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Spend All Day Cleaning and Find In a Single Moment It's Undone?

Wiping off smudges and food stains from the refrigerator and kitchen table, I began to think what an endless job it was. It's like a set up for failure. By the time I have finished cleaning, someone comes right along and with a single touch the work is undone. Or what about laundry, it is NEVER done. You can't find an end. Even if all the dirty clothes are out of the basket, guess what your family is wearing. That's right dirty clothes before the day is over!

Life is much the same. We go about trying to tidy up the smudges, dirt, and imperfections of the everyday just to find that we grow weary in the endlessness of it all. With one tiny flaw life once again becomes marked with unsightly blemishes.  This never-ending cycle often brings about disappointment and feelings of failure.

Take heart because I have good news. Jesus finalized the job.  He gave His life so you can have freedom from sin and find grace. You are no longer bound by your stains and imperfections.

Stop striving and rejoice! He has done the work that we couldn't.

Go deeper in faith:
May I challenge you today to make a list of every form of bondage in your life: mindsets, guilt, shame, addictions, unhealthy relationships, failures, insecurities, or whatever it may be.
Then in prayer take the list to God. Ask for strength to overcome strongholds, healing for open wounds, grace and forgiveness from guilt and shame, and power to move forward and live free from every weight that binds you.

Remember: freedom is a process; a choice you make everyday to not be shackled by those things that through His death Christ has already set us free from.

Make a choice today to step towards freedom.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Let the Journey Begin

December 26, 2013 marked one year since I began blogging. I started for a number of reasons, but my greatest desire was to inspire, encourage, and challenge others in everyday life.  To do this I started sharing stories and experiences that were tied to important lessons most of us could benefit from. Along the way a greater purpose was birthed.

On December 5, 2013 I made this declaration: “I have figured out my message to the world. It is Live Free! Free from guilt, shame, fear, and insecurities. Free to enjoy peace, love, and sound mind.”

Upon that declaration a #livefree word montage formed. This is the product of freedom:
To be free from everything that binds you: fear, doubt, guilt, shame, failure, judgement, condemnation. Learning to live in truth rather than opinion. Being reminded that you have to be the best you. Secure in the life you were created to live. Measuring success according to your purpose. Being greater each day. Continual learning and growth. Never know too much to quit being a student or too selfish to be a teacher. Esteeming others with great value and worth. Able to separate truth from lies. Not bound by past mistakes or failure. Able to learn and move forward with grace. Integrity in all things. Able to move past criticism and not dwell on mean people. Secure. Powerful. Influence. Leader. Servant. Putting down addictions. Free from a negative mind. Encourager. Confident. Gracious. Strong mind. Warrior. Free from stereotypes. Knowing your worth. Believing your worth. No longer bound by _______________. (fill in the blank).

 A life of fulfillment and purpose is possible, and it starts with freedom.

Will you join me on the journey as we learn how to live free?  We will be inspired and challenged to become all we were created to be while living with hope for the future.

Santa Who?

I didn't realize this was such a hot topic, but I recently began noticing several blogs, social media posts, and other conversations about whether or not to celebrate Christmas with Santa.  I mean honestly, I thought everyone who celebrates Christmas believes in Santa ... well except me!

Beliefs, opinions, convictions or however you would like to define it can range from celebrate with 'Santa all the way' to 'nothing Santa related allowed'. Then stuck in the middle is the option of blending Santa and Jesus to make all right with the world. Of course with this chasm of differences there comes conflict and raised defenses in order to protect one's way of thinking.

 Let's get back to the thinking that everyone except me believes in Santa.  Since before my children were born, I knew we would not practice the Santa tradition. It was and is a personal conviction. Now before you tune out, please hear this. I said it is "personal". I do not push this thought process on others or stand in judgement of those who celebrate differently.  Not playing Santa has not always been easy. When Christmas is near and you have young children in any public place, you are almost always guaranteed to run into a host of people who ask the question "are you ready for Santa?"   This often caused confused looks and shy uh-huhs to come out of the mouths of my children, and left this mom weary. I learned that explaining my position never got a great response so eventually I just stopped trying. What I really wanted to do is shout "I don't judge you for telling your children that Santa is real so don't judge me for telling mine that he isn't!" I never did that, and luckily those few years are done.

Then we went to the phase of school friends and everyone talking about what Santa brought. It wasn't as difficult but still left me feeling as if I robbed my children of some Christmas magic. Then a couple years ago, I realized that Jesus Christ coming into this world, being born to a virgin, and bringing hope and salvation was enough. It is more than magical. It is awe inspiring. Now, I say that not to attack anyone who enjoys playing Santa, but rather to encourage those who may be struggling as I did in the past. I know in the years of questioning, there were so many times I wanted to leave my conviction and just say "yes, Santa is real." 

I love Christmas movies and decorating my Christmas tree. I love the "magic" in the season and giving gifts. It's just that Santa was not the way God had me do Christmas with my children.  Even when I wanted to quit, I would remember that He created my children and He knew what they needed most.  After some events in our life, particularly with the children, I have an understanding of why I was convicted as I was. 

