What is hindering you?

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by Heather {Spring} Gilion

What hinders you? What trips you up, holds you back, and is a constant entanglement?

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Sometimes we are intimately aware of what hinders us and sometimes it’s not until God puts His finger on it—or someone we love points it out—that we are aware of areas in our lives that truly are keeping us from running the “race that is set before us.”

A couple days ago my hubby grabbed our boys after school and took them on an outing to the mall to pick out something special for my birthday. It was a spur of the moment outing, so Noah (7) was disappointed when he climbed in the car after school to find out he was heading to all the “boring” stores in the mall when he’d rather be getting home to play with his neighborhood friends. Dallas told me that Noah was complaining most of the 15-minute drive. Daddy took this opportunity to talk to him about selfishness and how sometimes because we love another, we put them first. Noah expressed how he didn’t want to be selfish and wished he wasn’t.

“You are never selfish, Dad.” Noah said.

“Yes, I can be selfish too.” He took some time giving Noah examples of his own selfishness and then how he talks to God about it when those times happen.

They arrived at the mall and parked the car and the three of them prayed before heading into the mall. Daddy led them in a time of talking to God about the real struggle with selfishness and asked Him to help them all be more like Jesus. Afterward, as they walked into the mall, Dallas could tell Noah was heavy-hearted about it all. He was getting a little teary and sad, but Daddy picked him up and reminded him that he and God loved him very much, and that NOTHING would or could ever make that change. After hugging it out, they set off with new zeal to find me the perfect somethings.

Upon entering American Eagle, Zach spotted something “PERFECT for mom!” “Come on follow me, I see something!” They walked all the way to the back of the store to see a pastel-themed cactus tank top. “Hmmmm…” Daddy said, “I don’t know. Let’s keep looking. We can always come back for it if we don’t find something else.” (Thank You, Lord, for giving me a good mate.)

In another store Noah found me a shirt that said, “You had me at coffee.” “Mom, would LOVE this!” He was right 😉 I’m already wearing it.

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After a cookie for the boys, Starbucks for Daddy, and a few reminders that “we don’t wrestle in the middle of the mall,” they were off to their final store. As they were walking Noah quickly put his right hand up to shield his eyes. “Oh, I shouldn’t look over there…. I need to cover my eyes.” They were passing Victoria’s Secret on their right. “Hmmmm…” Daddy thought to himself, “That’s interesting. We’ve had some basic conversations about boys and girls, modesty and respect, but this is still a little surprising for a seven-year-old. I wonder where its coming from…”

Noah kept his hand stiff so he wouldn’t and couldn’t see to his right, “I will want to go in there and I just CAN’T look over there.”

Before he could ask Noah about his reaction, he heard the squeal of his five-year-old, “Noah, there’s BUILD-A-BEAR!”

Noah quickly reprimanded Z-man, “No, Zach, put your hand like this! Don’t even look in there! We’re shopping for Mom, not us. We have to stay focused.”

EVERYTHING MADE SENSE. Dallas could stop sweating. Ohhhhh… it wasn’t the voluptuous women that tempted Noah. It was the allure of fur, stuffing, and hearts you can whisper wishes into.

Sometimes you’ve got to do “the Noah.” Hand up, eyes shielded from the hindrance. I have walked past a plate of cookies like that, “Heather, do NOT make eye contact with the snickerdoodles! Don’t do it! NOOOOO!” Or maybe it’s toxic relationships that always lead to gossip. You feel the words forming in your mouth. Man, you want to say it… you’ve just got to! You can spin it, no problem. It’s already justified in your mind! You’ve got to get it off your chest and you are sure your friends will want to “pray” about it too. But then, in the moment you don’t ignore the Voice… His Voice… and you do “the Noah” except you put your hand over your mouth. “Not today!” you declare to yourself. His Spirit and His strength is enough to walk past this temptation. Or maybe you find yourself lusting for a different life, as you pine over all the “perfect” lives on Facebook/Instagram. Or maybe you stalk your ex on social media, just “checking up” on him or her. Or perhaps you secretly find it hard to celebrate the blessings experienced by others because of your own jealousy and discontentment?

I love the imagery in the NIV, it says “let us throw off everything that hinders.” Us—me and you—we throw it off. No one else can do it for us. We’ve got to chuck the sin that ensnares us. We THROW it off! And with His strength, it can be done, even if we have to do it over and over and over and gosh dang it, over again!

So… what’s hindering you? Do you know? Are you aware of the “sin that so easily entangles” you? Or maybe you aren’t sure. Maybe you need to ask the God who loves you with an everlasting, life-giving kind of love, what has got you tied up. You don’t have to fear these revelations, because freedom is at stake. May we have ears to hear and hearts willing to throw off everything that hinders us as we RUN—turning our eyes upon Jesus. He is our prize! He is our strength in the midst of temptation. He is more than enough! He gives us strength even if we are face to face with… Build-A-Bear.

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To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

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Brothers Gotta Hug: breaking up fights and teaching love

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

I LOVE summertime! Being under one roof is one of my favorite things. Yes, yes, I love a good date night or the occasional run to Target without Thing One and Thing Two running the aisles and throwing unapproved items in my cart. But for the most part, I like the relaxing days that summer brings. I’ll admit, we’ve already had a few days of changing out of one set of pajamas only to put on fresh ones for the night. (Don’t be jealous or judge…whichever you’re prone to do.)

My boys are the best of friends.

