The True Beauty of a Place

My family and I recently moved to the coast and could not be more thankful to be here. My daughter developed a huge love for palm trees during our time of visiting various beaches over the last year in our RV. So when we found out we would be moving to a place full of palm trees, I believe she cried.

Yesterday we went to a local Wal-Mart. The dreaded grocery run needed to take place so we took the maiden voyage to the closest Wal-Mart. Expectations were low of course. (Sorry, Wal-Mart.) It’s not my favorite place to shop to be honest but the list required it, so off we went. When we pulled in, all of our attention was pulled towards the middle of the parking lot where there were two massive rows of pure palm tree goodness. My kids were in awe. Immediately they commented on how nice of a Wal-Mart this was and it sort of changed the game for us in a positive way. It’s amazing what a beautiful palm tree can do.

I really hope that my children and I never lose our sense of wonder or appreciation from the sight of beautiful palm trees. It’s funny how wonderful and amazing something can be at first, and then we grow accustomed to it over time and it tends to lose its sense of awe or amazement.

My husband grew up in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina and I was blessed to live there in the early years of our marriage. The mountain views are simply incredible. One of the local Wal-Marts there has a gorgeous mountain backdrop. But after a while I guess I grew accustomed to it all. At times, during the fall, the colors still took my breath away, but in general I think I forgot I lived in such a beautiful place.

I hope and pray that the joy and appreciation I feel today about living here and starting over somewhere new and beautiful doesn’t fade. But even if you don’t live in the mountains or at the beach, you can find something beautiful about where you live. Now, this can be difficult. Trust me. I’ve lived in some not-so-pretty places. It may take some searching or some true positive thinking to find the things that make your residence attractive. But they are there. Sometimes it’s not the landscape at all that makes a place special. It’s really the people that make a place beautiful. There are amazing people all over this world. And I’ve been so honored to meet and be friends with some of them. Each and every location we’ve been over the years has been a gift. And when I look back at those places, it’s usually not the landscape views that come to mind. It’s the people God placed in my path.

Right now, we are once again new to the area and I don’t have the community I had before. We just haven’t had time to get to know anyone deeply here yet. And there’s this thing called a pandemic going on. It has been a challenging time to move away from our friends. But I can appreciate my current surroundings and pray that I never take the creation around me for granted. I hope and pray that every time I pull into that Wal-Mart, I can be amazed by the two perfect rows of green palm trees. And I pray that once we have local friends in our lives again, that I am always thankful for that connection. Because I am deeply appreciative of those who are still in my life after all of these changes and moves! Distance cannot break a true friendship and I am so thankful for that. (Sorry I stink at calling. My friends know this about me and somehow love me anyway! Thank you!)

What makes your current location beautiful? Is there a tree you love in your front yard? Is your neighbor amazing? Are the sunsets gorgeous? How is your friend circle?

Maybe you’re living in a place you don’t love. I’ve been there. It’s rough. Sometimes you need to ask yourself, is it worth my lack of joy to continue living here? Should we think about moving? Maybe you need to evaluate your current lifestyle and ask God if He wants you to move. He may say yes, and He may say wait. Sometimes we need to stay put for such a time as this. Maybe there’s great job where you live now, or precious family closeby. I don’t know your personal situation, but I do pray that you find something beautiful about where God has placed you today. Whether it’s the surrounding views or the people in your life. Pray that He will open your eyes to the positive and wonderful things about your current location. I am personally praying to be more thankful every day. More appreciative of the simple things. The trees, the sunshine, the sunsets. And I do pray that God will place lovely friends in our lives here as well. The people God places in our paths are truly what gives a place its beauty.

Psalm 118:1 says, Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever.

You can follow our family’s coastal living adventure on Instagram: therollingstonefam

#palmtrees #coastal #coastalliving #thankful #thankfulness #prayer #change #location #beauty #nature #creation #landscapes #beach #mountains #friendship #christian #christianblog #christianblogger

Cancelled

The latest tragedy I’ve seen in the news as of late is people being cancelled due to sharing their personal opinions with the public. The same people who preach “love” and “tolerance” are in fact the ones stripping others of their jobs, income and livelihoods based on their personal political or religious beliefs. Being cancelled is the new trend, I guess. Or the new “warning” system. We can’t be successful unless we follow the ways of the ones who are the loudest. Honestly, it scares me as a Christian homeschool mom. I can see how easy it would be to “cancel” my place of worship, the Christian radio stations I listen to in the car, or even the right to teach my children at home simply because the loudest ones don’t believe the same things and want it eradicated. They may not want me teaching my children the old school way to do long division, or even scarier…teaching them about genders and how God made us as a male or a female. And how awesome it is to be that gender and remain unashamed of it! I know. So not in line with the new ways of thought.

In case you’re reading into my idea of cancelling others, no, I’m not talking about those who scream “fire” in a movie theater. I’m not talking about those who are planning to kill others and discuss it over social media. I am not talking about criminals posting bomb threats to businesses and neighbors. Those things are not okay. But I will say I’ve seen some pretty awful statements and tweets that have been ignored or condoned simply because the author is in line with mainstream media’s platform and belief system. It may be hateful and wrong, but it’s allowed. Well, it is allowed for the select few. This is pure hypocrisy.

