4 Ways to Pour from An Empty Vessel

4 Ways to Pour from An Empty Vessel

Everywhere I look these days, I see people promoting this thing called self care.  And I don't disagree that taking care of our bodies - which comprise the temple of the Holy Spirit, after all! - is a bad thing.

But we're also commanded to be selfless, to put others first, and to be giving.  So, while I think that self care (or temple maintenance, as I prefer to view it) can be a good thing if not overdone, there are going to be times when we have nothing left of ourselves to give, and yet giving of ourselves is exactly what we need to do. 

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The Hallway Playlist

The Hallway Playlist

Do you love listening to music?  Even though I'm a musician by training, I actually don't listen to a lot of music.  It's not that I don't love it, and it's not that I don't have enough access to CDs or Youtube.  I think it's just that in the business of this season of raising spark plugs, I just don't usually think about turning it on.

However, there have been a few songs that have really ministered to me, especially during seasons of struggles (or hallways, as I like to refer to them).  Today, I'm sharing a few of my favorites and why these specific ones have impacted me. 

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3 Things to Consider When You Feel Like A Lousy Christian

3 Things to Consider When You Feel Like A Lousy Christian

I was truly looking forward to Easter.  Jon and I planned to send out newsletters to our various email lists.  We planned to attend our church's sunrise service.  We envisioned a detailed Passover lunch just like we've done the past several years.  I thought it would be fun to take beautiful family photos.

But life happened.  Jon, Wing Man, and I were still battling headcolds we'd contracted the week before.  The warmer weather brought with it my annual headaches that I suffer from every Spring.  There were no newsletters, photos, egg hunts, or special church services. 

In fact, I felt like a pretty lousy Christian for not being able to better celebrate the Risen Savior.

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4 Things to be Thankful For this Christmas

4 Things to be Thankful For this Christmas

I love the Christmas season.  The colors, the smells, the excitement - it's all wonderful to me.  And as a believer who understands the true importance of Christmas - Christ's incarnation - this time of year is definitely my favorite.  I'm reminded of all that we have to be thankful for, of all that Christ has done for us.

Sometimes, though, the holidays can be difficult.  The pain of a lost loved one can be exacerbated during the holidays.  The frustrations of financial difficulties are only augmented in the face of Christmas.  And illness or depression don't suddenly disappear or get better simply because everyone else is festive. 

No matter what your current season in life - visible blessings or constant struggle - there are at least four things we can all be grateful for this Christmas.

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How to Start A Coffee Tradition with your Struggling Son

Jon and I used to watch Locked Up Abroad, a documentary on Westerners who have been incarcerated in another country.  (I don't necessarily recommend the show; I seem to remember some pretty gruesome details at times.)  Most of the stories were about men who had decided to do drug runs once or twice to earn extra income and who had been caught in the process.  Without fail, what they all regretted most was having hurt their mothers by their poor choices.

And it made me realize something important:  we as mothers have a profound influence over their children, even when we don't feel like we do. 

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3 Ways to Pray When Your Mama Heart Hurts

"When Your Mama Heart Hurts" was one of the most-loved posts on the blog last year.  And you know what?  It was one of my favorites to write, too, because it's something that's often on my heart.

From physical infirmity to spiritual struggle, there's no shortage of heartache that we as parents go through as we watch our children suffer.  That's simply life in our broken, fallen state.

But for the believing parent, there is always hope.  And I've come to realize that there are three very specific ways we can pray when our mama hearts hurt.

 

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On Whole30, Celiac Disease, and the Bread of Life

I'm currently in the middle of my first-ever so-called Whole30.  I don't have anything against grains, legumes, dairy, or sugar - I love a giant cookie as much as anyone else - but I decided to try this month-long eating plan for a few reasons.  For starters, I have some small health concerns that I'd love to reverse naturally.  More importantly, Whole30 is similar to the diet and lifestyle that we've found best suits Turbo's diabetes and Celiac Disease needs, and I think he really needed someone to journey with him on his food adventures.  Plus, I had some support since a few of my extended family members had recently done it themselves.

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Do You Have A Heart Murmur?

Obedience.

This word isn't all that popular today, not even in many Christian circles.  Obedience often (always?) requires sacrifice.  And sacrifice is uncomfortable.

Last weekend, Arabah Joy's weekly newsletter landed in my inbox as it normally does each Sunday afternoon.  Now, I've long enjoyed her challenges to seek a deeper walk with Christ, and I eagerly look forward to reading what she has to share.  But this weekend's email hit me like a ton of bricks.

"What do you need to stop doing in order to start growing in your faith?" she challenged us.

And I knew immediately what my "stop doing" list needed to entail:

Social media.

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Is God Faithful When Life is Bleakest?