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{This wasn’t even taken on Halloween. Just a normal day at the Gilions.}

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But…

There are other moments. Moments when their smiles turn into scowls and I can see it in their eyes, they are done playing nice. A car is stolen. A Lego that ought not be played with is now laying in pieces. A beloved, stuffed kitty cat is bait as Thing One runs away from Thing Two. It can happen in a moment. They could have just smiled and given one another the biggest hug while saying, “You are the best brudder in all the world.” But when a line gets crossed, it’s almost like watching the Incredible Hulk take form. Their once sweet little hands that love high-fives and pushing cars through their Lincoln Log city, tighten up into fists. Breathing accelerates, a growl in the form of a war cry fills the room, and one tiny human storms the other. Before you know it someone is crying.

The worst is when you try breaking up a fight when you’re driving, right moms?

The other day, I heard a loud smack and then tears from my four-year-old. “Noah hit me!”

Noah tucked his head in his hands as I sternly asked, “What is going on?!?!” Zach through broken sobs repeated the offense, “Noah hit me!”

I exploded. Even in that moment, I knew it was not the way to handle the situation, but I’d had enough of their lack of love and respect for one another. In my best mom voice I yelled, “No! No! We are not going to do that. God didn’t give us hands to treat one another like that.”

“But why did God make us to hit one another?” Noah asked.

Before I could get out my explanation, Zach, (I’ll remind you again, he’s four!), stepped up, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!”

The car grew silent. Taken aback, I said, “That’s absolutely the truth. God gave us one another to love, not to hurt one another! As your mom, I’m NOT going to stand for it! It breaks my heart when you hurt one another. But I get it. Sometimes we get frustrated and we don’t know what to do with how we’re feeling, so we lash out. But listen, Noah, God gave you a brother to care for. And, Zach, God gave you a brother to care for. Look at each other. Do it! Look at one another.”

They locked eyes. “You all were given a gift… one another.”

And then Noah asked this: “Who was the first person to ever hit?”

“Two brothers.” Even the answer caught me off guard. The irony of that was almost too much for me.

And then, as if we were in a scripted, cheesy, Christian movie, Noah asked, “What happened to them?”

I’m glad I had cooled down or I might’ve blurted out, “ONE KILLED THE OTHER!” But I have to admit, there was a lump in my throat as the gravity of that sentence played over and over in my head. We arrived at our destination and I was able to turn around and calmly talk to them about the gift of family, the responsibility we have to care and protect one another, and how God has called us to use our hands and our words to build one another up, not tear each other apart.

They were sorry and were soon hugging which turned into another wrestling match. {Yes, right there in the car.}

Two brothers. Cain and Abel. Were these brothers just like my Noah and Zach? Did they laugh and giggle, push and shove, wrestle and joke? Did they laugh at farts and like to be tickled by Daddy-Adam? Did they race one another to the tree or see who could jump higher? The Bible doesn’t give us all the dynamics to their relationship, but they were brothers so I can only imagine how many questions Eve had, being the only female surrounded by testosterone and stinky boys. But unlike me, she didn’t have a mom-gang to vent to via Facebook. She didn’t get those reassuring nods and hugs when they had play dates and shared life over coffee, “You’re not alone. They’re just being boys, Eve.” She had no self-help books on raising boys or how to deal with all the raging hormones. I wonder if she ever tried the get-along-shirt?

The get along shirt via http://danpearce.com

Or did Cain experience time outs or spankings? My thoughts could go on and on…. but the fact is, in the end, one brother was left with the other’s blood on his hands.

As a mom, you don’t get over that, I’m sure.

This mom thing is tough stuff. I want to raise godly men. Men that learn, even as boys, that their hands are not meant to tear down but to build up. For the brothers placed under my care, I want to train them to fight for one another and not with one another. I long to watch two brothers love enough to choose not to raise a fist to the other. I know. I know. They won’t be perfect and sin will raise its ugly head in my children, but I’ll continue to plead for their hearts. Because that’s what it boils down to anyway, right? When we lash out at another it’s because at the root of our disagreement our heart is ugly.

I like what Zachy said, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!” It is a choice how we respond to one another. We can live always apologizing for our outbursts, (and we should confess and make things right when we sin against one another), but God offers us more than that. He offers strength to overcome the temptation to turn into the Hulk, wisdom to know how to use our words to build up, and love that shows grace even when we believe another deserves wrath. God warned Cain that if he didn’t get his anger under control, sin was crouching at the door. {Genesis 4:6-7} God told Cain that he could rule over that sin. And then in the very next sentence Cain lures his brother into the field and takes his life.

That’s really sad.

I bet Cain never thought that his anger would lead him to that field.

None of us do. So today, as you deal with the anger in your own heart or if you are wearing out your voice breaking up the quarrels-gone-wrong between your children, just remember we all make a choice in how we respond. Dads. Moms. Siblings. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Are you building up or tearing down? How’s your heart? What’s going on in there? What selfishness or pride is leading you to turn into the big green monster?

Part of my role as a mom is leading by example, so today, may I let God reveal the sin in my own heart.

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Glad you stopped by today! We pray that you were encouraged.}

Happy Mother’s Day: Why I’m glad you’re NOT perfect

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

This year for Mother’s Day, we didn’t procrastinate—we came up with the most spectacular gift for our momma! We are rarely ALL together, so we seized the moment and made plans for a mother/daughter photo shoot.

Here we are.

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Holly, Heidi, Mom (Diane), Heather, Hannah

We spent the night before making flower crowns, (which is not as easy as one might think), we coordinated outfits and tried on each other’s clothes. And ta-dah!

But you’ll never guess what led up to this picture right here.

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Or this one.

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I’m serious. You’re not going to be able to guess in a hundred million trillion years.

