You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 2:1
I remember sitting in church hearing people talk about how they remembered the exact moment God’s grace overcame their hearts and transformed their lives. I wondered, could an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord & Savior, exist without that ‘moment’? I certainly couldn’t point to just one moment – I grew up in the church and always had a sense of God’s sovereignty. I prayed, I studied my Bible, I read Christian books, I felt like I heard from God, and I worshipped whole-heartedly the God whom I loved – the One I knew was good and faithful and who answered prayers. But still, I wondered.
Until a couple years ago.
I was sitting in a service when one of our artistic directors began a visual piece. I sat back and thought, “Oh this one’s good. I remember this one.” With a song playing in the background, and captions coming up on the sidescreens, he took paint from a bucket with his bare hand and smacked it onto a large white board until it was almost entirely covered. Then, again using his hands, he smeared the paint across the board until it there was not one white spot left.
And then, while the captions talked about grace, he took out a squeegee, started at the very top left corner, and dragged it the length of the board. He continued on down the board until it was completely clean.
I remember feeling normal until the board was completely white – and all of a sudden, it was BLINDINGLY WHITE. Not a speck of paint left. And all of a sudden I realized – that’s how God views me? I’m THAT clean? With all my bumblings, all my mistakes, all my prideful, judgmental, unloving thoughts – Jesus removed it ALL. His blood washed it all away.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
And I felt this impressed upon me: “You can never outdo what Jesus did on the cross.”
Why in the world was I trying?
I will never be good enough. No matter how hard I strive, I will never be perfect enough to be acceptable to my Father in heaven.
But because of the cross! Because Jesus took my punishment upon Himself – He paid the price for me. He paid my ransom! He has set me free, literally, from an eternity of Hell. With that same act, He removed from me the shame of my defects and flaws. It was like I had been holding my breath my entire life, and now I could finally exhale. All the pressure was gone.
The series was called ‘Disturbing Grace’. Disturbing indeed.
So this morning, when I read 2 Timothy 2:1, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” I asked God if I was missing anything. I know one of my flaws is being overly critical of myself, which tends to bleed over onto the ones I love. In the time since that message, I’ve been learning what it really means to be fully accepted – mistakes and all – by my good, good Father. I’ve learned to give myself a break. I’ve been able to exhale a bit and understand that I don’t need to be perfect; furthermore, it’s useless trying, because I never will be. Life is an adventure that should be lived out in love. That’s the standard we should be concerned about.
But as I reflected more on that verse, I realized that being “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” went even further. When I look at my kids, I don’t see the result of what I’ve done right – I see God’s grace filling in the gaps where I utterly fail. Maybe being strong in His grace is more about staying open to what He’s doing, whether I’m in it or not!
Here’s a perfect example: I’ve tried a few times over the years to have a weekly memory verse at our home. It usually lasts about a month, and then we get busy and I run out of time to change the board. Or I get bogged down with “what’s the exact right verse for this week? If I plan too far ahead, am I blocking a better verse that may apply to our lives better in that moment? What if I pick the WRONG VERSE?!” (You see how silly this is.) The only time I was really diligent about this was when our eldest was 3. She probably had 20 verses memorized by the time she was through with school that year. I was pretty happy with myself.
Do you see what was wrong with that? “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Maybe I was doing the right things on the inside, but it was puffing me up so that I was full of pride in what I myself had done.
Fast forward to now. I’m not diligent with the Verse of the Week. But I am weekly – almost daily – having conversations with our kids that involve Christ, God, heaven, salvation, hearing from God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
Earlier this year, I prayed with our 3 year old as she asked forgiveness for her sins and accepted Jesus into her heart. Let me boast about my weaknesses so you understand this had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the heart her Father God gave her – a heart that loves her Jesus. It is special when you recognize that God has given your child a gift. It is even more precious when you understand it had absolutely nothing to do with you.
