Out With a Bang… A Year of Growth

Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.

I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!

About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!  

The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.

How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers? Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed. I needed help.  

It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.

Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.

Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,” he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility. The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and we all went on with the rest of the day.

This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.

Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.

If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.  

“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.”
Calvin Coolidge

 

In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.

When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .

My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest.  I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.

By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming and highlighting their lives.

The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing. 


The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.

Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?

Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.  

I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it.  I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!

   Love,

Love,

The Gift of Today

There are many ways to respond to a gift. When the gift is something we want, it’s easy to react in delight and excitement. Unwanted, unwished for, and undesirable gifts are much harder to receive. It can be difficult to respond with gratitude and grace. It’s best to accept these presents with a polite smile, a “thank you,” and a focus on the heart and (hopefully good) intention behind the gift.

The gift of today is unique. It will bring something different to everyone. Some of us will be delighted. Others will struggle to respond gratefully to what may seem like useless and confusing things. We may wish we could return unwanted, ugly things and situations. We can’t. Time can not be returned. We need to figure out how to make the best use of them and learn from each situation. Many times, undesirable things are useful and needed things for the future. They are surprise gifts that help us grow into stronger, more experienced people and allow us to relate to and help others.

There is something good to be found in each day. Embrace today’s opportunities as chances to change our perspectives and be a gracious receiver. Pause and intentionally choose to respond in gratitude and joy- even when it’s challenging and difficult to do. And make today a gift for others. Regift your time in acts of kindness and show love in action that will keep giving long into tomorrows.

What will you do with your gift of today? ❤

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11


Our Favorite Books for 2 to 5-Year-Olds

Reading aloud is one of the best things you can do with your child. It promotes language development and early literacy skills. It enforces comprehension skills, builds vocabulary, and develops letter- sound recognition. When we aloud to children, we invite them to experience new things, encounter new places, and meet interesting people and intriguing characters. 

I’ve complied a list of our favorite books for 2 to 5-year-olds. Click on the book’s picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links.

If you have older children, you may enjoy these recommendations. And if you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.-


A Few of Our Favorite Books and Read Alouds (Gift Ideas for Christmas and a Giveaway too!)

One of my favorite gifts to give are books. Books invite us to experience new things, help us encounter new places and worlds, and introduce us to interesting people and intriguing characters. Books can change our opinions, our outlook, and our world.

There are so many wonderful books to give, it can be overwhelming scrolling through page after page of titles trying to decide which book would make a good choice. To help, I’ve complied a list of our favorite read alouds and picture books. Depending on the age of the child, many of these titles are great chapter books for independent reading. 

Click on the picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links. If you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.

As you think about gifts for others, I have a gift for you. I am giving away a few of my favorite things. A Starbucks gift card, coffee mug, Bible, Nature book, and a CD from my favorite band.  See the bottom of this post for more information and how to enter.  

FOR AN ANIMAL LOVER OR  NATURE ENTHUSIAST   

GREAT and MEMORABLE ADVENTURES

INTERESTING PEOPLE and PLACES

LOVED CLASSICS

BIBLE and BIBLE STORIES

“A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS” Giveaway 

-1 Starbucks Gift Card

-“Hearth & Hand with Magnolia” Gather Mug

-1 Holy Bible

-1 Nature Connection Book

-MINAMIZE CD

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY ! 

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for purchases made through these links. 

For more book ideas and books grouped by theme, check out our BOOKSHELF


100 Kind Things to Say

I went to put my purse down and noticed the small puddle filling the center console of my van. My five-year old son had “given” me his cup of water, which really meant he had half-haphazardly placed it on the uneven tops of the odds and ends we keep in the tray. Now the cup was on its side, water trickling out near the straw. Soggy receipts were turning to watercolored prints. Drowned coins reflected in the shallow bottom of the compartment like in a small wishing pool.  