So as most of you know, Rush Limbaugh passed away recently from a battle with lung cancer. Yes, he was a conservative radio host. He had been on the air for years. Now I haven’t listened to him since I was on long road trips in the car with my parents, so it’s been a while. You either liked him or hated him, depending on which side of the political fence you were on. Well, I learned about his death through Facebook. I saw one of the announcements of his death, and the “highlighted”comment that FB wanted you to see was very outrageous, and hateful. I won’t name the “group” that posted the comment because I do not believe in sharing that hatred again, or giving them any more “air time”, but it was definitely shocking to read. They actually ended their hateful and insulting comment with “rest in PISS.” And no, that’s not a typo. In fact, this is a trending hashtag for Rush now. So much hatred expressed over someone who believed differently than they did. I don’t care if you liked Rush or not. And I am not saying the man was an angel. But there was no reason for a post like that. So since FB claims they want to eradicate hateful posts, I (along with several others) reported the vile comment. Later, I received this in return from the social media company and I quote: “We reviewed the comment that you reported and found that it doesn’t go against any of our Community Standards. For this reason, we didn’t take the comment down…”

Well, what if it had been Tom Hanks that had died? Or some other celebrity the media loves? Would that have been against their community standards then? I hope the group who made the comment will do the right thing and take their hateful comment down. But this is the culture we live in today. If you are in line with the loudest (note that I am not saying the majority here-simply the loudest), you can say almost whatever you want without consequence. You have this beloved freedom of speech (if your speech aligns with their way of thinking). But what about those of us who do not line up with the current culture and “norm”? Where does that leave someone like me? Do I just sit here quietly for the rest of my life? I’ve already been censored on Facebook for sharing a video from doctors sharing their experience treating patients in the pandemic. Friends of mine have had posts regarding Jesus Christ censored and taken down because it did not align with FB’s “community standards”. Apparently those things were harmful and damaging. But hate speeches after someone dies is okay. Alright, FB.

I know what you’re thinking. Then get off of social media, Missy. You have the option to do that. I know I do. And I understand that Facebook is a private company and they have the right to keep and delete what they want. But can’t we acknowledge the complete hypocrisy here? And their role in pushing this cancel culture on all of us?

Jesus was pretty radical, right? Especially for His time. He was preaching that He was the Son of God! Now of course we know that He was (still is), and there were many God given signs and prophecies leading up to His time on earth declaring His deity. But people in power desperately wanted to cancel Him, and his twelve member tribe. They were afraid of His power and wanted Him vanquished. People had been trying to kill Him since the day He was born! They were afraid of a baby because they knew who He really was. The mighty Son of God.

Now, I am definitely NOT comparing Jesus to anyone in the media, government or even modern day churches. No one comes close. But I am saying that the road to completely cancel those who do not agree with those in authority has happened in the past and is happening again. And it’s a very slippery slope to a loss of all kinds of freedoms we enjoy as Americans today.

So what do we do now? I personally do not believe in cancelling people for merely disagreeing with me. Heck, if you don’t like my blog post today, that’s okay! It’s my blog, my opinion and you have every right to disagree with this one and never read another thing I write ever again. But I won’t cancel you as a person or a friend because you disagree with me. That’s part of what makes this country special. It has always been a melting pot of different people with different opinions. I actually love connecting with people on the opposite side of the political aisle. I enjoy learning more about what is happening in our world today from other point of views. This country would be SO boring if everyone was just like me. It would also be so anxiety ridden, even I would move.

So my personal standards are definitely not in line with those of Facebook. The set of standards I look to are those set by our Almighty God, in Scripture. He laid out the Ten Commandments. Jesus, His Son, lived the life no one else can live but one we can strive to uphold and imitate. I guess it is time I quit relying on anyone or anything who does not claim to know Christ to follow the set of standards He upholds. This is just another reminder that we are still living on this side of heaven, and there are better things to come.

So I end my post with this. Are we cancelling others? Are we loving other people despite their beliefs on politics or religion? We aren’t called to tolerate or condone everything, but we are called to love everyone. And the only one who has ever done this perfectly is Jesus Christ. So let’s do our best to love others well despite the current motto of only accepting those who agree with me, myself and I. Let’s be different. We can continue to love others well, whether they agree with you politically or not. Whether they wear a mask or not. Whether they get vaccinated or not. Whether they voted for Trump or not. Whether they eat gluten or not. Let’s cling to Him and His word. Pray about when to speak and when not to speak. About when to comment and when to leave the keyboard alone. (Yes, I am preaching to myself here.) May we be a light in the darkness. And pray for this nation to come back to the Lord.

John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

#cancelculture #cancelled #love #loveoneanother #loveyourneighbor #JesusChrist #christianblog #christianblogger #momblogger #anxiety #truth #socialmedia #hypocrisy #standards #communitystandards #opinions #blog #politics #religion

Mental Boxing Matches

When I see posts on Facebook from friends and loved ones in the hospital waiting room, my heart sinks. And now, during these pandemic times my heart breaks when people can’t be in those waiting rooms. But I’ve been in a hospital waiting room a time or two…or more. I’ve been the one in the waiting room awaiting someone else in surgery and I’ve been the one waiting on their name to be called to head into surgery. I honestly don’t know which situation is worse. When you’re the one heading into surgery, it is scary. So many unknowns. But you also know that the drugs and sleepy times are coming. In a little while, you won’t be aware of what’s happening. When you’re the one in the waiting room, awaiting someone else, it feels like you’re giving your loved one over to this complete stranger (or sometimes surgeon friend if you’re lucky). Either way, the events unfolding are completely out of your hands. You are rendered helpless and completely dependent. And you have to sit and just wait to wake up, or wait to hear news about your loved one, in which case the waiting can be excruciating.

