In Training

Two years ago had someone told me that I would have healthy, loving relationships with women that didn’t involve lying, guilt trips, grudges, and back-stabbing, I would have called you crazy. In my experience, that’s just what you had to deal with when you chose to be friends with girls, and it’s why I didn’t have any. During that phase of life I found it much easier to just not go there, and convinced myself that I was completely ok with not having girlfriends.

But God…

He had something so different planned for me. And I didn’t go quietly. There was kicking, and screaming.  There were tantrums. There were not-so-nice words. And yes, there were tears. I didn’t want to be hurt again. I didn’t want to dispense that time and energy, all of which were so precious to me because of my work schedule, in to something that would ultimately explode in to a bloody, painful mess.

My husband had been really pushing me to find a life group.  I had a host of excuses; I don’t have time, I don’t have the energy, I don’t want to lose more time with my kids, I don’t want to interact with women. So one night during a heated discussion that involved all of the above excuses, I pulled that whole woman thing where I don’t want to do what my husband thinks I should do so I do the “fine, I’ll go do this, but just so you know, you’re going to be wrong about how this turns out” thing. I pulled out my computer and started looking through the list of life groups on my church’s web site. And I found one. And I kind of cried. So I send the request to join, and really forgot about it, until I received an email from a sweet woman inviting me to a training class.

“Training? Training for what? This is supposed to be a life group!”

But I went.

And I was invited to join.

And I did.

And I served.

And I was taught.

And I learned.

And I loved.

I loved the women I served and served with. And not just the kind of love that we say to people when we don’t really feel it, but feel obligated to say it, but real and true, deep heart, cry-for-you-when-you-hurt love. When I prayed for these women I knew them, and God began to do this work in my heart. And a year later it changed again.

Responsibility.

And more love.

And family.

And spiritual mothers.

And spiritual daughters.

And God.

In the time that I was serving I thought that I was giving something to the women around me.  And I was. But what I didn’t understand at the time that I understand now was that God was giving something to me at the same time. He implanted something inside of me that I never thought in a million years I would have, and that is this beautiful, pure love for the women around me. I was caught in that terrible trap of looking at a woman and seeing her faults, believing her to words to be deceitful and manipulative, and keeping a safe arms-length away from connecting.

So I grieved.

For all of that time that I ignored His tug on my heart, and for all of the relationships that went south because of my preconceived notions about her intentions.

I am a better woman because of these ladies. I am more loved and treasured than I believed that I could be by someone other than my husband. I am continually blessed, and out of that blessing I can continue to bless others by the power of His words. If you’re her, if you’re who I was, I want to encourage you to think differently about your sisters. I want to encourage you to press on with His help, and find those healthy relationships what will make you a better woman.

Thank you to those who invested in me. I don’t know that you will ever know your full impact.

An Open Letter to my Mom on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Now that I’m a mom with a little age under my belt, I’ve realized that the dreaded “You’ll understand when you’re a mom” phrase that I hated hearing in my teen years is actually one of the most profound truths that you’ve ever taught me. I’m not sure that there was anything I didn’t want to hear come out of your mouth in response to one of complaints/whines/screams/ of “not fair” more than that. So here I am 20 years later with these beautiful children and it all makes sense.

This unexplainable love that you feel for these tiny little beings who God entrusted you with is beyond any natural thing that exists, but it’s also how I’ve learned more and more about who God is. I want you to know that you taught me that. You showed me every day every time that you said “no” when I wanted to do something I shouldn’t, and every time that you put your foot down and grounded me when I did it anyway; your dedication to teaching me the right thing taught me why boundaries were so important, and the older I get, the more I realize that these are God’s boundaries, too. They aren’t to restrict my joy, or contain my spirit, or squash my dreams, they were there to help me reach them and guide me to my destiny. They were guidance, and love, and they’re part of the reason I am who I am today. No one is a perfect parent. We’ve talked about all of that. But you were as perfect as you could have been, and you were exactly what God intended for my life.

It has been such a joy to me to get to know you in my adult years. When you’re a kid you look at your parent through kid’s eyes, and you rarely see them as their own independent person who has feelings and dreams of their own. I’ll never forget the moment about 5 years ago when God began to reveal to me who you are as a person, and not just as my mom who worries too much. From that moment forward, I have had the distinct honor of getting to know who you are. Who Lorinda is. Not just who “Mom” is. And I want you to know that Lorinda is a beautiful, strong, amazing woman, and I am absolutely honored to call know you.