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You would never know moments prior to these pictures we almost got arrested, our cars were towed, and we were crawling on our bellies under a chain link fence to escape fines, charges, and mug shots. (Yes, even our Mom! Ooops! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!) I can almost imagine our mug shots, though. {They would’ve been the cutest mug shots EVER, if there could be such a thing!}

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I told you, you wouldn’t guess, because look at our smiles! And we are REALLY laughing in some of these. We “look” like everything is right in the world. Like we don’t have a past or minutes before we weren’t running for our lives! We look like life is perfect and we are a bunch of flower-lovin’ hippies that just want world peace. Right? (And maybe, just maybe, we’re smiling because we’re not sitting in the back of a cop car in handcuffs.)

Sometimes when you peer into another person’s life via one little snapshot you assume you know their story. But the fact is you don’t know the road they’ve walked or the obstacles they’ve encountered or the mess they’ve made… you may just see a perfect little happy family. But life is untidy and chaotic and we can be careless with one another at times.

Can I take a moment to reflect on family for a minute? It’s a lot like this photo shoot from top to bottom. When we come together there’s opportunity for drama, adventure, trouble, poor choices, forgiveness, grace, laughter, tears… raw life. I can attest I’ve been schooled by all of these lovely ladies at one time or another, in a manner that has led to my growth. They have forgiven me and I’ve forgiven them. (Except for that time Holly called me a klutz or when Heidi cut my hair too short. I’m almost ready to forgive… almost.) But to really love one another we need Jesus at the center. And that’s when you get moments like this:

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A bond. It’s quite special, really. It’s called unconditional love. A love that grows as the clock ticks and tocks.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

In this picture I see it. An awkward, messy, highly hormonal group of girls knowing one another and being known.

Here’s my thoughts on Mothers Day. I’m a fan. Not just because I’m a mom or I have a mom, or that I have the most amazing mother-in-law {Loretta} and mother-in-law {Penny} or because of my “other” mother {Glenda} that keeps me in line. No doubt, these are all extraordinary reasons, but there’s more to it. I think about the times I’ve failed as a mom or the times I’ve been frustrated that MY mom wasn’t perfect. Because of these imperfections I always come running back to grace. I’ve plunged headlong into it’s waters that have no shore. I’ve let His perfection cover my imperfections and I’ve swam in the deep. I’ve needed grace and I’ve extended it. I’ve learned as much by my mother’s shortcomings as I have in the moments she gets it right. In our weaknesses, and downright ugly moments even within the walls of our homes, we hear a whisper, “There’s more.”

This is a weird Mother’s Day blog, maybe, but what I’m getting at isn’t how frustrated I am that these women in my life aren’t perfect, or that I’m not perfect, it is in these shortcomings that I’m forever face to face with the truth that we have a GREAT NEED! There’s MORE to this life than living in the vicious cycle of trying in our own strength and failing over and over and over again. To be in family and to get it “wrong,” is an opportunity for grace to abound—for the gospel to actually play a role in the healing, restoration, and the bringing about of beauty. I’m not excusing our wrongs, I’m just saying, we’re going to hurt one another. But thankfully, if we let Him, He matures us and makes us more like Himself! “I’m finally growing up, Mom!” The ultimate Forgiver gives us this gift of pardon, simply to ask us to wrap it up and give it away to others. When you walk hand in hand with another you are going to be aware of their need for Jesus. {And boy, do my sisters need Jesus! *wink*} So when I look at these pictures and see the smiles on our faces and our flower crowns and our pretty dresses, I also see us crawling under the fence while getting my lace skirt stuck on the barbwire—I see the rest of the story. I see our mug shots in my mind—a picture of what we deserved. I see the entire journey that led us to this money shot. And we smile because we live and receive and give grace.

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When we look at our family, and we see it’s flaws and shortcomings and if we’re honest all we see is a legacy of let-downs, we can make a choice to stop casting stones and to start using those stones to build. What if we bowed low and viewed each stone as an offering to our God? Maybe you’ve even got your rocks lined up, ready to hurl every last one of them. They deserve it, I’m sure! But what if you took your stones and started to build? Loving family can be messy and draining as well as healing, freeing, and legacy building. But stone by stone we build. Not on the sand that shifts and cannot withstand the waves when they come. But we build our home on the rock… THE ROCK.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

We want to build. Our Mom is a builder. {She’s the one in the middle. You might’ve thought she was one of the sisters.} And she’s raising us to be builders—her baby girls now have babies of their own to invite into the legacy building. I’m not wasting my time on sand, my foundation is on the Rock. And the cool thing is we’re building a safe place where family is welcome, flaws and all. So thanks, Mom, for not being perfect.

P.S. We really, really didn’t mean to trespass.

P.P.S. All these lovely photos were taken by http://www.cassieloreephotography.com

New Year’s Resolutions: Being okay with not knowing where you’re going

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

We’re a week into the new year.

On December 31st, I asked my husband if we should make any New Year’s resolutions. He thinks they’re dumb. I think they’re kinda fun, but then again I’m a little bit on the competitive side. So mine are really contrived from a game-mentality. When I make a resolution I go through the entire year trying not to lose against myself. On January 1, I glare at myself in the mirror. Threatening myself, “It’s on like Donkey Kong!” Now, the hubs, he’s not competitive by nature. In high school he decided he wasn’t going to play basketball anymore because he just wasn’t “into it,” he had other scholastic aspirations. But what’s one of the first things I hear when someone meets him? “Dude, I bet you played some serious ball in school!” Why? Because he’s tall. He’s so tall when he gets frustrated at me he says, “Don’t make me come down there!” {I’m kidding. I’m kidding. He only says that to the kids.}

So Dallas may not be competitive, but he’s a planner and he’s constant. {He’s also constantly planning, but that’s for another blog.} Like, it’s silly to ask if he’s going to work out or read his Bible or mess around on his guitar or eat oatmeal or give me a hug and kiss when he walks in the house. Or will he call me right when I pour the milk in my cereal? I know the answer to these questions. Of course! He’s constant. He’s my steady-teddy. So, in his mind there’s no need for silly “new year’s resolutions!” If he sees a reason to add something, he adds it. If something needs to be subtracted… done… did it yesterday. “Lasterday” as our four-year-old says.

