Thanksgiving Soaks Dry Bones

Soaking Dry Bones THINK THESE

I am thankful for my home… a place so unlike the home I grew up in. Here, my children know love, peace, comfort. Here we have hugs, giggles, memories, traditions. Here, no matter what we’ve met in the world, within these walls, Jesus is. Here is where we exhale… where there is safety… where there is refuge from the world. Here is where we shake the dust off our feet, find renewal and REST in His goodness because here, HE IS WELCOME – and His spirit fills this space.

I am thankful for my good man… my good, GOOD man. A man that faithfully wakes every morning and goes to work without complaint. A man that loves to love us – with roaring fires when it’s cold, tickle parties when they’re needed, a tune on the ukulele when spirits are down, homemade waffles and bacon on Saturday mornings. A man that is funny, patient, kind, thoughtful, true; a man that laughs heartily, serves diligently and never tires of doing right. A man that loves me, his woman, with his every breath… and can still catch my eye across a room and melts my heart. A loyal man, a strong man, a man after the heart of our Father and who is perfect for me in every. single. way.

I am thankful for motherhood and these babies that make me ‘mama’. Ah, motherhood – the journey of refining, humbling, strengthening; an exercise where I am daily reminded that I must decrease and He must increase. A journey where I’ve had breathtaking, beautiful highs around one bend, and then thick, dark, muddy valleys around the next. My babies – His treasures and my greatest gifts. Every single quirk, challenge, difficulty, difference, tear I’ve shed – thankfulness abounds.

I am thankful for what I’ve left behind… thankful I’ve been broken over and over and over – and that, through every crushing of self, He’s bloomed compassion, forgiveness, empathy, humility. I’m thankful He has seen me fit to discipline… and that by His discipline, I get to experience the fullness and peace that abounds when I willingly sacrifice my will for His.

I am thankful that because of His great mercy, we are not consumed. That we awoke with breath in our lungs – and opportunity to be His hands and feet today.

I am thankful He is REAL… He loves me… He called me… He saved me. I’m thankful that no matter what is going on in this world, no matter what circumstances threaten to sweep me away, HIS TRUTH REMAINS. In the midst of brokenness, heartache, distraction, He holds my face in His hands, looks me in my tear-streaked eyes and says, “FOCUS ON ME. Do not fear – I have you! I’ve told you before that in this world you WILL have trouble – and yes, it is heavier now that it ever has been. But do not worry! Remember, I have overcome the world and I WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR SIDE.”

I’m thankful I can choose turn off the TV.

I’m thankful I can choose to unplug.

I’m thankful I can choose PEACE in the face of chaos, LOVE in the face of HATE, TRUTH in the midst of lies, JOY in the mist of DESPAIR.

I am thankful I AM FREE… I AM HOPEFUL… I AM CERTAIN THAT I AM HIS. And that, when my bones are dry from the overwhelming brokenness all around me,  all I have to do is be still and willing to hear Him SPEAK LIFE that renews my soul.

PRAYER: Father, this world is in chaos. Hatred. Division. War. Doubt. Fear. Hopelessness. In the midst of this darkness, equip Your children to be Your Light! May we be people focused on You: on what is TRUE, NOBLE, RIGHT, PURE, LOVELY. May we be gracious people, kind people, generous people… and, through us, may people taste and see that YOU ARE GOOD. Thank you, Father, for your pure, unconditional love… and for your patient heart that would see no one perish. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

ENTER TO WIN: Reclaiming Home, A Book By My Friend Krista Gilbert

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Today I’m joining in celebration with my friend Krista over at Meaning In A Minute. It’s the official day of her book launch… and peeps, let me tell you: this is a book I encourage every crazy busy mama out there will buy, read, and savor.

Krista sent me an early copy of her book several weeks ago – just as we were settling into our new house. It arrived in an oversized hand-addressed envelope; I wasn’t expecting anything and I must say: I was pretty giddy thinking something good may be hiding inside. As I reached in and pulled out the goodies, I was in awe by what I was holding: a handwritten note, her book, glittery things, an encouraging calendar… it was like an envelope of love and I could feel Krista’s sweetness pouring into my frazzled and overwhelmed spirit.

“Reclaiming Home: A Family’s Guide for Life, Love & Legacy” on the front… and, on the back the truth of my life in that very moment: “Are you watching as your family spins out of control?”

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Yes. There it was. My truth in a headline.

