Sunday, November 8, 2015

Living Through Difficult Times: Remembering God Has a Plan and a Purpose!

The Cozy Nook - God Has a Plan and a Purpose

I was dragging a bit today. My mind was mulling over the past month’s difficulties and feeling a bit discouraged…

  • My pastor’s wife passed away.
  • A loved one was in the hospital.
  • I came down with pneumonia and am still fighting it.
  • Due to the pneumonia, I missed traveling out of state with my family to watch my son play in a national homeschool soccer tournament.
  • My father-in-law was rushed to the hospital yesterday, just as we were preparing to celebrate a wedding, and is now in critical condition.

I feel a bit worn out – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I was trying to rest and regroup, as I usually do on Sundays, and needed to tackle the bills. As I stepped into my role of responsibility, a thought came to me:

God has a plan and a purpose for you right now, and that is what you need to focus on.

It’s so true! In the midst of all of life’s icky, sticky messes, God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, and that is what we need to cling to.

“For I know the thoughts (plans) that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

We have to remember that GOD has plans for us. He always does. No matter what life looks like and what is going on around us, GOD has a plan for us, and it is His plan that will prevail and weave through the fabric of life.

God has a plan. He is not surprised by the mishaps and bumps in the road. He is prepared. He knows just how to help us. He is able to strengthen us. He desires to carry us and fill our hearts will peace and fullness of joy.

Not only does he have a plan for our lives, actively working with us and through us in all circumstances, He has a purpose for everything.

“And we know all things work together for good to those who love God.”
Romans 8:28

God has a purpose for ALL THINGS. He is working it all for good.

We only see a slice of the cake, a piece of the puzzle, but God… He sees it all! He sees the whole picture, and He creates His masterpiece with every little bit, with a perfect purpose in mind!

When life is difficult, we have to get our minds off of the natural and dig deep into our souls, reminding us of these precious truths.

God has a plan and a purpose!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Parenthood: Standing in the Gap with Grace for Your Children

Standing in the Gap with Grace for Your Children - The Cozy Nook

Many times we have expectations for our children. Many times our children fall short. They are human after all, just like us.

We want them to be able to do certain things and achieve certain goals, and sometimes it is easy to focus on what isn’t getting done rather than what is getting done.

In the end, we have to accept where our children are in life and make up for their lack with the strength, wisdom, love, and knowledge we have.
That, my friends, is parenthood.

God the Father is a great example of this. All He asks is that we do our best, that we follow Him the best that we can, that we love Him the best that we can, and He makes up for the rest. He asks us to trust, rest, and lean on Him.

He fills in the gaps of our lives with His grace and mercy and helps us succeed in life.

That is what we must do for our children.

I realize how much I need the Lord to fill my life with His grace. I realize how much I lack and need Him to carry me. In the same way, I want to support my children.

They may take longer to grow into certain habits that I desire for them, and I want to have the endurance to walk alongside of them patiently -- teaching, training, and loving them into maturity.

They may be weak in some areas where I wish they were strong. I pray I may be strong for them, supporting them and loving them as God fashions them and shapes their weaknesses into strengths.

They may need extra assistance and extra tender loving care. I hope that I will be a gracious and generous mother, giving from a heart of abundance.

The true nature of good parenthood is to give. It is the heart of a good parent to give fully to her children so they may benefit and grow up well.

May God give us the power and strength to fill our children’s lives with His grace and mercy, just as He so lovingly does for us.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Losing a Loved One: When Life Becomes More Meaningful and Trivial Altogether

When Life Becomes More Meaningful and Trivial Altogether - The Cozy Nook

Almost two weeks ago our church lost a very special woman. Our pastor’s wife passed away in her sleep. It was a shock to all of us. There were no apparent underlying health issues or warnings, and everything seemed fine from the outside.

Her death has been very hard for all of us. My husband and I have not only been dealing with our own grief, but we carry the grief of our pastor and his family and the grief of our church. It’s a lot to bear.

