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FOR

The word ‘FOR’ gets right to the heart of what is behind our vision and mission:  finding our PURPOSE despite our imperfection.  We encourage you today to consider who and what you do what you do FOR.

As parents, we tend to do most of what we do FOR our families, friends and loved ones (And let’s be honest, we also do a whole lot for ourselves). Our kids’ activities drive our schedules.  We work hard in order to provide and afford the things we want and need.  We make decisions, often tough decisions, in order FOR our children to live safe, healthy and productive lives.

These are important reasons and any good parent should do things FOR their children.  But have you taken any time to consider what you do FOR God and His purpose?  You can be certain there is a specific purpose and promise He is planning to fulfill through you.  He is just waiting for you to open the door and so He can get started.  Need some inspiration?  Check out The Imperfect Project.  Your FOR could be the answer to someone else’s HOW.

What are you celebrating FOR?

What are you thankful FOR?

What are you praying FOR?

What are you getting up every day FOR?

The Wise Seek Wisdom

The funny thing about wisdom is that it’s an oxymoron.  Just think about it, no one is truly wise, because everybody is thirsty for more knowledge on a subject that they struggle with.  Anyways, there is improvement for everyone.  I personally am asked for relationship advice, but I don’t really know how to respond.  Therefore, I am a neutral perspective.  Here’s a fact:  No one will ever have all the answers except for one – God!  He knows what the best thing for everyone is.  He knows your strengths and your weaknesses.  Wise people seek wisdom from others that specialize in that topic because they would want to know they are going to be successful.  If you and a friend were going to drown, who would you want to save you?  Not your friend, or else you would both drown!  Same thing here.  You wouldn’t ask someone who has never picked up a pencil before to write a novel; you would ask a writer who has written novels their entire lives!  We challenge you to find a group of people who you can really learn from, that will make you wiser on a variety of topics.

Wisdom is not a collection of knowledge and facts.  Wisdom is also the paring of this knowledge and the discernment of when to apply it in life.  Each and every day in our home, we receive a wide assortment of factoids and interesting “Did you knows”.  Our children are a smorgasbord of weird and amazing believe it or nots.  If we gauged success by a randomization of facts, they would be climbing the ladder to stardom.  As parents, we know intelligence without application won’t get you far beyond the library.  Wisdom, however, is a constant seeking of how to apply gained knowledge.  Knowing when and where to take action.  Wisdom is comprised of knowledge and the associated experience both in gaining it and seeing its consequences.  This helps us know how to apply it in the future should we stumble upon the scenario again.  This is why it is so beneficial to know people who have been there, done that and now have the blood-and-sweat stained t-shirt to prove it.  Seek out these people!

There are times in life we feel stuck and limited by the situation we are in.  We are prideful by nature and want to also be the one who knows the right answer to solve your own problems.  There is just one problem with that…you weren’t made to solve all of your own problems alone.  We were created to connect with others in meaningful ways.  Maybe you have tried to seek veteran survivors of your situation and you still find yourself trapped.

I struggled with this for so long.  Maybe you are the same way.  You want to be independent and someone others always feel they can count on.  There is a lot of pressure to be the one to fix everyone else and solve all of the issues, including our own.  We would love to think this makes us appear to be a person in control, large and in charge.  I found the opposite to be true.  Once we decide we know it all, we are closed to new ideas, the ability to learn and shut down to what God wants to speak into our hearts.

If you lead others or are struggling to understand why your advice may not be accepted.  Acknowledge wisdom is a journey and the path itself can teach us a lot about ourselves.  Our brains make new connections and allow us to connection information and apply it in brand new ways.  You could walk the same path every day and still it would have something to teach you.  Change helps us identify ways to create new opportunities for growth and knowledge.  People want to know you are human just like them.  They want to know you will walk along side of them in this life, seeking ways to open yourself to new experiences.  If you knew everything there was to know, what would be left for you to learn?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

 

 

Let Them Go

I cannot think of anything more terrifying as a parent than thinking about letting my own child make a mistake I have already made.  Every day my prayers are full of bargaining with God to keep them safe from feelings of guilt, pain and hurt.  When we begin to think of all the “what-ifs” ahead of our kids, those thoughts can be paralyzing.  Flashes of all the horrible choices we made in our own childhood come rushing back like a bad re-run.  This used to keep me in firm position over them, deflecting all the attempts to cause harm, every fall that should have resulted in a lesson learned about choices and discernment.  At age two, my daughter showed me no amount of helicopter parenting would ever prevent her from experiencing life.  At some points, I thought maybe God had put her in my life show me you just can’t stop a locomotive hell-bent on getting to the next station.  And Ashton was that locomotive and there was no way she was missing the next station in her route.