Do you ever stand in amazement at God's provision?  I certainly do.  Three years ago, family and friends put together a fundraiser for Turbo's much-needed insulin pump.  No one who participated had any expectations about how much they would be able to raise for us - they simply wanted to donate to our need.  The fundraiser ended up covering the entire cost of his pump plus supplies for over 2 years.  Friends, I can't even begin to express what this did for my faith.  I can only say that God is faithful.  So faithful.

When my friend Julie from Tokyo Blossom Boutique experienced her own medical trial and got to experience God's faithfulness first-hand in her own life, I asked if she'd be willing to share her story with us here on the blog.  She willingly agreed, and I am so honored to be able to let you read her story today!  It echoes so much of what I've personally been through, and I know her story of God's faithfulness will inspire your faith, too.

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The Reader Survey Results Are In!

The reader survey results are in If I'm honest, I was a little nervous to create and send out a reader survey.  I mean, what would happen if no one responded?  I promised to share the results.  It sure wouldn't be amazing to say, "uh, well, I can't give you exact statistics..."  But because I'd heard about how valuable a tool a reader survey can be, I took a leap, posted the survey, and asked my readers to fill it out.

And guess what?  My readers are the best You were eager to answer my questions and give me feedback.  While I was pretty sure I knew how some of the questions would be answered, there were some good surprises for me as well.

For example, you all are, on average, a little older than I would have guessed.  That really makes sense, though, since the longer we live the higher the likelihood that we'll experience some hardship along the way.  (That also makes me a bit nervous, too, since I greatly look up to those who have more life experience than I do!)

So, here are the results from the 2016 Hallway Initiative Reader Survey!  I'm a total numbers nerd, so this stuff totally made me smile.  (Note:  many of the questions could have more than one response, so if you see percentages that tally more than 100%, it's because some readers chose to put down more than one response.  I just didn't want anyone to be confused!)

What is your preferred faith?

Not surprisingly, 100% of the survey participants are Christians.

What is your age group?

This is where I was a little off in my guessing.  Just 27% are in my age group (18-34, though in January I'll bump up into the next age bracket).  36% are between the ages of 35 and 49, and 18% are 50 or over.  I never really expected ladies older than me would want to read my posts, and I'm so honored that you do!

What is your marital status?

90% are married, and 10% are single.

How many children do you have?

36% of readers have between 1 and 3 kids; 54% have 4 or more.

If you have kids, do you homeschool?

54% of those with children homeschool; 27% do not; and 18% either do not have kids or have grown children.

What kind of hardships have you faced?

This was one of the most helpful questions on the survey.  36% of you mentioned financial hardship; 27% have struggled with job loss; 36% are dealing with illness; 27% are or have been battling depression; 18% have struggled through the loss of a close family member or friend; and 27% mentioned other hardships such as special needs children, struggle with sin, or loss of a relationship.

Ladies, my heart goes out to you all.  Not all of my own struggles have been identical to yours, but I can relate to the brokenness of this world, to pain and hardship, and the stress that comes along with our Earthly trials.

Reading through your answers has reminded me over and over again how much we need a Savior and what great hope Heaven offers us!  Even if it isn't going to be okay here in this life, Eternity spent with Christ will wipe away all of our tears.

Along those lines, I am always eager to have guest posters on the blog share what the Lord is teaching you through your hallways.  If any of you would like to write a post for me (and you don't have to have a blog of your own to do so, or even be good at writing!), don't hesitate to let me know.  You can fill out the contact form here on the blog, or you can email me at julie (at) hallwayinitiative (dot) com!

What are your two favorite types of posts on the Hallway Initiative?

The responses to this question were super helpful for me as I plan out my blogging year for 2017!  A full 72% of you favor my faith and encouragement posts (this is great news, since that's the heartbeat of the hallway!); 36% enjoy posts about family; and healthy living, homeschooling, and homemaking posts all came in about equal, at around 25%, with homemaking's percentage being just slightly lower than homeschooling and healthy living.

I've been contemplating not writing much more about homemaking, not because I don't enjoy the topic, but because there are many other, more skilled bloggers who cover the topics much better.  About all I can do is offer sympathy to those of you who struggle with it as much as I do!

What type of information or promotions would you like to see on the Hallway Initiative?

Again, the vast majority would like info and promos on faith and encouragement.  I've been wanting to do a giveaway on the blog, so I'll look for something in this area (I might need to ask my other faith blogger friends what they recommend!).  And again, healthy living, homemaking, and homeschooling all came in about tied for second interests, with blogging info a distant third.

With this information in mind, I won't hesitate to let you all know about info and deals that I find in each of these areas.  Just know that if I recommend something that either doesn't fit your interest or your budget, it won't bother me at all!  There is a wealth of information available today.  The problem anymore isn't lack of information; it's information overload.  I won't constantly send things your way, but if I think something is truly worth noting, I'll be sure to mention it!

