Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Last Christmas Pageant: Or Missguided Wisemen, Angry Shepherds, and Baby Angel Wings

In my mind I am 11, but the math says I couldn't have been more than 9 maybe 10. Either way, I was in upper elementary school the year the associate pastor's wife decided to put a new "spin" on the traditional Christmas pageant presented every year at the Christmas Eve service. Preschoolers in cardboard angel wings and bathrobes weren't quiet enough, so we added a bit of creativity.

My best friend, her brother, and I were selected to play three siblings who were so excited for gifts that they missed the true meaning of Christmas. We were visited by a special angel: the associate pastor in a white sweatsuit and the special cardboard wings that were covered in glittered and typically reserved for "the angel of the Lord".

The "angel" narrated the Christmas story to us while our classmates and younger siblings acted it out.

Have you ever read "The Best Christmas Pagent Ever"? If not, you should! While our nativity play wasn't quiet as epic as the one in the book, in my mind, it is close.

My good friend a grade younger than me was selected to play Joespeh and thought himself much to old for the whole production. As a result he spent the entire pageant with his arms crossed and a scowl on his faces The only time he broke his pose is when the Wisemen walked past him. They were supposed to stop and bow down in front of the manger between Marry and Joeseph but I guess we hadn't practiced with every one on the stage. The end result was the wisemen walking right past the baby Jesus doll and kneeling  in the only free space, in front of the Christmas tree.

As if the pastor in sparkling wings made for a five year old girl and misguided wisemen didn't make the night memorable enough, my young brother did.

We were down to the last few moments of the pageant when the baby angels parted to reveal a group of kindergarten "shepherds" hitting each other over the heads with their staffs. My 5-6 year old brother (the senior pastor's son) their apparent ring leader.

To this day if you bring up this story my brother will chime in, "What did you expect when you gave five year old boys sticks?" He will then go on to explain that so-and-so called his best friend fat and what else was he supposed to do?!

Oddly enough, I don't remember doing any more Christmas pageants after that. I'm not sure if I simply aged out, blocked them from memory, or if the powers that be decided to try something different after that year. Whatever the reason that was the last time I remember us doing a Christmas production.*

In the years since I have seen a number of Christmas pageants and productions. They have ranged from adorably painful to spectacular but, none can compare to my memories of the year the wisemen bowed down to the presents and my brother started a sword fight onstage.

*The exception being when my sister directed a Christmas musical with the 5-6th grade Sunday school class, but that is another story for another day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Ritual of Journaling

I wrote a little bit the other day about perfectionism and how it holds us back from journaling. 

I think we each have a lot of reasons for not journaling. Perfectionism is a big one for some of us. Another thing that has kep me from journaling for years was feeling like it was a chore. I loved the idea of journaling, but actually sitting down to write felt like home work. No fun.

Over the past few years though I have unintentionally developed little rituals that have made time in my journal feel like a mental retreat rather than an assignment.

While I some times journal on the go, I prefer to journal at home in one of three spots: my dinning room table, my office writing desk, or a giant, leather chair next to the front window.

Before I start journaling I make sure I have any and all supplies I might need. Pens, pencils, journal, embellishments, glue sticks, photos, all in close reach. 

I normally keep a drink close by as well. In the summer that normally means ice water, lemonade, or sweet tea/lemonade. In the winter I lean towards hot tea or coffee. 

Good light, a warm blanket in cooler weather, and some quiet music also help set the mood. 

If it's a morning when I feel particularly scattered or distracted I will also keep a note pad or sticky note close by so I can jot down reminders or to dos as they pop into my mind. 

Because I have three kids and a revolving front door with neighbor kids coming and going I expected to be inturupted. Knowing that and deciding ahead of time that inturuptions are to be expected keeps my irritation at bay. Some times, depending on the day and the child, I will invite them to join me while I journal.

Tonight I would encourage you to find some things to add to your journaling time to make it a ritual you look forward to. 




Monday, October 17, 2016

Blank Journals

I love an empty notebook. There is so much beauty and possibility in an empty page. While I enjoy the occasional guided journal, blank journals are what really make my heart skip a beat.

The best thing about good, old fashioned, journaling is that all you need is any empty notebook and something to write with. 

Over the years I have used everything from $.50 composition books to embossed, leather journals with beautifully thick pages. 

That may be the very best part of using a blank book. There is something for every style, need, and budget.

Later this week I will share some of my favorite ways to use a blank journal, some prompts to get you started, and a few extra things.

Tonight though, I wanted to share with you my two favorite styles of blank notebooks to use.

Hands down my favorite style of journal is a hard back spiral bound notebook. 
The thick cover is ideal for journaling because it doesn't require a desk or table for writing, and I just love the ease of writing using a spiral bound notebook. 
As beautiful as some bound journals are, I find them not as easy to use. 
If you are looking for this style of journal I cannot recommend EcoJot enough. I normally get them at Barnes and Noble and currently have one in use and two on hand for when this one fills up. 

The other style of blank notebook I can't get enough of is Traveler's Notebooks or refillable notebooks. I will most likely do an entire blog post on these later. But for now, the basic idea is a sturdy cover (made from leather or stabilized fabric) with elastic bands to hold inserts. The thing I love about these is the varsatiliy. I like be able to have a different notebook for different subjects, but still have them all in one place. 

Which style of notebook do you like to use? Have a favorite? Share it in the comments! 



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Journaling and Perfectionism

I am half way through this series and I have written/posted every day. That's huge for me and I was super excited. Then I logged on today and saw my stats. Right now my posts are being viewed, on average, 5 times each. That's a record low for me. And I was crushed. So much work and my blog is doing worse than it has in years. Seriously? My first reaction was to walk away from the whole thing. I couldn't have been more wrong.

It easy to give up when things don't go the way we hoped. 

Perfectionism kills creativity. 

It's also the main reason we don't journal.

We miss a day.
We make a mistake in pen.
We can't spell.
We hate our hand writing.
We try something new and it doesn't turn out.
We see beautiful photos on social media and convince ourselves we don't have the "right" talent or skills.

Our fear of imperfection keeps us from recording the moments and memories that make up our stories. 

So, I'm going to keep writing here, and keep journaling, and keep trying new things. Because nothing is ever perfect...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Set Up

So I wanted to show you what this spread looks like after the pen. 

The beauty of decorating/laying out your journal a week at a time is that it makes it super quick and easy to jot down a couple thoughts. 

