Who is my cute-mom/designer idol of the year?  You can probably guess.  Joanna Gaines.  I just call her JoJo because we are close.  She is on our TV, on the Magnolia magazine cover that sits on our coffee table, on a book by my nightstand, and her signature design inspiration is all over our house.  Yep, closer than bark on a tree. At least from my perspective.

But why?  Why do I and so many others just love Chip, Jo and their show Fixer Upper?  There are many reasons (so many…) but I think the heart of it is transformation.  We are suckers for a good makeover, aren’t we?  We love to see old and worn transformed to new and beautiful.  Our eyes fix on the story of renewal, restoration, and an amazing reveal.  This is human nature.  It’s why we love stories of brokenness redeemed.  And Chip and Jo create this inspiring experience for in every show.

But there is a greater story of redemption that Fixer Upper always reminds me of. In our own lives, when we take that leap of faith and decide to follow God, we begin to experience our own makeover.   It happens when we ask forgiveness for our sin and brokenness, and invite Jesus to walk with us in all the intricacies of our daily lives.

It is then the construction begins.

Once in our lives, we lived covered in fading wallpaper and peeling paint, our fresh foundation layered by flooring we no longer wanted, and our cracks and mismatched rooms (which we tried to hide) were not really hidden from anyone.  We genuinely tried to present a better outside to the world, but if the world was to open the door and peek inside this is what it would find– shame, guilt, pride, arrogance, betrayal, greed, selfishness, idolatry.  It’s an ugly list, and not a complete one, but we have all lived it in some way, shape or form.

But then, Jesus invited us into relationship with him.  And we took his hand, timidly, expectantly, and accepted.

He began to rebuild a new home in us.  Slowly…over time.  Tearing down old patterns and thoughts, removing walls we had built, opening up space and breathing room in our souls.  He peeled back the layers of protection we had covered ourselves with and like a life-giving balm, painted his word on our hearts.

This is what God does.

He is a restorer.  A redeemer.  A perfect designer of the life he has invited us to.

A life of confidence and peace and love and joy and grace.

And he hauls away all the old–that ugly list from before.  He heals the wounds of shame, he teaches us to not listen to the voice of guilt, he changes our pride to humility and grace, our arrogance fades away as we realize our identity in Christ, he forgives us for betrayal, he replaces selfishness with generosity, he asks us to worship Him alone.

God’s process of building is more than a few months.  It can take a lifetime.  So before the new home in us is finished, we can place a welcome mat at our front door.  It says, “Come in! I am a work in progress, but I have a master-builder crafting my soul.  Come in and see what he is working on today.”

So the next time you are watching Fixer Upper, think about these things.  Be reminded of how God is beautifully fixing us up!  He patiently works over our broken areas, with a good plan, carefully drawn.  If we let him, in his time he will do a great work in us.

And…if God created Joanna and all her talents, how much more can we trust his design work in us!

xoxo,

Amy

You can find more about life, faith and design on my Instagram @amyleehayes

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This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun.  We had some words and attitudes and tones flying around that stung and caused mis-understandings.  Between my husband and me, between our children and us.  Between siblings.  Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.

Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain.  We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3: 9-12

Why is this?  Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.

So how do we tame this rouge tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?

BE AWARE 

Awareness.  We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag.  When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them.

We are trying to learn as a family the ability of being in tune to how we are feeling.  When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from.  Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.

This one example of how it played out in our family this week:

One of our children over-reacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated.  When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found our our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends.  Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards them.

We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others.  And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time.  This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.”   If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.

 

BE PREPARED

In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune to our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that.  Pretty impossible.

But not completely.

I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling:

I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.

I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel.  He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation.

I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses.  Times for me that need extra preparation:

~When I have a very busy day with a lot on my to-do list

~ When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded

~I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)

~ When I am weary of life, going through a tough or busy season

All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. When I am aware of these triggers, I can be all the more prepared for the day by spending crucial time with God in the morning.  I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day.

