“Mommy, up!”

If you’re anything like me, you might need to some help today. Maybe, like me, you need a fresh dose each and every morning because by the end of that day you’ve run out. You’ve run dry.

Good news friends, today is new. It’s a new day! And today, our helper is ready and waiting to lift us up, to pour a new dose of blessings, mercies, patience, hope, whatever it is that you need this today. He does not run empty. His well does not run dry.

I often hear the words, “Mommy, up!” when my two year old is tired, and needs to be lifted.

And just like this — our helper — he carries us when we cry, “Father, up!” And He carries us so well that we will abound in every good work. I pray you turn to your helper today and let him carry you.

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2 Corinthians 9:8 | And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Are you stuck? Me too.

I keep getting stuck this summer. Stuck in a web of the same questions; stuck in the same places; discouraged by the same things; looking for answers I’ve already been given, but looking still.

Photo | Taylor Monaco
Photo | Taylor Monaco

I’m so incredibly aware of how human and flawed I am. I was recently told that the first step to being brave is to believe in yourself, but not in our ability, in His ability that is in us. And, in who He created us to be.

Again, I find myself asking him HOW? And this morning, Proverbs 7 was my answer.

His word.

Keeping it in front of us, before our eyes, bound on our hands, written in our walls and in our hearts.

This blog was founded on the idea that scripture gives us life. His word breaths life into us. (So please don’t ask me why I have to learn this lesson again and again.) But there it is. The answer is in storing up his words, and writing them all over our lives.

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Photo | Taylor Monaco

Proverbs 7:1-3 | My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

My Provider

Someone recently brought into question the statement, “The Lord will provide” and how it’s often said with a blind faith that negates worry. I too once thought this statement showed a lack of planning, a lack of motivation even. Now I see it differently. And, it got me thinking, do I really believe that? If I do, does that make me naive?

So, I did what I should always but don’t often do, I went to the scripture:

1. Gen 22:14 | So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Because Abraham had been faithful and obedient, God provided.

2. Matthew 6:31-32 | So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
He knows our needs, why should we worry? Instead we should say, if it’s needed, the Lord will provide.

3. 1 Peter 5:7 | Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
He always takes the burden; therefore, a worry-free stance is not a naive one.

4. Phil 4:19 | And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
He will supply every need. And our needs never exhaust His supply!

5. Matthew 7:11 | If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
He will provide good gifts if we ask, and declare that he is provider.

After turning to scripture, I decided to turn back to what God has done in my own life to provide.

  1. My husband. He gave me a man better than I could have written up for myself. He’s nearly flawless, I mean it. He’s brave. He’s supportive, fun-loving, always smiling and forever loving me better than I manage to love him. God outdid himself as my provider by giving me Dan Monaco.

    Photo | Aaron Shintaku
    Photo | Aaron Shintaku
  2. Lincoln, after a loss. He gave me my daughter, Lincoln Mae, after a painful loss of our 12 week pregnancy.  And having her is a beautiful journey, I could go on and on on this one, or you can read about it here.
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  3. Health. 2014-2015 was filled with health-scares for my husband and my son Finn. Looking back, they are both healthy and thriving and that is no small thing. The people I love are safe and healthy. He provides our health.IMG_1839
  4. Friendships. I recently moved to Northeast Indiana and away from family and friends at home (San Diego). I had my husband and some acquaintances, but no real, true, wear-no-make-up, cry-your-eyes-out, drink-too-much-wine-with-friends. And now I do. I’ve got great ones, ones that feel more like family and every day I’m making more.  God blessed me hugely here. He provided ladies I really, really love.
  5. My work. I work, I raise my kids, I use my professional skill-set. I have opportunity. And, I do something I’m passionate about. Most of the population can’t check all these boxes at once. I can. (Don’t for one second think I’m bragging, this job falling into my lap was purely Him providing, and validating that our life-choices were aligning with his will for us. Provision.
  6. Security. When others fail me; he is a safe and secure place where I am loved.
  7. Family. After 5 years of marriage to the man I love, his family really feels like my own.  I have gained a sister, a mom. In addition to my own wonderful parents and siblings, I have them too. And, it is the biggest blessing to have so much family in my corner, rooting for me and loving me well.DSC_0165 (2)

Yes, Lord, you do provide. I can say that boldly, knowing that it’s not naive, but truth. My past is proof. Your word is proof. Your character is proof. I pray everyone could know you as their provider, as I do.