Krista’s care package met me right where I was. Wires hanging from the ceiling where fixtures should be; kids bickering; groceries waiting to be unloaded; laundry taunting me from the other room; long, long lists of ‘to-dos’ I had to do to get us settled into our new space; and, an overwhelmed heart from recognizing this fact: I only have four more years with my oldest girl before she’s on her own and my day-to-day with her is gone.

Our move was more disruptive than I could have ever imagined – and, honestly, the first weeks after moving in I was filled with anxious thoughts. How the heck do I reign our lives back in and get things back in order? What can I do to get technology use under control – the devices have taken over?! How do I bring joy and peace and connection and play back into our seriously ‘busied’ family… and, Lord, show me how to fill our home with so much love and warmth so that, while my kids my leave someday, they will always long to come home?

I was praying for wisdom… praying for clarity… praying for practical advice. Then, out of the blue, Krista showed up on my doorstep and invited me to do what I was struggling to do: RECLAIM MY HOME.

THIS BOOK IS ANSWER TO MY PRAYERS.

Just check out the titles of her chapters:

Reclaiming Your Foundation
Reclaiming Time
Reclaiming Ordinary
Reclaiming Marriage
Reclaiming Childhood
Reclaiming Play
Reclaiming Imperfection
Reclaiming the Table
Reclaiming Traditions
Reclaiming Legacy
Reclaiming Faith

At the end of each chapter Krista has little checklists, worksheets, dares (the dares are awesome)… all kinds of things that have helped me pause, intentionally think through specifics of my situation, and be encouraged in the midst of the crazy, busy season our family is in right now.

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There’s so much I could tell you about it… so many nuggets of wisdom I could share. But, instead of being long winded, and because Krista is so dang cool, I figured I wouldn’t just tell you about it – instead, Krista said I could give you a chance to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY.

All you have to do to enter is this: leave a comment to this post stating the ONE chapter from the chapter list above that is speaking loudest to you. That’s it!  (I also hope you’ll subscribe to my blog in the sidebar… but I won’t make it a requirement for winning 🙂 )

I’ll announce THREE random winners on my Facebook  Page this Friday, September 18th, at 12pm PST. So, after you leave a comment, be sure you follow me on Facebook so you’ll know if you’ve won!

Ok, now go for it. I really want to give you a copy… it will bless your socks off.

Coffee Is Not My Friend

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I think my coffee habit started when I was 5 years old. We were living in an apartment in San Leandro, California and, every morning, my nana would wake me for school with a little rub on my back and no words. I’d get dressed, rub the sleep from my eyes, and work my way down the staircase to my dad’s antique rocking chair – a chair with a dark oak frame, velvet cushions, and ornate lion heads made for a big man to grasp as he rocked away. I’d curl up into its massive frame and… wait.

The house was always dark and quiet. I never remember announcing to my nana I was in the chair, but she was always shortly behind my arrival with breakfast: toasted Roman Meal wheat bread with butter and strawberry jam, and a cup of coffee – extra carnation milk (it’s a Guamanian thing) and a bit of sugar. Sometimes there’d be a scrambled egg, but usually not. Toast and coffee was it – and then away I’d go for the two block walk to school.

So, when I tell you I love coffee, I LOVE coffee. Coffee is history to me. Coffee is quiet time with my nana… it’s feelings of peace… it’s comfort and place and simply part of me. I’m one of those people who, literally, dreams of my morning coffee as I’m going to sleep at night. I feel the warmth of the mug between my hands – I hear the sweet morning conversations that will carry over my cup.

Coffee + morning… there’s never been another way.

While we were going through the darkness with the house transaction, however, I found myself drinking more and more coffee than usual. Yes, I’d have it in the morning… but then I’d have it again about 10am, I’d grab another cup sometime mid-day, and (as crazy as this sounds), I even found myself making  a small pot while I made dinner at night!

Coffee… coffee… coffee. It was the easy go to, you know?

Something not right? Drink coffee!

Feeling a little tired? Drink coffee!

Wish you could crawl into bed and cry over all the stress? Drink coffee!

I was easily at 4 mugs of coffee a day – and, if a large mug is really 16-24 ounces (and a ‘cup’ is 8 ounces), that means I was drinking 8 cups of coffee a day. 8 CUPS OF COFFEE. (Gosh, just writing that makes me sick right now.)

