Thriving in Hard Times

Contributed By: Leigh Anne Rufener, mother of three sons

Change.  Challenges. Motherhood.  All words that incite possible fear, trepidation and stress.  Yet might it be possible that we could use the word GRACE to explain them all?  Ann Voskamp writes about eucharisteo – the Greek word that essentially combines Thanksgiving, Grace and Joy into one awe-struck word.  Can this truth be lived out in the midst of trials and the daily grind?  As our family has walked through this past year, I am finding that the answer is yes – only by and through God’s amazing grace.

At this moment, our family is walking through some God-sized challenges.  Job change, child injuries, loss of family members, relational hardship and exhaustion to name a few.  How on earth does a woman thrive in the midst of motherhood and life with this type of list?  My heart has been desperate for the grace and truth of God through much of this time.  By no means am I a perfect picture of faith, but the Lord has stirred my heart to desire Him and His truth.

As I have battled in my faith this past year, God has made the following truths clear and has used them to lead my life:

  1. There are STILL blessings abounding all over. Even though I might not “feel” it, God is still in the process of making all things new, so amazing things are to be seen everywhere.  He is still the giver of ALL good things; let’s thank Him for that!  This truth actually caused me to change one of my social media sites to “Thankful for Each Moment.”
  2. While listening to the radio, a famous preacher reminded me that I am a bigger sinner than I could ever know. But, my Lord loves me more than I could ever know!  Yes, He loves us, despite us; I am His and He is mine.
  3. God’s grace is deeper than the sea, and He longs to pour it out upon us. And His grace is not just for everyone else, but me too!  Why do we so often push away this amazing grace and all His amazing truths?
  4. As we keep seeking HIS face, He WILL be faithful. God has answered prayers that I didn’t even know I had – even to some of my “Why’s?”
  5. Do I really need to know the WHY? With deep soul searching, I am finding that answer to be “No.”  My heart screams, “But, YES I DO!”  The Lord in His kindness says “Trust Me.” and reminds me that His ways are NOT our ways, but His ways are BEST.  Therefore, I must do the next best thing in love and obedience to my Lord.
  6. I must seek FIRST His Kingdom & His righteousness. The Lord is so faithful to remind and reveal truths in Scripture that we need desperately.  Although, we live in a fallen world, we serve an amazing God!

Today, may I ask you, might you seek to live a life that encompasses eucharisteo – a life of thanksgiving, joy, & grace through each moment?  Above all, might you seek Christ first to give you the strength, hope, and grace you need for each moment?  Today, may you find that Jesus is the answer for all you need to thrive in the midst of your challenges in life and motherhood.

All because of Him ~ Leigh Anne


Slapped by Motherhood

This post is going to be super-honest. Maybe even the most honest one I’ve written so far.

The first time motherhood slapped me in the face was when my first child was born.  I had no clue what I was doing, felt completely incompetent the first several weeks (still do at times!) and at one point I thought I was losing my mind.  Motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks and everything that (I thought) was once in my control was gone.  And I like control. A lot.

I know most moms can relate to this initial shock of motherhood.  You don’t really know what to expect, even though people try hard to prepare you before the baby comes.  Their well-meaning advice is…nice.  But no one told me the nitty gritty, brutally honest reality of motherhood.  Why didn’t anyone tell me? I vaguely remember people making jokes about not getting any sleep or the terrible twos, but that’s about it. They mostly told me the fuzzy, fluffy stuff.  No one told me that it would feel like an open-handed slap across the side of my face and sting for some time and then leave me feeling like, “What the heck just happened?”

This summer it happened again.  I was seriously slapped by motherhood which resulted in a come-to-Jesus moment (literally) and revealed a lot about the condition of my own heart.  Ugh.  It’s funny how God consistently uses my mothering and my children (my marriage, too, for that matter) to show me things about myself (good and bad) and to gently shape me to His will, if I let Him.  This summer has been no different.  Here we are just four days away from the start of another school year.  The summer has been fun.  It was actually a lot of fun, full of day trips, park hopping, picnics, many hours spent at the pool and too many bike rides to count.  We made the most of the hot sunny days, spending most of our time outside and coming inside sweaty, tired and browned by the sun.