She continues to teach us valuable lessons about forgiveness, trust and how to approach life and live it to the fullest.  Our kids don’t know a thing about “wait” or “stop”.  The concept of thinking something through in every detail before leaping full force is lost on their strong-willed nature. I tried to consider why as an adult this becomes difficult.  There are the obvious reasons of course: we have a better concept of danger, ethical violating behavior, and rules in general.  But what about the other areas?  When we have opportunities is it very easy to get caught up in the details: How will I afford it?, What if people don’t like me?, the list goes on and on of reasons we should do what our hearts show us to do.

This blog is a perfect example.  I spent years (5 year or more) thinking about what this blog should be.  I owned the site name for two years before one day suggesting to my daughter we should write together and then presto! Runnkd.com and A Path Emerges was born!  She showed me what it COULD be.  In those early moments, I realized I had been going at this all wrong.  We spent so munch time thinking about what something SHOULD be rather than being available to what COULD be if we just start.

I believe this is God’s vision for us and how we live our lives.  We devise all of these elaborate plans just to have them get derailed with no notice.  We feel defeated and say “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”  Have you ever heard your child say this?  We hear it a lot.  Secretly I love when they bring me broken things (as long as they aren’t mine) and want me to fix it.  God as the perfect loves when we bring our broken, mistreated and twisted hopes and dreams. Only then can we be open enough to receive completeness through his healing and intervention.

Scripture tells us to have faith like a child.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

Only after having experienced life with our two children am I beginning to truly understand why Jesus told his disciples to “let the children come”.  Sure it’s a sweet, heart-warming picture to envision Jesus crowded by those little children with expecting eyes and open arms, but what did he really mean?  I think God was telling us, “Stop over thinking it! Stop trying to figure it out and just come!”  He wants to worry about the details.  He wants to demonstrate an overabundance of provision to you despite all of the attempts you will make to try and obtain it yourself.  God is the perfect parent.  He knew if he kept us restricted to the way he knows is right, preventing all of the evil things from happening, we would not have anything to learn.  He wants to be our choice by giving us the opportunity to choose.  ultimately, we want this for our children too.  We want their lives to be a reflection of all of the choices they made so they can feel confident in their ability to make a wise decision and see the rewards.  Sure, they are going to make some mistakes, and if they are anything like me…they are going to make some big ones and more than a few, but on the other end, they will have a story about them.

We all want a story.  We all want to be the hero who saves the day.  Just like any good story, the hero doesn’t always start out that way and without conflict, there is no need for heroes.  Today, let’s commit to showing our kids how to fail gracefully, win humbly and walk confidently no matter which direction the path takes them.

Assumptions

Assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.  In the context of relationships, this is a challenging word.  We all do it, we know the consequences, but some times we just can’t help ourselves.  We like to believe we know exactly what is going to happen next. We will even convince ourselves there are no other alternatives.  We make them quickly and often without consideration for the slightest possibility that we might be mistaken.

We would love to tie an absolute to it and say when we operate on living without proof or validity to what we think, feel and believe, we are bound to live in a darkness of disappointment and confusion. On the other hand, assumption allows us to have faith in things we haven’t seen in person.  We love to believe the best about the people in our lives, that they always have our best interests in mind.  Typically, we can feel good about making these assumptions because of the strong connections we have and the trust we have established.

We get into a bit of trouble when we make assumptions based on our own feelings or interpretations and forget to evaluate them against those truths.  While there may be deeply rooted emotions tied to your assumption or a history of repeated offenses, if you are only relying on your own perception, there might be more truth lurking in the shadows than you are willing to acknowledge or accept.

The good news is no matter how far down the path of despair you may travel, forgiveness follows close behind.  At any moment you can turn away from a path of destruction and place your burdens on the shoulders of forgiveness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV

Confidence

In a world full of comparison and competition, it is easy to become discouraged and lack the confidence needed to move forward.

We have each been given a specific set of gifts and talents, however when we spend our time comparing, we are essentially trying to play a game with the wrong pieces and set of rules.  Or could you imagine showing up to practice with the wrong equipment?  Could you picture a football player showing up for a swim meet, standing on the blocks in full gear?  He would drown in seconds!  And that is just what we do everyday we try to live someone else’s life with our unique abilities.  You cannot look at someone else’s way of living and wish you had it with what you have been given, even if you tried to fake it for awhile, you would eventually feel the drain and exhaustion of the charade.  And you would lack the confidence to keep on trying.

