We all do it. We eat some incredibly, delicious food. Maybe it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert… it doesn’t matter the type of food; we just eat it and we love every bit of it!
So, naturally, we go back for seconds…
Maybe it was our absolute favorite food ever, or perhaps it just looked really, really good when we first saw it. Regardless, we missed out on it the first go round, so we figure we will just get a little bit of it to see how we like it.
…then comes the regret.
“Ugh, I did NOT need that.”
“I am waaaay too full.”
“Whoops, I didn’t realize that (insert name) hadn’t even had any yet!”
“I can’t eat all of this. I was just worried it would all be taken!”
“It looked really good, but uhh not so much. What was I even thinking?!”
…Ashley, what are you talking about? Are you blogging while hungry? Yes, in fact I am (when am I not hungry?), but that’s not what I’m talking about!
…I’m talking about going back for seconds, in our individual lives, on our individual plates.
Our life plates.
You know, the ones we fill up every day, week, month, year, with tasks we need to accomplish, groups we want to join, or relationships we have.
I recently went to a women’s retreat and heard a speaker reference sitting down with God to evaluate her plate. “I’ve just got too much on my plate right now!” We have all said that phrase or heard someone we know use it. She went on to discuss how she evaluated her plate over the course of 30 days and prayed and asked God to show her what should either stay on or come off.
I thought to myself, “ohh I JUST went through this in my own life! What a great lesson for SOMEONE ELSE to hear. We all need to do this, and I am SO GLAD that I JUST did this!”
So after a full day of sessions, the retreat ended and I was super encouraged… until I wasn’t anymore.
I have been battling, and I mean battling, myself, the enemy, the ones I love, the media, the lady at the grocery store, the guy two lanes over from me, I mean literally EVERYONE lately! But the battlefield has not been one that anyone else could see. It has all been in. my. mind.
Irrational thoughts (check)
Negative self talk (check)
Self doubt (check)
Questioning the voice of God (check)
Raining down fiery darts like in the movie 300 (double check)
It has been a MONTH, if you know what I mean! I go to sleep, exhausted from a day of constant thinking, evaluating, and questioning, all of which is done in my very own head. I wake up and the mental battle starts again. Someone asks me how I am, and I’m like…hmm they probably don’t want to know all of the crazy that is happening inside of this head of mine!
So where did all of this come from, and why does it feel like I am stuck in a hurricane of my own thoughts and emotions?
…it’s because I went back for seconds.
So what does that mean? What does it mean to go back for seconds?
Last November, when I cleared off my plate, I quit my job, was kindly let go from helping my husband with his company (hah!), and then I put back on, in order of priority, God, husband, and children. Evidently, I wasn’t personally finished filling it yet, but I didn’t realize that then.
Within the course of a month while holding my newly cleared plate, I took on leading worship more frequently at my church, doing a few photography sessions here and there, and then was asked and decided to commit to FIVE volunteer teams at my church! Talk about a buffet!!! I mean, c’mon people, it was God’s work! All good things are ALWAYS good, right?
I had kept a little bit of worship on my plate, and a little bit of volunteering, but I had enjoyed them SO MUCH, that I went right back and grabbed myself some seconds, even though the Lord had distinctly told me to clear off my plate! I let that last all of 2 minutes before throwing stuff back on it. And I mean, it’s not unlike me to keep myself busy, or get ahead of God, but this time I really didn’t even see it. I was trying so hard to fill it with the good, Godly stuff, that it took me 3 1/2 months to see that it was making me spiritually sick!
Because here’s the thing… when we load up our plates, whether with 4 things or 14 things, we have got to take the time to properly digest all that we are trying to consume. Otherwise, we are just stuffing ourselves full of really wonderful things, that we just don’t have time or room for!
And how does it feel when you stuff yourself? When you have a gluttonous spirit? It’s awful! It becomes hard to even “feel” anything other than miserable. Sensing the discernment of the Spirit and the voice of God become almost impossible! Why? Because we are sick from all of the stuff on our plates, yet we keep adding more good, when really what we need is more God!
And when we do that, y’all, we take away those great things from someone else. We put too much extra on our plate, and we don’t leave any for the person that perhaps God intended it for in the first place.
The things we already have on our plates can nourish us, grow us, fill us, but we won’t ever experience that if we just keep pilling things on top of what we already have!
And understand me on this, those things that you feel like you just HAVE to HAVE…the pan of brownies that NO ONE WILL EVER MAKE AGAIN…y’all, that’s just not true! There will be another pan of brownies. And if you live in my house, a weekly pan of brownies! But what I’m trying to say is, that good thing you feel like you aren’t getting a taste of quite yet…it won’t be gone forever. One day, when you least expect it, but when God most purposefully intends it, you’ll get your chance to try it…or maybe you won’t.
