Prayer: Let Love Shine

Lord, we lift up to You all who are hurting and desperate for relief. Clear their minds of all their sins and fill their hearts with Your love. You promise to keep in perfect peace all whose minds are focused on You. We ask that You would fill our minds with good, pure and pleasing thoughts of You. You have done so much for us and You never give up on us, never leave us. Let Your light shine and your love transform us. In Jesus Holy Name we pray. Amen.

Christians and Alcohol

This is one of those “hot topic” moments where I’m going to address something that you might not like or agree with. You may have very strong feelings regarding alcohol and your feelings are totally valid! (Seriously!) I am, however, going to ask that you read this with an open mind and use respectful language when replying in the comments – or emailing me privately. Thanks! 

From time to time, I’ll see a friend or Christian news site post something negative on the topic of Christianity and alcohol consumption. While I completely understand why so many claim that to be a “good” Christian you must remain sober all the time, I just don’t agree. Alcohol and Christianity can and do mix, in my opinion. In fact, I believe you can be a very lousy Christian and still be sober. Alcohol has little to do with it. I believe that what so many are focused on are heart issues.

There are many people who use alcohol as a means to control behaviors or situations, whether it be their own or someone else’s. Alcohol can be used as an escape from reality or as a celebratory beverage. It can be consumed in moderation or excess and it can be consumed in a Holy way or a sinful manner. Many would concur that a sip of wine during communion is perfectly acceptable for most folks. Is that sinful? I don’t believe it is. What about a hardworking Christian coming home  from work and having a beer while preparing dinner for their family? Is that sinful? It could be, but it depends on the intent.

There are people – like my husband and I – that enjoy a beer every few months. We usually will crack open a Corona while making tacos. I’ll take a few sips, crack a silly joke and then hand off the beer to my husband to finish because I’m a light weight. We’ll crack open another beer in about a month in a similar fashion, usually while making tacos or chili. Our kids may or may not be paying attention to what we’re drinking. If they ask, we’ll tell them honestly that it’s beer. Beer is an adult drink and we enjoy it occasionally because to us, it tastes good. We’ll go on to explain that it’s not good to drink too much because it’s not God honoring to get drunk, but it is okay to drink a little beer sometimes. If our kids question further, we’ll answer honestly, but they usually don’t. Someday we’ll have a full, open and honest discussion about the effects of alcohol, however, right now they’re not even ten years old yet and show such little interest in it. If they had shown interest, we’d have had the full talk.

Anthony and I drink very responsibly, don’t drive afterwards and don’t rely on alcohol to “make us feel better” or to fix anything in our lives. It’s more of a festive, celebratory deal for us. We have maybe five or six beers total a year. And maybe one or two bottles of wine. Part of this is due to cost, but mostly it’s because we don’t crave it, don’t feel it’s an important part of everyday life and understand that it can be over consumed, leading to a serious breakdown of self and family. We know we’re responsible for taking care of our greatest blessings – our kids, and we don’t want to do anything or drink anything that will inhibit us from fulfilling our roles as parents. Consequently, I don’t drink during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so in the last year, we’ve had maybe one beer total and no wine or other forms of alcohol. (If you are breastfeeding, please know that alcohol remains in your system for up to four hours after consuming it, so you’ll need to pump and dump your milk and use alcohol-free pre-pumped milk to feed your baby during that time.)

Children are susceptible to outside influences, of course. They can be tempted to try alcohol at a friends’ house or even by media such as television, movies, books, magazines and even social media. This is why Anthony and I feel it’s important to have an open dialogue with our kids, on their level. Since we rarely have alcohol in the house, we use other outlets to introduce the topic to our children, such as passing a bar or restaurant that is known to serve alcohol. One day our eldest daughter wanted to go into a bar because she saw that they were having a pool tournament and it looked like fun to her. We explained that she could not go in and that we weren’t likely to either. This prompted the usual “why” response from her and we launched into a mutual, informative discussion on why not. This particular bar didn’t serve food and Anthony and I don’t see a point in entering an establishment that only serves alcohol, especially since we never finish even one drink ourselves. We don’t enjoy the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol and we certainly have no desire to hang out in a place where everyone else is enjoying an activity that we don’t. We’d prefer to spend our time doing things with people we love – like our kids. This satisfied her curiosity for now. I’m sure she or one of her siblings will ask again and we’ll answer truthfully, in much the same way.