Here is where it gets beautiful. 

I recently spoke with a newly found friend, and we came upon the subject of Christmas and Santa. Knowing that our children had become great friends and we would be enjoying some Christmas celebrations together, I had to tell her that we have never done the Santa thing. I went on to say, "It is just a personal decision for my family. I don't think other people are wrong in doing so. My children understand that it is something that children should discuss with their parents." I then rambled on for a few minutes building my case, clarifying that I wasn't a weirdo, and explaining that I didn't judge her.

After I finally finished, she was so gracious with me and gave me the affirmation and resolve I have sought for so long. She explained that she appreciated me saying that I didn't judge or look down on anyone who chose to handle Santa in a different way than I. Then she went on to say how she thought it was so beautiful and relieving to see how God works with us personally and knows what we need in every situation. 

We both love Christmas, our children, and our God. Her family celebrates with Santa and mine doesn't. That's it. No fuss. No judgement. No weirdo labels. 

Whether Santa visits your home or not, I wish you a Christmas filled with love and grace. 

Friendship Ladder

Have you ever meet that person who will tell anyone the details of their life story trying to either make instant friends or run off the ones that would later hurt them? I am that person ... well a recovering form of that person.

I have always felt that if I do not empty every crevasse of my life and thoughts then I am being dishonest which is totally unacceptable to me. Give me a break! The heart was in the right place. It just lacked wisdom.

Recovery from unhealthy relationships has been a process, but there was a point where it started to go into overdrive and finally rooted deep into my understanding which is what I'd like to share with you.

While doing a study, I stumbled across the idea of intimacy in friendship.  And yes, although it was intentionally placed there by the writer, I still stumbled. This whole concept blindsided me yet brought so much understanding.

Here are just a few of the lines that grabbed me:

"Be careful with instant intimacy!"  "Revelation is God's way not exhibition."  "Authenticity with all, Transparency with most, Intimacy with some"

Can you image the weight of these words on a person who had sought instant friendship? It was like a slap in the face and a kiss on the cheek all at once. I hated the words because they stung, but as soon as the sting wore off, it was like a sweet healing! There was hope. I had just been following the wrong protocol.

Then the point was driven home with this wonderful illustration:

The lesson: Picture two people carrying the "relationship" up a ladder. In order for the relationship to stay balanced and not topple each person has to climb the ladder in sync in regards to both height and speed. The relationship can only go as far and fast as one is willing to progress. In conclusion, the truth was stated that some relationships are indeed only first and second step friendships. 

This teaching may be basic knowledge for you, but somewhere along the way I missed the lesson. I thought it was top rung or nothing.  I am sure I have raced to the top of the ladder and left people dangling for their life. Maybe I should climb back down the ladder and rescue them, but that discussion is for a later time.

If you needed this lesson, I pray that it would sink deeply into your spirit and bring freedom. That you would find time to slow down and take steps to build real friendships. That you would know that everyone does not get an all access pass and it's okay.  Above all don't be afraid of revelation. It really is a beautiful process.

An Angel Tree Gift

I recently volunteered to help with some administrative tasks with a community Angel Tree. One responsibility assigned to me was to call a couple families and get the children's wish list. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I made a call, and the father answered. I briefly told him why I was calling. His voice was filled with a mix of embarrassment and humility as he answered my questions about the children in the home and their "wish list".  I probed for specific desires in regards to brands, styles, and the most wanted toys. His response "No, no, really this is enough."

I was left with a list of basic things. There was not one fashion label, electronic, or sought after toy.

After the call ended I tried to explain the conversation to my husband, but rather I just burst into tears. Past the typical clothing, I couldn't utter the first "wish" on the list. A mere soccer ball. Each time I tried to say it I cried. I cried a hopeful cry.

I am not sure what the phone call meant to this father or what he received, but he gave me a gift of joy. Something so sweet burst forth because this father knew his children. He was able to tell me about each one and what activities were enjoyed outside of school. Just listening to him was beautiful because what I noticed was that each activity he mentioned required family interaction, imagination, sharing of talent, and the preparation for a brighter future.

I called in efforts to give, but instead I received. My joy was renewed as I witnessed the strength of this family through a relationship with their father.

Where have you found unexpected renewal of joy lately?

Are We Skipping Thanksgiving?

If you have been on any form of social media or followed any news lately, you have heard this question: "Are we skipping Thanksgiving?"

There are two distinct crowds. The Christmas Crusaders and the Thanksgiving Faithful.

The Crusaders have lit the tree, decorated the house, downloaded the carols, and prepared the gift list.

Then there are the Faithful. They've bought the turkey, dusted off old recipes, started the casseroles, added more harvest decor, and vowed not to sing a carol, light a tree, or check the shopping ads until the turkey has settled and the thanks has been given.