The God Who Sees Me

May we never forget that you see us Lord, that you know us to the core, that you know what we’re going through — you even orchestrated it, designed it, specifically for us.

You know the highs and the lows, and the waiting in between.

You know our hearts, you know our hurts, and you carry us.

Thank you for being the God who see us.

Today, help us to see you.

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” | Gen 16:13

Photo | Taylor Monaco
Photo | Taylor Monaco

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
(Hillary Scott, Thy Will Be Done)

Where do I start?

Where do I start today?

There are so many mornings where I don’t know where or how to start. How do I hit refresh? How do I start over? How do I do right today? How can I make peace, encourage, and lift up my family today? (Because yesterday, I may have let stress, discontentment, and sinful emotions upset us. Ouch, we are so human.)

It seems the answer always starts with thanks offerings. What can I be grateful for? How can I see the cup as half full today? How can I pick out the good and beauty today, instead of letting the less-than-perfects and the stresses overwhelm. When the list is done, I will realize the cup isn’t half full, it’s quite overflowing.

My boys. Photo | Taylor Monaco
So grateful for these two boys.  Photo | Taylor Monaco

It’s humbling, but sometimes we just need to head back to the basics, and that’s okay. That’s where we need to start.

My thanks offerings for the day:
1. Friends who are willing to share their gifts and teach.
2. A forgiving and patient husband.
3. The joy, joy, joy of children.
4. The lost little ones who will join us in heaven someday.
5. The knowledge that God is GOOD in THIS life.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. | Palms 27:13

6. New mercies each morning; oh how we need them!

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. | Lam 3:22-23

7. Family that invests in us.
8. Music that moves and inspires.
9. Long summer days.
10. Hospitality of friends that feel more like family.

Yes, the cup is quite overflowing indeed. We just need start over at thank you to have eyes to see.

I pray you see the overflow today.

Ever-Present Help

Lake James House
Our vacation home. Photo | Taylor Monaco

I’m finding myself so overwhelmed this week. Coming back from a vacation and entering reality again is tough. There are too many demands on me, and so little time to do them. So little time to do them right! To really focus and give 100 percent to it all.

When I’m honest, that is my true desire — to do these jobs well — work, mom, wife, family-planner, keeper of home and finances. I can’t stand when I’m torn between the tasks. I was reminded this morning to prioritize and to put Him first, cashing in on his promise that the rest will fall into place if we fix our eyes on Him first and foremost. Stop what I’m doing, open my bible, in the moment I least feel I have time for Him, do that very thing and spend time with him. His peace will follow.

So I’m taking a deep breath, and I am chewing on these verses. I’m singing a song to the one who is all I need. I am choosing to rest in Him even as I carry these heavy tasks of busy, though meaningful, work.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. | Philippians 4:6-7

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.| Psalm 121:1-8

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. | Proverbs 16:3 

Stress & Worry

Stress and worry are something most of us are intimately familiar with. Whether it’s because we are moms worrying about our little ones being safe, or hard at work to provide for our families, or dealing with a sickness of unhealthy in the family – most of us have something to ring our hands and panic about – if we allow ourselves to.

Taylor Monaco Photo
Photo | Taylor Monaco

Ann Voskamp asks, “are stress and worry evidences of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, to keep gaze fixed on God? To stay in love with him?” When I read the words, the question stopped me in my tracks. Of course they are! Of course if we just stop and ask God to remove our worry, replace it with faith; remove our stress, replace it with rest in Him – He will be faithful to do so.

He is faithful, and He is the peace-giver. We know this. When we stress and worry, we are making a choice not to cry out to God to replace those emotions with a confident faith in Him. Why is it so hard for us to remain amazed by His ability to lead and love us?

