WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE

I long for greatness—an extraordinary life of eternal significance. Not fame or fortune or celebrity status. Rather the deep need to know that my life matters—that I will leave behind something more than a carbon footprint and a closet full of cute clothes I found at the thrift store.

thrift store edit

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO SERVE.

This season of life has me folding towels—the same 7 towels every. single. day. and making beds, scrubbing toilets, stirring soup, and teaching math and spelling. Sometimes my life in this loud house on a quiet street in the rural south leaves me with the feeling that somehow it isn’t enough—enough for me, enough for them, enough for God. There must be something out there, over there, bigger and better than this.

Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”Matthew 4: 8-9

Great Smokey Mountains 2012

Whatever our job or our role, we can spend our hours and our days constructing grand plans and elaborate schemes. Dreaming of our escape from this day of doing the thing we’ve done 100 times before or every day for weeks, or years or decades. We begin our days with dread and end them with regret. We loathe the same-old-same-old and regret that we lived another day walking down the same street and falling into the same hole.
When someone asks, “How was your day?”, we reply, “Good” or “Busy” or “Long”.

Why do we never reply, “Extraordinary!”?

Is not every minute sacred?

Is not every breath a gift from God?

Is not every task done before a holy master?

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”

Matthew 4:10

I am learning.

Jesus is my teacher.

God chooses the simple and makes it sacred.

He teaches me how to make the ordinary extraordinary. How to turn water into wine.

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO THE CROSS.

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My Enemy shows me the kingdoms of this world and tempts me with self-worship. My Savior shows me the cross and calls me to die to myself.

In my ordinary life I scrub a 1960’s-Harvest-Gold-non-self-cleaning-oven; He teaches me that no amount of scrubbing will make me clean. Only He can do that.

I clean clutter from a closet; He reveals clutter in my heart; souvenirs of unpleasant experiences and painful memories. He invites me to give them to Him.

I lie in bed, eyes wide open, sleepless with thoughts of unfinished tasks and tomorrow’s new list. He reminds me that He always finishes what He starts and that includes me.

I am learning that in Him I am clean, uncluttered, complete.

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO LIVE FOR HIM.

When God calls edit sunset edit

With Him, my ordinary life is quite extraordinary.

Eternally significant.

.A task of heavenly proportion.

Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him. Matthew 4:11

 

 

 

WILD OBEDIENCE: WHEN GOD SAYS “STAY”

When God invites us to Wild Obedience He always has a plan. Sometimes I am sure I know the plan. Oftentimes I’m wrong.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

Wild Obedience

I want to slip out of the corner booth, leave the chips and dip and husband and put my arm around her tiny slumped shoulders. A broad shouldered, baby-faced friend sits across from her tears, defenseless. From the speaker over my head I hear trivia questions for which I have no answers. I know this answer. She needs me. This momma knows how to comfort girls with tears. I know what to say.

But He says, “Stay.”

I question His plan.

He says, “Pray. I just want you to stay put and pray. I know what she needs.”

So I stay put and pray and eat chips and wings and talk cartoon trivia with husband.

But I wonder about obedience.

Am I really just too afraid or too embarrassed or too lazy or …?

My tummy is full and I push away the plate. I look her way just in time to see the broad shouldered, baby-faced friend reach over and wipe away her tears with his napkin.

When God invites us to step out in Wild Obedience He always has a plan.

I attend the Declare Conference in Dallas and learn a lot about obedience—specifically, this Wild Obedience of which I speak.

Wild Obedience2

Lisa-Jo Baker speaks Friday night: When Wild Obedience Looks Like Foolishly Following Instead of Successfully Leading. She says:

“Wild Obedience does not equal publicly awesome acts of service. God will use anything to call you to follow Him. Throngs of heavenly hosts bear witness to your secret Wild Obedience.”

I remember trivia night and wings and her tiny, slumped shoulders and tears. I hear Him say again, “Pray. I want you to pray. I’ll give her what she needs.”

My heart is full and I push away the doubt.

When God invites us to Wild Obedience He always has a plan.

