A Letter to My Daughter on Her Seventh Birthday!

It's been awhile since I have posted anything.  The summer has just gotten away with me but I did want to make a little post dedicated to our daughter, Ezrah who just turned seven in June.  As always, we had a little birthday party with our family.  It always seems just right to have a small, uncomplicated get together. 

Even though I am more for small gatherings there are two traditions that we always stick to.  

1.  A new birthday dress.  Having two girls is just extra fun and mine happen to love dresses.  So for the two of them I always try to find a special dress for them to open first thing.  That way they get to wear something new and fresh that makes the day feel unique to all the other days of the year.  

2.  A homemade birthday cake.  This is near and dear to my heart because growing up my mom always made us birthday cakes.  Her time and effort always made our birthdays feel extra special.  I was so excited to carry on the tradition when I started having children of my own.  This year I found this gorgeous floral design from Cake Style and did my best to replicate it.  It was so much fun and I think Ezrah really loved it! 

I can't believe that our girl is seven!  With each passing day she grows further and further away from being "little"  She is becoming such a young lady.  One thing that I am quick to admit here and really anywhere is that I feel things very deeply.  I tend to get extremely emotional and while for the most part, for me, it feels very healthy I am learning what stages tend to make me feel overwhelmed.  

One of those things is watching my children grow older.  While I will never ever intend to forget their time as babies or toddlers, time itself will simply never yield.  As a mother I have found that it is far to heavy a burden to constantly be saddened at the passing of time.  Don't get me wrong, I occasionally let myself sit in that space.  As mothers we need a bit of that too, maybe just to remind us to focus on what's in front of us while it lasts.  

With all that said, on my children's birthdays I try to be extra intentional about focusing on who they are in the current moment.  

So, without further ado...

Here are seven things I love most about my Ezrah girl, my big seven year old, right now. 

1.  I love that you alway insist on being kind.  Even though you are human and you're not perfect, it's still your go-to.  The world needs more kindness and I just know that you are going to do your part! 

2.  I love that when you set your mind to doing something you practice and you practice until you finally get it.  It has been a pleasure watching you learn how to do cartwheels, how to draw, how to ride your bike.  You really (and I mean really) put your mind to anything you wish to gain, nothing seems impossible to you.  Girlie, it's my prayer that you will always go through life with that childlike faith and the willingness to do hard work.  You will change the world like that. 

3.  I love that you can and will make friends with anyone.  You get that from your daddy.  At any given moment our house will be occupied by a different kid from the neighborhood who came trailing in behind you.  I can tell that in all of the years to come you will simply love people and you will love them well. 

4.  Here I must admit that I am being a bit biased but I love that you are into fashion.  So early on in your life and you already show signs of having your own unique style.  Whether you layer several tulle skirts together or reinvent a t-shirt to be worn in complete contrast to its original design you always come to me, proud of your creation.  It makes my heart so so full to watch you be you.   

5.  I adore the sound of your laugh.  The other day you had some friends over and I stood at the end of the hall and listened to you just giggle and giggle.  I thought to myself, "what a joy it is that this girl is my daughter!" 

6.  I love that you cheer your siblings on.  Whether it is seeing Isaiah walk or Hadessah riding her bike, you care about their progress.  You are always in the front row with a big grin and words of encouragement.  You love them so well and it will be such a joy to watch your friendships grow over the years to come! 

7.  I love how your hair shines red in the sunlight.  That hint of strawberry makes it seem as if you're glowing.  The other day you said to me, "mommy, I love how God made my hair." I certainly do too.  I hope you always remember that God made each thread of hair unique and beautiful in its own right and that because of it you will never have to compare yourself to anyone else.  

Happy birthday, Ezrah you are so loved for exactly who you are! 

Enthroned Above the Waters: God's Sovereignty in a Time of Unrest

"The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned, King forever.  The Lord gives his people strength; the Lord blesses his people with peace." 
-Psalms 29:10-11

Today as I was studying my Bible this verse stopped me in my tracks.  Admittedly, over the past few weeks I have had a hard time picking up my bible.  Ever since I had to start home schooling my first grader it's been pretty stressful.  I have always considered home schooling but certainly not with a three year old and a nine month old running around!  It's interesting because being in God's word has become essential for my life and when I neglect it because I am tired I feel anything but eased.  But God is always a patient reminder.  I go to scripture because it's there that I find true rest.  It's there that I am filled. 

