A Gift from My Friend, Melissa

I had a perspective changing moment today.  As I was mopping up the kitchen floor, anxiously checking my watch, knowing that to finish was going to make me a few minutes later than usual to pick up my kiddos at school, my mind turned to my friend, Melissa.  I found out last night that she is in Hospice care with cancer.  Even though I have not seen her in – literally – 23 years, my heart broke.  I went out to Facebook and discovered that she has a gorgeous family: a handsome husband, a son about my son’s age and two precious little girls that look like they probably smile their Mommy’s easy smile often.  I prayed hard that God would heal her HERE; that her family would know peace that passes all understanding, that her children would somehow be drawn closer to her and to her Lord through this tragedy in their Momma’s life; that her husband would feel the strength of the Lord Himself as he deals with all that people in his situation do… and on and on and on.  And then I fell asleep, sad, but knowing I had done all I really could.

This morning, my mind turned to her again and I prayed again.  Then, this afternoon, in the middle of my normal, unexciting life as a typical, stay-at-home Mom, while doing an almost futile job, Melissa suddenly came to mind again and I found myself thanking God for the strength to mop my own floor.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I thanked God for the chance to pick up my Kiddos at school and clean up after their endless messes.  I thanked God that I would have a chance to love on my husband again and even fight with him again about that same old thing we always fight about.  Suddenly, in the shadow of a million thoughts of my sweet, old friend, Melissa, all the things that were driving me just a little crazy a moment earlier were huge, precious blessings.  Those miniscule “burdens” I had been silently complaining about were unveiled as the blessings they truly are: I get to pick up my kids at school.  I get to mop up after their spilled milk and Popsicle drippings.  I get to have that hard conversation with my husband.  We get to try again.  I get to pay the bills and fold the clothes and vacuum the floor… again.  I get to take the dog to the vet and run the carpool and coordinate the PTA volunteers.  I get to.  I.  GET TO.

I finished the last swipe of the mop, ran out the door to pick up my kids and prayed for my friend again: this time that somehow she would know that no matter what happens, her life has made a huge difference.  Not just to her husband and her sweet babies, but to me.  I remember her as a beautiful girl.  A girl that was pretty from the inside out.  I remember her as a girl who cheered and sang and laughed and encouraged others and was a true friend.  I remember her as a girl who welcomed me into her circle of friends even though I was the “new kid” from far away.  I remember her every time I pass the church she went to back when we were in high school and even though it’s been ages, I know Jesus was the most important thing to her way back then.  Even though it’s been ages, I can tell that He is everything to her now.

I will continue to pray for a miracle until she is back to being the Mommy she wants to be again or until I hear she has finally met her Savior face-to-face.  And my perspective on all those “normal” things I do will never be the same because of what she’s fighting through.  That sweet, pretty girl, that the Lord brings to mind when I pass her old church in our old town has always been a part of the best of my “everyday” high school memories.  And now, God has used her to shape what will become the best of my “everyday” Mommy memories.

Please pray for my friend, Melissa.  And when the everyday, normal stuff you do feels like a burden, remember her and thank God that you “get to” do it.

30 Days of Thanksgiving

Hello All!  I am sure you have heard of taking the entire month of November to ponder on, journal and share all that you are thankful for.  Because I love lists and have SO much to be thankful for, I am jumping on the Thankful Train myself this year and will be adding to this post each day throughout the month of November.  I hope my list inspires you to write one of your own.  Life is crazy, but there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for!

Day 1 – On this First Day of November, I am most thankful for the incomparable love of Christ and for “the way” that He has made for me – both in this daily life and on into eternity. Far too often, I don’t “Consider Jesus” as I should, but I when I do, I am overwhelmed by who He is and what He has done. When I do, I am overwhelmingly thankful!
“One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank Him enough…” – Luke 17:15-16 (The Message)

Day 2 – I am thankful for Kevin Mulligan, my awesome husband! I come from a bit of a “Family Bush” and spent a lot of time before we got married watching families and marriages trying to figure out what made the good ones work. We’re not perfect, but what we have is so much more than I thought was possible! Kevin loves me even when I am very unlovable and he does what the Word says to do: “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything He does and says is designed to bring out the best in her… (Eph. 5:25-27a from The Message)