Want to know why some people look like “they have it so easy”? Because they are living the life God intended for them, they are applying themselves with the attributes needed to successfully play the game on the right field.   They seem so confident…that’s because they ARE!   They have confidence in what they are doing typically because they enjoy what they are doing, they are skilled in that area, and they know what to anticipate.

Confidence comes from the belief you have about yourself.  Perhaps there is an area of your life where you feel self-conscious or have a lack of confidence.  Then you most likely know the thoughts and feelings which moved in when confidence moved out:  Fear, anxiety, worry, fatigue.

Not one of these feelings promotes a motivation to see yourself they way God sees you.  We can have confidence today that there is a plan for each of us.  Which is great news!  There is a catch, and that is He also wants you to seek Him. In doing so, he will begin to reveal the specific way in which he made you.  As with any plan, it requires some work.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God has a plan:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Listen carefully to what happens next,  God requires an action.. he gives us something to do.  It isn’t enough for Him to know the plan, we have to do some digging to make it come to life. Jeremiah 12 – 13 goes on to call us into action in order to receive and know God’s plan:

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

God doesn’t just have a plan.  He has an ACTION plan!  You can be confident knowing that if you seek, you will find, if you ask, he will answer.  And if you open your heart, he will fill it with everything you need.

You Are…

“Everyone is someone else’s something.”

An encouraging word is often one of the simplest and impactful ways to lift someone up.  You hold within you the power to bring hope to the lost and healing to the broken,  Today we want you to know we believe with all our hearts, you are:

…LOVED

…GIFTED

…TALENTED

…CHOSEN

…INTELLIGENT

…CREATIVE

…STRONG

…RESILIENT

…FUNNY

…WANTED

…BRAVE

…SPECIAL

…WORTHY

…COURAGEOUS

…UNIQUE

…WONDERFUL

…INVINCIBLE

…POWERFUL

…CARING

…RESPECTED

…_________

What is your word of encouragement today?  Who does God say YOU ARE?

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I AM helped:  therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and and with my song I will praise him.”

 

 

You’ve Got Something to Celebrate

Celebration is a fun way to build and also grow relationships. It allows  you to learn about others as well. You get to spend time with those you care most about and you get the chance to make them feel special.

Celebrations aren`t  just for friends. They can also be between families. You can have incredible amounts of fun just inside your house. ( See Pinterest for ideas haha…) Things can get heated in a house, so celebrations and praise often helps disagreements die down and cool off.

We are living in party central right now!  We kick off October every year with a double birthday celebration for two of our family members.  And birthdays at our house mean and entire day is spent making sure the birthday person feels special.  We all love to feel special don’t we?  And we LOVE a celebration to highlight our high points.

Think about all of the “celebrations” we have in our lives..know what they all have in common?

A majority of them revolve around a once a year recognition of something that happened in our past, often something we had nothing to do with ourselves.  I love a good celebration along with everyone, as a matter of fact I treasure them and start thinking about them long before the day arrives.

When Ashton suggested we do a blog on celebration, at first I thought, ” Well what’s to tell?  Celebrations are happy, everyone is smiling, but sure a feel good blog never hurts.”  Then we sat down to really prepare and came across a verse about celebration:

They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate in your righteousness. Psalm 89:16

This describes not just an event, or preparation for an event, instead the authors of Psalms describe about a state of being – a state of CELEBRATION.  This focus of mind and heart on a constant celebration got us thinking.  At first, you might respond with “YEAH!  An all day party!  That’s a verse I can get excited about! Does Chuck E. Cheese’s do 24/7 parties?”

Before you stock up on colorful paper plates and make your custom playlist, there are two things to point out:

They rejoice ALL DAY LONG, as in everyday, every hour, without cease.  When was the last time you threw a party?  At some point, we all hit that wall when we are ready to kick out the guests, pour out the punch bowl, crawl into our sweat pants and take a nap until next week!  Celebration is exhausting!  But these people are PARTY people!  They are the guests that doesn’t want to leave.  They are rejoicing ALL DAY LONG, and well into the night and the next day.

So how are they sustained and why aren’t they collapsing in exhaustion?

