Cookie Cutter Creations

Preschool age children love to get their hands in Play-Doh and cookie dough. They roll it, pound it and squash it when they get mad. Mommy ads to their fun when she puts cookie cutter molds into their tiny hands; youngsters now have the excitement of creating favorite shapes.  The tikes laugh with glee when they see that they have created an exact copy of animals, Christmas trees, stars or snowmen.

As their mothers or grandmothers, we must guard our hearts and minds. We must not conform to the molds of our godless society. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2 KJV).” The Creator places no cookie cutter into our feeble hands; He writes His word upon our hearts and watches to see its transforming power in our walk with Him.

A Trophy of Grace

 

I have noticed over the past few years that sharing things from my past that used to make me cringe with shame, now have much less of a hold over me.

It seems the more honest and open I’ve been about the myriad of mistakes I’ve made, and the more I’ve allowed God to take the ugliness that was my life, the more exciting and energizing it has become.

He makes a masterpiece out of our junk.

God is just cool like that.

It’s as though what I once hid, fearful for the onslaught of rejection and judgement I assumed would follow, has become a display of God’s relentless love and extravagant grace.

I am a trophy of God’s grace.

The story below so beautifully explains this picture…

“Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house.

In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His mother – in the house was looking out the window – saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could.

Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother. It was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.

From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal and, on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.
The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms.

I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my mom wouldn’t let go.”

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic. But, the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep shame and regret.

But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go.

In the midst of your struggle, He’s been there holding on to you.

Scripture teaches over and over again that God loves you.  He adores you.  Yes, YOU.

He sent His one and only son to die a horrendous death…to win you back.

In the same way a parent longs, no…lives, to protect their child, He wants to protect you.

But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril – and we forget that the enemyis waiting to attack.

That’s when the tug-o-war begins – and if you have the scars of His love on your arms be very, very grateful.

He did not – and will not – let you go.

by Joy McMillan, Simply Bloom

What’s In Your Bucket?

In this house

we do dishes, yes…

Dishwasher Boy

But we also do wild.  Unorthodox.

We do mistakes.

We do second chances.

And third.

And four hundred and seventy-ninth.

*thankfully*

We do silly.

We do laughter.

We do real.

We do tomfoolery.

{and plenty more mistakes}

We do “I’m sorry’s”.

{A lot of “I’m sorry’s”}

We do loud.

We do long hugs.

Lots of sweet kisses.

We do grace.

We do family.

We do us.

Perfect imperfection.

It had been a tough parenting day.  One of these days.

Actually it had been a rough week.  Ever since returning from our anniversary getaway, we had been dealing with incredibly unpleasant {see…I’m choosing my words wisely} behavior in my daughter; over-the-top whining and drama about every little thing, constant boundary-pushing, mega attitude and rudeness like we had not experienced from her before.

And that particular day, I fell apart at the seams.

And it was the furthest thing from pretty.  It was downright scary.

I failed miserably, shouting – in the heat of the moment; where utter exhaustion and intense furry collide – with such anger in my voice that my heart ached with regret as the dagger-like reprimands left my mouth.

Sure, she was wrong in behaving the way she did.

But now, so was I.  My immature, impulsive handling of her behavior simply added fuel to the fire.

I get to choose: water or fuel.

This explosive day, I had grabbed the fuel.

It was one of the most ferocious crazy cycles we’ve ever been caught in, her and I.

I modeled such poor anger-management skills that it breaks my heart to even think about.  The very heart attitude we are working to mold and transform in her was so starkly, blatantly revealed within me..and found wanting.

One of the hardest parts for me to swallow is this: I never was an angry person before this season of my life.  Where is all this rage coming from?  In 7 years of marriage, I have neverspoken to my husband in the harsh, unkind way I did to my daughter that day.  I have become a yeller.  And I hate it.

Maybe it’s simply that I was good at stuffing…and my toddler is good at digging.

Immature outbursts drenched in selfishness & impatience: 2

Tenderly delivered, grace-filled lessons in {tough} love: 0

And despite {many} apologies, my heart remained heavy.  Grieving over our exchanges.

What a horrible, ugly side of my heart has emerged lately.  And my 3 year old, tender-hearted little girl, often has a front seat.

Oh, how desperately in need of saving I still am.

How deeply I need accountability in the way I process my weary frustration in mothering toddlers.  How vital support and friendship is to surviving this rollercoaster ride of parenthood.

How very grateful I am for God’s incredible patience with me.  His ever-present mercy, grace and direction on this journey.  His faithful protection of my daughter’s impressionable heart.

So I press on.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.”

Lamentations 3:23-23 {The Message}

What will you choose to bring to the fiery times, the heated conversations, amidst your day…?

Water

or

fuel

The choice is solely ours, friends.

by Joy McMillan, Simply Bloom

A Piece of Me

I have a cupboard full of old Bible Study workbooks, conference notes, etc. I keep these not because I think I will use them again or go back and reread my notes (although I might).  No, I keep them because each one of those workbooks has become a part of me in some way. I learned something through each study. I gained ground. I grew in my faith, in my walk with the Lord, and I grew internally as a person.
 
Today, when I opened up that cupboard to put something away, I saw my small stack and I smiled. To some people those workbooks might be taking up valuable storage space. But to me, they are a piece of who I have become. They represent who God is molding me into and they hold many special memories. I shed tears over valuable lessons that God taught me, I stretched my mind to let God open it up to deeper things He wanted to show me, and I prayed over many, many things that I held closely to my heart.  Those workbooks are a piece of me. They are a piece of who I have become.
 