Over and over again it's been proven.  When I give Him my time, my heart, and my mind He answers me.  Opening up to Psalms 29:10 gave me pause because it is exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord in this moment and maybe, just maybe you needed to hear it too.  

"The Lord sits enthroned over the flood."  What a picture for our current times.  It would be inaccurate to say that I am merely stressed about teaching first grade.  I think we all can agree that our world feels upside down at the moment.  First we were hit by a novel virus that affected our families, our jobs, major life events, travel plans, the list goes on.  With it came a wave of fear that left many paralyzed.  Next came an even greater grievance.  Our nation watched as a violent act of racism once again occurred at the hands of our law enforcement.  With it came more fear and anger leaving us with the urgent question:  how does this happen?

It seems that we have entered into a time of labored breathing for great flood waters have rushed into our path.  Many of us are anxious and on edge as we've seen division arise out of the current events.  I have myself wrongly lashed out in frustration.

Yes, the waters are deep but the Lord sits over them.  COVID-19, racism, violence, division, these are certainly not from God, in fact He is deeply grieved by what He sees in the world but take heart because He has overcome the world.  We must remember that what we see is not a battle between flesh and blood but rather a battle of the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12).

Another translation of Psalms 29:10 reads like this:  "The Lord rules over the deep waters."  God is fighting in the spiritual realm and though we cannot fully understand as we look out on our times we can rest in the knowledge that He is sovereign.  God rules over evil and it will not prevail.  He is the one thing in this world that we can be certain of.  An unchanging, mighty force who calls out, "When the earth and all its inhabitants shake, I am the one who steadies its pillars." -Psalms 75:3.  Whom else should we run to?  Where else should we seek shelter?

We feel a great exhaustion but let us remember our God who is greater.  Let us take to prayer and to the reading of His Word so that we may recall His faithfulness.  Even as flood waters recede they are going to leave behind evidence of ruin.  We have got to rebuild and it is only by recalling the past faithfulness of the Lord that will give us the confidence to press forward.

I have been mentioning the Psalms throughout this post but another great place in scripture to be in this season is the book of Nehemiah.  I urge you to read it yourself but I will sum it up here.  In Nehemiah's time, the Jewish remnant that had returned to Israel post Babylonian exile was facing a huge problem:  Jerusalem's wall had been destroyed.

Nehemiah, who was still living in Persia was deeply grieved when he heard the news so he returned to his beloved city to lead the Jewish remnant in rebuilding not only the wall of Jerusalem but also in the rebuilding of their communities and their law.  Nehemiah was able to succeed in bringing restoration and unity by seeking God's provision and faithfulness.  It is only when we seek His provision that our hands are able to build.  Our power is sourced from He who sits over the flood.

And here is the glory of it all:  God used Nehemiah and His remnant people to stabilize Jerusalem, which would make way for the life and ministry of Jesus 500 years later.  Let's dwell on this for a moment.  Jerusalem's restoration in that time would eventually impact the Man who's flesh would split open on our behalf.  God is always in the midst even if we don't see the promise for 500 years.

Imagine what promises we could usher in for generations to come if in this moment we seek the provision of God and choose to rebuild.  Let us confess our need for the Lord in this moment and may we wait with hopeful anticipation to see His divine intervention in the heart of our nation and our world.  He is bringing peace and unity in way that our eyes have not yet seen.

I am expectant and I hope you are too for God is enthroned above the waters and it is He who steadies the pillars!

A Sense of Pretty: Notes on a Beautiful Life

Big news!  This is the Life is getting a new name!  I've been thinking on this for some time and finally felt peace enough to go through with it.  I started this little blog back when I was a senior in high school which, hard though it may be to admit, was ten years ago!  I fell in love with writing then and here, on the cusp of my 30s I still love it but for some reason I felt like I needed something fresh.  I wanted to come up with a name that better encompasses everything that I desire to share in this space.   So without further ado...

This is the Life is becoming A Sense of Pretty:  Notes on a Beautiful Life.