We forget. We forget to keep our eyes on Him, and we forget to ask.

 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. | Hebrews 12:2

Lord, help us keep our eyes on you the stress-remover, the soul-comforter, the worry-killer. Fill us with peace, with confidence in you, and help us rest in the all-powerful savior.

But, how?

I’m not a great cook, but I can follow directions. I tend to lean toward baking because if you follow the instructions, it’s sure to come out right. When seeking advice I constantly ask “but, how?” I want instructions, step by step directions, to get results. When I land on something successful, I’m quick to share those exact instructions with others. The equation of how to get where you’re going intrigues me, and I feel I’ve hit gold when I can pass on those steps to someone else.

DSC_0069 (1)I ask the same of Jesus. I know that He is at work in my life and encouraging me to move a certain direction, grow in a certain way, face a certain hardship head on, encourage a certain friend. I’m always asking him, “How? But, how Lord can I do that? What exact steps am I to take here?”

With a God we can’t always see or hear clearly, this can be hard. I’ve been listening lately, trying to hear the steps and find the clear way forward.  And He has answered. Let me.

First, seek me.
Then, let me.

Once again I’m reminded that it isn’t about what we can do. It’s about what He can do when we are still, listen, seeking, He is found, and He moves. The action is His, not ours, we just have to be seeking, willing, and ready.

Philippians 2:13 | For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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Pride & Joy

James 4:6 | But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

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Photo: Taylor Monaco

I have been studying gratitude recently and find myself stumbling across pride. At first, I didn’t see the clear connection; I do now. Now I see that pride slays thanksgiving. “A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for a he never thinks that he gets what he deserves.” What a miserable way to live. Never feeling appreciated, never feeling acknowledge, never feeling rewarded the way we think we “deserve” to be.

Well, what do we really think we deserve? Materials possessions? Countless comforts? A life free from hardship, pain, suffering? Do we think we deserve everything that we want? That’s what this culture teaches us. Our poor children may grow up to be even more entitled than we were. Entitlement robs our joy; entitlement will job our kids of joy.

As a mom, this makes it even more important to learn now how to give up that pride – the joy thief – and replace it with a grateful heart. If I can do that my children will understand what gratitude and humility are, rather than receiving an model of pride. I want to give them an understanding that all good things in my life, in their lives, are truly gifts to be thankful for, not rewards that we somehow earned.  With that gift of gratitude, comes the gift of joy.

“No one who ever said to God they will be done and mean it with his heart, ever failed to find joy – not just in heaven, or down the road in the future of this world, but in this world at that very moment.” (Peter Kreeft)

When we give up the pride of receiving our own will, and live in gratitude that we live out his will, joy will always follow. (Psalms 143:10)

The God We Serve is Able

Daniel 3:16 | We do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. The God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us from your hand.

I often find myself in a defensive position. Defensiveness. Not a trait I’m proud of. This verse stuck out to me immediately because of that buzz word: defend. With Christ, those three men – about to step into a fire that could set them ablaze – knew they didn’t need to defend or explain their belief. In Christ, we can stand with confidence, even if we are standing in fire. The God we serve is able.

And the more we abide in Him, the more able He becomes.DSC_0024 (1)

John 15:4 | Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

When we abide in him, remain in him, he is grooming. Pruning. Removing bad branches and tending to our fruit. He goes about this grooming work with extreme love, care, and gentleness so that we can thrive and grow. And, produce lasting fruit. Heavenly fruit.

Jesus, I so want to produce heavenly fruit. To do something that matters, not just to this world but to you. There’s so much we work toward in this life: a bigger house, better this or that for our children. More elaborate vacations. Ultimately, we know none of that is of importance. I want to grow heavenly fruit. I want to show my children, my friends, the people around me how wonderful you are. How worth it you are. How wildly thrilling you can be when we go all in. How you are the ultimate adventure and love story.
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Apart from him, we can do nothing. With him, we have no reason to defend or explain away the choices we make to serve Him. He does that for us. We obey, he handles the rest. He comes through. He is power. He is able. He will rescue, and woo, and groom, and bring about the fruit that lasts.

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