Since her passing, though, life has started to feel more meaningful and more trivial altogether. Sobering events like these often cause us to stop and think about life - what it really means, what our lives entail, and how we can live better.

I am reminded of the beauty of life and how precious time is, understanding that life is fragile, and we never know when God will call us home.

I am appreciating my family afresh. I feel blessed that I am married to a good man and have four, wonderful children. I am holding my children a bit closer and trying to make time and room for them in my day. The other day I held off going into the grocery store with my five year old for a few minutes so she could tell me a story that she made up about her mom and dad, her love for us, and how she will explore the world and its sea creatures when she is older. ~smile~

I am appreciating my church afresh. It has been amazing to watch our church come together as the Body of Christ. The outpouring of love from people’s hearts and hands has been absolutely wonderful. I feel so thankful to be a part of this extended family.

I am challenged to live better. My pastor’s wife was an amazing woman. She left a godly legacy behind her. She was a worshipful, tender, compassionate, respectful, classy, family-loving woman. As said at her funeral, there were no regrets here. She lived a great life and gave it her all. I desire to do the same.

I desire to keep things in proper perspective, allowing more things to become trivial. The day I found out about my pastor’s wife death was also the day when my five year old threw up in the car, and my dog got skunked! I was feeling a bit annoyed by these inconveniences when I felt sobered… Something much greater had happened that day. We had lost a precious woman, and hearts were left hurting tremendously. Lord, help me to live my life with better perspective and to bear up under the weights and pressures of life!

The daily grind keeps all of us busy, but may we never forget the importance of life – the gift that it is and the value of the people
and experiences around us.

May we also never forget how trivial
some things really are or should be.

Help us, Lord, to keep things in proper perspective.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Give Yourself Grace When You Can’t Do Everything

Give Yourself Grace  - The Cozy Nook

For many years I have tried to do everything – be at every kid’s activity, grace every social event, participate in every church function, attend every meeting, and fulfill every responsibility that comes my way.

Reality has set in, and I realize I just can’t do it all.

This is the first fall in a few years where we have had three kids in soccer, plus one in ballet three times a week. The soccer, alone, presents conflicting schedules, and I haven’t been to one of my 10-year-old’s soccer games yet. Since my husband coaches his team, it is just inevitable that he is the one to take my son, so we split when we need to, which is often.

It is easy for my mom-heart to feel bad, to feel guilty for not being able to go to my son’s games. Nonetheless, I am learning to let things go. It doesn’t help me nor my family if I carry guilt. I can still be a great mom and support him by telling that I am sorry that I can’t attend his game but I wish him well and want to hear all about his game when it’s over!

Recently our church had a work day. We really try to attend every church function we can. However that morning my 10 year old son had a soccer game, and my older son had a game in the early afternoon about an hour away from our home. I could have pushed myself and added a good amount of stress to our morning so some of us could go for a short while. Instead I chose the simpler route. We ended up not going to our church work day, and it added a little more peace to the flow of our day.

I used to think it was good to push myself continually, to never say no, to never let anyone down, to never miss out on anything, but I am realizing that is not always best nor wise.

When my body started to show signs of wear from continual stress, I realized I just couldn’t keep the same pace. I have to be more prudent with my time, my choices, and where I spend my energies.

It’s not our responsibility to do everything and be everywhere. It’s our responsibility to do well and be all that we can be, and sometimes that means we actually miss out on some things so life can be simpler, fuller, calmer, and better.

Are you pushing yourself too much?
Are you carrying unnecessary guilt?

Give yourself grace.
You can’t do everything and aren’t meant to do so!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Vegetable Jambalaya

Vegetable Jambalaya - The Cozy Nook

Recently I have been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my weekly plan, hoping this will help my grocery budget.

We tried this spicy jambalaya last week, and it was a hit!

If your family likes spicy food, they should enjoy this. If you want to try making it without as much zing, I would try using maybe 1/4 of a jalapeno and just a dash of cayenne pepper.

Vegetable Jambalaya
Recipe found at “The Kitchn”

Serves 6

Note: I actually used about 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and added 1 to 2 cups more broth to be certain to have enough portions for our family.