What is your single favorite post from the blog?

Here is a partial list:

What 1 thing would you like to see added to/changed/improved on The Hallway Initiative blog?

Some of the suggestions:  better social media interaction, better images, a day-in-the-life type post

Oh, yes, social media and image creation, my nemesis and Achilles heel!  But those suggestions are right on target.  I definitely need to improve on those, and both are in my list of goals for 2017.  I don't think I'll get better over night, but I hope that, with some effort, I will get better.  And as I've always enjoyed day-in-the-life posts from other bloggers, I might get brave and try one.

I am so, so glad I took a risk and made the survey.  It was extremely helpful.  I am so thankful that you all were willing to give me your thoughts!

The reader survey results are in

Day 17: Know Your Enemy

Day 17: know your enemy

Note:  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here.

It's Day 17 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

When Turbo was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the hospital staff gave us some excellent advice:  "Don't Google anything right now.  There will be time for that later.  For now, just let the doctors explain."  And you know what?  That advice was perfect.  The internet is FULL of conflicting information, opinions, and even evidence.  Having just one set of doctors at the hospital to listen to helped cut out all of the controversy.

When we knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes other than that our spark plug had just been diagnosed with it, we felt completely helpless.  It was only after talking with the doctors, being trained by the nursing staff, and pouring over the literature the hospital provided that we began to find a foothold to stand on.

And once we were out of the hospital and had adjusted a little bit to our new "normal," we were able to do more in-depth study.  Although the hospital didn't recommend any change in diet, we read about other diabetics that were having better blood sugar control with a healthy lifestyle.  While that information would have been absolutely overwhelming at diagnosis, we were now able to properly digest it.

So, today's assignment, if you're ready for it, is to know your enemy.

For example, if you're going through a financial squeeze, start researching money-saving ideas.  My personal favorites are Money Saving Mom, Living Well Spending Less, The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and The Total Money Makeover (purchasing used copies or finding them at your local library are great ways to save on the cost).

If you've been diagnosed with something, learn about it from doctors you trust.  I highly recommend also researching for holistic or natural remedies to help combat it, but be wise with this information.  (We've had people tell us not to give Turbo his insulin and just to use natural remedies to treat his blood sugar.  While some Type 2 diabetics have been able to manage their disease through diet and lifestyle alone, a Type 1 cannot.  We use diet and lifestyle to help him in other ways.)  The Truth About Cancer, though very controversial and far from mainstream, is eye opening (but please use caution with this, as always - there are some things they teach that concern me).

If you're struggling in your marriage, seek out Godly, wise counsel.  Talk with couples who have made it through a rough patch.  Read Scripture.  Two of my favorite books on marriage are You & Me Forever and Feminine Appeal.  I know there are many others that offer sound, Biblical advice on marriage, too.

Even if it might seem easier to bury your head in the sand, facing your trial head-on and being armed with knowledge can go a long way toward helping you get through it.  Your trial might be pretty scary, and the facts about it might be difficult to take at first.  But there's nothing worse than not knowing.  When you know your enemy, you'll be better able to confront it.

Today's action steps:  Determine what your current hallway is - financial, relational, spiritual, etc.  Begin looking for Biblical information on your hallway that will help you understand it better.  Don't obsess, but do try to spend a few minutes each day learning more about your situation so that you are as prepared as possible and can know your enemy.

Day 17: know your enemy

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Has Healthy Living Become Your Savior?

Has healthy living become your savior?

Note:  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here.

When Turbo first got sick, it was only natural that I started researching healthy living in the hopes that it would heal him.  We were told over and over that Type 1 Diabetes is incurable, but I thought surely there were ways we could help him manage his disease in addition to his injected insulin!

I'm not actually sure what it was I hoped to find when I started looking into natural remedies.  I read incredible stories of people being miraculously healed from all manner of illness that people attributed to this diet or that essential oil.  And I desperately longed for the same for Turbo.

I honestly love the concepts behind healthy living and natural remedies (though I'm just as grateful for Western Medicine, too - it saved Turbo's life).  The minute we start putting our faith into healthy living instead of the One who gives us life, however, we give it too much credence, and we begin to look to it to save us.

Trying to live as healthfully as possible is a great ambition.  Especially when we remember that we are God's temples and should treat our bodies with great care and respect (see 1 Corinthians 6:19), it only makes sense that we should pursue natural options whenever possible.  I fully embrace the desire to use natural remedies and encourage others to embark on a journey toward a healthy lifestyle.

But we can't forget that God is the ultimate healer.  He may choose to work through natural remedies; He may choose to work through pharmaceuticals; or - as difficult as this may be - He may choose not to heal.  We need to be prepared to accept whatever it is that the Lord has for us.

