Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

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!!

Let’s Memorize More Scripture.

Recently, I’ve been trying to memorize more Scripture. I know, 31 years old is probably pretty late to that game right? I grew up in the church, and I’ve always known a few verses, but hey, I didn’t do Bible Drill like some other people I know. I’ve never been very good at memorizing anything at all, but I’ve been trying. And guess what? It’s been working. Think you can’t do it? Keep reading.

There are many places in the Bible that suggest we learn His Word, hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), and meditate on it day and night (Josh. 1:8). I don’t know about you, but I can’t meditate on something day and night unless it’s already in my head. I mean, my Bible’s a little too heavy to have in my hand all day.

I actually started memorizing Scripture because I’d read an article by a woman who’d been having trouble sleeping. Her insomnia was awful, and so she took to memorizing Psalms when she couldn’t sleep. She started one at a time, and when she couldn’t sleep, she’d recite the Psalm. At the time that I happened upon the article, I was having some of the same issues. Okay, God. I see You leading me toward this. SO, I began memorizing a Psalm. Which one did I start with? The one I already knew best, obviously. Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want….

You know at least some of this one, I’m sure. So that was my starting place. I began reading it daily, taking it apart, piece by piece. There are many songs about it, which unfortunately (and surprisingly) made it more difficult to learn. The songs don’t usually go word for word, ya know? But I began to meditate on it, day, and mostly at night. I also began to use an app called Verses, suggested to me by one of the pastors at my church. It’s a free, user-friendly app specifically for memorizing more Scripture. (Disclaimer: it comes with the KJV as the default translation, and you have to pay for the other translations. Sorry.) There are several different methods (I like to call them levels.) to go through as you learn a verse or a passage, and there’s even an option to start with one verse, and keep adding to it. It’s an extremely helpful tool, simple to use, and a good place to start if you’re new to memorizing Scripture.

I also took to copying the more difficult verses (read: ones I was stuck on) down in my journal, reciting them out loud, and listening to my Bible app read them aloud to me. If that’s not meditating on it day and night, I don’t know what is. But as I learned it more and more of Psalm 23, I began to say it to myself when I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I took to going through the entire Psalm when I lay awake in the night, and it quieted my buzzing brain to do so. I found it calming, and the more I used it to lull me back to sleep, the more I couldn’t remember even getting to the last verse of the Psalm, because I’d fallen back to sleep.

I’m not saying that memorizing Scripture is so boring that you’ll fall asleep.

What I’m saying is it can change you. Psalm 23 is all about the Lord leading us into stillness with His comforting presence, and providing for our every need. What I needed was sleep, and He was providing it, even as I spoke those words over myself. Isn’t that beautiful?

When He asks us to let His Word dwell in us richly, that’s what He means! His Word is living and active, and it is possible to let it transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). That is GOOD NEWS! We don’t have to conform to the patterns of this world – Praise Jesus! – because He has better things ahead for us than what this world has become.

God Loves Celebrations

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve been privileged to take part in a great many celebrations. From weddings and anniversaries, baptisms and birthday parties, to dedications of babies and even memorial services, I have been a part of countless celebrations. Honoring relationships, accomplishments, and simply life itself, it is a beautiful thing to celebrate our blessings, the people we love, and just being together. I believe that God gave us the gift of celebration on purpose, that He is pleased when we join together in fellowship and celebration. It is part of the life abundant that He came to give us!

Perhaps the piece of scripture that’s most obviously a celebration is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the whole story well, but here’s the best part: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)

We aren’t always celebrating the return of a beloved person back into our lives, and we aren’t always killing fatted calves to do so. But if this parable, a picture of God’s love for His wandering children, is full of uninhibited celebration and holding nothing back from the son who was lost and then found, then it is fitting we should celebrate, pull out the stops, and show our love by sharing joy in this way!

Along with the countless other feasts, convocation days, and dedications mentioned throughout Scripture, the most incredible example of God-honoring celebration is found, as you might expect, at the birth of Jesus. There were no invitations sent, or caterers booked. There wasn’t a cake or 10-piece band. There was, however, a gorgeous star put up in the sky for just such an occasion, as well as a singing multitude of the heavenly host, and the proudest parents there have ever been.

This picture of the first-ever Jesus-worshipers is still my favorite image. Surprised, unkempt shepherds, used to hanging out in the fields with their sheep. New parents, knowing they had just experienced something special, but not really knowing the full extent. Angels (Full stop. Can you imagine angels at your next baby dedication?) coming out in hordes to announce the birth of Jesus, singing the first songs of praise, and filling the skies with the glory of the Lord. If that doesn’t seem like a picture of a father celebrating his son, you might need to look again. Jesus had been sent by a Father who was celebrating not only him, but the rest of His sons and daughters who would be saved by this Son of Righteousness. A truly happy Father, who was seeing His redemptive plan begin.

3 Ways to Create Space for Your Family

This article originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I listened to a podcast the other day where the guest was asked how she fostered such closeness within her family unit. I absolutely loved her answer, and pray for what she said to be true about my family. She said that all the did was create space for her family. She created space for them to get to know each other on a deeper level, for fellowship, for fun, and even for having hard conversations. It’s only one thing to do, but it’s huge. How do we do it?

One way for a family to create space for conversations and fun all together is to break bread together. In my home, our mealtimes are sacred as often as we can make them so. Yes, breakfast tends to be rushed (or finished on the way to school) some days, but on Saturdays, we can enjoy a slower (and bigger!) breakfast together. Lunch might just be with the preschoolers, but we can sit down at the table together most days. Dinners happen on the go once a week, and with friends at our table with us sometimes, but the rest of the time, dinner is a special time for all five of us to get to know each other by talking about our individual days, how we feel, what’s going on the next day, or just silly stuff. For us, eating in front of the TV or in shifts isn’t a nice as being together without distractions. Creating the space for fellowship around the table can make a big difference.

Another place to try building some space is into the bedtime routine. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible. But if you’re able to create even a few minutes of unhurried, one-on-one time with your child, you never know what they’ll open up to you about. Bedtime is one of the first things that gets rushed through at our house some evenings, but my husband and I love to spend a few minutes laying with each kid, asking how I can pray for them, and hearing what’s on their minds. My oldest is in kindergarten this year, and she often has things she wants to talk about during those minutes.

Lastly, I try to protect our unscheduled family time. My husband and I both work sporadic hours for our jobs, and so we don’t have a specific time of day, or day of the week, that’s always protected. Therefore, when we can squeeze in a family trip to the park, a trip out of town for the weekend, or just a night at home snuggling and watching a movie, we do it. We love to have friends over, so much of our time at home is spent hosting – which we truly enjoy! But when we’re home in the evenings without an agenda, it’s nice to get extra snuggles and more dance parties, art projects, or games in together.

Creating space in your home for building relationships within your family unit is important. Having conversations about their friendships, hard situations, and relying on Jesus can help them be healthier and more balanced kids and teens. And, the closeness you foster early in your children’s lives is likely to continue throughout their lives! There’s just no downside to spending intentional time together with the people you love most.