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small green chili pepper, like a jalapeno, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
3/4 cup long-grain rice (I used brown)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, until they become translucent but not brown.

Add the garlic, chili pepper, tomatoes, bay leaves, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for a minute, until the tomatoes release some of their juice.

Add the rice and slowly pour in the broth. Lower the heat to medium and  cook until the rice absorbs all the liquid, between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on whether you use brown rice.

Taste and adjust the salt, and pepper, and any other spices.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Novel From Christian Author Jason McIntire - "Flight School: One Summer, Many Choices"

Flight School Cover


If you've read The Sparrow Found A House by Jason McIntire (Elisha Press, 2013), you'll already know his style: Real-life situations addressed with equal parts humor and biblical wisdom. It's a combination reviewers find powerful. They've used the words intriguing, believable, captivating, and unique - among many others - to describe his writing. The Sparrow Found A House (which is available as a free Kindle download from Elisha Press) was also endorsed by Exodus Mandate, the prominent homeschooling action group. It tells the story of the Rivera-Sparrows, a newly-blended and newly-homeschooling family facing opposition from without and within.

Today Elisha Press is announcing the release of a sequel to The Sparrow Found A House - and to celebrate, they're giving away signed copies to four randomly-selected winners. You can enter the giveaway here, or go ahead and order the book on Amazon. It's $2.99 for the Kindle version, or $9.99 for the 256-page print edition.

Flight School follows the Rivera kids as they meet new friends, explore careers, and encounter the challenges and choices that come with adult life. As a homeschool graduate himself, Jason knows the things that matter most to homeschoolers, and how to write about those things in a way that will edify, resonate, and entertain.

"If you like Flight School," Jason says, "thank God. If you don't like it, blame me."

Enter the giveaway, or buy a copy now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gaining Peace: Submitting to Life, Just As It Is

Gaining Peace Submitting to Life, Just As It Is

No matter who you are, it is easy to struggle with the frustration gap – the gap between your expectations/hopes of life and the reality of life.

I have a good life. Really, I have a great life, and chances are, you probably do too. However, sometimes we have great expectations, and we start to realize that the truth of our lives doesn’t quite meet those expectations.

I would like to see my husband more and spend more time with him. Currently his job is consuming him, and it seems hard to schedule time together. On top of that, we’ve got a busy schedule with our kids’ activities, especially through the next couple months, so we will be hit-and-miss much more often than I would like. I have to accept this, with peace, and still have a good attitude. It is easy for me to let my emotions run and feel distant from my husband.

Last year I felt I started a new season of motherhood. My oldest started high school, and my kids are older and involved with more things: more activities, more interests, more social engagements, more opportunities for education and work… Everything just seems to be higher volume with older kids: more money, more time, more food… Wowsa! Last school year was the first year when I was out of the house nearly every day of the week, and it made me feel unsettled. My desires and tendencies make me want to be at home more, but life requires me to be out more. I have to adjust. I have to learn new habits and create new systems. I have to submit to this new way of life and go with the flow.

I also have had a good amount of health issues over the past year. I know I haven’t written about this too much here on my blog, but I have basically been dealing with adrenal fatigue. I feel like it is a long journey, but I have had to accept some limitations and also work on building myself up. Sometimes this seems impossible with all that life requires of me, but I do my best. Again, I have to submit. I have to accept these challenges and do my best to tackle them with grace.

Nearly every area of my life has felt difficult or transitional over the past year, and I have had to make changes, accept some things, and let some things go.

However, in all of these things, I am learning this big lesson:

How to submit to life and accept it just as it is.

When we can accept the way our lives are, we can be content.
When we can accept the way our lives are, we can be thankful.
When we can accept the way our lives are, we can be joyful.

Good emotions and positive thoughts about our lives come when we see the good in our lives. If we are always focusing on the bad and what is lacking, we will never feel our lives are good enough.

Through all of life’s imperfections, frustrations, and challenges, may we learn to submit to life, just as it is.

Then we will find peace.