Disappointment or Gratitude

Lately we’ve been hit by multiple unexpected expenses that have thwarted our efforts to be “gazelle intense” and become debt free. It’s been discouraging, to say the least.

Each time our budget has been assaulted by these unwanted expenses, it has been tempting to complain, to whine, to say “this isn’t fair – we’re doing everything right, so why is this happening?” It would be justified to allow ourselves to feel badly about it and to feel defeated.

But, as I’ve been diving in and studying Scripture in preparation for writing a Bible study, I’ve been reminded (over and over) about how the Israelites lived life in the Old Testament. They focused on the past, on what they had in Egypt (conveniently forgetting that they were SLAVES and were mistreated and miserable), on what they lacked instead of all that God had provided. In short, we shouldn’t follow their example.

Their attitude would have been so different if they had only focused on all that God was doing, all that He had provided. He rescued them from slavery and did miracle after miracle. He literally rained food down for them every day. They could SEE His presence as they traveled. And yet they whined and complained because they wanted more. 

In light of this, I’ve been focusing on what God is doing and not what I wish He’d do.

When we realized how close it was going to be, I told Brennan that we had a choice to make: we could be disappointed because this unexpected expense was preventing us from putting money into savings and we’d have to have a super tight budget, OR, we could be thankful that God had given us exactly what we needed to pay this expense AND our normal bills/needs.

We chose to be grateful.

This doesn’t mean we didn’t waver; it took many reminders to shift our perspective back to gratitude. It took encouraging each other when we felt defeated. It took remembering God’s faithfulness over and over.

Though we didn’t know how we’d make it to the end of the last pay period, He provided. We had just enough to pay our bills, we had just enough food to get by (even though it wasn’t the healthiest of choices), and we survived. I cannot tell you how amazing it felt to shop on pay day and get everything we had been needing. It felt like a gift, like such a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I was so excited about God’s provision. I didn’t take it for granted.


One of the reasons we love budgeting is because it’s a twice-monthly reminder that God always provides for our needs. I fill in the spreadsheet with our bills and needs prior to knowing our income; and EVERY time, God provides. It may not be in excess of our needs, but we are always able to eat, give, and pay our bills. And for that we are abundantly thankful.

Where is your focus today? Are you lamenting over what you do not have, or are you praising the Lord for what you do have?

Perspective is everything, and when you are filled with gratitude for all the Lord has done, that’s worship.

 

Scars

I remember the doctor asking me if I would be okay with an eight inch scar on my forearm.

I was seventeen, after all. Most teenage girls would probably stare at him incredulously for even suggesting such a thing.

I had a choice: vanity/pride and continued pain, or a huge scar and healing.

I answered without hesitation: yes. Yes, I was okay with it. Yes, do it, please.

That scar brought healing, not shame. It brought relief to pain that had plagued me for four years at that point – pain that had left me unable to play piano, write, and so much more.

I didn’t care what my arm looked like – I only cared what it felt like. I cared about regaining strength and dexterity, I cared about getting my life back to normal.

Two months later, I would emerge from surgery with a Nike sign on my right forearm, eight inches long, just like he said. And I rejoiced.

That scar brought me freedom. It brought me healing. It gave me my full life back.


All of us have scars – physical and emotional. Some make us feel ashamed, some bring laughter, all contain a story – telling how we became who we are today.

We have a choice to make: we can be thankful for these scars (thanks to my favorite band, I Am They for a great song about just that), thankful for these journeys and stories that God has used to make us more like Him and to bring healing and freedom; or we can hide them in shame, not allowing God to do what only He can do with them.

Your scars may be someone else’s healing. Someone’s freedom. Someone’s answer.

Don’t hide them in shame. Allow God to work through you. Tell your stories and watch Him in awe. And then thank Him all over again for His grace and goodness as you watch Him, yet again, bring good from something that was not.


Had I chosen vanity over healing, I can’t imagine what my life would be like now. I’m thankful that I chose the path of freedom, even though it wasn’t easy.

This applies spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally.

Choose freedom. Choose healing. Let go of pride – it’s so much better to have the scar than to have the pain. After all, scar tissue is stronger than unscarred skin. Scars represent a fight, a fight that you WON.

Let God work in you, even if it’s not comfortable. It will all be worth it, I promise.