But for me—change—it takes me a minute. I don’t want to make a promise and not keep it. {Been there, done that.} I weigh the decision—the pros and cons. I have even been known to grieve what I know will be in my best interest. {Like the time I gave up Dr. Pepper. I still meet you in my dreams.} And some “resolutions” I know I’m about to make are not just for a year, but for life. Internally there’s a bit of a fight. I’ve been known to get a little grumpy with those around me when I’m making a change. Change always requires something from us. Time. Learning new habits.  Abandoning “ease” to take on a season of planning and structuring for the new. Giving up or giving in or doing away with or adding onto, it all takes work to arrive at a new normal. Sacrifice.

So, my man didn’t engage my “New Year’s Resolution” talk, {I was thinking about giving up almonds, I don’t like them much anyway}, but he came to me with a New Year’s Evaluation List. It was intense. It covered our relationship with God, with one another, with our children, our roles, our jobs, our dreams, our goals, vacation plans, expectations, and much more, because like I said he’s a planner and he’s constant. {Yet another reason I think he’s constantly awesome!} Dallas led us in a time of reflection and discussion and prayerful evaluation as we embark toward what God has for us in 2014. We’re still discussing. The self-evaluation is still happening. But as two very different people, we must come together as one so we can support and encourage one another when distractions and other “good” things tempt to steal from what we know to be our calling.

I’ll spare you all the things that are swirling around in my noodles and give you the “peak” in all my self-evaluation for 2014.
{peak = the thing that is beyond me but that is luring me higher.}

There are some specific questions I’m asking the Lord, regarding my time and what I spend my energy on. I want to be in-line with His will for my life. Desperate for it, really. And I know myself; I can get a bit distracted at times. But this question seems to have become what lingers at the top of this year’s mountain. It’s what’s haunting me and drawing me all at the same time:

Will you go without knowing?

Because I’ve been asking God a lot of questions lately.
“What are You going to do with this?”
“If I do this, how’s it going to end up?”
“What are You going to do with that dream?”
“Am I waaaay off base spending my time on this?”

Will I go without knowing how things will turn out?

Can I? Will I?

God does not tell you what He’s going to do. It’s taken me a long time to get this. I still catch myself asking for the outcome and begging Him to reveal details. But He answers my questions in a very unexpected fashion: He reveals Himself. He shows me WHO He is and surprisingly, with that, my heart is settled and my faith increased as I go out in confidence. Laying down my expectations and my agenda, this is my daily battle.  But as I understand more of the character of God, I need not wonder if I’m out here alone. I’m not. I don’t have to fret about the details. I just need Him. I place my ear upon His heart and I listen. I open His Word and I breathe Him in. I hold fast to His still small voice that’s ever with me and I obey. I need to be still and know that He is indeed—GOD. I need to trust when He says, “Hang a left,” that the best way is left. I need not fight to turn right.

When I wake each morning, will I go out? I can re-evaluate. I can make a plan. {And my tall hubby is more than happy to help me make one.} Again, there’s nothing wrong with making a plan. But will I be dependent upon Him, come what may?  Will I be flexible, scrapping my plan for His? Will I go and do and be without knowing how this will all play out?

I’m trekking up the mountain, whispering my vow: I will.

I’m Yours.

I’ll go.

I trust You.

I know You are good.

You alone satisfy my soul.

I don’t need to know the how’s or the why’s or the when’s, I just need to, with each step up the mountain, anchor my hope in You. For You, my Lord, will not disappoint.

He alone knows what 2014 holds for me and I’m okay with not knowing… because I know HIM. I will go.

 

“When I grow up I want to be…”

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you “grew” up?

Me? “Dad, I want to be a country-western singer just like Crystal Gayle! And I want to be a body-builder that works part-time at Piccadilly.” (Loooong hair, bulging biceps, and mashed potatoes! What little girl doesn’t dream those kind of dreams?!)

Here’s what I would have looked like if my dreams would’ve become reality!

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Scary!

I’m so glad that God knows best. His dreams for us are so MUCH BETTER than what we dare hope for. Did you know that God is a good writer? Yep, He writes the best stories!

He’s written me into His Story. And by His extravagant grace, I’m still learning and growing and changing.

Today, my story continues…

I’ve been wife.
I’ve been cleaner-upper.
I’ve been school lunch preparer.
I’ve been soccer mom.
I’ve been runner.
I’ve been nurse.
I’ve been cook.
I’ve been referee.
I’ve been writer.
I’ve been friend.
I’ve been not-so-good friend.
I’ve been procrastinator.
I’ve been the tickle monster.
I’ve been a light.
I’ve been a stumbling block.
I’ve been a sister.
I’ve been a servant.

And that’s just today.

We wear many different hats. Some we gladly wear, others we take off as quick as we can.

But over the last 13 years I’ve stepped into a couple roles that I NEVER dared to dream. I’ve come to realize that they were dreams that were dreamed for me, before the beginning of time… dreams too wild, too beautiful. Chapters written before my parents first held me in their arms and said, “She should be called Bubba.”

