When Our Big Summer Plans Amount to Something Small

Big_Summer_Plans_Amount_to_Small

My children long to know what we’re doing each summer. A grand adventure seems to be called for. All of their friends will be announcing their fantastic escapades: vacations to exotic locations, camping with other friends, road trips, and more. These all sound wonderful. But with a work schedule which doesn’t let up and a budget which cannot afford such luxuries, our big summer plans usually amount to something small.

Truthfully, this breaks my heart. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want these things for our children or myself. Like most parents, I would love to give these experiences to my family and explore the world with them. Unfortunately, that’s just not where we’re at. So what can I do? Begin with prayer, and ask the Lord to lead.

Start with a Heart of Gratitude Unfulfilled desire can easily lead to a heart filled with bitterness and anger over what we don’t have. Instead, we need to choose look around us and be thankful for all we’ve been given. We have a lovely home, good food to eat, too much clothing, and plenty to keep us occupied right where we are. It’s good to have goals, but we must remember to be content with what God has given us already and be thankful for all He continually provides.

Plan for the Future If there is something important we wish to aim for, then we should also be willing to do the work needed to make it happen. Vacation trips don’t just fall in our laps. So, we’re researching, planning, and minimizing to make these happen in the future. Some of our goals are more easily attained while others might take years to accomplish. With a visual guide and plan in place, everyone becomes excited to see progress and help with cutting back.

Turn Off and Tune Out the Buzz If Instagram squares start causing discontent and Facebook posts bring us down, it might be time to remove ourselves from the action for a little while. These feeds can be lovely sources for ideas, but when inspiration becomes frustration we need a break.

Make the Most of Right Now Traveling to Europe isn’t in the cards right now, but there is plenty of opportunity for adventure all around us. Even when budgets are on a budget, there are still many ways to take advantage of the season. With a little creativity, planning, and a Google search or two, we could be having all kinds of fun.

Remember, Sometimes Small Amounts to Something Big While we’d all love grand adventures, it also helps to remember the little things in life which add up to big memories. Roasting marshmallows over a fire pit we built ourselves, sleeping in tents in the living room, homemade ice cream, free concerts, library events, kitten cuddles, and so much more. These aren’t far away adventures, to be sure, but grand none-the-less. I can’t provide exotic locations every summer – okay, not even every third summer – but I can take each day and make it memorable in its own way.

The desire for adventure remains. Through prayer, planning, and the Lord’s leading, we’re making it happen. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes focused on what the Lord has already provided and be grateful for each new day. Because the truth is, a grand adventure awaits the moment I open my eyes. I just have to be open to the possibilities and live each day with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

We’d love to know… If you could plan one grand adventure before the summer ends, what would it be?

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The Lord Giveth, And The Lord Taketh Away

The_Lord_GivethI love when God blesses our families. Don’t you? During those seasons of giving, it’s easy to bless the name of the Lord. But, when the going gets tough, do we still bless His name? Through our struggles, we have the opportunity to teach our children a new lesson: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord!

Life is never perfect, but it’s lovely when we are able to go through seasons of refreshment. Times of ease and smooth sailing. We have daily mishaps, but overall life is going pretty good. Then, comes those seasons when nothing seems to be going our way. We lose jobs, our cars break down, the house payment is going to be a stretch, our kids are in full rebellion, and more. We recognize God in the giving, but it can be hard to hear His voice amidst the taking.

If I stop and listen, He will speak. What is He trying to tell me? He loves me; knows me better than I know myself; has experienced every feeling I have; He will always be there for me; He will always come to my aid; and He is not done with me yet. God never fails. The truth is, I am still being blessed. Even in the midst of the taking away.

As parents, we have the wonderful opportunity of teaching this to our children. God will neither fail us nor our children.  By our example, our children will learn to bless the name of the Lord no matter their circumstances.

Is this a time of giving? We praise the Lord for His gifts, thanking Him for blessings we don’t deserve. We use the gifts He has given to bless others. We ask the Lord to give us wisdom in how to best use our gifts and be good stewards.

Is this a time of taking? We continue to openly praise the Lord for His gifts, thanking Him for blessings we don’t deserve. (Our children need to see that our circumstances do not dictate our praise of God.) We ask the Lord to use this time of taking to grow us and show us truths in His Word. We teach our children to pray specifically over needs to be met, encouraging them to keep a journal as God answers.