 

I’m curious to hear what God’s said to you all regarding alcohol. And if you’re not “religious” what do you feel is acceptable for Christians? There are no wrong or stupid answers!

 

Christmas {Lessons in Greed?}

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Image Credit:  https://answersingenesis.org/media/cartoons/after-eden/

 

This Christmas I have learned some very valuable lessons that I don’t believe I would’ve learned had I not been homeless for three months with my family of five. I’m grateful for this season of homelessness. It’s taught us to cling to Jesus, to need (and want) less stuff and to focus on the truth The Gospel becomes a whole lot more important when it’s all you’ve got. You start to realize:  it’s all you need. 

Children need to hear, see and experience the Gospel. They need to act out the Nativity even if they don’t seem to “get it” right away. You’re planting seeds in childhood and they’ll bloom the more you tend to them.

We each have our own family gardens to plant, tend and reap from. We can enjoy each other’s gardens, we can tend them for short periods of time, but we have to be careful of planting foreign seeds in them. A dangerous statement for sure. Christ is the ultimate gardener. He and His ways should always be found in every garden, but the ways of the world should be cut, cultivated out.

I mistakenly allowed the ways of the world to enter into our Christmas celebrations and I saw greed, discord, discontent and willful disobedience…to name a few. I understand that no harm was meant by those who gave gifts, yet…more joy was had by those receiving none.

The Spirit of Christmas is not giving. It’s receiving the Christ child into our hearts and growing in faith. It’s understanding that from His very birth, Jesus was destined to serve us and then die. As harsh as that may sound, that is the true spirit of Christmas. Satan does such a great job of convincing us otherwise, doesn’t he? We all got caught up in one way or another and we have, over the years done so much harm to our little ones in teaching about Christmas. We must retrain them. We have to stop right now with Samaritans Purse, Toys for Tots, giving trees and all other like-minded programs. These are great for other times of the year, but at Christmas, we need to celebrate the season of receiving. No gift placed underneath a tree can ever do that for us no matter how deep in poverty we may be. Only Jesus can truly lift us up and give us hope. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves, from our circumstances, from our sin. Only Jesus can redeem us. Toys are just clutter that are soon broken and forgotten. We can mess with those throughout the rest of the year. December 25th is for Christ and Christ alone.

Join me in taking back Christmas. Resolve to give freely throughout the year. Shower our family, friends and neighbors with gifts and fulfill their needs as Christ calls us to do. Then, during Advent next year, slow down. Stay away from the stores, resolve not to give (commercially) but to receive. Receive Christ. Celebrate His birth, life, death and resurrection. Await His coming. Tell it on the mountains and everywhere! JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!

Get the Word Out

I had the opportunity – and took it – to pray for a troubled teen tonight. I’d never met this kid before and I don’t know his whole story, but I do know his entire demeanor changed dramatically following the prayer. He had no idea I’d prayed for him but I know. I know somehow God spoke to him.

I’ve been on a mission lately to privately pray for people and watch to see what happens. It’s amazing. Some people become increasingly hostile. They’re not interested in anything God’s doing. Other people change almost instantly – they’re subdued, quiet, thoughtful.

I wrote some scripture on my van windows about two months ago. I wanted to see how people would react to it. Most vehicles cut off mini vans. I wondered how or if that might change if other drivers perceived there’s a bunch of Christians inside. I figured I’d be made fun of more than anything. I really wasn’t prepared for the responses I received. On the first weekend, I was approached by at least five people thanking me for the message of hope. By the end of the following week, it was at least a dozen more folks. The following week I changed the message, adding more scripture. As I was driving, people honked, gave thumbs up. One lady honked at me as we drove down main street. I turned to see who’d honked and I burst into tears. She had a series of oxygen tubes and looked like she was battling cancer. She needed hope and she received it from the message on my windows. I hope she kicks cancer’s butt.

