends with your kids.  You can’t demand good character out of a hollow relationship.  They will be with you now for a long time, so prepare yourself to have little shadows in the ebbs of your life.  They will watch how you treat others, how you care for the home, and how you love your spouse (and vice versa!).  It’s waist deep in this lifestyle where children can really learn to be honest – the way mommy is honest – and patient, and kind… While they can re-learn math or reading at any point in their lives, growing up with integrity is kind of a one-shot deal!  They’ll Anakinonly be children once, and in the blink of an eye they’ll be off to college… And you’ll miss them terribly.

I am just now on week two of the school year.  We live in a one-bedroom apartment that is like a Little House in the Big Woods type of experience – only we are surrounded by a concrete forest in the middle of the city.  We eat, learn, play games, laugh, discipline, pray and cry in the same area.  And yet, it’s working!  Witnessing the growth is such a reward.  If it is working for me in these crazy circumstances I’ve been in, I’m sure it will work for you too.

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A 5,000 Mile Miracle

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God is amazing! I don’t know that I have enough time to write all the ways He has been faithful to my family since my last blog post. I’m settled in Alaska, having flown to Florida and then to West Virginia before heading back; the provision of God to be able to see both my parents on the same trip is still beyond me. I was also able to see all my in-laws and have my husband join us for two weeks. I could not have asked for more, but He provided.
Miami BeachI would not have made it to Florida on my own at all.  We were scraping money for tickets and I just felt like we would never get there on time! Until members of my church stepped up to help.  One, an extraordinary man and veteran, helped me with a very generous check to get the tickets we needed to Florida.  Then I was handed an anonymous donation with the cash to purchase the tickets BACK to Alaska before I had even left.  I can’t even thank anyone other than God – who must’ve known I had to go.
When I arrived in Florida my mom was very, VERY sick. She has such an aggressive form of cancer that she opted to do 6 rounds of two different chemo medications + antibodies + steroids before surgery and radiation. She spends all day in the hospital getting these medications via a port she had installed in her chest.
good byeShe had just completed her first round of chemo. Aside from the expected side effects, she had an allergic reaction that had some extreme symptoms; inflammation in her bone marrow, nose bleeds that lasted for 20 minutes, and ridiculously low blood pressure.
She did not feel well enough to stand, let alone go back to work. But the situation was dire; my mom pays all the bills. She had treatment and MRIs delayed because she couldn’t afford them out of pocket and rent was due in two weeks! Well if the chemo didn’t kill her, the financial stress alone would finish her off.
All of July I was cleaning and cooking. Any out of pocket cash I spent this whole trip was in over the counter medicine, groceries and gas. Keeping my kids from getting sick so my mom wouldn’t get sicker. My sister was able to pick up enough part time shifts to earn a full time paycheck. By God’s provision rent was paid August 1st.
FROSTIt wasn’t until the weekend before round 2 that my mom was eating and “alive” by any counts. Around that time she had already lost all her hair, and my husband joined me.
This round of chemo went smoother considering she took antihistamines before treatment and we got her pretty hydrated. She had 5 really sick days but only vomited once! (This is a miracle!!).  After these five days Mom was completely fine without any side effects. Paul and I really enjoyed spending time with her those two weeks, it was such a blessing.
I feel like an infomercial for Jesus is coming along: BUT WAIT! There’s more!
In between all this, my husband and I were gifted with professional salsa dance classes, 10 free tickets to the FROST museum (best in Miami), 3 tickets to Universal Studios Orlando, a Mission’s trip for my oldest kid, beaches, pools, church and good food. And my mom’s health was good enough for us to enjoy these things as we could!
When she wasn’t feeling good, we had friends come over and keep my sister and me company with card games or dominos for long nights.
VAGod also provided tremendously for my mom. Because her cancer has not spread anywhere else, it was downgraded from the original diagnosis of 4C to a 3B! She had a secondary insurance company send her a check for every hospital day and every day at home, plus some of her co-pays. That check equaled what she currently owed in medical bills and then some. And she was able to work full time for about a week just before we left to the Virginias to do a little American History touring and spend some time with my Dad.
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MiamiAs I write this blog update, my mom and family in Miami have no power or cell service.  They were hit with some serious winds and flooding with Hurricane Irma, and I could not get a hold of them for 48 hours straight!  My mom had a rougher time recovering from round 3 of chemo and had been hospitalized just the week before.  But praise be to God, they are alive and well! Not only them, but all my in-laws and friends in Florida.  And what I learned from all this is what my kids and I have been reading about during our Bible Time in Matthew 14:22-33:
The power of Jesus is not evident in the absence of storms, but in such a fierce love that He would walk on water and meet us in the midst of it to calm our fears.
From Miami