I remember when my daughter had to go in for a short eye procedure when she was a little over a year old. I was a nervous wreck. The doctor knew it too. He was very kind and gracious. He assured me he had done the procedure a dozen times before. It would be quick and painless. We would be in and out. But that’s my baby. My BABY. Watching her go down the hall with her stuffed kitty, and not being able to be by her side was awful. And then we met up with the exact same doctor for the exact same procedure 4 years later with my second baby. I don’t know if it was any better the second time around.

My first baby had tonsils and adenoids removed years later. And an emergency appendectomy years after that. It doesn’t get any easier the older they get or however many times you have to sit in that cold waiting room with the plastic covered chairs smelling of rubbing alcohol. That is still my baby being taken away from me and put in someone else’s hands. You feel that helplessness. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

I’ve struggled with trust for years. Dated several guys who cheated on me or lied to my face. When I met my husband I thought he was fake. Could someone really be this kind, love Jesus, AND totally handsome? No way. (Thank God he is in fact, real and I am so blessed to call him mine. If you don’t know him, I’m sorry. He’s a gem. If you do know him, you understand.)

Anyway, trust is a big deal right? And I’ve been having to tell myself over and over again that God is in control right now. God is working things out for my good. God has my future in his hands. My children aren’t really mine, they are HIS. Wow! Still working on that reality.

But I continue to find myself in several mental boxing matches every day. What I mean by this is, having a thought and combating the thought with what therapists like to call “counter thoughts.” You combat your fearful thoughts with a purposeful thought of truth and security. For example:

Fearful/Anxious thought: I’m afraid my kids won’t make new friends in this new place.
Counter thought: God loves my children more than I do. He will provide their every need. We are safe.

(If you are experiencing anxiety, I highly recommend that last part. Adding the “I am safe” to your fears is helpful. Learned that in therapy. You’re welcome.)

Ya’ll, people with anxiety do this all day, every day and this is why we are EXHAUSTED. Haha! The counter thoughts are supposed to eventually become habitual. And maybe even stronger than the anxious ones in time. But you have to practice it. Thankfully, we have the tools of Scripture and truth to cling to, and this is my source of counter thoughts and reassurance.

But here we are again with that trust thing. I’m human. I like control. And letting go of it especially with something like my family is so hard to do. But God’s love is so much bigger than I can imagine. And I still don’t get that. I don’t fully comprehend the magnitude and depth of His love. But that’s why He showed it to us on the cross. Who goes through all of that pain and agony for someone they don’t love, much less like? Nobody. Christ’s love is incomparable.

So in times like these where we are all so very uncertain about what tomorrow will bring, I leave you with the simple fact that God reigns. And He loves you. More than you know. And He can be trusted. No we will never know all of the events taking place behind the scenes in our government or even our day to day lives, but we can trust Him. We can trust Him not only with our lives, but the lives of our loved ones as well. He will take care of them just like the doctor who took care of my children in the hospital. Because He is our Father, our Abba. And He’s more than earned our trust. In fact, He gave His life for it.

Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

#trust #trustingintheLord #trustinGod #christianblog #christianblogger #rvblogger #momblogger #waiting #waitingroom #anxiety #counterthoughts #anxietyrelief #scripture #bible #romans #fear #uncertainty

A Farewell and a Challenge

As I sip my morning coffee on this last morning at the farm somewhere East of Charlotte, my heart is full of so many different emotions. Apparently you can in fact feel sadness, excitement, gratitude, timidity, anxiety, sadness and joy all at the same time. This is difficult for my heart to process all at once so I’m sure it will take time. I’m just a tad overwhelmed.

After our family was “ripped” away from our home, neighborhood, church and precious friends of five years, we landed in this little town in the middle of nowhere for nine months. The pandemic was still roaring and we had already felt so isolated after the move. My children needed to see other children. Heck, I needed to see other Mamas. And the kindness we found here was like none other.

My husband met some wonderful people at his job. A sweet man that worked with Josh picked us up in his boat one afternoon and took us out on the lake to tube and enjoy the scenery. They took us to a lake house where we met even more people and were given a tour of a newly renovated home. We were welcomed and encouraged to be here.

Then I met another precious family at our new homeschool co-op who had also just moved to the area and was experiencing the same kinds of emotions we were facing. We had play dates and coffee outings. This felt normal. We could relate to one another and share how we really felt after a difficult move.

I met some other Mamas at the co-op and their children became fast friends with mine. I couldn’t believe it happened so quickly! And even when I was facing some anxiety issues, I could text some of these new Mamas in this homeschool group and let them know that “hey I have anxiety and panic and today isn’t going well”…to which they responded out of pure graciousness and understanding. People I had just met didn’t judge me over my baggage. They offered to pray for me. Is this real life?!?

These precious people who live here on the farm have become family to us. When we were being “kicked out” of the campground and didn’t know where to turn, these amazing people allowed us – aka complete strangers – to stay on their property right next to their house for three months! Who does that?! Seriously. Would you do that? I can’t say I would. I’m ashamed to admit it but I cannot say I would have done the same. And even though their rooster is annoying, I know I will miss this place. I will miss them and their beautiful hearts.