Day 3 – I am SO THANKFUL for my Kiddos!  No one makes me love more or desire to be better like Caleb & Keppley do!  I believe what I always tell them: God picked the PERFECT babies for me!  “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3 – CEV)

Day 4 – Crazy thankful for our church family: a pastor that preaches and lives the Word, mentors that pour time and LIFE into our family, great teachers, wonderful friends and brothers & sisters in Christ who laugh and cry with us, pray for us and make this walk tons better than it would be without them! LOVE those Cedar Creek Peeps! SO thankful that God called us a “far piece” out to the country… the drive is a pleasure!  “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Day 5 – Today I am thankful for the ways God takes care of me.  Words are so inadequate.  He provides all the “basics”, a ridiculous number of “wants”, universal and personal things, things everyone knows I want and things only He and I have discussed, big and little, important and trivial… He’s my Father and He never fails to give good gifts.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Day 6 – On this Election Day, I am especially thankful that God saw fit to make me a citizen of the United States of America. It is a blessing and I am proud of my country – no matter who the President is or how many problems we have left to solve!  “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28)
Day 7 – Today, I am thankful for Brian P. McLendon and who he will always be to my 17 year-old self. I’m thankful for the wonderful memories that have been floating through my head these last several days. I am thankful for his precious family and for how they allowed me to be a part of their lives and loved on me and set a good example for me of what “family” is all about. I’m thankful for the life he lived and the things he taught me way back when and in retrospect. I’m just thankful that I knew him and will be praying for his family today as they remember him and mourn for him. Rest in peace, Friend.
Day 8 – I am thankful for the great school my kids attend and that I get to work there sometimes! I love substitute teaching… and HONESTLY, the other kids don’t seem to think I am NEARLY as nerdy or embarrassing as my own kids do! HaHa! I am also thankful – again – for my precious husband, who understands my tears for a friend I haven’t really talked to in 20 years. He’s quite the catch, that one.
On this 9th day of November, I am thankful for gorgeous blue skies, splashes of fall color on the trees and crisp, cool mornings! And how could I not be?  This is the view from my front porch:

Day 10 – Today, I am thankful for my nieces and nephew! Gracious! I love those PUNKIN HEADS! And… I now know that “aunthood” is just one small step below “grandmotherhood”: sugar ’em up, spoil ’em rotten and send ’em back to Mommy! JoJo loves you bunches and bunches Berkeley, Avery, Annabelle and Liam! XO

Day 11 – I am thankful for this phrase in scripture: “But He gives us more grace. (James 4:6a)” Greater than our sin. More times than we fall. More often than we ask. More than we will ever need. Thank you, God, for grace upon grace upon grace.
Day 12 – Super thankful for the “catastro-tunity” Kep and I had getting her new glasses. It was an unexpected detour that turned into a great little “Girl’s Day”! Love that Chick!
Day 13 – Thankful that we get to CHOOSE! We get to choose to do right, respond rather than react, and extend grace rather than anger. We get to choose to believe the truth rather than our sometimes erroneous emotions – and we get to choose when we go with our hearts over our minds. I don’t always make the right choices, but I am thankful that I GET TO CHOOSE. AND that I get to choose differently next time if I get it wrong THIS time!
Day 14 – Thankful that I have a fun sister who loves me and understands certain aspects of my “CRAZY” like no one else really can! She is brilliant, beautiful, talented and a super-fabulous Aunt to my Kiddos! Even though we are years and miles apart, we somehow manage to have fun and stay connected via phone, text messages and Facebook! Looking forward to “in person” fun over Thanksgiving break! Love you , Baby Sister!


Day 15 – Thankful for long-standing family traditions, great memories and the thought that my “Babies” have a pretty neat little heritage. Our family is not perfect, but we do all right and it is clear to me that God is working and blessing!