The question isn’t whether or not God is blessing us; His love never ends. It’s whether or not I will trust Him through the struggle. The question is, will I still bless the name of the Lord even when surrounded by overwhelming obstacles and a way is not seen. Will I bless His name, when to all the world, there is no blessing evident in my life?

As the verse says, “To everything there is a season….” There will be seasons of giving and seasons when the Lord takes. May we be faithful to trust Him no matter the season we find ourselves in. And, may we praise His name always.

“and he said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.”
Job 1:21

🔔Time to Chime In: Is your family going through a season of ‘taking’, how can we pray for you?

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The Grass is Always Greener….

It’s well manicured, lush, green, and expands to all ends of their domain. Their seemingly perfect grass sits there mocking your scraggly, practically brown, over-grown, meager patch of yard. You jealously compare the two and thoughtful wish your space looked like theirs. Well, perhaps, my friend, there is a reason for this. The grass is always greener, where it is cultivated.

It is all too easy to look at the people who surround us and compare ourselves to them. Is our marriage as good? Are our children as well-behaved? Is our home as well-kept? Do we accomplish as much?

Dessert Scene - Vegas

I do NOT want my “grass” looking like this.

One truth I have discovered is that while I am looking at other peoples “green grass”, mine is beginning to whither. Instead of spending my time growing my “yard”, I’m slowly killing it off with bitterness and doubt. I need to refocus my gaze and start managing the space I can change. But how do we go about helping our “grass” to grow?

Get Rid of Pests – How many things are in my life that I just don’t need? Worse, how many of things are actually hurting me? First and foremost, I need to remove those items which are preventing me from further accomplishment. Be it television, certain music, friends, or responsibilities. All things which prevent me from accomplishing the goal of living a life pleasing to God, need to be removed if I am to progress.

Pull the Weeds – While “pests” are surface problems which need to be removed, “weeds” are a little harder; they often run deep and are a reflection of my inner heart. Is there bitterness in there? I need to uproot it and kill it off. Am I angry all the time? Yank it out and throw it away! Once the weeds are gone, I have a better ability to start growing. We accomplish this with tons of prayer, some good Bible reading, thankfulness, and proper application of what we’re learning.

Plant – Now that the damaging parts of my “grass” are removed, I want to start adding some good stuff. Prayer and Bible reading will definitely help, but now we need to add a few more good things. Quality family time, Bible study, and purposeful couple time are all good places to start.

Fertilize – No seed can grow without a little help! Surround yourself with as many like-minded friends as you can. People who will not fill your ears with flattery, but who will give you the truth; friends who encourage you to grow closer to Christ.

Water – Quench your Spiritual thirst with a good family church. Our minds and souls are like sieves, we leak! (laughing) We need to constantly be refreshing ourselves with the teaching of the Word and the encouragement of worship.

Silly Girls

Now, this is what my “grass” ought to look like; complete with happy kids.

Manicure – Once you start to get the process going, you will sometimes find you need to maintain your “grass”. If I am doing things according to God’s will, my life is going to start to flourish. My relationships are going to blossom and, while life will certainly never be perfect, life is certainly more “green”. This doesn’t mean, however, that every once in a while, I don’t need to do a quick status check. Has anything snuck in which shouldn’t be there; a stray weed or pest which thought it could find its way in? Perhaps I have left off planting those seeds and building? Is my grass getting withered or needing a little infusion of vitamins here and there? Failing to manicure my life can be very dangerous; left unchecked, my life could easily become the mess it was previously and be a hideous example for the world to see. There is very little which is sadder to observe; a once lovely life, now turned stale and ugly.

A Note of Caution –  This is not a guarantee that all of life will suddenly be “coming up roses”. We aren’t talking a quick-fix for getting everything you want. This is a heart check. If we focus on serving Christ and living lives for His glory, the size of our “yard” or the house which happens to be sitting on it, won’t matter. The purpose is not to magically convert our lives into exact replicas of our neighbor, but to be thankful for the one God granted to us and to make the most of what we’ve got. It’s not the size of the “yard”, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do was wish our lives were perfect, in order to make it happen? Wow! People would dream up large homes, endless budgets, and gorgeous fillings for their estates. Our relationships would be just as well off; happy marriages, obedient children, and endless amounts of friends.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a long wish list. Often, you get out, what you put in. So, instead of me looking into other people’s yards, I want to spend more time cultivating my own.

How is your yard looking?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33