Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

He’s Sovereign Over the Shuffle

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles. It’s extra appropriate to post right now, because I am running another half marathon this weekend!

This past weekend, I ran my third half marathon. As usual on race day, I’m driving to the race, asking the Lord for strength, endurance, and peace as I run. I enjoyed an incredible sunrise as I was driving east, reminding me of His promises that His mercies are new each morning, and His love never fails. I just so happened to be late because of the hurricane that had wrecked trees and power lines all over the region, leading to road closures and power outages (including red lights). So as I literally ran to the starting line while tying my shoes, the peace I had felt in the car left me pretty quickly.

However, I love a long run on a cool day, and that’s exactly what I got. Headphones in and shuffle turned on for my race playlist (yes, I have a race playlist, more on that later), I REALLY enjoyed my first ten miles. It didn’t actually get tough until then. You’d better believe when the running starts to get tough, I rely on my playlist to get me through that tough spot to where I can breath easily again. I craft a race playlist to be way too long, in case I hit a song I don’t want to listen to in the moment. I ask friends for upbeat suggestions of things I’ve never heard of (bonus points for Latin pop) and worship songs that don’t drag. I stack the deck, so to speak, with interesting or new songs, songs about Jesus, and songs I’d dance to at a wedding. It’s actually pretty fun to see what comes up, and the Lord shows His kindness to me by reigning over the shuffle.

For instance, around 10.5 miles, I began to drag my feet. The next song up was Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. Just being fair, there’s no beat to perk you up like this one. Later, there was a huge, slow hill leading up to the finish, and my shuffle provided me with a song that has kept me going in other long runs: “Alive In You”, sung by Kim Walker-Smith on Jesus Culture’s Let It Echo. This has long been a favorite for my running playlists, and these lyrics are why: You are strong in my brokenness, sovereign over every step. Even in the fire I’m alive, I’m alive in You. I won’t lie, I need that reassurance more often than I’d like.

I often feel broken. It’s a result of the fall. We are all broken. It’s the plight of living in the world but not of the world… we realize we’re made for something more, and this world leaves us feeling dejected, like we’re missing something, like we aren’t a good fit. But in the midst of this brokenness, Jesus has entered in, met us, saved us, and made us whole. As it reads in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is sufficient for me! His power and strength are made perfect in my weakness!

As for needing my Heavenly Father to direct my path and show up in His sovereignty over my steps, I need it daily in a literal and a figurative way. Amid the big-picture choices I make alongside my family, the ways I spend my time, and the choatic shuffle (see what I did there?) of everyday with young kids, I need my steps ordered for many reasons: so I am productive, so I am honoring God, so I am setting a good example for life and Godliness for my children, and (not the least of which by any means) so I don’t get all tripped up and fall where I should be soaring.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57

God Knows Best

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My four-year-old just lost his first tooth. At age four. As the second “dentally precocious” child we’ve had, I wasn’t quite as surprised as I might’ve been, but still… I had some feelings of “Already?!”

As an adult, I’ve noticed that there have been SO many milestones – graduations, weddings, births, etc. – that I’ve come across for myself and for family and friends. But there have also been little, seemingly insignificant “milestones” that have almost passed me by. For instance, the loss of a first tooth seems like a big thing, right? Well, what if it’s your second child? You still give the money from the tooth fairy, and you still take a picture of that first hole in his mouth. But does it feel as crazy as your oldest child’s first tooth being gone?

Each and every new little landmark that we pass as a family has been hitting me… HARD. We just stopped using diapers with our youngest. I’ve been crying about how I probably won’t have any more babies but I’m SO FREE without a diaper bag. Our oldest is reading pretty darn well on her own, and while that’s a huge milestone to her first grade teacher, it didn’t feel huge until I realized she was reading bedtime stories to her brothers with no problem. Is my job all done there? Even her homework has been throwing me for a loop – since when do first graders have homework where they need my iPad for half an hour to accomplish it?!

I know, I know… I’m being dramatic, and I don’t even have those postpartum hormones to blame. But some days, every new, however small, display of independence from my kids has me reeling – I want them to need me. Heck, I’m 32 years old and I need someone to guide me. I want to show them that independence is good, and necessary, and we will happily celebrate it! But a little dependence on a parent who has been around the block, cares for you deeply, and can help guide you? This is not to be ignored.

