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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why Keeping Christ in Christmas Isn't My Job

I need to say this before my fingers type any more words: I love Jesus.

This love has been transformational in my heart, and hopefully, in my words and deeds.

I love Jesus so much, it feels powerful and life-giving and perfect.

The reason I needed to say this first, is because what I’m going to say next is going to freak some Christ followers out:

We need to quit making such a massive effort to keep Christ in Christmas.

Fellow Jesus Lovers, I have a deep affection for you. You are serving Him well in your communities, homes, and churches. Your love for Him is passionate and beautiful. He sees you and treasures each one of you like you are his only child.

But he doesn’t need you to work so hard at keeping his name in Christmas. 

Jesus is Jesus. He is God. He is powerful, almighty, and infallible. He is, and was, and always will be. And because of this, I am convinced Jesus has this thing figured out. In fact, I’m convinced Christ will straight up refuse to be removed.

Our bumper stickers and Facebook status updates reflect this notion that people—folks God himself created—have the power to erase Jesus from Christmas. That Christ himself can be ignored on the day dedicated to his birth.

For years, I’ve listened to discussions, read blogs, and seen tweets about Christmas becoming less about Christ, and culturally that may be true. But eternally, where it matters, Christmas has always been, and will always be about Christ.

Christ will not be removed from Christmas, and he is more than equipped to fight this battle without our help.  

The beautiful thing about Christ is that He gives us such sweet words to remember in times where we doubt whether Jesus can fight this battle on His own. When we feel like He is being removed, we can remember

“…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

You see, no matter what anyone or anything tries to do, Christ will not allow himself to be separated from us. Christmas will always be.  We don’t have to fight this battle, because he has already won. Nothing can keep us apart from him.

Jesus has left me absolutely convinced that we have nothing to fear. Even if celebrating Christmas becomes outlawed, even if we aren’t allowed to mention his name, Christ will still be in Christmas. He just will.  He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us;* we needn’t be afraid.

Dear Friends, I’m convinced the best way to honor Christ this Christmas, to really keep him in the holiday, is to live the gospel message this season. Love each other well. Love people outside the church lavishly.  Teach your children about his abundant love. Spread the word that our Savior was born and still lives.

Our Facebook friends don’t need our memes, which have become nothing more than resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.** They need to be shown the love of Christ in meaningful ways. They need to be loved, seen, and encouraged. Maybe if they saw Jesus for who He is, our loved ones would have the desire to know Him the way we do.  And I can’t think of a better way of honoring Him at Christmas than helping others understand why we celebrate.

Keep Christ in Christmas this year. Honor him. Represent him well. And do so in confidence, knowing that even if we wanted to, we couldn’t remove him or make him “less.” He won’t allow it.

  *Deuteronomy 31:6
**1 Corinthians 13:1

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Benchwarmers, Rise Up! It's Time to Get in the Game.

The ball bounced off the rim, and I started to box out the girl behind me.

I missed her, and we both went up for the rebound—bodies colliding, legs and elbows and hands all becoming one large mass as we battled for the ball just out of reach of our fingertips.

That’s when I heard it. A popping sound, just as we came down with the ball. Our knees met as we made our descent, and her knee was the victor.

I lay on the ground as my friend ran to our coach and said, “I heard it pop.” She had been standing at half court.

My ACL was destroyed, and so was my seventeen year old heart.

It was June 1999. The summer before my senior year. I was a varsity volleyball, basketball, and softball player. Whatever the game, I was in. I loved to compete. I loved a physical challenge. Most importantly though, I loved being a part of something bigger than I was. Something focused a common goal.

My doctor told me my high school career was over. Not only would I miss volleyball, basketball was also out of the question.

I spent the rest of the summer undergoing surgery and rehabbing my knee. It was painful and horribly emotional. The girl who had spent her entire life trying to outrun, outjump, and outplay everyone else, couldn’t even lift her leg off the table in physical therapy. Humbling doesn’t even begin to describe.