I am a four on the enneagram and yes, I am aware that many of us have over used the enneagram to the point of unhealthy obsession but just hear me out.  Over the past year or so it has truly helped me better understand myself and to use that understanding to work towards the things I am most passionate about.  As an enneagram four one of the things I value most is beauty.  To see, and to create, and to experience beautiful things.  I've always been on a mission to create a beautiful life and share it with others.  It's one of my greatest joys.  And while yes, that means sharing physical beauty such as my home, or my style, or my skincare routine it also means sharing something else; or rather someone else.   

Christ is the center of my life and it is my greatest mission to, in all that I do, point back to Him.  And that means writing about those tougher moments in life.  Those moments that reach in towards your gut and twist but for the purpose of bearing fruit.

Difficult trials that produce beautiful endurance. 

Hard lessons that produce beautiful character. 

Deep valleys that produce beautiful faith.  

In the current age of social media it has become all to easy to feel ashamed by life's difficulties but why should we feel ashamed at something that Christ promised we'd face? (John 16:33)  In this fallen world our marriages are going to rock, our mental health is going to be challenged, our children are going to rebel, our finances are going to fail us.  But take heart for He has overcome the world.  For those who run to the cross, ugly always washes away to reveal the beauty of our Savior.  In Him is freedom and in freedom shame cannot hold its grip.  I have chosen to be raw in this space because more people need to know that.  More people need to know that beauty is most certainly found in the pretty and the polished but it's also found by walking through the filth.

When I die I want to say that I refused to provide a limited view of God and that I lived a life reflecting the beauty of both His creative and redemptive nature.  That's my hope.  So as we move forward with a fresh start I hope that you would come here trusting to see God, that you would most certainly find Him, and that you would come again to see more.

Here's to a beautiful life! 

My Favorite Coffee Table Books!

Hey guys!  If you read my last blog post you will know that I had my eyes set on a gorgeous coffee table but seemingly minutes after I hit publish it sold out everywhere.  I was pretty bummed because I had plans to buy it for months but c'est la vie.  I decided to just look around on offer up and ended up finding this really beautiful table for 20 bucks!  I couldn't believe it!  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind with the other one but for $20 I thought I would give it a try.  We got it in the house and I fell in love immediately.  I do plan to paint it white in the near future but I am counting this as a very happy accident!

I love it so much because it's so big and it fills our fairly large living room quite nicely.  It also gives me plenty of surface area to play around on.  At this point, my life passion has truly become restyling my coffee table!  You will know by now that my rule of thumb is books, books, and more books so I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my favorite coffee table books that I have collected over the years!

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Masterpiece Paintings text by Kathryn Calley Galitz

This was my Mother's Day gift this year and it's definitely a new favorite!  I am by no means an expert but I love art.  I love looking at it and I love reading about it.  Some of my favorite classes from my college program were actually my art history classes.  I came to find out that people love art not to be pretentious but because it's beautiful and equally fascinating.  Paintings especially are like little mysteries that each viewer has to solve for themselves.  One of the best examples of this would be The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eych, 1434.  I remember studying this painting in one of my classes.  What is the relationship between the two people in the foreground?  On the wall in the background there is a mirror and if you look closely there are two people entering the room.  Who are they and why are they there?  Is the woman in green pregnant or is she merely hopeful to concieve?  There are so many questions but also so many little details were included to aide in answering them.  Okay, that's the fun of art but back to the book!

I love the feminine figure and muted color scheme found on the cover, I think it adds the right amount of sophisticated charm to the room.  And if I can't live two blocks away from the Met then I may as well have a massive (this book could be a weapon) book full of beautiful paintings sitting right in the middle of my table!

2. The Puffin in Bloom edition of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Something about my own personal style is that I love the juxtaposition between sophistication and whimsy.  I love the eclectic effect that it gives and if the first book I mentioned is just the right amount of sophistication then this book is just the right amount of whimsy.  I mean, it is Alice right?  This specific edition is fully illustrated by Anna Bond who is the founder of Rifle Paper Co. and if you know me, you know that I am an absolute sucker for Rifle Paper Co!  I actually display this book on my coffee table without the dust jacket because I love the design on the spine underneath.  And here's the thing about a beautiful spine:  you can stack another book on top and you still get a statement.  Like, "you can't see all of me, but I'm here and I'm super cute!" 

3. Domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home by domino editors Jessica Romm Perez and Shani Silver

I have both editions of this book but I specifically love the second.  The soft pink cove with the butterflies is so fun and the content inside is even better.  The thing I love most about this book is it's "perfectly imperfect" approach to design.  It's not about perfection it's about making your home yours and if that includes a permanent dip in your couch from reading a thousand books in the same spot or a crooked picture of your grandparents on the wall, so be it.  I highly recommend this book!

4. Pretty City London by Siobhan Ferguson

London/England in general is currently number one on my list of travel destinations.  Even though I haven't been there yet I feel like England just screams aesthetic and this book definitely proves it.  It is filled with the most gorgeous photos of all of London's nooks and crannies.  Even though it gives me serious FOMO, I love flipping through it for inspiration.  This same author actually has another book called Pretty City New York and I would love to check that one out soon too!

5. The Flower Expert: Ideas and Inspiration for a Life With Flowers by Fleur McHarg

Bringing in fresh flowers is such an easy way to elevate whatever space you are working in.  You can play around with color, shape, texture and this book is a sure source of inspiration!  I really loved reading Fleur McHarg's short introduction at the beginning.  She sees the world through such a unique lens and you can seriously feel her passion jump off the page.  By the time I was done reading her introduction I said to myself, "okay, I trust this woman!"  If you love flowers, than this book is most definitely for you!

Bonus:  Vogue Magazine

I am a long time lover of Vogue.  When I was in high school I used to save every single copy and by the time I moved out they were taking over so I had to get rid of a lot of them.  Now I just save special issues I've picked up while traveling and also every September issue.  I love the September issues because they are huge and it's essentially like buying a book only at a fraction of the price.  They look so chic all stacked up together.  Just a fun little tip to add some variety.

Well, that about wraps it up!  I tried to share a little bit of everything to pique different interests and as always, I hope I have inspired you in some way.  Happy book hunting!

My Living Room Tour and Styling Tips!

Hi everyone!  It has been a LONG time since I have done a blog post about my home but ever since the stay-at-home order started I have been so inspired to decorate and I wanted to share it with you!
I was actually going to wait to post this because I am in dyer need of a new coffee table and I have my eyes set on a gorgeous Parisian inspired one from Wayfair but ummm how can I say it...it ain't cheap!  I have done almost a years worth of research and haven't found anything that I love as much as this one so I'm not settling for anything else and because of that I will have to do a few months of saving first!  All that to say, I didn't want to wait that long to do a post so for now you will have to feast your eyes on my beat up old coffee table that has about eight years worth of chipping paint layers on it (and not in the cute shabby chic way). 

You all know the drill by now, we are a military family so we move a lot and this most recent move we actually moved on to an Air Force base and are absolutely loving it.  It's so quiet (well, aside from the sound of jets, and helicopters, and ranges, etc. but I personally love that), it feels really safe and secure and our neighborhood is packed with kids, which is always a plus! 

Now, as far as the house goes it has zero curb appeal and the kitchen looks like your typical "military barracks kitchen" but if I had a life mantra it would be this, "you can make anywhere feel like home, all you need is a vision."  So that's what I do. I make every place we live our home.  We feel so blessed to live here and I personally feel especially blessed that they let us paint the inside because it was an awful yellow when we moved in.  It's amazing what a little fresh white paint can do! 

The whole inspiration behind this portion of my home is definitely Paris!  There's lots of creams and whites with gold accents.  To add a little color I went with my current favorite, which is green.  I think there is something so chic about green!  Now, who is going to help me convince my husband to let me get a green velvet couch?  Thats a tall order.  I may have to settle for an accent chair!

Let's start with my (lovely) coffee table.  Besides the fact that the table itself isn't quite up to my standards I love styling it!  If you don't know where to start get yourself some books and then some more books.  You can never go wrong.  I love mixing old with new.  So I have plenty of vintage books but then I also go for more modern coffee table books as well.  Not only do they look beautiful but now you have plenty of inspiration to flip through right at your finger tips.  Books are also a really great tool to change up the look to suit each season.  I also love having some kind of tray.  I got this beautiful marble one from Target several years ago and it has sat in the same place faithfully ever since.  Trays are just a great way of breaking things up to add visual interest.   

My last essential is of course, flowers.  Sometimes I put faux flowers out but I prefer them fresh.  My secret is Trader Joes.  They have such a wide selection and they are always really affordable.  My rule for buying is to first pick out flowers and then either greenery or a second flower as filler.  Always add filler, that way you can form an arrangement that will look pretty darn professional when you're finished!  My favorite is always some form of eucalyptus.  It's really budget friendly and easy to work with. 