But it wasn’t all ice cream and push-pops.  There were some real, ugly, stressed-to-the-max moments as well.  More than I’d care to admit.  And it was in those moments that God decided to show me some ungodly qualities that He wanted to…ahem…work on in me.  To list a few… impatience, irritability, rudeness, anger, control, selfishness (big one) and pride.  There it is, my friends.  I said it.  I struggle with these things.  Sometimes daily.  Sometimes all in one day.  I pray for the Fruits of the Spirit regularly. I long to be a godly wife and mother and am willing to do whatever it takes to be those things. And something huge and of the greatest importance was revealed to me this summer.  And it’s that I haven’t yet died to myself.  I’m immensely selfish and oftentimes put my own agenda and control issues over loving my family the way God has called me to.  And just so you know, it’s really hard for me to even admit that to myself, much less whoever else reads this. I’d have an idea of what I wanted to get done during a specific time of the day… whether it be chores, meal prep, returning a call or email, working on a project, whatever…and when constant interruptions, bickering between the boys or the general rowdiness of having three sons became too loud or too rough or too much, I’d become really annoyed and frustrated and freely showed that.  Let’s just say I offered numerous apologies this summer, as well as asking forgiveness when mommy wasn’t so nice. God has very (very, very) clearly spoken to my heart this summer and whispered… Your approach is wrong… Try it My way…Humble yourself…Embrace My grace and show it to others.  These are just a few of the things that He has repeated.  And believe me, I already know my desperate need for Jesus, His grace and redeeming love.  It’s a daily need and a longing to be rid of my own awful sin.  And I’m thankful daily that there’s nothing that can separate me from His love.  But He is asking me to die to myself.  And take up my cross. Daily.  Hourly.  Minute-by-minute. (Luke 9: 23-24) To make the right(eous) choice, honor Him and love my family better.  It is so hard.  Sometimes it just downright seems too hard, if I’m being completely honest.  I think I’ve even said that to God.  No, I know I have.  “This is too hard, Lord!”  “I can’t do what You’re asking me to!” “Why does it have to be so hard?!”  Because that’s what it FEELS like.  There are moments of parenting, in marriage and life that seem too chaotic, out-of-control, bothersome or uncomfortable.  My agenda versus theirs.  My wants versus their needs.  My selfishness versus their selfishness. My expectations versus their childish behaviors. Trying to do my pathetic best on interrupted nights of sleep, days that begin at 5 a.m. and with three spirited sons who tire me out in every way. I, alone, am not enough for them.  I will never be enough.  I fall short and fail them.  I do.  But (here’s the grace part) I was never meant to be enough for them.  It was never God’s intention for me to be everything to them all the time.  First of all, how would I grow in Christ and need Him? And second of all, my sons would have no need for a Savior if they found that in me.  I see what You’re doing, God, and I like it.  God is good like that.  No kidding.  And He is so faithful to take our rotten parts… reveal them to us, remove them and show us a better way (enter, Obedience).  If we allow ourselves to be shaped, if we recognize and repent of our own sin and ask God to do the work in us, He will!  Life is hard because of sin.  Parenting is hard because you have two sinners trying to teach and love little sinners. God knows that we’re going to mess up.  He doesn’t look upon us in disappointment and condemnation.  Instead, He extends grace and mercy.  He picks us up, dusts us off and strengths us to try again. And again.  And again. We allow that grace and mercy to change us and our children see that, despite our failures.

Motherhood is hard and packs a mean punch.  But so is marriage.  And life.  This has been a good summer.  It’s also be a summer of hard stuff.  Of trying to hold on to control, while at the same time longing for God to take it away and take over.  Wanting my way, but knowing God’s will is better.  Allowing myself to be led by my emotions, versus being led by His Spirit.  I can’t help but be thankful for the hard stuff.  Honestly.  Because that’s where God makes me more like Jesus.  That’s where He works in a mighty way and shows me a better way.

I read this last night and thought it worthy to share.

“There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing – that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose which I may not understand at the moment.  But as I refuse to become panicky – as I lift up my eyes to Him – and as I accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret – for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is.  That is the rest of victory.” -quote by Alan Redpath


Summer Reading List

I’ve finally set aside some time to share my summer reading list for 2016!  I am finding myself gravitating towards books that will encourage personal and spiritual growth. I’m hungry for wisdom when it comes to marriage and parenting in particular, so I’m sharing some of my recent favorites, along with a couple of book my oldest son and I are reading together.  Links to purchase each book are attached (I use Amazon so I can buy used).  It’s yard sale season so I’ve been picking up many good (and super-cheap!) books at local yard sales as well as thrift shops.  Last week I hit a sale at a local thrift store and got several books for 49 cents a piece!  Today I’m just sharing my most favorites.  They may seem a bit “deep” for summer reading, but I’m really into the books that my son and I read together, which are adventure and fantasy, so it balances out. 🙂

First up…


This book!  This book is so full of wisdom, practical guidance and TRUTH!  A must-read for any Christian wife and mother.  I have a few of Linda Dillow’s books and was able to meet her at an Authentic Intimacy conference last Fall.  I highly recommend this book, no matter how many years you’ve been married! And if you’re in central PA, you’re invited to an Authentic Intimacy conference this September!  See all the details here!


