To Do List Before Leaving

To Do List Before Leaving

I haven’t often left town without my family since we have had children. I am grateful that my husband is more than willing and capable of taking care of everything while I am gone. A few days before I leave, as things pop into my head that need to be done while I am gone, I rattle them off out loud to him. Every time, I get the same response: “Make me a list.” I think of more things that need to be done and say to him, (more…)

Parenting Promises Are Hard to Keep

Parenting Promises Are Hard to Keep

When my daughter McKenna was in second grade we went to an orthodontics office for a consultation on her teeth. She was worried because she had never seen an orthodontist before. I assured her it would just be a consultation and that I was certain it was too soon for braces. I went on to tell her about the horrifying (more…)

Do You Need to Tighten the Lid on Your Heart?

Do You Need to Tighten the Lid on Your Heart?

If my husband and I were to go on the Newlywed or Not-So-Newlywed Game, I know several of his go-to answers. If he were asked “What is one thing that annoys you most about your wife?” He would say that I do not screw the caps of things back on tightly. It’s true. I don’t. I guess I am ready to move on to the next thing, or I get distracted by something shiny…you get the picture. Many a time he has showered the kitchen with capsules or dropped a jar on the floor due to my lack of follow-through. He has shown immeasurable grace with me in this area and I vow to work on this habit all the time. I am trying to get better at putting caps on things. Even if he doesn’t see when I do put the lids on tight, I am doing it because I love him and doing things right by him are important to me.

On a different note, I loved Play-Doh as a kid. What a great invention. Nothing was worse than being excited to play with it, then discovering that someone had left the lid off and it was hard as a rock. Craft and play time came to a screeching halt. It didn’t matter who left the lid off (it was probably me); the end result was something that was not usable, but totally preventable.

I have experienced this spiritually when it comes to my heart. When I don’t seek a relationship with God on a regular basis, or stay grounded in scripture, I am very apt to give in to my own desires, such as making the opinions of others more important than God’s, or to fall prey to laziness or the intoxicating effects of social media, which can quickly harden or soften my heart, depending on the post. When I leave the lid off my spiritual life and don’t realize it, my heart starts to slowly harden and I start acting in a manner that isn’t consistent with a life led by the Lord.

God made the people of Judah this promise in Ezekiel:

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 11:19-21)

I think he was saying to the Israelites: “I am giving you a new, soft heart and if you keep it in the container with the lid on—in other words, follow my decrees and keep my laws—your hearts won’t harden and you will stay my people.” If they “left the lid off” or didn’t follow his decrees and went the way of their idols, there was no way back. We know from many passages in the Old Testament that God is a God of mercy and gave the Israelites many chances to do the right thing.

Things changed dramatically for our benefit when Jesus died on the cross. When God sacrificed His Son, he tightened the lid on each of our hearts and souls. We humans will always make a mistake and “leave the lid off” because we are sinners. But if we ask for forgiveness, He will put the lid back on EVERY SINGLE TIME to preserve us for eternity.

It is always my goal when  I sin to try to correct that behavior and do right the next time because of the sacrifice that was made for me. No matter how hard your heart has gotten, no matter how great the sin, if you turn to Him he will give you a new heart.

No matter how hard your heart has gotten and how great the sin, if you turn to God He will give… Click To Tweet

Ask Him this:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

You can prevent your heart and soul from getting hardened if you they are continually sealed up tight with the promise of the Holy Spirit.   

Tell me in the comments below what habit you have that you would like to change?



Travel Provides Unexpected Peace

Travel Provides Unexpected Peace

A favorite Christmas tradition for my family is traveling. I know you may ask yourself, “Did she just say their favorite tradition is traveling?” The answer is yes. I was thinking of all the traditions we have created, held and loved over the years at Christmas time, such as . . .

Family Traditions

My grandma Rene would hide an almond in the rice pudding at Christmas dinner and whoever got the almond got a special prize, such as a trinket or a two-dollar bill. This tradition came under protest if the person who received the almond didn’t like rice pudding. Did they have to eat the pudding in order to receive the prize?

Frivolous Traditions

A few years back, while on a road trip, our family of four heard “Dominic the Donkey,” a goofy secular song about an Italian Christmas donkey who traverses the mountains to help Santa deliver presents on impassable roads. Yes, we purchased a plastic donkey and named him Dominic, and we light him up each year and laugh as we retort in our best donkey sound, “EEAWW, EEAWW.” 

Worship Traditions

 I would never want to minimize the tradition that brings me palpable love and joy, the lighting of candles in the dark while singing “Silent Night” at church on Christmas Eve.

Unexpected Traditions

Sometimes the best traditions are the unexpected ones. @darcycottone #askGodToday Click To Tweet

Traditions that you might miss because they don’t look like something you’d see in a Normal Rockwell painting. John and I decided this has to be the times we spend in the car while traveling on Christmas. Let me be clear, we have never had to fly on the holiday, toting a nap-deprived toddler through a baggage claim. I understand traveling on Christmas may not be something you would herald as a sweet, tender event. 

My favorite place to be on Christmas Eve is with my whole family in Iowa, which is a three-hour car ride. Another place I love to be is at home in Omaha with my husband’s family on Christmas day. We have always struggled with how we can do both. One year we decided we would drive to Iowa for Christmas Eve, then get up on Christmas morning, drive back to Omaha and go to my in-laws for Christmas Day. To most this sounds like a terrible option—not be at home or stay put on Christmas morning? For us it is PERFECT—weather permitting, of course.

Here is why. When we are rolling down the highway, I get my first moment of peace of the holiday season. All the presents are wrapped, all the casseroles are made, all the hustle and bustle of the holiday is over for me, and if it didn’t get done, it isn’t getting done. When we stay home I leave a lot of these responsibilities for Christmas morning, which is less than peaceful, but in the car the kids are usually laughing together in the back (take heart, car rides do get easier when your kids get older). We play Christmas carols and my husband and I have some of the best (almost uninterrupted) conversations we’ve had in a while. We talk about anything and everything and reconnect as a family.

I am grateful my husband enjoys driving us. He especially likes driving on Christmas morning, since there is very little traffic on the road. We marvel at God’s blessings of the beauty of nature, safe and reliable transportation, and our quiet time together as we celebrate the birth of our Savior on miles of road. We also get the best of all worlds in seeing both sides of the family at Christmas.

Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus on a road trip. Joseph received a message after the Magi had visited Jesus.

Matthew 2:13-14: When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

I can’t imagine what it was like packing for this road trip. To us it may seem like taking a small child, probably a toddler, on foot or by donkey with no built-in DVD player to another country would be amazingly stressful. From our perspective, escaping to save our child’s life would be anything but settling. But maybe Joseph and Mary experienced unexpected peace when they set out on their travels; after all, they were traveling with God’s protection and the King of the World.

Maybe we would all find joy and peace in unexpected ways if we were to travel with the love and security that comes from knowing the One who came to save us all.

I’d love to hear what unique traditions you cherish most in the comments below!

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