Once you've got your three essentials, books, tray, flowers, you can start adding in the extra touches with other accessories.  I find candles to be the easiest.  I found these beautiful gold candlesticks at a vintage store and then how can you go wrong with the Anthropologie classic? 

The key to styling just about anything is balance.  So once you have all your elements just play around with them until your eye feels satisfied.  If something makes your eye feel uncomfortable then move it.  Pay close attention to things like height, fullness, and color.  

1.  An easy way to achieve a balance with height is to put your tallest accessories on either side of your table and then fill the space in-between.  

2.  You want to fill the whole space but make sure it looks intentional.  You don't want things to feel crowded.  You can achieve this looking by grouping things together side by side.  

3.  Try and spread your color palette as evenly as possible across your chosen space.  This will help the eye to take in the entire surface or space with ease.  

I am definitely not a professional and of course there will always be exceptions and additions to these rules but this is a good place to start.  Just remember: balance darling! 

This corner has quickly become one of my favorite areas of my home.  When we moved in I originally had children's books here on the ledge but I wanted something a little more sophisticated. Then I discovered a company called Museum Quality Art and instantly fell in love with their selection of prints.  They are all prints of real paintings found in Museums.  It was definitely hard to choose but I but I ordered three different prints (I took screenshots on my phone to ensure they all coordinated) and then put them in modern frames for contrast.  I think they filled the space perfectly and I find myself looking at them all the time throughout the day, which is testimony of a good purchase! 

Genuine marble is definitely a luxury so if you want to incorporate it without breaking the bank, try a side table!  I found this one at Target for under $100.  I kept it pretty simple on top with just three key elements (try grouping things in odd numbers).  I touched on eucalyptus earlier but I really do love it and one of the reasons is because it dries out beautifully.  In this vase in particular I didn't even put in any water.  It creates hight and really pretty organic shapes with hardly any effort.  

This little glass box is one of my favorite touches.  Growing up (and still to this day) my grandparent's house was chock full of little trinkets that they brought back from their extensive travels.  I knew that when I grew up that's how I wanted my house to be:  one big story of the places that we've been.  This box is just a little peak.  Its full of euros, and shekels, and train tickets, and museum admission stubs.  It's a special little box and just another thing that makes our home ours.  I hope to fill many more to the brim over the years to come! 

I had a lot of fun with the books in this corner.  I came up with a color scheme and then flipped around all the books that didn't fit the scheme.  I love how it turned out even though it's not quite convenient for finding certain titles.  In the picture above the bookcase is my daughter, Ezrah.  I will admit that it took me about two years to finally get this printed but I'm so glad I finally did!  

And here we come to my beloved curtains.  It took me forever to find curtains that I really loved and these honestly couldn't be more me with those oober feminine ruffled hems (sorry Bryan) and the white on white is just so dreamy.  One thing that I have learned is that curtains are a MUST!  Not only do they fill your space but there is absolutely nothing better than opening your windows and letting the cool crisp breeze sweep them around.  It's honestly one of my favorite things ever.  It brings a certain peace and calming that is unparalleled.  Are they a pain to install?  Absolutely but the bliss to follow is well worth the effort! 

This black tiered table is my pride and joy because I got it at a garage sale for $15.  I went back and fourth about it for a while and then I saw someone else stop to look at it so I quickly snagged it up and I'm so glad I did!  It does have a small mark that I may try and fix in the future but for now it doesn't bother me much.  I think the reason I love it so much is because I can stack it full of books!

It also houses my grecian bust, which I am obsessed with.  She doesn't have a name although maybe I should consider her to be Psyche since she is a main character in my favorite book, Till We Have Faces.  Anyway, although she is a little over the top but she is beautiful and I absolutely love her!

I just want to touch on one more thing.  Part of making your home yours is simply finding unique ways to make it yours.  When you are out and about look for quirky objects that speak to you.  They can be over the top or a little more understated but they certainly don't have to be expensive.  For example, that little gold camel that you see in the above picture I found in a little shop in Bethlehem.  Everything in the shop was really expensive, the equivalent to hundreds and even thousands of US dollars but in a little basket in the corner was this one little camel.  I paid about five US dollars for him and he happens to be my favorite thing that I brought back from Israel.  Be on the look out and you are sure to find things that uniquely fit you and your home!

