holidays

Resolutions on Repeat

Let’s talk about all those repeating New Year’s resolutions. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Every year I get to the New Year, excited to make a new start and then look at the list from last year and just sigh. So many of the things I put on my list remain undone.

It’s really important to take an honest look at this whole New Year’s resolution thing. For some of us it’s exciting and we’re just thrilled and motivated to have a new blank sheet of paper or a new blank calendar so we can try again with a clean slate. But some of us lean into discouragement, and we’re like “Ugh, I don’t want to do that again, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed.”

Resolutions on Repeat

Before we go any further, I just want to affirm one thing: all of us are failures.

All of us have put things on our New Year’s resolutions that we haven’t gotten done. Anyone who tells you that they got all of it done exactly how they wanted is really not being honest. I have never known anyone who got done everything they wanted to do.

So I think we need to give each other a really big hug and embrace the fact that we’re all not getting it all done.

That’s not the point

Writing all. the. things. on a New Year’s resolution list just to go and do them all is REALLY not the point. Instead I want to suggest to you, and I really want to encourage you today that the point, of doing the New Year’s resolutions is to set a focus so that we can aim at something.

I happen to travel a fair amount, God offers me different opportunities to speak across the country or around the world and I have children and extended family that are pretty scattered across the country so I get to go visit. When I get on an airplane, I know that pilot has a  a flight plan. I know he is going to follow that plan to deliver me from point A to point B. You can rest assured that I would not get on a plane with a pilot that’s just going to go for a fly that day and was hoping that I would come along for the ride… No. I wouldn’t do that, I want to get on a plane with a pilot that not only knows where he’s going, but has a plan to arrive there.

Like a pilot, I realize that in life it’s important to have that plan, and to be headed in a direction.

The primary direction that we should be headed in is to honor God in all that we say and do.

We need to make sure that we’re focusing on Him. And it would behoove us to plan a few steps along the way that will help us achieve this.

I want you to realize that I’m not coming at this as someone who does it perfectly AT ALL. I’m not coming at this as someone who accomplishes it all, in fact some years are much better than others. Some years, I can look at my list and think “Wow, I’ve really gotten a lot done” and other years I look at the list and go “I didn’t do any of that” and the reasons I don’t get them done are the same reasons you don’t get them done.

Life happens.

Sometimes life interrupts the best laid plans, or we get distracted and allow other things to come in and shift our focus. But in either instance I want to encourage you to not take those momentary failures as an excuse not to sit and make your list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I want you to take a fresh approach.  

This year, prayerfully seek God as you lay out what you will focus on.

I thought this list from Neilson was interesting and I want to share it because I think you’ll probably relate to these top ten resolutions for New Year’s.

  1. Stay fit and be healthy
    Most everyone wants to put something like this on their New Year’s resolutions. We want to do better than last year. I find it funny that we write New Year’s resolutions right after the holidays and get tempted by all of those sweets that are still hanging around the house. Of course I’m going to put eat healthy on the top of my list! For the last month I have
    not been doing that. So that’s at the top of 30% of people’s New Year’s resolutions lists.
  2. Lose weight
    Of course we want to look better and stay fit and trim. But I would suggest that it’s not always the physical weight we need to lose, but the stuff of life, I think we all have those responsibilities that we’ve taken on that God would not ordain but we went ahead of him and took it on anyway. Or maybe it’s the stuff that clutters our minds and our houses that’s the weight that we need to lose this year. Take an honest look at your own life, is there something you need to shed?
  3. Enjoy life to the fullest
    This one really resonated with me even though I had already written my New Year’s resolutions for this year. B
    ecause so many of us, myself included, get caught up in the doing, that we miss simply being and enjoying those moments that God puts out in front of us every day.
  4. Spend less, save more
    I would have added at the side of this one to
    Give more. Not just financially, but give more of ourselves to the people around us and not give as much to the computer or our digital lives.  
  5. Spend more time with family and friends
    Oh how I would encourage you to do this. This is actually one of the things that I want to do more. This year I have resolved to spend more actual face time with my people. I really hope that in this new year that you and I will take time to be with real people in real time including our husband, children, and friends.
  6. Get organized
    Well my good friend Kristi Clover can help you with this one because this is not my forte. I really do strive to be more organized and file more, my file pile is about 3 inches tall and I’m hoping to get it down to nothing. We can do this!
  7. Learn something new or have a new hobby
    This year I have resolved that I want to become more in touch with my artistic side. I have a son that’s in art school and I just love what he is able to create and I have another one who’s an artist and my daughters write beautifully and I just really want to take time to slow down to take some time to step away from the computer screen and be a little more artistic this year.
  8. Travel more
    I just want to enjoy staying and being around town here in Charlotte. I travel a lot to the airport and I love to be home but we’re actually going to be doing some fun things in our area this year and I’m really looking forward to that.
  9. Read more
    If you’ve been around here for a while you know I am passionate about reading. I recently read some statistics on the amount of people that read and I was actually really disappointed that so very few people actually read after they graduate high school and even less after they graduate from college. That’s so sad to me to know that so few of us are growing our minds by reading. I’m working on a post to share soon that’s my reading list for this year and I really want to encourage you to be growing your mind through reading. One of the books on my list is Love God with All Your Mind by J.P Morlin. He advocates the importance of Christians to be reading across the disciplines to become better people and better advocates for the faith.

