The Inspire Shop

growing up

music monday: thrive by casting crowns

Tiffany Nicole2 Comments

It was a rare occasion to have Jude up without Penny's presence in the middle of the afternoon, so we took full advantage and headed outside to the swing set. As we walked bare feet in the grass, Jude squatted down and pointed and shouted at the little thing moving about in the grass. Bugs are exciting and always something to talk about with him. It was a bee. Wandering from grass blade to grass blade, it was frantically jumping and running to and fro, trying to get somewhere. We watched as it did its little dance, sans flying. Each time it moved, it got a little faster and appeared more flustered.

Perhaps the little bee had used its stinger and could no longer fly. I know little about bees, besides their honey making - stinger carrying - flying abilities. But it is not every day that bees go hopping about in the grass. And the oddness was intriguing, especially to my one year old. It was not doing what it was made to do.

We were made for a purpose. We were made to do more than ordinary things. More than the nine to five and houses with white picket fences and college degrees and two children. We were made to do good works which were prepared in advance for us. We were made to have an intimate relationship with God and use our God given gifts to further his kingdom.

Thrive by Casting Crowns fits perfectly here. Have a listen. Feel free to have a little dance party, too. It is one we tend to turn up over here.

We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive

We were made to thrive

There is so much relief and peace that stem from doing what God has made you to do. Not that it is easy in the slightest or comes fully natural but being in the will of God is sweet spot to be. Since I started writing, God has revealed himself in ways I could never fathom and it is truly an adventure and a dependence and trusting in him in ways I never needed to before.

When we are going against God's leading and making our own way, we will be working harder and getting more and more flustered. We will be building our kingdoms taking two steps forward and five back, even when things appear to be making progress. Is progress really progress when we are walking farther away from the will of God?

Praying that if you have yet to see what you were made to, what gifts you possess, the things that come easy to you but others tell you how hard it is, that you would seek God in the them. That you would see where God will take you with your skill set as you lay down your own expectations and will and start to align it with God's, despite whatever it may cost you.

Praying that you would search your heart to see what a life filled means. That you would look at the end of your life and see what you want to have accomplished and what that would entail. Praying that you would long for a life fully surrendered to Christ and impacting those around you. That it would be a life full of serving and truly loving people and loving God, for that is the purpose of life.

Here's to purposes and the bees. 

music monday: cast my cares by tim timmons

Tiffany NicoleComment

Penny had fallen asleep in the car, so we transferred her straight to bed, without changing in to her jammies. When she woke to use the bathroom, she noticed and wanted to change and asked for help. Half way through, she had a change of heart and wanted no help. In her tired state of mind, she decided to do it by herself, putting back on the clothes from the day.

With frustration, she proceeded to put her shirt on upside down, inside out and backwards. As she cried, stating she needed no help and could do it herself, I waited.

And God reminded me of how often we say we will follow him and cast off our old selves, only to be held in bondage by the days past. How we willingly go back to our sin. We go back to trusting ourselves to knowing what is best for us, instead of trusting God; thus make a mess of things as we meander through it all. Instead of putting off the old self and the things that hinder, we hold them tighter and mix them up with things of God. For when we are in that place, we cannot hear wisdom or guidance from God or others. And in some cases, doing whatever we are doing all in the name of Jesus.

Penny proceeded to tell me to go away please, that she did not need me. I asked if she was sure. And she assured me she was, as she laid on the floor with a mess of clothes.

And like that, we tell God we don't need him either. He can go away because we are good. We are good doing our own thing. We don't need anyone to help. But we do. We need God. We need him to come in and show us how to let go. How to transform our old self in for his purposes and take our brokenness and use that for his glory. How to cast our cares to him and trust him. Truly trust him.

Cast Your Cares by Tim Timmons fits here. Have a listen.

I will cast my cares on You the almighty
I will cast my cares on You 'cause You're good
I will cast my cares on You 'cause You love me, You love me

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

Praying that you would fully cast your cares God. That you would cast off everything that hinders you and the sin that so easily entangles. Praying that instead of seeking self reliance that you would seek dependence on God. Praying that you would continue to be renewed and revitalized in your walk with Christ and not be held in bondage from the past. That you would seek the things of his kingdom and his teachings above the world.

Here's to casting off the old for new.  

music monday: did not have a home by bethany dillon

Tiffany NicoleComment

Throughout high school I loved Jones Soda. The tasty flavors along with random pictures on the label and fun little fortunes on the bottoms of the recaps won my little heart. One lunch, during my gypsy-esque days, my fortune read: good luck will knock on your door. A well meaning friend optimistically responded that it meant I would soon have home with a door to knock on.