Then, one day about four weeks ago, I was standing in the kitchen… exhausted. There were two Starbucks cups of coffee on my counter, both half-finished. I had run out to my car to grab something for one of the kids and, lo and behold, there was yet another take-out coffee cup in my cup holder. I grabbed it, took it into the house, and, as I stood at the sink pouring out the three half-drank cups, it hit me: Elisha, pull it together, girl.

It was in that moment I decided coffee and I needed a break. I was embarrassed to realize the habit that was taking over and surely contributing to my lack of energy and clarity. I had stopped appreciating what I loved and enjoyed because I had stopped being intentional… and, because I had stopped being intentional, coffee had stopped being my friend.

No longer was coffee my sweet morning companion, it was my bane. It was zapping my brain, taking my money, and giving me the most horrendous taste in my mouth at all hours of the day. I felt gross every night.

So, in that very moment, I made the change. Literally, I simply chose different – and, instead of making coffee, I made a pot of green ginger tea.

“It’s better for you”, I told myself. (Agh! But it’s not coffee!)

No, it’s wasn’t coffee – it wasn’t my love; but, it was pleasant. It was so light on my palate. The ginger was spicy, the honey gave me that bit of sweet I needed.

The next morning – it was an intentional decision again: tea over coffee.

And the next day… and the next day.

By the third day my man was asking for some of the tea instead of his coffee.

Fourth day, fifth day… a whole week went by. While I still woke up wanting coffee each morning, I’d say to myself, “Self-control, Elisha… drink the tea.” Moment by moment, day by day, it was a decision I made. If I was out and about where coffee was offered, I’d drink ice water. If I met girlfriends ‘for coffee’, I ordered tea. INTENTIONALLY I choose to say no to what I felt was zapping me – and, after I had suffered through four or five days without it, I wasn’t going to give in and make all that suffering for nothing, you know? (Remember: I LOVE COFFEE. So what I’m telling you was not easy – it took effort!)

To make a long story short, here I am: back in the light and about four weeks without coffee and, let me tell you: I FEEL AMAZING. I’m not dying for a cup of coffee the way I used to; and, as a matter of fact, I don’t even find myself really wanting it anymore. Truly. I feel brighter, I’m not tired in the afternoons, I don’t have that constant nasty taste in my mouth that coffee leaves. I’m not saying I’ll never drink coffee again. As a matter of fact, just yesterday I ordered a cappuccino while I was writing and it was really, really good… and I only had ONE.

What I am saying, however, is that what I learned in the dark is this: sometimes the things we think we need are really things we should do without. We can get into habits, or patterns, or whatever… and we can crave and desire because it’s just ‘who we are’ or ‘what we do’… and, when we add stress the mix, those ‘things’ can even seem like our very best friends! But the truth is this: “God does not make us timid, but gives us POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE.”  GOD MADE US FREE PEOPLE – PEOPLE WITH POWER OVER OUR CHOICES. This means when we’re in the dark and we discover there’s something breaking us down instead of building us up, our God gives us the power to change it!

For me in this season, the ‘thing’ I needed to do without was my coffee crutch. And, thanks to the darkness I walked through with my Father before me, I was able to see I’m better off without it.

The conclusion? Coffee is not my friend… but self-control sure is. 🙂

Ginger tea anyone?

If so, here’s what you do:

In a high sided pot, add 2 cups of water, 2 green tea bags, 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 2 minutes.
Add 1 tsp of honey and a bit of milk (if desired)
Pour into your favorite mug… ENJOY! (Oh, and don’t use a strainer! You really want the little ginger bits… they’re delicious.)

FYI: My favorite green tea is the one at Costco:

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And, for the ginger: use the back of a spoon to scrape the skin off, then use a microplane (or other fine grater) to grate it:

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(NOTE: Green tea alone is like a superfood in a cup… and then you add the benefits of fresh ginger and raw honey! Wowza! Seriously – you’ll feel a difference if you replace your coffee habit with this concoction. I’m walking proof.)

Trusting Through the No

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The other day a friend of mine posted a photo of his little girl. She’s just a few weeks shy of three, darling as all get out and has a smile that lights up a room. In this particular picture, however, the little beauty was sprawled out in her velvet dress with her back against the concrete. From the lack of focus on her legs, she was obviously flailing her sparkly Mary Jane covered feet while clutching her hands to her chest and crying bitterly.

“Wasn’t allowed to dig a hole in the front yard,” the caption said.

I died… laughing.

If you’re a parent, you’re probably like me where, you see this photo, and your mind starts recalling all those ridiculous things that send kids to their knees:

“Brother pushed the elevator button first.”

