5 Things I’m Learning in a Season of Monotony

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. -Ecclesiastes 5:18

The monotony of the days have been taking their toll lately and I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated and irritable. Like painting with those messy Crayola watercolor paints. One color runs into the next in the plastic, oblong case, and, in no time, there’s a muddied mess. This can happen when we don’t find satisfaction in the day to day work God has given us. The resentments build, anger and frustrations arise, covering up and muddying the beautiful fruits underneath that He’s trying to sprout in us. If we aren’t careful and paying attention, these can also conceal the many blessings He has given us. Just like the muddied watercolors, underneath each puddle are vivid colors, we just have to clear away the muddy mess to see them. God taught me five things recently about finding color in my life in a season of monotony:

1. See the good

While in Ecclesiastes, He spoke: find satisfaction in work. This doesn’t mean I’m supposed to turn work into an idol. What He meant by this was to find enjoyment in the work that I have been given during this season of life, rather than grumble my way through it. On my YouVersion Bible app, another translation stated find enjoyment in his toil and when I clicked on the word enjoyment, it further stated or make his soul see good. One way we can see good, is by counting our blessings daily. And, instead of seeing our daily tasks as just tasks, we can think about what good will come from accomplishing them, whether in the short-term or long-term. This brings us the second thing I learned about how to see good.

2. Start the day with “I get to”

On Instagram, Dr. Caroline Leaf posted about beginning each day with an “I get to” mentality, rather than “I have to”. I get to wake up and teach my girls at home, I get to wash dishes for my family, I get to prepare and cook for my husband and our daughters. Not everyone gets to do these. When we change our perspective and reframe our thoughts from “I have to”, to “I get to”, we can see the colors for what they are-bold and beautiful blessings that can wash away the dark and dreary.

3. Get creative and cultivate more joy

As far as enjoyment goes, when I asked God how to find satisfaction in my work, this popped into my mind: get creative. Creativity calms me and brings me joy. We can use our creativity by mixing up those mundane tasks and making them fun. How? Here are some ideas that occurred to me:

Tired of…

  1. Making dinner? Why not involve the family and have a dinner dance party. Grab a cooking utensil as your microphone, crank the tunes, and break out your best moves in between meal prep and cooking tasks. And if you live alone? Who says you can’t cut a rug to your favorite jams too?
  2. Homeschooling? Add some simple arts and crafts projects to your week or interrupt a day here or there with impromptu nature walks, scavenger hunts and photography challenges.
  3. Cleaning? Have at it with cleaning karaoke-80’s style. Choose your favorite hits and clean through two songs, karaoke through one, clean through two, karaoke through one and so on-or if the whole family is cleaning, the songs can be divided up and rotated through. If it’s not your song, clean. When your song comes on, belt out your number.
  4. Meal prep? Why not create some new meals? And if you aren’t super confident in the kitchen, start small. Alter recipes by adding new ingredients or experiment with new spices.

Yes, some of these may sound silly, but why not? Life is supposed to be enjoyed.

4. Embrace the mundane with a cheerful heart and glorify Him

Not only do I need to worship God in the wilderness, like He’s been showing me lately, but by embracing this season of monotony and doing the work He’s set before me with a cheerful heart, trusting Him with the season and tasks He’s given me, and doing it for Him, I’m glorifying Him in the process. This is a form of worship.

5. Be eager to work for the Lord

As I was reading in the Word tonight in Exodus, the words eager to help in the work the Lord had given stood out so I circled them. And on the next page, eager to get to work leapt off the page. He was telling me that I need to be eager to do the work He has given me. According to macmillandictionary.com, eager is defined as: very enthusiastic about doing something…So, in other words, I need to get intensely excited about working for the Lord. He chose this work for me and rather than just seeing these as dull repetitive duties to be completed, I need to see them as the Lord’s work and be be eager to do His work.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. -Colossians 3:23-24

21 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2021

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. -Psalm 71:14

It can be difficult to see the possibility of change and blessings in such dark times. Last year sure was a ride! And while the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, it doesn’t mean our future has to look bleak. What are you hopeful about this year? Here are 21 things I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  1. Drawing nearer to Jesus
  2. Finding creative ways to spend time with my family
  3. More game playing
  4. Growing closer to my husband
  5. New adventures
  6. Increasing my trust in God
  7. Coming up with fresh content for my blog
  8. Cooking with our girls
  9. Teachings from God
  10. Being more present
  11. Reading the entire Bible
  12. Writing more poems
  13. Capturing Alaska with my camera
  14. Observing Alaskan wildlife
  15. Catching fat salmon
  16. Writing my book
  17. Continuing to heal
  18. Finding other ways to serve God
  19. Canning salmon and veggies
  20. Moving to the beach
  21. Collecting seashells at the coast

Even when life hammers us, and we aren’t sure what blow we’ll take next, let’s continue to put our hope in Jesus. Let’s praise Him and enjoy what we have been given. Find and cherish the small joys. Sometimes it’s just a matter of wiping enough of the fog from our lens to clearly see all that we have to be grateful for and the opportunities that await us.