I have moved more times than I have toes and fingers to count. The longest residence in the past 15 years was at our previous address where we resided for two and a half years, which we are approaching at our current. When we first moved here, I remember speaking with my husband about the lack of that homey feeling. Since the celebrating of holidays and birthdays and adding another baby, the homey feeling has made its way here, too. Like it eventually does.

Residency and longevity and stability that an address provides is a unique thing. It gives a place to put your earthly treasures and display photos of memories past and makes a gathering spot for friends and family to congregate to make more. 

Jesus responds to a man who says he will follow him wherever he goes with:
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).

Once Jesus began his ministry, he did not have a home. He took the stance of a homeless man. He walked and taught and trusted God for a place to sleep. There is a lot of beauty in this aspect of his ministry. He did not need to rely on an address or possessions because he was involved in God's work and will for his life. His trust in God was so much so that he did not need to know where he would lay his head at the end of each day - God would provide.

Perhaps this person valued their comfy, safe life with their things and address. Perhaps Jesus was challenging the very thing that was a stumbling block for him, like he did with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30). Following Jesus is never how we picture it. We would never imagine the good things that he has planned for us accompanied by the hard things we face, which are for our benefit - used to refine us.

Here's a little song about Jesus' lack of a home redone by Bethany Dillon. Fun lyrics - the wife part is interesting since he did not come for that - but fun none the less. Have a listen.

Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man

Praying that comfort would subside and that trusting and following Jesus would be your main focus. Praying that you would not grow so comfy that you forget to look outside of your home to those of your neighbors. Praying that love and compassion and hospitality would reside in your home.

Praying that thanksgiving and gratitude for your home would dwell constantly in your heart and that you would follow God's leading in how to use it for his glory. Praying that your eyes would be opened to any stumbling blocks that are in view and that you would have victory over them through Jesus.

Here's to homes and comfort. 

music monday: in christ alone by owl city

Tiffany NicoleComment
The past two months, my mind has been in a sort of fog. The past few months I have been feeling guilty for everything. Sorry that I did not act the way I wanted in certain situations. Sorry that I said such and such. Sorry that I did not get the bathroom cleaned or the laundry finished. Sorry that I failed to do X,Y and Z. Feeling guilty for not measuring up and guilty for every action I make in parenting and friendships and my marriage. That I can do better. And constantly being in battle with doing what I do and then frustrated because I do not want to be frustrated. It is not a fun place to be and some days a prayer for God to push the perfect button on me bounces around my head.

Going in to marriage, I was advised to be careful about preconceived expectations I unknowingly had on my husband and God taught me early on in parenting about the issues with expectations on my child. During this struggle, he revealed the issues with self imposed expectations. This is something I have never thought about or even occurred to me to be an issue.
 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Romans  7: 15-20
I can SO relate to Paul here. It can sound like a circle when you read it, which is how it feels sometimes. I desire to do good and be a great mother and wife and daughter and friend and do God's will and some days it seems like all I do is fall short but that is not what God is calling me to do or to be. Perhaps you can relate. Hear this truth: God is calling us to love him with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind (Matthew 22:37).  

He does not have expectations. Sin is in the world and we are not perfect There is a constant battle of us verse sin but Christ already won. Satan does not want you to see yourself in that light and when you fall in to the temptation of feeling like a constant failure. you are falling in to sin and not living in the victory that Christ has given us. 

You must focus on him and not your own strength or to do list. Personal expectations make you miss blessings right in front of you because you are too busy focusing on what you want rather than what God has graciously given you. It may also lead to other sin, as a result. 

I pray that God would open your eyes to any unknown expectations of yourself that you have been carrying around. I pray that you would feel the freedom that comes from letting go of your own agenda and to do lists and that you would enjoy his peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

Rest assured, you are doing the best you can do with the resources you have, with the skill sets that God has given you for this season. Do not fret over the past. Be forgiven. Ask forgiveness where forgiveness is needed and accept it and move on. Christ died for your sins and because he overcame death, hope can be found. Stand firm in the faith and in him and be a witness to how he works out the good for those he loves (Romans 8:28). He loves you despite your expectations, failed or not.  

I love Owl City's rendition of In Christ Alone. Reminiscent of high school days where the anthems of the Postal Service were constantly blaring but that is another story. Have a listen.