These Boys Can

I make the mistakes sometimes of underestimating my boys.

I spend most of the time reminding myself that my 11 year old and my 8 year old have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.  If I didn’t, I’d flip a lid SO MANY TIMES I’d die of a heart attack before they make it to puberty.  I don’t intend to belittle them; I’m facing every single disciplinary issue with this in the forefront of my mind so I don’t tear them apart with shame and failure!

And if you think Parenting comes with a lot of disciplinary issues, you have never been in the heat of correcting your child for knocking over the lady on a walker on the way out of Wal-mart and mid sentence your kid runs after a bird and nearly gets hit by a car.  This is my life. I’m on top of my boys all the time to 1) keep them alive and 2) teach them to be decent human beings in the process.

But then the ADHD label on them becomes engraved on them like branding or a dog tag. Because I’ll bring down their ability to match their self-control and I catch myself assuming, “They won’t really succeed with that…”

The way I thought my 7 year old would not do good at a spelling bee. He hates to write.  In the process of picking my battles I gave him the list of suggested words and told him with only one week in advance that he was participating in a spelling bee. I didn’t do anything else to help him memorize the words, but to my surprise… he placed second for his age group and only misspelled one word.

I’ve never seen self control like that day from this kid.  Sitting still and silent at his chair waiting for 20 other kids to finish spelling their words before it was his turn again.

I also didn’t know that he could learn to ride his bike AND successfully complete a triathlon without training wheels in a month… but he did.

I didn’t think my 11 year old would ever make true, lasting friends.  I didn’t think he’d get invited to parties or to play sports because he’s either arguing with everyone or blowing everyone off.  And yet he has; he’s had friends invite him out to play all summer long.  And he’s made a few “let’s stick together, I’ll go if you go” kind of friends too.  And held meaningful conversations with adults.

Because it turns out that all my attempts at teaching my son to NOT be a jerk were not in vain, and teaching him to be the kid that is a friend to everyone and does not tolerate bullying – building him to be a young man with Godly character – takes precedence in the sport over his actual athletic skill.

Now I’m learning to stop myself from assuming, “No I don’t think they’ll pull through that.” Instead I say, “It may be a little more challenging for them, but these boys can…”

Pressing In

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Confession: I have not been able to read my Bible since the beginning of this year.

I can do short verses at church on my phone.  Opening my book Bible and reading through it makes me nauseous.  The words swirl on the pages.  But it’s not just the Bible.  I walk around with this headache and blurry vision that makes reading mac and cheese boxes difficult for me.

This is a side effect of all that is going on in my physical brain. I am serotonin-negative, which is also known as clinically depressed.  I also have ADHD, which can cause random episodes of dyslexia and trouble focusing the eyes.

worshipIt is not, however, a reflection of my faith.  I could not stand firmer on God then I do at this moment.  Let me tell you, we serve a beautiful and personal God.  He is faithful to reach out to me, to captivate my attention when little else in this world does right now. He breaks through the walls caused by my physical symptoms like the kool-aid man!

When I have a difficulty seeing, I tune my ears (spiritually and physically) to listen for Him.