You see, I need a little leading from Holy Spirit sometimes. I need a little nudge here and rebuke there. How else will I grow more and more into a person who looks even a little like Jesus? I need a little boost of courage, of “I’ve got you” as I try out something new. I need a rebuke when I slip into my old ways. I need a guiding presence as I navigate waters I’ve never sailed. How best can I show these weaknesses and strengths to my children as I raise them?

God, only you know how to do this best. Only You can allow me to lead when they need guidance, push when they need propelling forward, let them flourish when they’re walking right where they should, and yes, knock them down a peg when they’re… being stinkers. But with Your guidance, I can guide them. This isn’t the blind leading the blind, you know. This is a mama, doing her best to follow her Father in His footsteps as I lead my littles on their way, too.

His Power Is Made Perfect…

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

This past week, my family had an awful experience. We went on vacation, and our house got robbed. Burglarized. Broken into and violated and stolen from. A horrid experience overall, also stealing our sense of safety along with the thousands of dollars of possessions we no longer own.

Just let me tell you this: if it has never happened to you, there is just no way to know how it feels. It’s interesting, the process of grieving that you go through after your home is violated in such a way. There’s definitely all five stages, and they manifest accordingly: denial (There’s just no WAY that actually happened. I’m dreaming.), anger (I could REALLY punch that guy in the face for breaking my front door and stealing my stuff!), bargaining (If I had just left one more light on, this wouldn’t have happened. I bet the guy wouldn’t have taken so much if we had hidden it.), depression (I’ll never be safe again. Goodbye, sleep, it was nice to know you.), and finally, acceptance (I didn’t really need those things. They were just “stuff” and my family wasn’t harmed.)

Maybe it’s trite that I’m comparing a robbery in my house to the loss of a person in my life, but I will tell you this: it felt like a loss. It felt like a humiliation, a violation, an inordinate catastrophe, and in the MIDDLE of my VACATION! I’m making light of it for your own benefit, but I’ve cried a fair amount of tears over it, too.

But what do you do when this happens? You miss your stuff, of course, but there’s almost no recovering it. There’s perhaps an insurance claim to file, but even that doesn’t replace what you lost, and it certainly doesn’t replace your sense of (false?) security. So I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I prayed that God would take away my fear, my anger, and my sense of entitlement to those earthly things. I’ve thanked Him that no one was home to be violated in person, and that heirlooms and sentimental items weren’t taken. I’ve thanked Him for our friends who rallied around us, and for the fact we could afford to have an alarm system installed (immediately following the incident). I’ve prayed that sleep would return to my husband and me, and that we would not be looking in the face of every stranger, wondering if they were the robber who had offended us so.

In processing this trauma (yes, trauma) I had realized I feel a certain level of guilt. The “what-ifs” and “if-I-had-onlys”have plagued me since I first found out, and my conscience feels heavy about the fact that it happened at all. I am victim-blaming, and I don’t know how to stop. I feel responsible, indignant, frustrated, and sad. I have even had the thought, “Is this God telling us we have too much stuff, or that we put too much stock in earthly possessions?” But no, I do not truly feel that we are being punished. I don’t believe in a vengeful or hurtful God. I believe in a God who will redeem the situation – a God who will provide me with humility gently as I process, and strength to do what needs to be done in the wake of an awful situation. I don’t possess this strength on my own; God has provided me with strength to explain it to my kids, to file reports and papers, to clean up graphite dust from fingerprinting, and to process with my tribe ad nauseum. You see, God can take my frailty and weakness, and turn it into a place for His strength to shine. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a verse I have clung to: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I’d be lying if I said that had been easy. But part of my weakness and His strength is that I can ask Him again and again and again to help me let go of the anger and pride I feel, and He will gently lead me to humility and forgiveness. His power is indeed made perfect in my ever-embarrassing and stubborn weakness.

Girl Wash Your Face

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Have you read Girl Wash Your Face yet? It’s a hot topic around the country, with many people singing the praises of this Rachel Hollis gal who went from zero to hero, all by making the choice to do so. She just decided it. Sounds easy enough, right?

This media and marketing “guru” has a story like many of us… lowly beginnings, hardships, and extra-relatable troubles in the job, family, and dating world. Although she meets Matt Damon, which puts her leaps ahead of me, personally. She has several pieces of good advice, which she has personally experienced to be able to write this book. No one is arguing that. Also, I LOVE the premise of the book: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become  Who You Were Meant to Be. Who doesn’t want to read a book about disproving lies and destroying strongholds? I need more of that in my life! After all the great press and positive reviews from friends, I decided to read the book for myself.