“He was told he couldn’t pea on the front porch anymore.”

“She was told she had to put on pants if she wanted to go outside and play with her friends.”

“A blue bubblegum came out of the vending machine… she wanted red.”

“We asked her to not throw the cat against the wall.”

The only reason our kiddos freak out over these ‘non-issues’ is because they don’t get the ‘why’. They are so focused on self – and self wants what it wants when it wants it. Right? So, when they don’t get their way and they can’t understand why… well, all hell breaks loose.

The thing about this photo, however, is while it’s a picture of a little girl acting out… what came to mind (after I laughed about it) was this: Father, this is what you must see in me when I lose my self-control.

Ugh.

If I’m not careful, my self-control is easily whipped out the window and I throw an adult tantrum:

I can get critical…

I can get demanding…

I can withdraw…

I can get mean…

And, worst of all, I can start to doubt that the One who’s telling me ‘no’ really loves me and is for me – and my doubt makes me want to clench my fists, bite someone, and push the Big Bully out of the way.

It’s how our kids feel when they hear no, isn’t it? They feel we’re not for them… they feel we’re withholding something really good… they feel we just ‘don’t get it’. They see us as these great big bullies that just want to ruin their fun and prevent them from doing amazing things.

But that’s not a parent’s heart. We parents don’t say ‘no’ because we’re malicious… we say ‘no’ to things because we have perspective and maturity. We’ve lived enough life to know what hurts and what’s wrong – and, when we say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ even, it’s because we LOVE our kids – and we recognize that ‘no’ is part of the training that will help them grow up into responsible, thoughtful, other-centered, gracious, loving human beings.

Jesus once said, “Which of you, if your child asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I am not a perfect parent… sheesh, I’m not a perfect anything. But what this verse tells me is that if I, even with my faults and baggage and pride, want good for my babies – how much more does my perfect God want my good.

This is what I remind myself when I start to doubt His love or His presence in the ‘no’ or ‘not now’. This is what I speak when I’m on my knees, lost and confused and weeping over why my great idea has been shut down by the hand of God. I say, “Father – I am yours… I don’t like ‘no’ and I don’t understand why I can’t have my way, but thank you for your faithfulness… and thank you I can trust that ‘no’ (or ‘not yet’) is for my good. I turn my eyes off myself and onto You – help me to see You clearly in this… and do the work in me this ‘no’ is meant to accomplish.”

Don’t get me wrong: this self-control thing is stinky hard and IT. TAKES. WORK. Seriously – it takes WORK. It’s HARD not to follow my pride. It’s HARD to respond to mean people with love. It’s HARD to respond to irrational situations with patience. It’s hard to be vulnerable and be childlike in His presence.

But GOD… peeps, I tell you with all my heart: when I have the wherewithal and control to forgo the tantrum (and all the nastiness that comes with it) and instead call on Him for help, HE SHOWS UP.

He HEARS, He RESPONDS, He gives me strength and endurance and peace that, seriously, blows my mind. (And, if you know me personally and know my history, self-control is not in my blood.) When I look for Him in the ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, He, without fail, distracts me from the bitterness and anger that threatens to take over when I don’t get my way… and, yes, I’m kept off the ground clutching my hands to my chest as I cry bitterly.

Just as our goal as parents is to raise kids that can stand tall and face this harsh world – how much more does our Father want to mold us into bright, glorious, gracious people for His kingdom. If you’re hearing ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ today, think on these things. Seek Him. Ask Him. TRUST HIM. He’s never failed me – ever.

Thanks for being here… thanks for reading.

(Next time: a few things I learned in the dark while buying our house. I hope you’ll subscribe and stick around!)

 

 

Our New Home!

If you are with me on Facebook or Instagram, you know the big news: we have a new house!

As I sit here and write those words, I’m still a little stunned. God did it. That’s all I can say. At many points along the way we felt it was falling apart. There were times I stood in the house with the seller, arms around each other, praying through tears that God would graciously work out the unexpected details and see the transaction through. It wasn’t just our purchase – but the seller’s purchase, and the seller’s seller’s purchase, and that seller’s seller’s purchase. Three other transactions – and the lives of three other families – were hinged on our closing this house… and that reality kept me on my knees literally clinging to my Father.

Thankfully, however, here we are. Step by step by step, God answered our prayers and we. are. putting. down. roots.