I have had one negative reaction. One person wrote me a note telling me they liked my message but I needed to speak to people directly. Seeing the message alone doesn’t save anyone, they stated. I tend to agree. That’s why I do talk to people, but there’s no way a stranger who leaves anonymous notes could ever know that.

It’s been interesting to see the outcome of these experiments. The world needs Grace and quite frankly, the outcome of privately spreading the Word isn’t that different than publicly doing it. People are still affected, still changed. The pace is different, sure. God gets full glory in secret. That’s always a great thing. Bottom line- just get out there and spread the Word. Pray for people. Stop judging folks and just commit to praying for them. You don’t know their story and you can’t see their battle, but God sees and God knows. He’ll sort it all out. Just trust Him and commit to praying for each person you meet. Even if you don’t see a change in them, God is changing YOU.

All I Want For Christmas Is Less Stuff

Every year without fail, someone asks me what I want for Christmas and every year I bristle at that question. I rack my brain and try very hard to come up with something – anything that might make me happy. In reality, nothing does make me happy. All I want for Christmas is less stuff. Seriously. Take some of my things that I’m not using and will never use, off my hands, but please – refrain from buying me anything. I realize that this is not the cultural norm, but it’s what I really want. I want less stuff and more freedom.

When I’m not feeling held down by stuff, I’m free to do what I really love – write, draw, paint, create, read and most importantly – study my bible. I don’t mind washing dishes, taking care of the laundry or cleaning floors, but I do not want to be bogged down by taking care of other people’s stuff and I definitely don’t want to waste time taking care of my own inanimate objects. Please don’t give me stuff. I’m a busy mom of three and unless you have multiple children or mounting occupational, educational or familial obligations, you simply cannot and will not understand. Time is so precious. Free space is a commodity when there are multiple children in the home.

If you’ve ever read the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you’ll know what your love language is. There’s one that most likely speaks right to the depths of your soul. My husband’s love language is Words of Affirmation while my love language is quality time. (We spend a lot of time together building him up with words of Affirmation.) 😉 Seriously though, If you really want to show me you care for me, grab a cup of tea with me, go for a walk with me or sit down and chat with me. When you carve out actual time and space for me, it’s undeniable that you are telling me you care. Giving me pretty things is like hastily saying to me “here. Take this and go away.” I realize that is not how it’s meant to come off, but that is how it’s perceived by me. I just don’t want more stuff. I’d rather have time with you. Maybe you could teach me a new skill or join me for Bible Study sometime? Just a thought. I love to learn new things and I learn best through hands on experience.

Anthony and I have spent the better part of the last three years downsizing our stuff and we still have further to go. We have sold, donated and driven away over 99% of our stuff. We’d love to get rid of more. We are content with less, we feel free with less and we enjoy the “extra” time with our kids and each other.

Before you buy something for someone in your life who is refusing to give you a wish list, ask them if maybe there’s something you can do with them instead. They’ll probably say yes!

Be Sweet

Be sweet. No matter your circumstances, be sweet. No matter what your emotions are inside, be sweet. Life is hard sometimes and circumstances aren’t always the best, but be sweet.

When we’re not glorifying God, we’re glorifying ourselves. That’s usually the most painful path. Please, in all things – be sweet, glorify God and enjoy the good life.

 

 

RV Life {Disappointments, Assumptions and Changes}

I really haven’t known what to say this week. It’s been a real challenge to even meet my own needs given the immense amount of pressure we’ve been under. To begin, we’re fully moved out of our RV. Anthony pulled apart the ceiling panels and there’s rust, holes, and more damage than is legally allowed in order for a dealership to sell an RV. What’s worse is that we were denied help by our insurance company and the dealership is shirking all responsibility. We have been homeless for a week and a half. Needless to say, this has been extremely challenging for my children and I.