There’s more to it

That was a great look at the popular resolutions, and there are really are some important things on that list. But I want to challenge you to take it a little further. I have another list for you.

I want to encourage you to dare to dream.

Sometimes resolutions feel like just a dream that we dare to put on a list. But really, that’s exactly what a resolution is.

What could we dare to dream what we could accomplish by the end of this year with the strength of God.

“The world is yet to see what God can do with a man or a woman fully consecrated to him.” – D.L. Moody

That takes dreaming, friends! What has the Lord put on your mind this year? To change, or to be, or to start. Spend some time listening for a word or two from Him in this area of resolutions.

I also want you to dare to attempt. 

It’s really easy for us to want our kids to do great things for God. But mom, what about you? What amazing things are you going to attempt?

For my fiftieth birthday this last October I actually went and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. And while that’s not for everybody, one of the reasons that I did it is that I want to do hard and daring things so that I can continue to inspire and motivate my children to do hard and challenging things.

We need to attempt because it’s in the attempting and in the dreaming is where we find that we’re daring to fail.

There’s a really great movie called “Meet the Robinsons”, it’s a very unique view on how a family deals with failure. Believe it or not, in this movie the family actually celebrated failure. If we’re going to dare to dream this year and if we’re going to risk and attempt we’re probably going to fail, and how we model failure to our children is going to be really important.

I think often we start cutting back on the things that we want to risk, but I really believe that we have an amazing opportunity to continue to risk, to attempt, to dream, and yes fail. And in all of that, we have the blessed opportunity to navigate failure in a beautiful, God honoring way.

I want to dare you to grow. 

Grow in the spiritual roots that are laid out Galatians five. Dare to grow in the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Look at that list! Where are your strengths where are your weaknesses? Would you dare with me this year to grow your weaknesses and your strengths?

Be free

Submit to him and live intentionally

I know all this talk of lists and change and growing and daring can be overwhelming. But trust me friends, it’s not meant to be.

Scripture is heavily laden with pointing us to living intentionally.

 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

If you are feeling down and discouraged and even under condemnation from the enemy because of your past failures, scripture clearly says that is not of God. Rather, His grace is sufficient in our weakness. You are free.

It’s hard for me, a recovering perfectionist, to admit that I didn’t get it all done last year. But by the strength of God alone I can face 2017 and write some of the same things I wrote last year and go forward with the strength that comes from God alone.  that is what he calls us to.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be dismayed” Joshua 1:4

Go forward in God’s strength and look forward to what He’s going to do through you as you submit to Him and live intentionally.

Write it down one more time, and let’s trust Him to work through the list this year.

RachaelCarman.com

Back In The Saddle – Starting The New Year STRONG

It’s time to get back up on the horse. Don’t know what last semester threw your way, maybe it threw you off course, maybe it just simply threw you, but either way a new semester, a fresh path lies ahead of us all. We are in a new year now. Just like all things seem possible at the beginning of the year in September, now, half way through the year, we get a second start to make some necessary adjustments.

Back in the Saddle - Starting the New Year STRONG! www.HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman In 17 and a half years I have been thrown, trampled on and left disoriented and discouraged. But I have also had years in which I rode the bull and won the rodeo, years when I never would have dreamed we would have made it through the course or over the obstacles, but we did with His help. We’ve had amazing ups and disappointing downs. There have been years when I wondered what we were doing; I just wanted to give up. Conversely, we’ve had years that I didn’t want to end, the wind was to our back, the sun was shining and the birds flew peacefully over head.

