Tag 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.

You don’t need to be perfect.

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

What is your calling? Do you know what the Lord is calling you, nudging you, leading you to do? Or is it someone He’d like you to be, perhaps? Becoming acquainted with the Lord’s call on your life is a messy process, and sometimes it doesn’t yield fruit exactly like we think it will.

God gives us gifts, passions, talents, skills, and desires, and for good reason. Each of those things (and a lot more, too) make us into who we are in Him. He has allowed us to be good at the things we’re good at. He has given us passions and desires so that we may be kingdom-builders and world-changers in our own way. That cliche about how “God doesn’t called the equipped, He equips the called” may actually be as true as it is annoying.

As a perfectionist, I have a disadvantage when I’m asked to do something. If I say “yes” to something, I become obsessed with it. I must do the best job I can do, because I’m afraid of failure. That being said, I don’t say yes to very many things, because if I know ahead of time that I don’t have the energy, time, or skills to do the job extremely well, I’ll just say “no” instead. Even if I can do part of it, or do it well enough, or learn a lot through the process, I don’t want those things… I want perfection or nothing. I want to go 100%, or I won’t start.

But something I’ve had to learn is that not being able to achieve that perfection is okay. Sometimes, what I need more than a perfect product is a perfect process. Or even a messy process to which I’ve given my 100%. My “all” doesn’t always come out perfectly in the end… but God is a miracle worker and can bring it the rest of the way if I let Him.

Did you hear that?

God is the miracle worker. He just needs willing bodies that He has called “able” to do what He is calling us to do.

So when you hear Him calling you towards something that you aren’t sure if you can do, trust Him. If you feel nudged toward a new project, of trying something you’ve never tried before, or an undertaking you aren’t sure you can handle, ask Him to help you do it. You only need to be willing to give Him what you have. He’s got the rest. On a podcast I listened to this morning, the guest referenced something a friend had told her: You just need to take care of the two fishes and five loaves. He will feed the five thousand.

It’s okay to not have everything you need to finish what you’ve been called to start. It’s okay if you can’t see the end to know what’s coming, or if you don’t even make it that far. It’s okay if you only have time to do part of it, or if doing it on top of a hundred other responsibilities means that it takes you a really long time. I might be stepping out on a limb, but I don’t think perfectionism is what He calls us to achieve. There is grace for you to follow where you think He’s leading you, even if there’s a part of you that thinks (or the devil is sneaking in the feeling) that you’re “half-assing” it.

God usually doesn’t call us to do things that are easy, or done in a short period of time. He frequently calls us to make a decision for a life-long process of learning, doing, teaching, or searching. He calls us to something higher than we would plan for ourselves, though in following His will, there is fulfillment we would never dream possible. If you feel like He is leading you somewhere, changing your plan, pushing you to go the extra mile, then follow Him. I encourage you to pray through it, seek wise counsel, and go out on that limb. That limb is where you may just find the excitement, fulfillment, and contentment you’ve been searching for.

My little people aren’t to blame. 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve written again and again about losing my patience. Again and again, people comment… “Me too,” they say. “I know what you mean.” and “It gets easier.” are other common responses. I get texts, private messages, and comments right on my blog or my Facebook page telling me what I already know is true: “Every parent loses their patience sometimes. Kids can be totally frustrating. You aren’t to blame.”

Well, my little people aren’t to blame, either.

What is our culture’s obsession with blame? We need someone to be in the wrong in every unfavorable situation. Our president or the government is to blame. My boss is to blame. Our spouses, our parents, our kids. Well, what about the recent hurricanes? Who is to blame for that? No one. We’d love to pin down who caused all the destruction, who could be held responsible for the damage done, the property lost, or the money that will be spent on rebuilding instead of vacations and Christmas presents.

So when I get upset, annoyed, frustrated, or just plain angry, my little people aren’t to blame. I might need reminding of this fact, but they simply aren’t to blame for their tendencies toward mess-making, misunderstandings, or sleep-deprived moodiness. My little ones aren’t to blame for the fact that scrambled eggs aren’t their favorite breakfast, or that they have to wear pants today, or even the fact that they can’t survive off of fruit snacks.

But you know what, I do agree that I’m not to blame either.

You see, the kids and I, we are human. We are broken. We are prone to mistakes and sins. The only thing that can redeem us of those things is the grace of God. It’s by the grace of God we love each other through and in spite of messes (literal and figurative) and it is by His grace we can sometimes rise above the little things that often get under our skin. It’s by the grace of God that I even have these perfect little people in my life, and I wouldn’t dare say that my frustration outweighs the daily joy they bring to my life.