Because their source is not an event.  They rejoice in something bigger and more worthy of this exuberance.  They rejoice IN HIS NAME and IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.  And HE is Jesus.  They are celebrating what He has ALREADY DONE and for who He ALREADY IS.

Just like you, we tend to focus on celebrating when something is finished.  God wants us to celebrate what He has done, what He IS doing and what He is CAPABLE to DO!  He is never finished with us, he made us knowing that we could never be perfect or complete without needing what He has to offer.

Imagine if you lived your life celebrating what God CAN DO.  You might just find yourself celebrating all day long, and into the night, never wanting to leave!

 

 

 

Qualities of a “Hugging” Friend

A couple of years ago, Ashton was feeling conflicted about friendship and how differentiate her close friends with whom she had a long history and new friends she wasn’t quite ready to merge into the “trust circle”.  We decided there are three types of friend levels:

Wave Friends (those you are getting to know or acquaintences)

High Five Friends (those who you know well enough to provide encouragement)

and Hugging Friends…

Hugging Friends are the ones you can be yourself around, the ones  that probably know all of your secrets and can tell when you are having a bad day.  There is vulnerability with this group. You can’t pull everyone inside your personal space and feel safe.  How do you find such a friend and avoid the danger zone?  Here’s the top 5 qualities we felt are worth putting on the list:

  • Funny – seriously a sense of humor is a must!
  • Loyal – no back stabbers allowed
  • Honest – you need someone to tell you when you have food in your teeth or protect you from yourself and any poor decisions you might make
  • Can’t be selfish – willing to share, this isn’t just about borrowing their lucky pen for a test or loaning you lunch money.  Relationships are a give/take arrangement of time, energy and understanding
  • Trust – The deal maker or breaker.

In today’s world of virtual friendships, the quest has never been tougher!  Think about it, we said that there are 3 types of friends (Wave, High-Five and Hugging).  Facebook doesn’t exactly provide these as choices on your privacy settings, but you probably also see not all people seem to prioritize before they post.   Think about your news feed compared to what you share with people in person.  Do you post as though your all of your followers “Friends” are at one of these levels?  Geez! How awkward when you see a “Wave” Friend who knows something “Hug-worthy” about you?!

We seem to forget Friendship is a solution to the issue we have had as humans since the beginning of time.  God created the very first human and immediately said “It is NOT GOOD for him to be alone.  I need to make him a suitable helper.  Did you catch that?…a  SUITABLE helper…God needed to make a Hugging Friend for Adam.

In the context of creation, God was creating the first wife out of his rib, literally creating something broken in Adam so God himself could create the exact person and being to complete him.  I believe this is also predecessor to a verse in Proverbs:

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A brother is born (made, created) for times of adversity, again specifically with you in mind. God will provide all which you need.  He cares for you so deeply, he will always see it is NOT GOOD for you to be alone and He will always create connection for you so that in times of trouble, you will have a “suitable helper” to come alongside of you.  God knows what lies ahead for us and the trials we will endure to get where he wants us to be; therefore, he is able to equip another to be exactly what you need.

He takes the list of friend qualities to a whole other level for us:

This helper will Love Unconditionally.  A friend loves at all times.  And because we know the definition of love to be completely unselfish and faithful, we can be confident of our friend’s acceptance.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

A true friend will Care for you sincerely and genuinely

“I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.” ‭‭ Philippians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A friend will be our Stronghold and Strength when we are weak:

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Because of a true friend, we will Never Be Alone:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭14:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let’s see if we can put this all together today. God created the first human and immediately saw it was not good for him to be alone and created a suitable helper (unique to perfectly complete us in our broken state).  He sent His only son to teach us about being the ultimate friend and literally laid down his own life for us in a statement of love.

On top of that, he says he will not leave us as orphans (alone) and He will come to us. We know God works through people powerfully to heal. So in his promise to never leave us lonely, because he hates when we are alone, he sends his own spirit of love through others. And not just anyone, He sends someone He created with you in specifically in mind, knowing the plan he has for you and what trials you may face. He thought of, created and placed a suitable helper to love you at all times and be with you in times of adversity!

You may think you don’t have that kind of friend, but you can be fully confident you have that kind of God! And he will fulfill his promise to you.

I Still Love You

It’s easy to think that your parents don’t love you when you argue, fight, or disagree but know this:  YOU ARE LOVED!  

For a kid, we don’t fully understand or grasp the fathom of our parents and God’s love for us. Even if we make a really stupid mistake, God and our parents still love us UNCONDITIONALLY, and that will always remain true, and there`s nothing we can do to change that!