Volleyball came and went. The new coach asked me to keep stats for the team, and I said yes, hoping it would fill some of the void.  I cried every single game.

I was no longer a player. No longer a contributor. I was a benchwarmer. And I was not created for the bench.

When basketball season arrived, my coach kept my spot on the team in hope that I would eventually be able to play (or because she was awesome—I never did clarify).

 The first day of practice, Coach told us to lie down on the ground and imagine what we wanted for our season. As tears leaked though my closed eyes, I imagined myself on the court with my team. Nothing else mattered. I just wanted to be a part of the game.

About halfway into the season, my moment came. I can still see my dad’s face as I made my way onto the court. I can hear my friends and family screaming from the stands. It was almost exactly how I’d imagined it when I laid myself out on the gym floor a few weeks before. I was part of the game. And it was beautiful.

The most ironic thing about this six month period of my life is that I haven’t played basketball since our season ended fifteen years ago. I wasn’t a college level athlete and as life went on, there wasn’t a reason to play.

But God recently told me something through His Word and through a sermon at church last week: You are still not a benchwarmer. You are part of the game.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to have faith first, but then we are called to act.

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without works.
James 3:26 (NLT)

James reminds us that when we put our faith in Christ, our actions will follow!

There should not be a single person on earth who claims Christ as Savior and stops there. Get off the bench, Sweetheart.

Action looks like believing in the resurrection of Jesus, that He is our Savior, and living out the gospel.

This means people of the church should be:

  • Feeding and clothing the poor.
  • Caring for widows, orphans, and anyone else who needs it.
  • Sharing Jesus with others.
  • Demonstrating love to other Christians.
  • Living in humility.
  • Working toward making themselves smaller and Jesus bigger (I realize this is weird because I’m writing a public blog!)
  • Giving their time.
  • Giving their money.
  • Using a talent (cooking, being handy, and encouraging others are talents!) to help someone in need.
  • Seeking out those who are different from us and building relationships with them.

To sum it all up, action requires you to do four things:

 1.       Know the gospel!
Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Learn what Jesus taught, and how He lived. Get to know Him! Then take all of that and apply it to your life. Reading the gospel will be the easiest part of this whole thing.

2.       Look for ways you can live out the gospel.
 The most simple way to do this is to keep your eyes open for a need you can meet.  Can you comfort someone? Are you able to sponsor a needy child? Can you contribute to your local food bank? Can you rock babies in your church nursery? 

3.       Meet the needs around you.
The spectrum of ways to follow the gospel is immense! Once you begin to see the needs of the people around you, meet them.
 Caring for others is a good start. This may be as simple as washing a new mom’s dishes, or as complex as moving to Uganda and becoming a school teacher.  God doesn’t care about the scale of your ministry, just as long as you have one!

4.       Be willing to be inconvenienced.
Sometimes living out the gospel is inconvenient. It typically happens when there is something else I would rather be doing. (Hello, Friday Night Lights marathon!)

I’ve found that getting off the bench, even when I’d rather sit this quarter out, is worth it in the end.

You see, much like my teams of yesteryear, we as Christ followers are working toward the same goal. Our actions, no matter how small, push us toward our reward. We just have to get in the game. 

“…And let us run with endurance the race set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Get off the bench. Run the race. Play your game. Not to make yourself known, but to magnify God.

What can you do to get off the bench today?  I’d love to read your comments! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Three Year Old on the Beach

A three year old on the beach.

There’s nothing more precious, right?

There’s something magical and beautiful about the unaffected wonder three year olds constantly possess. They’re invincible, infallible, enchanting. Three year olds are awesome.

Last month, our family went to the beach, and over the week, I watched as G splashed in the waves, built wobbly sand castles, and took naps. She’s the typical three year old: wild, gregarious, and usually covered in something sticky.