I took a deep breath and made a conscious effort not to say something snarky or say something I would regret. Yes, he was being impatient and had not wanted to wait for me to take his cup. Yes, my patience had been tested many times today.  Yes, this was one more thing to clean up. Yes, this was an minor inconvenience. But really this was just an unintentional accident and an opportunity to show a little grace.  

I started to mop up the water with some napkins I had just grabbed while we were at the coffee shop. I didn’t realize they would be used so soon. It was quiet in the van- a rare moment of silence. My son was thinking and watching. When the last napkin had been used,  he declared with admiration, “Wow, Mom! You are always prepared. Really, always!” These words seemed too big for his sweet little voice. A compliment so gracious it disarmed any lingering sour feelings. I had almost traded kindness and grace for irritation and annoyance, but I hadn’t. This time I hadn’t let my emotions hijack the situation. Kindness won! “Thank you, Bud! Mommy tries,” was all I could reply.     

Words…powerful little things that add up to big consequences. When we stop and think before we speak, we can change someone’s day.  (We can change our day.) I have no doubt if I had said some things I had initially been thinking during the water spill, it would have left a dark shadow over the hour. Instead, it turned a small incident into a moment of positivity. When we speak encouraging words, we are giving people around us an emotional boost of hope, support and confidence. We are building stronger relationships. 

About two years ago, I wrote a post called “78 Kind Words to Say to Your Children.” I thought I could do better than just 78 and came up with more things to say. So, here’s a new list- “100 Kind Things to Say.” Originally, I had thought to use this list to encourage my children but there are many things on this list that would encourage anyone- family, friends, and co-workers too. 

And one more note, some of us have a natural inclination or a gift to speak words of affirmation and encouragement. For others it can be difficult and takes practice. If you feel like it’s difficult, do not be discouraged. Try saying one or two positive, encouraging phrases at a time and work up to speaking several each day. Like with anything new and with some practice, speaking encouraging words will start to feel easier to do and the people around you will benefit from your practice.  

  1. You make me smile.
  2. I believe in you.
  3. You have great ideas!
  4. You are a hard worker.
  5. You make a difference.
  6. Can I help you?
  7. I’m sorry.
  8. Will you forgive me?
  9. I forgive you.
  10. You are loved.
  11. You are creative!
  12. Great discovery!
  13. I admire you.
  14. You are kind.
  15. You are a good friend.
  16. You are a good listener.
  17. I’m listening.
  18. I want to hear what you have to say.
  19. Your ideas matter.
  20. It’s your decision.
  21. You can say “no.”
  22. You belong!
  23. We need your help.
  24. Here’s a place for you.
  25. I like spending time with you.
  26. Tell me what you are thinking.
  27. Thank you for helping me.
  28. Would you like to help me?
  29. I see you trying.
  30. Great job!
  31. I like working together.
  32. I like how you______.
  33. It’s okay to be nervous or scared.
  34. You are brave.
  35. We can learn from mistakes.
  36. Mistakes help us grow.
  37. Keep up the good work!
  38. I like you!
  39. Let’s share.
  40. Thank you for being you!
  41. God made you special.
  42. You have a lot to offer.
  43. You are right!
  44. You are fun to be with.
  45. I am excited to see you try.
  46. You figured it out!
  47. Well done!
  48. Thank you for following directions.
  49. Thank you for sharing.
  50. I trust you.
  51. I appreciate you.
  52. Thank you for being honest.
  53. You are joyful!
  54. You are loving.
  55. You are helpful.
  56. Thank you for waiting.
  57. You are patient.
  58. You give the best hugs.
  59. I like when you __________.
  60. Please sit next to me.
  61. You have a great sense of humor.
  62. I can help you with that.
  63. I want to help.
  64. What a fantastic idea!
  65. What do you want to do?
  66. Let’s do it together.
  67. Good thinking!
  68. Thank you for answering me.
  69. That was a kind thing to do.
  70. You have special gifts and talents.
  71. You are a gift to others.  
  72. Let’s pray about it together.
  73. You are good at________.
  74. I can tell you really tried.
  75. You have a big heart.
  76. You have the best smile.
  77. You are important to me.
  78. Thank you for helping your friend.
  79. That’s wonderful news.
  80. Tell me more.
  81. I am proud of you!
  82. You mean the world to me.
  83. I love you to the moon and back.
  84. You are beautiful inside and out.
  85. You made my day!
  86. You light up the room!
  87. You are generous.
  88. Don’t give up!
  89. That’s a great question.
  90. You can try again next time.
  91. Let’s take a break and try again.
  92. It’s okay.
  93. It will get better.
  94. I’m here for you.
  95. You inspire me!
  96. You are a great example to others.
  97. I am a better person because of you.
  98. You teach me new things.
  99. I love your enthusiasm.
  100. I LOVE YOU!