Maybe what being strong in the grace of Christ Jesus really means is releasing control of perfection and structure in our lives, and throwing wide the door for Jesus to come in and stir things up. I’m never sure exactly what that will look like, and the point is it doesn’t matter – because you can bet it will be filled with love, joy, peace, and fulfillment. A life that is truly life.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Bring me back to You
Anchor me in Your love
Envelop me with Your infallible wisdom;
Wrap me in Your peace.
Shine light into the dark crevices
Hidden from me but obvious to You
Illuminate my wretchedness
Convict me with Your loving voice
Soften my hardened heart.
Bring me back to You
When slow is good
When quiet magnificence fills my inner being
Slow down –
Help me to Slow Down
Show me a better way
than rushing through this life You have lovingly, painstakingly, sacrificially crafted for me.
Remove the blinders from my eyes
Let me see clearly
the miracles with which You’ve surrounded me
No longer do I desire to have deaf ears:
Rejoice, Heart, and awaken!
Proclaim the good works He’s done for you,
the storm of blessings He’s poured down on this wretch.
For in You alone, Lord, is my soul satisfied;
without you, it is grays, dull.
You make me clean; the blood-red of your sacrifice makes me shine blinding white
and each moment of life, Technicolor.
Let me live in You:
Be my anchor.
Be my waking and my sleeping, my breathing.
Every breath belongs to You.
Let me live in you;
Reside in You
Be my vine where I draw my strength
A never-ending supply.
Connected, never severed.
Abiding with you
every moment of every day.
Then let Your light break forth
Let Your love spill out
Like a cascade of Joy
and relentless love
As I walk, breathe, live, BE – with You.
Living, Residing, Abiding
Seeing every moment
Tasting every interaction
Feeling every memory, created
Savoring and basking in Your goodness
all the moments of my life.
Days are long, but years are short –
they shall not be wasted.
Then from my branch
let new life Spring forth
A bud nurtured becomes a bloom which scatters seed
and creates new life.
The circle of life in Grace
for You are faithful to all generations.
Grateful for every moment
Living, truly living, life to the full, until it overflows.
One of the first ways I began using essential oils was in my skin care – in sugar scrubs, to be exact! Today I’m sharing some helpful tips on which oils are best for particular skin conditions. Read on!
Coming soon: DIY Steam Facial!
The “Hail Mary” Dinner. You know the one I speak of.
When you get home from your kids’ activities at 6:30pm and realize you don’t really have the time or the ingredients to make a substantial dinner.
I used to feel so smug because when everyone else was posting and complaining about Mondays, I was this stay-at-home / work-at-home mom and Monday was just another day for me. But now all 3 of our kids have dance on Monday nights which means our Monday afternoon schedule looks like this:
2:30pm – Get B&C changed into dance clothes, double-check A’s bag to ensure she has everything she needs; pack snacks for everyone and water or coffee for myself.
3:00pm – Leave and pick up A from school
3:30pm – Arrive at dance studio and help A change; do her hair up in a bun
4:00pm – A’s Tap & Jazz class; C usually naps so B & I sit in the car for awhile
4:30pm – Go inside and have snack
5:00pm – A has Ballet; B&C have Pre-Ballet; I work, read, or chat with parents
5:45pm – B&C finish class; go downstairs & get everyone into outdoor clothes; possibly read a book; collect all bags and miscellaneous STUFF
6:00pm – A finishes class & changes; we all head out to car
6:25pm – Arrive at home; make & eat dinner; homework
7:15pm – Start bedtime routine
7:30pm – Tuck-in Time
8:00pm – BED! A will sometimes stay up to read quietly in bed until 8:30
You can see why it takes ALL MY ENERGY to get through Monday afternoons. This past Monday I used some peppermint & wild orange oil aromatically and it actually gave me an energy boost better than the coffee ever does. (Yes, there’s an oil for that!!)
Which brings me to… The Hail Mary Dinner I whipped up yesterday.