She’s a great writer. All the lies that she picked (one per chapter) are very real struggles that women have, many of them every day issues. The lie that you’re not a good mom, that you’re defined by your weight, or that you’ll never get past this – well, those are all lies that we ALL want dispelled so our focus and our lives can move on to bigger and better things. I’m not here to tell you her main ideas were wrong.

But what really gets me going is the fact that she’s writing as a “Christian” and rarely mentions Jesus. She parades herself as the hero of the story, how her hard work, her tough choices, and her knowledge contributed to her success. And that’s the American dream, right? Knowing if you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you succeed, you’re the only one who gets the credit. Right?

In my opinion, wrong.

Jesus is the hero of my story. He’s in control (just like the cliche says) and I know that first and foremost, I have to trust Him with everything. As much as I LOVE to think I’m in control, I’m just not. I can make choices, yes, and do things inside and outside of God’s will for my life. But ultimately I know that joy is better than happiness, and peace is better than success, and God is the Giver of those things. The book is full of dos and don’ts, full of ideas to help you be more efficient and focused. But what the book isn’t full of is prayers for when you’ve hit the bottom, praises for when you’ve been delivered out of something, or reminders that your identity is not in YOU – or your critics and onlookers – but in JESUS and His sacrifice that placed you into the family of God. Your identity is the one given to you by your Savior, not the one that you imagine up for yourself.

A quick chat with a friend last night helped me realize that what throws me off the most about the hype surrounding this “Christian” book that doesn’t point me to Jesus is this: it isn’t heresy. It’s not bold-faced lies or something outlandish like devil worship. It’s not that obvious why it’s not on track with Biblical truths. It’s Jesus and. Jesus and making good connections in LA, and marrying the right guy. Jesus and self-confidence, and control of my situations. Jesus and knowing my self-worth and not taking no for an answer. Well I have news for you: Jesus IS. He IS in control, my confidence is in HIM, and HIS yes or no or not yet are the only answers I care about.

Learning to Savor the Littles

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles under the title ‘The Years Are Short’.

If I’ve read it once, I’ve read it a thousand times: The days are long, but the years are short.

If I’ve been told once, I’ve been told a thousand times: Oh, but you’ll miss this.

I’m not here to argue with either of those things. But I will take a moment to respond.

The days are pretty frequently long, specifically when you’re not sleeping much, and you’re not able to easily get out of the house for a few hours. But recently I’ve been relishing this new season of mobile kids, flexible naps, and the youngest one almost being potty trained. The light is at the end of the tunnel for being able to just pick up and go somewhere without packing the whole house, or to eat at a semi-nice restaurant without calling a babysitter, or turn my back for a few minutes at a time. I’ve been waiting for the times I could read a book in a different room and not come back to wails and cries or colored walls. But there’s also evidence that we aren’t totally out of those woods, and likely never will be. They’re great playmates, but I still need to run interference sometimes. Yes, I am able to sneak off for a few minutes at a time, but they’re usually finding me and needing snacks within the first few pages I read.

As far as missing it, I do. Already. I’m in that strange limbo of knowing it’s over before it’s truly over, missing the little things I know will end soon, even while they’re still happening. So when my almost-three-year-old wants me to sing him eight songs, give him four kisses and three hugs at bedtime, I’m SO here for it. When my (truly very heavy) four-year-old wants me to carry him every once in a while, I pick him up and do it. When my six-year-old wants an extra bedtime song, or to help me make everyone’s breakfast – even if it’s much faster when I do it alone – I try to oblige her.

I don’t want to look back and live with a regret that I did not taken the time to soak up my little children… their summer-sweaty hair, their still-round cheeks, their improperly-pronounced words, and their affection for their mama that I’m sure as teenagers they won’t have. How much counseling would I need to live with that regret? How many times will I still ask God to never let these memories fade?

Yes – so many things are important right now in their short lives. They’re sponges, soaking up information, ideas, words, and actions. They’re learning citizenship, responsibility, faith, and love. I could spend an entire day just trying to keep up with those things in what I do. But sometimes I just want to sit and watch them, to hold their hands, to let them eat the ice cream for dinner because there are more of those toothy smiles that way.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll get up bleary-eyed and thankful, praising the Creator of these little treasures that are actually the biggest treasures I could possibly have.

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.