Unexpected Provision…

UnexpectedProvisions...

On Saturday, I made my weekly grocery run with the kids. Unfortunately, my grocery run typically includes at least 3 different stores which takes its toll on an adult, let alone a 3 year old and a 10 month old. That being said, they really are troopers and we made it to our final store, Ingles, without too many incidents.

My oldest had been walking with me around the store instead of riding in a cart. And, like any other 3 year old, he isn’t very aware of his surroundings, so he was constantly walking in front of buggies and other shoppers. He walked in front of a woman I recognized, but I didn’t know if she remembered me, so we kept moving. When I finally had all the items I needed, we headed for the checkout lines.

I usually would do self-checkout because waiting in a line is difficult with kids, but I was redeeming a WIC voucher. These are vouchers for specific foods offered to Woman, Infants, and Children below a certain income line. If you are pregnant, nursing, (up to a year), have an infant or child under 5, you could qualify (check here for more information). So, I needed to use a regular line.

The same lady I recognized from earlier comes and stands behind us in line. She does recognize me now and we chit-chat about my kids and her new flower business as the cashier takes care of my items. (We follow one another on Instagram.) She tells me that she has just picked up her flower bouquets that didn’t sell from a local produce stand. She says, “If it would be worth your time, if you wait for me to check-out, I’ll give you some flowers to take home.”

I, personally, feel that flowers are ALWAYS worth it. As in, I would have flowers on my dining table 365 days a year. I tell her, “Absolutely! That would be great!” We share where we parked. She told me I could go ahead and start loading my kiddos up, and that she would bring the flowers to my van. She did. They were beautiful…not because they were perfect, but because they were a blessing.

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You see, earlier in our grocery shopping trip, we had been at Trader Joe’s. There is a wonderful assortment of blooms there for a decent price. I stood in front of the flowers and looked at the prices. I just wasn’t sure if there was space in the budget for them. I moved on without any. Then, at Ingles, I ran into this sweet woman.

What I didn’t think I could afford, God chose to provide. Not because I needed it, but because my heart desired it. God doesn’t have to give us the desires of our heart, but sometimes He chooses to! That is the amazing, gracious, benevolent side of the God of the Universe. The Provider. We see it in Scripture as well.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Luke 12:22-31

Here we see Jesus telling his followers that just as God cares for and provides for the birds in the air and the flowers in the field, how much more does He care for His beloved children! I actually have a ring with the phrase ‘consider the lilies’ on it to help me remember this truth. (I ordered this ring here from cinnamonsticks on Etsy.)

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So if God cares enough to provide me flowers, just when my heart wanted them, how much more will He provide me with food to feed my family, clothes to cover them, and supplies to care for them.

Let this bring joy and hope to you today!

XOXO,

Elise

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The Worries of Motherhood

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As mothers, we fall into the trap of worry all too often. There are so many balls to keep in the air as moms-so many hats to wear. As I was reading in Luke this week, I ran across the account of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
-Luke 2:41-51

As the story unfolds, we see Mary and Joseph searching high and low to find their son, just like any parents would in this situation. Mary reveals that she and Joseph had been “searching in great distress.” Wouldn’t you have been? I know that if I left my middle school boy in a different city and drove a day away from it, then had to drive a day back, I would be a bundle of nerves and worry. That’s a lot of time to come up with ‘What ifs’ and worst case scenarios.  The only difference is that Mary KNEW Jesus was the Son of God. So wouldn’t she have KNOWN that God would protect Him…that He would be safe? Why doesn’t she lean on God as she goes about this search for the Son God entrusted to her? But of course, Mary is just like every other mother on the planet-broken and human. Isn’t that freeing? The mother of Jesus struggled with worry and fear…and she was raising GOD! If we want to compare ourselves here, we only find an ally in our struggles as a mom.