So, I would encourage you:  yes, pursue a lifetime of healthy living.  Study it; research it; learn about it.  But don't put your faith in a type of lifestyle over your faith in the Lord.  Only He can save, both physically and spiritually.

Related:  Food Is Not Your God

Linking up at Faith 'N Friends, Grace and Truth, and Sitting Among Friends.

Has healthy living become your savior?

 

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What Will You Do with Your Mites?

copy-of-jv10 I've always been fascinated by the unnamed woman in Luke 21 who put two mites into the offering.  Jesus tells us that in doing so, she gave all she had to the Lord.  She kept nothing back.

What fascinates me most about her - beyond the fact that she would willingly give her life's savings to God - is the fact that she didn't consider the meager amount as being too small to be used by God.  I'm sure she had no idea that her Savior was watching or that her story would be told in God's Word for thousands of generations to come.  She simply obeyed in faith.

Last week, my blogging friend Jen shared that her family is facing serious medical trials which are resulting in a financial need.  When she asked if I would be willing to donate anything to an online fundraiser, I truly wanted to help - especially since our own family and friends had put together a fundraiser to purchase Turbo's insulin pump a couple of years ago.

As I thought about what I had to offer, though, my excitement waned.  I didn't really have much.  I've only written one ebook, and it's not very long.  Although I put my best effort into it, it seemed as if it were too small to be used by God.  And so I hesitated.

In other words, I did the exact opposite of the widow with her two mites!

Thankfully, the Lord can work around our shortcomings and hesitancy.  Another blogger with more capabilities than I have suggested that we all contribute to an ebook bundle to offer for the fundraiser.  She put everything together, and now several of us can contribute more collectively than we ever would have been able to on our own!  (Isn't that how the Body of Christ is supposed to work?)

Each of us is given different gifts, abilities, and talents.  There are no two of us alike in capabilities.  It's easy to convince ourselves that we don't have anything of value to offer or that because we're not as gifted as someone else, we can't contribute to a need.  This is what I did when my friend first asked me about helping her family.

But God is greater than our limitations and isn't held back by what we can't do.  Just as He worked it out for me to help my friend in a way that I never would have thought of on my own, He can use your abilities for His glory, too.

I did pray and ask the Lord to show me how I could help, but I didn't pray in faith.  I didn't really expect Him to open up an opportunity, yet that's just what He did.  Next time I want to serve someone, my goal is to pray in faith that God will make it possible.

Do you struggle to believe that the Lord can use you?  Do you hesitate to offer help simply because you're unsure of what you can offer?  We can ask the Lord to use our mites just as He used the widow's.  As my friend loves to say, "we serve a loaves and fishes God."  He can take the smallest offering and enlarge it to God-sized proportions. 

What an amazing God we serve!

Related:  If you have means and feel so led, here is a link to my friend Jen's fundraiser.  (All proceeds go directly to the family's medical needs.)  You can click through to learn more about her son's medical needs.  Although this fundraiser is for a different son, one of her children also has Type 1 Diabetes, which, of course, is very dear to my heart!  Please keep this precious family in your prayers, that God would grow their faith as a result of their trials, and that they would fully lean on Him.

What will you do with your mites?

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When Your Mama Heart Hurts

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Three weeks ago at his endocrine appointment, I had to sit and watch as two nurses spent an agonizing 7 minutes trying to insert a blood-draw needle into Turbo's vein.  It was awful.  They took turns twisting, pinching, poking, and prodding, and all I could do was wait until they finally were able to obtain the needed blood samples.

It wasn't that they were bad at their jobs; sometimes, pediatric veins just don't cooperate right away.  I understand that.  Even so, it was almost unbearable for me to watch.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like to be him.

Watching your child go through a hallway of his own brings pain unparalleled by anything else (well, watching your spouse hurt is pretty gut-wrenching, too).  You want nothing more than to ease his pain, to take his pain yourself, to do anything to help.  And often, there's nothing that we as mothers can physically do.

What to do when your mama heart hurts

Even when we can't intervene physically when our children are going through a hardship, there's a lot spiritually that we can do.

Pray for and with your child

We can always pray, no matter what the situation.  When your child is sick or hurting, pray for him.  Pray with him.  And ask other believers to join you in prayer.

When Turbo was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we desperately needed prayer.  I'm not the biggest fan of social media, but I do know it can be used for good.  Even though I dislike making big announcements on Facebook without telling close family and friends something in person first, I knew I just needed people to start praying.  So, I left a status update, briefly explaining his diagnosis, and asked for prayer.

Within seconds, people started flooding my page with support, Scripture references, and notes letting me know that they were praying.  I felt a weight lifted.

Encourage your child with Scripture

Once Turbo was home from the hospital, I shared with him Psalm 39:14 - "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well."

