Entertaining Strangers

For a brief moment, we considered the possibility they were taking us somewhere to kill and dispose of us. We risked it anyway and followed them. After all, they were the ones who saw us and refused to leave when my bike broke down. They were the ones who called someone over to fix my bike. They were the ones who caught up with us and asked if they could ride with us after my bike was fixed. Plus they were probably ten years old, super cute, and my friend and I are suckers for sweet faces. We told them we were hoping they would find us to ride bikes together, and we happily granted their request.

They knew the trail like the back of their hands. They told us to follow them, and we did… through curves, beside streams, and through the woods. Eventually, we told them we needed to get back to our campsite and our families. We rode and rode and wondered if they really knew where we were or if we were all lost. But then we looked up and noticed they had brought us to our camping area at the state park. They had brought us back to where we needed to be.

Now our new friends’ picture now hangs on my wall.

Not only did these kids “good Samaritan” us out of trouble, they topped it off with hospitality like a cherry on an ice-cream sundae.

That’s what we are called to do, right? Not only are we to be kind and helpful, but we are to take it a step further and add the cherry on top. So often, I find myself feeling out of time, out of energy, and out of motivation to mirror this action.

Wouldn’t it be cool to always be as kind, welcoming, and helpful today as our young biking friends on that day? May we be willing to not just lend a hand to those in need, but welcome them in our lives, even if it is for just a moment. May we throw excuses out the window and add a cherry on top by riding the extra mile with someone new.

The unknown author of Hebrews penned a powerful reminder for us to think about today in our daily steps of life:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

May your encounters with strangers today be blessed, fun, and have a sweet cherry on top.

Top 5 Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

 

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This will be our third Easter where we don’t shower our children with candy. Our dietary needs changed a few years ago and forced us to alter the way we celebrate holidays. We don’t stuff baskets full of jelly beans or foil wrapped chocolate eggs anymore. Now we get creative with gifts that provide experiences and moments of fun instead. I quickly learned memories of activities last longer than memories of eating any chocolate bunny ever will. Although the change was hard at first, it has proved to be more fun than ever.

Top 5 Non-Candy Easter Basket Gift Ideas

1. Kids Gardening Tools– Pick up some seeds at a discount store, add some dirt from your backyard, and make some gardening memories. It’s so fun to grow some vegetables the kids might want to try in a few months. We love to plant flowers and get excited to see them bloom.

2. Butterfly Habitat– Find a caterpillar crawling on a leaf outside or order some from the site on the box. This year we are ordering a container of 5 caterpillars. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be just as excited as the kids about this one.

3. Resurrection Eggs– These eggs come filled with things that help explain what Easter is all about. They take you and your kiddos through the Easter story and Ressurection. In other words, these are the best Easter eggs ever!

4. Let’s Go Fly a Kite– Get outside, find an open field with no power lines, and soak up some vitamin D. The cost of the kite doesn’t necessarily mean it is more fun. Some of our best kite flying memories were made with $2 kites from the discount store.

5. Easter Book– My kiddos love books. I love that they love books. No one covers a holiday in children’s books better than the Berenstain Bears. Here’s a great one to snag if you don’t already have it.

Despite what the world tells us, Easter is not about a bunny, candy, the perfect glazed ham, or pastel baskets full of plastic eggs sitting on fake grass. Easter is about Jesus. May we remember this truth as we celebrate and fill up fun baskets.

Photo Credit- http://www.unsplash.com- Annie Spratt

 

God is Faithful

While packing to move to a new home, I was in the attic sorting through old books. My hands brushed past an old Bible in a dusty brown box.  It was a version I don’t typically use.  It appeared untouched, unread, and unused. I quickly thumbed through the pages to see if it was marked in or was in good enough condition to donate to someone else. Suddenly a torn piece of scrap paper fell out with my late Mother’s handwriting.  It took my breath away.

I hadn’t seen her handwriting in years.  The piece of paper was something she had written to me years before she died, years before she became sick and her handwriting became shaky, and years before I ever knew I would treasure such a tiny slip of paper stuffed in an old Bible and long forgotten.  She had written my name, the verse and a short description of scripture verses with instructions that read: “Read these.”