Each time I start a new Bible study or go to a new conference – I don’t sit there and think about how I will be changed. I just know that in some way (small or great) that I will be. And it excites me. Because I’m always up for bettering myself. I love diminishing the effect that the flaws and weaknesses in my life have on me. I love growing new strengths and feeling God’s strength flourish inside of me.  And for whatever it’s worth, I will hold on to those moments so that I don’t forget that HE doesn’t forget. He doesn’t forget me. He talks to me in a personal way each time I reach out to communicate and grow in Him.
 
So I will hold onto those Bible study books. No matter how worn, how sloppy my writing, or how much space they take up. They have made me who I am and for that I will be eternally grateful.
 
 

~ Dionna Sanchez is the Founder of the Emphasis On Moms Ministry. Visit the website at http://www.EmphasisOnMoms.com or email her at madetomom@yahoo.com

Restoration

Do-overs. How many times do you wish you could go back in the past and do something “over?” We all do. We all make mistakes or have things happen to us that profoundly impacted our lives and the way we see and feel about life. We can be affected by those moments and circumstances forever.  But, how will we let them affect us is a much deeper question than simply acknowledging that they will, indeed, affect us.
 
Sometimes we let those past hurts or sins to disable where we are today.  We don’t leave them behind in the past, where they belong. Instead we wear them with us – every moment – every second of our lives. We live and breathe them. But when we do that, we have let Satan cripple us. He uses something so personal to us that God could use for a ministry in our lives; and instead, he cripples our ability to heal and be made whole. He cripples our ability to be used by the Lord.
 
God can provide positive outlets of ministry in our lives from those very pains and sorrows from our past. Instead of simply being “affected” we can instead be “effective.’ It’s kind of like the saying – “turning lemons into lemonade.” We can use what we did or what happened to us and turn it around for the good of others and for the Glory of the Lord. 

God can restore us – but we have to let Him. That means walking through those minefields of hurts and heartaches. It might even mean unveiling them and bringing them out into the open where other people will hear and know about them. But I have found that God has an amazing way of making something that we think is so dark and ugly, appear so merciful and tender when it’s brought into the light of His forgiveness and grace. It’s scary getting to that point but He will walk us through it step by step and we WILL make it.
 
We each have a chance to have a “do-over.” We have the chance to respond to that “thing” that hurts our heart so deeply. That time is today.  The time is now to make the choice to not just be “affected” but to be “effective.”  Don’t let Satan make you a victim any longer. It’s time to be restored.

~ Dionna Sanchez (http://www.EmphasisOnMoms.com)

Just Look Up

I was on my way to the library this morning lost in my thoughts, when I looked up. Immediately, my perspective on what I was thinking about changed. Just by looking up. My thoughts were turned to God and the heavens. I wanted to talk to Him and with Him about my life. I felt His presence and strength buoy me. Just by looking up.
 
It occurred to me how often our perspectives or attitude could change merely by looking up instead of keeping our eyes down. We so often are consumed by what is going on in our own little world. Our eyes are down – down on earth, down on our problems, down on our surroundings, and on ourselves. Our focus is down here…. instead of up there.
 
 
All it takes is a second to look upward and get a God-focus on what is going on in our lives. All it takes is for us to take our eyes off of ourselves to get the direction and inspiration we sometimes need.
 
 
We get too consumed with ourselves. Too consumed with everything going on around us. And if you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, buried under “to-do’s,” or alone – I ask you, when was the last time you looked up?

~ Dionna Sanchez (http://www.EmphasisOnMoms.com)

Into His Presence

Who is the “you” that no one else sees? Who is the “you” that hides hurts deep inside?
There are just times in life where it feels like the winds of life are beating down on us and we are standing up by ourselves facing that wind on our own. It’s not that others don’t care or aren’t trying to understand what we are going through – it’s just that God has asked us to go through this particular challenge in life, with Him alone. These are the times where He draws us into His presence to teach us something, or show us something very personal. It feels like we will break at times – but we won’t. We will only bend. 🙂

I used to dread these times in my life. I would feel sorry for myself and wonder why only “I” could really feel or understand a certain situation or circumstance. Now I am learning to embrace them. It’s not that they are comfortable or that I have grown some newfound courage to endure hard times – it’s simply that I am gaining an inner understanding about what these challenges in my life are about.

They are about God drawing me closer to Him.

My mom and I were talking about how situations in life grow character in your heart. I used to tell her that I didn’t want more character – because it usually hurt to get it! 🙂 But as we were talking, remembering and smiling about this; I shared with her that although it hurts to get stretched by God at times, I have never once regretted a painful, hurtful, or challenging time in life that was designated by God. Not once. Because He has used each one in my heart and life to have a ministry and to help others. He has used each one to grow insight into my heart, to mature me as a believer, and to draw me closer to Him. And oh how I love to be closer to Him!

Wherever we are in life; if we are feeling all alone or that maybe God is “sifting” us and weeding things out of our lives — please consider the fact that He may just be calling you by name and asking you to personally come into His presence for a little while so that He may share some truths with you and you alone. It can be a very special and precious time that is shared by only you and the Lord, if you choose to look at it that way.

Right now, God may be trying to draw you into His presence. You may be going through things that no one else can go through with you. Let Him speak to you – let Him be with you. Draw the strength and courage you need from being in His presence.

~ Dionna Sanchez
Visit Dionna’s main blog at http://beautyinthestorm.blogspot.com

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