I wanted Turbo to know that God makes no mistakes.  He still made Turbo just as He wanted even though Turbo's pancreas no longer functions the way God originally designed it to.

Scripture is an excellent source of encouragement for believers.  Even if your child is young, reading God's Word to him can be incredibly uplifting.  Our little ones need to find hope in God, too.  Scripture isn't just for adults.

Use the opportunity to share the Gospel

Can you use your child's hardship as an opportunity to either share the Gospel with him or remind him of the glories of Heaven?  Not all trials will naturally lend themselves to this kind of discussion, but many of them will.  Why not take the opportunity?

One of my little ones hasn't handled my grandpa's death very well.  Honestly, I still struggle with missing him, too.  It's opened up room for conversations about salvation, Heaven, and what the Bible teaches us about life after death.  Losing a loved one is always difficult, but it can bring about good things, too, if we look for them.

Remember that God gives grace to your child, just as He gives grace to you

One of the awful side effects of diabetes is frequent nausea.  I have an extreme phobia of all upset-stomach-related issues, so when I see my kiddo suffering from what is absolutely deplorable to me, it's really, really hard for me to watch him suffer through it.

Scripture isn't for adults only, and thankfully, neither is God's grace.  Just as God gives me grace to endure through difficulties, He gives the same needed grace to my little ones.  Turbo handles almost all of his medical issues like a champ.  That's the Lord's grace at work, and God can do the same for your child, too.

Be thankful that mercies are new every morning

I'm beyond grateful that the Lord gives us new mercy each and every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  When we've had a bad day due to illness or hardship, it's such an encouragement to think that God is giving us new mercy.  I've had to cling to that promise over and over again, and He has always come through with just what I've needed for the day.

We can remind our children that His mercy is new every morning, too.  Together, we can have hope that the Lord will give us renewed hope, encouragement, and energyto face whatever the coming day will bring.  We are never without the Lord's care and protection.

Watching one our children hurt is one of the hardest things we have to face as parents.  When your mama heart hurts for your son or daughter, you may not be able to offer physical comfort.  But you can pray for your child, encourage him with Scripture, share the Gospel, cling to God's grace, and thank the Lord for His daily mercies.

Your turn:  What do you do when your mama heart hurts?

Note:  this post is the first in a series called "When Your Mama Heart Hurts."  You can find the other posts in the series here:

When your mama heart hurts
When your mama heart hurts

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Does God Carry Your Suitcase?

Does God carry your suitcase? "Father, what is sex sin?" asked Corrie Ten Boom on the train one afternoon, having heard the word in a poem at school.

Instead of answering, Father handed Corrie his suitcase.  "Corrie, can you carry my suitcase for me?" He questioned.

Try as she might, little Corrie couldn't lift the heavy travel bag.  "I'm not big enough yet, Father," she admitted reluctantly.

"So it is with sex sin, Corrie.  There are some things that are too heavy for a child to carry.  For now, you must trust me to carry certain things for you, and when you are able to handle them, I will tell you about them."

Years later, after having been arrested for assisting Jews during WWII, Corrie and her father were imprisoned.  Although Corrie lived through her internment, her father died from illness after just 10 short days.  Unable at first to understand why God allowed him to die, Corrie finally decided that the Lord's reasoning was too much for her to grasp right then.  She made the choice to let God carry this "suitcase" for her.

What in your life right now is too heavy for you?  Are you leaving it in the Lord's hands, or are you constantly struggling with the weight of it yourself?  I'm definitely of the "suitcase-carrying" kind of person.  I worry and stew about things I have no control over, as if somehow my fretting is going to change the situation for the better.

Does God carry your suitcase?

I have a list of suitcases I attempt to carry:  Jon's CSF leak; Turbo's diabetes; family finances; the spark plugs' health.  I've convinced myself that worrying about these and other issues means I care more deeply about my family than I would if I weren't unduly concerned.  But if I'm honest here, carrying my own troubles is nothing more than sin, selfishness, and a lack of faith.  Calling sin by its name doesn't really leave much room for pretending that it's something else, does it?

If you're struggling with something in life, be it family issues, money woes, poor health, or lack of faith, there are three questions you should ask yourself:

  • Why are you struggling with this?
  • What is causing you to resist leaving it in God's capable hands?
  • What can you do today to start leaving it with Him?

I don't ask myself these questions very often, but I need to start doing it regularly.  When I'm faithful to consider them, the answers are convicting.

  • I struggle with things because I am a naturally-gifted worrier.  Fretting comes easily to me; I don't have to work at it, and yet it's an area where, sadly, I excel.
  • Lack of trust in God's promises and faithfulness and my own selfish pride cause me to hang onto things when I should leave them fully with God.
  • If I truly want to stop carrying my suitcases, I can pray, read Scripture, and ask others to keep me accountable.