It All Works Together for Good

img_0217Today was one of those days where everything made sense, once again. It was a day filled with non-coincidences (meaning that God was clearly at work because there’s just no way it all randomly happened) that confirmed my calling and purpose.

Today was a vivid reminder of this verse:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28


It all started yesterday, when I spoke at the Capitol for the Newborn Screening Awareness event. After the event, I was speaking with legislative staffers who have helped me every step of the way with moving this bill forward, and I learned that just because our bill passed (unanimously) out of committee last week doesn’t mean that it will go to the floor for a vote.  I was stunned, but not dismayed. I asked what I needed to do to move it forward and they suggested that I go to the offices of the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader to speak with them (or their staff) about the bill.

I “just happened” to still have two copies of the lobbying packet I had assembled months ago in my portfolio. Brennan “just happened” to be home with the boys so I had time.

So, my friend, Ashley, and I went to the Speaker of the House’s office and as we were speaking with his secretary, a man came up and was listening. He said he’d love to know more about what we were discussing and it turns out that he is the policy advisor to the Speaker (which means he can get things done!). He was very interested in the bill and in our stories, which was so encouraging.

I followed up with him via email that afternoon, and when he responded he asked if I could come for a meeting TODAY. He said he thought I deserved more than the two minutes we had together to better inform him on the bill and the current status of Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania.

Wow.

So, this morning, he asked if I could come at noon, and I went. I rushed home from MomsConnect, changed clothes, and headed to Harrisburg.

Brennan “just so happened” to be off today (for his birthday) so I didn’t have to take the boys with me, which was a blessing.

The meeting was incredibly insightful and he gave me some “homework” that will make the case for the bill even stronger as we move it forward. He offered such wisdom and practical steps to take, and I am so grateful for those 45 minutes.

He didn’t have to take the time to listen to me, or help me. But, he did.

And it was exhilarating. 

I may not desire to be in politics as a career anymore, but that fire is still within me. I so enjoyed the last two days of actually being able to work to move this bill forward. I love learning more about the process and making progress.

But, most of all, I love seeing the hand of God at work in my life, and seeing how it all fits together. 

  • Almost twenty years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a lobbyist.
  • Eighteen years ago, I interned in Sacramento with a lobbyist.
  • Fourteen years ago, I graduated with a political science degree.
  • Eleven years ago, I moved to PA and worked for a lobbying firm (but wasn’t passionate about the subject matter).
  • Eleven years ago, one of my bosses took the time to mentor me on lobbying and Pennsylvania politics (and still gives advice today).
  • Ten years ago, I decided that I hated politics and didn’t want to lobby.
  • Almost five years ago, Tori was diagnosed with Krabbe, and I learned about the need for someone to fight for NBS in Pennsylvania. I knew this was my calling. There was no denying it.

I pray that you have moments like this, moments where you can look back and with clarity see why God allowed some of the things you have experienced.

I never dreamed twenty years ago that I would someday be lobbying for Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania because my daughter died, but now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I know that I have had this training, these experiences, to prepare me for this work, and I’m ready to work.

God is so good, and faithful, and sovereign. Always.

Book Review: May It Be So by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson

When this book arrived for me to review, I flipped through the pages and saw it’s simplicity. I admittedly thought, “this is it?”

However, after experiencing the book, I would change that thought to, “this is it!” This is what I needed and I didn’t even know it.

In a world that’s all about more, most, busy, complicated, and chaos, this simple (yet profound and moving) book is needed. Our hearts crave simplicity, quiet, and meaningful connection with our Lord. This book helps make that happen in a creative way.

The authors guide the readers through forty days of meditation based on the Lord’s Prayer. As I pondered each day’s prayer, I found myself praying it over and over so easily – because I could actually remember it.

While going through this experience I looked forward to each day of quiet time, and I can honestly say that doesn’t always happen. It was so hard to not read ahead, but it was worth the journey. And I can’t wait to go through it again.

I received an ARC from the publisher and this is my honest review.

Book Review: Something Needs to Change by David Platt

91XundaLFLLIt’s rare for me to be torn between savoring a book or reading it all at once, but this book made me feel that tension the entire time.

Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt is truly a MUST read for anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. The author’s vulnerability and honest questions are so refreshing and compelling in our current culture, even in the church, of leaders needing to be “perfect.”