There was one Sunday a while ago (when we still thought we would buy a house this summer) when I was on the worship team at church, singing “Always“.  The Spirit of God showed up that day and in a way I can not explain, He brought me down to my knees in a quiet sob.

I think to most people it would’ve looked like I was distraught.  I wasn’t.  All of me was fully overwhelmed by His love and in worship.  But His Spirit was working in me to express a prayer I didn’t yet know I would need.  It came from the pit of my stomach, this brokenness, this cry for comfort and strength I wasn’t originally asking for when we first started to sing.

prayingSee, I didn’t know my mom had breast cancer, and we would be denied the pre-approval for a mortgage, or that a chiropractor had sued me and was going to levy our entire bank account clean.  I don’t think I could’ve mentally prepared for all this to happen in one week had I been warned anyways.  But when I was standing there completely dumbstruck by all this, that feeling in the pit of my stomach came back and I realized: God in His mercy had interceded for me, calling down the comfort and strength I would need while – in His providence – not revealing to me the very immediate future.

This is just one example of how God is working in my life even though the chemical imbalances in my brain make it difficult to read the instructions on a box of mac and cheese, let alone my Bible.

But I’m not excused from my responsibility to press in to the Lord.  Anxiety still starts building walls around me that suffocate me at times.  My friend Lo Tanner wrote about her experience with anxiety on her blog a while back, and God brought her very post to mind when I was having a rough time with this issue just last week.

So how do I press in?

  1. I listen to my Bible.  I listen to guided meditations based on verses.  And AFTER this I listen to worship music.  I listen to my kids studying their Bibles.  I listen to people who are praying for me and the things God laid in their heart over me. And when I have messages from God through out the day, I try to listen to them too.
  2. I pray.  There’s a whole lot of talking on my part through out the day.  It feels a lot more conversational.  I’m now “that neighbor” who stays in her car, “talking to herself” while sipping a cup of coffee at around 9am.writing
  3. I take notes.  I can’t explain why writing is easier to me than reading except it must be a different process in the brain; I’m regurgitating information and not receiving it.  But I have a journal where I write any thought that is worthy and I try to let go of thoughts that aren’t.  I also write affirmations to declare out loud daily so my brain can hear me in charge and not the other way around.  And I write this blog.

If you look around this blog, you will quickly realize that I’m not an uber-spiritual person.  I’ve talked about parenting, frustrations, weight loss, and other things too.  But if God impresses upon my heart to share a spiritual word, I have to be obedient.  It may be that as a friend you are in a season to receive the instruction to press in and perceive what God is doing in your life right now, and that may have a higher priority than other things in your life right now too.

PS. As a disclaimer I should let you know that the links which lead away from my site are not affiliate links.  I am not paid to advertise for any of these services or music, and I will not receive a dime in commission if you click on the link.  I’m just an honest Christian mom, giving credit where credit is due, and sharing the resources that are helping me in this season of my life.

When Refuge Feels Like Disaster

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Confession: While I believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I’m not one to proclaim that I am prophetic, nor do I dwell a lot on the supernatural realm around us.  I’m very much a here and now kind of believer with a healthy fear for what the Spirit is doing.

It’s no secret that I’m under a lot of stress.  My mom is starting chemo and I’m heading to see her with my kids, flying across four time zones with two ADHD boys and a girl and my medications for RA.

I say all this because *usually* seasons of stress cause me to have random, vivid dreams.  I seldom remember details – I just wake up with uneasy feelings that I digest with a cup of coffee as I listen to my Bible app.

Which is why, when I have one of those dreams that I not only remember three days later, but that I also hear confirmation, I stop and take notice.  When I woke up from this particular dream, I felt almost instantly a call to share it.  That’s not something I do without giving it a few days first.

refugeI was in a forest of sorts, and there were people living there like persecuted refugees.  I saw people with really dark skin and assumed they were the refugees, but I also saw Caucasian people alongside them.  When I spoke to some of them, a few white men shared that they had been cast out from their communities as a result of standing up for the black people.  While we were all in the jungle trying to get away from the city, I felt like this had taken the world by a storm – overwhelmed in the night, like it’s a global disaster.  I also noticed a feline creature, kind of unrecognizable but as big as a tiger, stalking the perimeter of this refugee camp.