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

God has directed my steps and I’ve strived to follow Him as He whispers to my heart where to go next.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa. 30:21 ESV)

It’s not been easy. I’ve said “yes” reluctantly. I’ve said “yes” when I wanted to say “no!” I’ve been scared. I’ve trembled. I’ve questioned whether or not I heard Him right. I’ve begged Him for different dreams! But if you’re not (at least a little) scared, you’re not following hard after Him. Because He calls us to do things that are BEYOND us! To accomplish in us and through us, things that are not in our ability to accomplish. Works that can only be traced back to someone BIG ENOUGH to pull them off.

Don’t hear me wrong. It’s not that I think I’ve “arrived” by the world’s standards, but I have arrived in this perfect storm of where my insufficiencies pair with His divine Story to make Himself known by using a simple, willing jar of clay.

A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at a University to college students, professors, and their local community about how I came to write Dancing On My Ashes. As the kind, complimentary emcee of the evening’s event announced me as an author and speaker, I started laughing. Yes, out loud. And I was looking around like an idiot wondering who else was laughing with me. But no one was. I quickly composed myself, but in all honesty, I have those moments ALL THE TIME! The reason: I never dreamed of this.

I never constructed a dream board.
I didn’t meditate my way here.
The fact is God dreamed this for me. He accomplished this. I cannot boast or brag. I just said yes and have been obedient.

I understand my role in this process. I am nothing without Him. But He equips me. He gives me the knowledge, the ability, and this fire in my bones to stand and live this thing out. I can now look back and see the hand of God training me and leading me toward these things.

I don’t know what the rest of my life looks like—but He does. And that’s good enough for me. He has placed vision upon my heart. New visions. Am I scared? Yes! But that healthy fear makes me press into Him all the more. My faith has grown over the years and my yeses come more easily and quickly. He will continue to guide me. I’m confident of that.

A Word for the dreamer:
• God will never give you a dream that contradicts His Word.
• If you sense He’s leading you to do something and you keep saying “no” to Him, because you’re just plain scurred: You are missing out! AND others are missing out! He doesn’t have to use you… He wants to! Take a step of faith. Will you trust Him?
• Stop living in self-preservation mode. Stop holding too tightly to what you are dreaming for your life?
• Be encouraged. Be brave. His way is so much grander than yours.

“Be Strong and courageous.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)

1. Is there something you feel like He’s leading you to do?
2. If you sense this is from God, what are you going to do about it?

Thanksgiving: One Noodle at a Time

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

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Since Hobby Lobby already has their Christmas decor out, I can write about Thanksgiving, right?

I can get swept away in to-do lists with calendar alerts dictating my day. Frustrations rise up when I have to tie another shoelace or wipe another bottom. I can also get grumpy when I have to realign the pillows on my couch… one more time! Didn’t they see that I JUST straightened them? Or when my husband ends up having another meeting, I can inwardly throw a little grownup pity party! Seriously, are we going to have some family time or not? When all those frustrations, or {let’s get honest} moments that don’t revolve around me, are really opportunities to release “control” over my day and have a moment of thanksgiving…that my husband has a job, or that I have bottoms to wipe, or pretty pillows for my couch.

Or maybe it’s BIGGER than that: a tire blows, I find out someone I care about is in the hospital…again, a friend’s marriage is falling apart, there’s a school shooting, or a family member’s addictions are leading them to pull away. When things are not in our control, or simply don’t go as planned—BIG or small—I’m quick to get frustrated and short. Hello, didn’t everyone get the memo of how this day should roll?

But lately the Lord has been quickening my heart to pause and give thanks. I’m practicing the art of gratitude. I’m giving thanks when things don’t go my way. I’m trusting He’s in the details of my life and having a peaceful knowledge that He is leading me to holiness not a life of ease… and being okay with that.

So, to celebrate Thanksgiving in my heart today, I’m giving thanks for the times that have shaped me, that are shaping me, and that will shape me.

“In everything GIVE THANKS; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

{1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Giving thanks should be like eating spaghetti… one noodle at a time. So, here’s a list—not comprehensive—but today’s noodles:

1. I’m thankful that my dad told me that I was pretty. When I was a teenager, he wrote me a letter {that I still have today} that spoke more about the importance of inner pretty than outer pretty. I might have acted like I wasn’t really listening… but I was.

2. I’m thankful that God’s mercies are indeed “new” EVERY morning!

3. I’m thankful that in fifth grade, when I decided I was going to start cussing, a couple friends told me to stop it. They said I couldn’t cuss right. Instead of learning how to do it right, I decided to speak like a lady rather than a sailor.

4. Even though I do have short, fat toes; I’m thankful that I have ten toes. {I’m wearing flip-flops today… trying to be thankful.}

5. I’m thankful for a husband that tells me when I’m not being nice. This might seem like a weird one, but this sharpening means that he loves me—that he cares about my heart more than my ego. He was given to me to make me more like Jesus.

6. I’m thankful for my two boys that keep me dancing, make believing, and praying! I love learning more about sacrifice and grace by these two characters.

7. I’m thankful for the still small voice that’s within me that guides me, directs me, and points me to the path of freedom. God’s own Spirit inside little old me! What power and fullness resides within my beating chest! Who am I that I should carry around such beauty and perfection?

8. I’m thankful for friends that I can be vulnerable with. I have friends that know me and still love me, friends that aren’t “yes-women” but are God-fearing, God-loving ladies. Oh, and I love a good friend-hug!

9. I’m thankful for taste buds. Working on a banana with Nutella right now, get you some! Yuuuummmmm.

10. I’m thankful for black… its slimming. {#9 and #10 go together}

11. I’m thankful that in seventh grade Jeremy broke up with me because I told him I couldn’t make-out with him. Oh, yeah… and for the break-up with Chris over not being able to go to dances. Oh… and when I got the big dump-dump-a-roo from Brad, Brian, Jay, and Steven. Tears were shed, but God even protects us from ourselves.