Our new home is a little, unassuming house on a cul-de-sac in a  small, older pocket of Lake Oswego, OR – just two blocks from the house we’ve been renting for the last two years. The life we’ve built-in our rental will continue uninterrupted… the kids stay in their same schools, we keep our favorite restaurants, our library, our farmers market, and our best friends in the neighborhood will now be our next door neighbors.

It’s a house you might not even realize is there…

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Yet when you walk in the front door…

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you’re greeted by walls of windows that overlook the backyard and the original open beam vaulted ceiling.

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The living space is split on two levels with a fireplace on each level. It’s classic mid-century construction, which means it’s solid. Plus, the seller (whom I will stay bonded to from here on out) did an meticulous job up keeping it for the last dozen years.

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Our plan is to remove the wall you see with the countertop above so that we can open up this galley kitchen:

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and join the main living space into a great room where kitchen and dining flow together.

In addition to removing the kitchen wall, we’ll be painting, pulling out a wall between two bathrooms to make one larger and one a little smaller, adding on a laundry/mud room, and… many, many other things I’m sure. Ed’s already dusting off his tools and making task lists (thank God for my handy man!), and we’re both chomping at the bit to get our hands dirty and get the transformation underway.

While we’re more than excited, it honestly doesn’t feel real. When we left our suburban life two years ago, we would have never guessed God would lead us to put roots down in this little community. There were many times in the last couple years we considered turning around and giving up on this new life; we’ve weathered storms in our marriage, in parenting, in friendships… but, thankfully,  God met us face to face in the darkest parts and brought us through.

Now that we’ve closed on this house, it feels like we’ve pulled into the dock after a long trip at sea and we’re ready for a new start on dry land. We’re back at shore different from who we are when we first left; we’re weathered, toughened, humbled, and appreciative… not just of each other, but of His great supernatural mercy and kindness. As we’ve fought the storms together without giving up, we’ve learned how strong each of us really can be – how much we really love and need each other – and how important it is to cherish what we have been entrusted with… as perfect, or imperfect, we may feel it to be.

I can’t wait to share this journey with you! If you haven’t already done so, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE so you can get my updates via email. Thank you for reading and for being here with me.

Much love.

 

 

Waking Up Again

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Photo by NicholasBellPhoto on etsy.com.

My man and I went to a Tyrone Wells concert this weekend and one of his opening acts was this darling beauty, Emily Hearn. I’d never heard of her before – but, when she began singing, the rain we had run through, the tough week I’d had, the heaviness of my heart in that moment… all of it melted into her song, “Waking Up Again“:

It’s been so cold for so long now…
I don’t remember what the sun feels like.
We’re gettin’ old inside this house…
I don’t remember what the breeze feels like.
We gotta go… we gotta get back… gotta get our feet back on the ground.
We gotta go… we gotta get back… gotta get the spring back in our step again.

My heart. Right there in that dark theater, this sweet 24-year-old girl was singing my song. It didn’t matter that our souls are almost 20 years apart… what she was feeling that led to the song, and what I was feeling in my mommy skin. Sameness. Humanness. Connection.

(I ran out and bought both of her albums – and now I suggest you do, too.)

The reason her song hit me so hard is because I’ve been feeling this for a while… this no-spring-in-my-step, chilly, getting old kinda feeling. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s my scattered nature. Maybe it’s the white hair I found the other day, or the fact my exercise pants are fitting wayyyyy tighter than they did a few months ago. But, whatever it is, it’s had me kinda uninspired on the inside. Not sad or depressed – just ‘keep your head down and keep pushing forward’ kinda uninspired. I’ve had writers block, we’ve been eating a ton of burritos, and – well, if I’m really honest, I’ve been walking around and around and around in a fog.

Fog walking is a seasonal thing for me. I go through periods where I’m walking a defined path towards a goal – getting things done, creating new things, dreaming big dreams… but then there are periods like this one I’ve been in: wake up, make food, wash laundry, clean house, get kids, make food, rinse, repeat. It’s two steps forward, three steps back – day in, day out.

But then something shakes me like Emily’s song did… and, all of a sudden, I’m reminded of what the real problem is: ME.

I. Am. The. Problem. I beckon the fog with my whoa-is-me attitude and my ‘if-only’ internal dialog.

It’s hard to admit, especially when it’s so easy to place the blame for my heavy spirit on the ‘if-only’: if only I didn’t have so much to do, so many people pulling at me, so many obligations. If only my kids would listen better… if only I had more help… if only I wasn’t overlooked… if only we had more space… if only… if only… if only.

