Category Archives: faith

the Good News of the Gospel and my faith walk

Summer Can Be Scary (And I’m Not Sorry)

I’ve spent the last few weeks praying about our summer.

I’m so nervous that my kids will think it’s boring, or lame, or both, or whatever. What do kids even think these days? I don’t mind my kids being bored, really. I think it builds character and creativity for them to just figure something out to entertain themselves. I also LOVE to make them get outside. Go ride a bike, pull some weeds in the garden, blow bubbles, or draw with chalk. I don’t care, but don’t tell me you don’t feel like doing it.

There’s a lot of Pinterest and Instagram pressure to make summer an “epic” experience for your kids. But what I really want to do is lowball it as hard as I can, and make them make their own plans. Sure, they’re 2, 4, and 6, but they can tell me what they want to do! We’ve got chore charts intact, complete with a reward system. I have a ready answer to “I’m bored.”

Otherwise, to tell the truth, I enjoy having fun, too! I WANT to go to the pool, and to the park, and the mountains, which blessedly aren’t that far away. I WANT to see our friends and live music and whatever other events are going on. But we just can’t do everything, and I need to take the pressure off of myself NOW or else I’ll drown in it. The pressure is stifling to those of us who just don’t “do” what everyone else seems to do. I’m spontaneous, which is sometimes a great thing with kids, and sometimes not so much. We never sit around the house for too many hours in a row, but there are times that I get an idea in my head, and it’s just too late to make it work.

The other thing that may save my life is the YMCA. We (re)joined a month ago, and so far, beginning my mornings there with my kids in a safe and fun childcare (with lots of their friends!) has been a big stress reliever. Now, my workout doesn’t depend on the weather or on whether the baby takes a nap at the time he’s supposed to. I can get up, make everyone a nice breakfast, and head to the gym to get the endorphins blasting, and then I feel GREAT about whatever else we get – or don’t get – accomplished.

What is saving you this summer? Letting go of your expectations? Making a weekly plan? Lots of vacation or none at all? Tell me all the things that you do to survive and thrive in summer!

Marriage: Why It’s No Good to Keep Score

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

My husband has one big rule for our marriage. Babe, if you’re reading this, I know you’d say it’s not a rule – perhaps more of a guideline. But for me, it’s a rule. If I don’t follow it, I go down an extremely unhealthy path, and I know it. So here’s the best “rule” or “guideline” I’ve ever heard for a husband-wife relationship: Don’t keep score.

You might begin explaining this by saying that any healthy relationship can’t be seen as a game. The only reason you’d keep score is if it’s a game of some sort, and if you’re serious about it, you’d better not call it a game. Right? You might follow up with the fact that keeping a record of rights or wrongs is just not a good idea. Let’s ask a few questions about this concept… because I think it’s important.

If you happen to “win”, what are you actually winning? The game of who does more laundry? Or who gives more meaningful compliments? Is that a worthwhile competition? Why or why not? (I’m guessing it’s why not.)

What’s your “winner’s” criteria? Who was the last one to load the dishwasher? Maybe he had a lot on his mind from a tough day at work, or he gets tired of you re-loading it when he’s done. Or is the criteria which one of you usually texts the other one first? All that leads to is fear of not being loved enough, or inaccurately thinking that you love the other person more, just because you send more messages.

What’s the prize? Getting to taunt your other half about how you changed more diapers this week? Or likely being shunned because you’re on your high horse about how you always clean the toilets? That’s not a very good prize.

What if we shifted our thinking to loving our spouses as well as we can, as often as we can? Instead of waiting around to receive love in the way that we’re expecting, maybe we should consider showing them love in the best way we know how, whatever that is. It’s always a good idea to know how your spouse best receives love from you, and how you best receive love from them. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a great place to start if you don’t know each other’s “love languages”. Taking the initiative to show love first, no matter the circumstances, can’t end poorly. Being the first to say, “I love you!” when communication is hard, or the first to forgive after an argument might feel like a submission, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, it shows that you’re willing to work and sacrifice to strive for health in the relationship. That’s what marriage is: work and sacrifice. Love comes first, and is quickly followed by commitment – often a “head” matter rather than a “heart” one. You keep choosing love over fear or anger or hurt feelings every single day.

