My Pumpkin Panic

Pumpkin Panic picture, pumpkins in a cart with hay

This past week I was scrolling Through Facebook and noticed that several of my friends were posting about fall. They were commenting that it was time for the fall decorations. Their posts were about pumpkin spice whatever and some stated they are ready for the cooler weather. In my mind I was like,” slow your roll,” “hold up,” “no, no, no, summer is not over yet!” I even thought about commenting a correction of sorts, you know like, “come on people, let’s not rush the seasons. Let’s hold onto summer for just a little while longer.”

Then my mind went to my love for all things Christmas and my tradition of decorating in early November. And all those who post their displeasure or confusion as to why some are rushing the season. So huh, interesting. I am about to post for all you hurry up and get fall here people, when I just want to roll my eyes at all those why ya gotta rush in Christmas people. And then I saw the flaw in my thinking. I recognized the double standard I was about to post.

Thankfully I saved myself the embarrassment of posting my opinion about rushing in fall leaving summer too quickly. Thankfully I paused and thought about my thoughts before I expressed them. What is my deal? It’s not my responsibility to call anyone out on when they add pumpkin spice to their anything and everything. Just because I prefer a cool crisp to the air while indulging in pumpkin spice lattes’ and pumpkin muffins. Who am I to tell anyone when they should or should not decorate for any season. Especially because of how annoyed I can get when I am questioned about my Christmas decor before Thanksgiving.

This double standard of sorts got me thinking about how we process and share our opinions on, well, just about everything. And how those opinions bring division, brokenness and can at times cause pain. I know you see it because I see it almost everyday. Someone makes a post based on their own experience or observation and someone or several someone’s are there to correct or even discredit the person. And then words start being slung back and forth until the group admin shuts off commenting. It’s like there is this idea that we have the right to tell others how to think, how to live, how to feel. Sometimes it’s a bit out of control, I’ve seen this kind of thing over which hair products are “allowed” for curly hair. I mean, really?

Who do we think we are? really, who do I think I am? What gives me the right? Ok, yes, yes, I have experiences and maybe I can share and help someone else. Maybe you have a great tradition, you share it and others love it and begin to try it. There’s nothing wrong with sharing our experiences, our thoughts and our opinions. As one as we recognize they are just that. So often we read posts on FB and begin to form an opinion without actually having all the facts. Without actually knowing the person or situation. And similarly we post comments that leave a lot of open ended conclusions. And then when it comes to the real stuff, the things in life that really matter, the same thing happens and the pain is grater. The division goes deeper. And we find ourselves separated from friends and family all because we think we are right. Hopefully the process of when summer ends and fall starts would not cause such division or hurt, but this double standard I saw in myself might overflow into other areas and cause confusion and hurt in peoples lives.

I am not always right. I’m probably not even right half of the time. I cannot even pretend that I know and understand your life experiences. I have no idea why you feel the way you do and because it is different from my feeling it does not make it wrong. Yes, there are some things that are right and there are just some things that are wrong and destructive, but Real truth, the kind that matters can only come from God, from His Word.

Social media posts are not a place for me to bring correction or criticize someone else’s choices. Who wants to scroll through and read posts that tell you how you should feel or what your opinion should be or how your thinking is wrong. I don’t! And as a matter of fact, I just roll on by those posts that start to feel like correction. And sadly, more times than not I am forming an opinion on that person based on limited information and without really knowing them, That is why these types of conversations are best had in person, face to face, maybe with some coffee and yes, maybe even a plate of pumpkin spice cookies!

There are some who think it is just wrong and maybe a little ridiculous to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving. They question and are annoyed by those of us who get our Christmas joy on a little too early!

Yes, I love all things Christmas and I love decorating for the season. But, I start early for some real practical reasons. You don’t know what they are. And if you are the person who is annoyed by my early Christmas, you probably haven’t even asked me why so early? And guess what, at the end of the day does it really matter? Does it matter to you when I decorate? Does it matter to me if you disagree about it? Nope! Not even a little! Unless we allow it, by pushing people to think like we think.

My take away today from my little panic over pumpkins is to think about my words before I speak them or post them. It can be so easy for me to just react and spout off my opinion. But, it is so very important for me to pause, to contemplate and then respond. And…….and…..sometimes my response may be………..wait for it…….to say NOTHING!