It seems as though Mary is caught up in everyday life as a mother. I know I get caught up in the laundry, tantrums, back-talk, and potty-training. Maybe she has been consumed in this moment with her responsibilities instead of seeing herself as a partner with God to bring up Jesus. This is something I want to grasp, but don’t in the hard moments of the day. When my son tests my patience, I can ask God for help, but usually I don’t. When my children are sick, I can ask God for healing and endurance, but sometimes I forget. When my kids are disrespectful and mean, I can ask God for grace upon grace, but often I yell and back-talk, too. These tiny humans are made in God’s image for His purposes-they are HIS! I tend to put all the pressure of raising up godly boys on myself, which ultimately takes away from God’s divine work and presence. He wants to come along side us as parents.

Instead of trying to do this alone, I want to rest in the beautiful truth that Jesus has redeemed my soul, as well as my parenting! Praise God!

Elise

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels
https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-sky-beach-love-69104/

An Adventurous Spirit

On Saturday, I went on a hike at Yellow Branch Falls with my two young boys and some families from our Community Group. It was a beautiful day. As we hiked, it was a blessing to see community at work in a tangible way. I was carrying my 6 month old in my Ergo Baby carrier, which limited what I could do for my 3 year old. Since my husband had to work, the other members in the group came along side my son to help him-adventuring at the falls with him, carrying him on the way back, and holding his hand. I am beyond thankful for this group of people I get the pleasure of doing life with during this season.

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When we got to the waterfall, I watched my son climbing on the rocks at the bottom, going further and further out all on his own. I  suddenly saw the adventurous spirit of God in my little boy. Sometimes I find my son’s need to explore frustrating, something slowing us down. But in that moment, it became something sacred, holy.

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In Genesis 12, we see God calling Abram away to go on an adventure with Him.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…

Genesis 12:1-4a

Personally, I am amazed at Abram’s willingness to bounce off into the unknown, leaving the life he knew behind. God put the spirit of adventure in man and woman, but sometimes we allow fear, worry, and perception squelch it.

My son, on the other hand, is almost always up for an adventure, be that roaming outside, or trying something new. This is part of God! We can see it when God asks us to do go on a new adventure with Him-a new job, a new place to live, a new friendship. What my son looks like as he explores on the rocks must be akin to what God looks like in heaven. Excited to be leading us, pushing us further out to try something new, to do something different…to follow him into the wild beautiful unknown.

What adventure has God been calling you to? What has been stopping you from running along behind Him?

Elise

 

 

The Love of a Parent

My two boys tested positive for flu B this week. UGH…will this winter of sickness EVER be over! As the sickness takes its course, I end up with two very tired, fussy boys by dinner time…and there just isn’t enough of me to go around. So I have to choose who to comfort, who to care for first. I hate that about having two kids. It seems so unfair to them. But I know one day they will love having a playmate, a constant friend, and a brother. For now, during this needy time of their life, they simply don’t understand why I am not taking care of them all the time.

Frustrated by the situation I am in every night, I reflected on God as a parent. God had one Son, but then decided to expand His family to include the WHOLE WORLD if they will have Him. That makes my nights of two fussy boys seem like a walk in the park. God has a whole world of needy, tired, weary, broken sons and daughters who are constantly in desperate need of Him.

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Thankfully, He is omnipresent (everywhere at once) and omnipotent (all knowing) so He can handle each person’s needs and brokenness at the same time perfectly.
How amazing…

I am unable to parent this way…at best I only think about myself sometimes when it comes to making decisions about how to parent. At worst, I make parenting decisions based on how I feel, what I want, and what I think I need, while sweeping my children’s needs under the rug.

This reflection has brought me hope…hope for my parenting. Because when Jesus came into my heart, He began REDEEMING all the broken parts of me-how I love others, my parenting, my thoughts, etc. That means that my parenting can and is being redeemed! My mistakes can be redeemed for His glory. My successes are because Jesus has redeemed my heart!

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. -Galatians 4:4-7

Wow…when we receive Jesus into our heart, we are adopted by God and made heirs of his kingdom! I love how Paul highlights that when we experience this change, the Spirit comes into our lives, calling out to the Father on our behalf.

How many times a day do your children call for you? How many times in a row do they say, sometimes yell, your name? Often I get frustrated when this happens, but I believe God is delighted when we call His name whether it’s the first or the hundredth time!