We kept her in her Puddle Jumper constantly, because we couldn’t stand the thought of anything happening to her. Our three year old was too precious to lose.

Last week, there was another three year old on a beach. His lifeless body washed ashore in Turkey on Wednesday, after his family’s escape raft capsized, and he, his mother, and his five year old brother all drowned. His father—the only survivor—fought to save them all. When asked about these moments, Aylan’s dad said “What was precious is gone.” Aylan was precious, too.

Aylan Kurdi was probably much like my G: smiley and sweet. His only disadvantage was the place of his birth. While my princess was born safely here in the United States, Aylan lived in war-torn, ISIS infested Syria. A place his family knew they had to escape. They weren’t running from poverty, or simply trying to make a better life for themselves. They were running for their lives.

Unfortunately for Aylan, his brother Ghalib, and his mother Rehan, their lives tragically ended in the water. And Aylan’s little body, limp and almost sleeplike, washed up on the beach. A glaring reminder of the atrocity of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Currently, eleven million refugees are fleeing Syria and seeking sanctuary in Europe. Some, like the Kurdi family, are braving the waters of the Mediterranean in hopes of a new life.  

As we watch things unfold here, in the comfort and security of the United States, we cry out to all of Europe to open their borders and let the refugees in. We pray there are no more Aylans, and that every refugee finds safety in the arms of Europe. We say they have enough for everyone, and nobody should be turned away.  A stark contrast in regards to the way we feel about our own borders.

I wonder sometimes if it will ever be my turn. If suddenly, I will find myself in a raft with my family praying to God we make it far from the United States. And what would I do? Where would we go? Would the government of another country open its borders to me? Would we be forced to live in filth until they could find room for us?

There is no way of knowing what would happen if I was forced onto the waters with my children. Forced to another country. Forced into camps.

Because we’re so far removed from this situation, it’s easy to play armchair quarterback. We can speculate because these refugees aren’t knocking on our doors. We can easily call for Europe to let eleven million people in, when we aren’t expected to do the same.

Or are we?

Matthew 25:40 says “Truly I tell you, whatever you have done to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

“When you fed them, you were feeding me.”

“When you clothed them, you were clothing me.”

“When you let them in, you let me in.”

“When you turned them away, you turned me away”

“When you refused to help them, you refused to help me.”

“When you ignored their pleas, you ignored mine.”

Sometimes I wonder what I will have to answer for. Will I have to answer for Aylan? Will my ignorance or my selfishness be addressed when I stand before His throne? And who else will I have to answer for?

What will I say when I’m asked about the thousands of ways I’ve ignored the Least? Or made fun of the Least? Or posted a meme mocking the Least? 

Aylan’s death should be a convicting moment for us all. We need to look at these pictures and let our own American Privilege fall away. We need to put ourselves in the water. In the dark. We need to picture our own families slipping away from us in the night as we fight to keep them alive.

There will be more Aylans if we refuse to act. If we refuse to help. If we cling to our money, and slam our doors shut. If we refuse to help the Least.

If every member of the American Church pledges to help these refugees, I’m convinced we can change the world. You may not be able to contribute much, but if you give some, and I give some, and she gives some, we can give much. There is no excuse here. No way to get out of this. No way to say “I have nothing to give.” We can all give something.

Put yourself in the water. What would you hope others would do for you?

Here is a list of immediate needs and an address where you can send materials.

Scroll down Ann Voskamp's blog to find vetted websites where you can send monetary donations. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Know Their Story

“Friends, we have to know their story.”

“Their story impacts the way they learn.”

“Their story impacts their behavior.”

Three words can define the two years I spent working under a principal who cared deeply about the kids in her school: “Know their story.”

Whenever we had an issue with a student, we were reminded that what happened to them before they got to us mattered. What happened in their homes mattered. And not only did it matter, it influenced their performance and behavior in our classrooms.

At least once during every faculty meeting, we were reminded to take our students’ stories into account when dealing with behavior or learning difficulties.