Personally, I have struggled with all the banter. Traditionally, I have made a big deal of the recognized holidays in the manner that is most commonly accepted. As I get older, I find myself on a new path. A path less about living for special moments and more about finding something special in every moment. I more readily reject the pressure to perform as once expected. I prefer to give gifts to friends and strangers throughout the year rather than having to give on a specified date. When it comes to giving thanks, I desire to make it my lifestyle rather than just a moment within the year. This isn't to say that I will not or do not participate in the holidays. I am just more aware of "why" I celebrate rather than "how" I celebrate. It is a process of discovery. A process that currently has fall decorations garnishing my entryway table and a Christmas tree lit by the fireplace.  The mismatched decor is an unintentional result of my efforts to enjoy more free time this season. Looking at it today I no longer see a unmatched mess, but rather a thing of unity. One group of decor represents a season of thankfulness and the other a season of hope. It speaks to me and says "You can give thanks because you have received the hope of Christ."

So with that revelation, the day, the season, the decorations, and the calendar matter little because the magnitude of thanks and hope that should be celebrated transcends time.

Here's to hoping that we never skip another time of thanks giving regardless of the season.

Righteous Anger

I discovered a small known truth that I just had to share.

If you ever desire to have a laugh with God, tell him that your bitterness is really just righteous anger. 

How do I know? I did it once and what came back to me was this image of uncontrollable yet correcting laughter.  I was quickly reminded of righteousness and in no way did it even closely resemble my heart.  I sought for the offense to be rectified rather than the offender be healed. 

So I realized, there is absolutely a time for anger. Be angered by the sin, chaos, and injustice in our world knowing the tremendous hurt that others face as a result, but never act out of anger or hold onto to it so tightly that it roots bitterness in your heart. Instead let it move you to compassion that you may lend a hand, an ear, or speak a prayer that opens a door for healing.  

So will you choose to have a laugh with God today or just admit what He already knows? 

Do this one thing and be encouraged.

I just wanted to take a moment today and say be encouraged.

Maybe you are not where you want to be, but if you are reading this there is hope. It means that you still have life within you to be lived. 

What is just one thing you can do today that will get you closer to where you want to be? How about this, what is one that you can do today that will get you closer to not a thing you want to obtain but rather the person you desire to be. 

Look outside yourself today and serve someone else. Make someone else feel special. Give to those who can't give back. 

Do one thing today for someone else taking no account of how it will benefit you, and I can assure you that you will be filled with hope, encouragement, and purpose. 

Be encouraged today by being an encourager! 

Defining Success

Success. It seems we all seek it, but do we really know what " it" is?

The word success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. 

Great, we have a definition. Now we can all go on with our life finding much success. Well, except for one little problem. We need to know our aim or purpose and how we measure accomplishment. Geez, so much for a simple definition! 

Ok so success still needs to be personally defined filling in the blanks of what is to be accomplished and how it's measured. 

The blanks are left up to you. How will you fill them? Is it about finances, family, fitness, missions, service, legacy, relationships, or something even more personal? 

However you choose to fill your blanks I challenge you to do so with an honest knowledge of yourself, your passions, and your dreams. Doing this will allow you stand firm even when others doubt you. It will allow you to focus on the treasure of true success rather than the trinkets of the now.

One last thought. Success is personal and fulfilling. If you think you are on the path to success and find yourself empty, chances are YOU didn't fill in YOUR blanks with an honest knowledge of yourself. You may be chasing someone else's success only to find you never reach your own.

Define your success and live to the fullest!

The Past Weighing You Down?

What does your past look like? Was it filled with success and joys, or overrun with failure and heartache. Maybe it was a mixture of both. Regardless, the past can be a huge weight that hinders forward progress. Whether you were surrounded by success or ridiculed by failure the truth is that carrying too much of the past can stop you from running towards the future. Here are two scenarios:
Living and dwelling on a past of failure and/or heartache could lead to a paralyzing fear of moving forward thinking all that awaits is more of the same. On the other hand spending too much time focusing on a past of success and joy could lead to a mind and attitude of apathy believing that enough has been accomplished.
No matter what is behind, there is life ahead of you that beckons to be lived (great example here). The past has already made it’s impression so there is no need to relive it or carry its baggage. Instead take the moments of today and live them in such a way that will inevitably forge the path to a future of success.  
Not that I have achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

Live life forward~

Encouragement and Challenge in a Cookie

My objective in blogging is to encourage people to live life forward.  I am passionate about living life well, defining success as it relates to my unique purpose on this earth, serving others, and being a good steward.  I like to share ideas and stories that will challenge people to embrace new mindsets and habits that improve the scope of their overall life while encouraging them to live with purpose. So today I will stick with that theme of encouragement and challenge but I'll do it through a cookie.

Of course this is no ordinary cookie. It's better than the average cookie.  I have found that in caring well for my body through both exercise and nutrition, I have seen tremendous growth in other areas of my life.  So today, take a look at what you are using to fuel your body and ask if it could be better. Then when you desire a treat, really treat yourself.  Forgo the trash and get a healthy alternative!

Check out the recipes below. They just may do the trick!