12. I’m thankful that my sister Holly told on me when I started smoking in college. The fear of my dad’s wrath was enough to put out my cigs fast!

13. I’m thankful for music that leads me to see beyond this world and realigns my heart as I meditate on what’s true.

14. I’m thankful for mascara.

15. I’m thankful for the storms that have come in my life. When I think about His nearness during my darkest hours, my heart spills over with gratitude. I have never been alone. NEVER. Even when He allowed storms to come, in His perfect way, He stilled the storm in me. Plus, I have a new affection for rainbows—they are a constant reminder that God’s promises remain.

16. I’m thankful that I am not trapped in a pit of bitterness, fear, or anger anymore: from hole to whole. God rescues those that call on His Name!

17. I’m thankful that people can change. I can always grow, change, and be more of who I was created to be.

18. I’m thankful that He’s made me a dreamer. At times it feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, without a lifeline, but trusting Him is getting easier and easier as I’m witnessing His equipping the called. I’m joyfully dreaming God-sized dreams.

19. I’m thankful for rollie pollies. Enough said.

20. I’m thankful for really good laughs. The kind that make tears stream down your face. I had one of those the other night watching a new hire at Sonic, delivering food on skates. He was clinging to the side of the building as he maneuvered from car to car. At one point he rolled into the side of a car. It was dinner and a show, people! Tears were shed over the new kid. Now I feel bad… praying for his bruises and skillz!

21. Speaking of laughter, I’m thankful for Zach’s laugh when he watches “crazy cat” youtube videos.

22. This one could actually be my list, just this one. If I would let this take root in my heart every morning, there would really be no need for any other number: I’m thankful that I was loved to death. Jesus and the cross is the ultimate act of love. A love that daily motivates and changes me from the inside out.

23. I’m thankful for pimples… they keep you humble. {Okay, I struggled writing this one.}

What are you thankful for? Join me in practicing Thanksgiving today and every day as a way of fighting the rhythms of forgetfulness and annoyed duty. You have no idea what your day will bring, but thanking God for His hand that is ever present in your life will be fuel to your faith. As the sun breaks through to dawn, may His presence pierce our darkness. His light illuminates and fills.

So, who doesn’t like a full belly and a full heart? Are you ready to devour a giant plate of spaghetti? There’s no need to hurry or worry about etiquette. Fill up your plate. Pick out a noodle and enjoy it. Slurp away. Feast, my friends. A heart of gratitude will leave you full.

{Here’s Noah showing you how to eat spaghetti!}

I am NEEDY

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by Holly Ann

Have you ever been pegged as “high-maintenance” or “needy”? When I think of high-maintenance, I get a picture in my head of a modern day Fran Drescher from the 90’s sitcom The Nanny. (Have you got her laugh in your head, yet? You’re welcome!) If Fran is “high” on the maintenance-meter, I’m more of a medium-maintenance kinda gal. But am I needy? Certainly not. I’m a strong, independent woman… or so I once thought.

A couple of weeks ago, Aaron and I were relaxing in the living room after a long day and Ava walked in and jumped into Aaron’s lap, “I haven’t had my hug today.” Aaron pulled her in for a sweet hug and released her.  She gave him a harsh face and said, “Is that it?!” Aaron glanced over at me and said, “Well, she comes by that honestly!”

You see, I have developed a little reputation with my husband when it comes to hugs and goodbyes.  Back in June, Aaron took a quick trip where he would be gone for several days. The sole purpose of this particular getaway was for some uninterrupted time with God. As we were saying our goodbyes, he gave me a kiss and hug with some quick pats to the back. I now would like to pause for dramatic effect and emphasize: pats to the back. This is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to a hug shared between a husband and wife. A good pat on the back during a hug is what “bro’s” do. I collected myself in this moment and acted as if I were not hurt and waved goodbye.

A few minutes later, an alien force took over my body and through tears; I began to text Aaron to communicate how I was feeling. Three words seemed to sum it up: “Your goodbyes suck.” (Ok, not my finest moment and in shame, I share this with you.) He responds with, “Are you serious?!”

I would love to report that I bounced back right away and realized the error of my ways, but that’s just not the case. I was an emotional wreck. I realized I was way out of line, but I couldn’t understand why this particular goodbye affected me so strongly. Thus began some SERIOUS soul searching and MAJOR apologies. What is wrong with me??? Why am I so NEEDY? Why was this goodbye not good enough?

After a couple of days of having a good old fashion pity party, God began to open my eyes to an area in my life that needed correction. I started to retrace many previous goodbyes between Aaron and I. There was a pattern of meltdowns almost every time he would leave for consecutive days. But why?!

Almost 13 years ago, Scott Nesbitt (my first husband) walked out our front door with a kiss and quick goodbye. He was scheduled to return home in time for dinner, but I never got to see him walk back into our house. I never got to see him kiss our sweet daughter again. He was killed in a drowning accident about an hour after he left me.

I now realize that I have a deep seeded fear anytime Aaron leaves for a trip. What if I never get to see him again?

Here are the facts:  I AM NEEDY.

But God, in His great mercy, reminds me that it’s OK to be needy, but I’m not being “needy” about the right things.