Weeks later I had three of her handwritten words carefully replicated and inscribed on a wooden block.  It now serves as a reminder from my Mom, in her handwriting, on God’s faithfulness.

On that day, He was faithful enough to meet me in the attic of my old house.   I love reminders in scripture of God being faithful.  One that I’ve been thinking about lately is in Lamentations 3:22-23.  A rough today has nothing on what He will offer tomorrow morning.

He. Is. Faithful.

He is faithful to encourage a stressed out Mom in a hot attic packing up thirty-six years of stuff to haul to a new place.  He’s faithful to encourage her by using something special enough to make her stop in her tracks to hear and see the blessings He offers in times of need.

He is faithful to meet you where you are, wherever that is.

Whether you are having a great day or the worst day ever, hear this: GOD IS FAITHFUL. Each day.  Every day.  Great is His Faithfulness….especially each new morning.

 

 

More Than The Birds

I saw a small bird outside my window, and I took note on how it didn’t seem to have a care in the world. It reminded me of Matthew 6:26. I love how God provides and does so with the thought of the longings that are threaded in the lining of our hearts.

 

Lately, I’ve been seeing how God provides for people in ways that prove He knows the longings of their hearts. I saw it in a woman who told me she never thought she would be a grandmother within driving distance of her future grandchildren. Her husband’s job had taken them to another state, far away from their grown children. Just that week, she found out two of her children had taken jobs close to her new home. She told me, with tears in her eyes, she had long ago accepted she would never be close to them when her grandbabies would be born. God knew the longing of her heart.

 

I saw it as a friend started a new business made her first profit. She had been longing for a job, which would provide income, but also give her the ability to stay home more with her sweet little ones. Within a short time, everything fell into place. She is now able to work and be at home more with her children.

 

I saw it when a friend was laid off from his job of 12 years. He now is in a new opportunity providing him the challenge he longed for in a career.

 

I saw it when I noticed an empty cupboard in my new home. I’d always wanted space to put my grandmother’s china dishes, but never had it. It was something I would have never imagined to pray about because it seemed so minor, but yet it was a longing in my heart. It was provided for in our new home. My heart smiled as I placed her china on that shelf.

 

The God of the universe indeed keeps His eyes on the big picture of things in the world. He also keeps His eyes on a small bird, on a small branch, in a small tree. He’s monitoring wars, diseases, and a whole host of other horrible things. He’s healing, He’s saving, and He’s working miracles we can’t comprehend. And still…He’s making room for my grandmother’s china dishes.

 

What longing do you have in your heart today?

 

Do you long for more energy to keep up with your kiddos? You aren’t alone.

 

Are you longing for a solution to a problem you’ve accepted will never go away? You aren’t alone.

 

Are you longing for something big? Something small? You aren’t alone.

 

As we journey through this day, week, month, year, and life may we remember God says “No” when things are not of His will but He also says “Yes” at times too. God knows the longings of our hearts (Psalm 38:9). He sees (Psalm 33:13). He provides (Matthew 6:26).

 

Photo Credit: Vincent-Van-Zanligne -www.unsplash.com 

Dear Thief

Dear Thief,

I’m the person you ripped off, and I have a few things to say to you.

You stole my children’s preschool tuition check, but I’m sure you already know that. You saw whom the check was made out to. You no doubt saw their names in the memo explaining it was their tuition payment and read it also included a supply fee for the Spring semester. That money was meant for markers, paint, friendships, songs, and all kinds of learning and happy childhood memories. It was meant to pay teachers who have families and work hard each day. It was meant to keep my children safe while learning how to be kind to others. You stole it.

I’m not sure how you got the check. Somewhere between my bank printing it and it being delivered to their school, you managed to grab ahold of it. Not only that, you decided to take it to a bank and cash it for yourself. I don’t understand how you did it, but you did.

Maybe you used it to buy yourself new clothes or an expensive watch. Maybe you used it to feed an addiction. I’d like to think you used it to pay your overdue electric bill or to buy food for your own children who were in desperate need. The fact is, it doesn’t matter why you took it. My reaction to you is the same.