Whether Wild Obedience is to step out, speak up or stay put, He has a plan.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

For the one reading this today—being secretly Wildly Obedient—know that the throng of heavenly hosts bears witness as you follow Him.

Wild Obedience3

 

Homemade Tomato Soup

Thanks to gardens, green thumbs, and generous friends we’ve had plenty of tomatoes this summer. Last week a friend from church called and said, “Call your husband and tell him to meet me in the church parking lot on his way home from the office and I’ll give him a bag of tomatoes.” I expected four or five sweet, homegrown tomatoes–enough for a round of tomato sandwiches for a bunch of hungry kids.

Tomato soup

Eric comes home with a bag FULL of large, perfectly ripe tomatoes. We did have several delicious tomato sandwiches for lunch and BLT’s for breakfast one morning and still had 7 or 8 tomatoes left. Since no respectable {and frugal} country girl would waste a single homegrown tomato I had to make a plan—and quick. I found a recipe that kind of included what I had in the pantry. Here’s my version of it:

tomato soup graphic

Ingredients:

  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 5 cups of chicken broth*
  • 7-8 tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Small can of tomato paste
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  • *I keep chicken and beef bouillon cubes in my pantry to use as seasoning and to make broth at times like this when I need it and don’t want to go to the store. It’s cheaper, too. To make the 5 cups of broth add 5 cups of water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes to a saucepan. Simmer to dissolve cubes while you proceed with step 2. If you bought chicken broth you can skip this step:-)
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Add chopped onions to pan, stirring frequently for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onions are translucent. I like to add a little salt here, too.
  • Add minced garlic, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add broth to onions and garlic. Boil gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add peeled, chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  • If you like your tomato soup chunky it’s ready to eat. However, I like to blend mine to get a really smooth texture. FYI!: Only add a cup at a time to the blender. The hot liquid will be all over you and your ceiling if not. Be sure to use a dish towel or pot holder to press down and hold the lid of the blender before you turn it on! Transfer pureed soup to a large serving bowl until all mixture has been blended. (I don’t have one but I think you could use a food processor instead.)
  • Add chopped fresh Basil, stir, and enjoy.

I served this soup with Texas Toast grilled cheese sandwiches. Best meal ever! Ok. I exaggerate a wee bit. My best meal ever is usually whatever I ate last. But the tomato soup was really, really good! This recipe served 6 hungry people with several servings left over. I hid the left-overs in the back of the fridge and I’ll probably have to share it. But I think I know where I can get more tomatoes ’cause now I’m craving a Homemade Ham and Tomato Pie. You can find that recipe here if you’re wondering what to do with your tomatoes. 

So what do you do with your tomatoes? Got a recipe I need to know about? Email me or leave a comment. I’m always looking for my next “best meal ever”.

 

When Life Seems All Uphill

There are days when life seems all uphill. You begin the day worn and weary. You start out behind and feel you’ll never catch up. The to-do list is longer than any one person can handle and everyone seems to need a piece of you.

uphill3

I’ve had my fair share of uphill days. This “snapshot of my life” as I refer to it isn’t all blue skies and get aways. I’ve shed a lot of tears in the shower while I plotted my escape. There have many days when I’ve considered throwing in the towel, giving in and giving up, and sewing a big “L” on my sweater for LOSER. It’s convenient at my age to blame it on hormones, but I’ve found that this “feeling” doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of age or sex or race or personality type, most of us are going to feel this way at some time or another.

uphill2

On our recent Cheaha Family Adventure we decided to hike one of our favorite trails. We’ve hiked this trail many times with our children. Usually, we either hike down to the lake and get a ride back up the mountain, or we start at the lake and hike up the mountain and back to the campsite. This time we decided to make the hike down and back with a brief water break at the lake. Here’s a description of the trail from Trails.com

This is a rocky hike (or slide if you’re not careful) down through a healthy, mixed hardwood/pine forest. But don’t gloat for long as you savor the flat walking around Cheaha Lake, because the best part of this hike is the thigh-burning climb back to the top. This hike, which links Cheaha Mountain with Cheaha Lake below, is by far the steepest sustained ascent/descent within Cheaha State Park.

