Maybe it’s all about Cats and Dogs

In my 45 years of life, I think I’ve finally discovered a greater way to understand relationships. There are hot personalities and cold personalities, then there are hot and cold personalities. I’ve often struggled with those who were both hot and cold because I could never seem to figure out what I would encounter with these types of personalities. One minute they were hot and then next seemingly cold and they would switch in a moment. I found it frustrating honestly and difficult to navigate. Give me a hot person or a seemingly cold person any day because then I knew what I was up against. But then I had a personal revelation. Thinking about some of the relationships in my life, I realized that maybe it’s just really as simple as cats and dogs. Is it possible that we make it more difficult to understand than necessary?

If you understand a dog, you will know they tend to be more open about their needs and how to relate to them. They love relation and thrive off of connection. They can also tend to be more sullen or depressed when they are left alone. Dogs prefer companionship and are considered more loyal. Cats, on the other hand, are much more aloof and independent. However this does not mean they aren’t loyal, they just have a different way of showing it. Cats tend to just come and go as they please. Sounds selfish, right? What if we understood cats from a different perspective? Could it be that cats do not need as much relationship to fuel them emotionally in order to thrive in life? Sometimes they might just need one coffee date and conversation that fulfills them for the next month.

I have relationships from all walks of life. Some are “dogs” and some are “cats” if you will. I am learning to become less offended and I suffer less pain of rejection by understanding them in this way. You will never get from a cat relationship what you need from a dog and vice versa.  But do not underestimate either one as invaluable in your life. As much as a dog reminds you daily that you are loved, wanted and needed, a cat flows in and out of your life at important times. A gentle purr or sitting quietly next to you can soothe the most sorrowful of souls. And a small gift or token left on your doorstep from time to time reminding you that they are there for you is much like receiving a card in the mail letting you know you matter to them. They just aren’t as up front about it. But if you have a heart to see, you can understand what they are saying to you. If you find a “dog” relationship far too needy and smothering or one that snaps, or a “cat” relationship too scratchy, self-serving, “catty” or feral, then maybe those particular relationships are toxic to you in the season you are in and you need to love them from afar and pray for them until its safe for you. Sometimes you need to set that healthy boundary or walk away completely. There are plenty of “cats” and “dogs” out there looking for a loving person to take them in. You get to choose what is best for you. Some people in your life might be more like both, a cat or a dog depending on the season of life or circumstances they are walking in. They may need you or they may pull back for personal reflection and for quiet time to sort through emotions. You may even find yourself much like this too from season to season.

I believe I have grown in my spiritual walk and am learning to thrive in life with this newfound understanding. It has also made it easier to forgive. Having both cat personalities and dog personalities in my life, my soul (mind, will and emotion) has been challenged, changed and charged up often in positive ways. Seeing relationships this way can help you to appreciate them and understand them at a deeper level. If you are struggling in a relationship in your life, be it a family member, friend, ministry or co-worker/boss; try to see them from another angle. Then maybe you can learn to still be personal in your relationships without taking it personal when they don’t fit your mold or can’t meet your needs.

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Overcoming Spiritual Terrorism

Recently there was another terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the U.K. Unfortunately, we live in a world where these threats are very real and are more often than they should be. As I thought about this, my heart concerned for those affected, I recognized that physical terrorist threats are not all that plagues us in this life. I reflected on some specific challenges my family and I had been facing the last few months. Situations presented themselves to us in our natural world like unwelcome intruders to create frustration, confusion and honestly… exhaustion. As I questioned these events that seemed to hit us like a spray of darts from every direction, I knew they were not in alignment with God’s truth or promises for my family. Revelation opened my understanding that I had spiritual terrorists in my midst.  Financial terrorists, health terrorists, faith terrorists, mental terrorists, dream terrorists, environmental terrorists, relationship terrorists are just some of threats each of us face in our spiritual life journey. Why do these threats abound? And how do we overcome?

I looked up the definition of the word terrorism. As I read them, I felt this one captured it best, the violence or threat directed against civilians for the purpose of creating intense fear in which the terrorist hopes to exploit to attain political or ideological goals”. There it was, so clear. Spiritual terrorism, like a disease, threatens our thought life by using fear to get us to believe that we are defeated, done.