‘If only’ seems so safe and secure when it first steps in – but soon, the ‘if only’ thoughts have me bound up, beaten up, and broken into bits.

Thinking through all of this I remembered something Jesus said in one of his sermons: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

Oh man, how convicting! When I dwell where I should – in Truth, beauty, loveliness, goodness, thankfulness – I feel lit up; I’m happy, ready to serve, not easily offended, and other-focued. But, when I choose to dwell where I shouldn’t – in self-centeredness and selfish thoughts about what I need, I want, I deserve – the darkness and the fog closes in… just like Jesus said would be the case.

I’m sharing this with you today because maybe you need to see you’re not the only one that feels like you’re in a fog… and maybe you need to hear the Truth I’ve heard: where I am is a result of my choices. If and when we choose Light – we will be filled with Light and be light; if and when we choose fog – the fog will gladly close in around us and strangle our joy in the darkness.

So, let’s choose to see Light and be freed from the darkness of the fog, okay? Let’s wake up again – right now, right here, right where we stand. Let’s wake up to His goodness… and let’s get the spring back in our steps and bask in the warmth of the His Light.

Get To Work on the Trees (REPOST)

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I wrote this back in 2013… but I’m reposting it today (with a few edits) because I figured if I needed the reminder, maybe you do, too 🙂

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You ever feel like you deserve better?

You ever find yourself wishing you could be healthier, or fitter, or more patient, or more friendly?

You ever look at your life and wish you read more, or loved better, or took more walks?

I do. Not a day goes by where one of these thoughts don’t pop through my mind. The funny thing, however, is that they pop in… but then I push them right back out. How? By remembering God gives me the power to TAKE A STEP.

That’s it. Just one step.

That’s the thing He’s taught me over the last several years. “Wanting” is one thing… but, unless I am willing to put one foot in front of each other and do the work to really possess the life He’s graciously given, ‘wanting’ is all I’ll ever do.

Just look at this Old Testament story where the 12 tribes of Israel were being assigned their lots of the promise land. Joshua parceled out a particular area to the decedents of Joseph (the former ruler of Egypt), but they didn’t like their lot. Nope, as they looked around at what other people were getting, they complained to Joshua and basically said, “This? But, it isn’t fair! We are better than this! You gave us a bunch of land that requires too much effort to make it something: we have to cut down trees and fight enemies. But, we want the low country where it is beautiful and easy. We deserve it; we are great people and, therefore, we want the land that they have – but, not this.”

(Can you relate? It’s easy to think everyone else has it ‘better’ than us, isn’t it?)

You know what Joshua said?

He said, “Well, okay. You are right – you are great, and you do deserve better. But this is what God has set apart for you. So, if you’re really as great as you think, go up and make use of what you’ve been given: cut the trees, defeat the enemies, and make something of this land you call ‘nothing’. (See Joshua 17:14-17 for the full context.)

What does that have to do with me today? It tells me simply: what I have is what I get. I get one body. I get one mind. I get THIS life – with this husband, and these babies, and all that comes with. I can either complain and ‘want’ for more, or I can get to work on the trees that are blinding me from seeing the beauty of what I have – and that are holding me back from making the most of my lot in life.

I’m constantly reminding my children of this – my precious babies who are daily battling a culture that says what they have isn’t enough; that says they need ‘more’, and ‘better’, and ‘different’ to be happy. Because here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, life is not fair. There will always be someone who travels more than us, who has better hair than us, who is taller, who is more petite, who has more friends, who can knit better, who can cook better, who is happier, who is healthier, who wins more, who laughs cuter, who has a ‘sweeter’ husband, who has nicer legs. Always.

Always. Always. Always.

So, instead of getting caught up in this cultural focus of what we don’t have and what we could use ‘more’ of, I try and always bring them back to what we do have; my message is always consistent and simple: Celebrate YOU and the blessing of YOUR life; your stature, your hair, your gifts, your talents, your laugh.  You have been assigned a lot in life – a lot that is beautiful, and abundant, and needs YOU to bring out the best in it. No one else can fill your shoes! Instead of looking at what other people have, figure out what lies in your possession! Do just one thing today that makes your lot more beautiful: cut down a tree, dig out a rock, plant something new. Do the work to make the most of what you’ve been given. 