I love th simplicity of this and the fact it can be as detailed or as basic as I want. As you can see some days I wrote an entire paragraph, other days just a sentence, and today I simple recorded a list of the things that made me happy. 

They say that life is made up of moments, and this is my way of capturing those and jotting them down to remember on a rainy day.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Q&A Journals

I could probably do an entire 31 days on guided journals, but I have a feeling that would get very boring, so I won't. I do want to share one last style with you before we move on, however.

I haven't used these myself, but friends and family have and they love them. If you are a new Journaler just getting started this is so perfect. 

There is one page for every day of the year.
At the top of the page is a question and bellow is space to answer that question 3-5 years in a row. 

There's only room for a few sentences which makes is an easy commitment. It's also fun to see how you answers to the same question change from year to year. 

The are a wide variety of ranging from general questions, to mom questions, to journals for kids, teens, and college students. 

Come back tomorrow for another Follow Friday! 


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Capturing Stories: Workshop Wednesday



I'm so excited for this workshop Wednesday! If I could I would invite you all over and we would do this one together. In fact as often as I can I DO have people over to do this excercise with with me. 

My friend and I are constantly reminding each other that things are more likely to be used if they are pretty. From cleaning supplies to water bottles to journals we are way more likely to use things if we find them attractive. 

Some times though, it can be really hard to find the time to journal, much less make things pretty. 

When friends ask me where to start, or when I need to go back to the basics, I always go back to the basics.

Finding time to journal a page daily can feel daunting. But taking ten to fifteen minutes once a week is reasonable (and even advisable) for most of us! 

At the top of the post I shared two #beforethepen lay outs. Typically this hashtag is used for planners but I love predecorating journals as well! 
Use whatever tools and tecniques appeal to you. I am a big fan of washi and stickers for their spread. However I have also used water colors and stamps. The best part is that you only make a mess once and then your journal is ready to write in for the week and you will be that much more excited to use it because you know something pretty is waiting for you! 

So this week's excercise is to brew a cup of tea or coffee, put on your favorite song or sitcom, pull out those craft supplies you have been to busy to use, and play for ten-fifteen minutes. 

Of you are brand new and don't have supplies, washi and stickers can be bought at most dollar stores or the dollar section of Target. If nothing else a set of colored pencils can add a splash of color to a page and encourage you to stretch your doodling muscles. 

Trying out this week's challenge? Tag me on Instagram @joyleanne or on my Facebook page. I would love to see what you come up with! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guided Journals: Doodling Journals

So, it may seem a little unorthodox but I love a good doodle journal. For me journaling is a creative outlet and some times I don't have the time or desire to write a lot but just want some silly expression. I love the idea of art journaling but it can be a little overwhelming so the doodle books are a great way for me to express myself with out having to use a ton of supplies. 

So, with out further ado some of my favorite doodle journals for you to try out.

Love both of these books because they offer space to Doodle and regular prompts. There's a lot of room to write as well if you like to combine the two.

I haven't tried this one but I love this illustrator so I feel confident recommending it.
Draw Every Day Every Way
This is on my list of ones to try!! 

So there are some fun Doodle journals? If so tag me on Instagram! I would love to see them!  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Guided Journals: Holiday Journals

Continuing our conversation about guided journals I thought I would share another guided journal style that I have enjoyed over the years. 

As my Dad said, some day you will want to remember what year your daughter sang "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" every day for two months or what year you caved and bought your kids a puppy. 
Enter Holiday or Season Journals.

I have used this one and love it. It captures 25 years of memories and it so special. 

I've also used this book. It holds 5 years of memories and it's one of my favorites. It's so fun and whimsical. 

Thanksgiving Memory Book 
I've never used this one but it looks super fun.

Vacation: The Traveler's Journal 
This is another favorite of mine. It's not a holiday journal exactly but still seems to fit in here.

One of my favorite wedding gifts is to get a Vacation, a Christmas, and a Thanksgiving journal for the married couple so they can start recording those special moments from their first year together. 

Do you journal about your Holiday's? What kinda of things do you always make sure you record?  



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Guided Journals: List Journals

It's nearly 8:00 pm and I haven't written for today yet. (This is getting to be a bad ritual.) Tonight I had no idea what to write about. I was seriously looking for ways to get out of writing, but my husband wouldn't hear of that. 
So I sat here looking at a blank screen me thinking about how much I that. Some times blank pages and screens are an invitation, other times they are overwhelming. 
That is the beauty of guided journals. You have something to jump start the ideas. 
I knew I wanted to spend a couple of days exploring different kids of guided journals so I decided to start a day early.

I've have used all kids of guided journals over the years. A have a couple styles that I come back to over and over. List style books are probably my very favorite. Not only do they give me a place to start, but often times it triggers an idea I want to come back and explore more later. 

So, here are some fun list journals to check out.

There are actually a whole lot in this series from relationship lists, to book lists, movie lists. So much fun. 

Which list books sounds the most fun? I would love to hear. 


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Room to Remember

Today is my in-laws 39th wedding anniversary.
It is also my uncle's funeral.
It's a bit poetic.
As my mother would say, "Grief is the price we out for love." 
We cannot love with out risking grief.
When we journal there is room to document, embrace, and remember both. 
This week has been so much of that for me. Sitting with the sorrow and celebrating the joy of this season I am in. I have been so very blessed by people who have been willing to do both with me. 
I sat down today to journal and I wrote about both bitter and the sweet. 
Finding the balance can be a challenge. 
We live in an Instagram world where it's tempting to share just the high points. 
If we are not careful it can be easy for that mentally to transfers itself into our journaling.
The opposite is also true. Because it is a safe place for reflection, if we are not careful, a journal can become a dumping ground for negativity. A place to unburden the pain and then lock it away in the back of a drawer.
When journaling is most helpful to me is when I allow it to be a space to explore and reflect on the good and the bad. 

What are you tendencies when you journal? 
Do you find yourself recording only the high lights?
Or do struggle with being negative? 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Capturing Stories: Follow Friday

Today is day 7 of writing and posting and I am frankly shocked that I have stuck with it this long! Between my uncle passing and the due date anniversary or our miscaried baby this week combined with a lap top that doesn't work to work at all (I'm writing and posting on my phone!) and being in the middle of prep for a local art and craft show, there were so many reasons to quit. But I haven't yet and I am so very glad! 