I was so overwhelmed by fear that I looked straight up into a starless sky and said, “Oh Jesus come soon!”  And was dumbstruck by how star-less the sky actually looked.  That’s when I was approached by a white, elderly gentleman, in a suit, very pastor-like.  He tells me, in a very calm and matter of fact manner that “a third of the stars fell with the enemy down to earth.

I ask him, “What’s happening here?  What’s with all these people?!”

He responds with a voice that almost brings the catastrophe around me to a low hum:

black and white“These are the people who have chosen to stand for God’s Word.  Don’t be confused; this is not a catastrophe due to racism or political issues.  These are the people who are standing on the word of God, who have chosen to see it as black and white, so to speak.  This is the bride, facing the consequences of their actions in a fallen world, where the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour..”

I responded with, “Oh Jesus, help us to be ready for You!  We need to prepare!”  And he put a hand on my shoulder to calm me down and said, “Maria, they are ready.  They are precisely where God wants them to be in this hour.  Your mistake is the assumption that the Bride gets it all together and then Jesus returns.  But it is God Himself who makes her holy and blameless for His coming, that’s not something you accomplish out of your own merit.  None of this is a surprise to Him who brought all these people here together, and this is exactly what He has provided for their refuge.  These circumstances out in the world are merely a winnowing fork.  Their hope in God’s Word brought them where God wants them.”

worshipI took the scene in one more time and said, “This is the refuge that God has provided for them.  This is for their good.”  And he said, “Yes! And now is when you will be able to see God’s glory.  This is the place where God provides miraculously and shows His power to save.  Even now don’t you feel it?  Haven’t you experienced God anticipating your every need?  Taking care of leveling your path before your foot hits the floor?”

And as I realized that He has, I woke up.

I believe this is an overall message of encouragement to everyone.  And that it will speak to those who are ready to hear it without any further interpretation.

The Power of Friendship

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I think sometimes friendship is under-rated.  Maybe it’s because we have cheapened it, the way we did marriage and parenting, to where it’s a watered down version of the fellowship God designed…

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… Much like the Fellowship in Lord of The Rings, it was originally written out to be a powerful group of different individuals working together and holding each other up.  Friends are supposed to help you the way Sam helped Frodo even when Frodo was too weak to help himself.  It’s the stuff legends are written out of, like the friendship between C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien which led Tolkien to Christ and to write about friendships that mirrored his own.  It’s the appeal in movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, and The Justice League – a truth we seek out today more than romance because we don’t want someone to take us to bed as much as we crave for someone to take us for a drink and listen to us for a while…

Now it’s a place of gossip and platitudes, of putting on a fake smile and a fake appearance like our make up and just doing everything to be as put together as the person next to you so you won’t be humiliated.

I’m so blessed that God has shown me what true friends are.

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It’s a church, but it’s not a denomination or an address.  It’s a family but we’re not related by blood. It’s sisterhood not because we have the same earthly parents, but because we have been adopted by the same Heavenly Father.

My friends attend different churches across the Anchorage area… and the Midwest of the USA… And the East Coast.  Some of us have many children and some of us have pets instead.  Some are married and some have been divorced, and still some are somewhere in between.

My closer friends held me up when I didn’t have the strength to walk, much like when Moses was held up by both arms in the battle where the scorching sun never seemed to set.

They brought our family dinner when I had no appetite to eat.  They gave our family opportunities to create wonderful memories when I didn’t feel a reason to get out of bed.  They stocked my cupboards with groceries when I had no money to buy food.  They provide a place for us to live when we were homeless and completely lost in what to do next.sealife

I’m not even referring to the span of my lifetime.  I’m talking about the past year.  Even more specifically the past two weeks!

