tiny miracles

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On June 6, a tiny newborn was rescued…a baby girl who was destined for death when she was placed inside a plastic bag in Georgia.

Instead, upon hearing a noise, investigators found the baby, who had only recently been born. They filmed the dramatic event with a body cam.

As I watched this video, tears streamed down my face. This little baby, named Baby India, should not have survived. We all know the dangers of allowing children to play with plastic bags, let alone placing a helpless infant inside of a plastic bag. A death sentence for certain once suffocation set in.

But Baby India didn’t die. She didn’t suffocate, didn’t starve to death, wasn’t found by a wild animal in the woods where she was placed. Instead, in God’s goodness and grace, He led rescuers to find her alive and seemingly healthy.

Indeed, even before Baby India was formed in the womb, the Lord knew her. Knew she would be rescued. He never left her side, not even once.

Requests to adopt Baby India have been pouring in by the hundreds. This precious child, whom someone determined shouldn’t live, instead has a future of life ahead of her.

In a world that condones and even promotes the killing of babies through abortion, this miracle baby survived. No, she wasn’t aborted, but rather someone attempted to kill her soon after her birth.

As I re-watched the video, I was reminded of God’s love for His Creation.

Indeed, He has a tender spot for children. We learn that children are a heritage from the Lord… (Psalm 127:3). Consider the words of Psalm 139:13-16:

Psalm 139 13-16

Miracles continue to occur each and every day – with full credit given to our Lord and Savior. Such was the tiny miracle of Baby India and her survival against the odds.

 

 

Movie Monday: Run the Race

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Twin brothers, Zach and David, decide to do whatever it takes to leave their small, podunk town after graduation. Working together, they figure that if Zach can just get a scout from Florida to notice him during a high school football game, that will be their ticket out of town.

What both Zach and David don’t anticipate is an injury that sidelines Zach.

What will become of their dream to leave and Zach’s dream to play football for the Florida Gators?

The boys haven’t had an easy life as of late. Having lost their mom to cancer a few years prior, their alcoholic dad has all but abandoned them. The bright spot in their lives is Nanny, their godmother, who is not only there for them, but also seeks to help them grow in their faith.

This movie, produced by Tim Tebow and his brother, Robby, is a heartfelt one with some humor, a bit of romance, and some difficult issues the characters must tackle. Faith is an important component to the story, and David’s and Nanny’s faith shines brightly in what is otherwise a difficult time for two boys given a hard shake in life. It is so much more than another sports movie…it features love, forgiveness, redemption, and hope.

There is nothing objectionable in the movie, although there is a scene with some underage drinking (an excellent opening for a chat with kids after family night concludes). Difficult issues include grief, loss, being unequally yoked, bitterness, anger, and some bad choices. It is well-made, features strong acting, and has an even stronger message that will leave you thinking about the movie long after its conclusion.

I’m happy to recommend Run the Race and give it five out of five stars.

 

 

5 ways to be happier

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We live in a challenging world. Bad things happening all around us – kidnappings, shootings, assaults, Christian persecution, severe weather, car accidents…and the list goes on. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to not get discouraged by the negativity that can be found at the touch of our fingertips via social media, news outlets, or on TV.

So how can we push past the dangers lurking behind every corner, the fears that overwhelm us, and the toxicity of our fallen world?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”

The website further states, that Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, is”The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3…MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”

Aside from the usual therapy options, including medication (because I am a firm believer that God allowed medicine to be created for those who truly need it), what can we do to take our focus off of the world around us and be happier? To find joy in the midst of all that is going on around us?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Spend more time with the Lord. Keep our eyes on Him. Rely on Him. Seek Him. Rejoice in Him. I can tell you from experience that the moment I take my eyes off Jesus, things take a turn. Set aside time, preferably each morning before you start the day, to dive into His Word, pray, and seek His guidance. The morning is the best time, as with all the busyness in daily life, this important action can quickly take a backseat to all of the other demands on our day.

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Two of my biggest prayer requests during my morning quiet time with the Lord are that I would walk in a manner worthy of the calling He has placed on my life (Ephesians 4:1), and that I would be a blessing to my family first and foremost – and not only to them,  but also to others I encounter throughout my day.

For those of us who have made Jesus our Lord and Savior, this is not our home. Not our permanent home, anyway. Remembering that can put our circumstances and the bad things that happen around us in a different perspective.

2. Spend more time with our family and our close friends. Sometimes in the midst of employment, soccer practices, cell phones, and extracurricular activities, family time can be all but forgotten. Seek to spend more time with your family: your spouse and your children, and your close friends. Doing so makes for a much happier life. This can be as simple as going on walks, playing games, or just sitting down to talk. Whatever the method, your relationships will be strengthened, and you will find yourself with a lighter heart.