The main reason I am doing this series is because I am passionate about it and because I want to inspire others. In that vein, I wanted to do at least one "Follow Friday" post and share with you some of the accounts I find inspiring. Hopefully you will find some one new to follow.


Do you follow any journal ackcounts? Which are your favorites? Share bellow! 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My Current Journal Set Up

One of the questions I get most when people see my stacks of journals/planners is,
"But what do you DO with all of them?!"

Since we can all use a little extra inspiration (and because some times it's fun to be a little nosey), I thought it would be fun to show you all my current journal/planner set up.

Currently I am using:
Spiral Bound Journal
Traveler's Notebook
Carpe Diem Ring Planner
Kate Spade Spiral Bound Planner
Illustrated Faith Planner

Spiral Journal
This is my standard "journal". I write in it most mornings and it's where I brain dump, record events and feelings, write out prayers, doodle, and take sermon notes.

Midori Travler's Notebook
My traveler's notebook holds three inserts. 
A cut down Moleskin Cahier with current lists, notes for this series, some simple bullet journaling, and anything that needs to be written down while out and about.
My Reset Girl insert is used for list journaling.
And finally my CocoaDaisy insert is used for gratitude journaling.

Ring Bound Planner
This is used like one would normally think of a planner. I use it for appointments, schedules, school stuff, and our monthly budget/check book balancing. 

Kate Spade Planner
This may be one of my favorites. The small spaces are perfect for recording a thought or quote or something special that happened that day. Some people use ring planners for this, but I like a bound planner so that it's all self contained at the end of the year. 

Illustrated Faith Planner
This is my newest edition and I am really enjoying it. I've been using it for scripture writing challenges, quiet time notes, and daily prayer focus. 

Some of my set up changes season to season but this will most likely be the set up I use till the end of the year. 

What's your journaling set up? Do you use multiple notebooks or are you a one book kind of gal? Join the conversation bellow or over on Instagram. I would love to hear your thoughts. 



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Capturing Stories: Workshop Wednesday

When I decided I wanted to do this series I knew that I wanted it to be more than just me me writing about my favorite hobby. I wanted to provide any readers with practical tips, tricks, and prompts they could apply to their own journaling journey. 
Hopefully Workshop Wednesdays will do just that. 
Today's prompt is super simple.
When in doubt, I always find lists are a great place to start. Even after journaling for more then two decades I still find myself going back to listing as a way ton organize my thoughts or to kick start a journaling session. 

For the New Journaler: 
What are your goals with journaling
What do you want to get out of it?
What style of journals apeal to you?

For the Seasoned Journaler:
Why did you start journaling?
What do you love about journaling?
What style or journaling would you like to try or explore?

I would love to know if you tried out one of these prompts. Comment below, tag me on Instagram (JoyLeanne), or use the series hashtag #31daysofstoriescaptured.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Capturing Stories: Basic Tools of the Trade

While the basic tools of journaling are obvious (pen and paper), I still thought it could be fun to share a little bit about notebook/journal types and share a few of my favorite pens and pencils with you in hopes of encouraging you all to get pad the first initial hurtle of journaling. 

There are three basic journal types. Each type had variations you can explore for your exact needs, but nearly any journal can be lumped into one (or more) of these three groups.

Guided/Prompt Journals
Yearly/Dated Journals
Blank Journals

Guided/Prompt Journals
I love a good guided journal. They are great if you don't know where to start or don't always have a lot of time. 
I keep one or two of these on hand at all times for when I want to journal but don't have a lot of time. 

My Three Current Favorites are:
Extraordinary Objects 

Yearly/Date Journals
Year of the Doodle cross from prompts to dated. (It could also be considered art journaling, but we will get into that later.)
Five Year journals are a popular style of dated journals. There is a page for every day of the year and each page has space for five entries. Some of these are guided other are not. 
Planners would also fall in this category and can be used similarly to a blank journal of the idea of a completely empty full page is intimidating. 

Blank Journal

Blank journals offer the most variety in both style and function. Because of this it's hard to summurize them in one simple paragraph. The beauty, however, is that any piece of paper will do. In fact I have been known to jot things down on random pieces of paper and tape or glue them into my "proper" journal. I will spend a lot of time talking about types and uses for blank notebooks so for now I will leave you with a couple things to consider when picking out the perfect notes.

How will you be using this journal?
Do you want lined or unlined paper.
How thick do you want the paper to be?
What type of spine do you prefer?
How durable do you need it to be? 

If you don't know how to answer these questions, have no fear, we will be touching on these things and so much more in the coming weeks. 

Make sure you stop by tomorrow for our first "Workshop Wednesday" when I'll share some hands on tips and inspiration. 




Monday, October 3, 2016

On Gratitude, Grief, and Getting Started

This isn't the post I was going to write today.
I was going to do a post on the basic tools needed to journal. 
And then came then came the text that my Uncle had indeed passes away in the night.
After yesterday's news it wasn't a surprise. But grief is grief no matter how expected.
Recording the hard times can be difficult, but it's worth it. My sister-in-law reminded  me of this today. 

"Remember while writing about the hard there is also room to recognize the good. The support, the love, the helpers. How God used us." 

We talk about seasons of life, but rarely is any season only one thing. Grief and gratitude, bitter and sweet, they go hand in hand. You can always find something to be thankful for. Even if it's simply the smile of your child, the beauty of a sunset, the helpers in the middle of the tragedy.

I'm looking forward to this series on journaling and sharing with your my journey. But the fact is, all you really need to journal is paper, pen or pencil, and something to write about. 

So tonight, if you don't know where to begin, start with gratitude. 


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why I Journal

I almost didn't post today.
I almost called the whole thing off.
There's a lot of reasons.

Time was a big factor. I am in the middle of a crazy busy season. I am prepping for my bi-annual sale which means I have 5 weeks to finish making 200 dolls and accessories. I just started watching a neighbor girl in the morning before school. My friends needs help with her daughter this week. Time always feels in short supply.

And then came the call. The kind of call that makes you look at things and question what really matters in life. The kind of call that makes you want to scrap everything and spend the day in bed with your kids holding them close. The kind that makes you call your mom and dad just to say I love you for the million and tenth time.

And I can use it all as an excuse not to write. There are always excuses if you go looking for them. Or I can use it as a reminder. I reminder of WHY I write, and more specifically why I journal....