Spiritual terrorism works to steal your peace and to get you so focused on the negative circumstances that it literally sucks the energy, the faith, the hope and eventually the life right out of you. It desires for you to bury your head and surrender. But we have not been given a spirit of fear but of peace and love and of a sound mind. As I think on those specific words – peace, love and sound mind, I realize more than ever that I AM equipped to overcome these spiritual threats of terrorism. Our enemies would want us to remain in fear because then we will not abide in peace knowing God has us in the palm of his hand. He does not want us to experience God’s love, because when we are going through trials we can often feel abandoned, alone, or forgotten. When we are facing threats of loss, these spiritual terrorists wreak havoc on our minds and use it as a wild, college frat house to tear up, destroy and create chaos upon the hope, the belief and the dreams we hold there. We begin making desperate choices as our thoughts reel about trying to put together a strategy and a plan on how to frantically get out of our uncomfortable situations. Why does God allow spiritual terrorists in our midst?

Judges 3:1-2 tell us that God left some of our enemies in our land to test us, to strengthen us and to teach us warfare. I know with every battle I have faced I have come out knowing the strength and mightiness of my God and I have learned more about myself in the process. That in itself is a victory. Each battle we face we build our spiritual muscles by training our thoughts. Each threat against us is an opportunity to turn tail and run or to stand and fight as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings put so well when facing the dragon, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS”. We are promised victory but as we know there is no victory without some kind of a battle or opposition of truth against our mind. Whatever spiritual terrorists you are facing today, continue to stand and face them, pick up your weapon of warfare, be it your shield of faith- to stand and let God fight your battle, your sword of truth – slinging the word of God in your prayer time, or letting loose your battle cry through worship dispatching the angelic hosts of heaven on your behalf. When you do this, you are reminding and encouraging yourself in what is really true. You are creating an opportunity to take what is coming against you and speaking forth a better outcome for you and for your loved ones. You never go into battle alone. Joshua 1:9…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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Grace for the Day

Its been a week since the day I had to decide to send my beloved Great Dane, Asher to heaven. I sit here on a rainy day continuing to process my grief. At this moment it isn’t as intense as other moments. Each day I’m able to feel it and travel through it. It all happened within a couple of weeks, a Dane so full of energy and bounding every where suddenly turn and become almost crippled. There wasn’t even enough time to figure out what had gone wrong before I had to let him go. I remember speaking with my mother, the day after we had the vets come to the house to set his soul free. I could barely talk, the grief strangling my throat and my lungs working harder to get air. I confessed to my mother that in some ways I felt I had no right to grieve so deeply the loss of my pet when I know that my own mother had walked through a great grief years ago losing my brother when we were younger. My mother speaking through her tears gently said, “It doesn’t matter. Grief is still the same.” Those words helped me to truly let go, be unashamed of being misunderstood, and give into my grief so I could heal. I realized that different scenarios bring grief about but it all intersects at the same crossroad – the deep pain of loss.

I knew deep down what I needed to do for my beloved Asher when I did it. My head knew it was the right thing but my heart had trouble understanding.  All of the stages flooded in and out like ocean waves hitting the shore, some harder than others – shock, anger, denial, regret, fear. Yes, fear. Fear of moving on without him. Fear of walking in the door as life goes on and knowing he wouldn’t be there to greet me. Fear of loneliness as he would sit by my feet when I would read or write or pray. Asher was my shadow. Wherever I went so did he. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, loyal, protective, four-legged companion than Asher. His name in hebrew means happy and blessed. I certainly felt as if my happiness and my blessing had been taken from me.

While wrestling with my grief, in my shock and anger stage, I asked the Lord, ” How come you feel so far away when I’m hurting so deeply? Why can I not feel you? Aren’t you going to offer me some comfort in all of this? Don’t you see my grief, my pain?” God then showed me a picture on the cross of his dying Son and he was saying the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When I saw the vision in my mind, I immediately understood. The word forsaken means abandoned or deserted.  If I’m honest, that is exactly how I felt, abandoned and deserted by my heavenly Father, left to navigate this sudden loss by myself. Yet I knew at the moment of the vision, God understood my pain.