3. Spend more time putting others first. We are definitely happier when we put ourselves aside and seek to serve others. Doing nice things for someone, volunteering, and showing random acts of kindness can all add joy to our lives. According the HelpGuide website, “Volunteering is good for your mind and body”, and “Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life”, among many other benefits.

And you don’t have to commit to a huge volunteering project to reap the benefits of happiness, but rather pray that God would show you who you can assist each day, whether in big ways or small ways.

4. Spend more time in nature. Studies have shown that nature is important to our well-being. Who can stay crabby after being outside with the chirping birds, gentle breeze of the trees, and the warm sunshine? And summer isn’t the only time nature can make us happier. Just being outside in all seasons can improve our outlook on life. When we are out in God’s creation, our thoughts will center more on Him.

5. Spend more time exercising. Regular exercise can make us happier. According to an article on Livestrong, besides the usual health benefits, exercise “can also improve your mood, lift your spirits and make you feel better about yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppresses hormones that cause stress and anxiety.”

There are many more ways of gaining happiness. Rather than focusing on the world and it’s negativity, focus on God, family, and others.

 

Movie Monday: The Mask Murder

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A who-dunnit with just enough twists and turns to throw off the viewer…

In The Mask Murder, one of the many in the Garage Sale Mystery movie series, Jenn finds a dead body in a storage locker. How did she get there, who killed her, and why is there a plaster mask that resembles the victim? Could it be clue that leads to the killer? Is Jennifer’s life in danger as she closes in on solving this mystery?

Meanwhile, Hannah learns a lesson about what’s really important when her dad helps her with a college building project constructing tiny houses for homeless people.

Hallmark does a remarkable job with The Garage Sale Mystery series. While they are suspenseful and include a variety of potential suspects in each episode, the series never delves into gratuitous violence or other unwholesome aspects. That being said, this and other episodes are for teens and older due to the storyline and content.

garage sale mysteryOne of my favorite things about this series is that it depicts a family of four with a husband and wife who love each other. Not another series with hateful banter, disrespectful children, or a dumbing down of the dad. The children (one who is a teen and the other who is a college student) both have their own lives, yet are an active (and close) part of the family unit.

 

One of the things I enjoy most about reviewing movies is finding ones that are safe for the family, void of language, sexuality, violence, and gore. The Garage Sale Mystery episodes fill the bill for that criteria.

A side note, but one I feel is important to mention is the recent “news” regarding actress Lori Loughlin (Jenn in the Garage Sale series). I’m saddened that due to her alleged choices, the series won’t continue as is. She did an excellent job, as did the others actors and actresses. My hope is that she would own up to what she allegedly did, apologize, and do her best to make amends. It would be an excellent example of redemption.

 

4 ways to reconnect with your spouse

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Time goes by in a blink, and if we aren’t careful, marriages can be neglected in the name of busyness.

So how can we draw closer to our spouse?

1. Take time alone with your spouse. You hear this all the time, but do you realize how important it is? Even if it’s lunch once a week or a weekend getaway, time alone without the kids is crucial. Swap babysitting days with your closest friends. Be creative!

One thing to remember is that time alone with your spouse does not equal a hefty price tag. One of my favorite pastimes with my husband, Lon, is to meet him on the front porch for a chat about our day when he arrives home from work. It’s a time for both of us to decompress, talk about our day, and reconnect.

Other great ideas?

A walk or bike ride together after dinner,

Challenging your spouse to a card game after the kids are in bed,

Going out for ice cream.

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2. Take time to forgive. Lon and I have been married 26 years and trust me, there have been a few times when we’ve gotten on each other’s last nerve. Yes, really! So, are there things that bother you about your spouse? Pray God will help you to forgive. Pray not that God will change your spouse, but that He would change the way you respond to the things your spouse does. Pray you would respond in a God-honoring way and draw upon His grace to do just that!

3. Take time to be thoughtful. One of Lon’s favorite foods is No-Bake Cookies (if you don’t believe me, please see my post gluten free delicious no-bake cookie recipe and how Lon overdosed on them! As such, I routinely make these cookies for him as a way to show him how much I love him.

As a writer of Christian romance, Lon shows his love for me by listening to the latest chapter, even though Christian romance novels are far from his list of favorite genres!

Leave each other notes in the morning, call each other, or send each other texts or emails in the middle of the day. Lon and I have had a “running” note at times where we try to cram all we can on a little piece of paper that carries through everyday throughout the week. It can be silly, lovey-dovey, or a combination of both!

One of my favorite notes had these words on it added by Lon: “This is a recycled note.” 🙂

The takeaway? Ask God to help you be a blessing to your spouse.

4. Take time to reminisce. Oftentimes, in the hurried rush of life, we aren’t as patient as we should be with our spouses. We tend to see flaws more readily when life is stressful and overwhelming or when we ourselves may be feeling neglected.

Instead of the negative, focus on the positive.