I forgive you.

I’ve already spent an immeasurable amount of time trying to clean the mess you’ve created. I’m not even close to being done. Your failure of a good choice really caused me a headache. You made me pretty angry. I’ve chosen to forgive you anyway.

You see, I happen to fail every day myself. And although stealing someone else’s money isn’t in my history, needing forgiveness each day is. I’m no different than you in value or in need of Grace. I’ve decided to extend Grace to you because Grace is extended to me each and every moment I’m in need, and it overwhelms my heart. I wish the same for you.

I’m not sure if the name you signed is your own or a fake mask you use to pull a con. I see through your signature on the back of my check. I know hurting people hurt people. I see you as the person in need that you are. I pray for you to have a life that brings joy to others and not sorrow. I pray for you to treat others the way you wish to be treated. Finally, I pray you will extend the same Grace I’ve given to you, to someone who hurts you in this crazy world.

Although we will most likely never meet face to face, our paths have indirectly crossed for a reason. May it be so you will be blessed by it and be a blessing to others because of it.

With all my heart, I wish you the best.

Sincerely,
Beth Brinkmeyer

 

Photo Credit- http://www.unsplash.com (Paul Garaizar)

The Full Garbage Can

There’s nothing like trying to shove down the urge of unleashing a record string of curse words out at the kitchen garbage can. Seriously. The garbage sees all from the kitchen. It knows all. It can hear the kids crying and demanding your everything. It purposely shoves and packs awkward shaped things in such a way you will never be able to pull the bag out with ease. It makes you have to not just work at it, but struggle. It makes you feel so worthless and weak, and you can’t even do the simplest tasks because the world is against you. Garbage cans of the world are known to plot against us, you know. They stink (literally), and they beckon children to throw valuable things in them. They not only love vial things of the world but actually welcome them. They fool you when you consider emptying them out. It’s not too full, come back later when you aren’t in a rush. No need to take precious time now to empty me. Then they pack stuff in so tight, it takes something short of a miracle to get the bag out. Their trickery and foulness know no boundaries. And just when you think they can’t sink any lower, they hold on to that garbage bag as you try to pull it out, and tempt you to say terrible things. The Proverbs 31 woman’s nemesis: The full garbage can.

 

What about the garbage we tote around you can’t see? Past hurts, old grudges, or battles that haven’t been settled? What about that kind those garbage cans? The ones that tend to make us feel weak and worthless. They can get pretty full too. Unfortunately, we tend to not empty those out until they are bursting at the seams as well. And if we let them get too full, they will cause us problems on the days we are already barely holding it together.

 

I love how the Lord is always there ready to carry our burdens, give us strength, and allow us to unload the junk from our baskets (Psalm 81:6). All we have to do is call out for His help.

 

There’s nothing like the feeling of an empty garbage can with a fresh, clean bag. It smells nice, it’s light, and knowing I don’t need to worry about the stuff in it stinking just feels good. The unseen garbage we stuff down is the same. If we don’t dump it out and wave goodbye to it, it rots and can overtake the things around it with its stench. If it’s not taken care of, it can tempt you into things you wouldn’t normally do.

 

What garbage do you need to unload today? May you run to the One who is willing to take it out for you and lessen the toll, the stench, and the strain it is taking on you.

 

 

 

Photo Credit - Allef Vinicius www.unsplash.com

The Race

I ran a marathon yesterday. It was super impressive considering I trained zero days for it. I was exhausted, but my feet didn’t hurt. My arm did, but that’s because a sweet 36-pound boy needed to be held for a good portion of it.

 

My marathon didn’t have me glistening in sweat or even moving my legs in a running motion unless you count running to the bathroom when called upon for help. I didn’t clock any miles to write in a log book, but I felt I had emotionally run something worthy of at least a ribbon. Or a Sticker. A cookie. Chocolate. Anything. It was a classic #mommymarathon day.

 

It was a rough day. It started before the sun was up and was a struggle all the way past bedtime. Midday, my youngest and I had a 20-minute standoff in a parking lot. He was adamant about not wanting to wear a seat belt. I was adamant he did. Since the law was on my side, we waited. And waited. Eventually, he gave in and the seatbelt clicked.