There’s not a lot I can say except to direct you towards the Beatitudes and Psalm 19. It’s been a tough week. When people make harsh assumptions about you, let it roll off your back as you kneel in prayer, giving it to God. When people speak ill of you and spread gossip, let it roll off your back as you kneel in prayer, giving it to God. When someone refuses to try to understand what you’re really saying and jumps to take offense, let it roll off your back as you kneel in prayer. Finally, when people in ignorance hurt your family, let it roll off your back as you kneel in prayer. That’s all you can do. God is good and He is faithful. Everything else is a stumbling block. Let it roll off your back as you kneel in prayer.

The brightest moment of this week came yesterday when I took the kids to see Santa Claus. It’s really the best part of my job as a Mother to delight my kids. I’m so grateful that Santa was such a willing participant in this photo op.

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Christmas is for children. Give yourself permission to be like one again, even if only for a little while.

In Christ,

Mandy  ❤

RV Life – Week Seven {Debt Free Journey}

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll share this photo and end the blog here.

Leaking Ceiling Panel
The leak that will not end and might not be able to be fixed…

Ok. That wasn’t really the end of the blog, but you get the idea of where I’m going here, I suppose. We have a big, bad leak in our motorhome and we’ve not been able to actually live there for about 4 nights now. We’ve been staying with some friends because the RV leaks, has massive amounts of mold and there are now mushrooms growing inside and outside the RV.

How did this all happen? Well, the dealership sold us a lemon. We have talked with our insurance agency and they’ve taken photos and are pursuing the dealership for retribution. I’m not entirely sure what will happen, but I’m hoping we’ll find out sometime this week. Until then, we’re just praying mightily.

Rustic Snowflake Ornament

I got this little beauty in the mail this week, the day we found the leak in the RV. It was a welcome find! I’m part of an international Christmas ornament exchange and this was sent to me from a family in Utah.

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Photo Credit: Karla Halleib
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Photo Credit: Karla Halleib
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Photo Credit: Karla Halleib

We spent some time with my Mother-in-law today. It was a welcome distraction from our lack of permanent housing. The girls wanted to show grandma our local library. Chelsea really enjoys dressing up and dancing around, Theresa enjoys the computer and Jackson loves spreading out on the carpet and playing with toys. It was a fun time had by all!

Also notable today is that the Kansas City Chiefs handed Peyton Manning’s behind to him on Denver territory! That was a sweet, sweet victory! I love me some Chief’s football and the Denver Donkeys needed to be put in their place. I am loving the turn that the Chief’s season is taking. Their win in London two weeks ago to the Detroit Kittens is just amazing! 45-10 Chiefs! What a sweet, sweet sound that is to my ears.

While all of this is going on, I received a letter from my gynecologist stating that I need to go back in for more testing to check my cervical cancer levels. I’ve known about this for some time, but I haven’t wanted to deal with it. Frankly, I want a second opinion, so I’ll be seeking one soon. This is not something I’d planned on sharing originally, but I really need to force myself to deal with this. I’ve been putting it off for months now. My gynecologist isn’t happy with me and I know he’s got better things to do with his time than to bother me over non-issues. I’m sure it’ll all shake out just fine in the end, though. Jesus has got this under control.

My husband’s work issues are all coming to a conclusion, slowly but surely. God will work all of that out, too.

This has been such a weird, intense week. We’ve received a lot of blessings through it all and had many occasions to draw nearer to God, which is never a bad thing. I just don’t really know how to sum it all up except to say that “We walk by faith and not by sight.” I feel as though we’re walking somewhat blindly and it’s been tempting to worry, yet at the same time, we’ve already chosen Whom we will serve and we can rest in the fact that God knows what He is doing.

How was your week? What was the most dramatic thing that happened to you this week? Do you root for any NFL teams? If so, who? How did they do this week? (If you’re a Bronco’s fan, I apologize. Kind of. Peyton Manning should’ve been benched last season  😉 ) Let me know in the comments below.

RV Life – Week Six {Debt-Free Journey} Sewage Solutions

Last week I was late, this week I’m early. Welcome to another week of RV life! I’m your harried host, Mandy. 🙂

This was a rough week and I need to admit that I was blind to my own blessings. I also didn’t handle most situations as well as I could have. A lot happened in short bursts of time and I did not make time to take care of myself. The ugly side of me came out and I spent quite a bit of time repenting and praying for a heart change.

