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First Day of Autumn in Calfornia

It’s still been in the high 90’s here in California and no real signs of the seasons changing. I keep seeing my friends post pictures of their crisp, cool fall mornings back east and I’m ready for fall.  Today is the first official day of autumn and even after six years in California, I still wonder how cool it has to be to hang my fall wreath and put out my fall decorations?  Starbucks is already advertising their pumpkin spice latte and fall drinks and I still want a cold glass of sweet tea! We thought a trip to the mountains would do our family good and get us in the fall spirit.

Our MOPS group got together to go apple picking in the mountains today at a small local family run farm.  Yay for small businesses!   I like to feature small businesses because there is always a story and family behind all the hard work.  The Pulford Farm in Tehachapi, California graciously hosted our little MOPS group giving us a tour of their washing, sorting, and refrigeration areas.  Then they set a bunch of pre-schoolers loose to pick their own apples! What fun!

I love the chance for our son to learn about how food is grown and who is behind getting it to the store. It might not have been much cooler in the mountains, but it was a great day to enjoy some cider and pick apples. Yes, and I came home and hung the fall wreath too!

What are some things your family is doing this fall?  When do you put your fall decorations out?

Dear Me,

To my teenage self:

So I would try to tell you to quit hunching over but everyone tells you that now and you’re not listening. But seriously, quit hunching.  You will be grateful for your height eventually and even wish you were a little taller.  The boys really do catch up even though from 5th grade to college is a long time to wait.

Don’t worry about all the teasing you get about wearing braces, but I do have to warn you, you get them back on when you’re 28. The good news is all that big hair goes out of style!

God carries you through those hard years that seem too much to bear. Even though you pray all the time that your mom will win the lottery, she never plays it and you never win it, but God uses it all to show you He is your provider and you’ll have a great work ethic thanks to your mom. You know how you watch your mom sit at the kitchen table every morning reading her Bible and praying for you? Well, just wait to see how all her prayers are answered. You will see His faithfulness over and over again.

Oh and that pesky little brother who doesn’t listen to you, well you get close, really close and He follows hard after God and you might want to tell him he marries a beautiful , godly women…wait don’t tell him, he still thinks girls have cooties.

I wish you would listen to me when I tell you not to worry about what others think and that you should have more confidence in your gifts.

That passion for writing and telling a story that’s from God you know.  God gives you a story that you’ll need to steward well.

Your love of maps will serve you well too. You travel all over and meet interesting people & experience different cultures. Take it all in! God connects all the dots and uses those experiences!

Your heart for God will grow tender for high school and college girls and for reaching women. All that brokenness in your life, well, He uses it all.

I would really love to tell you that life gets easier and that you won’t suffer loss, but I can tell you that you will only get stronger, and that your relationship with God will be the one constant.

You will have times you feel like you were given more burdens than one should carry in a lifetime, and you will have times when you feel like you have been given more blessings than you deserve.  Be grateful for it all!!

Pay particular attention to your college roommate’s cute younger brother. He grows up and he’s WAY cute. Oh and he’ll be the one!  That list you make, yep, he is all that and more! He will love you more than you ever thought you could be loved! Oh and your son, such amazing joy!!

Don’t let others’ misconceptions define you, keep laughing, and give thanks! It’s a great life ahead!

The letter writing is a result of reading Grace for the Good Girl this summer and Emily Freeman’s blog Chatting at the Sky. If you have a small group of high school girls or a teenage girl in your life, you will want them to read Graceful. I’m not being paid to endorse her book, I just wish Emily would have written it when I was a teenager!

Should I ever forget


This blog post is being re-published from September 11, 2011 to honor our 9/11 families.

A letter to my son.

Should I ever forget what happened on 9/11/2001, I want you to remember.

Seared into my memory are images from that day, conversations with my uncle and that unexplainable pit in my stomach that something so evil had happened.

I thought it was a tiny plane that had a major malfunction when the first tower was hit.  I watched the second tower get hit live on television and I knew it was not an accident.

I yelled for my uncle who was at my house visiting,  “ Hurry get out of the shower.  Something terrible has happened!”

I stood in disbelief and shock as the first building fell, peeled away to the ground.  Helplessness, I felt utterly helpless and I reached for the TV as if I could hold up the building and keep all those people from their death.  Unspeakable evil.

We sat for hours watching horrible images as the story of what was happening unfolded.

Next winter my two friends and me made our way to NYC.  Something in all of us had to see Ground Zero.  We had to pay our respects to those that perished.  We had to say thanks to those who were cleaning up.  We walked past the old cemetery fence that had become the public memorial with flowers, photographs & cards all stuffed into the fence.  I remember walking out onto the plywood make shift observation deck and looking out over the massive area that once was the World Trade Center.  I can still smell the dirt and dust, I can taste the air, I can see the worker who I nodded thanks to and I can feel the sting of my tears on my cheek on that bitter cold January day.