The “thigh-burning climb back to the top”  was all uphill. It was a very steep, sustained ascent. Some of my days have felt that way recently.

I learned some things from that hike that have helped me when life seems all uphill.

uphill 5

1. Pace yourself

Some of the hikers started out too fast. The flat part of the trail at the beginning of the ascent is deceiving. Some days are that way, too. We start out too fast, eager to get it all done. If you’re in a season of days when life seems all uphill, slow down. Ease in to your day. Step outside and greet the sun. Read a Psalm. Write down five things you’re thankful for. Pace yourself.

2. Take a break

As we began the ascent some of the hikers appeared fatigued and winded. They needed to take a break but pressed on to stay ahead. Soon they were forced to take a break or risk heat exhaustion and injury. When life seems all uphill, take a break. Sit down. Look around. Take in the view and listen. Catch your breath and get your second wind. Do it as many times as is necessary.

3. Lighten your load

One of the hikers was carrying a bag with water and snacks and first aid supplies. As the ascent grew steeper and legs grew tired, the weight of the bag became almost unbearable to its carrier. Another hiker took over the pack for the remainder of the journey. When life seems all uphill, lighten your load. Ask for help when you need you it. Receive the help that is offered. Let go of an unnecessary burden. Learn to say “no”.

4. Refuel

As we neared the top of the mountain one of the hikers said she wasn’t feeling well. Knowing this one the way I do I knew her body needed more than water. We insisted she refuel and soon she was feeling much better. When life seems all uphill, make sure you refuel. Listen to your body. Refuel regularly. Have lunch with a friend. Feed yourself well.

5. Look up

We were just a few feet from the end of the trail. I had hiked it enough to know. But the one who was weary couldn’t see it. We were at the steepest part of the trail and the gray boulder walls loomed high, dampening the spirit. I sat down beside her and said, “Look up. The end is right there.” She smiled and said, “OK. I can make it.” When life seems all uphill, look up. Listen to the One who is always beside you, showing you the way, and walking it with you. Know that there are others on the journey, too. Look up and smile. Breathe in grace and breathe out praise. You can make it.

 

 

Goodbye July

Stars and Stripes, Alabama, freedom, Old Glory

A Summer Get Away {just for two}

A while back I shared with you Why We Get Away. Even if you’ve read it before I think it’s worth reading again. It’s all still true. We get away to be together. Just the two of us. This time we went to another nearby city that is fast becoming one of our favorite places. Atlanta Trip skyline
It’s a short drive, there’s lots to see and do, and since I’m a country girl who loves the big city it’s the perfect place for us to get away.
stacy--atlanta
The last time we were in this city Eric was doing this:
race day 8race day 3

This trip did not include running 26.2 miles!
So on Day 1 on our way to Atlanta we stopped in Villa Rica to do a little thrifting. We browsed through a couple of places and then had lunch at The Olive Tree. Great food and great service. I had the Olive Tree Lasagna and Eric had an Tuscany Italian Sausage Panini. We barely had room for dessert but we had to try the Baklava. Delicious!
dessert, villa rica, olive tree, baklava, italian
We made it to Atlanta and checked into our hotel.
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The Hotel Indigo is a beautiful historic building with a cool, city vibe. The hotel is beautiful and the service is the best. “Earl from Tuscaloosa” is hiding behind the desk. He’s a little camera shy I guess.
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There’s so much to see and do within walking distance.
fox theatre
We had a delicious dinner at Gordon Biersch. The Blue Crab and Artichoke Dip served with toasted crostinis was really good and very filling so we chose to share the Steak Frites. We barely had room for dessert but we had to try the Warm Apple Bread Pudding. Delicious! The next morning we enjoyed a great cup of coffee and an apple fritter at Caribou Coffee. Obviously, it’s a great place to lose track of time.
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We spent the day thrifting and just hanging out. Of course, we bought lots of great books!
thrifting, thrift store, frugal, thrift atlanta thrifting atlanta2
We had a very, very late lunch/early supper at Escorpion. The chips and salsa were delicious as were the Barbecue Pork tacos. We did not have room for dessert! Saturday morning on our way out of town we decided to try the Thumbs Up Diner. We were not disappointed. Eric had steak and eggs with a biscuit and potatoes and I had a huge slice of Challah bread french toast with real maple syrup and apple cured bacon. For dessert we had a third cup of coffee.