There are always possible scenarios where we need to have a sit-down about issues that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. There are always times that bringing our feelings calmly to the table is the only way to move on from a hard season. But if we stop keeping score, stop trying to play a game of little chores completed and well-meaning jabs delivered, those bigger issues might just stay away longer. Being the first one to show love, forgive and forget might make your spouse feel more comfortable doing the same.

Do not be afraid.

This piece first appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Fear. It’s that voice in our heads, that feeling inside of us, the one that stops us from doing things. Or maybe it keeps us doing things so we don’t see the consequence of stopping. Maybe it keeps us in our routines, or prevents us from branching out and trying something new. It sometimes manifests in worry, anxiety, or anger. But what if we stopped our fears in their tracks? You might be thinking, “What if there was a way to banish our fears, and find comfort in those places instead?” That’s what the Lord has for us.

The Bible tells us that fear is not of God. Romans 8:15 AND John 14:27 both confirm this! We were not given a spirit of fear; God doesn’t give us what the world would give us. Fears, worries, anxiety, and what ifs… all those things are wrought from a broken world and an Enemy who seeks to drive us away from a loving Father. You can be sure not only that God would never cause you to have fears, but that casting your fears and cares on Him won’t scare him away. There’s no fear you could confess to Him that would cause Him to stop caring for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says this: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Is there any better news than that?! He cares for you. The God of the universe cares for you, and is ready for you to just humble yourself and give Him all the fear. And He will even exalt you (hold you in high regard and speak highly of you), because He considers you as His son or daughter!

Voicing our fears removes their power. There are two reasons for this. The first is that speaking a fear out loud typically means you’re speaking it TO someone. You might be speaking it to a friend, your spouse, a mentor… all of whom are hopefully willing and able to help you dispel that fear; rebuke that fear in Jesus’ name! Or, you might be speaking it straight to the Lord, praying for Him to take the fear and replace it with promise He’s made.

The second reason speaking the fear out loud diminishes its hold on us is this: a big part of the fear is admitting you’ve got a fear at all. We’re ashamed that we’re afraid, or we’re fearful of burdening someone with our fears. So we bottle them up, pretend they don’t exist, and wait until we’re likely to explode with that fear, crippling as it has become. Stuffing the fear down might give us the illusion that it’s gone away, but fear can be toxic when left to fester. But admitting the fear, saying it out loud, “God, I’m really scared to take this next step.” or “I’m afraid of what might happen if I can’t keep this up.” can put that fear out in the open, and allow us to work through it. When we identify and call out the fear, we can cling to God’s promises for us: He brings peace, courage, and joy. He has called us worthy. He loves us, and that won’t change. His Holy Spirit is always with us. Those promises won’t change, no matter the size or shape of our fears.

So when you feel the fear of next career steps, unsteady relationships, unknown paths, or painful choices, don’t push the feelings aside. Call them out. Call a friend. Say a prayer. Cling to God’s promises to you. You’re no longer a slave to fear. You’re a child of God.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Known. Loved. Accepted.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

What greater desire do we have in our lives than this: being entirely known, being unconditionally loved, and being accepted for exactly and only who we are?

As humans, we are made with desires, passions, personalities, gifts, and emotions. We are all very different, with unique needs and ways that we operate. But I don’t know many people who wouldn’t be fulfilled by being known, loved, and accepted. I’ve recently been reading up on the Enneagram, finding out my type, and learning about myself and what makes me tick. (If you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend it!) I have learned that my particular type puts great emphasis on authenticity, and being known/loved/accepted for who I truly am, not who I may or may not project myself to be. (Consciously? Unconsciously? That’s for another post.)

So as a Jesus follower, a wife, a mother, and a person who likes to think she’s a good friend, I try my very hardest to show people that I see them, that they are known. I try to show my love without holding back or waiting until it’s required that I show it. (That’s part of the reason I love giving and getting gifts randomly, not just for birthdays or Christmas – just a “thinking about you” gift.) I try to allow those close to me to fully be themselves… ugly parts, struggles, sins, and all. I know what makes me feel valued in a relationship, and I strive to give that to others. I know that being able to come to a friend in vulnerability and not feel judged is such a blessing in my life, so of course I want to provide that safe space for my people as well.