Don’t ever underestimate the power you have to lift someone up.  Don’t ever think that you couldn’t be that one voice that says, “You’re going to make it!”  Don’t think for one moment that a hot plate or even a hot cup of coffee with a hug and a smile won’t make a difference in someone else’s life because I’m alive today to tell you that it does.

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The Cha-Cha of Life

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If it ever felt like we take one step forward and two steps back, it’s now!

We did not get pre-approved for a home loan.  We ended up moving into a small apartment just to be on our own again.

I’m not even trying to get into a home loan. I’m trying to get to Florida to see my mom and my sister.  And then get back.

whynottri1My mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  That blind-sided me.

A chiropractor is out to get me and levied my entire bank account.  The only medical place I have not been able to pay decided to help themselves to my husband’s entire paycheck and all we had in savings.

We did a triathlon as a family!  Then I injured my foot and haven’t been able to walk pain-free since June 9th.

I joined itWorks!  I can’t wait to get my starter kit.  Looking forward to making money for using products I would buy at GNC and start losing the weight I gained.

My dog Momo had a major seizure…

life groupOne step forward, two step backs.  It’s a cha-cha. The Salsa lover in me should find this beautiful… Except I feel violently shaken and disoriented right now!  Part of the reason I haven’t been able to blog, other than depression (and I’m seeing a therapist and a doctor for that) is I’m kinda’ stunned speechless! Yet I’ve been very well taken care of by my tribe of believing homeschooling moms and that has made all the difference.

I guess I forget I’m dancing with the Lord as my partner and He takes the lead! Not an original idea, but I heard Amena Brown, a spoken word poet and she NAILED IT, it’s so good I’m sharing with you the lyrics. Not quite as good as hearing her recite it, but it’s the best I got today:

Dance with Him
He puts His hand on the small of my back
Two fingers pressed into the center of my palm
He pulls me close
Steps with His left, my right
I focus on His eyes and try to ignore my feet as they clumsily count one – two – three
I’m trying to trust Him
He knows this dance better than me
I’m still a novice and it’s obvious
I have yet to lean in and let Him control the turns
He takes His time and even when I miss a step
It’s fine
He knows I’m learning
He wants me to put my hand in His
Close my eyes and trust Him
With my life
My heart
With worry
And “I’m so scared”
With hurt
lifeWorth and unworthy
Loving and unlovable
And my heart has been hurt before
I have been burned before
Loved
And endured loss before
I am in no mood for a dance
No mood to be romanced
I have become a grace cynic
And love’s worst critic
He sends me invitations every day
And even though I have yet to RSVP
He doesn’t mind me
He keeps pursuing
Taking steps in spite of me
He is a songwriter
Composing the notes that hold together eternity
And He wants to teach my limbs to sing
He’s been waiting to watch me let go of woe
And worry…until my soul
Sings in that beautiful voice He gave me
That I have someone come to think
Is not so beautiful
To dance with Him
I must give in
And give up
Plus
The trust it takes to really love
And I want to love Him unbridled
Believe in Him with a faith that is unshakeable
Like tree roots centuries deep
Until I learn to follow His time
Take deep breaths
Rest my head on His chest
And my cares at His feet
But I never fare well
As long as I depend on mewhynottri2
Take His hand
Take a chance
Fingertips in the palm of the One who holds galaxies
In His hand
Hand on His shoulder
Heart in His hand
We dance
To a down beat
That keeps time with His heartbeat
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
His is the song that never ends
His love
Sinners become friends
He wants to dance with you
Until the only Song you hear
Is Him

When I have nothing to encourage you with personally, it’s ok.  That will get better.  But I’m never without encouragement from the Lord, without His peace, or His provision.  As a Christian blogger, the best I can do is share the encouragement I’ve received with you.  I pray it lifts you up today.

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