Measuring up usually hints at the feeling that either we`re doing great or we aren`t doing good enough, or even we aren`t good enough. This is not true of course and we should refrain from using the phrase, because WE DO measure up and WE ARE great enough for a great God. He loves you, and so do your parents, so keep that chin up, for you are LOVED!

Love,
Ashton

When my daughter shared her idea of I Still Love You as a topic for this week’s blog, immediately I felt a tug on my heart.  While she was wrestling with our love as parents and how we can still love our children regardless of behavior, actions or appearance, I thought to myself about how long I wrestled (and sometimes still do) with comprehending the limitless love of our heavenly father.

There is a tendency to reject this acceptance because of our own perceptions about how worthy we believe we are to receive a gift we don’t feel as though we earned.  I battled this myself for many years, trying to get to a place where I felt “clean” enough, perfect enough.  I could not imagine God would want me or want to use me to do anything to impact others.  I thought “what will I have to offer in this state brokenness.”  Then He sent a message to my heart.  He spoke to the deepest part of me, the part I kept hidden away in darkness, the part that I shielded from everyone else.

See God has this extraordinary habit of always wanting whatever it is we are not willing to let anyone else, including Him touch.  But God doesn’t take our NO for an answer.  He says, “I want that…I want that broken, ugly beat down thing you are clinging to.  I need you to let me have it so I can wash it clean and make it work again.  I have a purpose for it that you cannot see yet.  I have a plan to give it back to you so you can share it with other people so they will know me better.”

He has a plan for your THING, whatever it is.  And I will tell you, the broken the better.  He cannot fill what is closed.  And you can be assured 100% He wants it because He Still LOVES YOU!

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  My command is this:  LOVE each other as I LOVED YOU.

John 15:4, 12

God sets the example of how to love in place of our perfection.  He wants us to rely on Him in our brokenness and imperfection because He has the power to bring LIGHT into dark places, to bring back to life that which is worn down in this world.

 

The Heart of the Matter

For a kid my age, emotions are a big deal, and sometimes we may think that a situation calls for a tornado of emotions, but we have to learn to control them.

For example, I have held a lot of hurt in the past such as kids hurting my feelings, and it really doesn’t feel good. Some ways that have helped me, though, is being around people I am happiest with. I also joined clubs, and I signed up to volunteer at my church. I work with the two-year-olds, and they’re not always smiling , but they’re a blast to hang out with!

They, along with my friends and family, have brought me to where I am today: a smiley face that usually gets a smile back. Sure I still hurt a little on the inside, but I choose to channel that hurting energy into being a figure that may inspire young girls and boys in the future!

Anyways, the main lesson here is regardless of what you’re going through or putting up with, we should always manage our emotions to the best of our ability.

Love,

Ashton

 

As adults and as parents, we have to be able to help our kids and the young people in our lives validate their emotions.  The caveat is we also have to acknowledge our own.  This may unlock a treasure trove of feelings, responses and unresolved internal conflict.  Let’s face it, our emotions are a heavy load to carry, weighing us down and preventing us to truly be in the moment and react appropriately in every single situation.

Like me, you are probably juggling work, family, sports, finances, worry, anxiety and relationships every moment of the day.  We don’t often feel like we can slow down and manage the ticking time bomb waiting to explode at exactly the wrong time to the least expecting person.

I am here to tell you today…you are not perfect!  But you are loved, you are forgiven and you are capable of turning those moments around.

There are days all of that juggling leaves us feeling empty at the end of the day.  Empty is a breeding ground for anger and resentment.  When you don’t have anything filling you up with hope and love, you can’t possibly give it out to anyone else.  Empty is hard, Empty is lonely, but Empty is not what Jesus died for.  He died to give us life, to show us more love than we could ever receive over a lifetime.

God spoke to me several years ago about using writing to share my story and to go to that place of emotion, brokenness so it could be used for healing.  My emotions told me, “I don’t want to go there.  I don’t have time for that!”  Meanwhile, the stress of life still left me feeling like something was missing.

This year I prayed for God to break me, to open my heart to live poured out.  Poured out probably sounds like “empty”, however there is a subtle yet significant difference.  POURED OUT means there is something there to give.  My prayer for you today is that you fill yourself with a hope that has no limit and a love without boundaries and you find ways to allow the abundance to spill out and overflow into others.

 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.   Luke 6:45 (NIV)