Day 16 – Thankful for full days and all the friends that I have made along the way! From high school and college friends that turned into “life-long” friends, to my extended family, in-laws and their in-laws, to my brothers & sisters in Christ, Bible study Peeps and Playground Moms! You know who you are and I am VERY Thankful for you!
Day 17 – Thankful for a WONDERFUL day at Williams-Brice with lots of family and friends! And almost just as thankful that I am now in my jammies hitting the hay!
Day 18 – Thankful for great church friends that let us camp out at their house and share in their family time when we’re “workin’ for The Lord” in Blythewood. Thank you so much! We had a great time!
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” ― Jean Baptiste Massieu
My heart is so full of wonderful memories. So many good things, innumerable blessings and cherished memories to be grateful for on this 19th day of November.
 Day 20 – Thankful for my Maddy Girl and Horace. I sometimes fussed about Maddy and get frustrated with Horace, but I wouldn’t trade those 4-legged “babies” for anything. I love having a Pupper underfoot!

Day 21 – Thankful that the Pre-Christmas decorating is done, my family is on the way, Grandma Corn is prepped, collards are cooking and we are in the home stretch!!

Day 22 – A heart overflowing with gratitude on this official day of Thanksgiving… for all the things I’ve pondered this month and a million little moments of grace, love, and fun that I know I take for granted all the time. I am a blessed Girl. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Day 23 – Thankful for my whole CRAZY family!  (And the picture below isn’t even ALL on them!  And I’m not even counting the Mulligan side!)

Day 24 – Thankful for more family time, my college alma mater and a win over Clemson!  I know… I know… maybe I shouldn’t bring up the Clemson/Carolina Game, but we Gamecocks still have all long way to go until we surpass Clemson in total rivalry wins.  So, I gotta cock-a-doodle-doo when I can!

Day 25 – Thankful that my brother and his family did not have to head straight back home after Thanksgiving this year!  I use the term loosely, but it will be nice to have some “normal” time with them now that the holiday craziness has subsided a bit!

Day 26 – Thankful for both of my wonderful, talented, FABULOUS sisters-in-law and the friendships I have with both of them.  Jason and Michael, you made good choices!

Day 27 – Thankful for the warm home, reliable vehicles, clothing on my back and food in the refrigerator that I am blessed to have.  I so take the little things for granted, but today I am looking at the ordinary with a truly grateful heart.

Day 28 – So thankful for the opportunity I am having this week to build relationships with my Munford nieces.  I don’t see them often, but we are forming a sweet little bond this week that I love… singing, playing, snuggling, laughing and doing all the daily things that carve out spots in each others’ hearts.  It is going to be hard to say goodbye on Saturday.

Day 29 – Thankful that changes in the plan can still yield great times!

Day 30 – On my last official day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I took the time to ponder all the people, memories, circumstances and things God has used to bless me.  In every case, being with my friends and family, making the memories, finding joy in the circumstances and appreciating the things has been heart-warming.  The practice of noticing each of them everyday this month has increased my gratitude and makes me cherish more all the parts that make up the whole.

Happy Thanksgiving, Readers.  I pray that a grateful heart will be yours through Advent, Christmas and into 2013.

Pull Yourself Together and Wield the Sword!

Whew!  So, it’s been a while!  Heaven knows that a million things have been rolling around in this head of mine, but I simply have not taken the time to sit down at my keyboard to set them free!  Today, however, I am feeling inspired and decided to share what God did this very day here at the Mulligan Homestead.

As you know, if you have read any of my other posts, I am continuously working to “walk my walk” well in front of my Kiddos.  I feel I am constantly taking “baby steps” in the right direction, but must confess – AGAIN – that I am never as happy with my progress as I think I will be, for instance, when I have a morning like the one I wrote about in “The First Day of a New and Better Way” .  When I have mornings like that I always think, “This is it!  I have mastered self-control and a Christ-like attitude!  Every day from here on out will be victoriously lived.  My children shall rise to call me blessed!”  Of course, I don’t consciously think that, but somewhere in the back of my mind, that must be what’s going on because when I LOSE my mind yet again – typically only hours and sometimes just minutes later! – I am always shocked and perplexed that I have obviously taken one step forward followed by two steps back.  Anyway… that’s how it’s been these last several days: one step forward and two steps back.  We are on the tail end of the summer, with no routine, bedtime, screen-time limitations or structure and both Kiddos have been sick.  So, in retrospect, I should have seen the “set-up” and been more alert to it, but until today I wasn’t.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an ad for Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued.  I don’t even know how I got there, but I am certainly glad I did.  I read a sample chapter, thought to myself, “She seriously lives in our house!  Where is she hiding?!” and signed up to take the “Unglued Challenge”.  I honestly felt kind of silly doing so since I figured I already knew what she was going to say and had probably said it to myself a million times before, but sometimes we just need to hear things again with a slightly different twist.  In the spirit of the Olympics, I give Lysa a “10” on her twist! 