I cannot wait to read this book! This is the updated, modern English version available here.


One of my favorite, most treasured books I own.  Our pastor often quotes A.W. Tozer from this book, so I decided to pick it up and see what it’s about. After sharing bits and pieces of it with my husband, he’s asking to read it when I’m done.  Check it out here.


If you’re a parent to boys, this is a must read!  And I’ve read and researched a LOT of parenting books.  This is far from your typical parenting “guide” and is so full of encouragement, insight, truth and facts!  Written by two formally educated counselors and fathers of boys, this book addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of raising sons.  This, next to God’s Word, offers a wealth of knowledge if you’re desiring to know and nurture your son(s).  I can hardly put it down and is definitely something I’ll go back to time and again.

Our library’s summer reading program inspired my son to do some serious reading this summer.  He reads on his own, but asked if we could read Lord of the Rings together.  I (reluctantly) agreed but now that we’re halfway through the first book of six, I’m really into it and promised we could watch the movie when the book is finished.  It’s full of fantasy and adventure, which his boy-heart loves.  I’m happy to share in his delight and we both look forward to our reading time together each evening.  Check out the series here and look at all of those stars and reviews!

Several months ago we read The Story of Doctor Dolittle and loved it.  We wished there had been more to read, we enjoyed it that much. Now we’re reading The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.  There’s adventure and mystery galore in this one and so much fun to read.

I haven’t gotten to these three yet, but they’re on the list!  Seated with Christ by Heather Holleman (she’s local to our area!), One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer and Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur.

Happy reading!



Summer Berries & Cast Iron

I love every single thing about summertime.  The hot sun, long days, yard work, sun tea, fireflies, fresh vegetables from the garden and afternoons spent at the local pool. Since living in the northeast I try and absorb every ray of sun I can because winters can be harsh and long here.  My boys & I are outside every day, just about all day long playing at local parks, riding bikes and eating way too many popsicles.

One beautiful, hot summer morning this week my family & I made a stop by a local berry farm, Bee Tree Berry Farm, on our way home from the family camp.  It’s a u-pick farm so we planned to pick both the fresh & juicy red and black raspberries and we came home with enough to munch on the next few days and some to make a berry cobbler with.  I left the farm in love.  In love with the beauty of the farm, the views and the dream of owning my own “little piece of heaven” one day.


But back to the berries!  The berries nearly didn’t make it into the cobbler because my oldest son was steadily sneaking them into his mouth on the ride home!  But once I told him my plans for a berry cobbler with homemade ice cream he stopped and quickly asked to help me make it.


I recently picked up a magazine at our local grocery store all about cast iron cooking.  Being from Louisiana, I’ve inherited and accumulated a lot of nice cast iron cookware.  I didn’t realize just how much you can cook using cast iron and the benefits of using it. So I pulled all of mine out, cleaned it up and vowed to start cast iron cooking regularly.  I remember my grandmothers only using cast iron… the time and heart they poured into their home-cooked meals is something I will never forget.

So last evening, with the help of my 7-year-old, we cooked our entire meal (minus the bread and steamed broccoli) using cast iron.  Andouille chicken sausage with peppers and onions, baked cream corn and fresh berry cobbler.  This morning my son said, “That dinner sure was good last night!”.  It was indeed (if I do say so myself!).

So in this post I’m sharing the recipe for the Fresh Berry Cobbler made in cast iron. If you don’t have any cast iron, check out your local antique and consignment shops, yard & estate sales or go buy a new one.  You’ll want to be sure and season it first.

Here you go!  Enjoy!