1.     I Need HIM!

What if I never realized my need for Christ? What if I thought that doing this life alone in my own strength was enough? I fail every day. My security can’t be in my husband, my church, my job, or my family, but in Christ alone. When I am needy, His eye is on me – looking out for me.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. – Psalm 113:7

But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay. – Psalm 40:17

2.      We Need EACH OTHER!

My sweet sisters, I need you!  My heart breaks just like yours. I make mistakes on a daily basis. There are times when I find myself to be incredibly selfish, fearful, judgmental, insecure, etc. I need you and you need me! There’s something so special in friendships where you can totally be yourself – friends that you can laugh with, cry with, and unravel with. But ultimately, I need friends in my life that call sin what it is and point me to Christ and His abounding grace. TOGETHER we are something special.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you! – I Corinthians 12:21

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. – I Corinthians 12:26, 27

3.      We Need to PERSEVERE!

When we get our eyes off of our Jesus—our ONLY genuine, bonafide NEED—we shrink, throw fits, and at times attack those we love because we fear our lack of control. But setting our hearts on the One and Only that fills us up and meets our neediness, then, and only then, we can persevere through anything! A determined living that sets our hearts at peace, through anything big or small.

When the kids have destroyed your house over summer break and your dog continues to get into your bathroom trash…PERSEVERE!

When you’re having a bad hair day and the wrinkles on your face are getting more pronounced…PERSEVERE!

When your husband forgets how much you loathe “bro” hugs… PERSEVERE!

When you feel forgotten, alone, and afraid…PERSEVERE!

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. – Hebrews 10:36

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Friends, don’t think for a moment that we can make it without the Lord. Does that sound cliché? Well, this “cliché” is oh soo true! We NEED Him every hour of every day. We don’t need the perfect hugs from our spouse, or even the promise that they’ll always return home to us, we NEED HIM! In Scripture it says,

Few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be take away from her. – Luke 10:42

Mary chose to be in the presence of Jesus.  She realized her need for Him was greater than any other thing. As I write this today, God Himself is reminding my heart that I need Him. Let’s choose His presence. If you have another moment or two, listen to this song and make this your heart’s cry today.

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WW7K67NX

Fear? Goodness, no! {part 1: POWER}

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by Heather Spring

There’s a new book that’s been an instant favorite around this joint:

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes

It’s main theme is having confidence throughout the day, come what may. A repetitive line in it goes like this: “Does Pete worry? Goodness, no!”

I’ve been thinking about what life would feel like FREE from worry, fear, anxiety, and insecurity. God’s doing a new thing in me. I want it said of me: “Does Heather worry? Goodness, no!” Do I believe that can be a reality? Yes, yes, I do. More and more every day. But… I do know what it feels like to be in the grip of fear, only to end up a coward. I’ve also drank the waste-your-days-in-worry-kool-aid, unfortunately I awoke faced with unchanged circumstances that tempted me to fill up my glass with more of the same. My fears have kept me from really loving people, trusting others, and ultimately trusting God.

Do you know how many times the Bible says: “Fear Not”?

It is said that there are 366 “Fear not’s” in the Bible—one for every day of the year, including Leap Year! God doesn’t want us to go a single day without hearing His word of comfort: “Fear not!”

I think there are a few reasons God has to repeat Himself when it comes to the subject of fear:

1. We are a fearful, anxious people (a.k.a. a bunch of scaredy cats). If you are sitting there all proud, murmuring to yourself, “I’m not anxious. I’m not scared of anything!” Then you’re worse off than the rest of us, for you are even too scared to admit your “scaredness” to yourself. There… I said it, you’re welcome. We all have heard horrific stories of what others have gone through that have left us speechless. The fact is, we fear losing what we love. We love people. We have dreams we’re fond of. We desire comfort and a life of ease, and there are numerous, possible scenarios that threaten these things we call precious.

2. We are not home. It’s like we know our address but somehow we can’t escape the reality that we’ve been left bunking with our crazy uncle who’s hell-bent on not following the rules and indifferent to the fact his snuggly, cuddly blanky is filthy and the pacifier he’s joyfully sucking on is actually a grenade. He blissfully drifts off to la-la-land to escape this hopeless chaos. Our “now” is messed up, I don’t have to tell you that. This world is broken and it isn’t our home.

3. There are just some things that we have to be told over and over and over again. Like “don’t chew with your mouth open,” or “wash your hands after you use the restroom,” or “please, don’t pass gas at the dinner table.” (I live with boys, enough said.) “Don’t fear” falls into God’s category of musts in repetitive instruction.

Here are a few examples of this repetition of care and love for us:

Are you fearful about your future?
“Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you” (Gen. 26:24)

Moms & dads, are you fearful about providing for your family?
“So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen. 50:21)

College students, teens, men, and women:
Are you fearful of what can happen if you go against the crowd?
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord,” (Exodus 14:13)

Are you anxious about what He’s called you to?
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

Christ followers, we have one voice saying: “Don’t fear, be SECURE & CONFIDENT in the One that lives IN you!” And then we have this other voice that is saying quite the opposite, don’t we?  “The accuser of the brethren” wants to cause you to doubt, waver, question, and live trapped in insecurity. He delights when you are uncertain of who you are and what you are capable of!

As a little girl, my dad taught me 2 Timothy 1:7 in song form. I bet you want to hear it don’t you?

Here it is…

Let me paraphrase this verse in 2 Timothy: “This spirit of fear that you have, yeah, that’s not of Him… but let me tell you WHAT IS FROM HIM: Three ah-mazing gifts…

POWER, LOVE, AND A SOUND MIND.

I’m going to break this verse down in three separate blog posts.
In {part 1}, I want to spend time on this first gift that we’ve been given that combats fear: POWER. And {part 2} I’ll expand on LOVE. And finally {part 3}: A SOUND MIND + a chance to enter a giveaway. Whoop whoop!

So the first gift: POWER

The Greek translation is “Dunamis” (doo’-nahm-is): strength power, ability
It comes from the word Dynamite! I LOVE THIS!

I truly believe, we don’t need more of Him—we need less of us! When you invite Christ in, He’s not just a little in, He’s ALL IN! And this ALL includes a power that can only be associated with dynamite! Boom!

