Life can be hard. Storms batter us. The burning heat of the demands of life drain us. But umbrellas protect us from the storms and the blazing sun.

Today for your encouragement we share some scripture “umbrellas” that will offer shelter in the storm and reprieve from the scorching heat we find ourselves in.

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” Isaiah 30:20-21

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber” Psalm 121:2-3

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12

“I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.” Psalm 37:3-5

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ” Philippians 4:6-8

What does your umbrella look like? Does it protect from the heat and the storm? Is it a big umbrella or a small one? Does it provide shade to friends and family? To random strangers? Seek shelter under the umbrella of scripture!

Keep the Home Fires Burning

I recently ordered my fall scented hand soaps from the Bath & Body sale. I love to get seasonal fragrances, especially at this time of year. When I opened the Amazon box, I sniffed all the scents I had ordered. Mmmm! One of my favorites that I love to buy is Sweater Weather. It makes me think of the smell of smoke and vanilla. Although it is still late summer and school has just started, I am ready for fall. I’m ready for Friday night football games, autumn leaves, a crisp chill in the air, and a fire in the fireplace.

What is it about a fire in the fireplace? It warms not only the hands, but the heart, while its glow illumines the entire room in the best possible light – people can see, yet the imperfections are softened in the golden hues of the fire. A fire not only warms and glows, it creates an atmosphere. It sets the stage for comfortable conversations with family and friends and draws one in for a cozy evening of steaming mugs, soft blankets, and quiet reflection.

At the end of winter a few years back I lamented how few times we’d enjoyed a fire that season. It was a busy time of young adult kids growing up and moving on, a time that took us away from the fireplace more often than not. As I contemplated it I knew we had lost some things that would never be within our grasp again. I was sad. As I examined my heart I realized that I, too often, let life carry me along, only to look in the rearview mirror and see wonderful things along the roadside that I never stopped to enjoy. I determined that I would be more intentional to keep the home fires burning and to slow down my pace and spend more of the fleeting moments of life with those I cherish.

How are you doing at keeping the fires burning at home? Do you, too, find yourself in a meeting, at a store, running between commitments, kid’s activities and such, yet longing to be in loungewear by the fire with some of your favorite people?

This year has been hard. The unknowns, virus outbreaks, bleak newscasts, masks and vaccines all set nerves on edge and created an atmosphere where depression and fear could grow. But it has also given us a hidden gift – the gift of home. Lockdowns, while hard on the economy and psyche, have kept us home and given us an opportunity if we will make use of it.

What if we get those home fires burning again? What if we gather around the fireplace and spend some time conversing, laughing, savoring the moments of togetherness with those dear to our heart? What if we use those moments as gifts from God to strengthen our families and our children’s faith?

In Old Testament times God gave the Israelites the following instructions:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I can almost see them sitting around their campfires in the wilderness waiting to enter the Promised Land, sharing the stories of Joseph, Abraham and Jacob, discussing the Great Flood and how God protected Noah, reminiscing with their children and asking their neighbors about where they were and what happened at their house when the plagues came in Egypt. My mind’s eye can see the flickering flames and dying embers as they shared stories to strengthen their faith and build that faith into their descendants just as God commanded.

And so it is with us. Gathering together around those mysterious flickering flames with our children allows time for those deep conversations, for unexpected moments that will bear fruit for years to come. What if we gather ’round the fireplace rather than the TV, communicating our memories, our convictions and what Jesus has done in our lives? And what if we focus on the hearth rather than the handheld devices allowing our focus to be inner contemplation and sharing wisdom rather than being bombarded with constant folly? And what if we look into our children’s faces and hearts and really see them and listen to them and show them our love and God’s gracious love in these quiet times? What a difference could keeping the home fires burning, both physciallly and spiritually, make in their hearts a year or two or a decade from now?

All the difference. It will make all the difference.

Find a way to reignite your relationships and share your spiritual life. Be intentional. Be creative. Let the home fires burn strong.

Ideas to keep the fires burning with people you love:

~ Listen to music around the fire. Relax. Soak in the moment. Dance.

~ Play a conversation game like the “Ungame” or “Do You Really Know Your Family?”

~ Read a book together. Then talk about it. The Bible, The Westing Game, or The Chronicles of Narnia.

~ Listen! To the fire. To each other. To hurts and joys.

~ Pray together. Prayer bonds our hearts together, as we each grow closer to God we will grow closer to each other.

~ Unplug, sit in the floor, sip cocoa, and make S’mores! Even if you have to use the fireplace on the TV and not toast your marshmallows.