It’s one of those miracles that seems to always provide when I ask.

It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.  We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships.

To think about:

What situations/circumstances trigger your emotions? How can you be more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words?  How can you prepare your heart and mind for your day?

I am thinking a lot about words and how I use them because our bible study group is reading the book Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman.  It is full of wisdom on this subject.  I will be creating a video on what we are learning each week and will post it on my Blog Facebook Community page.  Here is my video from last week:

FACEBOOK VIDEO ON USING OUR WORDS WISELY

If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook and want to hear more on this subject, CLICK THIS LINK and “like” the page to see posts.  I will be posting a new video this Tuesday on why sometimes it feels so good to lash out, and the one perspective check we all could use.

Here’s to taming our tongue, being aware, prepared and ready to say sorry.

~Amy

 

 

 

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I have been a parent now for nineteen years.  Some days I feel like I have learned and grown so much as a parent that I could sit with a new mom and pour wonderful nuggets of wisdom into her cup.  Other days I feel completely unequipped and literally exhale doubt and confusion about how to walk this parenting journey well.

Over the years I have garnered advice from various sources and tried numerous “systems” in our home to to be an intentional, character developing mom.  Many of the new things I have tried have totally flopped, and some have been a great success.  Today I want to share with you three of my most successful parenting “hacks.”    These are resources that are not only extremely helpful to me as a mom, but continue to help me again and again as my mothering seasons change:

MOTHER AND SON by Eggerich

Product Details

This book is a must read for any mother of a son.  Eggerich writes about speaking a different language with our sons–a language of respect.  We are natural speakers of love and affection as moms, but he teaches us how to reach our son’s hearts by speaking words of respect and honor to them.  I began to see changes in my relationship with my son as soon as I started implementing the wisdom in the book.  It’s well worth having in your parenting library– you can click here to find it on Amazon:
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect

CIRCLE by Disney  

So……this is not my children’s favorite but it is one of mine.  I have struggled with managing the technology beast in our house that was threatening some core values we had as a family–protecting what our children watched on screens (what we are putting in to our minds), time spent on screens (how we manage our time), and sleep (…pretty sure sleep can be a core value).

With Circle, you order a small modem that you get for a one time $99.00 fee.  When it arrives at your house you plug it in and the modem basically re-routes all the Wi-Fi in your home through the Circle network.  You then download an app and from your phone can manage all the users of any device in your house.

For example, my daughter has a computer and a phone.  Both of these devices are recognized by Circle which means I can see all the apps on her phone and subsequently manage all of them (Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, etc.), specifically how long she can be on each app (like one hour on YouTube/day).  I can also see what websites she is visiting.

I can also set filters for all the devices (ours are all set to Teen) and set a wake up and sleep time which shuts down the devices at night.

For our family, Circle became necessary when our kids grew old enough to stay up later than my husband and me (actually we are just getting old an needing to go to bed earlier) and we were concerned how long into the night they were on their devices with no supervision.  However, I wish I would have been able to start Circle earlier when our kids first started having phones and computers.

As our teens get older, I will graduate them out of Circle since they will need to learn to manage their time on devices on their own, but for now it is helping them set good habits and learn reasonable time limits for their phone and video use (and I don’t think we can protect our sons enough from access to pornography).

You can order CIRCLE HERE if you want to give it a try…it has given me great peace of mind.

 

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PODCAST  

I started listening to this a couple of years ago and boy do I wish I would have had this resource earlier in my parenting years.  This podcast is one of THE MOST helpful and encouraging (and challenging) tools I have had as a mom.  The podcast is every day, and it ranges from marriage to parenting to discipline to faith building topics.  They are all amazing. But the parenting ones have been priceless for me.  Here is the link.  I have downloaded the app on my phone and listen while I am driving or doing chores around the house.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast

So, those are my three favs.  I hope maybe one of these is helpful to you in your parenting journey. We need to link arms as moms and encourage and help each other out as we raise our kiddos.