I don’t know exactly what the book is going to end up saying, but this morning as I was closing my “Unglued Challenge – Day 2” email, I heard stomping and screaming upstairs followed by a distinct door slam.  Hmmm… 

Day One was awesome.  Day Two threw Isaiah 55:10-11 at me and I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Remember, Joeli?  My Word accomplishes what I desire and achieves the purpose for which I sent it… you should use it.”  Lysa shared that one of her strategies for remaining “glued” is to stop whenever she feels out of control and pray the promises of scripture in present tense.  She offered up 1 Peter 5:6-8 as a good starting point: “Humble yourselves therefore, under God;s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

So… back to the door slam.  I could feel my Mommy Pulse beginning to race, but before I could fully process all the same standard thoughts I normally think: Kevin’s son (Did you catch that?) has GOT to learn to control himself, what am I going to DO with that boy, what parenting strategies are applicable here… and how loud will my OWN footsteps be as I stomp up the stairs to address HIS obvious need to practice some self-control, Mister!!  Hmmm… the Holy Spirit grabbed my thoughts again, “Psst.  Joeli… now might be a good time to give Lysa’s suggestion the old college try.  And how about you teach this particular strategy to Caleb too?  Just a thought…”

Deep breath.  Stayed “glued”, Joeli… pull yourself together.

Dear God, I hear you loud and clear and I am humbling myself under your mighty hand.  I know that you have every answer and that your way is best.  Lift me up in your time and help me to be the person you want me to be.  God, I am anxious about so many things: am I going to mess them up with my own faults?  How can I teach them things I feel like I am still learning myself?  I am obviously not doing such a great job here if doors are slamming upstairs!  What if?  What if?  What if?  But God, I am casting all of that anxiety on you because I know you care for me.  Oh God, help me to be self-controlled and alert.  My enemy is indeed the devil – not Kevin, not Caleb, not Keppley, not my To-Do list or my extended family or the lady who cut me off in traffic or any of the things that kept me up last night – but the devil himself.  And I know that he is prowling around trying to get me to fall into his traps.  But I won’t do it.  In your strength, I will to resist him and stand firm in the faith.  Help me do this your way, Lord.

Sigh.  God is so good and so on time.  I said “amen”, closed my Bible and tip-toed, ninja-like up the stairs and down the hallway to Caleb’s room.  We took deep breaths together.  We pulled ourselves together… together.  I “shared” with him – as if he wasn’t already aware of it – that I have some problems with self-control too.  And then we commenced training.  We read the Word just as it is. 

Me: And what is the Word?

Caleb: The sword of the Spirit.  (He’s so smart!)

Then we practiced wielding that sword.  I prayed my own prayer and he spent some time praying his. 

And within minutes I had the “opportunity” to share the same lesson with Keppley.  Ugh.  We Mulligans… we were not gifted with innate self-control and we get feisty pretty quickly.  But you know what, we feel stronger already!  Exercising our faith, wielding His sword, defeating the enemy and loving each other along the way makes walking the walk so much sweeter.  I know tomorrow might be another challenging day, but we are taking baby steps together.  And one day soon we will look at each other and see three lean, mean (figuratively speaking, of course!) sword-wielding machines!  WooHoo!  Go God!  Go Us!

Check out Lysa’s upcoming book for yourself here: http://www.ungluedbook.com/


Who Wants to be “Standard” Anyway?

Please tell me that standardized testing drives every parent crazy.  Please tell me it’s not just me!  “Early to bed and a healthy breakfast” – the only supposed methods of readying oneself for the test – should not make my children’s hearts race.  A reasonable bedtime and a balanced morning meal should not be cues for stress – especially when you are 8!  The thing is: who wants to be “standard” anyway? 