Flourless Oatmeal Cookies
I often experiment with a variety of different snacks in order to meet my dietary needs.  Sometimes it works great and other times not so much. When I do find a great mixture, I often have no idea how to recreate it.  I never measure. I just mix and go. Today however I have measured, tested, and gotten approval for what I am about to share with you.  I have three different variations and of course you can try the recipes with your own add-ins as well.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bites:
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/2 c Natural Peanut Butter
1/4 c Honey
1 egg
Splash of almond milk

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats, add peanut butter, honey, egg and milk to mixture. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bites 
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/8 c Honey
1 Ripe Banana
1/4 c chocolate chips (I perfer dark chocolate)
1 egg

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats.  Mash banana then add it to mixture along with honey, egg and chocolate chips to mixture. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bites 
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/4 c Honey
1 Apple
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 egg

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats.  Peel and core apple. Cut apple into chunks and puree apple in food processor then add it to mixture along with honey, cinnamon, and egg. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause

A Birthday Tribute to Reverend Billy Graham

Reverend Billy Graham celebrates his 95th birthday today 11/7/2013!

Wow, ninety-five years. Can you imagine the stories one would have after that lifetime?

How does he mark his time? With the release of "The Cross", begins airing tonight or you can watch online here. Check your local listings! This is quite possibly (very probably) his final sermon.  Here is a man that has never lost sight of his purpose, and an amazing example of how God can work regardless of age.

Billy Graham has often been called the Nation's Pastor and for good reason. He has addressed tens of thousands of people at stadiums around the country. He has offered spiritual counsel and prayer for numerous Presidents throughout history, and he has been called, on more than one occasion, to give an explanation of the hope he has. The title of the Nation's Pastor is fitting, but his legacy doesn't stop there.  He has preached in more than 185 countries which in my mind makes him the World's Pastor.  He has been invited by leaders to speak in countries where Christianity was not allowed. At times condemned for his "simple doctrine", it may be that very simplicity that draws so many people to listen.  His claims aren't rigid and self serving. He merely knows that he had found a life changing truth and wants to share it with the world. He shows himself as friend, a servant leader, and above all a man of unfailing integrity.

For me, Reverend Graham stands as a symbol of hope and consistency.  A man so enthralled with Jesus Christ, so changed by that love, that he truly has but one wish: to see as many people as possible experience the same hope he has lived for so many years.  There is something refreshing that happens within my own spirit when I think of the legacy of the entire Graham family. A family that has set out with pure heart to share hope with a suffering world. A legacy worth living!

So today I celebrate with a heart of gratitude all that Reverend Graham has done for our world. May those who were impacted by his words, sermons, and prayers continue to carry out his legacy.

Reverend Graham, may God's richest blessings find their way to you today.  Happy Birthday! 

School Zoning Where is the Value

Here we go, a sensitive topic! I have pondered, processed, and figured out that I will never make everyone happy with my thoughts :)

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a rather sensitive issue wrapped in a package called "school zoning". 

The zoning had not been much concern for our family because we had plans to move before the next school year so our children would likely be changing schools anyway. Furthermore, I had not been a fan of the school we were zoned to when we first moved to our town. It was located in a wealthier neighborhood in which we did not live. Knowing this, I felt I did not have a "right" to complain about a reassignment now! 

Back then, I feared that my children would experience the "poor kid" mentality or believe that they should be entitled to more than I would allow regardless of our income level or the price tag on our home. My fears were later removed as we went about our school experience. Four years at the school and I can say that I have been nothing but pleased with every single teacher my children have been assigned.  I also found that there are other parents who live in the neighborhood that hold true to my beliefs on being modest with the things our children have while teaching them to respect others, be generous, and to be grateful. More importantly, I have learned that every family and every child regardless of their address has value.  I have grown to love the place my children call school.  Having a familiar face smile and say hello or classroom children with whom you have volunteered run to hug you in the hallway is priceless. This being said, because I am comfortable where I am, I don't necessarily want to move schools, but I will without argument or grave concern. Now for the real story.

The heart breaking truth is that I know people on both sides of the zoning issue that have offended someone or been offended. The Herald wrote an article about one school in particular where I have family and friends who attend. The article did a great job highlighting the success of the school, children, and families. The place that it seemed to go wrong was the fact that in light of the successes noted much negative text found its way into the article. The negative text took away from the terrific child aspect and allowed attention to be drawn to naysayers. Why not just celebrate the accomplishments and not over shadow them with debates! After all, our actions will always win out over words. Unfortunately the underlying debate did come into the text and left me with mixed emotions. Underlying text and later comments that spawn from the article attacked people, whom I loved and/or respected, on both sides . They were either labeled poor and under-educated or wealthy and harsh. One group was praised for being present for every school event while the other was berated for working. It was like a reenactment of the Civil War. People in the same community, with many of the same hopes and dreams for their children, and yet a nasty battle erupted. 

Now here is the truth! Neither "side" is correct. Labeling one's character based on their income level, test scores, or skin color is wrong! We are individuals and all come from various backgrounds leaving different values, goals, and beliefs woven into who we are today. Sometimes we see the world from a different angle but it never gives us a right to devalue another person, and quite frankly the ugly that came from this was just that. People on both sides were devalued. 