I don’t know where this new year finds you, but here are some things to consider:
What threw you last semester?
What was your greatest accomplishment?
Biggest surprise?
Biggest disappointment?
What worked in spite of you?
What failed miserable?
Where do you need a miracle?
What do you need to set aside for a while?
Where do you need help? Advice?
Who can you call and encourage? Ask for help? Write a note to?
How can you make this a better semester? A more memorable semester?
What can you build on from last semester?
What idols can you tear down?
Where do you start this semester?
My answer remains the same as always: on your knees and in the word. Moms, we’ve got to seek Him first. We are invited to approach the throne of grace with confidence, to bring all of our cares and concerns, all of our fears and frustrations, all of our joys and sorrows to Him.
Before we begin considering how to go forward into the new year, let’s get down on our knees and acknowledge Him for who He is, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Master, Creator, Sovereign of the universe, the Giver of every good gift, the Extravagant Lover of our souls, the First and the Last, the great I AM.
Next, let’s thank Him. Thank Him for the opportunity to be at home with our children, to point them to Him, to teach them diligently, to train them in the way they should go, to disciple and discipline them. Let ‘s thank Him for all of the ways He shows up in our homeschooling when we are impatient or frustrated or tired. Thank Him for going before you, walking with you through each day, and coming behind you each day. Thank Him that He is the great Redeemer, Who takes all of our mistakes, our yelling, our rashness and our impatience and makes beauty from ashes. Thank Him for mercies new every morning, for His desire to mold us, for His will, not ours.
It’s time to look squarely in the mirror; it’s confession time. He already knows, so let’s lay it out there, not for His benefit but for ours. Let’s admit where we are weak and where we need Him. Let’s admit we can’t. Let’s seek forgiveness for trying to do too much, for trying to do anything without Him, for leaving Him out. We need to confess to setting up idols: perfection, self-sufficiency, independence; illusions at best, which only perpetuate our loneliness and pain. Let us as His forgiveness for our legalistic formulas which we substitute for loving faith, for rituals instead of relationships, for our gossip instead of His grace, for cruel judgments instead of contagious joy. Let us be courageous enough to face our junk, to be real, naked, exposed and vulnerable. When we dare to confess we meet Him at the ultimate place of teach ability, of liberation, of hope.
Now, about those challenges and obstacles you’re facing, those ‘impossibilities’ those miracles you need. This is where they go, after the worship, after the ‘thank You’ after the ‘forgive me’, they go here. Now is the time to lay it all out before Him. Now, in light of Who He is, all He has already done, who you are as His child, now, tell Him all about it. Tell Him about all the things you haven’t gotten done, the things you’ve skipped the things that you forgot. Tell Him about the subjects that intimidate you, the multiplication problems that still confuse you, and the grammar that you still don’t understand. Tell Him how unqualified and inept you feel. Tell Him how much it hurts, feel free to cry. Your tears are not wasted at the foot of His throne; they’re valuable. He carefully catches them in a jar as they drip off your chin.
In light of the reality of His glory, goodness and grace, in recognition of His providence, all of the issues, facing the mirror and casting all of your cares on Him proves His burden to be easy, His yoke to be light.
Welcome to the New Year, 2014. Welcome to where He is doing a new thing and where He makes all things new. Welcome to where worshipping Him will inspire your faith, where your gratitude for His provision will trigger your joy, where your honest confession will result in freedom and where your request for help will be fulfilled beyond your wildest imagination.
Let us be bold enough to praise Him who alone is God; there is none other.
Let us be honest enough to thank Him for everything; it’s all from Him.
Let us be courageous enough to confess our sinfulness; we aren’t perfect, not even close.
Let us be brave enough to trust Him with it all, not part, not some, but all; He is Able.
Take the opportunity this new year to get back up on that horse, get back in the saddle. Take a deep breath and head out into a fresh first day.
To quote one of my favorite movie lines: “Adventure is out there!”
Smile and enjoy the ride.
Expect great things.
You won’t be disappointed.
Rachael Carman

Merry Christmas From The Carmans

Sunflower_MerryXmas

Merry Christmas From The Carmans!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!  We pray that you have a wonderful day with your friends and family celebrating our Lord and Kings birth!  