I really hope you enjoyed this post.  We are in weird times but I have learned that being creative has been the perfect outlet so I hope I was able to share a little of that with you today!

Hang in there and keep creating!

side table (similar)//throw pillows//glass box//art print one//art print two//art print three//tray (similar)//candle//globe (similar)//curtains//floor lamp//table lamp//mirror//grecian bust//rug

Gideon's Army of 300: Why God Chooses the Humble

For the past several months there is one story in scripture that has constantly interrupted my thoughts.   Though, more importantly, it has interrupted the many anxieties that make me feel inferior to God's calling.  It's the story of a man named Gideon.

There are many intricacies to the story that I am going to do my best to sum up here but I strongly encourage you to do your own reading so you can take in the whole picture.  The account of Gideon is found in Judges 6-8! 

The story starts off during the seventh year of oppression against Israel put on by the Midianites.  We read about them brutally stripping the Israelites of their crops, their livestock, their shelter, and their livelihood.  In fact, the Bible describes the Midianites as a swarm of locusts.  They left all they touched naked to the bone and there was no one to stand against them until God called forth Gideon.  I imagine God calling out to a seasoned warrior with a history of many victories under his belt but that wasn't the case.  Gideon came from a weak family and on top of that he was his father's youngest son but these are the things that matter least to the Lord.  God called Gideon just how He saw him, "valiant warrior"

"The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian.  I am sending you.' 

Gideon said to him, 'Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel?  Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's family.' 

'But I will be with you,' the Lord said to him.  'You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.'" 
-Judges 6:14-16 

So Gideon gathered up an army and took them to camp just south of where the Midianites were gathered.  But God wasn't satisfied.  Gideon's army was already vastly outnumbered by the opposing army and yet God asked him to reduce the numbers.  Calling forth the soldiers, Gideon separated the fearful from the brave.  Twenty-two thousand soldiers returned home while ten thousand remained.

But God still wasn't satisfied.

Gideon put his troops through one last test and afterwards a mere three hundred men remained.  This army of 300 was about to take on 135,000 men.  Remember that thing about a swarm of locusts?  On paper it's crazy.  Most would call it laughable but Gideon took God at His word and knew that they would not be along in battle.  Before the attack, God gives Gideon one more boost of confidence.  He tells Gideon to go down to the valley to spy on the Midianites.

"Now the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the Qedemites had settled down in the valley like a swarm of locusts, and their camels were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore.  When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling his friend about a dream.  He said, 'Listen, I had a dream:  a loaf of barley bread camp tumbling into the Midianite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.  The loaf turned the tent upside down so that it collapsed.'  His friend answered:  'This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite.  God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him.'" 
-Judges 7:12-14

I love this picture.  A loaf of barley bread tumbles into camp and turns everything upside down.  It's a showcase of the power that God establishes in the humble when they are willing.  That humble army of three hundred saw the fruit of God's promise and they defeated the Midianites as if they were one man.  Something very interesting happens next when we see Gideon return from battle.

"Then the Israelites said to Gideon, 'Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.'  But Gideon said to them, 'I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you;  the Lord will rule over you.'"

Notice Gideon's continued humility even after one of the greatest victories of all time.  Now we can see why he was chosen to lead 300 men to stand against thousands.  God deserves the glory for all that we do and far too often we are tempted to keep it as our own.  But Gideon was faithful both in his task and his view of God, which lead to great blessing.  If we go on to read the entire account we will find that during all the remaining days of Gideon, Israel lived in peace.

I replay this story over and over in my mind and I marvel at a God who does impossible things.  Our call to humility is not a call to weakness but rather it is a call to do great things only by the power of God who gives us strength.  Humility says, "apart from God, I can do nothing, but with God I am willing."

Have you ever felt like God has asked you to do something far beyond your capabilities?  Maybe you feel like you aren't fit.  But perhaps taking of position that says, "who am I?" is exactly what makes us qualified.  I think that when we are called out upon the waters its cause for great celebration because its there in the deep where we see God.  When the victory is won we can then call out to the world, "Come and see what God has done!"