As we reflected on this trip we both agreed that the best part (besides being together) was the people we met and conversations we had. We met some great people and heard interesting stories wherever we went.

I realized as I looked through my photos from our trip there wasn’t a single photo of us together in Atlanta. But here’s a photo of us earlier this month on Our Cheaha Family Adventure.

eric and stacy on cheaha

And if you read Why We Get Away you already know what we feel like after our trip. But in case you forgot…

1986 beach copy

cs lewis marriage quote graphic

 

Our Cheaha Family Adventure

When we moved to Jacksonville 12 years ago we were thrilled to find out that we were just a short drive away from Cheaha State Park. It’s the highest point in Alabama at 2407 feet above sea level and the coolest spot to be in the middle of July in the south. This park has a lot to offer: great camp sites, large swimming pool and lake, hiking trails, a restaurant, store, and cabins, chalets, and hotel if camping’s not your thing.

In 2003, we kicked off our homeschooling adventure with a day trip to Cheaha. Here we are at the head of the Silent Trail at the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area.Fall Hike at Chinnabee 2003 edit

This weekend we hiked the same trail to Devil’s Den Falls. They’ve grown up a bit.DSC_0105

The trail to the falls is steep and busy this time of year but it’s well worth the hike.DSC_0082DSC_0063

We had some jumpers.DSC_0090DSC_0084

Some spectators.DSC_0093

And a snake killer. (Sorry for the blurry photo. He kept waving that snake around and I couldn’t focus.)DSC_0069

We spent some time at the pool.DSC_0006

Here’s the view from the pool.DSC_0011 DSC_0010

We hiked to Pulpit Rock.DSC_0049 DSC_0046 DSC_0039

It’s also the best only place to get phone service.DSC_0056

We watched the Super Moon.DSC_0029

And we spent lots of time just hanging out.DSC_0036DSC_0035DSC_0023DSC_0020DSC_0018DSC_0002

A good time was had by all.Cheaha 2014 group

 

Little Things: {The Blessing and Beauty of Books}

1. I love the smell of books, libraries, and old bookstores.bookstore

2. I think old books, their tattered bindings, and yellowed pages are beautiful.tattered

3. I often underline, highlight, and make notes in the book I’m reading. Sometimes I even dog-ear (gasp) the pages. (I never underline, highlight, or dog-ear library books!)dog eared

 

 

 

 

 

4. I buy most of my books at yard sales and thrift stores.more books

5. I have a Kindle app on my phone but I almost always have a book in my purse.kindles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. I’m never reading just one book. I usually have several books that I’m reading scattered throughout my house.a room without books

 

 

 

 

7. I almost always read non-fiction.flood of knowledge

8. I’ll never outgrow my love of books and reading.a pile of things

9. My favorite book is the one I’m reading right now.favorite book

Three Good Men

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

There’s no telling how many times I heard that growing up. For most of my life I understood “doing it right” as “doing it perfectly”. I’m beginning to understand it a little differently these days.

Paul said in I Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” This resolve is not a call to perfectionism. Rather, it is a call to “whatever you do”, bring the very best of yourself, your divinely given set of qualities, to accomplish those tasks sufficiently and in a way that brings Him glory.

My dad lives this kind of wholehearted devotion. No task is ever too regular, mundane, or ritualistic. He never saves the best of himself for some later “more important” job. He never does anything halfway. If he agrees to help you out, you can be sure you’ll get everything J.C. has to give. He doesn’t sit around waiting for someone else.  He’s not striving for perfection. He’s not even striving to out-do someone else. He just always shows up with his A game and trusts that God will help him do what needs to be done.

Happy Father’s Day, daddy.

fathers day

I’m blessed to have three good men in my life. Besides my daddy, I’m married to good man who is also a great father, and I have a wonderful father-in-law.

I love this recent photo below of all of us together. Such good memories.

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