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 8:15

ABC’s of a Christ-Centered Christmas

Aim your eyes at Him and you will experience the joy that only He can give.

Be Merry by rejoicing in His goodness!

Come to Him as you are, frazzled and all. He doesn’t care. He just wants you, 

Do everything as if you are doing it for the Lord-all the shopping, all the wrapping, all the cleaning, all the cooking, all the honey-do lists-all of it.

Every good thing in your life, thank Him for. Make a gratitude garland by cutting out paper shaped Christmas lights, coloring them, and writing down something you are thankful for each day on the individual lights.

Find others to serve. Someone is always in need. 

Give with a cheerful heart. This year, cheerfully give a gift to your least favorite person.

Have a birthday party for Jesus and don’t forget to bake Him a cake!

Illuminate others through acts of kindness, like filling Christmas socks full of candy, tying them with shiny ribbon, attaching a Christmas verse and dropping them at your neighbor’s doorstep.

Jam to Christian Christmas music. Hillsong, For King and Country, and Matthew West are some of my faves. Pentatonix also has some amazing Christian Christmas songs.

Keep Him at the center of your celebrations. Pray before meals and have each person thank Jesus for something or pass around the Christmas story and have each family member read a short section. 

Love with all your heart. Don’t hold back.

Make memories with crafts, games, and stories that include Jesus. Pinterest has many nativity crafts and ornaments that are fun to make. 

Nurture your relationship with Jesus by making time for Him, and wrap yourself in His peace. 

Order faith-based Christian gifts for others or better yet, make something and attach a card with something you love or appreciate about them.

Pray for a friend or family member. There are a lot of people struggling right now.  

Quench your thirst by reading the Word. Hop onto the YouVersion Bible app and begin a Christmas devotional.

Rest in Him by setting aside moments throughout each day where you pause, close your eyes and breathe in His peace.

Seek Him in everything you do and commit all your plans to Him. He will help you to not burn out.  

Teach someone about Jesus’s love by telling them what He has done in your life. 

Use Jesus as the talking point in your conversations. Be bold and bring others to Christ. 

View forgiveness as a gift to not only the other person, but yourself, and forgive someone who hurt you. Give yourself and someone else the gift of forgiveness this Christmas!

Worship the Prince of Peace by praising Him, singing to Him and dancing in His presence.   

eXplain the Christmas story to a neighbor or friend. 

Yield to Him. Surrender it all-all your stress, all the busyness, all your hurts and hangups-bring it all to Him. 

Zap any negativity as soon as it enters your mind. Change the channel in your head to more positive thoughts by thinking about what is lovely, beautiful and true.

One Big Package

For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. -Philippians 4:11

Let’s talk about being content. How can we be content when we are in situations or circumstances that make us feel otherwise?

We do it with through Him. In Philippians 4:13, Paul explains that he is able to be content no matter the circumstances through him who gives me strength. When we prayerfully present our requests to God and ask for the strength, He will empower us. He wants us to be content and we can, in His strength.

I recently came across a quote by BJ Thompson that I’ve been pondering: “Until Jesus is enough nothing else will be.” Maybe the reason we aren’t content is because we weren’t created to be content without Him. Without Him, we are restless. Nothing in this world will ever satisfy us like He does. And until we let Him fill us, we will never be wholly content. We must drink from the water, in order to never be thirsty. If we are thirsting, we aren’t replenishing our souls. If we are reaching for earthly distractions to give us pleasure, we aren’t knocking back enough of Jesus. If we are looking for love or other people to meet all of our needs, we aren’t consuming enough of Him. If we are grasping at the next big toy or gadget we think will fulfill us, we aren’t drinking from the Well. Only He can fill us the way that we truly desire. And what is it that we truly desire? To fill that God-shaped hole-that void that only He can.

I was in the Word again tonight, reading Psalm 16 and what spoke to me immediately was in your presence there is fullness of joy. In His presence, there is joy. There’s not a little, there is fullness. He will fill us up to the brim with joy! What an incredible blessing! In His presence, we can be content because He is all we need. When we continually set the Lord before us, and we walk in His presence through every circumstance, we can have that joy. It’s ours and it’s His gift to us. Not only that, but we can know that He is right there with us in every situation and we need not be moved. In fact, Psalm 16 says we shall rest and confidently dwell in safety. We can breathe, and rest assured that He’s got us-no matter what life tosses us. We can be still and know that He is God. And when we remain in His presence, there is joy and contentment waiting there for us. We just need to grab hold of Him and hang onto Him through it all because He will never leave or forsake us.