Because Stories Matter

I said this in yesterday's post and I will probably say it again before the month is over. I come from a family of story tellers. My dad is a fourth generation pastor so you could say it's in my blood. Put us all together for longer than 30 minutes and some one will start telling a story, you can count it. I firmly believe that stories matter. I believe stories are what give our life context and meaning. Stories connect us. They remind us of our shared roots and experiences. They help point us toward share goals. For me, journaling is a way of recording stories. It's the main reason why I have not just a personal journal but a memory journal, something my kids can look at some day and perhaps see that they aren't alone in their life experiences.  It's a big reason why I journal but it's not the only one...

Because I Need an Ebenezer

noun: a commemoration of divine assistance.

I journal to remember. In the most basic way I want to remember when my kids took their first steps, funny things they said, and what year my mom gave one of them a creepy, laughing baby doll for Christmas.
On a deeper level I journal to remember what God has done. I am like Israel and easily forget the goodness of my Savior.
My journals act as a reminder of where I have been and what God has done.
In dark seasons my journals remind me of God's goodness and love.

Because I am an Extrovert

I find it interesting this current trend of associating journaling with introverts. As if they have the corner on reflection and the written word. I hate that stereotype. I am an extrovert and proud of it. I also cannot function with out journaling. Out of my family of eight I am one of two extroverts (my mother being the other one). Out of six good friends in high school in only three of us were extroverts. As an extrovert surrounded by introverts journaling gas been a life line. I process life by talking. Journaling has always been my way of "talking things out" when all my lovely introverts are maxed out on my extreme energy.

Because I am Created to Create

I was once told "Find what it is that you CANNOT NOT do, and do that."
Words and stories are what drive and feed me. My passions, my interest, my spiritual gifts, my ministries can all boil down two those to things. I cannot not write. Blog posts, journals, letters, instragram captions. I was created  to create with words. In a boarded sense, creativity feeds my soul and journaling allows me to combine words with pretty things and make something that truly makes my heart happy.

A Note On Perfectionism

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist until I met my husband. He was one of the first people to point out my annoying habit of not doing things unless I believed I could do them "perfectly." Journaling forces me to get past that. For some one who loves writing, I have horrible spelling. My grammar is far to weak for some one who spent four years studying journalism. It is easy to be discouraged when I look at beautiful journal spreads on pinterest or instgram. But I move past those things because of the value I have found. I strive to let go of my perfectionism because I believe that stories matter, because I want to remember, because it's how I processes life, and because I was created to write and create.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Capturing Stories: 31 Days of Journaling

Journaling has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Somewhere in the back of my parent's basement you will find a box filled with composition books, Lisa Frank lock and key diaries, journals filled with black pages and messy hand writing in "moon beam" gel pens.

There is at least one shelf in my home full of leather bound prayers and confessions and spiral bound heavy weight paper full of rambling thoughts of everything from motherhood to politics. 

I'm not sure what sparked my original interest in journaling, but I do remember a conversation I had with my dad early in my marriage.

My mom and I were discussing something when my dad chimed in...

"Write it down," he said.
"Some day you will want to remember, or your children will ask you when certain things happened. Write is down or you won't remember."

And so I do.
In lists and prayers and run on sentences I write it down.
Some times pretty, some times hardly legible.
But always recorded somehow, somewhere.

I firmly believe that stories matter. They provide context, meaning, and insight for our lives. They remind us where we have been and help us discover where we want to go.

When I first hatched the idea to blog about journaling for 31 days I had my doubts. 
My blog is not a "crafty/creative/DIY" blog. 
My blog IS about stories.
This is the place I record stories to share with you, my readers.
My journals are where I record stories for personal reflection, or to share with my husband and children.
Maybe it's not as random as it seems.
The world (and how we communicate) has grown, and I have found myself sharing my journaling and process on social media. I often get responses from friends and strangers expressing their regret that they don't journal more or wishing they knew where to start. 

I am no expert on journaling, though I can certainly point you toward some.
I am however extremely passionate about stories.
I hope this series will inspire, motivate, and encourage you to capture the stories of your life in a way that is uniquely and beautifully you. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Perfectionism the Enemy of Community

This summer I have had a lot of time to think about and to live out the concepts of tribe, community, and living in circles.
There's a lot there.
There's a lot in the way.

The more I look at the world around me and talk to those in my social circles the more I think Perfectionism has become a HUGE hang up when it comes to building communities.

We are looking for perfection in our communities.
We want to find a group of people that understands, accepts, and agrees with us 100%.

We are looking for perfection in ourselves.
We are afraid we will do or say something wrong and embarrass or selves or hurt some one else.

We are looking for perfection in other people.
We don't want to be hurt or challenged or disappointed.

We are looking for perfection in our homes.
We hold of inviting people over because there are dishes in the sink, or the bathroom sink drips, or the wall paper is dated.

We are looking for perfection in our lives.
When we have a better schedule, less stress, when baseball season is over, when the kids are older, when we retire. THEN we will be able to really engaged in community.

Striving says things SHOULD be perfect.
Hustling says things CAN be perfect.
Grace covers mistakes.
Love welcomes them.

Love invites a friend over and puts the iced tea in the pretty pitcher and pulls out the “nice” paper napkins in stead of paper towels.
Grace says it's okay that there are still dirty dishes in the sink from making the brownies.

What small steps can you take to move past perfection and move towards community?
I  would love to hear your stories.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3 Ways I Killed "The Village"

I am not sure you can be on social media these days, as a women, and miss the fact that we, as a culture are craving something. Call it community, call it a village, call it a tribe, we all want to be part of SOMETHING. Our hearts ache and long for the connectedness that seemed to come so naturally to the generations before us. Sort of.
It seems that no more than a week or two can go by without a blog post popping up on my Facebook wall about the loss of “the village”. For awhile these really resonated with me. As a young mom raising three kids I often feel lonely and isolated and long for the tight knit community my parents had when I was growing up.

Then, a few weeks ago, I read a post that just rubbed me the wrong way. I don't mean to bash other writers online, and I am sure the author is an amazing woman, mother, and writer. However, this particular piece just didn't sit well with me. While she was presenting a very real issue, the tone of the article came across as whiny, abdicating any personal responsibility, and a touch hypocritical and like a sale pitch for her writing mentoring program. (Don't even get me started on paid “mentoring”.)

After reading the article I went on to read the comments and was flooded with a sense of irritation quickly followed by shame.

Woman after woman responded that yes they felt EXCACTLY the same way. Clearly the writer had touched a nerve and given these women a voice. (Well done! That's exactly what every writer hopes to do!)