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Rachael Carman

Grannan’s Puzzle Bread Recipe

My Grannan’s Puzzle Bread recipe, from her scattered stash of recipes dated 1978, has always been a family favorite.  We’ve enjoyed it on many special occasions and I hope you and your family will enjoy it too!

My Grannan's Puzzle Bread recipe, from her scattered stash of recipes dated 1978, has always been a family favorite. www.HisSunflower.com

Puzzle Bread

1 pkg of Yeast
1C  Water – warm
1C  Shortening (may use butter flavored Crisco now)
3/4C  Sugar
1 1/2t  Salt
1C Water – boiling
2  Eggs
6C Flour
1 1/2  Sticks of Butter
Dissolve yeast into 1C of warm water and set aside. Mix together shortening, sugar, and salt. Stir in 1C boiling water and then stir in the eggs.  Alternately add in the flour and yeast mixture. Mix well and place in a lightly greased bowl.  Allow to rise until double – approximately an hour in a warm place (not hot).
Roll dough to a 1/4″-1/2″ thickness.  Then slice into irregular strips.  Dip dough strips in a dish of 1 1/2 sticks of melted butter and arrange in layers in a large casserole dish.
Bake at 350* for approximately 45 minutes.
Enjoy!
Rachael Carman

What About Mary And Elizabeth – Part 2

What About Mary And Elizabeth – Part 2

Did you miss Part 1 of our intimate look at Mary and Elizabeth?  You can find it here!

It must have served as a great source of strength to her when, upon her return to Galilee, the scripture states that “she was found to be with child.” What must that have been like? Who found out? How did they find out? When did Joseph first hear of the news? Was it from Mary?  Or was it from another source? Can you imagine the hushed conversation and even the not so hushed ones? It would seem that upon her return home from the mountain’s peak and her visit with Elizabeth, Mary was very alone.

mary and elizabeth

Some of the comments were probably like this: “Yeah. And she says she was visited by an angel.” Or “Well I’m just wondering who she met while she was away.” Or “You know, Joseph is just as surprised as every body else.” Or “I was suppose to be in her wedding party, but not now.” It all must have really hurt.

Most of us have endured ridicule at one time in our lives or another. There is nothing like being misunderstood or misrepresented. And yet there is nothing like being confident of God’s call on our lives and the comfort he provides when we submit to Him in spite of the opposition. I do not believe that Mary hung her head in shame for a moment. I believe that she glowed and walked confidently in the city streets. It must have even further confused her accusers to see her at such peace as she grew rounder and rounder. It might have even been tragically interpreted by some as stubborn disobedience or willful defiance. But they couldn’t deny her peace.

Then as angel visited Joseph and there was probably a second round of whispers. “Can you believe it? Now she has Joseph convinced.”  Or “He actually married her and it’s not even his child.” Or “They might have each other fooled, but not me.” Now the two of them were alone together, experiencing a pregnancy that had caught them both by surprise and yet bonded them together because of their mutual trust in God.

Next came the births. Elizabeth was surrounded by friends and family upon the birth of her first child. It seems from scripture that there was a great spirit of joyful anticipation in the house. But when it came time to name the child, Elizabeth and Zechariah named him John and a new controversy set in. There was no one in their family had that name and besides, this was probably going to be their only child, why weren’t they naming him after his father? But Zechariah insisted, and because of his obedience was finally able to talk again for the first time in nine months. Complete and selfless obedience is such a beautiful thing. Father and mother and child were able to rejoice together.

Mary and Elizabeth each had quite unique experiences. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem for the census. And it was there, far away from her mother and any other remaining friends who had stood beside her, that she gave birth to the Savior of the world. I can imagine that the inn keeper, who had mercy on them and put them up in the unlikely birthing suite of a stable, may have contacted the local midwife. And however nice and gentle she may have been, she was still a stranger. After she had gone, Mary and Joseph were alone again with their new son, Jesus.

I can imagine that Joseph may have stepped out of the stable for some fresh air while Mary was nursing the baby when he noticed it. “Mary, you have got to come and see this.” And as she laid down the baby in the manger and stepped out into the cool of the evening, she was bathed in the bright light of a star, which was shining down over their humble accommodations. They were alone together with the affirmation of a star, only feet away from Emmanuel.

Then more strangers showed up. They were shepherds. They said that an angel had appeared to them and told them about the birth of the child and that they wanted to see for themselves. Neither Joseph or Mary doubted that these men had been visited by an angel, all of them had been at some time in their own journey to see the baby. The shepherds must have been hesitant to tell why they were there, but relieved at the new parents’ response. They parted as friends. Another group of men, we don’t know how many, showed up bearing extraordinary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They said that they had followed the same star that had lit up the night and embraced them in its warmth.