Overwhelmed is the word here. And grateful. For these precious people God placed in my life for such a time as this. And I couldn’t give all of them a proper goodbye because we had to have covid tests due to secondary exposure. I know. Just another lovely part of living during a pandemic.

So the question is can I be more like these wonderful people? More accepting and welcoming of new people in my community? Can I give them the time and attention they may need even if it’s temporary? Can I be open and honest right away so that people feel comfortable enough to tell me when they’re having a rough day? Will I be that person someone needs to grab coffee with one day? Will I be willing to give up some of my personal time and space for someone who needs it?

If you are in my Albemarle circle, you know this is for you. And you know who you are. And please know that I didn’t know we would be moving on so soon. But honestly, I think even if you and I both knew that, you would have behaved in the same kind manner. You still would have invited us in, and loved on us anyway. I will never forget your complete acceptance and love. I will strive to be more like you all in our next location. I promise. May God bless you all, now and always. Come visit us in our new digs!

As Philippians 1:3 states, “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.”

Love,

The Stones

#moving #movingon #movingforward #kindness #generosity #open #honest #friendship #strangers #friends #goodbye #rvliving #rvlife #rvfulltime #fulltimerv #mommyblogger #rvblogger #christianblogger #encouragement #proverbs31ministries #movingaway #newfriendships

Tiny Mustard Seeds

There are currently 18 drafts sitting in my blog “house” right now. 18. Yet none of the words seem fitting right now. None of them seem relevant or necessary. I glance at them and just think…nah. Not this week. What is a blogging homeschool mom of two, living in an RV supposed to write about now?

I don’t want to talk about politics. Heaven help us all.

I don’t want to write about parenting. Lololol! I am no expert in that field.

I don’t want to write about RV’ing in a small space during winter because it’s kind of sad.

So I sit here frustrated, the evening before my blog post is supposed to be published. I’ve started three blog posts in the last few weeks but like I said…now none of them seem to matter right now.

I had low expectations of 2021 and yet the year has already started off…well…you know.

So what can I tell you? I can tell you that in these last six months of living in 400 square feet, that we as a family have seen God at work. He has been so very faithful to us and it’s been beautiful to experience this with my children. When we moved into the RV, all I wanted was for my children to become more thankful humans. To realize we didn’t need all the “stuff” to be happy, and to be grateful for what we do have. And now I have found that God had an even bigger plan. Showing my kids how He works everything out according to His timing and plan. How He remains faithful and constant even when the world around us fails them. How HE is truly in charge, even when our earthly government is crumbling. How if we pray for Him to show us the direction to take, He will do it. How obedience is so hard sometimes, but He is ready to carry us through it. And then He stands ready to show us His promises.

So maybe I don’t have the words to give considering our current state of political affairs. Maybe I don’t have the advice to give you tired new Mamas out there getting very little sleep. Maybe I don’t have the RV tips on how to survive and thrive in the winter. But I do have Jesus. And thankfully, He is always relevant. His presence is unshakeable. His word is infallible. And truthfully, He is the most important gift to us all.

I know this past year has been rough. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you all the ways He has been faithful to you and your family over this past year. Last year was a doozy and this year isn’t so pretty yet. But look back and observe where He has been steadfast. Talk to your kids about how God has walked with your family through these weird and tough times. If you don’t have kids, then write it down for yourself. Then hold it close. And use those times as constant reminders for when we start to lose faith. Sometimes it may feel like you don’t have any faith left. So if we take the time to remember these times of faithfulness, we can use them as our lifelines when we feel far from God. We can hold onto these tiny mustard seeds of faith. That is all it takes. A teenie tiny mustard seed. And then let the Lord grow it. Because He will.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Luke 17:6 says, “And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.”

Feel free to follow our RV journey on Instagram: therollingstonefam

#homeschoolmom #homeschool #RVhomeschool #momblogger #rvblogger #faith #faithlikeamustardseed #proverbs31ministries #faithoverfear #mustardseed #thankful #thankfulness #faithfulness #rvfulltime #fulltimervfamily #fulltimefamily #minimalism #rvlife #politics #parenting #journal #2020 #christianblog #christianblogger #prayer #therollingstonefam

Where Has All the Kindness Gone?

I may be dating myself here but Paula Cole’s song, “Where have all the cowboys gone” came to my mind today when I was thinking “where has all the kindness gone?” Sorry. No, it’s not the best song in the world, but sometimes things come to my mind and I make them into songs. I blame my mother for this trait. Haha! I remember her turning everything into a song, or just singing lines of a song to go along with whatever we were discussing at the moment. It used to be annoying but now I find myself doing it to my own children and it does bring joy. Well, it brings ME joy. (Insert sly grin here.) Anyways, this world is seriously hurting, I get it. But instead of coming around one another in love, sometimes I feel like fear has won and taken kindness with it. Not everywhere. But in many places. And it’s just sad.

We live during a time of mandates, curfews, toilet paper shortages and sanitizer. It is a very strange time to be alive. People are blaming one another for all the madness we are facing right now. People are accusing others for being heartless and ignorant. For being thoughtless, and not educated. I cannot calmly read comment threads online anymore regarding anything political, or dealing with the big C-19. Are we forgetting about the people behind the comments? Behind the masks? Or those not wearing the masks at all? Have we not had enough mandating and blame shifting in 2020 that now we must do it to one another? Do we have no grace left? It may be causing some of us to remain at home, under our warm blankets.