What’s your preference? Are you already bringing out those pumpkins and scarecrows? Or are you waiting for a few of those crisp fall evenings before you break out the pumpkin spice candles?

Grief is Real. Overcoming Faith is Real.

Nathan Giles Senior Picture by car in tunnel

Nathan, my oldest, graduated from high school this May.  To say I am proud of him is an under statement!  He is a hard worker, he is determined and he’s genuine, compassionate and gracious.  He is probably the most chill person I know.  He is always been a talker!  Full of words beyond his years.  He is a dreamer and a planner. He never meets a stranger and is always ready to lend a helping hand.  He is faithful and trustworthy.  He is so very witty and keeps us laughing.  He gives great hugs!  And most importantly, he loves Jesus and is committed to follow God’s call on his life.   Being his mom and watching him grow into the man he is becoming today has been and continues to be one of the greatest joys of my life!

The time for senior portraits had come. For months I knew this portrait day was coming.  On the outside I knew and prepared.  I contacted a photographer, and I scheduled the day.  Just another senior year thing to do.  But, for me, somewhere locked away in a place I hoped I would not have to face, was this reality that I would not be able to look at and see those portraits.  You see, for a few years now I’ve realized that I’ve lost my ability to see faces and especially portraits.  There was a time when I could put them on my laptop and zoom in, but now not even zoom makes them visible.  And it’s these senior year portraits that are making me face the reality that even more of my sight is gone.

Nathan Giles Senior Picture in tunnel
Nathan Giles Senior Portraits by Sunny Cooke

I have faced disappointment and loss due to the deterioration of my sight.  Losing the ability to read a book, drive a car or make eye contact with my husband have been a few of the hardest losses.  With each loss I have allowed myself a little pity party, I have sucked it up and moved forward.  The reality is that I have got to keep moving forward and I cannot stay in a place of pity and sadness.  It’s definitely not fair and I will always long for the day when the miraculous happens and my sight will be restored.  But, until then, I have to find provision along the way.

I am not going to lie and say I am getting through this with no problem.  It’s been hard and the grief comes in waves.  Even now as I write, the tears keep coming.  Just when I feel I’m past the hard truth of it, it hits me all again.  I won’t ever be able to look back on my babies’ pictures and see their cute, chubby cheek, little baby faces.  All I have are my own memories and just being real, it sucks, it is hard, it is not fair, it is sad, and I want to see!

How do I cope with this loss and how will I get passed the heartbreak? First, I am just going to allow myself to grieve.  I am going to cry a little or maybe even a lot.  I am not going to try and hide the hurt and sadness I am feeling.   I am going to share my heart break with my close friends and family.  It is their love and support that will help me push past this initial grief.  I need them.

In time, I am going to move past this hard part.  I will never get over losing my sight and all it keeps from me, but I will learn to live in spite of the loss.  There is so much more to life than what my physical eyes can see.  I will hold on a little longer to those hugs.  I will slow down a little and take in each spoken word. I will welcome the healing that will come by just being with my family and friends.   I am not supposed to get by on my own.  I need my family and friends to get through the hard stuff. 

I am not going to allow myself to camp out here, in a place of loss. I am not going to just focus on what I cannot see. Sure, there is a reality to it all, but my life is full of so much more than just what my physical eyes might see. There is great blessing all around me. I know that “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning!”

No matter what this new season of life holds for us, no matter how Nathan’s senior year will continue. I will be confident in the Truth that Gods plan for him are still YES and Amen! They are good plans full of hope! And there is no limit to what he can do.

I will continue to be confident in the sovereignty of God. I will stand firm on the TRUTH that healing is His will for my life. And even though I can’t see it, even though I may not understand it, I will continue to trust His plan. And until my sight is restored, I will continue to celebrate all His many blessings and provisions along the way.

My faith is strong, and I will continue to trust in Christ. My faith does not change because life is hard. It does not change because I have to walk through loss. My faith does not change because healing has not yet come. It does not change because I cannot see what and when I want or think I should. My faith remains in Christ, the sovereign one. My faith reveals the reality of what I hope for and it is the evidence of what I cannot see! (Hebrews 11:1)

John 7: Not Always As It Appears / Thirsty

Fall photo Journaling Through John

As I was preparing for this session of journaling, I somehow ended up with 2 post for chapter 7.  I could not decide which to post, so I put them both here!  Enjoy!