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” -Luke 18:15-17

Jesus welcomed these little children with open arms. I imagine that they ran to Him like your kids run to you after being gone all day. That they desired His full attention and affection-and He was willing to give it to them.

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. -Eph. 2:5-7

Here is a beautiful passage. We were dead; then, through Christ, we are made alive. When we received the grace He offered, we were raised from our life of death (sin) and seated in the ‘heavenly places’ in Jesus. This is in the past tense-‘seated’-which means it has ALREADY taken place. So, where ever we are, if we are in Christ, we are in the throne room of God. We have that intimate access to the King of the world. The access a prince or princess would have to their father’s throne room. This is what our relationship with our kids is like too. They have access to our love, provision, and presence, just like we have access to God’s love, God’s provision, and God’s presence!

childrend of God

Praise God for His redeeming presence and love! Relish in His lavish love today!Praying for you and your kids today!

Elise

My Tribe

When I was in high school, I had a few girls that I would hang out with on a regular basis, but over the years, we have naturally grown apart as our lives have taken us different places.

In college, I had a few friends, but never a group of girlfriends who I did everything with. I met my husband soon after transferring to my Alma Mater so most of my friends were OUR friends since we were together so much.

Fast forward to now…I am a mom of two little ones. My life revolves around cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, playing with my boys, and spending time with my husband when we can fit it into the day. But I still desperately need a community of women. Those ladies who I can go to on a rough day, who I can ask to pray for me, who I can laugh with, who I can cry with, who I can struggle with, and who I can celebrate with. Thankfully, through a community group at my church that started this year, I have found just that.

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My tribe is not perfect of course…we are still getting to know one another. But I love spending time with them. We constantly update each other on our daily joys, trials, and funny moments. We pray for each other. And we get out and have fun together-just us girls.

So this is a shout out to MY TRIBE! Ladies, thanks for being a group of friends who constantly supports and encourages one another!

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Me (far right) and my tribe of girls before going to eat at Cazbah in downtown Greenville.

Who is your tribe? If you don’t have one, get one! Try striking up a conversation at the library story time, or with another mom at your gym? Guys, maybe you need to talk to the guy sitting next to you at work or reach out to some of your wife’s friend’s husbands. Community is not a girly thing, it is a Godly thing.

It’s right there in the FIRST chapter of Genesis:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Genesis 1:26a

I am not here to debate the intricacies of the Trinity, but I feel that it is clear that this is at the heart of who God is – relationship and community. Community has been a part of God since the beginning, and He made it part of us from the moment His breath moved through our lungs. Adam never knew a world without relationship and community. He walked with God. Then, God gave Adam a constant companion in Eve, so he wouldn’t be alone.

Relationship is at the heart of who we are.

So…if you aren’t in community, think about it. It can be hard and scary. But on the hard days, the exciting days, the sad days…you have a group of someones who have your back.

Books I’ve Been Reading…

I love to read, but I struggle with trying new authors. I am nervous that I will start a book, but then not jive with the story line or the author’s style. Then I have to choose whether I finish the story for closure or just not know how the story ends – and that is a hard choice to make. I could struggle through writing I don’t relate to, or leave the ending  out there just hanging and unfinished.

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image from here

So, I went on Pinterest and scrolled through different pins of book recommendations. I wrote down the ones that sounded interesting based on the description and the pinner’s comments about why they liked the book. Maybe if you are like me and struggle with branching out in the book area, this list of books I have read recently will help you try some new authors.

1. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

“Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.” (from the Amazon book description)

What I loved about this books is that it took me to a part of American history that I wasn’t very familiar with and wove a beautiful story in it. It bounces back and forth between the past and the present, but does so with clarity. I devoured this book!

2. Wonder

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“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Told from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, these perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.” (from the Amazon book description)

I adored this book. Since it is a children’s book, it was an easy read, but brought me to tears none the less. It is a beautiful story of friendship, looking beyond appearances, and the resilience and strength of children. READ THIS and your kids should read it too! (The movie is coming out soon too!)