The only other time I was truly fearful of going out in public was a few years ago, when I was having regular panic attacks. Probably two per week. I wanted to stay home because I never knew when one would rear it’s ugly head and let’s just say…mine are very ugly. So I mostly stayed home for months. Drowning in anxiety and fear. (If you want to hear a podcast interview where I talk about my anxiety, go here: http://pauserenewnext.com/2019/01/01/strength-through-anxiety-an-interview-with-missy-stone/)

Now it’s 2020 and sometimes I’m afraid to go out again, but for different reasons. What if people yell at me if I don’t have my mask on? (Yes, masks can induce panic for me personally but I try to wear them when I should do so.) What if someone gets angry at me for something I shared on my personal Facebook page? This election, no matter who you voted for, has been stressful. The country has seen so many riots and destruction over the last several months. Fear abounds!! This fear and uncertainty is understandable, but it’s not healthy. In fact, the shutdowns, mandates and sheer panic of this year have had a direct link to increased suicides, anxiety, heart attacks and more. So all of that, added to the big C, and it is just a sad situation altogether.

So my question is, are we showing kindness during this crazy time? If you see someone with or without a mask, does it stir anger inside of you? Or do you smile and go about your business? If you see someone with a flag or sign in their yard that doesn’t align with your personal political view, does it make you mad? Or do you smile and move along? Are you commenting on every post you disagree with on Facebook simply to argue with that person? Uh oh. Personal Confession: Unfortunately, I have done more “open mouth, insert foot”, this year online than I have in years. And I have not hit that delete button enough. It’s so much easier to say whatever I want when I can hide behind my computer screen. I am trying to do better. *sigh*

I know that the Lord wants us to trust Him. He tells us over and over again in His word to do just that. I also know that He wants us to let go of unhealthy fears. Now some of this current fear has been pushed on us. Some of the fear is understandable. We are being fed information from every place possible. Who knows what’s true and what isn’t anymore?? I get it. On the other hand, there is also healthy fear. We can ask God what that looks like, but we should have a healthy fear of Him for sure. And the rest of our fears should line up with Scripture and truth. So do they? Or are our lives being fully driven by these unhealthy fears? And how are we responding to it all? These are all questions I have to ask myself daily. And the answers will look differently for everyone. Each and every one of us is unique and therefore, our responses will not look the same.

Sadly, we have lost a lot in 2020. Many have lost loved ones. We have lost time with our families. It seems like we have lost a year altogether. Yet there are still so many things we can hold onto and display during this time. One of those things is kindness. Just because that person isn’t doing what I believe is right, doesn’t give me a reason to be hateful. I have not lived a day in their shoes. I do not know the reasons behind their actions or their words. Maybe I should be less quick to judge and more quick to show that Jesus-love we all talk about. I should be checking in on my friends and family, and ready to give encouragement. Yes, this year has been a doozy to put it mildly, but we don’t need to be divided over it. And it saddens me to see how divided we truly are as a nation. Over a sickness that no one knows all the facts about, or the political events that also no one knows all the facts about. Period.

Maybe this Christmas we can remember who came into the broken, sad, sinful world to redeem us. When Jesus came to earth, things were NOT pretty. The world was horribly broken and corrupt. People were hurting. It was not a magical time for the Savior to come down to earth to put it mildly. He did not come during a time of peace and harmony. On the contrary, He came down during a time of turmoil. Herod the Great ruled Jerusalem and he was murdering innocent people, and even attempted to murder Jesus Christ, an INFANT at the time. His soldiers were constantly walking the streets to invoke obedience and fear on the people. David Schrock states this in his online essay entitled “Darkness: The World in Which Christ was Born”, “Riots were common. Tension was unceasing. Darkness permeated Judaism.” So, our world has seen terrible times. It has seen its fair share of darkness. But that should possibly make us even more grateful this Christmas season. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He came down to this earth to become sin for us. To save us. HE was the Prince of Peace during a time when there was no peace. And although this year has been rough, we can still look to Him for comfort and joy. Yes, joy. There is still joy in His presence. There is still joy in His promises. No worldwide pandemic can ever change that.

So this Christmas, I think I will reflect on Christ coming to earth during a tragic time in history. A time where many were afraid, and without hope. Many felt lost. Many were afraid for their lives. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like us today, right? But God. Two of the best words ever spoken. He came to earth in the midst of darkness to be the light of the world. To bring that joy we sing about in the song “Joy to the World.” Let us all share in this joy this Christmas season, remembering our Savior. And share this truth in love with that Facebook troll. (I dare you.)

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of PEACE.”

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The Best Year to RV

I believe we are living history right now. 2020 will go down as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The year we were home…a LOT. The year we missed out on parties, weddings, funerals, family gatherings, holiday parties. The year of masks. The year kids learned by sitting in front of a computer screen or being homeschooled. The year of mandates and policies. A year full of death and sickness. In many ways, this has been a dark year, to put it mildly.