Making It Home: House or Home?

I tend to exaggerate a bit. 

I’ll throw in a randomly high numerical value when I’m describing some things. I’ll just add in an extra zero or two or twelve for added emphasis. 

There is one case in the Martin world that requires no additional exaggeration. The number of homes we have lived in. I’ll often say we are Gypsies, the inference being we’ve moved so many times one could not possibly call any one particular place our home. The irony is this, we have moved a lot, many times, in all seasons, for various reasons. We’ve rented homes, we’ve purchased homes, we’ve borrowed homes, yet we have done all that moving within a geographical 20 mile radius and twenty year time frame.  

We have identifiers that refer to the various houses, the Street name, unique architectural features we noted, the time in which we lived there. 

I always like the “weird” houses best. The ones with wonky floor plans and the ones with old bones. 

When it came time to move, no matter the reason or circumstance, good or bad, I always wept. I always stressed believing the next house just couldn’t be a place we’d call home. 

It was one of the moves, a downgrade of sorts, it was one of the bad circumstances, when I cried about not being able to give my children a home. A place of refuge and contentment. I longed for them to have a place that was theirs, ours, that felt like home and not the less than fabulous place where we were headed. I was grateful that the Lord had graciously provided us housing, but I was less than thrilled about the four walls that encompassed that. I just kept thinking how this was so not where I thought life would find me at this point in life. Surely I’d be further along financially or something by now. I used to imagine forty was so old and just shy of retirement to the old folks home. I have since changed my mind. 

In those days we were to be moving to the less than fabulous housing option. 

I was down, dejected and upset with myself, a professional woman, a woman with 3 children once again feeling like we were starting over.  I found myself in a puddle of tears crying to my mama. It was one of those big ugly cries where the crier sobs incoherently to the hearer. The kind of cry that runs rivers of streaky mascara downs one’s face. That kind of crying is followed by stinging eyes and the occasional post cry hiccups. I was a mess. 

My mama had wisely waited to speak until those intermittent hiccup silent moments. 

“It’ll be nice Amy. It’ll be fine.”

Hiccup, “How?” 

How came out in two syllables.

 “How-ow is it gonna be fine. We are moving to a teeny tiny dumpy stinky place?”

She paused and in her wisdom, the kind that must come from the Lord Himself, years of living, and infinite experience in dealing with the fairer sex in fits of hysterics. 

“It always is Amy. And as many times as y’all’ve moved, it’s never the house that makes it such a nice place. Not the place that makes the home, it’s you. It’s your unique way of putting things together and hanging stuff on the walls. It’s how you’ve always hung up the kids’ art like it’s a masterpiece and how you place things around that make you happy, the things that are uniquely Amy, that’s what makes your house your home. You love your kids and they know it and to them that’s all that matters really. When they grow up it won’t matter if there was crown moulding, hardwoods throughout or not, what will matter is that you made them a happy home and gave them happy memories wherever you’ve lived.” 

The tears began again, this time the silent cleansing kind. The kind of tears that wash away pride, hurt and disillusionment. 

“You’re right I reckon Mama.”

 I thought about what she’d said, about how I had done exactly that, how I’d collected all the prize rocks and random trinkets they’d presented to me over the years and given them a place of prominence. I thought about the original artwork made by my children hanging framed in various places, or the random sticks collected over time. 

She was right of course. What had always, what has always made our home has never been the four walls surrounding us but instead the five souls within it. Our home has always been established through and by the King. Over the course of time I have learned that a house and a home are two different things and despite having more than a dozen houses, I’ve had but one home, and it is to them and to my King my heart is bound. 

Seasons of Life

What a joy it was to become a grandmother when my first grandchild was born. It was one thing to love our son, but there is something so precious about holding your child’s baby. It seems like yesterday that he was just a toddler running around our home at warp speed. This week he went to middle school. How did that happen? That little boy grew to be taller than I am and is ready for the next stage in his life whether I am ready or not. 

My daughter has two little girls who are six and three. They started first grade and Pre K 3 year olds. This is the first time that both girls have been gone all day to school. I have spent the last few years going to their home on Tuesday afternoon to keep them on Wednesdays. The younger one and I had all day on Wednesday just for the two of us while the older granddaughter was in school. Of course I had both of them during the summer. We have had so much fun cooking, painting, drawing, and doing crafts. We added science experiments to our list of things to do this summer. We memorized the Frozen movies and sang like we were the main characters. We almost wore the rocking chair out with all of the books we read. We have loved reading Bible stories, too. My favorite time is bedtime and the snuggles that I get from sleepy little girls. There is something about rocking a precious little one when they are falling to sleep. Then, there is the joy to pray over each one for salvation, safety, good health, and that person that will marry them one day. 

