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Loved... from Ordinary to Extraordinary

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We gals grew up hearing and reading love stories and fairy tales from the time we were little. One of my very favorites was, and still is, Cinderella. 

Perhaps I am drawn to her story because, like myself, she was just an ordinary gal. 

And, she, like many of us, found herself stuck in what felt like the inescapable drudgery of daily life.  

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Solidarity, Mamas

Solidarity, Mamas

Play dates are the best. The other day, all of us moms lugged in our car seats with toddlers in tow, we spread out some toys across the living room carpet, and our babies just sat there staring at each other. The ladies cracked open some sparkling waters while the toddler boys roamed the room, and in no time, it was pretty apparent we didn’t get together for them anyways. Because really, a play date? Who are we kidding…more like a mom therapy group.

“So when did you introduce a second meal?” “How many ounces is he drinking these days?” “Can you take a look at her rash?” And on. And on. And on. No one else could possibly be interested in hearing about potty-training for a half hour, or my woes on how my baby’s sleep schedule has rocked my world. It would be a complete and utter snooze fest, a wasted hang out, to everyone else. Everyone else, except the very people going through the EXACT SAME THING. To them, it was like finally finding a lemonade stand on a hot summer day.

How have you experienced this in your season of life? You know who those people are. They’re the ones giving jerky, emphatic nods whenever you share the highest highs and the deepest lows of what’s really going on, chiming in to every detail with a, “Yes! Yes! YES.” Don’t you just love them? When you meet these people, you can almost feel the connection, the electricity in the room that comes from finally being understood, finally feeling like you aren’t alone, finally pulling back the curtain and getting a standing ovation. You walk away feeling nothing short of a kindred-spirit-kind-of-bond after all the confessing, debriefing, and empathizing.

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Why I like My Dust Bunnies

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My son came home from school one day and grabbed the dust pan and broom. I had wondered if this boy who rarely jumps into chores without my prompting had suddenly become responsible and independent during the course of the school day. As I was getting ready to sit down and congratulate myself for training him right, I heard him say, “Got it!” With that declaration, he grabbed a Ziploc bag from his pocket and carefully poured in the dust bunnies he had collected from under our couch. 

By the expression on my face, he could see that I was quite confused. “It’s for science,” he said. “We are studying what kind of stuff makes up dust. We’re dissecting it!” 

I didn’t know if I should be proud or offended that he knew just where to find these suspicious little dust-bunnies. I thought that I’d been successful at keeping those little buggers hidden. When it was time to host a party or even just a friend or two, I would take great pains to go through the house collecting and eliminating these dusty little reminders that people actually live in my home. I much prefer creating the impression that my family is so squeaky clean and happy that even the dust bunnies don’t gather here. 

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In Unguarded Moments: Jehoshaphat

In Unguarded Moments: Jehoshaphat

No book is a chapter

No chapter tells the whole story

No mistake defines who we are…

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No Rain in Sight: Noah

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I beg you to step into whatever adventure God has for you, whatever the cost. He leads us down different paths,

but none of us is led down the path we would have chosen for ourselves…

Trust whatever He has for you. It will be better than anything you can plan for yourself.

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When the Sun Stood Still: Joshua

When the Sun Stood Still: Joshua

Did you know there was a day when the sun stood still? 

Ever since my first-born was just a tiny kicking blob on an ultrasound, I’ve debated about his life verse. There’s so many compelling nuggets in Scripture that could ennoble him to live a faith-filled life… but I was always stuck on the cliché, oh-so-common verse in Joshua: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). 

Shouldn’t I be more creative though? This verse was announced at my college graduation ceremony, screen-printed on the back of my volleyball warm-up tee, etched into half of the mugs in my cupboard, and at the risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s splashed across every other Christian trinket you could possibly find around the globe.  

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Catch Me if You Can: Peter

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Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

–Matthew 14:31 

My heart was beating wildly as I watched my son stand at the edge of a small cliff off the coast of southern Greece. The beautiful turquoise waters beckoned him to jump, but his feet said “no.”  While I had watched seven older cousins make the leap, I wondered if giving permission to my youngest to jump off a cliff might have not been my best parenting decision. 

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Wander

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Not all who wander are lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien 

…but, maybe a lot of us are…. 

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Control Issues

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I heard an old man speak once… He said that he’d finally figured out a few years ago that his profound sense of control, in the world and over his life, is an addiction and a total illusion. He said that when he sees little kids sitting in the back seat of cars, in those car seats that have steering wheels, with grim expressions of concentration on their faces, clearly convinced that their efforts are causing the car to do whatever it is doing, he thinks of himself and his relationship with God: God who drives along silently, gently amused, in the real driver’s seat.

Anne Lamott  

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a firstborn. A child of divorce. A burden-bearer by nature that desperately wants everything to be alright. Or a combination of all three. 