 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”(Acts 1:8)

We have received this POWER, supernatural, out of this world, power—the same power that raised Christ from the dead—and He LIVES IN US! (Romans 8:11). How in is He? He’s ALL IN? And how secure can we be? Completely Secure! Why? Because we can muster up this power? Goodness, no! Because, we’ve got HIS power pulsing through our veins, making us courageous, fueling our fire, engaging a supernatural strength that has everything to do with His IN-ness! (I’m typing so fast I’m making up words now!)

“His divine POWER has given us everything we need for a godly life…” (2 Peter 1:3)

What do we have to fear? Who can come against us?

Nobody.

No one.

Not a single soul.

Nothing in this world or out of this world!

Does that not make you feel a little bit stronger? A little more confident? Does it make you want to do courageous things for the glory of God? It should!

And here we are missing out, living locked up and shaken up—fearful in our todays and doubting He’ll be with us in our tomorrows.

All the while, He most adamantly says, “I’M ALL IN! Why are you insecure? Why are you fearful? MY SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU!”

So when I’m lacking the power and living in fear, plagued by insecurities, worrying my life away, living out of self-preservation – it is my choice!

Do you need to fear? Goodness, no!

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

**{part 2: LOVE} will be posted on Monday (5/13).
{part 3: A SOUND MIND} will be posted on Thursday (5/16).
So, if you haven’t subscribed this would be a great time to do so! You’ll receive the new posts in your little virtual mailbox. Ok? There’s my plug. You totally don’t want to miss out on the giveaway! Plus, there’s so much more in this Scripture to discuss!

Hiding

by Heather Spring

After Zachariah wakes from his afternoon nap there are a series of events that follow.

The very first thing: “I hungry, Mom!” SNACK TIME!

The next: “Let’s play cars!” CAR TIME!

The other day, after bringing him his snack I left the room to change over some laundry. A few minutes later I called out to him, “Are you done, Zach? You ready to go play with your cars?”

There was no response. So I walked into the living room and saw him hunched down behind the arm of the couch. “Wacky Zachy Dean, come on, let’s go play with your cars upstairs!” Silence. “You know you want to!” I said playfully. His response, “I’m hiding, Mom.”

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“Hiding? Why? You want me to find you?”

“No.”

“Buddy, I want to play with you.” It brought back memories of when we were potty training. Both my boys would always “hide” in hopes to evade the dreaded number two. So, I thought, just in case, I’d ask, “Do you need to go poopie?”

“Nope. I’m just hiding.”

I let it go a few minutes more before I began my next tactic… the lure. “Zach,” I called out to him at the top of the stairs, “I’m upstairs looking at your cars. Do you want to join me? Come see some of the cars I’ve got lined up here.”  Surely, that will seal the deal.

“I’m hiding.”

Hmmm… If that didn’t get him running over himself to get upstairs, there was obviously something HE was hiding.

I decided to investigate a little more thoroughly. “Hiding, huh? Well, I think I can find you.” I could see the top of his brown-hair poking out from around the arm of the couch. As I knelt down next to him, “You weren’t hiding very well…” And then as I took in my next breath, my investigation was complete. I could “smell” why he was hiding. “Zachy?” I patted him on the bottom, “You poopied in your pants!?” My fully-potty-trained-3-year-old had momentarily forgotten the sequence of events that are supposed to happen when one needs to “go.”

Rushing him to the bathroom, he continued to deny the evidence.

Zach had made a mistake… you could say, he went “toot” far. And his fear of Mom’s wrath led him into hiding and denial. (I’m that scary, people!)

Reminds me of a conversation I’ve read many many times.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3: 8-10)

Adam and Eve had a lot in common with my Zachariah. Because of fear they went into hiding. Playing with matchbox cars wasn’t on the top of their list, but strolling and conversing with their Creator God was. And just like Zach, these two had a nugget in their drawers—they had eaten from the only tree in the Garden that was off-limits.

God: “Where are you two?”

A & E: “We’re hiding.”

God: “Well, that’s silly. It’s a beautiful day for a stroll, don’t you think? Let’s walk and talk.”

A & E: “We’re hiding.”

Adam and Eve’s shame over the sin they had committed kept them in hiding. They weren’t very good at hiding either. He could probably see their little heads ducking behind the trees as they tried to stand as still as they could. Our hiding keeps us from dealing head on with the issue we’ve made between us. No matter what has caused us to go into hiding, nothing is too “bad” that we need to stay tucked behind trees or a couch.

So here’s the gist of my lesson learned… are you ready? Don’t let the poop get in between you and God.

God wants to show us that if we present ourselves to Him, our mess and all, that our relationship can be immediately restored as we confess and as He reminds us of His tree. He says, “If you are looking to hide, I have a great spot. You can hide behind my tree… the cross.” If we have put our faith in Him we are IN Him… we are covered by what happened on His tree. So if you’re going to hide, hide there and only there, for the cross of Christ frees us to enjoy that same relationship that Adam and Eve began in the Garden.

So… come out, come out, wherever you are! May we not miss moments with Him due to our shame, guilt, pride, and sin. He’s bigger than all that stuff.

Zach learned that although I wasn’t happy that it happened, (and, yes, he gets that I don’t want him filling his britches anytime he wants), ultimately, I love him and nothing he does is worth breaking our relationship. Nothing. There’s moments to be had together, adventures to share, cars to be driven. I am called to train him up into a successful human being. Part of that training requires moments where discipline is a healthy part of our relationship. But even then love is at the heart of my no’s, do’s, don’t do’s, tearful talks, and consequences. I long for him to understand, even in those moments, that he doesn’t have to let mistakes rob us of sweet time together. He should never let the poop come between us.

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