This week I learned an important lesson: keep your black water tank closed until it’s full. You can pour all the chemicals you like into your tank, but if it’s not closed, there’s not enough water built up in there to do anything and you’ll have a very bad clog. Our clog occurred the day my husband went back to work after two days off. I was alone with Jackson. He had finally fallen asleep so I went potty, then got started on the dishes. Halfway into washing dishes, I heard this strange sloshing sound. Upon investigating, I discovered the lever on the toilet was stuck, water was running and the tank was full, flooding the bathroom. Unfortunately, the lever for “sewage disposal” was also stuck open. It was a very smelly, very disgusting mess. Needless to say, I panicked. Jackson was asleep on our bed, not even three feet away from this mess. I was concerned that he’d become ill if it wasn’t taken care of immediately.

First, I forced the levers up, used an empty plastic food tub from the trash and bailed water from the tank to the sink . From there I was able to grab a couple ratty old towels and clean the water up off the floor. I threw those out, turned off the water outside because the lever became loose and the bathroom started flooding again.  I quickly ran across the street, washed my hands, prayed Jackson was asleep and called Anthony while crying. He wasn’t sure what to do, but Jackson (mercifully) remained sleeping. I did what any panicked woman would do – I searched the internet for solutions.

The very first thing I tried didn’t work. The second thing I tried made it worse! I called Anthony crying again. He was granted an hour to come home and help. At this point, I had clean hands and Jackson had just woken up, so we rushed off to pick up Anthony.

While Anthony was at the RV doing what he could, I rushed over to my trusty lumber store and bought a thick wooden dowel, some septic safe Drano and a fire extinguisher (because it was on sale and at that point, I wasn’t about to take any chances not owning one).

The stick worked wonders! The Drano worked quickly. Hoorah! Originally, I’d tried boiling water, but because the clog had gotten so bad that sewage was backing up into our toilet, it didn’t work. It sat there, stagnant, staring at me as if mocking me. I flipped it “the bird” and then turned on our air purifier and opened every window in the RV. (Note: flipping off stagnant water does nothing to make it to move. Do not get so infuriated you then escalate to cursing at it. That also is counterproductive, especially when children are present. (Mine thankfully were at school, with baby Jackson home but sleeping.))

Just to back track a bit here, when you first notice a clog, it’ll be down in the pipes quite a ways. You’ll see it if you open the “chute” that flushes your waste. This is the point where you’ll want to make sure your tank is not full. If it is, you need to dump immediately. If that doesn’t fix the issue, or your tank simply isn’t full, then you’ll need to close your black water tank, boil some hot water, pour it down the waste chute and follow up with RV safe chemicals. (I do *not* recommend Drano. We used it out of desperation, but I’ll not be doing that again. We have some better stuff I purchased at a local RV supply store. There are many options out there, including organic options. You’ll need to look around and see what works for you.)

Once the hot water and chemicals have had some time to work (about fifteen to thirty minutes), check to see if that solved the clog. If not, repeat with just another pot of boiling water. It’s not an exact science. We have a pot that’s roughly 3/4 gallon. You can certainly use bigger or smaller. Use what you have on hand.

If your clog is still there, follow up with a sturdy, thin stick. That should push everything down into the tank, allowing the chemicals to do their job.   Keep your black water tank closed until it reads full. I can’t stress that enough. The chemicals require water build up to work in, otherwise even the best RV toilet paper will clog your pipes. Also, make sure you’re allowing your toilet bowl to fill about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way prior to eliminating human waste solids. This will also help avoid clogs. You can even come up with a clever jingle to remind your kids to “fill the potty with lots of watty before you poo or you’ll end up with one sick loo!” Ok. Slightly inappropriate, but very effective for a 6 and 8 year old. 😉

I also discovered that in a home with three children, one must always assume that every “solids” diaper is so messy it needs to be changed in the shower and that it’s never ok to close the gray water tank with this many kids. We had water back up into the shower after Jackson and Chelsea’s shower. Of course by that point I was breastfeeding Jackson and running late for a women’s Bible study and Theresa hadn’t washed her hair in three days. I quickly discovered I’d closed it the day prior and it was full. In three minutes time, the tank emptied. Hoorah! I helped Theresa shower, dressed everyone and we bought breakfast at the grocery store and rushed to Bible study.