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.
 Here's to less expectations and more lavishing the love of God.  

music monday: fall afresh by bethel music ft. jeremy riddle

Tiffany NicoleComment

This year is my second year of gardening. I do not have a green thumb in the slightest, where as my grandma and grandpa were exquisite gardeners. I have learned so much this year by just plowing in, along with some advice from experienced gardeners, and lots and lots of prayers. That is how my garden grows, not with silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row - but with prayer. Through that, God has taught me more about life than I ever thought would be revealed, as we planted the little patch months earlier. Jesus' parables about seeds and gardening became clearer as the plants grew in front of me.
I started some of the plants I started from seeds. It really was an experiment and I did not think that they would grow but God proved me wrong. The tomato seeds became the biggest plant in the garden and started taking up precious patio space. Despite their big garden presence, they lacked tomatoes. One tomato was harvested and another had begun growing but that was it from them. While watering one day, God revealed this truth: people may have a big influence on others or hold a high position, yet are not bearing fruit.
You were chosen. Jesus picked you out for a purpose and has appointed you to bear fruit - fruit that will last for eternity, not the temporal. You have an influence on people around you, whether you like it or not. Whether it is for better or for worse. You have an influence on your husband, friends, children, neighbors, co-works, the barista at Starbucks. People notice you. Perhaps for your fruit. Perhaps for your lack of it.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to 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. John 15: 1-4
God has appointed you so that you can grow in him and from your growth and overflow of fruit, others will come to know him. You cannot produce fruit without first being centered in Christ. You have to be constantly in his word and growing in your personal relationship with him before you can bear fruit. You can do nothing apart from God or your fruit will be just that - lacking God.
Perhaps you find yourself in this situation now - feeling farther from God than you have ever before. I pray that you do not grow weary of doing good (Galations 6:9) but that you would take time to actively seek God and his direction. Perhaps you have sewn all the fruit in this chapter of ministry or particular friendships or jobs and he has something entirely different in store for you. Perhaps you need a refresher of being still and knowing he is God (Psalm 46:10). I pray that you would listen to his leading and see what other adventure he has planned for you.
I pray that your soul would be renewed and anything in you that is not producing fruit would be transformed. I pray that you be refreshed and open to receiving God's guidance and come alive.

Fall Afresh by Bethel Music seems to fit perfectly here. Have a listen. 

spirit of the living god come fall afresh on me, awake me from my sleep.
Here's to realizing your influence and bearing fruit. Here's to pruning and growing. 

music monday: forever reign by hillsong

Tiffany NicoleComment
I have always enjoyed running. It is more of an outlet than anything else. Time to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. I am not a treadmill kind of girl. I get a little stir crazy being the same spot.

I started running in high school as a stress relief. Nothing formal, just some shoes and myself . Running gave me freedom and distance from problems. A little bit of my own reality and peace to mix in with the chaos of my home life. 

These days, I find running helps to keep myself in balance and disciplined to know God better, as he is constantly guiding my steps. He has shown me that running to him is always the answer, even though some days it seems so much easier to run away. Run away from the daily grind. From diapers and sippy cups and messes and whining and disciplining. Run away from the biggest blessings God has given me.

I truly believe that your biggest blessings can be your biggest trials, as well. What that looks like to you may be different. Perhaps your dream job has become a nightmare with more hours being logged than you anticipated. Or your knight in shining armor has become more of a frog. Or your much prayed for child has been more than you feel you can handle. Or your lack of a child at this time in life. Whatever it is, I pray that you would run to God with it. He already knows what you need before you ask (Matt 6:8) and wants all of you, even the messy parts.  

I pray that you would seek God to reopen your eyes to the blessings of it all. I pray that you would be transformed by the renewing of your mind in the situation that may seem hopeless (Romans 12:2). I pray that you would learn from your situation the lessons that only God can teach from it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
I pray that you would see the joy in the midst of the storms and that you would not give up. That you would be able to share your trials with others because that is what community is for (Galations 6:2). I pray that your trial would be an example of your faith to others and encouragement to those going through the same thing.

Forever Reign by Hillsong is constantly playing in my head as I jog, along with prayers for the neighborhood, family and friends and you. Have a listen.

I’m running to Your arms, the riches of Your love will always be enough 
           nothing compares to Your embrace, light of the world, forever reign.

Here's to trials and running to God. Here's to perseverance and incomprehensible joy through it all

music monday: hosanna by hillsong united

Tiffany NicoleComment
I was gathered with some friends, when the topic of our culture came up. Relating to people. The importance of knowing pop culture to relate to others.

This is one of the issues my husband and I differ on, too. For me, this does not settle well. When God called me out of my life of sin, the majority of pop culture went with it.  Music and movies and books and celebrities and their gossip. I have a hard time getting involved in it. It is so void and being caught up in it offers only null returns.

This was a conviction that God showed me and perhaps you cannot resonate with it all. That is okay, too. I am not here to judge; just to be obedient with what God wants me to share.

I have bad lyrics creep in at inappropriate times, and I have to find new ones to overcome them - I do not need to know more. And more importantly, I do not want the lips of my children to be singing them. Why fill their heads with words that are going to return void? I pray that you would not have to have this struggle or pass that down to your children.

And watching movies that promote premarital sex and drugs and violence. I am a visual person. The images and quotes get stuck in my memory and I can repeat the lines of inappropriate scenes as it is. I pray that you would be filled with the love of Christ and his word, not the world's.