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Patty favet
Wow, this speaks volume so to me! Thanks Julie!
Sunday, 29 January 2017 17:49
Trish Oliveira
Thank you.. Just what I needed to read today!
Friday, 03 February 2017 08:20
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Looking Back - Looking Ahead

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I like the concept of setting some resolutions for the new year. I feel like January is a time of reset, a chance to take a deep breath and head into the next year with a plan to become someone, well…better.

Numerous polls and articles list the top resolutions. Some people want to be thinner, some stronger, some wiser, some wealthier. Some want to be more generous, while others want to read the Bible more. Most of these goals have something in common—people want to be better versions of themselves. Let’s face it, we all want to improve. And the start of a new year gives us an opportunity to start fresh. 

After all, the writers in the Bible are continually encouraging us to try and follow Christ’s example, reminding us to be…better. 

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You probably base your self-image on past experiences. If you’ve failed, you feel like a failure. If you’ve made poor decisions, you think of yourself as stupid. That’s the old way of thinking. When you gave your life to Jesus, he made you entirely new. Your poor choices—made either before or after beginning a relationship with Jesus—do not define you. You need to feel good about yourself or you will never live the life God has for you.

 – Leon Fontaine, The Spirit Contemporary Life

The other day I received yet another free gift in the mail. It seems that once you give to a charity, your name gets around. It must be an effective way of incentivizing donations—mailing out calendars, note pads, labels, cards, coins, stickers.

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'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season

“I’m feeling very thin and vulnerable, in a good way.”

Amy Layne Litzelman 

It hit out of nowhere. The flu.  

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Christmas Panic

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Amidst the wonderful smells of turkeys basting, gravy simmering, and pies baking, I smelled something foul this past weekend. I caught a whiff of it on the way to Grandma’s house, passing homes basking in the glow of twinkling lights and plastic nativity scenes. I stole a sniff of it when I noticed the peppermint creamer served alongside the caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice varieties. I couldn’t ignore the disgusting odor settling into our conversation around the Thanksgiving table as well-meaning aunts and uncles asked my kiddos what they were hoping might show up under the tree next month. The scent is not easy to ignore. It’s the sneaky stench of Christmas panic. 

This panic likes to boil up like a pressure cooker. It starts sometime in November and increases in strengths and potency as we move into December. I don’t really know if this sense of panic is only reserved for mothers. I can’t imagine this impending dread is gender specific. I just know that it’s real, that it’s palpable, and that it is already threatening to overtake that sweet, lingering aroma of Thanksgiving thankfulness—a time that we are supposed to give only gratitude. No gifts. Just thanks.

 

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Guest — Pat
Wonderful! I needed this.
Friday, 02 December 2016 06:03
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The Frenzy Begins

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They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved.

Psalm 78:29

There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and from mere gluttony.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
 

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Mountain Dew Slushie

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“There is a Me that I cannot see.”

–John Ortberg

He was doing it again.

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Lake Superior

Lake Superior

…the Father…does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

 

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The Gift of Summer

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“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

You made summer… and gave it to the earth.

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Roots - Wings

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It's that time of year again! Time for buying school supplies, filling backpacks and waving goodbye as the bus pulls away. But, for some, like our guest writer, Heidi Zwart, the school year also means leaving her firstborn son 1,000's of miles away at college.

May all you mama's and grand-mama's be blessed by her words and by God Himself as this another school year commences.  

Don’t blink. Time flies. It’ll be over before you know it. So many clichés. But now I’m living them. Why?

My first-born just left the nest.

I swear it was yesterday I embraced Drew while we sobbed together in our kitchen after announcing our move to the East Coast. It was 5 years ago.

The day before that, I smiled as he smiled back at me for the first time… with braces. It was 7 years ago.

And just before that, I walked him to the end of the street before he stepped onto that big yellow bus for Lincoln Elementary. It was 13 years ago.

And JUST the day before,  I labored for 27 hours for a long-awaited 10 pound, 1 ounce baby boy named Andrew, who forever changed my name to mom. It was 18 years ago.

Can anyone relate?

Looking back I feel incredible joy living right alongside sadness at the moments that we’ve left behind. Some will get hazy with the passing of time while others will remain firmly locked with crystal clarity.

A few years ago, during a moment of panic about the future, a friend shared wise words with me about preparing for, enjoying, and letting go of each moment in time. Her words have carried me through the past five years and will forever guide me into the future.

Simply put, letting go is a process and we are equipped for each step. If we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed. The truth is, we never live life as fast as we do in our own mind. Our kids don’t go from kindergarten to marriage overnight.

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Words

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Well it's crazy to imagine,

Words from our lips as the arms of compassion,

Mountains crumble with every syllable.

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When to Leave the Umbrella Behind

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Today was one of those days that used to make me cringe when I worked as a meteorologist. Clear and sunny in the morning, but with possible showers moving in by midday. These are the most deceiving days, when I would warn viewers to pack an umbrella…just in case. For some, this is a huge inconvenience. Why would they want to lug around an extra umbrella just in case it was going to rain? While some people are okay if they get a little wet and don’t beat themselves up for not heeding the warning, others want assurance that carrying around that pesky umbrella will be worth the effort. My job, of course, was to please them both.