Banned from the Garden: Why God's Withholding is Sometimes His Greatest Mercy

Do you ever feel like God is withholding something from you?  I know I do.  I can make up all of these plans for myself and when they fail to see light in my own timing or in my own way its easy to blame Him for the falling short.  Frustration looks different for everyone but here's what it looks like for me:  if it were up to me, by now I would probably have a few more stamps on my passport, I would live in a cute cottage style home with white walls and charming open cabinets in the kitchen, I would quadruple my savings account, I'd have several thousand people following along my blog, and most of all I would actually be getting paid to write.  That sounds like a lot of complaining but in this space, we are honest and I carry a fair share of weaknesses.  I want to talk about these things because I know I can't be the only one who feels frustrated or in some way left behind and unseen by God.

Sometimes my heart just wants to scream:  "God why are you withholding from me?!" 
Doesn't He see me too?  Doesn't He see my dreams and desires too? 

Of course He does and if you are sitting in the same boat as me, He sees you too.  The reality is that He holds it all in His hands but while we can only glimpse the fleeting moment right in front of us, He is able to see all our days stretched out before Him and He knows better.  So, let me share with you what God has been sharing with me.  

Let's go back to the garden.

"The Lord God said, 'Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.'  So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life." - Genesis 3:22-24

I don't know how many times I have read over this passage and missed the heart of it.  Okay, Adam and Eve sinned and their punishment was to be banned from the garden and no longer able to partake in eating from the tree of life.  I get it.  But is that really what this is about?  Is it about an angry God who fears that man may become a rival should he live forever?  

But our Creator has no rival and sin brought on the penalty of death, not God so could this really be a story about grace?  It's all too easy to conclude that death is physical when in reality, death is spiritual.  Death is shame and guilt, death calls us filthy and unworthy, death pollutes all in its path and ultimately isolates us from our source of life, which is so much more than just breath in our lungs.

Imagine then, Adam and Eve in their new state of sin reaching out once again and eating from the tree of life.  They would have lived forever but in a tainted garden.  There's another name for it:  hell.  So God lifted His finger, pointed onward, and drove them out.  With great sorrow, I imagine.  But not without a plan to nail His Son to a cross.  The greatest mercy extended in the history of mankind started with an exile.  Condemnation would have said, "You did this to yourself, go ahead and build for yourselves an eternal living hell" while instead, grace said, "Let me send you away for a time so that I can fix this!"

And that's just it, because of His great love God didn't just merely send man away to rot.  He has been in the midst of restoring this world since it fractured and just look at the beautiful truth that we have to look forward to: 

"Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing form the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city's main street.  The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, and there will no longer be any curse."  - Revelation 22:1-3

Did you catch that?  In the new Jerusalem the tree of life will once again be in the center of the garden, it will be for the healing of the nations.  And this time there will be no curse!  It's amazing!
Once restoration is finally complete, God is going to return to us something that He once had to hide away.  This isn't the most lyrical thing I have ever said, but honestly, it just blows my mind!  Psalms 84:11 says that God withholds no good thing so if He has to withhold something we can know that it is for our good and that He is still in the midst of preparing the very best for us.  

If you feel frustrated or put off by God, let me encourage you with my whole heart, dig deeper!  God's character is worth searching and if we commit to the searching we will find that His number one priority is to lead us to a new garden where we will be restored to our fullest in His presence.

Let's rest in that reality.  We need not shake our fist at God for keeping us from the things we think we need.  He is for us and in His own timing He withholds no good thing.

My Word for 2020

As 2019 began to wind down I started thinking more and more about my word for 2020.  As I was casting this vision for myself I was thinking of the one main goal that I have and that's to get a book published.  If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I finished writing a book in 2018.  During the first half of 2019 I edited and edited some more, until I couldn't think straight.  This is after all, my first attempt of writing at this magnitude and getting it perfect felt like a lot of pressure.  So I decided a few months ago that I would leave it until the new year.  I needed to give myself time so 2020 will be the year of "going for it"  

All that to say, I thought my word for this year would really center on this goal that I have set for myself.  That is until a few days ago.  I was sitting in the parking lot at the grocery store waiting for my mom to quickly run a few errands.  If you want to know why I didn't go in with her it has to do with a moroon velour tracksuit that I personally find perfectly suitable to wear in public but the rest of my family refuses to be seen with me while wearing said tracksuit.  Therefore, I waited in the car.  