What else can we do? Luke 12:15 says to watch out and be on guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in abundance of possessions. Truly living life is being in the present, in His presence, wherever we are because our abundance will only be found in Him. It’s not found in possessions. Possessions are of this world and His followers are not.

So this Christmas season, let’s remain in His presence, remembering that He is our present. He is the only One that can fill us with the contentedness we wholeheartedly yearn for. And no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in, we will not be shaken if we have Him by our side. For He is our peace, hope, and joy all wrapped into one big package. He is the ultimate gift.

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God].-1 Timothy 6:6 (AMP)

Lemonade Blessings

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. -Psalms 118:28

No matter how difficult life may be right now, there is always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for. When we are struggling to keep afloat during this pandemic, we may have to look a little harder for our blessings-but they are there.

If you are breathing, then you have life to be thankful for. There is air in your lungs, even when life knocks the wind out of you. If you can see the sun peaking through the clouds, if only for a few hours, then you have light to be thankful for. There is some sunshine brightening the dark days. If you were caught in a downpour, you have access to an element vital to the survival of the plants and animals we consume. You not only have access to water which is essential and refreshing, you’ve been given an opportunity to dance in the rain in a time of gloominess. If you can hug your child or a family member, then you have affection to be thankful for. You have some comfort, when life is uncomfortable. If you have food, then you have the energy to exist. You have a full belly, even when worry or circumstances turn your stomach upside down. If you have heat, then you have warmth. You can regulate your body temperature, even when the chills of life settle in your bones. If you have a brain and can read this post, then you can think and learn. You can change your thoughts and put a positive spin on the tornadoes that attempt to ravage you. If you have hands, then you can squeeze. You can make lemonade, when life hands you lemons. And if you have Jesus, then you have everything to be thankful for, because every good and perfect gift is from above. You have everything you need, if you have Him.

You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are! Psalms 16:5-6

Tested to Purify

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. -1 Peter 1:6-7

When the storms are raging all around us, and the trials are piling up in heaps, how to we hold onto our faith and how do we count it all joy? These are the questions I am asking myself right now.

If faith is believing even when we cannot see, and we are supposed to walk by faith, not by sight, maybe I’m just not seeing yet. Yet is the key word. I may be blinded right now to what’s up ahead, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Maybe, just maybe, He has something waiting around the bend that is far better than I can imagine. This is faith and hope and I’m going to hold onto it. Just because I can’t see, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. He knows the plans He has for us, and He tells us that they are plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. We can clutch onto this piece of Truth. But, that isn’t to say that we aren’t in the fiery furnace right now or that it’s easy to hang onto our faith.

As the hurricane of life sweeps in, He tells us to continue to be faithful. How though, when it’s all so heavy and it hurts? And then when we become flooded with doubts? One way we do this is by nourishing ourselves in the Word and soaking up His teachings, so that we can keep putting one foot in front of the other in a Christlike manner. His Word is refreshment for our souls. We read and we memorize. We tuck His words deep into our hearts so we don’t forget them. His Word is a lifeline to the One who carries us, the One who is hope.

We put our hope in our Father and we realize that He is doing something bigger here-He is training us and growing our faith during these times. And if we are afraid of the unknown or we can’t see a way out of the flames, we rise above our fear and we choose to trust. We make that choice and act as if we trust, even when it appears that the dark clouds will never make way for the sun to shine again. We continue to stand firm in Him, trusting that He knows what’s best for us and that He has our best interests in mind. Because He does.

And the joy part. This is where I stumble. How do we consider these trials joy? And how do we feel some joy in the inferno?

For one, we keep our eye on the prize. We will have trouble this side of Heaven. This is a given. Yet, Heaven is our reward and we have to continue to persevere and run the race for Him. We have to sacrifice our comforts now, by accepting the pain and suffering, and knowing that we will be blessed beyond measure later. We remember that this agony we are enduring in this moment will be nothing compared to the joy we will experience when we receive the crown that He has for us. So we look up and keep our focus on what is waiting for us. We can do something else though, too.

Phillipians 4:8 tells us “…whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” We think about the things in front of us that are lovely and praiseworthy and true and right. These are things that can give us joy now.