But why is it so hard sometimes? Why is it often difficult for us to overlook what we could perceive as mistakes, or poor choices, or flaws of another kind? How is it that seeing others as God sees them is still so difficult? We all have been made new – If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old – the flesh, the sin, the death – has passed away by the power of Jesus’ blood, and the new – the Holy Spirit, the life! – has come! So how can we take this knowledge and apply it to our view of others?

Remember you are holy. In 1 Peter, Peter quotes Leviticus when he says “for it is written, you are holy, for I am holy”. The rest of that verse in Leviticus says God’s chosen ones are “separated from the peoples, that you should be mine.” We have been set apart to belong to God. WE. BELONG. TO. GOD. All of us. The playing field has been leveled, and we Christians are all in the same kingdom, and we belong to God – and to each other. We need no other reason for loving, encouraging, and accepting each other.

Ask for help. Who does the Bible say is our forever Helper? Holy Spirit. John 14:26: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. You guys, I LOVE this. What more could we ask than to have a Helper who will bring to mind all that Jesus taught? This Helper will help us to remember how God sees us, our friends, our families, and even – yes – our “enemies” or those we struggle to know, love, and accept.

Love might just look like tolerance. Ephesians 4:2 says this: Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by the means of the peace that binds you together. The Helper also gives unity! By giving us peace, our Helper binds us together! People who are bound together can live in unity and peace much more easily by truly knowing, loving, and accepting each other.

As many times as we are commanded in the Bible to love one another, it seems we should actually follow it. Yes, it’s tough. But when you have that deep, vulnerable conversation with someone, and at the end, you can tell your listening ear was just what they needed? Oh yeah – it’s worth it.

Speak Life.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

As I’ve taken the past few weeks to be silent pretty often, it’s been a good time to think about the words I do actually say out loud.

We tend, as well-meaning adults, mentors, Christians, and friends, to offer advice (usually unsolicited) or counsel. We offer opinions (however squirrelly that gets in the moment) and ideas, agreements and rebuttals. We speak all sorts of words that are just plain unnecessary.

Let me explain.

The Bible shows us from the first few pages that words have power. I mean, God created the world, light, darkness, not to mention us, by just breathing words out of His mouth (Genesis 1, y’all). And then, He did the incredible thing: He created us in His image. WE are created in the very likeness of a God whose words have creation power! Even the penman of Psalm 33 proclaims the power in verse 6 – “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth, all their host.” The numberless stars were spoken into existence by a creative and powerful God – in whose likeness we were also made!

So why is it that, sometimes without our even realizing it, we speak fear, confusion, hurt, and unkindness over many, even the ones we love the most? It’s like we forget this God-given gift of words with power. It’s almost as if we – wait for it – speak without thinking! Before you stop reading because you’re thinking I’m a hypocrite, I most certainly am. But keep reading, please.

It’s as simple as remembering when we saw Disney’s Bambi as children: Thumper famously says, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” And yes, it was RIGHT AFTER hurling a good-natured insult at Bambi. But don’t we all do that? We say the hurtful thing, and THEN we remember that it might be have consequences, even those we won’t see for a while.

But even more than saying things that are “nice”, I think we’re called to say things that have more power. Instead of saying something that could tear someone down or shame them, let’s say something that will build them up, call them up, call them higher. Jess Connolly puts it this way in her book Dance, Stand, Run: “…I think if we spent more of our time attempting to speak life, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about the death coming out when we’re not being watchful.” If we turned a little bit of our efforts over to actively speaking life, love, encouragement and value into people, how much less of our words would be hurtful ones that spoke death to dreams and fear into places that should be full of confidence?!

Let’s end with this: our words are really, really important. Use them wisely. Say less of them, if that suits you. Think before you say your words; think about what will be heard by the recipient. Above all, speak life.

We serve a loving God.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Kids these days, am I right?

We’re expecting them to do more than they ever would have needed to ten years ago. We’ve been pushing them harder to act older, testing them more often than ever before, and exposing them to more than they should see or know about, years before they’re probably ready.

Recently, my kindergartener came home to tell me a girl in her class (who she’s buddies with, by the way) had a mom who just went to jail. At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond. When I didn’t say anything, she continued on to tell me that it was because the mom had talked to bad guys, and bad guys were sneaky. I could hardly disagree. She also said that the girl would be coming to school with her grandma from now on.

