Toilet Beauty

There’s a piece of handmade artwork on my toilet. My four year old placed it there after a stomach virus swept through the house. He said he did it so there would be something nice to look at when the next person leaned over the toilet while being sick. The idea was a bit unconventional, but I love to entertain an out-of-the-box thinker. Plus, I like art, so I allowed it. It’s presently scotch taped to the water tank in the master bath.

Beauty in the midst of darkness? Although rare, I’ve heard of this idea before. Yet again, I’m amazed at how a little one can grasp a concept most of us adults are still working on.

Is it really possible to find beauty in trials? Is there actually birth after every various kind of labor pain? Is it there even when we can’t see through the darkness to find the light? Yes.

I’ve learned a few things about this over the years during my own times of sickness, labors, and cloudy days. I held the hand of my mother while she took her last breath. I’ve carried a life inside me and mourned when that very life inside my womb was suddenly gone. I’ve trudged through muddy moments, rocky roads, and journeys I feared would only ever be uphill. And in the midst of it all, there was beauty threaded throughout each hard step I took. The beauty of Christ’s purpose for everything overcomes all.

Beauty can whisper its presence from a toilet tank. Beauty can shout its power from the top of the mountain you are hesitantly looking up at. It’s always there, you only have to choose to see it.

There is a purpose in everything God allows. Will you choose to see and acknowledge that beauty in your toughest challenges today? Will you be the one to initiate the good and scotch tape it up for all to see and enjoy? Will you be a part of bringing it up close and personal to someone else?

The world needs more artwork on the back of toilets. Even if it only lasts for a day. Even if it seems unconventional. Even if it screams beauty to just one person in their time of need. Let’s get the tape and get to work.

 

Photo by Logan Ripley on Unsplash

5 Love Languages of Children- Book Review

Years ago, when I was dating my husband, I read Gary Chapman “The 5 Love Languages.” Since we were talking about marriage at the time, I mentioned I would love for him to read the book as well before popping the big question. Some time passed, and the day came for the proposal. I opened my apartment door and was shocked to see him down on one knee with a ring in his hand. After shrills of excitement, hugs, and kisses, I finally let him in (and said yes). As he walked through the door, and in a drop the mic type move, he tossed a worn out copy of “The 5 Love Languages” book on the coffee table and said, “Done.” He read the book, I got a ring, and we immediately starting using what we learned. This only confirmed he was truly a keeper.

Fast forward a few years. God blessed us with two children, and as it turns out, they have love languages too. I just finished reading “The 5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. It did not disappoint. I’ve never met Mr. Chapman or Mr. Campbell in person, but if I did, I’d drop the worn out book on the table, tell him I’d read it all, and throw in a hug to show my gratitude.

In this book, Chapman and Campbell explain the 5 Love Languages of children and how parents should focus on “speaking” the child’s primary Love Language as well as the others. Those love languages are:

Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Receiving Gifts
Quality Time
Physical Touch

First, the book helps you discover your child’s primary love language and then gives you easy to follow guidance on how to speak that language to your child. With practical examples, the application is made easy. The reader is also given realistic things to say and do for all the age ranges of children. A bonus: there is even a “mystery game” with easy questions to ask your child to help you identify their primary love language. I did this with both my children and they thought it was super fun.

Before I turned the first page in the book, I knew my children’s primary love language. I mean, I AM their mother, and I’ve already read a love language book. I was wrong. Their primary love language was not what I had thought when casually considering it. It took reading about children specifically in each language, soaking in the examples given, and taking the quiz at the end to make it clear.

The real proof is when it was tried in our own home. After a tough day with one of our sweet boys, we spent the evening speaking his primary love language.  Everything changed.  We ended the night on a more positive note than I expected at midday.  All we had to do was speak the right language.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this
review. I’m giving “The Five Love Languages of Children” two thumbs up and highly recommend it to Moms and Dads with children of all ages. Want to speak your child’s language?  Check out the book.

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

I bought a sign a Hobby Lobby that says, “If you feed them, they will come.” I hung it in my kitchen right away. Because I have boys. And they’re always hungry. If I want them to come on the first call, food has to be involved. Breakfast ready? They come running. Lunch being served? They sprint. Who wants a snack? They push each other out of the way to get there. Wash your hands for dinner? It’s a stampede to the table. I’m also not above using food as bribery. Hey, it works. If I feed them, they will come….Running.

 

The Fishes and Loaves story we read about in the Bible (John 6:1-14) has several gold nuggets of wisdom. One is that Jesus fed the people who came to Him. After all, He was a dude. He was no stranger to the comfort of a full belly. He knew hungry people needed to eat. Sure, no man can live on bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3), but I’m guessing He also knew they would listen more intently if their tummies weren’t growling. Do you think Maslow invented the hierarchy of needs? Let’s just say, he wasn’t the first to know the importance of basic needs being met. Jesus wanted to prove God’s willingness to not only provide but supply more than what was needed. Remember the basket of leftover fish and bread after the thousands of people were stuffed full? Yeah, me too. It’s my favorite part.

 

Once I was smack dab in the middle of a modern day Fishes and Loaves story in a small village in Africa. We weren’t handing out fish and bread, we were handing out shoes to children who wandered their way through the fields to us. There weren’t enough shoes for all the barefoot children who had formed a line. I knew because I was the one who had counted and packed the boxes of shoes. I could easily do the math by looking at the children in line. I was overwhelmed at the thought of turning away so many without shoes. Suddenly, I realized the last child walked away with shoes in hand. Everyone received shoes. Everyone. And just in true Fishes and Loaves form, there were two extra pairs of shoes left in the box. They happened to be the exact sizes of the two adult volunteers helping us that day.

Mind Blown.

 

God still does big time, jaw-dropping, wouldn’t- believe-it-if-you-weren’t-there-miracles today. God still knows our basic needs matter in the grand scheme of our struggles in life. God still provides more than we need by giving us extra. He knows we can’t live on bread alone, but also knows how to feed us in every way possible.

 

If you are in need of a miracle today, be encouraged! He is still in the miracle business. He never stopped. If you run to Him, He will feed you. Will you go? Will you walk or run when He calls? Listen closely. He is calling.

 

 

 

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