John 7: Not Always As It Appears
“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” John 7:24 (NLT)

People are gathering and talking. They are questioning Jesus. Even His brothers don’t believe Him.  There is a lot of talking and division. Those who do believe won’t speak up, they are afraid of the Jewish leaders. They are looking for Him and wondering why He isn’t there at the festival.  Then Jesus shows up at the temple and begins teaching.

Earlier in the chapter, in verse 7, Jesus says the world hates Him because He accuses it of doing evil.  And then in the temple He begins to speak directly to the pharisees, those who accuse Him of not obeying the law.  He calls them out for doing the same thing they accuse Him of doing.  then He says in verse 24, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

It can be so easy to judge other’s actions simply by what I can see.  And how quickly I can jump to conclusions based on such little information.  And oh, how rampant is it today to call out others simply because of something we see or a comment that is made.  The reality is there is so much more beneath the surface.  My thoughts, beliefs, actions, convictions, opinions, responses are all based on my processes, journey and circumstances.  I must also recognize that about others.  I can’t let myself assume I know or understand why someone says or does something.

I must look beneath the surface.  This means I have to go deeper in my relationships to know their heart.  It’s in intentional, real relationship that I can get to the core of any issue.  There are definitely times where I need correction and to be called out on my actions, but I won’t always respond to those who haven’t taken the time to really know me, to go deeper.  So, why would I expect that others would hear my heart when I just spout off my thoughts and opinions.  If I want to make a difference in n people’s lives I must be willing to put in the work of relationship. AND, I must also look deeper into my own heart and motives, allowing the Holy Spirit to purify and cleanse my heart of malice, un-forgiveness, offense, selfish ambitions, critical judgement and whatever other junk is hardening my heart to Jesus and toward people.

Lord, I pray today for a heart like yours.  A heart that loves people right where they are.  I desire for real, authentic relationships where I allow others to speak into my life.  Teach me to respect others journey not always jumping to judgments.  I want to see people like you see them.  Teach me to love like you love. Amen.

John 7:  Thirsty

“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me.  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare, rivers of living water will flow from His heart.”  John 7:37-38 (NLT)

Jesus is speaking at the temple during a Jewish festival.  The religious leaders have and continue to question who he is.  He shows up and begins speaking to them of His work and their doubt of who He is..

Jesus says, “anyone who is thirsty may come to me.” (V37). And my heart responds, yes, I am thirsty!  The weight of everything leaves me feeling parched and desperate for a fresh drink.  What I see in the news, the things I hear in politics, the conversations on social media and the brokenness of it all can leave me depleted, heavy and longing for refreshing.

Jesus, I am thirsty.  Fill me with a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit.  Refresh and fill my soul.  Allow your living water to cleanse and refresh every part of my soul.  I pray for more and more of your Spirit, let it flow through me and out of me.

In verse 38 Jesus says that for anyone who believes and drinks, rivers of living water will flow from their heart.  The thirst is for His Spirit and it is for me, but it will flow out of me.  I know that the world needs Jesus.  Those in my life need His presence and the hope He offers.  I pray today that the filling and refreshing I experience would flow over and reach those in my life.

Today I pray for a deeper understanding of my responsibility.  Where can I offer hope?  My desire is that wherever I go, His peace will be present.  Lord, teach me to just lead those around me to you. I pray my life would reflect your heart for all people.  Amen.

What is God speaking to you today through John 7?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

John 6: Eternal Focus

“But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.” John 6:27 (NLT)

It’s the day after Jesus fed the crowd of 5000 with just 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. A miracle of provision with 12 baskets of leftovers! The crowd is searching for Jesus and when they find Him on the other side of the lake, they question when did he get there? Jesus tells them they are not looking for Him because they understand who He is, they are there because He fed them. And in verse 27 Jesus begins to change the conversation from one of physical bread, to a conversation of eternal Bread.