Just as children grow in the blink of an eye, the life of a grandmother changes quickly, also. On the first day of school, I waved to them as their mother drove both of them to school. The silence in the house was deafening. The only noise was the occasional sound of the ice maker. 

This is a new season of life for me. I will no longer be needed for all day on Wednesday until next summer arrives. Yes, I will still visit and play with the girls but it will not be the same. Our scheduled visits are over. I will cherish all of the time we have spent together. They are changing so fast. 

Before I know it, they will be in middle school and the grandson will head to college. I rejoice that all three of them are happy and healthy and doing what children are supposed to do. I pray that God will protect them each day and keep them safe. I pray that they will learn what is set before them to learn and then build on those skills the next day. I pray that they will seek God’s divine will in their lives and live life to the fullest. 

This week, I have just been reminded once again that:

1 For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

2 A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

3 A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

7 A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

8 A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 NLT

Love Prodigally!

Welcome Home!

Aren’t these some of the best words ever?

The soldier coming back from deployment. The hospitalized Covid patient returning to her home and life from the grip of death. The wayward child. The faraway family member back where they belong. We welcome these and others like them with open arms. We put out the yard signs or banners. We meet them at the airport or pick them up at the hospital. We spruce up the home, put on fresh linens, cook their favorite meals, and stock their favorite snack or soda. Is there a celebration more joyful than a welcome home?

Scripture relates to us the story of the one we call “The Prodigal Son.” You remember the story. The arrogant younger son asks dad for his inheritance, pockets the money, and heads out to have a wildly good time far away from home. He apparently parties, buys stuff for people to buy friends, and has a grand ole time until the money runs out. In desperation he then tucks his tail and heads back home to dad a humbled young man. From this story people tend to assume that prodigal means rebellious or wayward. Actually, it means wastefully extravagant. The young man is referred to as a prodigal because he goes away and frivolously spends his father’s money recklessly.

How many of us could be labeled a prodigal with this definition? I know I sure could at Christmas time when I’m buying for kids and grandkids. On a routine basis we need to be aware of this tendency and probably scale back a bit on spending, shopping, home decorating or whatever the area is where we struggle with overspending. For me, book stores are on my dangerous list, and I am definitely a prodigal book buyer. I have more books in my shelf and on my Kindle than I will probably ever read right now, yet that doesn’t stop me from adding new ones.

But there is another part of the definition for prodigal: having or giving something on a lavish scale. This part of the definition is seen in our Prodigal Son story in another character, the Father. Do you recall what he does? He waits and watches the whole time the son is gone. Then he welcomes the rebel home with open arms, gifts, and a huge shindig. He has already given the younger son his inheritance, but then the father spends out of the money that is left in order to welcome the son with a lavish banquet and gifts to accept him back home.

I remember reading Timothy Keller’s book Prodigal God and being bowled over with this other slant on prodigal-ness. In it Keller talks about God being prodigal. God is represented by the father in our story. The story demonstrates the generosity and abundant mercy and forgiveness of God who loves on a lavish scale. Our Father forgave our riotous living and gave us the most extravagant gift of all time in His son Jesus. He provides and protects and blesses us undeserving humans beyond what we can imagine. And He will one day welcome us home to the ultimate reception of all time!

This part of the story brings up another thought. Are we prodigal in our giving? With our love? With kindness? With generosity? With helpfulness? Are we living big, lavish lives for the good of those we live with and come in contact with? Are we lavishly spreading acceptance, gratitude, the goodness of God and His glory as we travel through life each day?

I think the image of Pigpen from Charlie Brown certainly paints a picture for us here. Are we going through our moments and days leaving a dust trail of grace, mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love and all those traits of Our Father that set Him apart and draw others to Him? Like Pigpen covered in dirt, are we so covered in God’s characteristics that people identify us by that trail of grace?

As we seek to “be imitators of God as dearly loved children,” it is time we start imitating His prodigal ways of loving and giving. I challenge myself and you today, if there is a situation where it is in your power to bless, then do it! And do it lavishly, extremely extravagantly, and unexpectedly. As we walk around in this world being a light for the Lord, what better way to shine brightly than to stand out as a generous giver, a lavish lover, an extravagantly kindhearted, magnanimous, tender, merciful, forgiving reflection of our Prodigal God!