 

I felt that victory was dance worthy, but the day wasn’t over and the race wasn’t finished. I fantasized about how I would do my celebratory dance through the day’s ribbon when I finished. Unfortunately, after I rounded that corner, I found more bumps on the road to push through to get to the end of the day’s race.

 

Life is like that. Some days feel like a marathon. I love how the Lord’s love for us never ceases. I love that His mercies never come to an end. I love how each morning, upon awakening, new mercies are offered to us (Lamentations 3:22-23). It’s true even when we find ourselves waking up to another marathon in front of us. And for many, we are often in seasons where it’s hard to tell where one marathon ends and the next one begins.

 

If you find yourself weary, just a few days into this New Year, be encouraged. You aren’t alone in running a hard race. There are others running with you and cheering you on. It’s okay to dance midway to the finish line. It’s okay to celebrate each bump you conquer and each corner you round. It’s okay to lean on and look forward to His new mercies each day to get you through. For each step you take is not in vain. There is a purpose in each footprint you leave on the road and each place your foot will land ahead. And above all else, it’s okay to look around and enjoy the view of where you are. You will never be in the same place and time again. Look for beauty in it.

 

May you tighten the laces on those shoes, enjoy the moments for all they’re worth, and dance your way to the finish line today, tomorrow, and throughout this year.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

 

photo credit- Martins Zimlickis www.unsplash.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,

 

People hate you.

 

You were full of disappointments, loss, and a lot of negativity no one wanted. Sure, you tossed in a few high points that didn’t go unnoticed. Hearts were still left hurting, and many are celebrating your end has finally come.

 

I get it. I do. I actually don’t hate you. I feel for those who do though. I understand.

 

New Year’s Eve, 2010, I was one of the haters. That year (plus a few months) I had been stretched, tested, and felt a bit burned. My Grandfather died followed by my Grandmother a few months later. Planning two funerals of people so close to me was rough. My husband broke his foot while traveling overseas. My Father-in-law unexpectedly passed away while my husband was traveling in a third world country. We were heartbroken. We became pregnant with our first child, and then we tragically lost her in a miscarriage. I was crushed. My Mother-in-law had a heart attack soon after. Each day that passed, my Mother seemed to get sicker and sicker, but did not get answers on as to why. And right before Christmas, just when we thought we were about to get rid of you for good, our dog died. It felt as if you laughed in our faces as you took our four-legged Gracie. That New Year’s Eve, the only celebration we had was that you were over. As the clock neared midnight, my husband and I agreed we should list things we were thankful for and not launch the full on pity party we were feeling in our hearts. And so, like children being forced to say “Thank you,” we gave thanks we survived such a terrible year. We gave thanks for the things like a roof over our heads, cars that had gas, and for each other. Then we went to sleep and never saw you again.

 

I hated you back then. But as time passed, I learned to appreciate what I gained from you. You see, every tear that hit my pillow, and every scar etched on my heart was used. I was stretched. I was tested. I survived. Just as gold is refined through fire, I came out stronger than ever. I hated the things you threw at me, but serve a God that can turn the bad into something good. That’s the place where I found peace with you.

 

It’s okay for people to not like you, 2016. You don’t own them. You were only here to serve a purpose as they sojourn through. May they be strengthened by your stretching. May they be sharpened through your trials. May they be refined through your fire. May they give thanks even in the midst of not feeling thankful. May they find peace with the Greater Purpose the Lord has through it all.

 

Farewell, 2016. You will soon be gone, never forgotten, and always used for a greater purpose.

 

 

Photo Credit- Ian Schneider http://www.unsplash.com 

 

 

Build a Wall

I remember the first and last name of the salesman at Best Buy who sold my Dad our first ever CD player in the early 90’s. A man named, Clyde, installed new carpet in my childhood living room over 30 years ago. For some reason I can remember things like this, but I forget the one important item on the grocery list when I go to the store. And once, when we were buying a new car, we discovered I forgot to renew our auto insurance. This is how my mind works.