There were some horrible stories in my classrooms. One of my students had been through more in their sweet seven year old life than I can ever expect to endure in my privileged, sheltered world. There were other stories that would break your heart if you thought about them long enough. But to know the children and teach them appropriately, I had to know their stories. Even if knowing was painful or uncomfortable.

That year, knowing stories taught me why I needed to comfort the little one who stole granola bars, because he knew what real hunger was. Or why the children in foster care needed a few more hugs, and an occasional kiss on the top of the head. I needed to know whose parents were deployed, so I could identify the kids who would be extra sad until the family adjusted to their new normal.

When I look at children, especially ones with behavior I don’t necessarily enjoy, I recognize the importance of knowing a person’s story. Because children don’t know any better, and most of the time they have no idea that what happens at home has an impact at school.

But today, I realized I could take that knowledge and apply it to my friends. And my not-so-friends.

This morning, while discussing relationships with my small group at church, I was gently reminded of the idea that knowing someone’s story might help us understand people we don’t necessarily get along with. That, by knowing a little more background, we might be able to identify with someone in a new way—or at least get a better understanding of the way someone ticks.

When we know someone’s story, our hearts change: Someone who rubs us the wrong way becomes a person who is wounded and in need of a little grace. Someone who fails to parent correctly becomes a person who is trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of the people who raised them. Someone who is quick to put others down is most critical of themselves.

Knowing their story makes even the most intimidating person approachable.

So, how do we go about knowing the stories of others?

I think the best way is to share our own story. Everyone has a little bit of ugly that has influenced their lives. Eventually, God will present a time when He’ll use your ugly to help others. If you ask me, that’s one of the reasons he gives us some junk. It refines us, and it gives us a way to relate to other people. It makes us real. And once someone knows our story, they’ll be willing to share their story with us. When we’ve made this connection, we build healthy relationships and communities. The darkness we’ve kept inside is exposed, and we’re freed from the shame of that part of our story.

 (I like to think that when this happens—when we share our dark stuff with one another— Jesus does a touchdown dance in the end zone and yells “In yo FACE!” at Satan.) (Okay, I’m pretty sure Jesus hasn’t ever done that.)

“Know their story” sort of led me to a famous Bible lady (which is a technical term, by the way). We don’t know her name, but we call her The Woman at the Well.  This woman was a Samaritan, who by all accounts, Jesus shouldn’t have even acknowledged. Instead, He approached her and had a conversation with her. Before Jesus ever spoke to the woman, He knew her story. He knew all of her ugly. I believe knowing the woman’s story impacted the way he dealt with her, and the gentle way he pointed out her sin changed her heart.

When we take the time to consider someone’s story, we have the opportunity to relate to them, as well as encourage and offer advice (when it’s requested). We also show them a little bit of Jesus.

When we don’t rush to judgement, and listen instead, we show people Jesus.

When we hear someone’s truth and seek to empathize, we show people Jesus.

When we establish a story-based relationship with someone, and gently discuss their sin with them, we show them Jesus.

We’ll never do any of this perfectly. There will always be people who work our nerves, or seem to be difficult just for the sake of it. We have to understand that even they have a story. And their story matters just as much as those who make our lives a delight. 

It’s important to remember, that like The Woman at the Well, Jesus knows your story too. Whether your story is dark and sad, or rainbow-filled, Jesus sees it, knows it, and loves you just the same. Even if you don’t want to share your garbage with another person, you have a listening ear. You are never alone with the chapters you wish you could tear out and burn. Jesus is here, and He already knows.

Here’s a challenge: The next time someone says or does something hurtful to you, remember they have a story, too. Instead of retaliating or responding, extend grace, and pray for them instead. It’s hard to be angry with someone you’re praying for.  And remember—everyone has a story.