It’s what I tell them… but, it’s also what I also have to tell myself – all the time. It’s a Truth I constantly feed into my spirit to combat my feelings of inadequacy: that God has promised my lines have fallen in pleasant places… and, life only grows more beautiful when I’m actively working the land He’s entrusted to me.

So, today, be encouraged… and do just one thing, just one!

Maybe you eat quinoa instead of pasta.

Maybe you choose a book before bed instead of watching TV.

Maybe you go for a walk instead of taking a nap.

Maybe you choose kind words over harsh words.

Maybe you tell your man he’s lights up your life, instead of waiting for him to say it to you.

Whatever it is, keep walking, sister. Just keep walking… and then, tomorrow, get up and walk some more. One choice at a time.

Because what we have is beautiful… it’s just that sometimes what we’re searching for is waiting beyond the trees.

Home… I am HOME

Well, for those of you who aren’t with me on social media, you may not know: we are now in Guam! Yep, thanks to Food Fighters, we are home. (If you didn’t catch the full episode, you can watch the final round HERE.)

We arrived late last night after four days in Tokyo… and Tokyo was amazing. (I’ll have to post that later… there’s too much to cover here.)  We visited a Japanese onsen (which I think will go down as the coolest thing we’ve ever done together as a family to date), ate more ramen than you can imagine, and walked more miles in four days than we’ve done in the last year. The Japanese culture is wonderful… and we had a total blast.

As for Guam, we arrived late last night and  started today at 7am with toes in the sand – and a rainbow!

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Tumon Bay outside the Outrigger Hotel

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Me and my man, Tumon Bay

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From the beach we put plumerias (my favorite flower on earth) in our hair and spent a full day with my dad and family…

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with auntie bobby

Here we are with my dad and my sweet Auntie Bobby.

then ended our evening with a gorgeous island sunset….

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Overlooking Tumon Bay from the top of the Outrigger Hotel, Guam

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View from atop the Outrigger Hotel, Guam

while our kids enjoyed the GoPro and the warm pacific ocean…

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Now that I’m sitting in my bed processing the day, I’m in awe. First of all, I can’t believe we’re home. Seriously? Did I seriously compete on an NBC game show and win the money to allow for this amazing family vacation? And, how can it be that I was raised here? Here? Really? On this little rock of paradise in the middle of the pacific ocean? How can it be that I knew these beaches before the mega hotels and beach bars and millions of tourists? How can it be that these waters raised me? How can it be?

Being back home and watching my kids take joy in the warmth and beauty blesses my heart beyond belief. All I keep whispering to myself is, “Thank you, Father”. What a gift… what a gift.

I can’t wait to share more of my beautiful island home and our family adventures with you – including local food and recipes! Stay tuned – and connect with me on Twitter,  Instagram and Facebook if you can! This is gonna be quite an adventure.

Submitting to the Plan

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“Father, create in me a clean heart… and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat beside my 13 year old today as she got braces. We’ve been talking about this day for months – and, now, no more waiting: the process to straight teeth has begun.

We had a long talk with the orthodontist before today where we learned the transformation of her smile will happen without her even knowing it. He explained the wires and bands he’d apply would push and pull things into place – that it wouldn’t always be comfortable, but that she could be sure work was always in progress. He said what is crooked will be made straight; and what’s out of line will be brought into order. Slowly… slowly… slowly. He said he wouldn’t have to force anything to ‘right’ itself, but with the ever-so-slight pressure he’d apply over time, she’d eventually end up with ‘perfection’.

So at 7:35 this morning, my daughter walked into the office – willingly… a little giddy even. She sat in the chair – willingly. She opened her mouth – willingly. She gave in to the discomfort, dry lips, and multiple hands in her mouth – willingly. They didn’t have to hold her down, or bribe her, or scream at her, or pull rank. They simply said, if you want straight teeth, here’s what we have to do. And, since she wants straight teeth, she showed up and said ‘let’s do it’… willingly.

I was so impressed by her and her maturity. But, even more important, as I sat the foot of her chair with my mommy hand on the calf of her long, lean leg, I was impressed by a very simple truth I often strive to forget: sometimes I just have to submit to the plan.

HIS plan, not my plan. HIS way, not my way.

I know, I know. “Submission” is a dirty, loaded word these days. “Submission” brings up pictures of doormat women, and weak people, and images of everything most of us dread of being. But watching my daughter submit to the plan this morning wasn’t weakness – it was beautiful STRENGTH. She had a heart that understood the greater plan and she willingly said, “I’m in.” No one would call her a doormat because she submitted to the leading of the orthodontist; she wasn’t coerced or pushed around or belittled because she’s taking the opportunity to ‘perfect’ her teeth. To the contrary: by willingly submitting to the plan she can now sit back and allow the ever-slight-pressure to do it’s work for her good.