As I have said before in other posts, we as humans were made for community. God knew right away that it was not good for man to be alone. My heart sinks when I think about the lovely people in nursing homes who cannot sit with their loved ones right now. My daughter used to be involved in an Irish dance group, and we would visit many nursing homes around St. Patrick’s Day, blessing the people with their dancing. All of that was cancelled due to Covid. And I get it. But it doesn’t make it any less sad.

Now, this year also brought a job change for my husband. And a move for our family. And a crazy plan to live in an RV because we had no idea where we wanted to live. The RV seemed less permanent, and less of a big life choice. It wasn’t a 30 year mortgage, and if I didn’t like where I ended up living, my home had wheels and I could move on. It was the answer we needed this year.

And I have to be honest, we were not the only ones who decided to do the RV life this year. In fact, we were just one family of many. Camping BOOMED this year. We went to several camping places when we were shopping for our RV. Looking for an RV is very similar to looking for a sticks and bricks home in many ways. You know what you and your family’s “must-haves” are, your “wishes”, and then there’s your budget. Living full time looks a lot different than vacationing, so we also knew we needed extra space. But there seems to be a million different RV brands out there. And since everyone was buying campers, there was a limited supply. Maybe this decision was harder than I had originally thought. But we eventually found one. The salesman held it for us for two weeks. He held it longer than he was supposed to because he knew we liked it. And thank GOD he did that. When we returned to purchase the rig, it was one of the only fifth wheel RV’s left on the lot. Thank you, salesman! Thank you, Lord!

So this year has been weird, right? Standing six feet away from everyone, wearing a mask everywhere we go, and the overall feeling of isolation. Camping full time can feel very lonely when you’re stationary like we have been. We had moved out of a neighborhood where we knew everybody on our end of the street. Now we were living in less than 400 square feet and knew nobody. But we have been able to travel more than we ever have before. Prior to this year, my son could not remember the ocean. He had only been as an infant. Now we have been several times, making lasting memories. And I will never forget some of the people we have met in each and every campground.

The point I am trying to make here is that it’s been a wonderful reprieve for us at times. To feel somewhat normal again. To be on the beach, breathe in that salty air and occasionally have wonderful random conversations with complete strangers. People miss talking to one another!!! They miss having conversations and meeting new people!!! Heck, people went camping so they could be with their families over Thanksgiving. And some people had some serious spreads of food outside, too. It is amazing what some folks can prepare in an RV kitchen!

On Facebook, there are SO many people posting about covid, or the election. I admit, I have done my fair share of posting this year. I have also gone back and deleted a bunch of stuff. I have the open-mouth-insert-foot problem. I hate it. I am a work in progress. But in the camping groups online, people go about life as usual, posting pictures of their rig, their last vacation spot, their RV fur babies, or their renovations. It is usually a very peaceful place to be, and I appreciate this so much right now.

I think even though the move was very difficult for us, and many tears were shed over leaving our home and our friends, that this RV life during quarantine was the best alternative. Having the ability to escape our harsh reality right now and get away for the weekend has been my therapy. So all that to say, if you need to get away for a weekend and breathe fresh air, go and do that. We need to take care of ourselves and our mental health just as much as we need to take care of our physical health. Lockdowns have been directly linked to a rise in suicides, heart attacks, depression and anxiety. Physical medical problems have escalated by huge percentiles since stay-at-home orders were put in place. Our overall health has been effected whether we have had Covid or not. We need to be serious about self-care. Now, maybe camping is totally not your thing. Maybe you don’t own an RV or a tent. Maybe you don’t have the money to escape for the weekend. Trust me. We understand. We never did either. And I am in no way trying to brag about our current lifestyle because believe me, being a nomad has its downsides too. But what I am saying here is that we need to be able to breathe. Maybe even to escape the harsh reality of this year.

Fear can be crippling and God does not want us to live in fear. So, find a place or activity where your heart can be at rest. Maybe it’s at home, doing your favorite craft or watching your favorite movie curled up under a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa. Maybe it’s going for a run or hiking at your favorite state park. But take the time to do it! And be blessed.

II Timothy 1:7 states, “for God gave us a spirit, not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

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Sick and Tired of Waiting

I wake up this morning to no running water in our RV. We recently bought an insulated water hose so I’m confused. My husband explains that the actual connection we are hooked up to is frozen. Okay, sure. It’s 2020, right? Totally normal. So he tells me we have to wait for it to thaw. I cringe. I am so sick and tired of the word “wait.”

Now before you start judging me and my lack of patience I have to be honest with you. I’ve always had a hard time with patience. This is nothing new. Haha! And we’ve been in a weird sort of holding pattern for over a year now. I know that’s a short time for some of you, and very short time considering the 40 years of wandering in the desert for the people of Israel. I get it. But for me, a planner for most things that have to do with major life events such as where we live, what our occupations are and our home life…it’s been a doozy. And I’m only human. So there’s that.

I do not recommend moving during a worldwide pandemic. It’s hard to make connections. It’s difficult to figure out life. If you have a choice of waiting for that, I recommend it. (See, sometimes waiting is a good thing.) But many of us did not have that option, my family included. Moving was inevitable. Living in the RV has been a sort of saving grace for us. We have never been to the beach as much as we have until this year. Living in this tiny space has given us the gift of getting away. That part has been dreamy. But the lack of a social life, friendships and community has been rough.

I am tired of masks. My kids are tired of the pandemic. They keep asking when things will go back to “normal” and I don’t even know how to answer that. I’m tired of being told what to do and how to wash my hands. Lordy, folks. I’m 38. I know how to wash my hands.