With a sharpie pen, we wrote our names and words of encouragement.  I penned my favorite Scripture hoping that somehow, someone might take solace.  I couldn’t pick up a shovel and dig.  I couldn’t hug each family.  I couldn’t even make a meal.  I could only pray that the God would bring healing, hope, and peace.

My eyes locked with one of the workers and I nodded to my camera to ask permission if it was ok to take a photo. He shook his head no and I nodded back to say I understood. I mouthed thank you for what you are doing.  His eyes teared up and he made his way to me and my friends.  He said, “Don’t take my picture. Come with me. Tell others what you see.”  We walked over a few streets and he met us in golf cart and ushered us past the police officer guarding the entrance.

The images from television hadn’t captured the vastness of the gaping hole and the debris that was everywhere. Steel girders crumpled like straws.

He took us to the private memorial the rescue workers had made. Ladder company tributes, photos of lost police officers, it was too much to see and feel all at once. It was a private memorial for private moments and prayers lifted to God. Out of respect I didn’t take a picture, but I can still see the faces. I tried to show a brave face but I couldn’t contain the emotion. In an instant I was overwhelmed with emotions I still can’t explain and it happens each time I see photographs from 9/11.  He took us past an area of debris piled so high, nothing was recognizable. Each worker we passed had the same look of determination as they cleared debris.

The sun was peeking through the buildings to an American flag that workers had hung and then there it was, the CROSS. It wasn’t a sculpture that had been erected, it was steel. The way the girders fell, it made the shape of the cross.  The workers merely hoisted it up as a reminder that God was there.

I have a piece of steel rebar from Ground Zero that one of the workers gave me to keep. It’s not a souvenir, it’s not for a museum, it was for me should I ever forget. But now it is yours son, should you ever forget to pray for the men and woman who died that day and the families who lost loved ones.   Should you ever forget to pray for the brave soldiers that protect the United States and the rescuers who were courageous and selfless that day, let it be a reminder. Should you ever forget to give thanks that God was there on that horrible day, hold it tightly in your hand and remember His promise.

It’s been 10 years and today as I reflect and pray for all the families, I still remember it all.   Should I ever forget, I want you to remember.

All my love



A Taste of Heaven From Grandpa’s Porch

Grandpa’s porch slows down this restless heart looking to check off another to do. You can see for miles in all directions clear across Bozeman to the Bridger Mountains. You almost feel the sounds as they carry across the fields and then it is still. The wind here at night rustles the aspen trees and it sounds to me what I imagine the rush of angel wings to sound like. This place for me is just a taste of heaven and a place one can be still and know that He is God.

I want so much to honor you the way your creation proclaims your glory. Make my life show others who you are the way I look at this sunset and see you. In the constant buzz and busy-ness of this season of life chasing a toddler, being a wife, and leading a ministry, I want to hear your voice even when it’s difficult to find moments of quiet like on this porch. Teach me to discern your voice in the LOUD and the QUIET.

You give me glimpses of your hand and still I try to do it myself and not just BE. Quiet appears to be inaction to the world, but you keep showing me this summer that stillness trusts in you, not always all the activity.

Thank you Lord for the way you slow down this restless heart to take in all you needed me to hear. Thank you for how you set creation before us so we see how BIG your love is for us.

The way the sun glides so effortlessly down behind the barn over the fields at sunset declares what my heart knows is true.
“Your love, O Lord reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5

What causes you to be still? Do you have a place you feel God’s presence?

I’m linking up with some friends today. Stop by and say hi!

Beholding Glory

friday favorite things | finding joy

Remembering Our Military & Their Families Today

She left immediately after their wedding to the place they would be stationed for the next two years-Hawaii. To the outsider it was the ultimate honeymoon…beautiful beaches, great surf and one big Luau! If you’re a military family you know the hardship of any move. New homes to get settled into, another DMV visit and finding your new normal in this new city sometimes apart from your spouse.

They would next be sent to Clarksville, TN and her husband would have his first deployment to Iraq and then two more. She would wear a brave face & a black pearl necklace to remind her of their time in Hawaii together. She would say good-bye and pray that God would return him home safely to her. Then a new single life would begin: working, caring for home repairs, mowing the lawn, figuring out why the hot water tank wasn’t working, changing flat tires in the middle of the night and cooking for one again.

Strong, capable & selfless are words her friends would use to describe her before watching her face her first deployment. There are no words that adequately describe her sacrifice, love and service after watching her the last 11 years being a military wife. We don’t often see the faces of all the military families that support our troops and maintain life back home. Thanks to her I look harder for these families.