I had never truly connected it before that when Jesus cried out those words that it was specifically because of grief. Pain, I knew. Taking on the burden of the sins of the world, I knew. I’d heard things like how God turned his head and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore.  I never really believed that one. But when I associated sin with grief, I realized the depth of Christ’s guttural cry on that cross. The grief of injustice, the grief of pain, of loss, of disconnection, of shame, of guilt, of condemnation, of fear, of panic, of abandonment, etc. etc. Jesus took it all on, none of it his, but he took it from us. The grief so deep, he could not hear God speak or even feel his presence. Some refer to it as the dark night of the soul, when it feels as if you are dying or that a part of yourself is being ripped away. God never left Christ alone on the cross, he was with him through it all just as he was with me, waiting by my side for when I asked of him. If you’ve ever tried to console someone grieving, you know there truly are no words that can take their pain away.  You often just sit quietly as they weep simply so they know you are there for support when needed. Simply so they know, they are not left alone. They may not even be able to comprehend your presence or they may remove themselves to another room to be alone in their pain. Grief must be journeyed through, felt on every level in order to heal properly. Denying grief only prolongs it. Trying to speed it up creates frustration and anger and more heartache. The truth is, we are not wired to desire to feel loss. We want it whisked away. We beg God to remove suffering. Though I believe it is not something God enjoys watching us go through it, just like our own kids, we know that loss and grief is a part of this earthly life that everyone experiences at least one time in their lives. It is something that changes you. You are never the same person you were after grief’s visit. You cannot help but somehow grow in all of it. How we will grow from it or what it will look like depends on the individual. We each take away different things from our experiences. We each receive a different revelation for ourselves through the process. There is no formula, no agenda or time constraint. There is only choice. The day we choose to allow God to give us grace for the day, and then the next and then the next.

I heard a very successful business woman say once that she began to ask God to give her grace for each day. That’s it, just for the day.  She based it on the scripture when Paul asked God to take the thorn from his flesh. Could the thorn have been something that was grieving Paul? The bible doesn’t say specifically. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient. My grace is all you need.” I ponder those words, My grace is ALL you need.  Grace has to be pretty powerful if God says it’s ALL that we need. Maybe you need his grace for each hour in your grief right now. It’s okay. As for me, I began asking for God’s grace during my time of grief each morning as I awoke. It doesn’t mean I won’t still have the tears of remembrance come flooding in a few times throughout the day. It doesn’t mean that I might not have a day where I feel as if I  cannot seem to rally my heart to get out of bed, missing my beautiful beast. It simply means, I’m relying on God’s strength through his grace,  the light footed-ness instead of the heavy hearted-ness (my interpretation) to keep me going. It means God will take care and grant you favor for some things that have gone by the wayside while you transition and transform through your grief. It means there is a supernatural portion available that you may not understand but it will be ALL you need for that day. I have to say, it hasn’t taken the pain of loss away but it has given me hope for each day. I hope in some way, if even just a fragment, that helps you in your journey through grief. I continue to pray God grant me and you his grace for the day.

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Powerless or Powerful?

When we think of being powerless, we think of being completely helpless. Powerlessness exudes a stigma of being stuck with no way out or having something done to you in which you have no recourse. Powerlessness can often couple itself with being a victim of circumstance or injustice. It never feels good to be powerless. In some ways we can feel forced into a desperate situation due to feelings of powerlessness. How do we get out of it? How do we overcome?

I’ve learned that it begins with the power of choice. If we believe we have no choice then we will stay in a state of powerlessness in that particular event or circumstance. But if we tell ourselves, “I have the power to choose”, we have stepped over a threshold from a desert life of being a victim to a promised land of victory. Often we convince ourselves that we don’t get to choose when in fact it is very far from the truth. Remember the old saying, ‘Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity?’ That includes powerlessness. We always have a choice. Not necessarily in what will come at us, but in how we handle and/or react to it. That choice may just be wrapped up in fear. You might have to decide enough is enough to push past that fear and make an alternate choice for yourself. You could be facing a toxic relationship, or you may be at a job that barely keeps you afloat financially. You may have a jealous friend who holds you back or tries to tell you all the ways why your dream won’t work or come true or share how they think it could go all wrong for you. You may want to stay safe, secure, predictable and be able to control your own world. It’s o.k if you do, but all those things may be the very things keeping you captive in your powerlessness. You may want to remain unforgiving, bitter and resentful but that will just keep you a victim.