If you’ve read this far, I applaud you. That was a ton of whining. But aren’t we all ready for some normalcy? Aren’t we all tired and weary of waiting for this pandemic to be over? For 2020 to be a thing of the past? Maybe we are all tired of the waiting game.

Last time our family went to the beach, the movie theater was actually open and my entire family was so pumped about seeing a movie in a theater again. It was wonderful to feel somewhat normal, even if every other row was blocked off and you were fully aware of the distance between you and the other movie goers. It was lovely to sit in a theater in front of a big screen and escape with the “Croods” for a little while.

When I reflect on this year, I tend to focus on the hard stuff. And the word “wait.” I know God’s timing is perfect but to be totally honest, it’s also annoying. I feel like we get two steps ahead and then fall back five because we have to “wait” again. I feel like I should be the most patient person in the world by now, but I’m totally not even close. In fact, I have a long ways to go.

I mentioned in a previous blog post how Moses had some help holding his arms up during the battle with Amalek. Aaron held up one arm and Hur held up the other because if Moses’ arms fell, Israel would be defeated. And then I thought about what that looks like. When you raise both of your arms, it brings two things to my mind. Worship and surrender. When you surrender to someone, you put your arms up and say, “I surrender!” Right? Moses wasn’t surrendering to Amalek. He was surrendering to God. And his arms were tired. His arms were up for hours. I’m sure the blood had flowed out of them and they were numb. He probably felt like it was taking forever. Exodus 17:12 says, “So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” So basically all day. Moses had to wait to receive the gift of victory by surrendering completely to God first. And this in itself was his act of worship.

Man. I’ve got a lot to surrender still. And waiting may not be my thing but it’s what I need to do. But God has to help me. I cannot do it alone. My actions will never save me. God’s grace did that. So I need to ask Him for help. (Novel idea, right?)

Lord help me surrender my life and my circumstances to you. Help me give over my worries and my need for control to you. You’re going to have to help me keep my hands raised in surrender because I can’t do it on my own. Just like Moses, I’m weary and tired. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of this year. I’m tired of all the unknowns. When my hands start to drop and I start grabbing the reins of control, I pray that you will raise them up again and help me remember to put all of my trust in you alone. Help me to surrender to you.

Isaiah 40:30-31 says, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

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Slow Down!

My husband always teases me about being one of these people that can make a new friend in a public restroom. I don’t know what it is, but people do tend to talk to me and start up conversations and I don’t mind chatting. Sometimes this amounts to a long conversation about life, a short chat about the weather or even just a “mom nod.” You know what those are, right? Your kid is doing something ridiculous and you just want to give that mom an encouraging “it’s okay, I get it” nod. It’s mom talk for “I am not judging you one bit. Been there, done that. You’re doing great, Mama.” Try it sometime. They can be very reassuring.

Now sometimes I admit that I am the one to start the conversations but more often that not, it’s the other guy. You can ask my kids. It’s the other folks! I swear! But like I said, the conversations happen and I don’t stop them. I’ve found it to happen more often this year than others in the past. I’ve decided it’s due to several reasons. First, we are all masked and separated from one another and we were not created to be this way. We were created from the beginning to have communion with others. (Remember Genesis 2:18? “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone…”) So I think we miss one another this year. We miss any kind of face-to-face conversation. Secondly, my family lives in an RV. Overall, the camping world is very friendly. There was a meme from “Outbright” I found a while back that states this lifestyle perfectly. It says, “Camping: When you can walk amongst strangers in your pj’s, with a bag of dog poop in your hand and still strike up a conversation.” Truth. That is the camping lifestyle in a nutshell.

Lately I’ve had two conversations with some lovely older folks. One was with a woman on the beach with her little dog. She came towards us, seeing our (larger) dogs and I don’t know who started talking first, but it happened. Next thing I know, she’s telling me about her other little dog that recently died. She told me how difficult it was for her to endure putting him down, and I truly thought she was going to start crying right then and there. But she didn’t, and I told her how sorry I was. That I understood the pain of losing a fur baby…or several fur babies.

Yesterday I desperately needed to get out of this 400 feet of living space. So we had gone into the “big city” for some shopping. Our last stop was at Harris Teeter so I could pick up a few grocery items and dinner for everybody. On our way out, an elderly gentleman smiled from under his mask. I love when you can see someone smiling with their eyes! Anyways, he asked me how I was doing and I must have said, “pretty good” because he said “I’m pretty, but I’m working on being good.” I thought that was terrific. Never heard that one! So I told him on my way out that I liked that phrase! He decided to strike up a conversation at that point. By the time I left the the grocery store, I knew how many siblings he had, and how many had passed on, when his wife passed away, how many grandchildren and great grandchildren he had, that he was 83 years old, that he was strong (he showed me his arm muscles-the dude is buff), that he had Facebook and Twitter, used to be on the school board, what political party he was affiliated with, that he was a Christian (and he was thrilled to know I was one too), and so much more. He asked my kids how old they were and they told him. Here I was. Standing in the exit area with my grocery bags in my hands. It was dark outside. I still had a 40 minute drive home. We were all hungry. I must have glanced down at something and he finally told me he wouldn’t keep me forever because he had to go, too. Then we finished chatting, wished one another a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, and off we went.