Blessings to you!

~Amy

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“Look at Mo!” several voices called out around me. I steadied myself on our boat and turned around to see our small white-haired Bichon Poo swimming frantically through the water towards me. His head was barely above water and the waves lapped over his face, but he was the most determined little dog-paddler I had ever seen.

Minutes before, my husband and a boat full of kids had pulled into the beach area.  As kids piled off to give turns to the next group, I kicked off my flipflops on the beach and grabbed a towel for the next ride.   I proceeded to wade the distance out to where the boat was anchored, not noticing our little puff ball of a dog whining and pacing on the beach where I had left him in the commotion of all the people getting in and out of the water.

I had reached the boat and was climbing aboard when Mo started swimming.

There are two things about Mo that you should know.

 

One, he has NEVER voluntarily swam in the water anywhere anytime (most likely because he fell off the back of a fast moving speed boat when he was just a wee pup and was under water much longer than he probably liked).

Two, he loves me more than I can even imagine.

 
It was the combination of these two facts that made the event so amazing. Mo, who most likely watched me in total anxiety as I left him alone on the beach to get on the boat, decided to overcome his great fear of the water out of sheer love. He was going to swim to me no matter what the cost.

 
I turned to my friend on the boat as we watched Mo paddle towards us and shook my head, “Mo loves me more than he is afraid of the water.”

 
Love casts out fear.
Fear holds us back from so very much.

 
Love overcomes fear, diminishes it, loosens its grip on our lives:
~It is the wife who continues to trust even when trust has been broken because she loves her husband more than the fear of betrayal.
~It is the mother who lets her child soar with her dreams even though she wants more than anything to just keep that child home, safe.
~It’s the neighbor who loves sharing God with others, because he knows what it has done in his life, more than the fear of being rejected.
~It is love of freedom that helps overcome the fear of letting that addiction go.                                               ~It is love of restoration and healing that allows us to swallow our pride (and the fear attached, of losing or not being right)                                                                                                                                                        ~ It is the love of pursuing our dreams that overcomes the fear of failure

 

Its you and me, loving God more than the fear of what life holds, and choosing to trust and walk with him even in the most desperate and uncertain of circumstances.

That day a little dog created a picture for me that I will carry forward.  I can push through my fears with love as my motivator.

 
What, friends, are we afraid of? Loss? Rejection? Betrayal? Death?  Failure?

Whatever that fear, find what you love MORE and lean into it.  Let it become more powerful than anything else.

Try this:  I love _________________more than I fear ________________.

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.  The Message, 1 John 4:18

And where do we find the strength to do that?  We fix our eyes on Jesus.  The one who gives strength, miraculous peace, healing, power, hope, and confidence to our fearful souls.

As Mo reached the back of the boat, his little eyes that were filled with terror fixed on me.  His mom.  The one thing that he lives for (pathetic but true).  I reached down and pulled his wet soggy body out of the water, wrapped him in a towel and held him close.   He didn’t care where we were going, or how long we would be on the boat.  It didn’t matter.  His fear was gone.  His love had conquered the distance between he and his mama.

Happy Valentines Day!

~Amy

You can find more about life, faith and design on my Instagram @amyleehayes

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My husband read a quote on Facebook today:

“I was going to quit all my bad habits in 2017, but then I remembered nobody likes a quitter.”

Ha ha!  That quote speaks to what many of us are thinking about as the calendar changes to a new year.  We want renewal and change but our good intentions often aren’t fulfilled.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am kind of a New Year’s Resolution geek.  And my family gets to entertain my obsession with goal setting just because they love me and don’t really have a choice.  I only subject them to this once a year–when we do our family New Year’s Resolution/Goal-Setting night.