Sweet Sugar Baby

The old men sat in the old-as-Moses fruit stand. It’s furnished with 1960s era arm chairs, boiled peanuts, and an assortment of fruits and veggies. Two of the men sat swapping pictures and swapping tales while the proprietor helped the couple in front of me. They elbowed their way in front of me, picked up string beans and threw them back into the carton. “These are dry. Won’t be any good.” The man said to his companion. He loudly said to the elderly proprietor,

“Where these tomatoes from? They local?” 

They aren’t from around here I surmised.  The couple, not the tomatoes. 

The tomatoes were only sort of local. Alabama grown yes. Warrior, Alabama grown, no.

The proprietor offered an explanation, “They ain’t made it up this far yet.” The gruff talker did not respond, I nodded in understanding. It’s not time. The summer tomatoes grown in Blount County, Alabama, don’t begin to ripen en mass until the weeks following July 4th. It’s as if Independence Day itself heralds in those sweet juicy tomatoes. Perfect for slicing, dicing, making a sandwich with, or eating by themselves. If you have ever had one, you know. If you haven’t, I’m gonna pray for you. It’s like nothing else in this world. The finest of culinary expertise has yet to replicate the goodness of a July homegrown tomato. 

They aren’t from around here I surmised. 

As the gruff talker and his companion made their way to their car, arm full of I don’t know what and the customary free banana included with every purchase, I stepped up to the register. My attention was shifted to the matter at hand, I smiled as one of the Old Timers sitting showed the other his great-grandson. “Just look at that boy!” He was one proud grandpappy and the other was happy to oblige. They laughed at whatever antics had been captured in digital photographic documentation. 

I asked the proprietor about the cost of his watermelons and then pointed to a dark green variety. Green is my favorite color, and I marveled at the richness and dark, almost black, shade of the ones to my left. 

“Which ‘uns?” He asked me to clarify. 

“What’s the difference in these?” I patted the dark green specimen and gestured toward the striped green ones. 

He walked over toward me and he lovingly patted the dark green one, “ ‘Dis un is a sugar baby. It’s sorta sweet like.” 

I told him to my knowledge I’ve not had one but I sure did love sweet. He giggled, and I asked if the chosen one he was patting was a good one. He laughed. The old timers behind him laughed, and he said one of the most profound things I’ve heard in all my life. 

“It’s hard to know without seein’ inside ‘em and without eatin’’em”

I thought about that and giggled.

“I reckon that’s true for a lot things.” I said 

I told him I’d take the patted sugar baby and he completed my sale. I had to enlist the teenage boy Martin to carry my watermelon. 

At supper that night I cut it for dessert. I couldn’t wait until after my meal. That sugar baby was so sweet and so juicy. I ate more than a serving size with my supper.  And more for dessert and then again for breakfast the next morning. The tomatoes might not have made it up this far yet but, by George, the watermelons had. 

I thought more and pondered on what the Old Timer had told me. You really can’t know about the subject until you experience it for yourself. In the case of the watermelon, the fruit wouldn’t be demonstrated until it was put to the test, the test of supper that is. As a Believer I am like that sugar baby, I can look like a fine specimen of a Christian all day long, I can even call myself Christian, but until I produce sweet, beautiful fruit that declaration of faith isn’t demonstrated. The King once said that “you will know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) And in the case of that sugar baby it’s when we are put to the test that our fruit is at its sweetest.

Children Are a Treasure From the Lord

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Nearly every baby born is viewed as a treasure at his birth. I’m sure some are not looked forward to, but the tenderness of a baby predisposes them to be cherished just for their helpless state. But that first time the child cries all night, I can tell you, it is really hard to keep the perspective that she is a treasure. Our sleep deprived brains sense the cause of our sleep deprivation as a minor enemy, and it is very challenging to find the balance, patience, and courage we parents need. We may feel guilty placing the screaming baby in the crib alone and walking out for ten minutes to get a grip on our frustration, but we also feel guilty and fearful holding that bundle of stress knowing our anger and frustrations are rising.

As an “old” mom let me just say, place the baby safely in the bed. Walk away. Wake your husband or call your mom. The baby’s safety is the priority at the moment, and sleep deprived, stressed moms need to take a step back. Don’t feel guilty. Know that you are doing what is safe and healthy for that little one you love so – most of the time – just not at 3:08 a.m.

But that is only the first threat to viewing our child as a treasure. Those threats keep coming, new ones arrive with each natural step in a child’s development.