Have your opinions, work for what counts, but for the greater good of people everywhere do it all from love. Somehow the real value of re-zoning was not seen. Maybe it's not the first choice, but it is an amazing opportunity to make a difference.  Feel like a school will not have enough parent support, then lead the way.  Concerned that money replaces quality time, then be the example. We never have to shrink into our surroundings when we hold the key to making that environment a more beautiful place. Look for the value in others and compliment it with the value in yourself! 

In the end, we, as parents, have the greatest influence in shaping our children's future. Where ever you are, make it great! 

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

Handle With Care

Oh, the lessons we can learn from teaching our children! I have found that in an attempt to hand down all my wisdom, I often find myself learning. Have you experienced this?

Recently, the children were being treated unkindly and their things went missing after playing with some others in the neighborhood. I had spoken to the other children involved and even set some ground rules for my children. The rules set were not followed. My children chose to ignore the safe guards.  They continued to surround themselves with people who disrespected them so they had to face the consequences. More items were taken and the responsibility was now on my children's shoulders. They had decided they were okay with the mistreatment and continued to put themselves in unhealthy surroundings without any boundaries.  It was a painful lesson because they were hurting, but I knew it was a lesson they must grasp or future lessons could be even more disheartening.

After they realized that their actions allowed the latter consequences, I was able to share with them that we tell people how to treat us by what we allow. If we continue to surround ourselves with people that disrespect us and our belongings, what we are saying is that we don't mind being disrespected. And quite frankly we show that we don't respect ourselves either. The truth we should be showing others is that we all are valuable and must be handled with care.

I explained that we can not force someone to treat us a certain way.  There are times that we will be wronged and will have no control over that particular instance. What we do have control over is our response. We should never respond with the same hurt that was put on us because regardless of the situation you always treat others how you would like to be treated. It is just another example of how your actions tell someone what you will and will not accept. Although the response does not have to be harsh or hurtful, it should be firm and filled with truth. Sometimes a conversation is all it takes to resolve a wrong. Other times the disrespectful behavior will not stop. At that point you can choose to remove yourself from that environment or group of individuals.

Then I shared this: Proverbs 18:24 There are "friends" who destroy each other, but a real friend friend sticks closer than a brother.

Finishing the "lesson" my heart was pierced and mind pondered. You mean it is okay to remove yourself from hurtful surroundings and toxic people! I get to have boundaries and everyone doesn't get an all access pass. It turned into a very enlightening conversation for me.  I can only pray that it will be one that sticks with my children.

What about you? Was this lesson for you or maybe you have experienced a lesson while teaching others?

I would love to hear from you!

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

Shed a Little Light

Recently I heard this quoted:

I have had foolish people in my life, but no one has ever been more foolish with my life than I have - Beth Moore (and is echoed by Shante Kiefer)

Those words left an imprint on my heart.  I knew that I had the same confession from my own life, and many of you reading may as well. The joy is that it doesn't have to be that way going forward or for those who come after us.

What Beth Moore learned, what I learned, and what you have learned does not have to lay waste. Beth Moore is a living example we can pick up those failures, short comings, embarrassments, and dark secrets and shed light on them. We can not allow the darkness to trip us up any longer. We can't believe that we are the sum of our past mistakes because it is a lie! Each of us were created for greater. The future is bright and sometimes that brightness is because someone cared enough to shed a little light on their past foolishness so that another may be spared from experiencing the same fall.

Is there a lesson you learned the hard way? Maybe it's buried in a vault of secrets and is causing torment to your soul. Release it!  There is a God who can carry it away. Then you will have freedom to share your wisdom (not every detail of your mistakes is needed) and more importantly your compassion with another and maybe light up a darken path.

Though sorrow lasts for a night, joy comes in the morning!

Go shed a little light,

The Pursuit of More

It seems that I am daily reminding my children to be thankful for what they have rather than constantly asking for more. It is easy for me to remember each wonderful thing they have been given and the reasons they should be beaming with joy.

After all they have three meals a day PLUS two snacks, clean clothes, a warm house, and a dog. They even have tablets, videos games, toys, and get to go to fun places and enjoy the leisure of life. Why in the world would they think they deserve more?!? They aren't beaten or verbally abused and we actually love them.  I mean how spoiled can you get.

Now excuse me as I fall off my high horse and face plant into the ground.

I have recently recognized that I too am in the pursuit of more.

For some reason I believe having more is a source of security.  You know financial security. Let's pause! Financial planning is not a bad thing.  It is actually a very good thing, but I am not referring to financial planning.

I am referring to a financial obsession that causes worry and anxiety and chokes out the enjoyment of living on purpose and through faith. Purpose and faith don't equate to stress and financial burden. It is the lack of belief and attitude of worry that causes anxiety and often looks at every circumstance without contentment.

So in reality, burden is just the path that I chose, and I have just realized this. Instead of taking the time to list the things that I am thankful for, seeking to grow in my faith, and dig deeper into living with purpose, I have been bound to asking for more. Gasp! More ... more ... more!  My thoughts seem to go: if the savings account could just hit this amount, if I could just have all my bills paid for the next 3 months without relaying on savings; if there was just more in the kids' college account.