All kidding aside, I do think there are some great benefits for taking the time to work through goal-setting as a family; specifically two:

  1. Our kids learn the habit of self-reflection and the practice of change.   It is actually quite easy to move through life without looking back to analyze what we has worked for us and what we can improve upon.  Successful businesses do this annually (or even quarterly). They review the numbers or the growth they are trying to measure and make changes accordingly.  Why not do this with ourselves and our families?  In seeing what did or didn’t work last year we can then work on changing ourselves going forward.  I want our kids to learn the gift of self-reflection.
  2.  Our kids learn how to set concrete goals and steps for achieving  them. We have all heard how the road to bleep is paved with good intentions.  Well, I would love our children to learn the art of actual change and be able to look back on the year and see how their steps toward improvement made a positive impact on their lives. I want them to feel empowered in their lives with the ability to get “unstuck” if needed.

So in early January Jon, the kids and I sat down and worked through some questions and then talked about them as a family.  We gave the kids a chance to identify some areas of their lives that they were happy with and some areas where change might be needed or wanted, and we did the same for ourselves.  It was great and I would encourage you to give it a try!

If you would like to have a Family Goal-Setting Night, here are some questions for everyone participating to ask themselves:

  1. WHAT are some areas you would like to work on this year?  For kids some examples may be in academics or sports or cutting back on social media.  For adults some examples may be finding more time to connect with your spouse or goals with your work life or homemaking.
  2. What are the SPECIFIC goals you want to work on in the areas you picked?
  3. WHY do you want this to be a goal? This is one of the most important questions to ask–if we don’t have our strong “why,” the chances of change are pretty slim.
  4. What are the specific STEPS you can take this year to achieve your goals?

If you are like me and want a more structured plan than open ended questions, I created the FAMILY NEW YEAR GOAL-SETTING PRINTABLE

In the printable each family member can draw circles around areas where they want to set some new goals (spirituality, friendships, healthy eating, social media, screen-time, and family relationships to name a few) and then they can work through how to accomplish those goals.

EXAMPLE

Here is an example from my own life that I gave our kids as they worked through the printable:

One of my resolutions for 2017 is with meal planning.  Last year I put as one of my new year’s goals “to increase the variety and consistency of making meals for my family.”  Well, I totally flopped in achieving that goal, and it was a source of frustration for me all year.

But instead of feeling like a total failure as a kitchen maven,  I took some time to really look at why my goal didn’t work. In 2016, two of our children had their license, all were in sports or working, involved in youth group activities, and my husband traveled about twenty nights out of the month.  We had a revolving front door, with busy teenagers and constantly moving parts.

Even when I thought everyone would be home for a meal, I was constantly disappointed that I had made the effort to cook (something I don’t particularly enjoy) when plans would change and no one was there to eat it.  And when the kids did trickle in they were not hungry since they had eaten a snack at work or church.

So this year, I am still going to make it a goal, but tweak it a little. (In the printable I created, each family member can work through these four questions):

AREA: Homemaking

GOAL: Planning meals that work for my family’s busy schedule

WHY: This is still an important need for my family and it makes me feel good when our kids are served a nutritious meal at home.

SPECIFIC STEPS:

  1. To prepare a variety crock pot meals that the kids can eat whenever they arrive home.  This is far more flexible and appealing than a meal on a plate in the fridge that needs to be reheated.
  2. To make sure that in our family meeting on Sunday nights I am aware of everyone’s schedule and they are aware of what nights I am making the effort to cook so they come home hungry and expecting a meal.

This was a great exercise for me to work through personally, and I hope you and your loved ones can find some time to do the same.

Click HERE if you would like to try this with your family!

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you craving an updated space to work?  Or to organize your mom-life?  Home offices tend to be one of the last places we “design” (my own office is a testament to that) because they are often out of view so we don’t care how it looks, and it can feel overwhelming because of the organization involved.