If you would allow me a moment to speak to you grown up to grown up, and not daughter to mother I have something I want you to know, and something that I believe that our Father wants you to know. You are exactly who He made you to be. Your talents that you sometimes don’t recognize as being good enough ARE good enough. He put them there. They were purposeful and deliberate. You have a gorgeous heart for those you love. When I think about this part of you I always see a momma lioness protecting her cubs. You are mightily protective of those who are yours, and your love for them is just as fierce. You are stunningly beautiful! I know that you don’t always necessarily believe this, but when you’re in a room you make it brighter with your laughter and your smile. You attract people to you because that’s how God made you.

These past 12 years as momma have seen their ups and downs, but as I’m entering this new phase of life called being a grandma I am excited that I have you to look up to as a role model for this new title. You are so amazing and special to me, and I love you more than words.

Happy 31st Mother’s Day, Mommy!

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him

Christmas morning was short one child this year, but it still managed to be full of anticipation and excitement. Hayden ran out in to the living room, and at the site of the presents under the tree he squealed “Merry Christmas, everybody!” Jeff and I made our way out to the couches and watched, directed, and laughed along with this little wonder in front of us as he politely posed for a picture before destroying the carefully wrapped surprises that lay in front of him. As his parent, I took delight in each smile, giggle, and twinkle of wonder in his eyes. Oh, how the Father must take the same joy in us.

Jeff did an amazing thing yesterday and braved the Christmas Eve shoppers to fetch bacon for our Christmas breakfast (and probably somehow lunch and dinner). Bacon, eggs, and homemade buttermilk biscuits and gravy with fresh coffee and milk made for a lovely finish to the morning, and as I sat there watching my 4-year old inhale his “cheese in the moon” (eggs), I couldn’t help but smile at this unique gift that the Lord had blessed me with, when one of my favorite versus came to mind.

“For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139: 13-14 (NASB)

Today is the celebration of the birth of a baby whose sole purpose of creation was to die for us, but what I had never pondered before was that Jesus, being wholly God and wholly man, was also woven in to His mother’s womb. God the Father was deliberate in the creation of Jesus’ human form, and wove him in Mary’s womb as he did each of us to our own mother’s. How much did He grieve knowing that this body that he is creating with such care and love will be tortured, beaten, and killed. Though He knew this was the only way to pay for our lives, and He gave it to us lovingly and willingly (John 3:16), it still must have been quite bittersweet.

So that’s where my head is today. The sweet creation and birth of the baby who would grow to give everything He had so that we could spend forever with him. Joyful, wonderful, majestic, simplistic, love.

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angle of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2: 1-14 (NASB)

Randomness and Such.

All of these things are rolling through my head today, and they’re having a hard time making their way out in an organized fashion, so this one will be short (or not), and scattered (or not).

I’m so tired of hearing all of the hatred in politics. Don’t try to fool yourself in to thinking that it’s one sided. We’re destroying this country together. Sadly, it’s the only thing we can seem to do successfully together.

My parents left today after being here for about 4 days. We spent the whole time just loving each other, laughing, and eating.  Mom and I spent about 2 days in my tiny kitchen cooking together, and it was wonderful. I forget how much I enjoy her company until I get it again. I’m pretty lucky to have such amazing parents. And to think that it could have turned out so differently had I not let God step in and create a beautiful thing out of the burned bridges that I created.

Hayden turned 4 yesterday. My how time flies. He’s his own little independent person with his own little independent thoughts. Mom couldn’t stop laughing at him all weekend.  A little of that was probably laughing at me.  You know what they say about paybacks.

I’m sitting here at the end of our family get together, weighing 5 pounds heavier than when we started, feeling sorry for myself, and all around disappointed.  This time last year I had lost 50 pounds, and today I’ve officially gained back nearly 20 of those. I’m kicking myself over that extra cupcake, and second helping of mashed potatoes, and feel like a gigantic loser. This is when Daddy chimes in with a huge hug of warmth and love, and reminds me that he is not disappointed in me when I fall.  He takes my hand, helps me back up, and walks with me back to the starting line. No shame, no guilt, and no “I told you so”. He just loves me. And it’s the most romantic moment we’ve shared in a while.