If I can digress for a moment, I’d like us to discuss a passage from Hebrews. In chapter 11 we read about great people of faith from the Old Testament. The verse above specifically pertains to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These great men did bold things with patient faith, knowing that the Lord was working in and through their hardships. They took on JUST what the Lord told them to and then they waited in faith until He directed them. And the Lord did. He directed them and gave them people to share their faith with, but these men died never experiencing the best thing they could’ve ever experienced, and that was the promise of the coming Christ. Yet, they were long suffering. They kept believing and they kept doing EXACTLY what God had placed on their plates. Even when it wasn’t, perhaps, the things they wanted the most.
That’ll preach, y’all, cause it’s preaching to me! When you are walking in all of the good, but not the path that God has set for you, you might as well be behind enemy lines! That battlefield of the mind that I mentioned earlier, was my own doing, yet there I was giving the enemy all of the credit. I think he was likely relishing in how easy I was making it for him, but never the less, I was there because I wasn’t satisfied with what God had given me. Ouch! That hurt to type.
But God, through Jesus, gave us a way to ward off some of this “going back for seconds” nonsense. In Matthew 6 when Jesus is talking to His disciples (sermon on the mount), He instructs them on how they should pray. “Give us this day, our daily bread…” Jesus doesn’t say, “Give me this day, absolutely everything good that I want to have!” Negative. And aren’t we thankful for that?
“Give us this day, our daily bread…” don’t worry about tomorrow, and don’t try and get all you possibly can today, but instead, Lord, give us what we need that is sufficient for this day, and this day alone. Because really that’s all we can handle. And honestly, WE aren’t even handling that! It is only by the power of Christ and the grace of God given to us each day that allow us to handle what we have. We are also reminded of this in Proverbs 30:8, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”
So let’s each take a good, long look at our plates. Let’s not keep adding all of the things, going back for seconds, to then never even try all that we’ve added… because, guess what? We end up throwing those things away, becoming spiritually sick, or going to battle against ourselves, when God is over on the sidelines with a kitchen sink and dish rag whispering, “just let me clean this up for you.”
It’ll be so good. And it’ll be so hard…but also, SO worth it!
…and for the love of Pete, don’t go find yourself a bigger plate! :)
With love & laughter,
Absorbed in my bible study, it took a few minutes for the sound to register and make me aware of my surroundings again - the unmistakable sound of our dog pawing at the back door to go out. As I got up and start walking in that direction, her anticipation was so over-whelming that she was literally dancing and jumping about. I opened the door and she bounded out as fast as she could, directly to the three palm trees that stand close enough to each other that the squirrels bound back and forth in their branches from tree to tree. You see, she loves to chase the squirrels in her yard. She has not caught one yet, praise God, but she has come very close. Finding them and then chasing them is the highlight of her days.
As I stood at the door watching her, I could not help but chuckle at the fact that because she was so focused on the trees where she has had “success” in finding them before, she completely missed the 5 squirrels that were on the ground. A couple no more than fifteen feet from where she sat staring up into the tree branches.
Then it occurred to me, by prompting of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that often times I run through my life like that. So hyper-focused on a person, a place or a situation that has brought “success” before that I miss all of the blessings my Jesus has placed around me now. I am so consumed with the path that I have set out on or turned back to that I neglect to see the favor God has for me out in plain sight if only I would change my focus.
Makes me think of horses in parades that have blinders on. Those blinders are for protection; protection for the horse, rider, and audience. Sometimes the horse cannot handle that much chaos, distraction and activity without it causing anxiety and panic.
But the blinders I tend to wear are not protecting me at all. Quite frankly, they do just the opposite. They keep me focused on my own chaos, distraction and activity that it causes anxiety and panic for me.
If I take the blinders off, I am able to see and therefore receive all of the gifts God has for me in this world - my squirrels, as it were. Gifts such as a Godly husband that loves me deeply. Gifts of healthy children that call me mom. Gifts of loving parents and sisters, and in-laws who call me their own. Brothers and sisters in Christ that speak truth into my spirit and a church that I call home.
There's also the beauty of His creation that He made just for me! He even puts flowers on “weeds” so when I, with my black-thumb, kill off all of the “good” plants in my yard it still looks pretty. His blessings and gifts and bounty goes on and on and on.
Please Lord, help me to look up from my path, take the blinders off and receive all that you have for me. Help me to stay focused on You as You direct my path. I pray that it will become my daily posture to come, on my knees, to You to calm the chaos, distraction and activity that so often causes anxiety and panic. I want to see, receive and enjoy all that you have for me daily so I can be all you designed me to be. It is in the mighty, loving name of Jesus that I pray. Amen
Special thanks to Laura Crain for sharing with us!