I opened up the cabinets & fridge to see….
…at least that would be quick and nutritious.
But what did I have?!? Some egg noodles, some leftover chicken, some leftover veggies, and a cookbook. I figured I could whip up a simple sauce/gravy and throw all the stuff together. Kind of a deconstructed casserole, if you will. Sure, we’ll go with that.
So I got the water going for the noodles, pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook, and opened it to the Sauces section. “Basic White Sauce.” PERFECT! Here’s how to make it:
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the lumps are gone.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring all the while.
Season with salt & pepper, and heat over medium high heat until it starts bubbling.
Continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Because it was so bland, I added some garlic and onion powder to taste.
While the sauce thickened, I reheated and cut up the chicken into bite size pieces, and reheated the leftover veggies in the microwave. I cooked the noodles and added a pat or two of butter, stirring until melted & mixed.
I added the chicken into the sauce.
I spooned the noodles into bowls.
I sprinkled some veggies over the noodles.
I scooped the chicken sauce over the noodles, and….
It was actually pretty good! Thankfully, the chicken was well-seasoned, so when I mixed it with the bland sauce, it was perfect. The kids gobbled it right up. To be fair, they probably would’ve eaten anything at that point, since they were so hungry.
Regardless, it boosted my confidence that I could create a real meal in a pinch without too much trouble. (PS. Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.)
When have you made a delicious dinner in a pinch? What did you make?
I remember hearing a message a few years ago and the guest speaker said when we pray, God gives 1 of 3 answers:
2. Not yet
3. I’ve got something better for you
I think I get it now – after praying fervently for several things, for several years, God answered my prayers. But to get there I had to walk through a rough season of life. All those years I was waiting and trusting Him to answer, it was “Not Yet…”, and I still trusted Him that He would do it, some day.
He placed me strategically, right on time (God is never late you know), right where I needed to be, and then? Events that shook my faith like it had never been shaken before.
But now I can see that if He hadn’t placed me where he did, WHEN he did, I would have been left without the support I needed to walk through it.
“…for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]” – Hebrews 13:5 (AMPC)
Did this answer to prayer look how I thought it would? OH NO. I thought my answer would come in a quiet moment, immediately changing everything. Yes, the moment changed everything, but it most certainly was NOT quiet. Far from it. It was loud and messy and tore me down and ripped me apart.
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
In my darkest moments during one particularly bleak week, I had a choice. I could try to manipulate the situation, worrying and fretting and doing everything in my human power to fix the situation the way I thought it needed to be fixed – or I could surrender it all to Him.
I have never been good at desperate attempts to fix broken things.
And so I surrendered it all.
In the dark.
On my knees.
Through hot, thick tears.
Can I be honest? It kind of sucked. I felt completely, utterly helpless. I would even venture to say I felt HOPEless. It was the bleakest, blackest of all nights. I had absolutely zero answers as to what the future held. It was terrifying.
But at least I felt the pressure lift off of me. I did not have to do this. I could NOT do this. I was powerless, and somehow giving in to that gave me freedom.
Do you know the end to this story? Are you expecting me to say that it was all roses and cherries on top after I surrendered? God slapped a metaphorical band-aid on it and it healed miraculously in minutes?
There was a very long “going-through time”. I felt unsteady, like I was standing on a piece of flimsy cardboard in the middle of a vast ocean, and any fish swimming by could knock me off balance and into the freezing cold water. That valley of the shadow of death? I was in it.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… – Psalm 23:4
I struggled hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Somewhere in there, I even experienced a form of identity crisis. I used to see life through rose-colored glasses; this particular season of life I was seeing life through dirty, cracked, smudged lenses. Everything was tinted with the new knowledge I had of my faults, weaknesses, and shortcomings.
It did not help my confidence that I had just started a new job, and this new unsteady me was the one I was presenting to all the colleagues who were meeting me for the first time. (And who, by the way, were all FAR more qualified than I am.)