Product Buzz: Hidden Valley Ranch

Good morning, friends!  Time to start your day with a quick and easy way to make your mealtimes better this weekend with Hidden Valley Ranch!  Now, I know what you’re saying.  “Sara, this isn’t a new product.  Why are you Bzz’ing about it?”  Well, I have just the answer.
Because ranch dressing is awesome, and Hidden Valley does it best!

We go through a metric ton of ranch dressing every year, but I have yet to find a brand that is more flavorful than this one, and my entire family loves it. Don’t believe me? Check out one of my favorite recipes made with The Original Ranch: HERE

Come back and tell me what you think!

Interested in trying out great products for free?  Check out BzzAgent and join me!

 

Product Buzz: Glade Air Expressions

Howdy friends!  I’m starting a new type of post here at openexpectancy called Product Buzz. If you follow me on Facebook you know that I’m an avid seeker of all money saving opportunities. In my search for said opportunities I found BzzAgent.com.  BzzAgent is the leading social marketing company that puts new products in the hands of consumers who share their opinions of the product as well as valuable coupons with their friends, co-workers, and family members.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted as a BzzAgent, and to be chosen to review the Glad Air Expressions products (did I mention they give you FREE PRODUCTS?)

Pineapple & Mangosteen

Can I just tell you how in love I am with this scent? My home is full of boys (2 little ones, 1 big one, and 1 puppy), and this scent was light enough to not be obnoxious and overwhelming, but amazing enough to fill the whole house and really cover up any boy-smell one might encounter.  I also tried the apple scent, but this one takes the cake in my humble opinion. Pineapples are one of my favorite fruits, and I mean, really, who doesn’t like mangosteen? Fall is in the air in the Moccardine home!

Being a BzzAgent comes with perks.  One of them is the free product, but the other is the opportunity to share with all of you some amazing high value coupons that make this product ALMOST free!  So if you’re interested, ask and you shall receive (yes, I will mail it to you!) And if you’re interested in an opportunity as a BzzAgent, send me your email address and I’ll send you an invite!

So there you have it folks.  The first Product Buzz session from openexpectancy. Stay tuned for the next session coming soon!

Resting on Living Water

Jeff bought a Texas State Park pass about a month ago, so we’ve been spending a lot of time out at the lake with the boys. You’ve never seen any two boys happier than my two when they’re in the water. I’ve never been much of an outside person, but I’ve been making strides in that arena.  Being married to an adventurer, and being the mother of two little Grizzly Adams I’ve finally given in to the fact that the outdoors needs to be a big part of my world.  Sweating has become not so gross, dirt has become not so obnoxious, and getting tangled in the seaweed is like second nature.  Well, almost.

I took a week of vacation from work this week to unwind, and pull myself back together.  One could call this a staycation, but I’m going to call it more of a stay-at-home sabbatical.  I don’t recall a time in recent history where I’ve taken any time off of work for a purpose other than doing something for someone else, so this was kind of a big deal.  I was doing this just for me, with the rest of the family benefiting from my being home and not in the office.  It has been a truly restful week.

The other day we took a morning trek out to the lake to spend a few hours.  Honestly, I wish we had done this more than we did, but anyway. H is splashing around in his floaty growling at the seaweed and his brother, Jay was in a splash war with Jeff, and I was just laying on my back with my eyes closed soaking in the serenity around me. In my moment of personal escape the Lord broke the silence and reminded me that while I’m laying here enjoying the relaxation and peace in the physical waters that I forget in my daily busy to rest in the Living Water. Whoa.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s Sake.” – Psalm 23:1-3

Ah, rest. Is there anything more that I need than the rest I can only find in Him? The restoration that only comes from a complete surrender of my days, hours, minutes to His purpose? Allowing the cleansing waters to flow over me and fill me to overflowing? Why do I fail this? Why, in all of my human splendor, do I fail to spend this time with Him? Because I’m selfish, and stubborn. Because I place what I think I know is best for me above what He already knows is best. Because I trust what I think over what He thinks. Because I value my plans more than I value His plans. Because I don’t love Him enough to value His sacrifices over my desires.  That’s why. Rest is not so unattainable as I make it out to be.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Jesus loves me, this I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

The Bible tells me so.