She didn’t sit back and just hope & pray. She lead her Family Readiness Group (FRG) on base. She communicated news to families who hadn’t heard from loved ones. She provided updates, welcomed & rocked new babies and even was a birth coach when a daddy was still deployed. She cried with widows & children when they learned their father or husband wouldn’t return. She taught moms to balance check books, she made meals, she listened, she laughed and she loved all while waiting too. She wore that brave face & pearl necklace encouraging others and continuing to pray for her husband.

Three deployments to Iraq later and he’s home safe.  To Dave & all our military personnel this Memorial Day thank you for the sacrifice and service to our country. Today we remember and honor you.  To my friend Curly & all our military families, I hope we always look for your families in our communities and find small ways to give back to you the freedom you have sacrificed for our families. We are grateful!

I’m linking up today with my friends at The Better Mom. Stop by and say hi!

Don’t You Love the Story Behind the Music? Then Sings My Soul Book Review

In Then Sings My Soul, Book 3 by Robert Morgan he once again provides historical context behind some of the most beloved and sung hymns in church history. If you have ever wondered what the author may have meant when he penned the words to Victory in Jesus, you learn his daily battle and the victory he gained.

In volume 3, Morgan elaborates in further detail on the history & tragedy behind one of my all time favorite hymns, It is Well With My Soul. However, the history behind How Great Thou Art surprised me and reminded me how God uses all circumstances and all people.Tim Spencer was the author of Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women who traveled with Roy Rogers. Throughout his time on the road, his devoted wife continued to write him notes of encouragement while he was away and one night reading those letters and a Gideon Bible in a hotel room he trusted Jesus as his Savior. In 1949 his son gave him a copy of of the song How Great Thou Art by Stuart Hine. Spencer would help it become one of the most beloved and well known hymns of our time.

The chorus goes, Then Sings My Soul My Savior God to Thee, How Great Thou Art. This song is what gave me inspiration to write this blog Tiddlywinks I feel God’s pleasure and my soul sings when I do that thing that God has designed me to do and all I can say is How Great Thou Art. After learning of Spencer’s life, I can’t help wonder if his new found understanding of God and using his gift of song, he felt God’s pleasure as he sung this song and couldn’t contain himself, but say How Great Thou Art.

If you are like me and enjoy hearing the rich stories, difficult circumstance and joy from which the songs of our faith were written, you will love hearing all of this history behind some of the most classical hymns.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Reason to Pause

“It’s a good east coast rain,”  I tell my husband for the few minutes it just down pours, trees sway.

I love the quiet of rain, that noise it makes hitting the roof, and then the occasional sound of the car that swooshes by, tires going through a puddle.

It’s so infrequent here where I live in California. We don’t keep umbrellas in cars.   We don’t really watch the weather to know if we should pack one, it’s that rare.

Sometimes it just rains for a few minutes and dries up and the sun comes out. I used to wish for those days living back east when it could rain for a week straight. Here where it really never rains, we pray for rain.

Our gardens need it.  Our reservoirs need it.  Our hearts need it.

So on a day like yesterday when it rained all day, I welcomed it.  You are excited for the pause it creates in your day, the permission to change your plans and stay indoors and maybe even stay in your pjs all day, just because you can and so I did. I think my soul needed it as much as my busy schedule did. The gentle quietness it brings, the slowing down, the excuse to not have to do the “to do” list. Instead it was building forts, drinking hot chocolate, and reading books with my son.

The rain it did what it does best and washed away the dirt on the sidewalk, the pollen from the trees and the flowers drunk in deep and well, so did I. This washing away I needed too. It flooded my head with ideas that have been stuck. It flooded my heart with gratitude for the pause, being allowed to use a comma in your day.  It didn’t stop the deadlines, due dates or commitments, but it was the ahh, I needed that kind of day.  You know the days you know you just needed to rest in Him, quiet your heart and just slow down?

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation come from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”  Psalm 62:1-2

There is mud waiting for us and puddles to be jumped in, but yesterday well, rain was a good reason to pause.

Do you ever wish you could just put a comma in your day and slow down? Why don’t we just pause more often?

I’m linking up at The Better Mom today. Come by and say hi.

Pushing Through

In January we ran into Lowe’s to get a few things to fix our sprinklers and saw a great big, yellow CLEARANCE sign which is like a bright flashing light to me.  Does anyone else remember the flashing blue light specials at K-mart or am I dating myself?  So, OF COURSE I had to go over and check it out.  I found bags of tulip bulbs for $.25 and some of them were even starting to sprout a little green stem already. A master gardener may have advised that it was too late in the season to plant tulips and this was a terrible waste. This frugal mother of a boy that loves to play in the dirt saw priceless hours of digging to his heart’s delight for only $1.00  Who cares if they ever bloom! We’ll have fun digging and if we get a few blooms, bonus!   I scooped up 4 bags of a different variety of tulips and checked out.