God was sending the most unlikely of people to encourage and comfort them even in this unfamiliar town. It seems like to me that God was reaching down to them in a personal way with people who cared. Angels, a star, and a baby brought them together as strangers, and united them for eternity. All of them had seen a sign, chosen to believe it, sought it out for themselves. As a result, all of them were changed.

The stories continue form there and I think that I might explore at another time what it might have been like to raise John the Baptist and Jesus. There is so much to be learned from mothers in the Bible as we seek out the Scriptures. But with just what I covered here, prayerfully consider the questions below. This is the season in which we get so caught up in getting that we miss it all. Don’t miss it this year. Don’t miss Him.

  • How has the Savior manifested His life in your life?
  • Is the truth of His life evident in your life?
  • Has His Spirit been prompting you to act on something and your response been less that submissive?
  • Do you consider the cost to you personally when it comes to serving Him or do you weigh it all out and base your obedience on your human wisdom?
  • How important is it to you to make sure that others understand you and all of your decisions?
  • Do you walk confidently and courageously in your obedience or are you ashamed of your Lord?
  • As God seeks to comfort and encourage you in your own personal spiritual journey, are you willing to accept and acknowledge the “strangers” he had sent you or are you rejecting them because they are not who you want them to be?
  • Have you praised God lately for all that He is doing in your life even if not especially when its not going according to your plan?
  • Are you preparing yourself and your children for, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “reckless abandon” to the will of God?

It is my prayer that as we women, mothers, wives, daughters, look at the lives of Mary and Elizabeth, we will find ourselves. I think we are all represented in some way whether we are single, married, young, old, fertile, barren, alone, joyful, seeking, misunderstood, or hopeful. These two women put it all aside their reputations, their bodies, their friendships, their plans all for the birth of the Christ child.

Mary and Elizabeth embraced their opportunity to change change plans. They boldly went against the cultural norms and acceptable appearances. They welcomed the impossible. They had their eyes set on things above such that they were not distracted by the things below. May we seek to follow in their footsteps as women of faith. May we seek Him, obey Him, and praise Him. And ultimately, may we become all that He has planned for us to be as His daughters.

Feel free to share this with a friend who might be encouraged by the story of Mary and Elizabeth. I would love to hear from any of you and your own insights into the lives of these two women. May God bless you as you seek His face.

In His Grace,

Rachael Carman

 

Thanksgiving Traditions

It’s that time of year! Just want to encourage you to enjoy the fullness and the blessings of Thanksgiving with your family. Our whole family is going to be here this next week. I am so excited. I am finalizing the menu and the grocery list. HisSunflower.com by Rachael Carman

Thanksgiving Traditions

It’s that time of year! Just want to encourage you to enjoy the fullness and the blessings of Thanksgiving with your family. Our whole family is going to be here this next week. I am so excited. I am finalizing the menu and the grocery list.
Want to bump the time you have together? Here are some ideas:
-Take some time to read together. That’s right, we love to pull some books off the shelf that I read to the kids when they were much younger. Two of our favorites are “Cranberry Thanksgiving” and “How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World”. Both contain delicious recipes too!
-Take time to be thankful. Check out the Thanksgiving Tree post I made earlier. It is such a treat to listen to everyone around the table express gratitude for God’s goodness and faithfulness.
-Take time to play some games. We love dominoes and a game called Nertz. The game doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you are playing it together. Throw some popcorn in the microwave and stir up some hot chocolate and enjoy the laughter.
-Take some pictures-casual and not. While we are together we need to be taking advantage of the opportunity to capture some of the moments we spend together. Share the pictures with each other as you relax after the big dinner.
-Take a walk, throw or kick a ball or frisbee! Rake leaves and jump in them. It is a beautiful time of year-take full advantage of it.
-Take time to cook together. There is not sense in one person having all the fun whether it is cooking or cleaning up. Everyone should roll up their sleeves and get in the kitchen!
-Take time to rest. After the turkey and the rest of the leftovers are tucked into the fridge, take a snooze. Allow yourself to relax and rest.
Lean into Him this holiday!
PS Stay tuned. I will be posting some of our favorite family recipes this next Monday so you can plan. You will love them!

Rachael Carman