How Can This Be?

Last week, I was rereading Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke. Mary, a young virgin, engaged to Joseph, a man of good lineage. Her engagement was part of socially acceptable plans, plans that would provide her security in life. She might have thought of her future often, preparing herself to be a wife, dreaming of what it might be like to be married. Every day that went by was one day closer to those plans coming to fruition. Then something happened that would change everything. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with an incredible message that would challenge her plans and replace them with a new calling from God.

I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through her mind as she tried to process the impossible things the angel was saying- “You will conceive. You will give birth. You will name him Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High.” Although, the Gospel of Luke does not tell us her exact thoughts, it does records one of her questions. A question I think we can all relate to, “How can this be?”

Mary’s first response to this overwhelming information was a question. And her response is similar to many other people in the Bible who also had their days, their plans, their lives interrupted with what seemed like unimaginable missions and impossible callings from God. Callings that would be difficult, go against social standards, and change the trajectory of their lives in order to fulfill the plans of God. In many of their stories, their immediate response to overwhelming information was a “Who am I?” “How can I?” “I am only a….”  

I think many of us have similar first responses to when God calls us to Himself or to His work. While, our circumstances and our callings might be different, the heart of our responsive question is the same- doubt.

“How can this be, since I am a sinner?

“How can this be, since I am unqualified?”

“How can this be, since I do not have the resources?

God’s answer has been, is, and always will be the same. The answer is- “I am with you.” (Exo.3:12; Joshua 1:5, Luke 1:28) We can do the things God calls us to do because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Often, God’s callings come at times that interrupt our carefully crafted plans. They ask us to replace our doubts and fears with faith. He knows your past and your future. He knows where you are lacking and wants to equip and use you in those places for His glory. He knows you don’t have all the resources because He wants to be the One to provide them and He wants you to trust and obey in faith that He will. God fully knows, and has no doubt, that you are the right person for the mission, the job, the good work that He is calling you to do.

Mary didn’t have all the answers or all the details. She didn’t have a spreadsheet, a timeline or a budget. But she did have faith and was told the Holy Spirit would come over her to make this impossible, miraculous thing happen. And because Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit to encourage us, empower us and remind us- God is with us. Nothing is impossible with God. Anchoring ourselves in those truths and answering God out of a place of faith, our second response can be one of trust and action. We can respond in the same as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.”(Luke 1:38)


December Acts of Kindness Calendar

Although kindness and charity should be given in every month, December brings a special focus to these things. It’s a month of reflection. An opportunity to focus outward instead of inward. A time to give rather than receive. If you are looking for a few ideas to practice acts of love, kindness and giving to others, check out our plan for December.

Each morning, our Kindness Elves, Amelia and Olivia, will suggest the daily act of kindness to complete as a family. There’s something for everyone on the calendar. Some of the ideas, like donating blood, are obviously for the adults (that’s the one that is going to stretch me the most!) Some of the ideas will take a little longer to complete than others. All of the activities can be done together with each other’s support and encouragement. 

Just a note…This calendar is not meant to add to the holiday hustle and stress. It’s not to give us one more thing to do. Rather, it is a reminder to slow down, gather around a table, have good conversations, create for and think of others as a family.