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. -Hebrews 13:20-21
In my mind, I was screaming at everyone, “THIS ISN’T THE REAL ME! I’M NOT ANGRY, NEGATIVE & DEFEATED. I’M POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING!” (My actual words and actions proved otherwise.)
That volatile situation was the catalyst which, quite literally, changed our lives. It was hard work which we did with the end goal in mind. The light at the end of the tunnel was sometimes just a pinprick. Yet it was there, urging us to keep going even when we felt the heavy weight of a long journey: exhausting, but rewarding.
Things are still not perfect, because life isn’t perfect. It never will be. The ending to this story is still being written.
But we learned to work through the imperfect times together, which makes us stronger individuals participating in a stronger partnership, friendship, & marriage, which in turn makes our family stronger.
What’s the bottom line?
God does, in fact, work all things together for our good. If we surrender our pain to Him, He lets us choose how to steward it. Some of our favorite pastors put it this way: “What do you want your pain to turn into?”
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28
He is, in fact, faithful to fulfill His promises – all the time. Always. Forever. He has never let me down. I have tried, and can find not one reason to doubt Him. I can write a never-ending list of reasons to praise Him for His perfect works – even while I have some unanswered questions.
God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. – Psalm 18:30
I don’t think there is any magical formula to victory in our struggles – though there is plenty of biblical evidence teaching how to fight these spiritual battles – but I can tell you one thing: every time I’ve unrestrainedly surrendered, victory was not far behind.
Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
– Psalm 86:11-13
Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it, in the most unlikely of ways.
“Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I go
You’ve not already stood.”
– Trust In You, Lauren Daigle
Want more? Read this post about brokenness
Praying through Hebrews 11
In my chair time this morning, I was inspired to write a short one-liner for several of the stories Hebrews 11 walks us through – stories of the faithful in God’s family. I’ve shared them here.
Hebrews 11:4 – By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
Let me always offer all I have to you.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Let me never fail to seek you!
Hebrews 11:8 – By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Let me always follow you, even into the unknown.
Hebrews 11:11 – And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
Let me never forget your faithfulness to me!
Hebrews 11:19 – Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Hebrews 11:30 – By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
Let me always trust & obey you, even when it makes no sense to my worldly senses.
Hebrews 11:21 – By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Let me always be found worshiping you, even and especially when I have no strength left of my own.
Hebrews 11:23 – By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Let my faith in you always drive out my fears in this world.
Hebrews 11:25 – He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Let me always choose you over worldly pleasures. Let me always place you first.
Hebrews 11:31 – By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Let me always be bold enough to ask for grace.
Hebrews 11:40 – since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Let my story always bring you glory; let me forever remember that my story is only a small part of your Grand Plan for all your people, til the ends of the earth.
Let me always delight in you first, trusting that you know and will fulfill the deepest desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). All this I pray in your mighty Son Jesus’ name, knowing you are able to do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what I can even think to ask you for. All the glory belongs to you! (Ephesians 3:20)
We are big on tea in this family.
Growing up, we had black breakfast tea with milk & sugar for almost any occasion:
In the mornings, we had tea.
On cold days in the afternoon, we sipped tea.
When we came home upset because someone hurt our feelings, we talked about it over tea.
If we were sick, we drank tea.
When we were kids, we enjoyed what my grandma called “milk tea”: decaf black tea with lots of milk and spoonfuls of sugar until it tasted sweet.
Tea became synonymous with good feelings, memories, warmth, and coziness. Tea was woven into the culture of our family.
As an adult, I’ve discovered the wide range of different teas. That tea actually came from plants. That some kinds were best without milk and sugar (GASP!). I have some new favorites: Chamomile, Oolong, and Earl Grey. And my kids regularly ask for milk tea. (Even my coffee-loving husband enjoys tea these days!)
When I started using essential oils, I realized I can make “tea” for different ailments or issues using different combos of oils. (Have I mentioned lately that I love having this arsenal of oils that I can mix and match to my heart’s content?)