Fresh Berry Cobbler

2 pints fresh (or frozen) berries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) real butter
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or dutch oven) in the oven and preheat oven to 350°

Stir together the berries, 1/2 cup sugar, the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, the lemon juice and nutmeg in a bowl

Melt the butter in the cast iron in the oven until it starts to brown around the edge and foam

While butter is melting, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup flour and sugar, the baking powder, salt, and milk in a large bowl, just until combined.  It should be about the consistency of pancake batter

Pour the batter over the butter in the hot skillet. Do not stir. Immediately spoon the berry mixture on top of the batter. Bake until the crust is golden and crisp, 30-35 minutes

Serve with ice cream if desired (highly recommended!)


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Prayers for my toilet

I can imagine what you’re thinking about the title of this post.  It does sound weird.  But I promise it’ll make sense in a few minutes.

I have a two-year-old son.  He’s the third two-year-old I’ve raised.  So I have a little experience with two-year-olds.  But he is really, really two.  You know… full two-year-old mode.  Tantrums.  “No!” & “Mine!” and “No, mine!”.  He is cute as all get-out, but he is definitely a stinker with a capital “S”.  And he’s gotten into this horrible, terrible habit of flushing things down the toilet.  You name it, he’s flushed it.  Seriously!  A glass bluebird (I loved that bluebird!), a Velcro hair roller, bath toys, foam letters and other random objects.  He’s thrown everything in the toilet, from a toothbrush to clothing.  My other two boys never went through this “flushing” phase.  Yeah, I’ve caught them with their hands in the potty (ew!), but nothing to this extent.

Over the past year my precious, Mr. Fix-It husband has been able to unclog most of the flushing incidents.  This has included actually removing the toilets from the base and working hard to remove the object.  It’s also included a new toilet in the process (don’t ask).  But recently the culmination of all the objects came to a head and we had to call in the plumbing experts. After a few hours, a big mess and a loud “swoosh!” the 3-day long clog of two bathrooms in our home was over.  Oh, and a hefty bill remained.  But we had a plan to keep the bathroom doors closed and locked and all small, flushable objects were removed from the bathrooms. Or so I thought.

I took my youngest on a quick trip to the grocery store.  We got home and walked into the house; I had one big bag of groceries to carry up the stairs and my son went before me and ran in the direction of his bedroom.  Except that he didn’t go in his room; he went into mine and straight for my bathroom. I heard the flush from the kitchen.  Something didn’t sound right.  I ran back to the bathroom to find my son scurrying guiltily away. I attempted to flush the toilet only to find that something was blocking it from flushing properly. Now I will openly admit that I’m a dramatic woman at times.  But this brought me to tears, especially after all that we’d gone through to remedy the clogged bathrooms a few weeks ago.  I was so frustrated.  At my son.  At myself for not locking the bathroom door.  But mostly for my husband who was going to have to deal with yet another stopped-up toilet.  I dreaded even telling him.  The last thing I wanted him to deal with after a long day at work was to come home to this.

But I did tell him.  And he was able to offer me some encouragement, that the object was probably reachable and he’d eventually fix it.  He hoped.

Two days went by and he hadn’t looked at the toilet yet.  It was driving me nuts.  I just wanted it fixed and to know that we wouldn’t have to a call a plumber and payout another couple hundred dollars that isn’t in our budget.

So I started praying that my husband would be able to easily fix it; that he’d easily be able to remove the object and that we wouldn’t have to call a plumber.

The next evening my sweet husband started the nasty job of draining the toilet and removing it from its base.  With my seven-year-old watching, the two worked upstairs while I checked emails downstairs.  After a few minutes, and hearing my husband struggling to remove the toilet, I started to pray.  “Lord, you know this has been bothering me.  You know we don’t have the extra money to pay a plumber again.  Please let JB fix the toilet easily and help him to remove what’s in there.”  I prayed this a few times. I didn’t dare go up to check on the progress.  But I didn’t need to, because five minutes later my seven-year-old ran downstairs with the top to the candle that my youngest had flushed a few days earlier.  Thank you, Lord!  Thank you!  What a relief!

You might be thinking, “Why is she writing a post about her clogged toilet?”  Or you might be skeptical that God answered my lowly prayer of unclogging the toilet.  But friends, I have no doubt in my mind (or my heart) that God answered that prayer.  That He loves me so much that He is in every detail of my life and hears every prayer, even the seemingly small.  There is nothing too small, too big, too silly or too crazy to pray about.  He just wants us to pray.  To ask Him.  To talk to Him.  Like any loving parent, He patiently waits for us to come to Him with anything and everything.  Like the song says, He’s a good, good Father.  And He even cares about my toilet.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Philippians 4:6