–branches dreamstime.com,blinders blogspot.com/blinkers,blessings linkedin.com/pulse/countless-blessings-ray-w
I have found myself in a sort of dry season. As followers of Christ, there are times when we find ourselves in such seasons. We allow the worries of this world, heartache, fear, and our own selfishness to consume our thoughts and to steal our joy. At first we don’t feel the drift, but then we begin to feel the distance and we look up to find that the current has carried us further than we want to be. That’s where I found myself and so I began to ask God to draw me back, to show me what caused the distance in the first place, and I’ve tried to wait patiently for Him to answer. Patience is not something I do well so it has been a challenge.
This morning He showed me what was lacking in such a way that it left no room for coincidence.
I am keeping my son and daughter-in-law's two labs and I have a lab of my own. Three labs, who don’t know they are dogs, in one house. Well, this morning they were wound a little too tight so I sent them outside so I that I could have a “quiet” quiet time. Because we live on a pond with alligators, I decided to have my quiet time on the back porch so I could keep an eye on them.
“Quiet” was not happening. They ran back and forth taking a ball from each other, tumbled around in the flower bed where flowers and new pine straw used to be, and barked at Buster the cat who could have taken all three of them out at one time if he chose to do so. He really is that mean. Anyway, after one of them ended up in the pond, I decided that I had had enough and they got banished to the kennel.
A little over a week ago, we had to make the agonizing decision to put our 14-year-old lab, Hunter, to sleep. For those of you who have four legged family members, you understand the heartache. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially under those circumstances. We really didn’t think she would make it through the night last Wednesday night. Truthful, we were hoping that maybe she wouldn’t because we knew that if she did; we were going to be faced with a gut wrenching decision.
She perked up a little bit Thursday, but our Vet gently confirmed what we already knew in our hearts needed to be done. Drew, my oldest held her head in his lap as the preparations were made. It was fitting that he be the one to hold her, after all, she was his. Sam, my youngest, climbed into the back of my Yukon so he could be beside her and the doctor made room for me to be next to Her, too. We all held onto her and cried as she slipped away.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
“Mom, they sank the boat," came my very frustrated daughter's voice from the other side of the phone.
Philip and I were on the way to Columbia for a concert when I got the phone call.
Sam and his friend Lathan were coming in from duck hunting behind our house when Philip and I pulled out of the driveway. Becca, my daughter was waiting to take them to get something to eat. Everything was under control, or so I thought.
Really, when one has teenage sons, nothing is ever "under control." Sometimes we just have to slip into a semi-delusional state in order to preserve our sanity.
Anyway, we were less than 15 minutes down the road when Becca called with the news.
“What do you mean, they sank the boat?” I yelled into the phone as my heart rate began to climb to an unsafe level. “We’ve been gone less than 15 minutes. How do you sink a boat in less than 15 minutes?”
Summer is done. It’s over. I know this because school starts tomorrow. I am just devastated. I’m not ready. My brain has not recovered fully and now I have to throw it right back into the chaos of learning? I cannot do 10th grade for the 5th time.
I cannot even…
I did it once personally then 3 other times on behalf of my three older kids. Now I am being forced to do it with my youngest, least interested in school child.
It might kill me this time, it just really might.
He and I have had a sort of partnership over the years when it comes to all things “school”.
I do all the worrying. I keep up with what is due and when, though I don’t always know why. I devise study strategies, none of which have ever been successful. I develop very close working relationships with his teachers, which might explain why they act like they don’t see me when I wave at them in the grocery store.
His part in all of this is to somehow make it to school and back home. What happens in between is somewhat vague because he never seems to be able to recall when he gets home.
Teachers, I’m sorry. That’s all I know to say. And I will give you a very nice Christmas gift. VERY NICE.
Here is a tested truth: light will always defeat darkness.
Try it out. Take a candle and light it. Put it in the middle of a room and turn off the lights, close the blinds, make the room as dark as possible.
No matter how dark a room becomes, the darkness will never be able to block the light from that single candle. In fact, the darker the room, the more evident the light from the candle will become. The darkness is powerless against the light of the candle.
The world, for now, is under the rule of Satan. Satan loves darkness and he rules in darkness. He uses the darkness to blind the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
But Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Out of the darkness of our own hearts, God brought light through salvation.
Though the darkness cannot prevent our light from shining, we can. The light radiating from the believer results from an inward transformation. The more we grow in wisdom and knowledge and understanding of His Word, the closer we draw to Him, and the more intimately we walk with Him, the stronger and brighter our light becomes. But, when we are focused on ourselves and on the pursuit of worldly things, our lights are dim and harder to distinguish from the darkness. If we find ourselves ashamed of the gospel and afraid to take a stand for what we believe, we hide our light under a cover and no one can see it.
