I sometimes think we've turned the life of faith into some kind of religious X Games. When we think of people of great faith,we think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or Corrie ten Boom, who sheltered Jews and was ultimately imprisoned in the concentration camps during World War II; or maybe we even think of someone we're acquainted with who has made a radical life change in order to enter a mission field or work in inner-city ministry.
As inspiring and even intimidating as these examples are, I think we need to remember that God can also use acts of everyday courage and day-to-day faith. He honors the person who decides to love someone that others find unlovable. He exalts the individual who commits to being honest, no matter the personal consequences. He loves those who trust Him with their finances, even when things are tight and the future is unclear. He takes joy in the single mom who goes to one more job interview, even though she's already heard "no" over and over again, because she is determined to improve her situation in life. These, too, are acts of faith that delight the heart of our Creator.
It’s that season again. A time when parents and teachers around the nation sigh with relief and students cheer for freedom. I’m talking about graduation season.
These days, when I check into my social media accounts, the feeds are flooded with adorable pictures of glowing faces and proud families. There’s an endless parade of quotes motivational enough to make a fish believe it can climb a tree. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” “Dream BIGGER!” “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” “You can do anything!”
If you’ve read my blog before, you know how apprehensive I am about those types of inspirational lines. Placing so much emphasis on the outcome while ignoring the journey can unintentionally result in paralyzing pressure. I do believe everyone has amazing potential, but our journeys happen one step at a time. In my own life, I’ve found that setting goals, dreams, and high expectations is not a problem. My struggle has been with the thankless, mundane, and unattractive details of every day life. I’ve spent countless days wishing for my dreams to come to pass while begrudging my daily responsibilities. But I’ve learned I can’t have one without the other.
My heart is to encourage people through their daily grind. Yes, you can achieve great things. But more importantly, yes, you are amazing and you can do wonderful things today, right now. These seemingly small decisions, and the actions often overlooked, are the building blocks of your character. They are what will ultimately define you.
A few weeks ago, Family Christian sent me a copy of Pete Wilson’s What Keeps you Up at Night?: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams. To say I enjoyed the book is an understatement. I believe every graduate should have a copy of it! The book explores the concept of appropriate goal setting by examining our dreams and God’s plans. It tackles the subject of criticism, whether of self or from others and the crippling effect it can have on an individual. It emphasizes the importance of everyday action.
Pastor Pete Wilson encourages young readers to reflect on their faith in an imperfect world. He discusses in depth topics such as trust, failure, surrendering, fear, and passion. The best part is that the book draws the reader in to deep metacognition. It doesn’t just state concepts; each chapter ends with review points and reflection questions. Readers don’t just absorb information, they are encouraged to think for themselves and determine how they will respond to the information learned. There is also a call to action, so that readers can put their new knowledge to practice.
The goal of this book is to lead readers to a life of peace. As I read the book, I often found myself shouting “YES!” in agreement. Whether I lived out his wisdom during my younger years or learned from my mistakes, I can attest the lessons he teaches will guide readers to peace. The road is long. There is more sacrifice than glamour. But the truths spelled out in this book will provide insight, wisdom, and encouragement along the way.
Allow me to introduce you to the most beautiful inside-out teenager, Keilee. Along with her mom Karen, Keilee documents her life's adventures in learning through their blog Homeschool Girls. As a lover of alternative methods for education, I quickly grew fond of their style and became a follower. But their wit, charm, and huge, loving hearts soon turned me into a true fan.
I'm shining a spotlight on Keilee today for the way she honors her mom. To me, there is nothing more extraordinary, and challenging, for a young person to do, than to honor their parents. In our culture, sadly, it's widely accepted that the expectations of teenagers is to bring grief to their parents. The argue, to be rebellious, and to have a bad attitude. I refuse to believe that for my own children. I fully expect my children to be loving, helpful, obedient teenagers. It's people like Keilee and Karen who give me hope and empower me to have higher expectations.
They remind me of Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Keilee has chosen to do the hard thing. The better thing. While she could be chasing a dream, being "fierce," or finding herself, she has chosen to instead honor her mom. Something so ordinary: having a good relationship with her mom, carried out with passion has paid off for her. By honoring her mom, she has found the real meaning of joy, has become a confident young lady, and has made others' dreams come true.
A few weeks ago, Keilee and her friend got a call from an woman whose twin 3 year old nieces and their families had lost everything in a fire. The twins were most upset about losing their Elsa dresses. Keilee and her friend dressed up as Anna and Elsa and surprised the girls with new dresses their aunt had bought for them. I can't imagine the thrill those girls must have experienced. I'm thankful that these young ladies, who could aspire to do anything with their good looks, have chosen to use their gifts for something better than personal gain. Karen says it best, "I love that they donate their time when there isn’t any monetary reward."
I'm so happy to know there are people like Keilee in the world. People who are motivated by love; not driven by fame and fortune. Young people who make their moms proud. There is not greater gift for a mom. I can't wait to see what else she will accomplish in her lifetime.
I've been thinking about Mother's Day. A lot. I miss my mom every single day and sometimes it seems like she is in the background of my every thought. I definitely think of her more now than when she was alive. I wish I could have just one more hug or a kiss, even if she poked her nose into my eye when she kissed me.
In the weeks after my mom's death, I started to notice something strange in me. Whenever I saw other people with their moms, I felt comforted. I didn't feel jealous or sorry for myself at all! Whenever I heard my friends talk about their own moms, I felt happy.
