Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

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.

The Father’s Love

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

The other night, as I was spending some one-on-one time with my daughter, who is five, she caught me off guard with a question.

“Mama, what’s the thing you love most about me?”

I paused to think for a moment. That’s a weighty question. Would a pause any longer than a second be interpreted as not being able to think of anything? Would a simple answer like “Everything!” be too flippant? Even if it’s true that I love everything about her (except the obscene amount of laundry she generates) it seems like a silly answer to give when she’s clearly asking me for specifics.

“Your smile!” I say. “And I love that you’re kind, and a great big sister.”

“What else?” she asks.

Here goes. “I love how excited you are to read! And I love watching you dance.”

It went on like this for a few more minutes, me naming things I love about her. Even as it became harder to pinpoint specific things that I knew she’d like to hear me say, I could that my words were bolstering her, giving her what she needed in the way of affirmation. Who doesn’t sometimes long to climb into the lap of a loving parent and hear the things about themselves that are good?

The idea of a loving Heavenly Father is in the forefront of my mind as a parent. While I know I could never measure up to His perfect and unconditional love, He presents Himself as a good model for me to follow. He knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) and He is even a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). His love has been compared to storms, ocean waves, mighty winds and raging seas. His love for us, weak and weary sinners, is the greatest example of sacrificing for the good of someone you love.

So come like a child, and ask Him to exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He loves you and rejoices over you! He wants us to come close to Him (“like a little child” we’re told in Matthew) and allow Him to speak life and blessings into our lives. All we have to do is draw near. Like my daughter, who knows that if she comes to me, and asks for compliments and showers of love, I’m always happy to oblige.

Silence Is a Virtue

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles. I’m now on the other side of this struggle, but it’s no less real and difficult because it’s already happened.

Let me set the stage. I’m a mom of three kids five and under. I’m a worship leader by trade, meaning, so to speak, that I sing for my supper. I taught music before that, and studied vocal music in school prior to that. I have been singing by trade for as long as I can remember. When I was a senior in college, my voice teacher noticed I struggled with something she herself had dealt with, and sent me to an Otolaryngologist (that’s a fancy name for an ENT) in town. He hooked me up with a little medicine and a slightly altered diet, and I’ve been seeing him once or twice a year ever since. However, I just began seeing a voice therapist to try to solve my ongoing problem of vocal fatigue (basically I’m hoarse after limited vocal use) once and for all. Fast forward to this week: I go into my therapy appointment very optimistic. I’ve been working my butt off to “relearn how to speak” so that I am using my voice to its fullest potential and not incorrectly (and thereby causing fatigue). I’ve finally started to feel like it’s sinking in, and I’m getting magical results. I get in there, she’s happy, I’m happy, and she says, “Let’s do a scope before we discharge you from treatment.”

A scope. Okay. I’ve had those. (It involves sticking a tiny camera through your nose or in the back of your mouth to see your larynx and vocal folds/chords. Ew. Not comfortable.)

She proceeds to tell me the therapy is working. (YAY!) Then she says I have a hemorrhage (that’s a scary word in ANY situation) on one of my vocal folds and I need 7 days of total vocal rest.

Total. Vocal. Rest.

Do y’all know that means I can’t talk… OR SING… or whisper or laugh or cough or chat on the phone with my bestie or read books to my kids. Or say anything. Period.

I began this stint of vocal rest by crying in the doctor’s office. Selfishly, I’m sure, because I’m a loud, outspoken extrovert (often to a fault) and it sounded like pure torture, but also because if the hemorrhage becomes a recurring problem, then I have to have a laser (!!!) procedure to make it stop. More stuff? More work, time, money, effort, and heartache put into this issue that hinders me from doing what I love most?

Let’s pause here, because this next part is what’s important. I believe my voice is a gift that the Lord gave me. I use it to glorify His name whenever possible, and now I do that professionally – which was/is my life goal. Boom. But having my voice taken away from me? I’m like Ariel – “but how will I communicate?!” (Ursula would say, “You’ve got your looks, your pretty face… and don’t underestimate the importance of body language – HA!”) That isn’t going to work so well. An extroverted singer doesn’t have time for not using her voice.

But what I’ve realized is that not speaking has given me a freedom to stay silent when I don’t know what to say. It gives me reason to think before I speak (or write something down, since speaking isn’t an option). It gives me extra margin to think, to pray, to consider what I’m ingesting from all the outside influences (good and bad) without needing to respond to them immediately, or at all.

It’s also given me cause and time to ask the Lord for healing, for strength for the next few days, for a blessing of quiet joy as I learn things about my personality I hadn’t known before – such as how often I interrupt people, which is impossible to do when you’re writing things down – the topic of conversation has already changed by the time I have written my quip. This silence has forced me to pause and appreciate being home (since going out and extroverting means using my voice more) and staying and resting in the stillness whenever possible. These things are hard for me, y’all, but I know that He provides strength. I’m crying even as I write this, because it’s a battle for me to know that in all things, He is working for my good (Romans 8:28) but I also know that we are sometimes grieved by various trials so that our tested and genuine faith results in praise (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Currently – February!

Hi there! The first Wednesday of each month, I join a link party called Currently to share what’s going on in my little corner of the world. So, without further ado, I’m sharing, along with Anne in Residence and many, many others, what I’m up to currently!img_0358

Finishing || book after book! I’m so proud of myself for actually keeping up with it. Now, I’m five episodes behind on This Is Us, but I’m keeping up with my reading! I just finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. I enjoyed them both immensely!

Subscribing || to a couple of new podcasts. I’m REALLY enjoying Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing and a local podcast here, called Pictures and Pages on the Everyday Exiles Podcast Network. You may have seen some of my writing there on Everyday Exiles’ blog, and I’m a contributor on two of their other podcasts, but as a movie lover AND a book lover, Pictures and Pages is right up my alley!

Wishlisting || some cold weather running gear. I just ordered a base layer shirt (32 degrees brand – anyone know it? Like it? Hate it?) and a second Buff (I use it in the summer for sweat control and the winter to keep my ears warm, so I figured a second one just means I have to run them through the wash less often) to see if that’ll be enough for the last month of cold. I don’t run outside if it’s below 38 degrees or so (with a few exceptions, like lots of sunshine or extreme cabin fever) so I truly don’t need layers and layers of warmth… just something to keep in the heat I’m creating without making me burn up and die. (Runners, y’all catch my drift?)

Watching || not much TV, but if I’m watching at all, I’m cuddling with the hubs to Battlestar Galactica (the newer one) or I’m binging/catching up on This Is Us. I can only handle so many tears at one time. BUT! Can we all just agree that New Girl needs to start back up?!

Hearting || my boys playing so well together. They don’t, by any means, always enjoy each other. Sometimes they fight or argue or hurt each other on purpose (because boys). But Hubby snapped this picture of them the other day and sent it to me, and I almost had a cuteness-induced stroke.

They are such good buddies, aged 4 and 2.5, and I hope it sticks! Does anyone else have sons that are also good playmates and friends?!

Link up or comment and tell me what’s going on in your life currently!!