I have worked on three offices for friends in the last few months, in fact I am finishing up this one with my friend Jamie Larson from The Snap Society today:

But the makeover I want to showcase today is my friend Kelly’s office.  Kelly runs a successful online business out of her home called Directly Successful and needed a functional and inviting place to work.   We went to work this fall and we are both so pleased with how it turned out.

Before I show you pictures however, I want to share with you two key areas to focus when redesigning an office space that works for you:  FUNCTION and STYLE.  Not only does your space need to work for you (organization, room layout, etc) but it needs to be inviting enough that you actually want to “get away” into that space to be productive.

Kelly asked for both of these concepts.

FUNCTION:  Kelly films videos for her business and needed a place to sit with an interesting background that was brand consistent.  She also expressed that she is someone who needs to “see” all the projects she is working on, so we needed to provide organization of her files, etc but they needed to be visible. I told Kelly that I had her back in that one–I am exactly the same.

STYLE: Kelly’s brand colors were a navy blue, gold and pink.  We pulled these colors together into a stylish and inviting room that Kelly LOVES to be in now.

Here are a few Before and Afters (I love this part!)

Let me break it down a little.

  1. Kelly cleared out a lot of miscellaneous items–chairs, boxes on the ground, shelving that was holding books and files, and other non matching furniture items.  Her dining room was a hot mess for a couple of weeks as she sorted and organized.
  2. We painted three walls a wonderful color called Colonial Grey.  We painted the fourth wall behind the couch a deep navy called Calligraphy.  This wall serves as the backdrop for Kelly’s videos and displays a eye-catching gallery picture collection.
  3. We purchased a couch and ottoman because Kelly prefers to work there over working from her desk (here here!)
  4. We made an Ikea run for storage items and a bookcase.
  5. After bringing in all of the design and storage elements, Kelly re-organized all of her papers and projects into the new space.

Here are pictures of the finished office:

(Above) We hung wood shelves behind her desk to display some decorative items.  To the right of the shelves is a bulletin board and hanging storage for Kelly to easily access work files, etc.   The framed dry erase board was something I made for Kelly using a glass poster frame and I just painted the back of the glass with a neutral color.  She uses this to jot down work ideas, dates and tasks.

(Above) We purchased this couch and ottoman where Kelly spends most of her time working.  I brought in a floor lamp for warmer lighting options, and created the gallery wall behind her couch with her brand colors, inspirational words and warm wood tones.

Kelly found this chair which was the perfect color and accent to the room.

Here is Kelly being all productive…

She had this great phone which we placed on the side table…I just love it.

(Above) One problem that Kelly wanted solved is that when she was filming a video or a webinar, her family would walk by or try to get her attention on the other side of the french doors.  She wanted a way to have privacy while she was working and also to have a second backdrop for her videos.  To solve this problem we hung curtains on the inside of the french doors…closed they offer privacy and a cute backdrop!

I brought in all sorts of storage options for her desk and she picked the ones that worked best for her.

Finally, this bookcase from Ikea has become one of my favorite office makeover additions.  The wood tones warm the space and it just holds so many different items- books (of course), but files and boxes and baskets too.

I am going to be offering a “Make Over Your Office In Five Days” mini course in the near future.  I will help you create a space you love in a clear step by step process!  To receive information about this in the future and occasional design posts, subscribe HERE!

One more BEFORE and AFTER:

Ahhhh….

Kelly said she has been more productive in this space than ever before.

Side note, I am TERRIFIED of spiders and for some reason TWO BIG ONES appeared during this design project.  There was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down.  Here is fearless Kelly getting one of them:

More office makeovers to come, along with simple and inspiring design ideas for your home.

And you can follow me on instagram @amyleehayes.

xoxo,

Amy

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Do you remember when we were growing up and used to play four-square at recess?  There were so many times where I’d do a double bounce and yet because we were all having so much fun someone would say, “Do over!”  Or when I served a ball that clearly landed outside the boundary and a kind friend would say, “Do over!”  I loved those moments.  The ones that kept me in the game even when I deserved to be kicked out.