What I loved was that, every so often, another mom would offer a spark of hope. She would post a link to MOPS and share her story or invite local moms to a play group. And time after these women were shot down. I started to roll my eyes and mentally rail against the women when I was hit the gut with the realization that I had made almost every one of these excuses myself.

This is the truth...

We all SAY we want community but we have forgotten the price. It is so easy to blame the lack of community on society, long work days, the rise of social media, capitalism, or even the industrial revolution. But, for the first time in a long while, I am taking a long hard look at myself and my role in building, or destroying, community.

So here it is...

3 Ways I have Killed My Village

Being a new mom is terrifying. Especially if you are a perfectionist. I so terribly want to do it RIGHT. I want to be a strong super mom who had everything under control.
Being part of a tribe means asking for help. It means admitting I am not perfect. It's acknowledging that NONE of us are super mom, including me.
Being part of community means recognizing there are as many parenting methods as there are children. Here is the thing, because I want so desperately to do things RIGHT, it can be really hard to be around people who are doing things differently. I either a) start questioning MY parenting practices or b) start questioning THEIR parenting practices.

My husband and I have read this one particular marriage book over and over.
In it the author talks about how men and women are different. Everything we do from the way we think, to the way we talk, to the way we deal with conflict is different.
Not wrong, just different.”
It's not a bad mantra when it comes to parenting difference. Unless their choices are putting a child in danger, than the difference between me and another mom aren't WRONG they are just DIFFERENT.
(I honestly cannot think of a single difference I have had with another parent where the child was in real, immediate danger.)

Being part of a village also means admitting that my kids can get by with out me.
And that can hurt a bit. It means admitting that my kids need more than I can give them. It means admitting that I am not the center of the world and that other people can love them and care for them. It means admitting my kids really will be OK if I leave them with a trusted friend for a little while.

Which brings up another way I had killed community in my life...

I never thought of myself as a control freak until I had kids. I think it was, in some ways, inevitable. I was 22, I had been married for just over a year, and out of college for 18 months. And then, in a moment, I was responsible for the entire well being of another person. The only way I knew how to cope was by trying to control EVERYTHING. And here is the thing, living in community means surrendering some of that control. When I ask for help with my kids I may lose some control over my child's routine/diet/entrainment etc. And that is OK. Really. I promise.
Real community means trusting that the people around me and my children LOVE us and want GOOD THINGS for us. I have three daughters and I would say that 46 Friday nights out of the year, they spend the night with my in-laws.

Yes, I know I am incredibly lucky!

I realize a lot of parents would die to have ONE date night a YEAR much less one almost every week! But here is the thing, in allowing our kids to spend that much time away from us, we had to give up some control.

We have talked with his parents and set up guidelines and rules about how much junk food and no scary movies. Really that's as much for them because they have no desire to be up all night with upset stomachs and nightmares. But let's be honest, the kids stay up way later at Grandma and Papas. They get treats there they would never get at our house (partly because our grocery budget doesn't allow for a ton of extras.) And all of that is OK. Letting go of control wasn't easy, but the benefits have been so worth it. My kids are happier, healthier, and more secure knowing that there is a group of people around them who love them and would take care of them if anything ever happened to Mom and Daddy. And I sleep better at night knowing my kids will be taken care of, not matter what.

Control is an illusion any ways. And when I am too suborn to let go of my PERCIEVED control the vast majority of community feels like a major.....


My dad has this phrase that I have fallen in love with. I am honestly not sure he has ever used it outside of the letters he has written to his children on their wedding days, but I adore it and it has become an often repeated phrase in our house.

We chose to clutter our life with people not things.”
I love that phrase. It is beautiful and stirring and makes almost every one who hears it say “YES! That's what I want!” But here's the thing about clutter... it's...well...clutter. It's messy. It's in the way. We trip over it, we stumble, and we wonder why on earth we have kept it around this long and mentally make plans to take a trip to the dump, because goodness knows NO one needs this much CLUTTER.
Relationships are no different. They cause us to trip and stumble and crop up at the most inconvenient times. My husband works 12 hours days and Saturdays. Most of the activities that build community take place in the evenings or Saturdays. Times when I am alone with three kids. On top of that all of our local family and many friends live twenty minutes away (my fault, I chose the house in a different county).

I will be honest, driving 15-20 minutes on a school night, with three kids, by myself, is super inconvenient. So, more often than not, I just don't do it. I skip church outings, play dates, play groups, cook outs, birthday parties, coffee with friends, and time with family because I don't want to be inconvenienced. I will think about, and then dismiss, taking a meal to a friend because I don't feel like taking an extra trip to the grocery store. I will see a friend post on Facebook that they need childcare and brush it aside, because adding more kids on top of my three feels too hard. I hear someone is looking to borrow something I could lend, but I don't feel like driving out to meet them.

It is easy to yearn for the days when kids could roam the neighborhood freely and know that there would always be a mom or a grandparent watching out the front window keeping an eye on things. But the truth is having my own kids in out the of the house thirty times in one afternoon already feels like a strain, and I'm not always inclined to have the neighbor girl join them.

So there you have it...

TV may have killed the radio star...but I killed my own village.

In preparation for this post I posed this question on both my personal facebook page and a local Facebook Mom's group with over 3,000 members...

Ok Facebook World, I have a question...
I've seen a growing trend amongst my generation.
We all* seem to feel like we are lacking a community/village/tribe.
So here is the question, what is keeping you from finding that?
*It was pointed out to me that the word "all" wasn't accurate.
Which is very true, there are quite a few of my generation who have found community
(myself included at times).
So rather I will ask this.
If you are part of the growing number of people lacking community...
What is keeping you from finding it?
I got a lot of interesting responses. Women talked about distance from family, personality types (extrovert/introvert), social media, difference in parenting styles, difference in religion, busyness, the judgment of others, one mom commented simply “people.” All of those are honest, real, and valid reasons. And I respect those women for sharing.

But here is the thing, I can't change most of those things.

One man answered... his response was one word.


He later expounded...
And this quote came to mind as well,
“Hospitality is more about an open life than it is about an open home.
The home is the mechanism that lets us share our life with others.'
It's my responsibility to make sure that my preference do not hinder relationships,
which happens.
It's also based on the other person in the relationship putting for similar efforts as well.
So, when I neglect to do the things that make my dwelling/life pleasant enough for the opportunities to build community, I can actually be the problem.=

And my heart breathed... “yes.”