Your answers may look similar to mine, or they may be completely different.  My hope is that taking the time to consider your own answers will challenge you to release your "suitcase" into the Lord's capable hands.  He'll hold it until you're ready to handle it, whether that's sometime in the coming days or not until you reach Heaven.

For many months following her arrest, Corrie had to be content knowing that the Lord would carry the suitcase of her father's death.  But as the war dragged on and the concentration camp grew more and more brutal, Corrie at last understood why God had taken her father Home.  Dying from illness had spared him from the beatings, humiliation, starvation, and shootings that took place in the men's quarters.  The Lord in His goodness had been merciful.

What about you?  Are you able to leave your worries, cares, and concerns with the Lord even if He chooses not to reveal His reasoning?  Although my heart wants to do this, my flesh is still weak.  I am constantly fighting the urge to take back my worries.  I have a feeling that this will be a life-long battle for me, but as my faith continues to grow, I hope that I will grab the suitcase handle less and less frequently.

I don't need to know all of God's reasons; I just need to trust that He will safeguard that information until it's time for Him to reveal them.

Does God carry your suitcase?

 

 

 

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What Do Ants Have to Do With Essential Oils?

What do ants have to do with essential oils?

Note:  The Hallway Initiative uses affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy here.

As wonderful as my new house is, there is one drawback:  a colony of grease ants has taken up residence.  Frustrated at having to clean up a mountain of ants again, I Googled how to naturally get rid of the tiny pests.  A post from Mommypotamus recommended Clove essential oil.  Elated that I actually had clove oil, I quickly dabbed some onto a cotton ball and pressed the concoction into the window crevice where the ants were gaining entrance.

Within minutes, the constant stream of critters slowed to a trickle, and by the next morning, no trace of them could be found...at the window, anyway.  The little terrors had discovered a new inlet in the dining room, so I repeated the process with the same results.

I was thrilled - not just about getting rid of some of the ant infestation, but because an essential oil remedy had actually worked.

Many friends and family members have recommended essential oils (EOs) to me over the years.  They've given me tips, advice, and recipes for using them, and although I've tried several of the suggestions, I havn't really seen an improvement in our health.  That doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't improvement, but it if there was, it wasn't tangible.

I was kind of frustrated.  I kept hearing glowing reports of how essential oils healed this malady or that virus, and as much as I love the various EO scents, I couldn't really see their benefits.

Until the ant incident, that is.

Chasing away the ants with clove oil was the first time I thought, "wow, maybe these essential oils really do work for some things!"

One thing I was especially excited about was the fact that I hadn't had to use any kind of bug spray on the ants.  At the same time, though, clove essential oil is extremely potent in its own right.  Just because something is natural does not automatically mean it is safe.  And truthfully, some of the recommendations I've been given about essential oils, such as putting a few drops into my water bottle or applying them undiluted to my skin, aren't safe practices (essential oils don't dilute in water and many of them are too strong to apply without what's known as a carrier oil).

Since many of my readers are avid essential oil users and others want to learn more about natural health and wellness, I wanted to give a quick heads-up about a new Ultimate Bundle available today through Monday, June 27th:  The Herbs and Essential Oils Super Bundle.  I love that much of this bundle will be focused on safe natural remedy practices.  Instead of writing about the bundle's contents and benefits, though, I'll let this video here do a much better job for me!

But I also have a confession to make:  I'm not planning to buy the bundle.  It isn't that I don't want to learn more about natural health; I do!  It isn't because I'm concerned about a lack of quality; Ultimate Bundles have always exceeded my expectations.  And it isn't because I don't think we'd benefit from it; I'm confident we would.  It's just that I have so many ebooks and ecourses (not all on natural health) sitting in my queue that I don't want to add even more to my list right now.  I'm trying to be a good steward not only of my finances but also of my time.

Because of my success in getting rid of ants with essential oils, I do plan to use EOs more consistently and in a wider variety of ways.  I will probably revisit the EO class from Vintage Remedies that I took a couple of years ago.  And I hope to complete enough of my current courses and ebooks that I'll have time to buy next year's Essential Oil Ultimate Bundle, assuming there will be one!

Your turn:  Are you interested in natural health?  Have you found natural remedies to be a benefit to your family?  If so, share in the comments some of your favorite natural health tips and resources!

What do ants have to do with essential oils?

 

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When It Isn't Going to Be Okay

When It Isn't Going to be Okay

"Turbo has Type 1 Diabetes."

Those words, spoken to me three years ago today by an Urgent Care doctor, were some of the hardest I've ever had to swallow.

I didn't know anything about diabetes.  I didn't fully understand the impact of the doctor's words.  I was overwhelmed.

"He's going to be taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital.  But he's going to be okay."

Maybe you've received devastating news, too.  Maybe you got a phone call.  Perhaps you received a letter or email.