As I reflect on the past year, I could certainly use a “do over” in different areas–parenting, marriage, even my blogging and design work. There are always mistakes made, but there also somehow seems to be grace in the mix, and I think I feel it the most this time of year–when in the new year I get to shake the dust off my boots (especially the cute ones I just got for Christmas) and receive another chance to do better.

The idea of new beginnings is not new. God set this into the framework of time and space-through the seasons (Earth’s tilt), the new year (Earth’s travel around the sun), and the new day (Earth’s rotation).  His word says that he has new mercies waiting for us each and every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Don’t you just love that?  Whatever it is that holds us back, that weighs us down, that we wish we had done differently….we get a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. Just like the trees that get the chance to grow taller and stronger with each passing spring, so do we.

So let’s take a deep breath as the new year approaches. In what areas do you want to grow taller and stronger in 2017?

Health? Spirituality? Relationships? Finances? Marriage? Parenting? Work?

Ask yourself some questions:

1.  In what part of your life do you want a fresh start?

2. What went well last year that you want to continue?

3. What didn’t?

4. In what areas do you want a “do over”?

Invite God into this process.  What work is He doing in you right now?  What new adventures is He inviting you to take?

Maybe God is saying, “It’s okay, this is a journey. This will work itself out in time,” or maybe He has been gently convicting your heart for a while now that it’s time for you to take some steps in a better direction.

This process of reflection is so important if we are to move ahead in growth and maturity.  Take some time today to write your thoughts down, or find some quiet time to just be still and think.

If you need some help, Michael Hyatt has put together a “Life Assessment” which is a short online questionnaire to help you identify areas of strength and weakness.  I took it and it confirmed what I suspected but made it much more real to see it “scored.”  I clearly see the areas where I need to set some new goals!  There is not a follow up to this survey–the webinar he attached it to is no longer running–I just used it for my own personal assessment:

http://assessment.bestyearever.me/intro

I love second chances because it means I don’t have to stay stuck.  That my mistakes and flops and areas of partial growth do not have to be my only story.  I get to write a new chapter this coming year.  I get a do-over!

Have a good day my friend!

~Amy

In my next post I will share some more concrete strategies on how to create New Year Resolutions that stick! Continue reading

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I shared in my last post about our house journey over the past year, and how unexpected so many pieces of it were, and not in a good way.  There was disappointment and questioning and difficulty coming to grips with the fact that the story I had written for myself wasn’t the story that was actually happening.

Yet, in the end, it was the best story for us. Not because of how the chapters wrapped up, but because of what change occurred in me and our family in the middle of the book, when the ending was unclear.  I am a different, better version of myself this year…more trusting in God and more faithful in my worship of Him.  Two things that are priceless to me as I continue my journey in life.

What story is being written in your life right now? Is it different than the story you had mapped out for yourself?

Just like Jesus arriving in baby flesh and total dependence instead of pomp and circumstance and royal authority, we have a story that is often different than expected. But there are great gifts waiting if we choose to embrace the story (regardless how different) our heavenly author has written for us.

Gifts of maturity and faith and total dependence on something wiser and greater than ourselves~ultimately gifts of peace.

Maybe this is why Jesus’s birth was the perfect example of dependence. He was a helpless, vulnerable babe, accepting the story his Heavenly Father had written for him. Jesus has always lived out reality for us in human form, from the very straw and night and stars and mother’s kiss that welcomed his arrival.

This Christmas, when we are in the thick if a story we didn’t write, lets remember that we have a God who only writes perfect stories.  And in His stories He cares deeply about us, and wants to draw us near Him as we learn to trust in His goodness and embrace our dependence on Him.

He will bring us peace and hope.

Have a blessed Christmas.