My babies have done wonderfully on their “standardized tests”.  They are straight “A” students with big personalities and lots of friends.  They are musically inclined and wise in so many ways.  They can push all of my buttons one minute and absolutely melt my heart in the very next.  Of course, I want them to have every opportunity their wonderful school can afford them.  Of course, I am proud of their academic achievement.  I love that they win Spelling Bees.  I love that they get chosen to outline tough concepts in their own words for the entire school.  I love that they are funny and smart and friendly.  I KNOW they are fabulous and I like to get outside confirmation of it whenever possible!  But “standardized testing” just bugs me. 

I feel like every time a test comes up, they are asked to prove their worth.  It seems to me that “Standardized Testing” calls into question how well my Kiddos are already doing right where they are.  Standardized testing makes them wonder if they are really OK.  It says in a back-handed kind of way: “let’s see if you really meet the mark”.  But I don’t want to send my kids out into this world with that kind of message floating around in their heads.  I want them to know that even if they don’t make straight “A”s, even if they never stand in front of the class or on a stage, even if nobody else ever thinks they are totally awesome – I ALWAYS DO!  So, in the interest of clarifying my stance, I’ve written an open letter to Caleb and Keppley:

Dear Doodlebugs (I know… their friends already make fun of them because of me!),

Today, you are heading off to school to take some standardized test and I just want you to know before the first question is even asked that you are not “standard” in any way.  No test will ever measure who you are to your Daddy and me.  No test will ever define the course of your life and no test will ever determine your worth.  You are uniquely and wonderfully made.  You were chosen from among every possibility to be ours and we think God made two fabulous decisions!  Before we ever saw your face, you were firmly planted in our hearts and, if it is even possible, we love you more now than we did then. 

So, as you head out the door this morning – well-rested and full of a protein-rich, brain-boosting breakfast – just remember that.  And do your best.  Do your best and know without question, that God, Mommy and Daddy love you no matter what!  Do your best and know that we are already proud of you.  Do your best and know that your best will always be good enough.  Do your best and show everybody what is absolutely clear to me: you are ANYTHING but “standard”!



My prayer is that my Kiddos – and yours – will have sure confidence that they are valuable and loved.  Not because they scored well on any test or because they always get picked first.  Not because of their performance at all, but because they feel valued and loved everyday – right where they are, just as they are!  That is a “standard” I can get on board with and will gladly try to meet.

It WAS a Better Day!

I decided this morning that I had to follow up on last week’s post!  It is amazing what happens when you resolve ahead of time to take God at His word and emphasize love over impatience, relationship over the rules, gentle over harsh words and listening over speaking.  Friday morning was truly a JOY!  Even when I “suggested” (in my best Sweet Mommy Morning voice) that we would get dressed before we snuggled with Daddy, the kids went along with the new, gentler Mommy Program!  And, here for the entire world to see, I give God Himself all the glory, honor and praise for it because heaven knows I have tried it on my own before.  But I have to confess that I don’t think I ever really asked God to make it so.  I don’t know that I ever asked Him to allow His word in me to make a true difference in my mundane, daily tasks.  I don’t recall really repenting of my OWN attitude problem, at least as it relates to our morning routine!  I DO know that I have intuitively felt for some time that I was at least partially to blame for the typical yuckiness that is getting 2 kids who really hate mornings ready and to school before the tardy bell rings.  But I don’t think I have ever before said, “OK God, I hear what You’re saying and I am resolving right now to let YOUR way BE my way tomorrow morning.  Prepare my heart, give me a plan, move me out of the way and let me watch you work.” 

WOW!  Who knew a Sovereign, All-Powerful God could handle the morning better than I could?!  I’m here to tell you ladies (and gentlemen, if there are any out there reading this!) that He can!  I literally drove home after drop-off thinking: “Wow.  That was totally different than any morning we’ve ever had before.  We weren’t tardy.  We ate breakfast at home and actually laughed on the way to school.  When Keppley fussed about her outfit (Told you she would!) we moved on without incident and my “back-up shirt” was a hit!  God really worked.  He really showed up… He really DOES care about our mornings and His way really is best.”  Wow.  Think we’ll do it His way again tomorrow.

Considering it ALL Joy,


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