I got in the car and realized I didn’t remember his name. (I totally would have looked him up on Facebook.) I felt guilty for standing with him, wanting to leave. I asked my kids if they remembered our trips to the nursing homes we used to take with our homeschool group. We would visit, bring cards, and sing Christmas carols every December. My daughter would even perform Irish dance performances at many of these homes in the Spring. Because of Covid, all that has stopped. We can’t go visit them this year. No singing Christmas carols or bringing them cards. I told my children that this man we just met may be lonely. Our conversation this evening may have been the only one he had with someone else all day. And we should take the time to bless someone in that way. (Let’s be real, I was preaching to myself at that moment.)

God told me during this year’s move to “slow down.” Our lives had been overrun with too much to do. We were busy at work, had several jobs each, busy with the kids, busy with life. God stripped both of us of our many jobs, our larger home, and our busy-ness. He showed me where my focus needed to be again (homeschooling my kids, being a good wife, blessing others) and whispered, Slow down, Missy.

I heard Him saying it again when I got back in the car last night. He was reminding me that if I hadn’t slowed down, I never would have met this gentleman. And yes I may have been forced into the conversation, but it was needed. I never would have known that he was one of nine kids and had eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. That he had worked at the grocery store we were standing in for ten years. That he lost his wife in 2018. (He gave me the exact date but I forgot.) That he had his mother’s small eyes and that He loved the Lord. And it would have been sad to have missed all of that.

So with all of that said, I encourage you to slow down. This year we are all hurting in some way. Maybe some of us are lonely or depressed…or both. Maybe next time someone tries to strike up a conversation with me I will embrace it a little more. I’ll be grateful that someone took the time to smile at me and want to spend their precious time talking to me. Because that’s all we have, really. Time. And maybe some of us feel like our lives are meaningless unless the calendar is full of activities. Maybe we believe we need a never ending to-do list so that we feel accomplished and dutiful, when the reality is that we need to take a minute to sit down and process the hard stuff we’ve been avoiding. Sometimes being busy is just an unhealthy way of suppressing hurt or grief. Or a way of ignoring the difficult reality in our lives. But I’m glad that God made me take fifteen minutes of time (if even that much) to spend with this lovely gentleman last night. And I’m thankful my kids were there to witness it. Thank you, Lord for making me slow down, even when I don’t think I have the time.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

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Holding One Another Up

One of my favorite parts of Scripture is found in Exodus 17. Israel was defeating the enemy of Amalek as long as Moses’ hands were raised. Well of course his arms began to tire and become weak, right? I mean, when is the last time you held your arms straight up in the air for hours on end? Whenever he lowered his arms though, Amalek prevailed. So the people got Moses a rock to sit on and then Aaron and Hur each held up one of Moses’ arms so he didn’t have to do it alone. He simply couldn’t do it alone. And guess what? Then it says, “his arms were steady until the going down of the sun.” Wow. So Israel defeated the enemy of Amalek. Then God tells Moses to “write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua…” As in, don’t forget this, buddy. And pass it on!

I love the picture of Moses’ arms being held up by these two men of faith. Moses couldn’t do it alone. Yes he may have serious skill with leading the people through a sea, but he was only human. This is what the body of Christ should look like too. We are helping hold one another up when they can’t physically or emotionally hold it together on their own. We should be in constant prayer for one another and loving one another with our words and actions.

I admit this is one crazy time we are living in right now. 2020 seems like a total crap shoot for lack of a better term. I have personally been involved in debates online and definitely said some things I deleted later. We are all human and will fail. We are not the gospel. But we can look to the word of God and seek the Lord on how to better love one another and hold one another up right now, in big ways and small.

My son had the opportunity to make a thankful jar at co-op this week. Each child in the class was asked to think of one person in their life they wanted to encourage and thank. My son chose his sister. (My heart is seriously melting over this, ya’ll.) In this jar are strips of paper, one for each day of November, each one telling her what he loves and appreciates about her. (Big fat Mama tears are coming.) He gave it to her yesterday and she read them all last night. So much for reading one a day. Haha! She couldn’t wait to read them! And guess what? She is so full of joy today. She feels loved and appreciated. She is writing us sweet encouraging notes and making her brother’s lunch. Well, she usually makes her brother’s lunch. But today she’s doing it with a smile on her face.

This thankful jar is just one small example of being there for someone. For lifting someone up. It has challenged me today for sure. How can I be doing this better for my husband? For my children? For my friends? I hope it encourages you, too. Yes, we are all struggling with social distancing and this election and all the things. Some have lost jobs during the economic shutdown, others like us have had to pick up and move away. But how can we be a light wherever we are currently planted? How can I encourage my husband who is working his tail off? How can I encourage my kids who are watching a country in turmoil? How can I encourage my friends who aren’t even physically nearby anymore? There are so many ways I can do these things. I just need to do them.

In what ways have you been encouraged lately? How has someone shown you love this year? How have your arms been held up by a brother or sister in Christ? By a family member? By a complete stranger? Have you written the moment down as a memorial like God told Moses to do? Because we are human. We will forget. Let’s write these things down, and come back to them later when we are feeling weary and downtrodden. And remember these small acts of kindness that truly changed our hearts. It is 2020 after all. Let’s turn it around and make it memorable for the good things it has brought us instead of all the negative things.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

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