** How has someone sharing their story helped you share yours? I’d love to read all about it in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Share the Love: A "For The Love" Giveaway and Book Endorsement

Today is FINALLY the day!!!

It’s launch day for Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love:Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards!!!

I’ve blogged and posted a few times about being on the Launch Team for this book, and I just can’t tell you what a fabulous and beautiful experience I’ve had sharing life with people around the globe.  We have prayed over, cheered for, and cried with one another through births, deaths, health scares, and homelessness. The community in our Launch Team group is the kind of community Jen writes about in her book.

In April, as a Launcher, I got the opportunity to write an endorsement for For the Love.  Mine didn’t make it into the book, but I wanted to share it with you, and expand on it a little more.

So, here’s what I wrote:

First, I need to share something personal and a little frustrating with you. I became a Christian at the age of twenty-five, and was baptized when I was twenty-six. Three weeks after my baptism, we moved. The church home we chose at our next duty station was an amazing place, and it was full of young families like us. My struggle as a new Christian was finding an older “been there, done that” woman to mentor me and help me grow. There weren’t many older ladies, and I was too embarrassed to say “Hey, I’m new at this!”, so I simply went without a spiritual guide, and pretty much adopted the motto “Fake it til ya make it” for a lot of years.

In 2012, I read “interrupted” by Jen Hatmaker. For the first time a woman, with much more experience and knowledge than I had, was mentoring me with each turn of the page. And all she did was point me to Jesus. There was no “5 Things You Need to do to Be a Better Christian” sales pitch. It was simply “Read what Jesus said and did, do your best to live like Him, and love people.”   Now, Jen has said many more things in many more books, but the reason I love her so is because, no matter what, Jen always points to Jesus.

For the Love is a very different book than Interrupted, but its message is just as urgent and relevant in our lives:

“A worthy life involves loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first.”

The idea is that we should be so completely grateful for the mercy shown to us by God that it overflows into the way we treat others and ourselves. Our friends, coworkers, families, and even enemies are deserving of our mercy because we are so undeserving of His. Jen also believes in showing ourselves mercy—because so many of us are our own worst critic.

I could write so many more things here, but I want you to read the book instead! So, here’s what I’m going to do: 

Yes, you read that right! I’m giving you a copy!

Actually I’m giving you two. One for you, and one for a friend!!!!

Here are ways to enter the random drawing:

First: “Like” the Becky Yurisich- Author Facebook Page. (this is the only mandatory part!)

Next: “Like” this blog post on Facebook. (One Entry)

Then: Share the post on Facebook. (One entry)

 Last: Comment on this blog post in the box below.  (One entry)

For Bonus entries: Tag a friend you would like to share your extra copy with in the Facebook comments. (One entry for each person you tag!)

You can do one of these things, or all of them! Just make sure to “like” the Facebook page for your entries to count!

Entries will be accepted from 10:00 am EST on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 until 10:00 am EST on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Any entries after the time expires will not count toward the drawing. 

Winners will be announced via the Becky Yurisich- Author Facebook page on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. 

*** Facebook is not affiliated with Becky Yurisich, and is not liable or responsible for this giveaway.***

Click the image to print!
Yay for free stuff!
Watercolor image was created by Angie Makes!

Friday, August 14, 2015

For The Love of Jen Hatmaker Quotes- Friday Five

Hello, Sweet Friends!

This week, I’m trying something new!

I’m participating in a link ups over at Mrs. Disciple and Empty Plate. Full Heart! Kelly and Andrea host these link ups every Friday, with their Friday Fives.

This week’s “Five” are quotes from Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For theLove.

There are TONS of thoughtful, poignant, funny, and wise quotes from the book, so I really had my work cut out for me in only choosing five.

So, without further ado, my Five Favorite Quotes from For the Love:

1.    “Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus.”

Click on the image to print! 

As a mom who’s raising future adults, this was especially meaningful. I want this for my children. If my kids couldn’t write their own name but loved Jesus and others, I would be just as proud as I am of their straight-A’s. I really, really would.