It all worked out though because while my mom was away I took the time to just sit with the Lord for a few minutes.  I turned on some worship music and Hosanna by Hillsong began to play and one line really stood out to me:  "I see a generation rising up to take their place" And then it hit me.  My word would branch from these lyrics.  After giving it more consideration over the next couple of days, I came up with the word. 


Now let me explain.  These lyrics really, REALLY excite me because I truly believe that Christ is raising up a generation that is going to see wonders, a generation that is going to push through to a revival.  He is calling out:  "whom shall I send?" and we mustn't merely reply "send me."  We have to take action.  When God gives me a responsibility I want to plant it into the ground and water it and give it sunlight.  I want to care for it so that I can see it bear fruit.  God has given me responsibility in my marriage, as a mother, in my talents, in my time and if I am not taking action in each with clear intention then I am sitting idly all while God has invited me to take part in building His kingdom.  Here are some of the things I am looking to take action on in 2020 and beyond:

1. My marriage.  In order that it won't grow stale I will keep pouring in.  That means keeping it Christ centered, serving more and taking less, more understanding and less anger, more praying together, more talking, more playing, more time together, and saying yes to big adventures together (we have a BIG one planned for this summer!!!)

2. Parenting.  Though my kids are still quite young one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a mother is how to tenderly lead my children.  I am going to let you in on a secret:  I have a problem with raising my voice.  If my children have a hard time listening the first time there is something that switches in my brain.  "Well maybe if I say it a little louder they will actually get the picture!"  My six year old has a heart like butterfly wings, so tender.  If I held her up to the light I could probably see right through her.  Lately she has been asking me to stop yelling so much and I'm not angry at her for the request I think it may have actually broke my heart.  I've decided that I need to listen to her.  As their mother I need to sit with the Lord more and ask Him to give me the tools I need to raise responsible, respectful, kind, Christ following children without losing my cool so often.

3. Spiritual Growth.  We are an army family so we move a lot and guess what!  We are moving again.  I may write more on this later but long story short my husband is being promoted and therefore has to take a position at the next rank and it happens to be in another city.  We've been doing this for 10 years so we are USED to it but it has allowed us to get a little stagnant when it comes to seeking out mentors.  By the time we get settled somewhere it comes time to start over again.  But the more we prepare for this next move Bryan and I are determined to seek out meaningful mentorship.  We don't just want to be church goers, we want to be discipled.  We want to learn and grow under the wing of people who are older and wiser and who have just seen more of life than we have.  I truly believe that it is vital to our growth and refinement.

4.  My time.  Over the past several years I have gotten really great at not resting.  Mainly, I have gotten into the mindset where I would rather have a clean home than a rested soul.  Don't get me wrong, having a clean and ordered home is very important to me.  It's just something that personally helps me keep my mind straight but I have definitely come to a place of overdoing it.  I find it hard to sit and just enjoy the things that I love if a few things are out of place.  I want to intentionally fight against that so I can feel rested by permitting myself to give my attention to just ONE thing that I love at a time like reading, or painting my nails, or writing, or even watching my favorite show.  When I am well rested I love better, I hold more patience, I am more productive.  This one may just be the most difficult fight for me so I know it will take some time but that's okay!  This is about growth not perfection.

5. My Writing.  This is where my book actually comes in because the time has really come to start pushing things forward however terrified I truly am.  This means being intentional about writing proposals, researching publication methods, reaching out to agents, etc.  OH! and lots and lots of PRAYER!!! Its scary but I am believing that if I take the steps, God will do the rest.

Pertaining to my blog, I plan to just keep writing!  I have found something in writing that just fuels me to share Christ and I love that I have been given this avenue to do so.  I hope you are ready for more! 

So back to me in the car wearing my maroon velour tracksuit.  I had the realization that my "goals" can't be about me.  They have to be more than that.  I want to take action because I am ready to be a part of a generation raised up!  Not to be glorified by my own success but so that when people look at me they see Christ.  That's the goal.  "Lord, send me.  So that in the way that I live my life, they might see You!"

I am so excited for the roaring 20's.  Let's live up to the name and be the generation to take their place.  May we no longer sit as idle spectators of the world around us but let's be set apart as bearers of light.  Let's take action and let's be ready to see the glory of God!