I encourage us all to ask ourselves if our life is bearing any fruit in our desert circumstances or are we brave enough to realize our true power lies in the choices we make for ourselves.Whether we stay stagnant and accept what we are dealt or we choose to create another outcome, another career, finish schooling, or pursue higher education in a specific field, or walk away from that which no longer serves the health of our heart and well being, we decide if we remain powerless. We choose if we will remain a victim to our circumstance. It begins in our heads first before it reaches our hearts. Anything that is in our head will eventually reach our heart so we must be careful of the thoughts we think. If we let negative thoughts swirl around there for too long, they will work their way into our hearts and become our belief system and we will live out of that false belief system. Sometimes we will hide behind what happened to us and that stays our story because we are too afraid of making a different choice because we fear it will be the wrong choice. Instead, what if we looked at our choices, not necessarily as wrong, but maybe not our best choice? What if we looked at it as a learning experience, as part of our journey and saw that it was an opportunity presenting itself to us to make a different one? If we see it that way, then we have just empowered ourselves to to make a new choice that aligns with our hearts desired outcome. There are so many choices in front of us. Today, I encourage you to ask yourself, What do I want my heart to believe? Will I tell my heart the message that I am powerless or that I AM Powerful? The choice really is ours.

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Begin Again

My heart had broken. I remember the day so well. For years it had felt chiseled away, little by little, from the hurt of others and the consistent disappointment from hope deferred. A big piece had given way and it felt as if a chunk had broken off like a statue being carved out and separated from its cement mold. I went numb and for the first time in my life I felt….nothing.

It was during that time I discovered that the fear of people’s opinions or aggression toward me no longer mattered. I wasn’t afraid anymore and I could not be manipulated nor controlled. In a strange way, it was sort of refreshing and freeing. At first I wondered, “How come I cannot feel anymore. God? Why can I not even cry anymore?” To which God responded to me through a faith based radio station the song, “Just be Held” by Casting Crowns. The whole song was poignant for what I was going through and became a life line for me during that season, but I’ll just post a few key lines,

“When you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away, You’re not alone, stop holding on and Just Be Held.

Your world is not falling apart, It’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and Just be held”

I assure you that God did hold me through that season. My heart had changed, my outlook toward life had changed and even my behaviors and responses to life had changed. It was if this protective wall, a strong and much needed boundary if you will guarded my soul from outside terrorists. A few years had passed and I had put my dreams, my writings, what I knew and thought I knew upon a shelf. Looking back I refer to it as my graveyard moment. Who knew what had seemed so devastating that I thought I had died inside, could be what would catapult me into a deeper, greater relationship with God? Who knew I would receive a new heart because the other had been duct taped so much it was almost beyond repair? Who knew that lies I had believed about false labels assigned to me from others who wanted to limit me would fade away? And who knew that new truths would take their place in the slight Spirit whispers I would intercept here and there. I didn’t. But God did. My worship had ceased. My devotional time, barren. Yet I was re-discovering myself and my God, not through the usual means but in the day to day unintentional happenings – a word here, a picture there. Oh how I longed for a rescue mission from God and an angelic visitation from this desert like foreign place but there was only the blood in my veins, and a small evidence of life still lingering in my soul.

Eventually I would take small baby steps, one or two at a time, like a toddler learning to walk. Sure there were frequent rest stops too as I began to build my faith and trust muscles again. But then suddenly, I fell forward into something, I’m not even sure how it happened really. But I found myself searching and kept shuffling my feet forward inches at a time. I started questioning things again. I began to ponder the deeper things of God…ah evidence that life was beginning to take place in me again. I now knew that the past season was not a permanent death as it felt but a resurrection. I likened it to a fruit tree that goes dormant in the winter. The fruit that was there eaten by the birds and squirrels. Some of it even rotting off the branches, a necessary thing to lighten its load as sheds it leaves and sleeps until its time to fruit again. The old and the new fruit cannot grow together. “…See the old has passed away, the new begins.” (2Cor. 5:17) The taste and texture of the fruit is determined by its climate. Sometimes a harsh climate can produce bitter fruit. A new climate brings with it new opportunity. The old will not work for the new season. Yet, nothing gets wasted because the old fruit decomposes and becomes fertilizer in the soil helping to bring forth the new fruit. As I look back, I see the necessity of it all. I see the story God was desiring to tell through ME bringing forth a “oneness” with him. And in the midst of it all, I heard the whisper of God say to me, “It’s time to come out and begin again”.