 

I happen to think random people are placed in our minds and hearts for a reason. I happen to think it may not be so random. I happen to think encounters aren’t coincidences. I happen to think the Lord might just orchestrate opportunities for us to be a light in a dark world; a world that cheapens encounters by camouflaging them as being meaningless. I happen to think prayer is powerful.

 

Years ago, I met someone who told about a wall in her home that was covered in pictures of random people. She spoke about how she would take pictures of people she encountered, post them on her wall, and pray for the people she met throughout the year. I’ve wanted to use her idea from the moment her words fell on my ears.

 

I’m not sure what happened to Jeff from Best Buy. I’m guessing he cut off the mullet, shaved the stash, and moved on to other things in life. I wonder if Clyde’s knees give him trouble these days from laboring as a carpet installer all those years ago. If I had a picture of them, you could bet I’d place them on a wall so I’d remember to pray for them.

 

Although it’s early, I’m going to jump the gun and make plans for a New Year’s resolution now. I’m going to start a picture wall. It’s going to be full of color, shapes, and beauty only the random can provide. It will be anything but meaningless.

 

Think I’m weird? You wouldn’t be the first. Think it’s cool? Join me. Build a wall. Pray. Make a difference in the life of the people you meet long after your paths go separate ways.

 

May your encounters with others mean something. May your wall be full of people who are in desperate need of prayer. May your eyes be open to those around you, and your heart be full from being used by Him.

 

 

Photo Credit- Redd Angelo http://www.unsplash.com 

 

 

Great Christmas Expectations

Years ago, I took my toddler and infant to see Santa. I expected a fairy tale memory and a frame worthy picture from it all. After waiting in a horrendously long line, it was finally our turn to walk up to the jolly old guy. I had one child hanging on my leg crying and the other on my hip refusing to be placed in the stroller. I had no free hands to push the stroller or hike my sliding purse back up to my forearm. It was a scene straight out of a zoo exhibit with other Moms practically watching the whole thing unfold with their noses pressed against the glass. None of them offered to help. As I was trying to push and steer the stroller with an elbow, someone finally came to my rescue on the long red carpet. Santa himself rose up, stepped down off his throne, walked toward me, and met me where I was. As he reached for the stroller, my purse fell, and all the contents scattered in opposite directions. A baby bottle went rolling to the right and lipstick went rolling to the left. Santa (Bless his heart) chased after them all and put my purse back together again. Awkward.

 

Thankfully, my sense of humor trumped embarrassment, and I chuckled past the other Mothers giving me judgmental looks. Clearly they were perfect, their children don’t always smell like mustard, and they have more than two hands to juggle life. Good for them. I would have happily refunded their zoo admission, but I wasn’t sure which pocket Santa had crammed my wallet into. Alas, we ended up with a mediocre Christmas picture with Santa and a lesson for me to set low expectations for the future years.

 

This week, our five year old informed us he wants a television for his bedroom for Christmas. Our three year old wants a bounce house. Neither is going to happen. I handed out tickets to the “Let’s set realistic expectations” show this week. The reviews were gasps and blank looks of shock. What? I want a 24-hour a day/365 days a year live-in maid for Christmas. That’s not happening either. I’ll get over it. So will they.

 

Christmas isn’t about gifts. It isn’t about pictures with a kind old man in a red suit with a white beard. It isn’t about the show we may be putting on for others to see. It’s about The King of Kings stepping down from His throne, coming our direction, and meeting us where we are. It’s about the Son of God coming to us as a baby in a manger. Why? So He could help us on our way. So He could pick up the pieces of our lives that get scattered in every direction. So He could rescue us in every way possible.

 

The Christmas party could be a disaster. Your Christmas casserole might go up in flames. Family dysfunction might just make you feel like you are in a zoo. Your Christmas wish list may get nothing checked off. Your picture perfect Christmas may come up short of your expectations. The things of this world will disappoint us. But when it comes to the Wonderful Counselor, All Mighty God, we can set our expectations high. He does not disappoint. Keep your focus on Him.

 

May your expectations of this season be realistic. May your expectations for Him be high. May you see Him at work today and throughout this Christmas season.

 

Photo Credit Chelsea Francis http://www.unsplash.com