3. The Fill-In Boyfriend

the fill-in boyfriend

“When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?
Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.” (from the Amazon book description)

This was a wonderful young adult book. I find that many love stories in the young adult section can be inappropriate in regards to sexual content and language. Kasie West’s writing is clean, which I loved! This would make a good vacation read while lounging on the beach or on the porch in the mountains! I also read her other books By Your Side and The Distance Between Us which were good teen love stories without all the unnecessary stuff as well!

4. Lunch in Paris

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“In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again.
Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Lunch in Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.” (from the Amazon book description)

This book was a fun look at how cross-cultural love can be an amazing, though challenging adventure. It touches on love, career struggles, and the marvelous thing that is French cuisine. If you have never eaten French food, you certainly will want to find some (or cook some) after reading this book. She also has another book out called Picnic in Provence, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It is on my list though!

5. After the War is Over

after the war is over

“After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.” (from the Amazon book description)

Historical fiction is by far one of my favorite genres to read. This book was no exception. It discusses class issues, the devastation of the war, and PTSD. If you like stories set against a historical backdrop, Jennifer Robson’s book is for you. I couldn’t put this one down!

6. Counting by 7s

counting by 7s

“Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.” (from the Amazon book description)

In this beautiful book, whose characters are kids who are amazingly talented and gifted, but struggle to fit in with their peers, you see how one girl who is exceptionally smart deals with grief and finally finds ways to connect with those around her. Once again, this was an easy read since it is a children’s book, but I loved it!

7. Two by Two

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“At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down.” (from the Amazon book description)

Nicolas Sparks never fails to deliver a surprising story with relatable characters and situations. I adored this story about work, relationships, parenthood, and family. If you have never read Spark’s books, give him a try!

8. Talking as Fast as I Can

talking as fast as I can

“In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.” (from the Amazon book description)

I listened to this audio book on my drive to and from family vacation. It was neat to hear Lauren Graham read the book, and it felt like we were chatting over big cups of coffee. This is perfect for a road trip or a long flight. Her wit and delivery are just as evident in this book as they are in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. By the way, if you haven’t seen these shows, do so now. I’ll wait while you binge watch them. You’ll thank me later.

9. Once and For All

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“Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.
Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.” (from the Amazon book description)

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. I have read every one of her books (except her first two which I didn’t prefer). I have also read most of them many, many times. I love her style and the way her characters struggle with things the rest of us have encountered. This one dealt with school shootings, divorce, and how losing love makes us jaded sometimes. If you have never read Sarah Dessen’s books, you should!

10. When God Doesn’t Fix It

when god doesn't fix it

“Worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Their lives would never be the same. Yes, with God all things are possible. But the devastating news was that no cure existed to restore Martin’s short-term memory, eyesight, and other complications. The fairy-tale life Laura had dreamed of was no longer possible. And yet in struggling with God about how to live with broken dreams, Laura has found joy and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.” (from the Amazon book description)

I just started this one, but the Kindle version is still on sale on Amazon for $1.99, so I wanted to share it with you. I feel that this is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life, enduring struggles and trusting God even when your earthly circumstances don’t change.

I’d love to hear what are you reading! Share in the comments below!
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A Family Shaped By Grace

Have you ever spent a holiday with your family and wondered why it felt like such a chore? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells around certain family members because you aren’t sure how they might respond to you? Are there some people in your family that you avoid because being around them is too challenging?

If so, know that there is a better way, and it’s all about grace!

A Family Shaped by Grace is a new book coming out on June 6th that I have had the privilege of reading before it’s release. Gary Morland, the author, had a crumbling family. Finally, he got to the point where he wanted to do something different. His way wasn’t working. He started attending Bible study and met a man named Harold. This man would slowly, patiently love on Gary and teach him a better way to relate to and bless his family. This book is about the things he learned. They have helped him have a family shaped by grace instead of duty, anger, fear, or disappointment.

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What I love about this book is the practical ways Gary gives you to gently change how you view your family and how you relate to them. If you are at all invested in a family (which is everyone) or working with families in a professional way (teachers, pastors, counselors, social workers, etc.), this book is for you!

P.S.-Right now, the book is 40% off if you pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble! Purchase your copy now if you want to get along with the people in your life who matter most!