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A Breaking Dawn

Breaking, yup that’s the word of the day for my household. Everything around me seems to be breaking, my car, our garbage disposal, our shower head, our faucet, our back door, our water heater and our furnace, even me – emotionally. I’m done. I’m tired, I’m so ready to move onward and UPWARD! To top it off, the mice have come back. We used to have rats and mice visit our home because of all the construction going on in what used to be a field behind us, so where do they run…yep you guessed it, to our house, a little old house we rent. Well we haven’t had any for a long time…until…until….I began hearing something chewing behind my stove again. Once you have mice, you recognize the sound of the little intruders right away when they come back. Grrr! Things are changing, but seemingly not for the better as I had hoped. So what do you do? Well if you are like me you sulk just a little, get mad a bit and have a momentary pity party…then…well then, you remind yourself of all the blessings you have and the opportunity for things to take a turn for the better. I realize that when things break, it’s time for the old to go and the new to come. I’m ready for the new…well at least I think I am…because sometimes new changes might not always be what you think. Along with new changes, also come new challenges. But that’s not to scare you or bring you down. It just means nothing is ever going to be perfect. The only thing you can resolve to do is look for the positive, adjust your own attitude. I heard a phrase the other day that said “Happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is having an ice cream cone but Joy is something you choose in spite of the circumstances you may be facing”. Today as I wrestle with my flesh and emotions I’m going to count it all Joy because I know a new dawn is breaking in my life. So I’m going to choose to believe if all of this around me is falling apart, it’s because God has greater things in store for me ahead. I’m choosing to move onward and Upward in my attitude instead and soon my physical circumstances follow suit.

As a man thinketh so he becomes.

If I choose to remain Joyful in spite of what I am facing I will create an atmosphere in my life that invites my future to become my NOW! Speaking of, now, I’ve got to get after that mouse!

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Letting Go (of the “Role”)

Many of you I’m sure have seen or at least heard about plays or musical theatre, places where the souls of men and women are laid bare and there is triumph and tragedy and comedy in between. Each cast member has a role to play and they do it to the best of their ability waiting for the audience to clap with approval signifying they had done their job well, convincing.

I play a part too, as a mom to three children ages, 10, 7 and 4. I go about doing my “best work” trying to convince my children, my husband and myself, that I can do this housewife and stay at home mom thing. It’s my own little musical that also has bits and pieces of triumph, tragedy and even quite a bit of comedy. It’s a real drama piece that’s for sure! I try to hit all the high notes and nail my stage points -making lunches, keeping up with laundry, pick-ups, drop offs, treats for school parties, etc, etc. the list goes on. If you are a mom reading this then I know you know what I’m talking about.

Some moms make this thing, this role, look easy. I assure you I am not one of them. I’m the one that flies in and out like a whirlwind, trying to play the part of a role that I don’t know the lines too, nor do I even know what octave or key to hit in the song of motherhood – well, except when I lose it, then I’d probably be considered a soprano. I’d like to say I’m a hot mess, but honestly I feel like any last iota of hotness has left my body and instead I’m just a mess.

So today, I quit my job. I quit the “role” of motherhood and housewife because I wasn’t getting the applauses I wanted for doing pretty well at “winging it”. Last Minute Morgan’s I sometimes think of us, our motto being “we fly by the seat of our pants!” Sure that sounds an awful lot like comedy in the making but often it feels more like tragedy when we are all trying to get out the door in the morning. But my daughter said something that made me come undone and I simply quit my job. It was merely her perception, not necessarily a truth, but in her little 10 year old mind it was real for her. She felt as if my two whole hours of week of working out ( yes, I know I’m training to be the strongest women in the world and at that pace I’m sure I’ll get there in another 2,000 years)  was taking precedence over her needs to be available for every little school function and assembly they had.  When I couldn’t make one, on short notice of course, well…in her mind tragedy had just set in.