I can't fix everything. I can't wave a magic wand and create a village.
But I can let go of my pride and my need for control, and make room for the inconvenience of community. And then, maybe then, I can start to resurrect my village.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Broken but Useful

This was going to be an Instagram post, but it got to long and I realized just how much this topic has been sitting on my heart lately.

It's been over five years since my  now sister-in-law then brother's girlfriend brought me this adorable mug. I asked her stop and pick something up a Walmart for me one day and she showed up with my thread, chocolate, and this mug.

Years later it broke but I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.
So I found another purpose for it.
Broken but useful.
Its brokenness changed it's purpose, but not its ability to be used.
There is a lesson in this.
For me.
For all of us.

Our church has been doing a series on 1 Corinthians the past few months and the past two weeks have had a overriding theme.

Broken but useful.

And my heart aches at this. I understand broken. I understand it all too well. Useful gets complicated for me.

When I first came face to face with depression I lived in a culture that judged harshly. I was criticized and ridiculed for my honesty. And I fought back. I spoke up and shared openly about my brokenness and how God was working in my life in an effort to change the environment around me.

And then the years slipped by and I gradually grew silent. I became weary of the glances and the comments and learned to only reveal the "acceptable" parts of my brokenness.

I became cautious in what I shared. I became guarded in what I wrote. I held back part of myself for fear that I would be deemed incapable or unqualified to serve.

I began to believe the lie that the brokenness made me unusable. And in believing it made it true.

The more I hid my brokenness the less useful I felt. The less useful I felt the more tried to hid my cracks. It's a vicious cycle.

God uses our brokenness to bring glory to Himself.
He uses our brokenness to reach the broken people around us.
Our brokenness is what makes us useful.
When I hide my broken places I miss out on being used.
Our brokenness my change HOW God uses us, but never, every His ability to use us.
Broken but useful...but only if I am honest.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Writing Brave

I wasn't going to write today.
There are a million reasons not to.
I started purging the kids clothes yesterday and after hours of work the house now looks like a Children's Place exploded in the living room.
I'm in the middle of prep for a huge local craft show I participate in twice a year.
My toddler is running screaming up and down the hall way (my husband is watching her so it's not that she NEEDS me).
I am exhausted and a nap sounds REALLY good right now.
I've dealt with a number of disappointments this week and I am feeling a little defeated.

But God has given me a word for this year when it comes to my writing.


And today writing feels like the brave thing to do.
It's easy to write when there are dead lines and guaranteed audiences.
It is easy to write when we know the outcome.
But taking the time away from other things to write when the outcome is unclear... that takes some bravery.

Showing up fully in anything takes a certain level of bravery.
Any time we give ourselves fully to something (even if only for ten minutes) we are stepping outside of our comfort zone.

Those stolen moments when we step out side of the known and the secure and stand on the edge of the unknown.

It's what makes life interesting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Small and Brave: A Mission for 2016.

They say to write what you know. This is what I know. I know an ordinary life. I know play dates and dinner dishes. I know bus stops and first grade home work. I know bed time routines and sticky hands.

My life is quite. It is wonderfully beautiful in all of it's ordinariness. I see a trend on places like Instragram to celebrate the simple, small wonder of our every day lives. It's a wonderful trend. But I wonder, have we romanticized the every day. Are we afraid to acknowledge that the mundane can be as exhausting as it can invigorating? None of us want to be whiners, but I wonder if in our desire to offer hope, we have painted the world with rose tinted water colors ( or instragram filters.)

I love a good movie quote. You've Got Mail is full of them. One of my favorites is when Kathleen Kelly is writing to Joe Fox about her small life.

"I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?"

When we were kicking 2016 off Josh and I chose a word for our family for the year. As I have moved more fully into this year though God has given me a word for my writing. "Brave."

It was probably last October when I realized that my words that seemed to speak to people most were those I wrote about the ordinary struggles of life. I haven't over come any major hurtles in my life., but, like every Mom, I have had to over come boredom as I fix the 25th sandwich of the week. They may not win any Pulitzer prizes, but if my words on sick babies, rough home work nights, and missed naps offer encouragement then they are worth writing.

But writing these words takes bravery. It takes trusting that you all will understand my heart. That you will know that I am not trying to complain or gain sympathy. I am writing for the Mamas who need to know they are not alone.

There is a lot written out there for Mama's with special needs kids.
But what about the kid who is struggling just a little?

There is a lot written for single moms, or military wives.
But what about the wife who does bed time every night because her husband works late?

There are words of hope and encouragement for those dealing with crippling depression.
But what about the women who is dragging. Surviving and living, but with less joy than she would like?

I took a huge step in bravery last Friday. For the first time on social media I addressed my depression.
There are seasons when it is overwhelming, and seasons when I don't even think about it, but more often than not it just a part of my life I am learning to live with and cope with. It's something I am willing to talk about face to face, but never before have I mentioned in on social media.

But I stepped out in bravery in hopes of being a voice for all the other "ordinary" women out there.

Steps of bravery aren't always rewarded. Mine was. In a way that blew me away. It was encouraging beyond my wildest hopes. But more than that is reaffirmed what God has been calling me to.

For the first time I feel like I have a true goal and mission for this blog. My prayer is that it will be a space to give voice to the beauty and the pain of the ordinary.

Here is to a small and brave 2016.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Seasons and Stories

We are in a season of change at our house. We are writing a new chapter of our story. The first six weeks of the year included God actively taking some things out of our lives. I can't even say “we let go of things” because we really didn't have a choice. The changes were swift and out of our hands.

It would be easy to dwell on the loss of these things. To mourn what no longer is. They were good things. Things we loved and had prayed over and had chosen for ourselves. They were good things they just weren't “right now” things.

In her book “The Best Yes” Lysa Terkeurst talks about trees having to let go of their leaves to survive winter storms. There is a season for leaves and a season for snow, but if a tree holds onto its leaves too long it can't hold the weight of winter storm. We can't move into a new season with out letting go of something.

And so we let go to make room for new things...and this is where it get's slippery for me.

I love Instagram and follow a wide variety of people. I follow photographers and restaurants, doll makers and art journals, theater gals and art worshipers. And it is amazing! My feed is constantly full of amazingly talented women and there is a world of inspiration at my finger tips. Some times it is amazing and I walk away energize and excited to pursue my own passions with new energy.

And then there are days when I walk away discouraged because I want to try ALL THE THINGS!