~Amy

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Hello! Today on the blog I am sharing a story I have been wanting to tell for months…but it just hasn’t seemed like the right timing.  And then the Christmas season arrived and I began thinking about waiting– waiting for the celebration, anticipating the excitement of the season, and the waiting that happened for the generations of Israelites in anticipation of the birth of their King.

It reminded me of my story from the last year–one of anticipation but of much waiting.  A true time of testing for me.  You may want to snuggle in for the video which is a bit longer than I wanted–it is, after all, a story of waiting.  But it is a message of hope and encouragement for those of us who are expectant of life to somehow work itself out differently than it seems, that there is One who knows us and sees us while we wait.

 

You may be in a time of waiting, and it may not be wrapped up neatly in a bow like ours was in the end.  It may take a long, long time for the story to play out.

But please hear this–it is not how the story ends that is important…it is how God changes us in the midst of our waiting.

THIS is when he pulls up a chair to talk, because we are often ready to listen. Hear what he is whispering, lean in to his voice of love and grace and trust.

He’s got this.

Merry Christmas to you!

PS:  Please join me on my Facebook Blog Community page!  I post several times a week–notes of encouragement or I share great articles and tips I stumble upon:

https://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

Also, I am on Instagram @amyleehayes–would love to connect with you there too!

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A couple of years ago we sat at the Thanksgiving table with another family and one by one shared what we were thankful for.  The responses were just what you would imagine…lovely thoughts about family and health and friends.

And then our twelve year-old shared that she was thankful for her IPhone.

I did the mom-freak out embarrassed snort. I tried to redirect and ask her to share something more meaningful.  She stuck to her guns.  Her phone, period.

Let’s just say I didn’t handle that well and ended up making much more of a deal of it than needed…solely out of fear that we had utterly failed as parents in raising thankful children–well, thankful for things that are not so, well, materialistic.

This event has made me a little gun shy of Thanksgiving table sharing.   Mainly because I want to handle whatever our kids say better by discussing it off line with some loving teaching.  And it has made me think about what most of us think about this time of year…being thankful for big beautiful things like family and friendships and home and God.  These are familiar and easy, and I am deeply grateful.

GIVING THANKS WHEN IT’S NOT SO EASY

It is good to be thankful for these things…so good.  But there is another layer of thanks–one that pokes and prods at our hearts.  It turns thanks a bit upside-down on our turkey- and-mashed-potato-adorned table.  It is also good, maybe even a little better than the thanks that come so easily, because it invites our hearts and thoughts to focus in a valiant and brave direction, and can bring us great peace.

It it giving thanks in the hard seasons.   Seasons that cause us pain and discomfort and ask us to wrestle with ourselves and our circumstances.

HERES WHAT THAT COULD LOOK LIKE:

I am thankful for people who are different than me, because it teaches me to seek understanding and extend grace, and that God has created us all, and intentionally made us with different personalities and desires and thoughts.

I am thankful for sickness, because in it I become utterly grateful for health.

I am thankful for conflict, because it tirelessly invites me to look inward and grow.

I am thankful for times of lack, because there I learn to trust in God’s timing for provision.

I am thankful for the beautiful mess of family, because it allows me (if I choose) to let loose of my agenda and my way, and listen and humble myself knowing that God has grace for all of it and will take care of me if I lean into Him.

I am thankful when things seem out of my control, because it is there that find faith as I lean into God and learn to trust his plan that I cannot see.

I am thankful for uncertainty, because it beckons me to look to the only certain One who is forever unchanging and stable.

I am thankful when life isn’t going the way I hoped or expected, because it brings me into relationship with God as I pray and ask for peace and wisdom.

I am thankful.

For it all.

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.                                                                                1 Thessalonians 5:1

 

THE THANKSGIVING CHALLENGE

What if the sharing around the Thanksgiving Table looked a little different this year?  What if you invited everyone to share two things–something good and something hard, and why they might be thankful for each?  It think it could be quite enlightening.

I wish you a happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

~Amy

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