My thoughts should be:  I am thankful that I have savings, my bills are paid, and my children have money set aside for college. More importantly I am thankful for a Savior that sacrificed His life so that I can be restored. I am thankful that my God will supply all my need according to His riches in glory.

Again there is nothing wrong with wanting to add to what you have, increasing your skills, or financially changing your family tree for the better. It is the heart of the pursuit that counts.

Thought provoking:
When is the last time you have stopped and really assessed all you have? Is there more you can do with what you have already been given?  Would more really be enough?

Gratitude and the pursuit of God. That's what truly fulfills.

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

A Messy Lesson

Most times, my home is clean and in order.  It's not right or wrong, it's just how I am.  Maybe I obsess a little, but I have learned to embrace it.

Recently I have been working on some home projects and mess was inevitable.  I embraced it because I knew progress was underway and there would be an end to the chaos. This made me think about life. Maybe some of life's messes are evidence of progress that I should embrace rather than run to clean them as quickly as they are created.

What about you, is there some evidence of progress that you are resisting? Would a change of perspective help?

Check out rare photos from the scene.

I understand this is silly, but the lesson is SO real!

Life gets messy but it could be because there is progress underway!

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

It Starts With Step One

What keeps one from living out the purpose for his/her life? Maybe it is fear, apathy, loss of passion, or something unmentioned. Maybe there is uncertainty about the process, or the grand plan just seems too far out of reach. From experience, what I have found is that misery often finds itself rooted in living a life off track from the heart's desire. For a time, outward success can be solace to quite the heart's desire. If the outward success does not line up with the heart's desire to fulfill a greater purpose then eventually there will be an emptiness.  Now please understand that I am not against success.  Social and economic success is a great thing, but time and time again I have heard stories and seen lives that were just incomplete or lacking luster because life was being lived chasing someone else's idea of success which is what I am referring to.

Recently I posted "What's Your Dream?" with the intention of hearing from the readers about dreams and goals for their life. To date, I have had NO response, bummer! This could be because of a number of things but certainly not limited to the following: no one is reading the blog, it was a really hard question, or the answer is too personal. 

A few thoughts: 
I blog not because of the number of readers but because writing is one of the things I love.  So I'll continue to share anyway. Thanks +Jon Acuff (may you learn the art of Google+).  I understand the question was a difficult one because it challenged me as well. I had to rethink some things and uncover some goals that I had buried. Dreams can sometimes be very personal.  The more sacred we find them, it seems the more we try to protect them.  Maybe there was a time you revealed a dream and it was mishandled.  I get it! 

With those realizations, I would still be honored to hear your dream; however my desire is not necessarily for me to know your dream, but for you to know it and find encouragement to live it.

Do you know what you really want to do in this life? Take away the measure of success that the world places on tasks and search the heart for what fulfills you.  Now make a commitment to do one thing today that gets you a step closer to that purpose.

And as I always say ... if you haven't read START you should!

Living the dream starts with step one! 

Dream With Me

In life it is most common for everyone to be about themselves; achieving more for themselves and their family, and using social media as a platform to share about them.

After all, that is what I do. But it isn't really what I want to do. I want to connect with people and hear their dreams.  I want to join forces with great causes and cheer loudly for those running the race of life.  I want to be a voice of hope and encouragement for those that get lost along the way.

The truth is, I get so caught up in what I am doing that I forget to stop and listen and see the dreams of others.  I know my dream matters and it matters a lot. If this world was just built on my dream, we would miss opportunities to make a difference in so many other ways. People would be overlooked, worthy causes ignored, and differing opinions, which often lead to profound creativity, would be unheard.

Jon Acuff says that one has every moment of everyday with themselves but limited opportunities with others to hear their stories and share in their dreams. I want to embrace that thought process. I want to hear about your dream. What is the big plan for your life? What purpose are you or do you hope to fulfill?

So leave a comment or connect on Twitter.

Can't wait to hear more about you!

Full of Compassion and Mercy

This started off as a quick Facebook post and turned into a much longer status than intended. I decided to spare Facebook and just write here. Your welcome!

I keep going back through the book of Exodus in my reading trying to soak a few things in. I am in chapter 34, right after the people had created an idol to worship while Moses was seeking God. The idol worship led to Moses getting angry & breaking tablets that God had written his instruction on ... Long story short Moses meets with God after the idol worship and broken tablets. God instructs Moses to go and cut two stones identical to the ones Moses had broken and bring them the next day. God was going to redo what He had already spent time doing once (parents take note). When Moses comes to meet with God on the next day, God introduces himself. He calls out His own name "Yahweh. The God of compassion and mercy" And there is where I stopped. I am still floored. Of course the scripture goes on, but I am stuck trying to wrap my mind around the fact he started with compassion and mercy.
Seriously had an entire group of people just rejected me and broken the project I had taken the time to do by hand, I am certain "Shante, the woman of compassion and mercy," would not have been my opening introduction. It would have probably been more like "Shante, the woman whom you rejected and disrespected. She will now remove herself from your presence." Entitlement? Absolutely! The crazy thing is that God is more than human mind can fully grasp and yet He chose to start off identifying himself as the Lord of Israel full of compassion and mercy.