As I listened to Hosanna by Hillsong, these lyrics really resonated with me. Have a listen. 

I see his love and mercy washing over all our sin the people sing Hosanna Hosanna in the highest. I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith.

I pray that this generation would not be so caught up in the media that the love of God is drown out by it. That their songs would be those of praise to God, not to the world. That their thoughts would be pure and embedded with mercy and love.  That their faith would be based on what Jesus did for them and in doing so would be fruitful and full of life. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be self - controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14

We have been called to be holy. To live lives that are different from the world. Not to conform but to love. They will know we are Christians by our love, anyone (John 13:35)?

Not all music and movies are degrading and inappropriate but a lot of them are. Unrealistic expectations are engrained and inapt comments are instilled in your memory to be used at just the right time.

Our culture needs more knowledge of scripture and biblical principles and less of the ability to quote the latest movie or songs from the top 40.

Everyone has their own filters as to what is acceptable but God calls us higher than our own thoughts and judgments. To his thoughts and his likeness. To be holy like he is holy.

I pray that when you stand in lines at check out and see the magazine covers with celebrities and their shenanigans, that you would pray that they will find Christ and ache for their mishaps and trials they are going through and for the people who are writing the articles that are not composed of truth. It is a sad, vicious cycle full of anger and malice. I pray you would not want to be a part of it all.  

I pray that the next time you push the on button to the media, that you would think about what you are allowing in to your memory and time and space. Is it going to build yourself up? Help someone else? Praise God? Would you like your child and the God of the universe to be sitting next to you on the couch with your viewing choice?

Here's to more God filters and less media. More time spent dwelling on him alone.

music monday: do something by matthew west

Tiffany Nicole1 Comment
Health is something we easily take for granted until something comes up. The test is positive. The x ray reveals what is causing the systems. The prognosis is not looking good. It is at these times that everything else falls at the wayside and the fight begins. The fight for your life. Or the life of a loved one. Perhaps your own child. 

When I came across Alex's Lemonade Stand last year, I knew it was something our family had to take part in and was quickly added to our family's bucket list for the summer, along with dinners and mini vacations. We have been blessed with healthy children but other parents have not. What would I do if my child were sick? Truly sick. With the possibility of death as an outcome. The question would definitely not be what I do but what I wouldn't do to help them. We may not be able to sit next to them in the waiting room or hug them through treatments but we can do a little. We can organize and plan and facilitate events to fund research for a cure or help with traveling expenses. 
The non profit was started by a four year old girl who wanted to raise money via a lemonade stand to cure childhood cancer. The cancer she had been fighting since she was merely one year old. She went to be with Jesus when she was just eight years old but her memory lives on through the lives she continues to touch as new research and hope is given to families fighting the same fight all because of her stand. When God closes one door, he opens another one. It truly breaks my heart to think of Alex' family and their trials but the beauty that has come from it is amazing and the lives of those who have been touched is immeasurable. 

We began praying what this would look like for our family to help. When? Where? Location? And just as God always does, he made the whole thing happen as only he can.

Our neighborhood has a fourth of July parade each year and we had planned on walking in it with our church, as we had done the previous year but this year there was not an entry.

Very last minute, we prayed about doing our stand at the park where the parade ends and it all fell in to place. We got in kind donations from Nugget, a local grocery store, so we did not have to worry about supplies. We had friends and family give yummy snacks, time and monetary donations. The go ahead for the space at the park the parade ends at was given. And my favorite part of all, a few weeks before we even knew when we would do the event, the stand practically landed on our doorstep. I had been praying for something to use that was a little funner and fancier than a table. On a walk one day we found our answer. A neighbor a few houses down was giving away a desk for free. It was perfect. Ricardo noisily wheeled it to the garage.

Here's the before and after.

With exactly enough leftover paint and a chalkboard sign, it was perfect.

It was humbling to see the community come together and respond and God move. We our goal was to raise $500 and we came in at $420, which will fund just over a day of research. Woohoo! I am so thankful for everyone who helped and gave and did something bigger than themselves.

Not to mention we learned what a great barista Penny makes. Who knew?

The scripture says to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). This is a tangible way of coming a long side families who are broken at the core and having to watch their children fight a hard fight and give them a bit of hope. No one can do everything but we can do something that impacts others and changes the world, one cup at a time as their slogan reads. If you feel lead to set up a stand in your area or be involved in one of their many events, have a look at their website for more info on all of the awesome things they are doing and how you can help. 

Penny's favorite song, second only to Build your kingdom by Rend Collective, of course, is Do Something by Matthew West. It seems appropriate to insert here. Have a listen.

I pray that God will reveal to you a little something that you can do. And that you will say yes to it.

Here's to more helping and doing all in the name of Christ.