These were only two of the obnoxious trials we faced this week. If I mentioned them all, your head (and mine!) might start spinning, so I’ll just leave you with these for now. The bottom line is that we’re alive and we learned valuable lessons. The grey water tank always stays open and the black water tank is daily evaluated, but stays shut until it becomes full.

How was your week? What lessons did you learn? How many were learned the hard way? What do you do in a crisis? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

RV Life – Week Five {Debt-Free Journey}

This has been a really, really good week! God is hard at work in our lives, drawing my husband and I closer to each other. We’ve had countless opportunities to pray for one another, to support each other in our challenges, career and hobbies and we’ve been working hard in marriage counseling to improve our communication skills. It’s been amazing to wake up each day knowing we’re walking by faith, not by sight. As we wait upon the Lord to work some things out, He’s just blessing us left, right, top and bottom. 🙂 God is so good and He’s deserving of all of our praise.

   I’m sorry that this posting is late this week. My husband was blessed with Sunday off so he could attend church with our children and me. It was also communion Sunday and I was so caught up with enjoying my family that I didn’t even remember to post on here! It was a great day. I really love worshipping with my husband in church.

Speaking of worship, my husband and I took a drive after marriage counseling last week. We decided we’d learn one new street a week in our new town. It was a lot of fun and we spent most of the time praising God for His beautiful creations – marriage, sex,  the autumn foliage, flowers, cute children, and animals to name a few. The Lord is increasingly on our minds and lips lately. I’m grateful we’re growing closer to Him. God is redeeming the years the locusts have eaten. I just can’t thank Him enough. He’s used some great people and some interesting tools to accomplish His work.

Both girls are doing well in school. I’m grateful for Theresa’s teacher. Her teacher is a Christian and openly communicates with me about Theresa’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s such a blessing!

Anthony and I are still downsizing. We cleared a car load of items out of our RV and we’ll be selling them this coming spring most likely. For now, they’re stored off site. It’s freeing to know we each own about 100-150 items and can easily get rid of more. (I’m including shoes, clothing, accessories, toys, personalized stationary, sports/recreation items, hobby items and work uniform items in this count.) We’re all finding “more” hours in our day and have been using them to walk to the pond near our home to watch the ducks, take drives around the area, sit and chat, read our Bible, attend women’s groups, volunteer at our kid’s school – all things we’d never made time for before but suddenly can’t imagine living without. There is really something amazing and freeing about living with less! I can’t wait to pare down even further.

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He fell asleep on our walk back from the duck pond. His hat shifted on his head and the sight of him sleeping like this was just too precious not to capture.

Halloween was a rainy affair. The day started out drizzling and erupted into a full blown rain and wind storm by night’s end. Fortunately, the kids finished trick or treating by then. Theresa dressed up as my husband’s Corporal, L. Rupe.  Corporal Rupe has been Theresa’s hero for the past two years. She says it’s because Rupe is a “pretty lady cop who bosses Daddy at work” and because “she isn’t afraid of bad guys.” Theresa wore her daddy’s ball cap from work along with a pink Super Girl cape because Corporal Rupe is Super Girl to her. I was really proud of Theresa’s choice. Corporal Rupe is an awesome example of a fine law enforcement officer.

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The kids are growing so fast and time is so precious. As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I’m reminded of the gifts God’s bestowed upon us and I’m heaping praise upon Him. I can’t say it enough – God is good

Jackson's new pajamas - fit for a king!
Jackson’s new pajamas – fit for a king!

What is the Lord doing in your life? How is He blessing you? Please share it in the comments below. Let me know if you’d like me to pray for you. God bless you!

In Christ,

Mandy ❤