In Matthew, Jesus continues, “Let your light shine before men so they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Too often we focus on doing good works – works in our own power – the ones we choose to do, the easier works, the ones that require little sacrifice on our part. We feel good about ourselves and about the good we are doing. Sometimes we even like to get in a little bragging. But those works too often point others to us instead of bringing glory to our Father in Heaven.
When the light in us shines brightly, when that inner transformation is what causes the brightness of our lights to shine, it illuminates the good works that we do out of a deep love for our God and others see Him because of the light in us.
We have seen that light in the lives of the families of our brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the shooting this past Wednesday night.
A dark evil descended on Charleston. One fueled by hatred and ignorance. The evil committed had the potential to give rise to more hatred, violence, and evil. It had the potential to throw the city of Charleston into turmoil, like the turmoil we just witnessed in Ferguson. But it didn’t because the darkness descended around followers of Jesus who chose to respond to the evil as their Savior commanded. Out of the darkness emerged a brilliant light; one that the darkest of darks could not extinguish.
Because of their response, the enemy was defeated. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. (Genesis 50:20)
To the families who lost their loved ones Wednesday night, first know that you will be constantly in our thoughts and prayers. Also know that as your brothers and sisters in Christ, we thank you for showing the world what it looks like to walk in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for showing all of us what it looks like to love and forgive in the wake of what seems to be an unforgivable act.
We have seen your light shining brightly in the darkness and it is beautiful to behold.
This has been an exciting weekend for my family. On Saturday, we all piled into cars and headed to Augusta, Georgia for a celebration. Except, one member of the family knew nothing about it, and that made it all the more fun for the rest of us. The surprise was for my daughter. The occasion was her engagement to a sweet boy she has been dating.
She was very surprised, in fact, she was so surprised that she didn’t answer him when he dropped to his knee and asked her to marry him. She just cried and stood there. I finally couldn’t contain myself any longer and yelled out from our hiding place, “Say yes, Becca, say yes!”
Seriously, what would she do without her mother’s guidance and direction?
After we all hugged and kissed the newly engaged couple and each other…and a few bystanders, who appeared somewhat shocked, we all headed to a picnic shelter for some food and about 1003 more pictures.
I began texting family and friends to share the exciting news, but something went wrong. Some people only got the picture while others only got the text, which said something to the effect of, “Will have a new son June 6!” Now, if the picture had gone with the text, it would have made perfect sense. However, without the picture to bring context to the statement, the meaning of the statement took an interesting turn.
My phone began blowing up with comments like:
“And you’re ok with this?”
“I hope you are referring to a new son-in-law?”
“Are you getting senile?”
“Is that possible?”
I began texting back as quickly as I could trying to explain that I was NOT having a baby June 6, I was getting a son-in-law.
Right after that all my children gathered together for a picture… all EIGHT of them. Four of them I birthed, the other four God gave me in different ways. But make no mistake, in my heart they are all mine. Every - last - one - of them. For me, that means that the four I did not birth have the same rights and privileges as the ones I did birth. Sadly for them, there aren’t a whole lot of rights and privileges…but still, if there were, it would be theirs.
Each of those four has my heart. I see them as I see the others, a blessing from God. They are my children. I love and tend and protect them as I do the others. I have fretted over them, wept for some of them, and spent countless hours on my knees before the throne on their behalf. I have felt my heart burst with pride over them, and I have issued some maternal correction and guidance to a few of them… Who am I kidding? I have issued motherly correction and guidance to all of them because, well, it’s my job and I like telling others what to do from time to time.
You know what I realized as I reflected on my love for these four? My God loves me like I love them, only much better. I am an adopted child through faith in Jesus Christ. God chose to adopt me because it gives Him great pleasure (Ephesians 1:5).
2 Corinthians 6:18 says, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
As I look at the picture of all of them standing there, I realize that my first statement, “I will have a new son June 6,” was exactly what I meant. I am thrilled for this new son. I am overjoyed over my adopted children. And, I am most grateful for a loving Father Who found great pleasure in adopting me.
Have a wonderful week!
Well, they weren’t actually in the house; they were in Turner Field, the Braves Stadium. Anyone who knows our family knows my husband and daughter are HUGE Braves' fans. So, at least once a year we give our TV a rest and make the trek to Atlanta for a game.
My husband is not only a Braves fan but he is a “thrifty” Braves fan, and we have perfected the art of watching Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrell through binoculars. Once we even enjoyed cheering on Chipper Jones through a telescope. No easy task for three people! However, on this momentous occasion three weeks ago, my husband scored 3 AWESOME tickets 23 rows up, right behind home plate! We knew that Turner Field had beautifully manicured grass from the 162 games we have seen on TV, but to actually almost touch it from our seats …priceless.
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