One afternoon, at Hobby Lobby, I watched a teenage girl grab her mom's hand and do a twirl right in the aisle. The girl was obviously obsessed with dancing and the mom seemed a bit annoyed because the girl was in dance la-la land while she was trying to smell a candle. It was the sweetest thing I'd seen in a while and so naturally, I burst into tears, right there next to the metal baskets.
As I prepared for this year's Mother's Day I decided I wanted to see more of that. I'm asking you to share your special moments with your mom or your own kids this week using the hashtags #AMAMOMCHALLENGE and #LOVEMOM Let's fill social media with pictures of love. Relationships are the most important things in life, let's highlight that. Let's bring attention to what truly matters.
In lieu of buying my mom a gift this year, at the end of the week, my sisters, daughter and I will choose one lucky pair to win a gift card to one of my mom's favorite places. (See full contest instructions here.)
I'm so excited to see your pictures this week. I hope you will join this movement and share it with your friends too! I may not have my mom on Mother's Day this year, but I will have my grandma, my daughter, my Pastor's wife and other special women to honor and enjoy.
If you don't have a relationship with your mom, I urge you to put aside whatever you need to put aside in order to restore that relationship, even if it seems unfair to you. It's better to be at peace than to be right. I can attest that you will never regret it.
If you don't have a mom, for whatever the reason, I invite you to find someone to spend time with, whether it's a mother-figure or a young person in need of a mother figure. This is about love, not blood.
Thank you for reading!
This is a sponsored post for Family Christian Stores. I am proud to be a member of their Blogger Network. All opinions are my own.
Who doesn't love a good FIESTA? My family loves to party and for us, any reason is a good reason to have a celebration. A couple of years ago, we decided to cook tacos on Cinco de Mayo. I'm a big fan of Mexican food so, why not? The weather was so nice that we ate outside. During dinner we talked about freedom, new beginnings and the country of Mexico. Afterwards, we played Mariachi music. Little did I know my kids would fall head over heels in love with Mariachi! We danced and laughed until our bellies hurt. A tradition was born.
Each year since, we have celebrated Cinco de Mayo outdoors with Tacos, Mariachi, and dancing. A little effort and a lot of creativity have given us a lifetime of memories. Due to a scheduling conflict, we had our Cinco de Mayo dinner a bit early this year. To begin the planning process, I went to Family Christian in search of music in Spanish for our dancing session. Not only did I find a number of awesome CDs in Spanish, I also found a few great pieces of outdoor decor.
Here is how we set up the space. Read the party details at the bottom to see how easy this was to put together.
Centerpiece: I found that amazing lantern with LED candles at Family Christian on a killer sale for half price! It was with their Mother's Day specials and made this Mamacita muy happy. Inspired by a few pins, I decided to recycle a can of petite diced tomatoes as a flower vase. I also scored the gorgeous spoon rest for half price at Family Christian. How appropriate that the spoon rest says "With God all things are possible." I need the encouragement when I'm trying to cook. I finished off the centerpiece with a colorful plastic bowl from Family Christian filled with chips. I used salsa bowls I already had for the salsa and the sour cream. My grocery store didn't have nice sunflowers, so I went with these bright yellow Daisies in the can and the little red vase I bought at a craft store after Valentine's Day.
Place settings: I pulled out our gold Christmas chargers from the pantry and placed some plastic plates inside of them with a long, striped napkin underneath. I love the look of a long napkin draping over the side of the table and these colorful napkins I got for $1 were perfect for that. The gold and turquoise were perfect against the lime green polka dot runner from my daughter's birthday two years ago.
I used plain mason jars with turquoise straws sitting atop bright orange coasters for our lemonade. I used more of those red mini vases to display pinwheels between the place settings and to give my baby something to play with while he waited for the rest of us to finish our food.
I framed the phrase "FIESTA like there's no manana," in a decorative frame from my daughter's first birthday. This is how I can justify hanging on to party decor to a husband who doesn't particularly enjoy having 6 shelves full of it in the garage.
Backdrop: This year, I set our table in a different corner of the yard to make use of my neighbor's flower vine that has draped over onto our fence. Not only did it smell lovely, it provided the prettiest backdrop for our evening. Over the table I hung a garland of mixed and matched paper tassels from past events.
Entertainment: During dinner we listened to Spanish music and talked about freedom. After dinner, we listened to some more of our Spanish music from Family Christian and danced the night away while eating tortilla chips and wearing my dad's authentic Mexican Sombrero. The kids' silly antics is all we need to have a good time.
Lantern, bowl, spoon rest, and music - Family Christian
Polka dot table runner - A to Zebra Celebrations
Straws - Ikea
Plastic plates, coasters, and striped napkins - Dollar Tree
Yellow frame and mini red vases - Michael's
Paper Tassels - The Flair Exchange and Hobby Lobby
Sombrero - My Dad
Here is the music that started it all. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many resources in Spanish at Family Christian. As a Puerto Rican and Spanish speaker, it is delightful to see stores that consider people like me and provide us with quality products.
I hope this post inspires you to tap into your own God-given, natural creativity and have fun with your celebration decor. Certainly no family needs to go all out to have a great time, but the bold colors and beautiful decor help set the atmosphere for a delightful time. If you look around, God is a creative God of beautiful things. Designing beautiful spaces for my family is a wonderful outlet for me and a gift to them.
Hi! I'm Debra, an average girl with an amazing God teaching me about true value. I stand in awe of what He can do with ordinary people who are willing to be used. Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you are encouraged by something you read here today.
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