In the high chair feeding stage, when they throw their sticky green food on your beautiful white blouse as you head out to the office, in that moment they may not feel like a treasure. What do you do? Laugh so you don’t cry and change the blouse. It is what it is.

At two years old when the answer to everything is “NO!” and you can’t win because nothing pleases them in those moments, they don’t feel very treasure-like. When that three or four-year-old has a lay down on the ground fit in an inconvenient place and you are terribly embarrassed, they don’t feel like that treasure they did the day they were born. When that pre-teen’s smart mouth kicks in and you want to exchange them for that sweet child you used to know… nothing to treasure there. When they are sixteen and rebelling against your authority, or twenty-three and they are so far off the path of righteousness that you wonder if they will live, the treasure meter reads zero.

All of those experiences make you lose perspective on this treasure God gave you, this baby, child, teen or adult treasure. It will likely cause you to feel a wave of negative feelings from irritation to fear to anger to disgust to desperation and hatred. But those feelings are only that – they are feelings conjured up by thoughts and chemicals in our brains. Don’t trust you feelings! The truth is found in God’s word – children are a heritage, a treasure, a reward. That is the truth. That is not a feeling. That is from God not man. That can be trusted.

If we keep this truth ever-present in our minds the Enemy of Our Souls will not be able to gain power over us. He will not be able to make us say or do something we may regret. But we must always know the truth, for the truth sets us free. (John 8:31-32) Free from the enemy’s grip and the fleshly temptation to view what God calls a treasure as an inconvenience, or to allow our minds to be wrapped up and controlled by those negative emotions that our child can trigger in us.

That is why it is crucial to have God’s word stored in our memories. Feelings can only be changed by placing God’s truth in our minds to overcome the barrage of negative thoughts that trigger negative emotions. Scripture tells us how to do that, and it is really a very simple concept, but a difficult one to master.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

We are to replace every negative thought with thoughts that are true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy! If you can do that with every thought, your emotions will fall in line and you will be exercising the Spirit’s fruit of self-control. It can be done, but it takes a lot of practice, trust me! Why don’t you start today. Choose to trust the truths of God’s word and keep them ever before your eyes, don’t trust your feelings.

That child, no matter their age, really is a treasure – God says so!

Refinishing Cabinets and Hearts

Making It Home Series

by guest author Rachael Armitt Davis 

My kitchen cabinets need to be refinished….and so does my heart, apparently. You see, refinishing the cabinets in the kitchen and bath has been on our to-do list for over a year, but it’s not yet in the budget.

The home AC went out, the car AC went out, we had to replace the washer and dryer…there’s always something, right? So these ol’ cabinets have gotten pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. But last week, someone was in my home, and mentioned that boy do I need to update my kitchen cabinets….and counters. She showed me pictures for ideas, and while I know she had the best of intentions, all of a sudden, as I looked at those renovated kitchens, I began to see my home as less-than. Not up to par. Honestly, it’s gotten shabbier by the day, in my eyes.

And just like that, discontentment sets in.

I “need” this and this and this, and instead of my heart being focused on praying for all that’s going on in my world today, or loving my family and friends well, or anything that would bring God glory, my mind is whirling with projects and budgets and potential debt. They say “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and have you ever heard a truer thing? When I compare my kitchen cabinets, or my husband, or my children, or my parenting skills, or my job, or my church, or my friendships, or my vehicle, or my purse collection, or WHATEVER….there’s always going to be someone who has it “better,” who is doing it “better.” And just like that, my joy is sucked down into the vortex of “I wish” or “if only” or “when this happens, I will finally be happy.”

It’s a slippery slope, and today, I’m going to wipe down those shabby, beat-up cabinets and choose joy. I’m going to remember why those cabinets are so rough:

… we’ve cooked and eaten a million meals in this kitchen, my beautiful little family and I

… we’ve had water fights with the kitchen sprayer, laughing until our sides hurt, water dripping down to the floor

… we’ve welcomed thousands of people into our home, and they’ve stood over these cabinets to wash their hands before sharing a meal with us

… my children have banged a step stool into those cabinets hundreds of times, wanting to play in the sink or help mommy cook or just see what’s happening

… our children and our youth and our college students and our friends have all jumped up on the counters to sit and talk with us, banging their shoes onto the cabinet doors as they tell us about their day

Tens of thousands of precious moments have led to cabinets that really must be refinished soon. But for now, I will remember those moments and choose joy. And it’s really not about the cabinets at all, is it? It’s much more about my heart.