David Platt tells of his trek through the Himalayas and the people/situations he experienced along the way. He talks about the poverty, the darkness, the challenges these precious people face each day. He also shares about how the church operates there and how they are truly changing the world, one life at a time, even in the face of severe persecution and other challenges. He shares such wisdom throughout the book and I have been truly challenged by his words. I don’t say that lightly. 

As I read, I was reminded of my time in North Africa fourteen years ago. I was part of an “undercover mission team” and we observed the persecution of the church there. As we heard the stories from the believers we met, we were humbled and challenged because we have it so easy in the U.S. as Christians. Reading this book made me realize how complacent I have become, and how I need to be constantly sharing the love of Jesus with others in tangible ways and with my words.

I realize that God is calling me to new heights of love for him and others. To a kind of love that goes beyond all my religious learning or sense of religious responsibility. To a kind of love only God can create. A kind of love that causes you to change the plans you might have had for your life or your family or your future. A kind of costly, uncomfortable love that’s neither complacent or content to protect yourself from the needs of those around you. – David Platt

The life Jesus called us to is not one of comfort and complacency. He called us to CHANGE THE WORLD. Are you doing that? Am I doing that? What do you want the Church to look like?

…I long to be part of a church…that is simply committed to the most important things: caring for the hurting with compassion and spreading God’s love to the hopeless with courage. I want to be part of a people who are fearlessly holding on to God’s Word while selflessly sacrificing to share and show God’s love amid urgent needs in our world. I want to be part of the church like God has designed it to be. The kind of church that can change the world. – David Platt

Please read this book. Allow God to speak to you through it. And then make changes. I know I will be reading and rereading this, and I’m already praying about what I can be doing differently because something needs to change.

I received an ARC from the publisher and this is my honest review. 

We Have Time

Our boys are sixteen months old now. They walk everywhere, they love being outside, and they love experiencing new things.

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Most of the time I feel as though we have struck a great balance between being home and going out to do things, but some days I feel this pressure to do everything. If I find out we have to miss some event or function, I feel like they are missing out. I feel pressure.

This isn’t a pressure induced by social media, however. Yesterday I realized that it’s because all I’ve ever known as a parent is limited time. A deadline. A looming end point and the danger of permanent regret. 

With Tori, we had less than two years to try to give her all the experiences we could manage. Krabbe robbed us of time. Krabbe made us feel rushed. We did things she was far too young to appreciate because there was pressure. We didn’t have time to waste. We didn’t want to have any regrets for her, or for us as a family. And, thankfully, we don’t.

Yet, I have to stop and remember that, Lord willing, we have time with the twins. We don’t have to do everything right now, and we don’t have to be disappointed if we don’t take them everywhere to do it all at this age. They don’t know what they’re missing, and if they are happy, that is all that matters. We have the freedom to wait until they can better appreciate whatever it is we want them to see/experience. 

I’m praying that my heart can rest in that hopeful knowledge, that I can be better at just taking one day at a time, one moment at a time, and providing the boys with a well-balanced life. Rest is equally as important as stimulation and experiences, and I pray that we as parents will have the wisdom to do what is best.

I’m so thankful for this gift of time.

Book Review: The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin

img_8482The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture is an excellent study – one I enjoyed from beginning to end.

The author looks at the entire Bible to show us glimpses of Jesus where we may not expect to see Him. She masterfully shows that the Bible is indeed one connected story, one of hope, redemption, and love. She also approaches important topics like suffering, and she shows how those things produce a joy like none other (something I know from experience). I thoroughly enjoyed this study and repeatedly found myself excited and encouraged by her words. That isn’t something I can often say.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

When we realize that the Lord is in control, a peace comes to us, despite the suffering. We realize that this shaking is temporary and that we have an inheritance that can never be taken from us. (Page 123)

I especially loved – and learned from – the third part, looking at Isaiah and what is in store for us. She summed up the whole study so well in the last sentence:

My hope is that seeing this same story from Genesis to Revelation will give you great confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures and the truths they hold. For the Jesus that surprised the two on the road to Emmaus, and surprises us in our everyday lives, is not at all finished surprising us.”

Dee also challenges the reader to see Jesus at work every day – something I’ve practiced for years thanks to missional training I received. He is always at work, you just have to see it. This practice alone can significantly change one’s perspective.

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This beautiful study can be done individually or as a group. Dee provides thoughtful questions to encourage a deeper study of Scripture at the end of each chapter.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of her studies.

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I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.