Here is my take away: If God can can identify himself in such a way, I need to strive to be "Shante - woman of God full of compassion and mercy." I am sure my husband, children, friends, blog readers, and prefect strangers will be better for it.

My Peace Experience

Brokenness seems to be a part of life we can't escape.  Experiencing utter brokenness myself, I know it is so nice when we can find beauty and resolve.  Today was one of the days that I found some of both, and it was topped with peace. You can read about it on Our Frantically Relaxed Life: A Strong Reflection  

Simple Food and Decor

I enjoy occasional days spent in my home crafting, cooking, and decorating
Looking through magazines, Pintrest, or just scouring the internet for ideas sometimes takes me to a far away land where all of life is beautifully displayed. There is perfect food, perfect decor, and crafts that end perfectly each time. The land seems so relaxed and so at ease. I think to myself, I could stay for a while and enjoy all the eye catching surroundings. Then I wake and go off in attempt to create my own magazine worthy creations complete with the peaceful effortless environment that I just dreamed up in fairy tale land. My dream world abruptly turns to reality when I look around at a kitchen splattered with an array of ingredients that lead to a sink piled with dirty dishes. Let's not to even mention the craft table that is over run with odds and ends and projects that don't closely resemble the magazine pictures. This would be a good time for a cleaning service!

None the less I enjoy putting my hands to work in my home and I appreciate nice decor, mouth watering food, and crafty projects so I have just resolved to do it my way, the simple girl way. This means that if it has too many ingredients, too many steps, or is overly complicated I will leave it to the masters, or I'll get the main idea of the creation and see if I can adjust it to meet my guidelines of ease. This being said I have added three new pages to my blog - Crafts, Recipes, Decor.  My goal is to keep it simple and fun so you can enjoy the leisure of creating.

And there are many DIY decor projects coming your way ... I just have to finish them :)

Simply making the world beautiful,

It's Worth the Work!

I love eating healthy and making wise food choices to serve my family. One of those choices happen to be natural peanut butter. You know kind. The jar packed with the clay like mixture of pressed peanuts with a two inch layer of peanut oil on top (completely as a side note ... I have a tendency to pour some of the oil from the jar because it just freaks me out). The instructions are simply this: just stir and enjoy. Yeah right! If you have ever tried this method you know that oil sloshes out the jar runs down the side and covers your hand and counter surface. This leads to a slippery unsteady jar and at times some slight frustration. Then there is the fact that the "stirring" most closely resembles jabbing and edges on a upper body workout.

Knowing that I wanted natural peanut butter for my children and my celery, I decided to find a new method to tackle the peanut butter. I emptied the peanut butter (with clean hands) into a mixing bowl and pulled out my hand mixer. Then on low speed, I blended the peanut butter and returned it to its original jar. Yea all that work to have natural peanut butter when I could have opened a jar of regular stuff and made 20 plus sandwiches and cleaned the kitchen in the same amount of time. Why go through the trouble? Because to me, it is worth it. Now you are probably wondering why I shared the story. What's the point? Here it is: everyday we are inundated with images and text speaking into our lives. Many of those show pictures and tell stories of perfection yet they most often leave out the work, the failures, and the frustration that it took to get to success. You see anything worth having is worth working for, but sometimes we get so caught up on the prize and highlighting our strengths that we give people coming behind us a false belief that the journey is as simple as just stir and enjoy. I'm not saying there isn't a place to celebrate big, but let's not forget to inspire others to keep pushing by sharing our journey even if it means uncovering some fears, failures, and obstacles that you overcame along the way.

Oh and go eat some natural peanut butter  :)


On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause

Dirty Pants

So here it is, the ugly truth. I looked down at my son' s light colored khaki shorts, and they were covered in red mud, grass stains, and spaghetti sauce.  Now some of you reading are shouting a "hooray" for the boy covered in mess. The dirt means he was active and alive. Believe me that is where I wanted my mind to go too, but like I mentioned there was an ugly truth. The truth is I was highly frustrated. The shorts he was wearing were good shorts, and I am a huge advocate for caring well for the things we have. Now there was a dilemma "allow my son the see my level of frustration or celebrate him being full on boy." Since neither fit me well, I chose to walk away. As I walked to grab the wonder cleaner Zout, my frustration was embarrassing even to my own mind. I looked at the shorts and thought about my own life. Every day starts out clean. Then I wake and begin staining it with poor choices, snappy words, unkind thoughts, and wasteful habits. The truth is there are times that I take a good life and don't practice caring well for it. Ouch! Gut punch!
Thank God for Jesus and His forgiveness, love, and grace.
So if you relate to my frustration with my son for wrecking his shorts, know you are not alone. May the attitude of grace and forgiveness spring up in times such as those. Maybe you too have struggled with caring well for the "good" life. Would you take a closer look at Jesus and the forgiveness, love, and grace He gives? It really is worth accepting.