I want to read that new books
And WRITE the next book
And making stunning works of art in my Bible
And have a perfectly decorated planner
And perfectly styled photos
Heck be on ONE design team
And make all the types of dollies
And grow my business
And add DIYS to my blog
And make adorable Valentine's with my kids...

Instead of being inspiring and life giving it sucks the beauty out of my season. These are the days when I have to put down my phone and remind myself what MY story is. I have to remember the passions and jobs God has given me to do. What my main things are.

And, for me, that is the key to living happily in my season, letting go of some things, waiting on others, and living fully with the “right now things.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Living Our Story in an Instagram Age: or Lessons from a Horse and His Boy

Have you ever read A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis? If not I encourage you to. Actually I would encourage any one who hasn't read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia series to do so. It will change the way you see the world. I promise.

Depending on what order you are reading the series A Horse and His Boy is either the third book you read (if read chronologically) or the fifth book you read (if read in the order written). Either way it is an interesting departure from the formula used in all the other books. In each of the six other books children from our world are transported to a magical world. In A Horse and His Boy however, all of the characters are from the world that contains Narnia.

In this unique book Lewis explores the concept and idea of story in a number of ways. Particularly the idea that we each have our own story, and that we are never told stories that are not our own. Over and over people tell their stories and . in some case, have their stories told to them. Each story raises questions and you are left with the realization that even our own stories can never fully be understood when they over lap with the story of someone else.

“Child,' said the Lion, 'I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
C.S.Lewis A Horse and His Boy

There is no way that when C.S. Lewis wrote his book in the early '50s that he could have even imagined the world of social media we live in. Now days our stories aren't just told around kitchen tables or on park benches. Our stories are being told daily, moment by moment on a variety of social network platforms.

This is so much beauty in this. So often it isn't until we share our stories with others and hear a much hoped for “me to” that we find meaning and healing in our own stories.

This constant story telling also poses a danger. It is so easy to see a picture on Instagram or a few moments on Periscope and think we have the whole story. Even when it is a dear friend and I know the story is deeper than what I am seeing, it is so easy to forget.

It is so easy to wonder...
“Why them?”
“Why not me?”
“What are they doing right?”
“What am I doing wrong?”

It is so easy to long for a story that is not my own.
To get caught up in the snapshots of beauty and forget about the hard work behind them.

And so I remind myself over and over.
To live MY adventure.
To full enter into MY story.

“No one is told any story but their own.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Un-extraordinary Loss: Our Miscarriage Story

February 12th 2012, the day we announced our pregnancy to friends.

Trigger Warning: This post is about pregnancy and loss.

I realized recently that I never really wrote about or shared my miscarriage story. At the time it wasn't really something you saw much of on blogs. Trust me, I searched. In the years that have passed I have had a number of friends experience this type of loss and many of them have written beautifully honest posts about their experiences.

But, one of the things I have noticed is that still, the people who write about their loss are those who have been through extraordinary circumstance. Be it ectopic pregnancy, late term miscarriage, laboring after a miscarriage, multiple losses, all of their stories have been intense.

My story is not.

I did some research and numbers are confusing and fuzzy, but most studies seem to agree that between 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. A confirmed pregnancy, in this case, means a normal (not early detection) pregnancy test has confirmed a pregnancy after a missed period.

That is a lot of pregnancies.

One of the main reasons I haven't shared my story up to this point is a sense of shame. I felt foolish grieving a baby I had only known about for two weeks. Had I been pregnant when my mother was young there is a possibility I wouldn't even had taken a test and would have assumed I was just really late. But the fact is, I was pregnant in 2012 and I had spent two weeks loving the child inside of me. I share my story for all the mamas out there like me.

You are not alone.

It was in the last couple days of January 2012 that I found out I was pregnant. January had been a crazy month and it took almost a week for me to realize I was late. A home pregnancy test confirmed that I was in fact pregnant. It was the beginning of the week and my mom and sister were coming to visit that weekend. We toyed with the idea of sharing our news with them, but decided to wait till we had visited the free pregnancy center for an “official” pregnancy test to share our news. This didn't however stop me from texting my brother's wife in Nebraska with our news. A day later she texted back with news of her own and I am still amazed that I managed not to spill any secrets while my mom and sister were in town.

Thursday, February 9th about ten days after our home pregnancy test, we visited the local crisis pregnancy center for a “medically administered” pregnancy test. It was the only place in town that would do a free pregnancy test that could be used for insurance purposes. We had left our kids with his parents under the guise of “date night” so it was just the two of us when the nurse handed us the form that stated we were pregnant. Too excited to keep it to ourselves any longer we sat in the parking lot and called our families only to discover that my brother and his wife were making the same phone calls that night.

Friday, February 10thJosh had plans to drive to a near by city with some buddies. I dropped the kids of with his parents for a sleepover and headed home for some rest. I noticed some spotting that night but didn't worry too much. I had a large amount of spotting with my first pregnancy and intense cramps with my second both caused by dehydration. I drank a glass of water, put my feet up, and decided that was no need to call my husband and worry him.

Saturday, February 11thI picked the girls up from my in laws that afternoon and we went to visit Daddy at work. The spotting had come back so I mentioned in passing to my husband. He calmly reminded me of the spotting in my first pregnancy and told me not to worry.

Sunday February 12thby the time we got to church Sunday I had been spotting all morning. To ease my mind I sought out a friend who was a nurse educator for labor and delivery nurses. She reassured me of all the reason spotting could happen. She encouraged me to rest and pray, and if I was still concerned in a few days to call the doctor's office to see if I could move up my first visit.

Convinced that rest was the answer my husband picked up tale out and movies on the way home from church and parked me on the couch for the afternoon. It is a testament to his love that he sat and watched teenage vampire movies with me all afternoon.

It was around 4 pm that afternoon that everything shifted. Certain that dehydration was the primary culprit I had been drinking crazy amounts of water and, as a result taking constant trips to the bathroom. Everything was fine... until it wasn't. The brown spotting had changed to bright red.
I knew then that my baby was gone.

It took me a while to tell my husband. I went downstairs and sat in our recliner trying not to cry. I sent two text messages. One to my mom, one to my sister in law. “It's red.”

A few hours later the spotting changed to bleeding and I knew I had to tell Josh. I thought I made it clear. I guess I didn't. He still had hope. I fell asleep crying that night while he prayed for protection over our baby.

