Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

A Lifestyle of Prayer

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I recently got a list of questions on self-care (Buzz word!) from a counselor to journal my way through, to help gauge my “level of health” in several areas.

WOW, it was tough.

But one of the most interesting ones was “Is prayer your lifeline and lifestyle?” I had to really ponder this one. Lifestyle was an easy image to conjure; a lifestyle of prayer must be what Paul means when he says in 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. A lifestyle of prayer to me suggests a closeness with God at all times, a reaching out as the first idea, not after a few other ideas have fallen short. But “lifeline” to me felt like a throwback to that show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” The contestant used a “lifeline” when they didn’t know the answer to one of the questions. It wasn’t the first thing they did, and it often took two or all three of their lifelines to get an answer they felt confident about keeping for their own. Using prayer as my “lifeline” seems more like a last resort or a second thought than a first reaction.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about making prayer my lifestyle, and how difficult that can prove to be when I have so many things (ie: children) vying for my attention and just plain making noise when I’m trying to have “quiet time”. (Why does it have to be quiet, anyway?) I’m reading a book called Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman with a group of friends, and she says early on in the book that we shouldn’t be deterred from our time with the Lord because we’re busy with little children or chores or anything else, but rather that we should submit all of those times to the Lord, just as we would submit our “quiet time” to Him. I literally wrote in the margin of the book “Don’t make ‘silence’ or ‘quiet time’ an idol.”

How lovely would it be if I had hours to set aside each day for worship, studying the Scriptures, prayer, and journaling?! That would be a dream, but it just isn’t possible in my life as a mom of young children who also works part time. I’m guessing it’s not possible for many, or even most, of us with our busy lives in 2018. Monks in monasteries may have time for quiet hours set aside for Jesus, but my time with Jesus usually looks a lot more like worship music while I scramble eggs, and praying over booboos and sibling skirmishes. Is that my ideal? No, not always. But will these years of tiny people needing me but unfortunately short and certainly missed? Yes. So I’ll continue to pray for sibling altercations, and for patience in the midst of sleep deprivation and unwashed hair. If you’re in the trenches, Jesus will still meet you there.

Nervous About Summer

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I don’t know about y’all, but I went through a few weeks where I was a little nervous about summer.

You know what I mean, right? No schedule, no plans, wide open space… sometimes that’s a little scary for a mom with three younguns, who also tends to get frustrated sometimes (on my best days) or get full-on angry (on my worst days) about stupid little stuff. I don’t like getting angry or being frustrated with my children, and so having all that unstructured time with any number of options as how to fill it? Lord Jesus come quickly.

So I signed them up for some camps, went ahead and put our VBS on the schedule, and looked at a good time to go visit my parents in Georgia. We’ve recently renewed our children’s museum membership and our pool membership, so things are already looking a little bit less boring. You know what else I did? I came totally clean about my fear and anxiety about the summer with a friend. I asked her to pray for me and with me about multiplying my patience and dividing my frustration. I shared with her something I’d heard recently about how we pray so often for God to GIVE us things… stuff, people, jobs, circumstances… and how it might be that sometimes, we need to pray for God to take some things away.

So this summer, I’m asking God to take some things away – right here on the internet so y’all can see and keep me accountable if you notice I’m trying to hang on to them.

God, please take away my anxiety about unstructured time. Take away the fear that it won’t be “fun” or “easy” without a few hours of school each day. Take away the anxiety about sibling fights or complaints or whines that get under my skin quickly. Take away my concern for filling every moment of time with fun or learning, and allow me to just go with the flow.

God, please take away my need for control. I don’t need to micromanage as many things as I think I do. So take away my desire to control every variable of every situation. Take away my tendency towards being in charge of my children, instead of letting them tell me what they need and want, or DON’T need or want.

God, please take away my short temper. Take it right away, because this mama ain’t got time to get mad about stupid little stuff, or to just to conclusions that make me angry, when I haven’t checked out the situation fully. Take away my frustration and anger that creep out, even when I don’t want them to.

Lastly, please take away any expectations I have about how the summer will go. Anytime I have a perfect vision in my head, it doesn’t come to pass quite like I think it will. That isn’t always a bad thing, but there is disappointment even if it still goes well. So take away any ideas I have of perfect park picnics or easy trips to the pool. My children are small and unpredictable, and I want to enjoy them in this way instead of expecting them to ask like they’re older.

Sometimes, all it takes to dispel your fears is a little vulnerability, coupled with prayer. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, he says much about how praying for each other is an essential part of living in community. Take your anxieties and fears to a friend or mentor, and ask them to pray with you. That first step might be the hardest, but it’s also the most effective.