MOM (Mothering Over Mess)

A Place of Refreshing

We know life gets chaotic and without a break, a time to refresh, we may give into the temptation to be short tempered, constantly frustrated, and a kill joy. With all the demands in our society, it is important we take time to ensure we are the friends, coworkers, parents, spouses, and people, we would like to be. I have found that a place of refreshing in the day to day routine goes a long way in relieving stress.  It offers a new perspective of a cleared mind and renewed spirit.
Here are a few must haves in that special place
  • You must enjoy the surroundings
  • There should be no demands of you in that place
  • It has to be easily accessible to you during the week
  • It shouldn't strain your family relationships.

For example, I go to a beautiful lot of farmland surrounded by wooded trails and open air that is within 5 minutes from my home.  I love open spaces and nature. There is no work for me there and my senses awaken. My family finds joy there as well.

Find a place you can go and be refreshed. You will be better equipped to handle life as it comes.

Get another perspective on rest!


On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

Kid's Fun in Charlotte, NC This Week!

Take the kids and do something together this week! 

Also check out  Cool Table Ministries, a children's program hosted by my family. You can follow on Twitter @cooltable4life and post your fun family pics. Make sure to hashtag #dosomethingtogether #ctm . Check out our videos on You Tube cooltable4life channel.

Tuesday 9/10 
11:00am: Grey Seal Puppets at Carolina Place

Wednesday 9/11
5:00pm:  Free admission at Mint Museums

Friday 9/137:30pm:  Stargazing and treats around the campfire at Reedy Creek Nature Center

Saturday 9/14
Free admission to all Discovery Place museums for educators and a guest

10:00am:  Family Fun Day at Sports Junction in Harrisburg

Kids’ craft at Lakeshore Learning:  Make and Play Guitar 

Musical petting zoo at ImaginOn

8:00pm:  Outdoor movie at Kilgo

When Life Gets Chaotic

When life gets chaotic, because we all know that it does, how do you respond?  Do you feel like pulling a blanket over your head and running in circles screaming at the top of your lungs? No?  You mean I am the only one that does that.  How embarrassing.

Chaos, also known as real life, can overwhelm us. So many factors affect our day to day; many of which we have no control over.  We do have control in how we respond; however when life comes at full speed with no break, even the most balanced person may respond inappropriately.  How many times have you heard a friend, colleague,  family member, or yourself say, “I need a vacation!”  In that statement what is realized is that a break is needed.    

Now look at this, a vacation is finally taken and ends.  Then you hear, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” Oh yeah, it happens.  The reality is that we can not escape life no matter where we go.    There will be demands of our time, conflicts to resolve, and other chaos to handle.  Life happens daily and waiting a year to take a 7 to 10 day “break” from the other 355-358 days of life doesn’t seem like a good ratio to me.

Instead of living for an extended break, I have found that having a continual accessible place of refreshing helps with life’s chaos and renews my spirit and creativity .  It gives me a new perspective on the daily demands of life, allows me to dream, and gives me strength to take steps to fulfill those dreams.

What refreshes you?  Is there a place you go to renew? In the next post I will share more about the place where refreshing happens.

In the chaos of life may you find peace,


Princess in Training

Have you ever been treated like royalty?  If so, it is hard to go back to “normal”, and if no,  it is hard to accept “exceptional”.  So here is a little blurb about ladies becoming Princesses.  Let’s first get a healthy outlook.  I am not talking about a Prima Donna who demands, gives harsh orders, and is downright selfish. I am talking about a real Princess.  Think about Princess Diana. She was filled with class and humility and admired around the world.  She used her position to bring good, and she treated all people with respect. She most definitely left a mark on society.  

Now that we have a proper image of a Princess, let’s talk! There is no doubt that Princess Diana was served and had the finest of things.  In a crowd she was set apart and treated extraordinary. So go and do likewise and be a Princess. Oh wait, you weren't born into Royalty? You didn't marry a Prince? My apologies. What shall one do? Start training. Yes, train, or practice if you will.
Any lady at any age can become a Princess. What does that look like? Surround yourself with people that encourage you, believe in you, and motivate you. Look in the mirror and truly see your beauty. Carry yourself in such a way that others can’t help but to respect you, and when criticism and chaos visit you, handle it with grace. Be the best version of you possible. Admit your wrongs and lend a hand to those in need. If you are unfamiliar with the royal life, it may be awkward at first, but hang in there you’ll start to love it.
Now, I want to take this a little further and speak about raising a Princess. If you are a parent and have a daughter my hope is that you will teach this “Princess mentality” to her at a young age. Fathers, respect and honor your children’s mother that you may set an example of a lady’s worth to your daughter. Mothers carry yourself in a way that promotes a healthy self image, respect yourself, and speak kindly of others. Finally, tell your little girl every day that she is a Princess.  Chances are if you model the behavior, demonstrate the actions, and speak the affirmation, she will grow into a beautiful Princess leaving it hard for her to ever go back to being “normal”. Not to mention that living the Princess life just may keep her from settling on a toad instead of waiting for Princess Charming. So fill let’s fill the world with more Princesses and less Prima Donnas because that is a world worth leaving for future generations.
Go live the Princess life!
Wishing you and the little girls in your life tiara sparkles,
Princess Shante

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