Monday February 13thJosh left for work that morning continuing to pray over the baby that I knew was gone. I was left with the task of calling various doctors offices and the pregnancy center trying to find some one who would see me. All of the had the same answer. “Sorry we can't help, go to the emergency room.”

His mom came and sat with our girls, a friend came and drove me to the ER. After a while Josh met us there.

Here is the thing about going to the emergency room for a miscarriage.
It isn't an emergency.
There is nothing they can do to stop it.
You are bottom priority.

And so we sat, and sat, and sat. Friends brought us lunch. My sister called. I still hadn't told our siblings so I am not sure if I texted her or if my mom had told her, but she called. I stood in the waiting room staring out a window listening to her. “I'll come,” she said. “But only if you want me to.” I felt horrible asking her to come. It was beyond selfish asking her to take time off of work to drive from Maryland when there was nothing to be done. I couldn't answer. “You have to ask me Joy. I need you to tell me what you want.” More silence. “Come,” I said. “OK,” she said. “I'll be there.”

More waiting.
They take us back.
They draw blood.
More waiting.
They order an ultrasound.
I drink water till it hurts.

The nurse does the ultrasound and for a few fleeting moments she seems to see something. Our spirits perk up only to be dashed when we realize she thinks she sees something wrong with me.
It's nothing.
It's not a baby.
It's not something wrong.
It's just nothing.

They still make us wait for blood work. The Dr. comes in and hands us lots of papers. He says things he thinks are helpful.
“There's no signs you were ever pregnant.”
“You probably had already lost the baby before the first pregnancy test.”
And as kind as his intentions are, what I hear is that I have no reason to grieve.

We quietly tell our families and post something simple on facebook. Conventional wisdom says you don't announce your pregnancy before 12 weeks to avoid situations like this. I have no regrets sharing our news when we did. Every baby should be celebrated, even if only for a few weeks. I am so thankful for those who not only celebrated with us but walked with us through the next few weeks with grace and concern.

Tuesday February 14thValentine's Day. Josh fixes me breakfast in bed and the girls and he bring me my gift. He has to go to work and offers to call his mom but my sister is on her way so he goes and the girls and I wait for her. I don't remember much about her visit. I do know it was one of the most self sacrificing acts of love I have ever experienced. To say any more would be to tell a story that is not mine. And I will not attempt to do that.

And then life moved on.
Sort of.
We picked back up where we left off.
I went to MOPS that week.
We went on the trip had planned to TN and up to Ohio to see some of his family.
No one mentioned the miscarriage, so neither did we.
We went back to church.
No one mentioned the baby, and so neither did we.

Over the next few months two couples in our circle both experienced miscarriages ending in traumatic DNCs and a close friend delivered her baby girl stillborn at 20 weeks.

I kept silent, full of guilt because I was still grieving after such a “simple” and “uncomplicated” experience. I felt like my sadness was invalid. It was an early miscarriage with no complications. Had it been a different decade chances are I wouldn't even have known about it.
But I did.
I knew and loved my baby for two beautiful weeks.

October 2012 my mom came to visit. It was the weekend of my due date. We didn't really talk about it much until right before she left. She told me in many ways the hardest part was over. I could stop ticking down in my head what milestones we would be passing in the pregnancy. Now I could move on.
And she was right.

There are still days I miss our baby There are still moments I look at my brother's oldest son and wonder if we would have had a boy or girl and how they would have played together.

I have a wonderful, beautiful, full life. I have three amazing daughters. We were eventually blessed with our rainbow baby Anastasia which we found out means resurrection. It seems fitting as she resurrected hope and dreams we had placed aside.

But loss is loss and I four years later I am finally writing this blog post with no shame or embarrassment.
Having three healthy pregnancy doesn't change the fact that one of them ended too early.
Loosing a baby 8-10 weeks is still loosing a baby.
Just because it happens all the time doesn't mean it isn't devastating.
You don't have to have felt the baby move, or seen an ultra sound, or heard the heart beat to know you have a child inside of you and to love them like a mother.
There is no shame in your sorrow or your tears.

You are not alone.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On Saying "Yes" and Saying "No" : A Lesson from Noah and the Ark

Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting there having your quite time, maybe you are reading your Bible, maybe it's a devotional, when all of the sudden a phrase lodges itself in your brain and won't budge. You go about your day, but that phrase or verse just stays there, stuck in your brain like an annoying commercial jingle playing over and over.

This happened to me the other day and, since I am trying to pay attention to the things that clearly stick with me, I took some time to sit down and do a art entry in my journaling Bible. A lot of times I will sit down and write out my thoughts on a verse that sticks with me, but this time I couldn't quite pin point what it was that drew me to the passage so I decided to just sit with a bit. I let my mind work the words over and over while I painted and created. I spent about 20 minutes with it and in the end felt like I had wrestled through some of the Lord was saying to me through these words.

The exact verse from the ESV Bible reads “And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”

Clearly I took a little bit of license as I journaled, but I think I stayed pretty close to the translation.

Here is the interesting thing about the story of Noah and the Ark, his part of the story can be summed up in that one verse. Noah's story is covered in a a little less than four chapters and, with the exception of one incident, all of it falls under that one verse. Everything he did was in response to God's directions.

“And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”

Not the easy parts.
Not the parts that he understood.
Not the parts that made sense.
Not the parts that lifted himself up.
Not the parts that lined up with his own plans.


And that's all.
He didn't do anything else.
He did his part, and that is it.

It had never rained before.
But Noah didn't question.

He didn't have a clear time line.
But Noah didn't rush.

The outcome was unknown.
But Noah didn't hesitate.

The task seemed impossible.
But Noah didn't hesitate.

God gave Noah a job.
And he did it.
And he didn't worry about anything else.

It is now just over one month into the new year. Maybe you are like me and you sat down in early January (or maybe even let December) and set out some dreams, goals, and plans for yourself or your family in 2016. Maybe you are nothing like me and tend to fly by the seat of your pants evaluating opportunities as the arise.

May I encourage you with this?
Are the things on your to-do list the things God is asking you to do?
Is there anything that needs to be added?
Are you holding back from saying “yes” to God because the outcome seems unclear?
Are there things that need to be taken off your list?
Have you said “yes” to things that aren't yours to do?
Be cautious.
Saying “yes” to tasks that aren't ours makes it harder to say “yes” to the things that are ours to do.
That is some a task for some one else.
When you say “yes” you are taking away their opportunity to say “yes.”

May we say “yes” to all the Lord has commanded us (and “no” to the things He has not.)