So here are some of my favorite blends! I hope you enjoy them too.
DIY Earl Grey:
Add 2 drops of Bergamot oil to your tea bag before pouring your water. Add milk, honey, and/or sugar to taste!
Bye Bye Flu:
Add 2 drops of Immunity Blend and 1 drop Lemon oil with a teaspoon of honey. Drink morning and night when sick.
Add 2 drops peppermint & 1 drop lemon. Drink morning or afternoon when you need a pick-me-up!
Add 1 drop Lavender, 1 drop Bergamot, & 1 drop Roman Chamomile plus honey to taste. Drink before bed to de-stress, calm, and soothe yourself.
*Juniper Berry can be substituted for Roman Chamomile
I only use essential oils from one company, because their purity and standards are far above the rest, and their educational support is second to none. To learn which one is my favorite, contact me for details.
Homemade whipped cream and I… we’re tight. We’ve been friends for about a year now, and even though I know it’s not good for me, I can’t quite get away. Oh sure, I could if I really wanted to, but honestly? I don’t. Homemade whipped cream is delicious. Indulgent. Creamy. AND, the best part? It’s super simple to make.
The biggest issue I’ve had so far is finding and appropriate size bowl to make it in. Too small, and the whipped cream flies everywhere. Too big, and you can’t really get in there to whip it up properly.
Until a close family friend – and I feel it’s important I mention they’re Irish immigrants, because we’re also Irish, and we love all the true Irish customs they bring to our celebrations (brown bread, anyone?) – she recommended a tip. And guess what? It worked. And now, I will share that tip with you!
So here we go!
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream*
2 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
*Note: Be sure it’s heavy whipping cream, not just “whipping cream”.
Measure 1 cup of the Heavy cream into a 2 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup. (This is the tip our family friend taught me!) Add the vanilla.
Using a hand mixer on low, whip for 1-2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar. (You can add 1 tablespoon if you’d prefer it less sweet.) If you have the powdered sugar pre-measured, you can add it while you whip. If necessary, you can stop the mixer to add the powdered sugar and then start it again. Increase the speed and whip until it’s thick and forms peaks.
That’s it! You’re done!
Some of my favorite ways to enjoy homemade whipped cream?
– Pie topping (Pumpkin or Chocolate Peppermint Pie, for example)
– On your coffee (Especially this Peppermint Mocha)
– As a brownie topping (try these Guilt-free Black Bean Brownies)
– A lighter dessert of strawberries & whipped cream
A few weeks ago I made some dry shampoo and I am loving it! (I cannot believe I am making stuff like this… I’ll repeat what I usually say: if I’m making it, it must be fool-proof!)
Pause: Are you wondering what dry shampoo is?
I didn’t even know it existed until a couple years ago. Basically it’s a product that livens up your hair on a day you don’t want to wash it. It removes that greasy-look and helps style your hair. I don’t have time to shower and style my hair every day, so I love dry shampoo. I don’t really love the idea of a ton of chemicals being sprayed on my scalp, however.
Enter DIY dry shampoo!
1/2 cup cornstarch (if you have it, use arrowroot powder instead!)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (omit if you have blonde hair; substitute cinnamon if you have auburn or red hair)
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops melaleuca essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil
I combined everything in an 8oz mason jar, put on the cap, and shook it up! This works well enough, but to distribute the oils more evenly, I recommend pouring all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulsing a few times.
HOW TO USE:
I use an old kabuki brush to apply to the roots of my hair in the parts that are looking greasy (usually around my face). Then I rub into the roots with my fingertips until it’s well blended.
Alternate method of application: poke holes in the steel top of the mason jar and shake onto hair. My concern with this method was the mess it would make if I ever knocked it over. I wanted something that could always be sealed.
Grease be gone! Plus it smells ah-may-zing. My results are below…
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