Currently

July has been such a busy month around here, y’all! So this currently post isn’t a link up and it isn’t on time, but it IS an update on what’s been going on over here with me! img_5993Celebrating || the 4th of July with an impromptu family cookout – minus Hubby, boo! Look at these cousins!Visiting || West Jefferson and Todd, NC. Our friends were super kind and let us stay with them for a day and a night at the cabin they had rented in West Jefferson, and the next day, we went tubing (read: floating not rafting!) in the neighboring town of Todd, on the south fork of the New River! That was a BLAST. We went through Wahoos Adventures, and the kids LOVED it. We already are looking for dates to go back and do it again! To be totally honest, I love the beach, the wide expanse of the ocean, and the pure sunshine, but the mountains are where it’s at for me actually feeling relaxed, experiencing the Lord’s creation in it’s fullest sense, and being refreshed and rejuvenated. This view might have something to do with that.Wearing || my Chacos every single day (obvi), and lots of easy, casual dresses. It’s too hot for pretty much anything else around here! I have a couple of “traveling” dresses, one from Costco (it’s great!) and one by Patagonia (also great, and obviously a little more expensive) that I’m digging for their ease, their cuteness, and their support if I want to be active in them. I hiked in the Costco one in West Jefferson and it was very comfortable!Loving || the new podcast, No Thanks We’re Booked! I found out about it because one of the gals on there, Katie, is on another podcast I listen to through the Everyday Exiles podcast network (it’s called Pictures and Pages when you click on that link up there) and I’m super excited I get to HOST HER on Pictures and Pages next month! I’ll put up that link when it’s up!Reading || a lot this summer! Which I’m happy about, of course! I’ve finished up The Nix (Nathan Hill), Everybody Always (Bob Goff), Radium Girls (Kate Moore), and How to Walk Away (Katherine Center) all of which I highly recommend! I’ve already loaned out Radium Girls and Everybody Always, so if you’re local, let me know if you want to borrow one! I’ve started up Southernmost (Silas House) because it’s his new one and I love his writing. I literally saw it on the “new arrivals” shelf when I was getting another book, and snagged it as well. You might remember my review of A Parchment of Leaves, since it was his first I had read. Clay’s Quilt is the other of his I have read, and I’ve got The Coal Tattoo to get to soon.

It’s Hard to Say “I’m Sorry”

Nothing makes me apologize like just being a mom.

Oh, I should say it louder for the people in the back?!

It is SO IMPORTANT to practice saying “I’m sorry” and being humble when you’re a mom.

Let’s think. Who is it easier to lose your temper with than your kids? Who is it more likely you’ll fumble your words with than your kids? Who is it that sees the most exhausted, short-tempered, foolish version of yourself? Your kids.

I don’t know about you, but being a mom of three seems like a good reason to apologize for everything. I’m constantly “hurting someone’s feelings” by telling them they need to eat their vegetables. I’m always mortally offending someone by telling them they have to turn the TV off. (Anyone? Beuller?) But what’s even more important is that I actually apologize when I do something stupid in their presence.

Let me explain.

I inherited a short temper and tendency to shout from my parents. I don’t think I came away with any wounds necessarily, but I did learn to get angry and shout about it. Feel me? So when I have big feelings (that’s kind of a lot, because I’m a type 4 on the Enneagram) I sometimes speak before I think (oops), I sometimes shout when I oughtn’t (oops again), and I can’t help but fail my kids again and again and again.

But what better thing for my kids to see than the fact that I’m not perfect? What better way to teach by example that I need Jesus so much that it hurts to admit it? What easier way to include Jesus in everyday interactions with my children than continually apologizing to them, and showing them my need for Jesus to be present with me, Holy Spirit to counsel me, and God to forgive me for the words I’ve spoken out of turn?

Now, hear me out. I’m not condoning shouting at your kids or being angry all the time. But I am advocating for repentance. Visible, true repentance. My daughter – most like me, for better and worse – has had me in tears at bedtime, praying for forgiveness for us both. My first response isn’t always to ask God to help, but I’ve learned it truly does make it easier on me when I’ve started my day with a plea for the patience that doesn’t come naturally, and the turning over of a new leaf when I “literally can’t even”.

Here, right now, in front of all of you (millions of readers, am I right?!), I say this: I am not perfect. But I love hard, I try and try again, and I ask God to fill in my gaps. And that’s how I mom. I do it with love, and grace, and Jesus.

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.