The three of us with our shovels in hand started digging. If you have ever dug in the dirt with a child, you know how this goes.  Scoop out the dirt in the hole deep enough for the bulb and then the child fills it back up. Scoop it out again and plop a bulb in quick and cover it back up with dirt, then my son digs it back up again with a huge smile on his face. Bring in the watering can and we had a bigger mess and more fun.  Already well worth the dollar spent!  He played hide and go seek with the bulbs and once they were all buried, my husband and I  just laughed.  Well, we’ll know where we planted them all if they bloom!

The unseasonably warm winter here in California made for perfect growing weather for these little bulbs.  Just 3 weeks later we started to see small evidence that a few may actually be growing or was it a weed? We needed to wait a few more days and then could it be? Yep,  it was definitely the beginning!

Isn’t that just how God works sometimes, underneath where we can’t see it and it feels like nothing is happening? Just when we have about given up, He gives us a little hope or  perhaps a glimpse that he is working.   Maybe not all at once like we expect, but in small ways reminding us He’s faithful and present  in the midst of our struggle.

The lyrics in the David Crowder Band song Wholly Yours say,

“but a certain sign of grace is this,

from the broken earth, flowers come up,

pushing through the dirt…”

It is often the struggle through the dirt and mess that something beautiful comes. Do you have prayers that feel like they have gone unanswered? Do you wonder if God is really at work? I do too, but I know even when I can’t see what is happening, I know God is at work and more often than not, it is my own heart He is changing. Just like that little bulb pushing up through the dirt, He uses our struggle to make something beautiful in us, if only we wouldn’t give up when life gets hard. I’m sure when you look back at your most difficult circumstances now, you see the beauty you may have missed in the middle of it.

What are you pushing through in your life? Are you able to let God get you through it?

Looking for more encouragement? Head over to the The Better Mom and Women Living Well and say hi!

What Chubby Hands Can Teach You

His chubby little hands folded together, head down, his little voice mumbling sounds in a whisper. He peeks up on occasion to watch.  If one of us is not there, he yells Daaaaad or Mammaaa loud for us to come too. He knows we gather all together to pray and give thanks. When we say amen, he claps and cheers enthusiastically. We teared up the first time he did it and it seemed like a cute moment to capture in a baby book, but God is using these moments to capture my heart.

Inside my belly before he was born, we wondered how we would teach him important life lessons like kindness, compassion, and gratefulness. We prayed God would give him a tender heart for those things and us wisdom to know how to shape his character. Now 18 months later, he is teaching us.

If he’s eating & I bring out something else to eat, he pauses and folds his hands. At a restaurant every time the waiter refills a glass or brings more bread, he pauses and wants to pray. Sometimes just because he will fold his hands and tell me to pray. At nap time we’re thanking God for what we did in the morning and asking for grace for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, we’re thanking God for fun at the park and sometimes for me to be patient.  God is using this precious life to remind me to just slow down and be grateful even for the days that there is no nap time and life is crazy. Isn’t this what God wants us to do, just take him along in our day and just talk to him?

He’s reminding me that God answered our prayer that we prayed when he was in my belly but God is also using our son to shape my character.

We can have index cards mounted on mirrors to remind us to pray, sticky notes on our dashboards, or we can see chubby little hands folded to remind us to pray!

Thank you Lord for chubby hands to remind me to just bring everything to you!

Stained Glass Hearts Book Review

In Patsy Clairmont’s book “Stained Glass Hearts”  Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective, she asks the question,”What if God has a plan for this brokenness? What if He wants to use these jagged, disjointed fragments of our lives to turn them into a colorful story?”  Her authenticity and realness shine through as she describes brokenness through the window of her own life experience and how God’s redemptive love put the pieces back together much like a stained glass window.

If you have read anything else from Patsy or heard her speak, the book contains her well-known charm and wit, but as she draws upon her own life’s circumstances it allows her to take you to the deep hurt places of her heart and examine your own. She points the reader to God’s word for truth and healing. Knowing that our creative God uses all different places of beauty for us to see our Creator, she provides the reader with additional study through suggested music listening, art, meaningful quotes, scripture reading and sample prayers.

This book is best read a chapter at a time and not all in one swallow in order to process, reflect on the additional study suggestions and really take in what she suggests.  It is best for those going through hardship and brokenness, but one to have on the shelf for when the storms do hit.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”