He tells them to not be so concerned about “perishable things,” but to put their energy on eternal things. Their focus is getting more bread to fill their stomachs. But Jesus goes on to tell them of the “true Bread from heaven.” (V. 32). He is speaking of Himself, the One who came from Heaven and gives light to the world. (V. 33)

So much of my time and energy can be used up on caring about perishable things. I can easily focus on things, schedules, programs, circumstances and tasks, all the while, miss out on what I really need. Taking care of what God has entrusted to me is important. I need to be a wise steward and be faithful to the things God has called me to. However, if my schedule gets over run with ‘stuff” that wears me out and have no eternal value, then I am missing Jesus.

During these past several months my life has looked a lot different. Just like much of the rest of the world, my schedule came to an abrupt hault. So many things were cancelled and completely removed from my calendar. I found myself with some extra time. And it was in that time that I was able to see where I had become busy with no boundaries. I have decided and I am determined that my life will not go back to what it was. I have loved the time with my family and I’m not willing to give that Up again. I missed time with people and I want to be with people more.

My prayer today is for a clearer understanding of perishable and eternal value. I desire to have a focus on those things that will last for eternity. I was recently introduced to the “Lazy Genius,” a blogger, podcaster and Author. She talks about becoming lazy with those things that really don’t matter and becoming a genius in those things that do matter. I want to become lazy about things that won’t last and focus on those things with eternal value. It’s there that I will find Life.

What is God speaking to you today in John 6? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

John 5: He’s Always Working

“My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17

Jesus just healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. Jesus told him to “stand up, pick up your mat and walk” (V. 8). It was the Sabbath and of course the Jewish leaders objected. The man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, and when he was confronted, he told them that the man who healed him told him to pick up his mat and walk. I want to say, ummmmmm, hello Jewish leaders, this man had been sick for 38 years and was instantly healed! That’s something pretty big. So why not focus on the miracle?

The Jewish leaders found out it was Jesus that healed this man and told him to pick up his mat and walk on the Sabbath. They began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. And I love Jesus’ response, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (V. 17)

Oh Lord, am I so thankful today that you are always working! You don’t need to rest or take time off. There is never to much for you to handle. My situation and circumstances may not be ideal, but I can be assured that you are always working. I won’t always see it and often won’t even understand it, but you are always working! Amen.

I won’t always see it and often won’t understand it, but you are always working!And as I go about my day, I’m pretty sure “Way Maker” will be on repeat!

What is God speaking to you today through John 5? Share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.

A Simple 2 Ingredient Fall Treat

candy corn

With pumpkin everything, is it possible to find a fall treat that doesn’t include the orange vegetable?

Why, yes! Yes, it is possible, and I can’t wait for you to try it!  This simple 2 ingredient treat is sure to please everyone………ok, maybe not everyone, but it will surprise many on just how unexpectedly delicious it is. In fact, once you start munching on this treat, you won’t want to quit.

Simply mix equal parts Candy Corn and Salted Peanuts. Mix them well and place them in your favorite candy dish. The two come together in the perfect balance of salty and sweet. You won’t be able to stop munching! Keep a bowl of this in your home, on your desk at the office or in the break room. It will be a treat everyone will love!

For a simple party favor or fall gift, fill a mason jar with the tasty mix. Tie some ribbon or twine on the jar and wala, an inexpensive, festive and delicious gift.

Happy munching!


This Blind Mom’s 3 Must Haves for Homeschool

journal and coffee cup

In 2016, when we decided to start homeschooling our boys, never one time did I think I would get asked the question, “How can you homeschool blind?” There were tons of other questions I anticipated, and I’ve been asked many of those as well. The common questions about social skills, grade cards, testing and college. Never once did I anticipate the question about homeschooling blind.  Yet, this is the most common question and it gets asked at almost every conversation where we reveal we are a homeschool family. In some cases this question is asked because there is an assumption that a blind person is incompetent, lacking the ability to do what a sighted person can do.

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5 Quick Marriage Tips

Picture of Stasia and David Giles

Happy Anniversary to my husband, David, of 21 years! 21 years of doing life together! Two kids, two guide dogs, four pound puppies, one unofficially adopted son, four homes and four ministry positions. 7,665 days of loving, learning, living, growing, sharing, and laughing!  Every moment of our life together, the good, the bad and the ugly, has brought us to here, where we are today and it’s right where I want to be!

One of our favorite things to do in ministry is pre-marriage counseling.

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