This is my youngest son’s favorite song.  At the ripe old age of 3 ½, he belts this bad boy out at the top of his lungs like it’s nobody’s business.  It doesn’t matter where we are, or what we’re doing, sometimes he just feels the need to croon this little ditty. Sometimes, this comes at inopportune moments (like in a public restroom, or a quiet movie theatre), which requires me to swallow my correction because, really, what kind of terrible mother would tell their 3 year old that they can’t sing “Jesus loves me”?

A few months back, Hayden went with me to Supercuts.  At about the 30 minute mark in our wait (which he managed very patiently, to my surprise) he made his way to the middle of the waiting area and proceeded to sing this song. He didn’t sing loudly, mind you, but he DID manage to sing it at a decibel so ear-piercing that I couldn’t even believe it was humanly possible.  The sweet little old lady next to me laid her hand on my knee, smiled, and said “It sounds like you’re raising that boy right!” Her well-intended comment left me feeling a bit ashamed of myself for being embarrassed.  He wasn’t embarrassed. He was proud, and happy, and was singing his song to the Jesus who lives in his heart.  Why would I ever want him to stop singing like this?

It was in those moments sitting there watching that little old lady smile at him, and tell him how beautiful his song was that I finally understood what Jesus meant in Mark 10:15 when he told the disciples that “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter at all.” Think about it. Really. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children how to live and grow, but in that we often project our own grown-up hurts and fears in to their world in the form of well-meaning correction and redirection. Now, I know that there are some parents in the world who purposefully hurt their children, but I’d like to believe that the majority of us aren’t out to do that, so please don’t take that as an attack.  We are human. We make mistakes.  A lot of them. Which is why it is even more important that we seek God’s direction in parenting our little ones to love and seek him always with a child’s heart.

I want my children to sing with abandon to their Jesus! I want them to do it in public so that others can see God in their praises.  I want them to minister to the broken through melodies as simple as this, because it’s in its simplicity where you truly see the entire heart of Jesus – His love for us!  So, if you’re reading this, I’d like for you to humor me for a quick moment and read each line out loud. Read it with passion. Read it like you believe it, because every single word is a basic, powerful truth that we adults tend to lose belief in during our busy adult lives.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

The Bible tells me so

Moulting

I’ve sat here and stared at this computer screen for hours now; idling drumming my fingers against the base of the laptop, with lazy eyes that want to sleep but an overly-active brain that won’t rest until the words inside are left on paper.  Or keyboard.  Whichever. Sleep hasn’t been easy to come by lately, and coming by rest has been even more of a rare occurrence. It seems that when He wants something done, He’s pretty persistent.

About a year and a few months ago I attended my church’s annual women’s conference, during which there was an amazing time of prophetic prayer and ministry.  Each woman at the conference received a card that held a prophetic word which had been carefully prayed over and put to paper. My card contained a word that confirmed my calling. The heavens didn’t open up, the trumpets didn’t sound, and the angels didn’t sing. In fact, the tears that fell down my face after reading the confirmation of something my heart had been longing for didn’t fall happily.

Scared.to.death.

So I tucked this tangible piece of God in to my conference notebook, and quickly hid it away on my bookshelf at the conclusion of the weekend where I haven’t looked at it since, or, at least until this year’s conference.

Here I am with a family I love, a husband I adore, a job that I enjoy with co-workers whom I actually like getting to spend time with – blessed beyond measure, and completely content in it. But that’s the thing.  He’s not calling me to be content. My husband will tell you how much of a homebody I am. I would much prefer sitting at home doing the dishes and watching movies with my kiddos than I would going putt-putt golfing, or paying way too much to go to a theatre. I suppose I’ve always been that way, really. I’ve certainly never been one for change in my personal life. With so much constant change at work, I’m totally cool with things at home staying the same for as long as possible (if I have anything to do with it, which as of recently I’m learning that I don’t.) Some days my prayers consist more of “God, please stop trying to shake me out of my comfort zone.  I’m totally ok with things the way they are,” than anything else. Looking back at what I just wrote makes me feel a bit selfish, actually.

But alas, my crazily fantastical God has something else in store for me. My spirit is jumping with excitement, while my soul is mourning and my body is trying to sleep. This is going to be a marvelous and miraculous journey. Marvelous because it’s a total God thing, and miraculous because I’m fairly certain that people are going to freak at the shedding of this skin I’ve been wearing for so long. So get ready everyone. Things are about to get a little messy.

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