What conversation could I have with my kindergartener about jail? About why people went, how long they stayed, and what would happen after they got out? How could I ever explain to her that this could alter her little friend’s life? Did I keep my daughter on a “need-to-know basis”, and not discuss it further, since she clearly didn’t need to know? Or did I use it as an opportunity to enlighten her on a subject she shouldn’t have to know about at age five? I couldn’t protect her from what she’d already heard; I didn’t want to lie to her, either.

What I ended up saying was that she might take this time to be extra kind to her friend. The girl might not talk about her mom, and that was okay. She might talk about her, and my daughter could just try to be a good listener. She might try to be a really good friend, because the girl might be sad. But most of all, I reassured her that sometimes bad things happen, and we talk to Jesus about them. We asked Jesus to be with the girl more tangibly, and asked Him to tell us what we could do to help her in her hard season. Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”. More and more, I find that children possess those qualities already, and we just need to help them develop. We can call it “character building”. We can call it “education” or “challenging” them. But what it really is is showing them that we live in a broken world, and teaching them to lean on Jesus while they’re here. It’s showing them that bad things do really happen, but that we serve a loving God, who will take care of us, even in the mess.

Married with Kids – It’s OK Not to Like Your Spouse Sometimes.

This piece originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

This is what being married with kids looks like – sometimes you don’t like each other and that’s okay.

Sometimes, I think back to the first couple of years after my husband and I got married. It was so… easy. We didn’t fight like many newlyweds might, over who should take care of dinner or why there were clothes left on the floor next to the hamper. However, when we started having kids, we realized the times of things being quite that simple were over.

For starters, we were exhausted. Correction: we are exhausted. There hasn’t been a day (that wasn’t some sort of child-free vacation) that has gone by since 2012 that both of us have felt “well-rested”. Either one of us gets the rest, or neither of us do. Which, as you can imagine, leads to some stress in our household, and our relationship.

But what we’ve figured out (and learned from wise friends) is this: even though some days you don’t like each other, it’s important to still love each other, and furthermore, to show it.

You have to prioritize your marriage, even though in a lot (let’s be honest, most) situations, you’ve got to put your kid – or all your kids – first. Their needs seem more pressing (butt-wiping, feeding them, keeping them from falling off ledges, you know the drill) and so you neglect the other relationship in the household while you’re meeting the more immediate needs – or simply, the ones that are shouting at you more loudly.

You see, there are more than a few reasons to take care of your marriage, even when it means putting aside the other stuff for a little while at a time.

One of the most, if not THE MOST  important reason to show the love, spread the love, and take care of your marriage even after you have kids is because those kids are always watching.

You’re setting the number one example of a marriage in their eyes, and you want it to be a positive and healthy one, right? Set an example for them of the importance of marriage, the teamwork it requires, and the love that it stems from. Show them a healthy relationship so they know what it looks like. Even have healthy disagreements in front of them sometimes; they need to know about that, too. They don’t need to see only the “good stuff” or they’ll have unrealistic expectations. Healthy dialogue, PDA (yes, affection is important to show!) and the importance of spending time alone together are important things for your kids to know about!

Among the myriad of other reasons to nourish your relationship with your spouse, I think the next biggest reason is this: one day, your kids will be grown and live in their own homes, and it’ll be just you and your spouse. Again. Alone.

Don’t wait until then to try to fall deeper in love with your spouse.

Don’t wait until there’s not the glue of parenting young children binding you.

Don’t wait until your lives have been growing apart for years to really cherish your relationship with your spouse.

I won’t say that won’t work – but I will say I bet that it’s harder that way. Communicate with your spouse, about big stuff and small stuff. Practice honesty – even when it hurts.

Say “I’m sorry.” and “I forgive you.” Do the easier things too, like dating your spouse! Have date nights or early breakfast together. Chat on the phone when you’re in the car. Send sweet text message to each other during the day.

Take a weekend away somewhere from time to time if it’s possible for you. Those things aren’t reserved for “dating” relationships unless you let that happen. “Dating” your spouse is a way to rekindle, reconnect, and intertwine your lives again when you feel like you haven’t been so “together” recently.

Make time in your schedule and room in your heart for your spouse. Even when you’re exhausted, feeling frumpy, and thinking it’s the last thing you want to do. Chances are, you’ll be so glad you did. Make sure to kiss, to chat, to hold hands, and to have sex! Those things are important… Don’t let them wait until the kids are gone.