 

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Take the time to reminisce with your spouse about some of the funny and/or unforgettable memories you have shared as a couple. Lon and I recently laughed about the time we were grounded in an emergency landing due to weather from a vacation we took 17 years ago. The airline hired a commercial bus to drive the passengers on the plane to the next airport, which was four hours away in good weather.

Interestingly, (and perhaps a little bizarre) the bus only had one movie for the onboard DVD player. Yep, you’re right if you guessed the movie Speed. The driver played the movie twice over, as we drove through icy slushy and dangerous roads at a too-fast-for-conditions speed.

Not to worry – we had an idea to take our minds off of the situation. I drew pictures of each person on the bus and Lon guessed who it was. Since I’m not an artist and am rather comical in my sketches, it wasn’t an easy feat to Lon to decode. Nevertheless, he guessed correctly on each drawing. And yes, I still have that little black wire-bound notebook with the “People on the Bus” contained within its pages.

You share a history with your spouse. Rekindle some of those fond memories!

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What a precious gift the Lord has given you in your spouse. Take the time to relish your time together – something that will only further cement the love that binds together what God created – marriage.

 

5 things moms need

 

5 things moms needs

Being a mom is the best, but sometimes hardest job.

We yearn to make a difference in the lives of our children. To be the best mom we can be. We love our children with all that we are and strive to bring honor and glory to God in the way we raise them.

But motherhood can be a challenge, too. The baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. The temper tantrums of a toddler. The drama of junior high. The teenage years with all of the frightening things kids have to deal with in today’s modern world.

No wonder we moms can become worn out and tired. I look back at the photos from when my daughters were little, and my eyes are almost consistently closed in those pictures. I obviously tried to catch a wink of sleep any time I could get it. 🙂

So what can a mom do? How can she refresh and rejuvenate? What things do moms seriously need in the best, but hardest years of our lives?

Moms need…

Time with God. Francesca Batestelli sings about meeting God for quiet time in the morning before the kids awaken and life gets hectic in her song “When the Crazy Kicks In.”

Time with God is critical. Crucial. Necessary. It starts our day off right. Prayer, then some time in His Word and being still before Him makes all the difference in the direction our day will go.

So what if you don’t have time in the morning to spend with the Lord? A later time with Him, while the children are down for a nap, for example, works too. The only problem is that we, as moms, tend to get so overloaded and busy with our day and all the demands pressing on us from every side that we give what’s left to Him, rather than what’s priority.

A supportive spouse. Every mom needs a spouse to come alongside her to be a co-partner in raising their children. To be a listening ear. To forge together to make dreams a reality. To be there just to hold her, even when she has spit-up on her t-shirt, hasn’t changed out of her jammies all day, or has been dealing with a rebellious teen and is uber-exhausted. Someone to listen as she decompresses about the day.

Speaking of supportive spouses, be sure to take some time for a date night. Enlist the assistance of a friend, relative, or teen babysitter to watch the children while you reconnect with your spouse.

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A mentor friend. Ideally, this would be a mom who has been in the trenches and has now graduated from a mom of littles to a mom of teens, or beyond. Empty-nesters work well for this role. A mentor friend not only is there for you when you need her, but she has sound advice (given when asked for, rather than unsolicited), is a devout prayer warrior, a shoulder to cry on, and has wisdom beyond our years as young moms.

Other moms make excellent mentor friends, as do godly women from church.

A best/close friend. We moms all need a fellow mom to text for an impromtu playdate, to call when things get crazy, and a bestie to share a good laugh with about all the adventures (and trials!) of being a mom.

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To recharge. Moms, we need to recharge our batteries. Life can be hectic, stressful, and seem to move at the speed of light. It’s easy to become exhausted and burned out, no matter what our stage as a mom is – a new mom, a mother of elementary kids, a mom to teens, or a mom to all of the above.

How do we recharge? Take a few minutes each day to put our feet up and relax.

Tackle a chapter in that book we’ve been wanting to read (or have been reading) for the past two months.

Take time to exercise. Many gyms include “drop in centers” for children while moms take an exercise class. Or, if you are the mom of toddlers, put them in a double stroller, pack some healthy snacks, and go for a walk.

Take a bubble bath.

Spend time with the Lord (see #1).

Spend a few minutes on Pinterest pinning your dream kitchen onto a new board.

Partake in a hobby you’ve neglected or one you’ve always wanted to try.

Organize a girls’ night out with your mom friends.

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Finding time to spend in the Word, call a friend, or even scroll through Pinterest can be difficult, if not nearly impossible. To begin, ask the Lord to help you carve out time. It may be at odd moments during the day, or even evening, but doing so will not only help your health and stress levels, but help you be the best mom you can be.

Happy Memorial Day!

May we never forget the ones who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. Please take a moment to pray for those who have lost someone in service to our great country.

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