Just like my girl’s path to straight teeth began by her willingly sitting in the orthodontist’s chair, my path to ‘better’ – God’s ‘better’ – starts with my willingness to place myself before Him and His word. Yes, there will be troubles. Yet, in spite of the tests and trials He may use to make me uncomfortable and mold me through the process, if my heart is right and humbled before Him, I can know with certainty it will all work for good.

When we walked out of the office this morning, my girl had a Starbucks gift card in one hand and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the other – two gifts to ‘celebrate’ the day. And me?  I walked out praying for courageous willingness to submit to the ‘treatment plan’ my Father’s laid out for me.  I admit it’s so hard sometimes… it’s hard to let go of me and MY way and submit to His spirit and HIS way – especially when things around me aren’t changing as fast as I want them to. But just as the orthodontist promised my girl his work will make a difference over time, my Father promises that, just as the heavens are higher than the earth, HIS ways are higher than my ways, HIS thoughts higher than my thoughts… and, His plan will make me more joyful, more loving, more forgiving, more patient, more kind, more powerful, more EVERYTHING than I could ever be without Him.

 

The Food Fight Is Over…

I win!

Well, that’s it! After a year of waiting to see it come to pass, Food Fighters finally aired and I can say with joy: this little mama threw down and beat some of the best chefs in the world!

I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion this last week as we awaited the episode. It was exciting giving interviews and seeing my story unfold in the media… but I was nervous to see how it all would come together. Thankfully, I LOVED IT.  So, thank you Electus and NBC – I am honored you chose me to be part of this amazing project.

Words cannot do justice to the experience of competing on Food Fighters. Nothing I say will ever help you fully grasp the emotions – the anxiety, stress, fear, and excitement! – I felt as each new chef walked on stage. While America watched an hour long episode, in reality the competition took hours upon hours to unfold.  The freshness I took to the first couple rounds was soon zapped by the pressure, and by the end of the day I was exausted, dehydrated, and running on nothing but pure adrenaline.  It was so hard; and, you can see the nerves started to take their toll as I began making mistakes in my last two rounds! Thank God He pulled me through and I was able to recover after that devestating loss to Marcel! UGH! I honestly didn’t think I could keep going…

I am so thankful for ALL OF YOUR LOVE you’ve poured out on my blog, facebook, and twitter. It especially warmed my heart to hear from fellow Guamaians expressing pride over seeing our island represented on national TV. Yay, Guam!!!

Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve received (and that you may be wondering about):

Q: How did the morning show in Seattle go? 

I kicked off yesterday in Seattle where I appeared on New Day Northwest. We talked Food Fighters, and I made a chocolate quinoa pudding – a ‘healthified’ version of a traditional Guamanian dish called ‘champulado’. Here’s the segment:

Q: When are you going to Guam?

Good question! Lord willing, it will work to go this December. My hope is to be there for about a month. It takes almost a full 24 hours to get there – and airfare alone will be close to $12,000! So, if we’re going, the plan is to stay as long as we can and make the most of it. We have tons of family to see. PLUS I really want to work on a Guamanian food series while I’m there. Guamanian food is exceptional… and I plan to continue sharing our food and culture with the world.

Q: What happened to your finger?
Ohmygosh – my finger! At the beginning of the second round my nerves had me shaking so bad! I had to cut open the plastic bag the fish was sealed in and, while I held it in one hand and sliced at it with the other, the tip of the exteremely sharp pearing knife knicked me just enough to cause a small problem. Thankfully it took just a minute to wrap it up and I got right back to cooking. Thank God it didn’t jeapordize my round!

Q: Can you share your recipes?
NBC has all the recipes HERE.

Also, check out the ‘extras’ from the NBC website:


Q: I missed the show… where can I watch it?

NBC has the full episode posted HERE.

Anyway, while I don’t think I’m fully processing anything in my brain just yet, I couldn’t let today go by without saying THANK YOU for your support, encouragement, and for cheering me on! Food Fighters was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my woman skin… and, I am grateful for every minute of it.

So, again, thank you for being here with me… and I hope you’ll watch every week and make Food Fighters one of the summer’s best new shows!

Much love to you, my sweet friends.