And maybe for you, it isn't going to be okay, at least not this side of Heaven.

A friend's little boy was diagnosed with a genetic disorder so rare it doesn't even have a name yet.  Another friend's infant has a suppressed immune system that will likely give out on him completely at some point.  Cancer recently took the lives of two friends, and others are still in the middle of their cancer battles.

Sometimes, things aren't going to be okay.

What then?  How does one cope when there is no reassuring doctor there to comfort you with the words, "It's going to be okay," like I had that day at Urgent Care three years ago?

That's the beauty of the Gospel.  No matter how difficult things are here on Earth, for the believer, there is the hope of Heaven.  Even if we lose all we hold dear here on Earth - our health, our loved ones, our homes, our own lives - Heaven will meet us and Eternity with Christ will wipe away all of our tears (see Isaiah 25:8).

One of my favorite books in the Bible is, oddly enough, Revelation.  Although it is full of end-time descriptions that don't always make sense yet, the overarching theme of God's ultimate mercy despite intense suffering is clear.  If it's been a while since you last read through it (or if you've never read it before), I would highly encourage you to do so.  Grab a pen, and as you read, write down all the references to God's salvation, mercy, grace, and final triumph over evil.  Then choose two or three of your very favorites to memorize and meditate on while you're in the middle of your struggle.

My favorite verse from Revelation is in chapter 12, verse 6.  It reads, "Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (emphasis added).  I've been through some very difficult circumstances, but in each of them, I definitely see that God perfectly prepared me for each of them by providing a place of provision.

The book of Revelation clearly states that times of hardship and anguish are coming.  But more importantly, it is a beautiful reminder that the Lord will triumph over evil; He will bind Satan forever; and we will spend all Eternity with Him free from sin, sadness, and death.

When you get news you never wanted to hear, when you receive a diagnosis you never anticipated, when it isn't going to be okay, put your trust in the Only One who is trustworthy.  Find hope in the fact that the Lord will prevail once and for all.  Rest in the peace of knowing that even though it's not okay now, someday, it will be.

What greater hope is there than spending Forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father?

When It Isn't Going to be Okay

New! Free Ebook: Hope for the Hallway

NEW! Free ebook: Hope for the Hallway Do you have a bucket list? I didn't think I did, but last night I realized I do.  A few items on my "to-do" list include:

  • Writing a book (and becoming a published author)
  • Writing a companion guide for my spark plugs' math curriculum (the Life of Fred series is great but seems to be missing a few things)
  • Running a half marathon (a full marathon just seems like too much of a time commitment right now)
  • Traveling outside the United States (my top places to visit include Port Isaac and Ireland)

Well, I'm SUPER excited today, because last night, I finished writing my very first ebook:  Hope for the Hallway!  At just 16 pages (including the title page and table of contents), it's nothing earth-shattering, but I was over the moon at its completion.  And, as a big thank-you to everyone who reads my blog, I'd love to give you a copy of my new book!

Simply sign up using either the "subscribe" bar at the top, the side bar "subscribe" option, or the super-annoying popup that appears shortly after you open my blog page (I've set the parameters so that it'll only show up once a month, so if you've already clicked it closed, just use one of the other options).  Once you've subscribed, I'll automatically send you a welcome email with a pretty pink button at the bottom where you can download Hope for the Hallway.

How cool is that?  (Sorry, I'm still very new to all of this blogging technology, and the fact that I can upload a digital book to my blog, and then attach that book to an email so that my readers can download it, is pretty amazing to me.)

Thank you for being a loyal reader!

Your turn:  If you have a bucket list, what are some of the items on it?  What have you already accomplished?  If you don't have a bucket list, have you ever considered creating one?  Why or why not?

The Luke 2:52 Project

NEW! Free ebook: Hope for the Hallway

 

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When It's Obvious that God's At Work

JV(23) I love John chapter 21.  The scene opens in the early morning light.  The crucifixion and resurrection have taken place, and the disciples have been out fishing all night without any catch to show for their efforts.  Jesus, standing on the bank, calls out to them and tells them to cast their nets over the side of the boat.

Now, if this had been me, I probably would have grumbled about having to try again after a fruitless fishing expedition.  I might have stubbornly refused to do it at all.  Thankfully, the disciples obeyed, even though they hadn't even realized that it was Jesus Who was asking them to do it (verse 4).

Their incredible yield from obeying the Lord resulted in 153 fish (verse 11).

Wow.

That's the power of God at work.

In verse 12, we learn that they didn't ask Jesus Who He was, because they knew it was the Lord.  They didn't recognize Him at first - whether due to the poor light or because they were too far out on the water or because their hearts were hardened, I'm not sure - but they knew exactly Who He was after He performed that miracle.