And worshiping Him in the pain will also bring us joy and peace. We raise our hands, crank up the Christian jams and we sing and dance through the pain and frustration, rejoicing in Him. He will comfort our hearts and give us the gift of joy, despite our circumstances.

In 1 Timothy 4: 8-10, Paul writes to Timothy, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Then he states “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our HOPE is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” The struggles will be there. He says that, but so is He, because where He is, our hope lies. And He never wavers.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. -Psalms 112:7

Snipped and Pruned

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. -John 15:2-6

When I was younger, I hated my hair. Then, I grew to love it. It was usually long, and always curly. Growing up, I’d hear the typical straight-haired comments- “Do you know how much money I spend at the salon to get hair like yours, getting a permanent?” or “You’re so lucky to have that kind of hair.” After I got married, and because we were trying to be frugal, I began letting my husband cut my hair-yes, I know-pretty shocking. I previously spent an upward of $65-not including a tip, just for a decent cut. Realizing my husband could do a better job than most stylists, I slowly began to trust him with my precious curls.

Well, about a week ago, I decided I wanted it a few inches shorter. I was tired of washing it, tired of styling it. It always ended up in a messy bun anyhow.

Sitting on the stool, he began hacking away like Edward Scissorhands. I realized I didn’t even care if he chopped too much off. This was pretty huge for me. Any other time and I would be constantly feeling and looking to make sure he didn’t cut an extra millimeter more than what I had instructed him. Tonight was different though. As the ringlets fell to the ground, it was as if a weight was dropping off of me and I just let it happen-without the worry, without the control. I let go and let whatever happen, happen.

Then, it dawned on me. This was symbolic of me dropping the weight of my life-my will, my ideas about how I think I should live, how we should raise our family, and instead, surrender to His will and what He wants for me and my family. It was about acceptance, surrendering to what is and where He has placed our family temporarily. That simple moment was about letting go and accepting right now for exactly what it is.

And as I sat there, I began thinking about how I’m in this season of pruning. God is in the process of trimming all of the dead branches to make way for the new shoots, the new fruit that he is beginning to produce in me. As He does this, I’m feeling a bit empty and bare. He’s stripping me of all I thought I was, in order to become more Christlike. It’s as though I’m being stripped of the bark to allow the good clean wood underneath to be used. Like when a log cabin is built, if the logs aren’t peeled first, the wood will begin to rot. It will decay. My life was once like this. It was in a state of decay because I wasn’t abiding in Him. and I didn’t even realize it. I was swimming up stream, getting caught in a vortex, and I couldn’t get out. I was getting nowhere, but I continued to live like I thought I knew best. This is self-will, my friends. And self-will never got me to where I truly wanted to be.

What I thought made me me, maybe wasn’t really me at all. Once, this social worker with a career that I worked so hard to obtain, running in this perpetual rat race, striving to be this super mom by chugging coffee all day long in order to fuel this fatigued body that was slowly breaking down, I was only sleeping three to five hours per night at most. I was the mom trying to make sure our girls got a top-notch education at a private Christian school, aiming to throw them Pinterest-worthy birthday parties, stressing about the perfect Christmas, making sure they were in the right after school activities. It was always about having the best and trying to be the best, but I see now that I wasn’t really living for Him at all. I was striving and striving and I didn’t need to.

I had it all backwards. See, I thought my identity lain in what I accomplished, but once those things were ripped from me and I drove myself into the ground too far for my health to bounce back, He kept me down so I could learn to have faith in Him-especially in the trials, to find my identity in Him-not in the world and not in my accomplishments, and He taught me and continues to teach me to trust Him more fully. I’m learning that my sole purpose in life is to love Him and love others like He does-His way, not mine. And despite the trials, His way is so much better. I’m home with my kids, homeschooling them and teaching them about Jesus daily. My husband has a work from home job, so we can travel and live wherever He wants us. I have less stress in my daily life and I’m healing. Our life is much simpler. We no longer own a lot of “stuff”, but we have Jesus, we have each other, and I’m slowly regaining my health. It is just enough and I have His peace, which far surpasses anything this world can give.

Even with all of the hardship we have experienced, we are extremely blessed. I see these blessings more frequently and more abundantly when I step aside and He is able to work, but this requires me to pick up His cross daily, and die a little more to myself. It’s a conscious effort and decision I must make every single day to turn my life and my will over to Him.

So let us continue to abide in Him, surrendering completely to His will. For only He can produce the fruit we truly desire. And only He can make us more like Him each and every day, But, and it’s a humungo BUT-we must continue to do this big thing-remain in Him. If we remain in Him, He will keep producing the good fruit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because apart from Him, we can do nothing. My efforts on my own, have proven futile.

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit -John 12:24