Well, I obviously didn’t play the Glenda the Good Witch part too well and came across more or less like the wicked step mom from Cinderella as I shouted out, “oh really? Lord forbid I have two whole hours a week to try to do my Pilates during the times YOU are at school! How does this exactly affect you?” I was merely trying to get some resemblance of my former B.C ( before children) core strength back after having it swish around like a bowl full of J-E-L-L-O for the last 10 years and get a better posture so my hips and neck didn’t hurt anymore. Of course I could have explained it more calmly I admit. However, did I mention in plays and musicals there is a lot of drama? And I surely didn’t want to disappoint. Heh, heh. Well anyway, shortly afterward, I announced to my kids that I quit! They would now being making their own lunches, folding and putting away their own laundry, making their own dinners and snacks and cleaning the house ALL BY THEMSELVES. Horrible, I know, but really I was only going to test that out for a weekend, not forever so don’t go and get all CPS on me here.

Yet, something surprising happened. After the shocked look on their faces, yes they too are good at their role, convincing little actors and actress I might add, and the “wha, wha, WHAT???” exclamations, they proceeded to complete their homework quickly. That’s a first right there! Then my two oldest, one girl and one boy went into the kitchen, fed the dogs, cleaned the dishes and proceeded to make chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. My daughter missed the ready made, just add water pancake mix, and proceeded to grab the bisquick, eggs, a measuring cup and all the other ingredients needed. My son grabbed the chocolate chips as my youngest son watched them mix up this concoction excited about the fact that they got to have “Sugar” for dinner.

Well off they went to their recipe and worked together pleasantly with no fighting. I could hardly believe it! The pancakes were a total success, of course I sat nearby to make sure nobody caught on fire or got hurt. But I stayed out of it completely…and if you know me, you will know that’s a hard thing for me to do! I’m a slowly recovering control freak.

They happily ate their pancakes even offering me some proudly. I congratulated them as I secretly thought, Oh no! Maybe they will get the idea in their head I’m not needed and maybe I just hosed myself! But that quickly passed, as I watched them clean up afterward and heard them expressing how tired they were and what hard work that was.

Then it hit me. I don’t have to play a “role” anymore because there is a whole cast in this family that can bring value. A leading lady or man is only as good as their cast mates, right? Nobody wants to watch just one person; the excitement is all the characters involved. But even better than that, I got to see that my little understudies were watching me all these years and performed making their dinner with precision. Maybe I wasn’t so bad at being an example after all. And, they all three decided that doing things around the house made them feel good but also made them appreciate the hard work mom does…well at least until they forget again. But I’m thinking I just might take this experiment a little further and let them do things like this more and more.

You know, letting go can actually bring about some pretty amazing results. I may have taught my kids something today but God has been trying to teach me “this” little lesson for a long time. I think I might just get it this time…well that is until I forget again. I wasn’t meant to be a lone cast mate, I was meant to be a part of something bigger, HIM. God just wants me to let go and enjoy the show sometimes instead of getting in the way and trying to play all the parts I think I’m supposed to juggle. Sometimes God is simply waiting for us to yell out “I quit”, so he can finally go “Thank God or well, uh thank me!” and then perform his best work while we stand by and watch. The results can be really surprising when we aren’t there in the middle of it complaining the whole time and just sit back and rest while he performs his miracles.

I think I just broke my own mold today -the mold of my own false expectations that I put on myself.

Think of something you can let go of and trust someone else or God to do. You may find the results surprising enough to become a permanent change in your home or life. We are all in this musical together so why not make melodies. Working together as a family (even if you aren’t related but maybe friends, or co-workers) is music to God’s heart as he watches his children in all their comedy and triumphs over tragedy. And as far as the mess part, well I love what William P. Young says in his book The Shack: “We are all a bunch a beautiful messes!” Things in life are messy sometimes but God created some of the best masterpieces from some of life’s messiest situations. So own your mess, whether hot, beautiful or whatever and remind yourself you are a masterpiece in the making…if you just let go!

Speaking of messes and averting tragedies, I need to make sure the kids, my little masterpieces, aren’t putting too much soap in the washing machine! See you after intermission.

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