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

Things Toddlers Say

Happy Tuesday!! I hope you’re all enjoying lovely weather, despite some random storms, and getting excited for school to end! Here are our funnies from the week! Enjoy!

J, tooting.
Me: Are you tooting?
J: Yeah, but these aren’t pooping toots.
Me: Pooping toots?
J: Yeah, pooping toots are the smelly kind, and these aren’t smelly.

EK, describing losing her most recent tooth: I was really scared. Like, it was FLOWING with blood. Like throwing up blood.

EK leaving a party very sadly: No one even took my picture!

D: I need da vita-dins! (Vitamins)

D: Do it againt! Five, six, sevent! Can I have a lemont? (Always adding a t)

J: Did you know that if that red car with the letters spelled Dough Joe’s (our local fav donuts) I would be overflowing with magic?!

I hand D a smoothie.
J: Mom! Keep an eye on! Don’t let him spill!

D, talking about the DVD menu: Mooooom! Iss ‘tuck on the men-ee-u!

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.

Things Toddlers Say

Happy Tuesday! It is HOT here in NC – like we have skipped spring (except for all that pollen) and gone straight to summer vibes. Here are the funnies from this week! Enjoy 🙂img_1147

D is standing on one foot in his chair at the table.
Me: Is that safe?
D: No.
Me: Could you sit down and eat?
J: I can’t believe he can stand on one foot! That’s a very talented boy, Davis!
Me: *face palm*

J at EK’s school play: I’m having the best day of my entire life with these little children singing to me!

EK negotiating: ….but most of all, ME!

J: Did you know that the earth is bouncier than the bed?!
Me: I did NOT know that!
J: I’m just joking!
Me: Oh! Okay then. You know what really is bouncier than abed?
J: What?
Me: A trampoline!
J: And a pobo stick! Can you get me a pobo stick when I’m 7?

I ran a half marathon this past weekend, and I just referred to it as “my race”. At least 30 times Saturday afternoon, EK asked, “Did you win your race?”

Me: Where are you in Harry Potter?
Necie: Snape just killed Dumbledore.
J: A snake didn’t kill our overboard, we just lost outta power.
Me: ….huh?

J, remembering his ear infection: Did you know that the most hurting of ache is an earache?

J is snuggling my grandma, leaning on her arm…
Nana: We’ve gotta move a little bit. My arm hurts.
J: Is it because of my strength?

D at breakfast: I want da mashalellows! Mashalellows! (Marshmallows. It’s what’s for breakfast.)

What’s something silly your kids have said recently?! Share in the comments!

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.

Things Toddlers Say

Happy Tuesday! The pickin’s are a little slim this week, but let’s just say it’s because I’ve been more “in the moment” and not because I’ve been horrible at writing things down. Okay? Okay. Enjoy the ones I’ve got!

D: I went to da docker (doctor).
Me: Oh really? What did he say?
D: My name. My brown name.
Me: …oh…

EK: I’m really smart. I can do a puzzle in one minute or ten.

J, standing still against the wall: I look just like a picture!

D, having unbuttoned his whole shirt: Mama, my shirt is broken!

Me, post-workout: My butt is so sore!
J: That’s because you’re sitting on my foot!
Me: …….

J, telling me something I absolutely already know and probably told him myself: Mom! Did you know that…. (fill in the rest with a fact everyone knows)?!?!?!

What are your kids saying these days?!

10 Chores That Young Kids Can Do

This piece also appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

One of the things I’ve tried to establish early in in my parenting is my desire to raise responsible children who contribute to their community (be it their family, classroom, society, etc). In our culture, this can be difficult… they’re busy, they want to watch TV, or they’re used to being told “You’re too young to do that.” But I’ve got 9 things my kids can and should be doing to contribute to the housework load.

1. Help unload the dishwasher. My kids do their plastic dishes, their cups/bottles/all those parts, and all the silverware (not including sharp knives). I just ask whichever of them is around when I need to get it unloaded, and almost always, they’re eager to help.

2. Put away their laundry. This one is a big one. We often watch some TV before bedtime, and I set a timer for 4-5 minutes at a time, and we pause the TV, and everyone puts some clothes away. Sometimes it’s their own clothes into their own dressers. Sometimes it’s towels, or something of mine or Hubby’s that I have them carry to our room for me to put away later. They’re quite good at helping, and they’re learning to keep their drawers organized… or everything won’t fit!

3. Clean up their toys/pick up their rooms. I don’t make them do this all day every day. We frequently have toys left out, even when we go to bed sometimes. But I do ask them to keep things fairly organized (in labeled bins!) and mostly off the floor. If it gets too out of control, we spend a morning or evening cleaning EVERYONE’s room. But I help, not really facilitate. They know what to do.

4. Bring dishes from the table to the sink. I like having them help clear the table. That way, they can’t just get up whenever they feel like it. They tell me they’re full, and I say when they can get up, take their dishes to the sink, get their hands and faces clean, and go play.

5. Gather/Sort/Switch over laundry. I have them bring their dirty laundry to the laundry room, and often to sort it, help me start a load, help me switch it to the dryer (they’re a little short to get in my top-loading washer), and bring it out to be folded.

6. Clean the table/windows/doors. I let them loose with a roll of paper towels and the Method Glass Cleaner. Boom. It’s not as streak-free as when I do it myself, but they learn that their contribution is valuable at any level.

7. Sweep/pick up crumbs. My kids really like to sweep, and I have a handheld broom and dustpan for them to get everything up off the floor. We try to do this once a day (but then again, it depends on the day).

8. Weed, water, and harvest in the garden. They love this one, simply because they love being outside. We’re teaching them to recognize weeds, and the right way to pull them up (getting the WHOLE weed). They’re also learning when our vegetables are ready to pick – or to eat right off the plant, in the case of several tomatoes and cucumbers!

9. Pack lunch. This one I’m going to start soon. Once I’ve given a good idea of what a healthy lunch looks like, I’m going to have things semi-prepared for my kindergartener to grab a few things to put in her lunch box each morning. I’ll choose a bit, and let her choose her snack and a few add-ins. That way, she’s more excited about eating it because she picked it.

10. Help make the bed. I haven’t set a good precedent about this one, but I often find myself having them help, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning. Having lots of decorative pillows can make the job cumbersome, but pulling up sheets and blankets and putting the animals on TOP of the blankets is pretty darn easy. As is helping Mom or Dad strip the bed and change the sheets! My kids like the putting-on of the pillow cases the best!

What are some things your kids to around the house? Are there other chores I should start my kids on early?

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