But for others—like me—lugging around an umbrella gives us a sense of security, a little insurance policy for the “what ifs” that may come about during the day. We don’t even mind if the rain never comes, as long as we know we’re equipped. For me, an umbrella is the sign of the one who is prepared and in control.

I often use planning and structure as one big umbrella—something I keep tucked away in my gigantic carry-all purse, for those moments when I see something coming that might sprinkle a little chaos into my perfectly-coifed life. When the sky gets a little dark, and I feel the wind pick up, I can feel the outline of that umbrella in my bag and I know that even if it does rain, I will have the proper tool to emerge victoriously. My schedule keeps me equipped and gives me the sense that I am on-the-ready for anything that comes my way. 

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Storm Be Still

Storm Be Still

One of the great benefits of living on a lake is getting to watch a storm come across the water. The rain and wind engulf the calm waters section by section, until the storm is right at our doorstep. It is magnificent. It is amazing. And sometimes, it’s a little scary.

The scariness comes in watching the fishermen who like to hang out in our bay. On any given day, there are half-a-dozen boats trolling for walleye out in front of our house. I can always tell the dedicated anglers over the casual sport enthusiasts. When the storm starts moving across the lake, the casual sportsmen start speeding off. The dedicated anglers stay a little longer, hoping to snag that last fish. Or, maybe I have it mixed up? Perhaps the seasoned fishermen are the ones who know enough to get off the lake before they get caught in the storm. One poor boat had to pull up to my neighbor’s dock and hang on for dear life as a particularly windy storm came out of nowhere and threatened to do them in. They had nowhere to go, so they grabbed a hold of whatever might keep them afloat, even if it was just the post on a dock. The scene reminded me of a storm we read about in Mark’s gospel account—a storm that threatened to do in the disciples.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

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Can You Hear Me Now? Supplication

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A nun I know once told me she kept begging God to take her character defects away from her. After years of this prayer, God finally got back to her: I'm not going to take anything away from you, you have to give it to me.

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

I first crossed paths with them in the housewares department; a young dad pushing his two-year-old son in a cart with his four-year-old daughter skipping along close beside. He was obviously passing through this department on the way to his desired destination, judging by the hurried pace with which he was moving. 

As they whirred past, I overheard the little boy ask his dad if he would buy something for him, to which his father replied, “If you’re patient, I’ll stop and get some ice cream treats on our way home.”  

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Balloons and God’s Goodness: Thanksgiving

Balloons and God’s Goodness: Thanksgiving

Keep your eyes open to your mercies.

The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.

—Robert Louis Stevenson 

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I Have a Confession to Make: Confession

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Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!

James 5:16 

As we walked through the large wooden doors into the Cathedral of the Divine Savior in Morelia, Mexico, a hushed awe fell over me. Light flooded the lofty hallways and sanctuary. A service was in progress as tardy parishioners trickled in, finding a seat in the back. I smiled thinking, “They are not unlike American parishioners, I see.”  

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Songs of Praise: Adoration

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One of my greatest joys is to hear my sons playing their instruments in the house. My youngest plays piano—sweet and melodic. My oldest plays electric guitar—not quite as sweet, but reminiscent of the 80's rock I used to crank through my boom-box. Either way, it’s a glorious sound, the sound of people using their talents to touch another soul, bringing joy to someone fortunate enough to be within earshot of their creative expression. I can honestly say, the music somehow restores my soul and helps me connect with our praise-worthy God.

I was fortunate to grow up in a musical household. My Mom would come into my room in the morning and actually sing me awake. She would also sing in the course of regular conversation. If someone inadvertently made a comment that came anywhere close to resembling a song lyric, she’d pick up there and sing the chorus for our listening pleasure. But what I loved most about having a professional opera singer for a mother was standing next to her in church. Those hymns take on a whole new meaning when you hear them belted out by a soprano who can hit all the notes. And (side note) I have yet to hear a rendition of “O Holy Night” that holds a candle to hers, which I heard each Christmas eve at the Midnight service. Simply spectacular.

My Mom always said that God loves to hear us sing praises to God. She has a poster hanging in her music room that reads, “He who sings prays twice.” The phrase is sometimes credited to St. Augustine, but the sentiment first appears in the Psalms.

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We Heart Matters Publishing gals care about women. Their joys. Their struggles. Their everyday, ordinary lives. We write from those very same places hoping to uplift, challenge and encourage your soul and deepen your faith.

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The Heart Matters Gals

  • Julie

    Julie

    I’m turning 62 this year. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
  • LuAnn

    LuAnn

    I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
  • Emilie

    Emilie

    I am currently finishing my degree in relational communications and plan to graduate in the spring of 2020!! I am thankful I have had time to grow, heal, appreciate a slower pace of living, and to invest more time into relationships with family, friends, and God. Through this process I am learning what I want to prioritize in my life and figuring out ways to make that happen. Most of all, I am figuring out that life is all about process, taking steps closer to where I want to be and celebrating the little victories but also accepting that there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way.
  • Sally

    Sally

    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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