Sometimes, things occur in life that are so inexplicable in human or scientific terms that we know instantly that only God could have performed them. There is no doubt that He is the One orchestrating these events, and they leave us in greater awe of His majesty than ever before.

For me, the days and weeks following Jon's surgery come to mind. I thought I knew exactly how the Lord would choose to meet our needs while Jon took time off of work to recuperate. He had accrued a week's worth of paid vacation (so we thought), and the previous month had had an extra pay day. While the extra pay check from the earlier month was an enormous blessing, the paid vacation fell through.

Instead, the Lord graciously met our needs above and beyond what we could have imagined. My mom came to stay with us while Jon was in the hospital, and she brought with her ingredients for over a week's worth of meals. Other family and friends gave us gift cards (most at great personal sacrifice), brought meals, provided childcare, and helped out financially. I was amazed and humbled at the ways the Lord used so many people to bless and comfort us!

I also know there are times when it should be obvious that the Lord is behind something, but so often I fail to recognize His hand. Sometimes I'll later realize that He's been at work, but a lot of the time, I'm completely oblivious and never thank Him for His provision. For times like those, I can only ask forgiveness and pray that I'll become more sensitive to seeing the obvious.

Your turn:  Has there been a time in your life when you've clearly seen the Lord at work?  I'd love to hear your story.  Share in the comments!

When it's obvious that God's at work

Lessons from Laura: Managing A Healthy Lifestyle

JV(22) Because of my family's health issues, I've started down the rabbit hole of living a healthy lifestyle.  While I find the subject extremely interesting and have learned a tremendous amount about whole foods, specialized exercise, essential oils, and natural cleaning, I'm realizing that it's very easy to go over the healthy living edge - to focus on it so determinedly that everything else in life falls by the wayside.

While I love what many healthy-living, whole-foods-minded bloggers write about, my favorite blog on the topic is Heavenly Homemakers by Laura Coppinger.  Laura understands that we need to live as healthfully as possible without becoming consumed by the healthy living movement.

There are several lessons I can learn from Laura!

1.  Choose Gratitude

Laura comes across as an extremely thankful person.  Her weekly Gratituesday posts, where she shares anything and everything she's thankful for, are one of my favorite aspects of her blog!

One thing she routinely thanks the Lord for is her family.  Laura and her husband Matt have four boys.  They don't have any daughters.  Now, I know from experience that having four children of any gender is enough to garner many incredulous onlookers in the grocery store, but when all four are boys, sentiments such as "too bad you didn't get a girl" are added to the already-annoying "wow, that's a lot of kids."

I've never, ever seen any resentment on Laura's part that she doesn't have a daughter.  Instead, she shares how her youngest saved Christmas; how eager she is to have daughers-in-law some day; and how wonderful it is that the family has Gladis, a little girl they sponsor from One Child Matters.

Rather than bemoan the fact that she has all boys, Laura has chosen gratitude and focuses on the beauty of having four sons.  I love that.

2.  Don't Obsess Over Healthy Living

Laura's journey toward better health is similar to many that I've read.  She understands the importance of wholesome, whole foods, but at the same time, she also realizes that there are times when eating freshly-prepared meals isn't always going to happen.  Are frozen pizzas healthy?  Not at all, but Laura shares how once in a while, store-bought pizza can have a place in a healthy homemaker's kitchen (unless you need to be gluten free - that's another discussion entirely).

There are going to be concessions and compromises in life, even for the most dedicated health nut out there.  We don't need to fall apart over the fact that we can't always eat everything organic or that convenience over nutrition will occasionally have to suffice when the family goes down for the count.  (For a related post on this topic, I thought that Stacey Makes Cents' post "Food is Not Your God" was an excellent read.)

3.  Be Honest

No one would have thought of Laura's healthy lifestyle to be anything other than a desire to treat her body as the Temple that it is, but Laura openly shared how she tried for years to do everything in her own strength.  And although I haven't yet read it, some day I'd love to get a copy of her book Oh, For Real! because I think it probably expands on this topic even more.  Her honesty about her try-hard way of doing things reminds me a lot of Emily Freeman's Grace For the Good Girl, another fantastic read about relying on the Spirit's help instead of one's own willpower.

A few more favorite posts from Heavenly Homemakers:

The Boy Who Saved Christmas

Every Good Cook Burns Herself Sometimes

Reading articles from devout health-conscious bloggers can be a great motivation for an improved healthy lifestyle, and those posts definitely have their time and place.  However, I've just found that I really resonate with the realistic approach of Heavenly Homemakers.  I'm still searching for that elusive balance between healthy living, financial stewardship, and time management, but I think Laura comes pretty close to finding a workable solution between those three!

Your turn:  Are you trying to live a healthy lifestyle?  What struggles and successes have you found along the way?  What are your favorite healthy living resources?

Lessons from Laura:  managing a healthy lifestyle