This has become something of a mantra for me, personally. It will probably be found on my actual body in tattoo form one day. 

2.    “Faithfulness is not easy, but it is simple. You are already able, already positioned, already valuable in your normal life on your normal street next to your normal neighbors in your normal work. The priesthood of the believers is real.”

I love this truth! We take Jesus wherever we go! Not every gesture must be grand—we can do small things to show God’s ridiculously lavish love to people we encounter on a daily basis.

These words opened my eyes to see that as Christ followers, our very lives are a ministry. Everyone who meets us, or reads our words on Facebook, Twitter, etc., meets Jesus too.

3.    “Let the young whippersnappers duke it out; you and your people are busy enjoying a bottle of wine on the deck.”

This year has been the year of extra chub, gray hair, and, well, just not feeling great about getting older. Jen’s perspective on aging was hilarious and full of wisdom.

The girls in their twenties can have their bikinis and low-calorie meals. I’ve reached Tankini Age, and all my business fits in my bathing suit, thankyouverymuch!

4.       “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.”

It’s nice to be awesome, isn’t it?

But being awesome is really exhausting.

So, remembering to make wise choices regarding how I spend my time is really important.

Because you can’t be awesome if you’re face down on the floor in a puddle of drool.

Click on the image to print! 

5.    Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.

Can we please lay the Balance Monster to rest?  PLEASE?!

Finding balance has nothing to do with how much you can do before you collapse, but instead figuring out what you can get rid of in order to keep yourself from being institutionalized.

So there they are—my Friday Five!

Don’t forget to preorder your own copy of For the Love here or here!  It’s also on shelves in some Barnes & Noble stores! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four Ways You're Nailing Motherhood

Being an adult is ridiculously hard.

I mean, one day, you’re in high school, smacking your gum and making out in cars, and the next, you’re thrown out into the world expected to pay bills and get out of your pajamas.

Most days, I’m cool with adulting, but others—well, I just. CANNOT. deal.

Now, let’s make things even more fun. You’ve sorta got this adult thing figured out, and you’re cruising for a bit. Then a little plus sign shows up on a pregnancy test and now you’re about to be “Mommy.” You’ve been living off Spaghettios and Cap N Crunch for the better part of ten years, and now you’re responsible for someone else. What in the actual world!?

You don't know the first thing about motherhood, so you buy some books, ask your own mom, and talk to some good friends. Their advice is either awesome or terrifying. 

Then your own baby is born, and things are off to a bumpy start. And sometimes, the middle part is bumpy, too. 

Motherhood is one of those things that everyone else seems to master, and you feel like the only one who’s getting it wrong.

Your friend’s kids wear matching sailor suits to play dates, and yours wear the Garanimals you got on clearance last season.

Your baby screams like a banshee from dusk ‘til dawn, and your sister’s precious angel has slept through the night since birth.

Your toddler yells and snatches toys, while her peers share quietly.

How is everyone else getting it right, while you’re failing so miserably?

First of all, you’re not failing! You’re comparing your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths, and that isn’t good for you or your kids. It places crazy expectations on you and on the munchkins you brought into this world. 

Focus on what you’re good at! Maybe you can’t turn your kids’ lunches into fantastic works of art, but I’ll bet you’re awesome at helping with homework. Your kids don’t really notice what you’re bad at, anyway. They just like to have a happy, funny, sometimes goofy mom.

If you’re still not convinced that you’re qualified to be Momming, here are a few more ways to gauge whether or not you’re on your game:

1.       The Children Are Fed and Safe.

A few days ago, we were in Barnes & Noble. Mak noticed an entire section of the store was dedicated to parenting.  I asked her if I needed to find something in that section, this was her reply:

“No, I think you’re okay. I mean, you’ve kept me alive for eleven years. Good job!” (Thumbs up added for emphasis.)

Count your children. Are they all present? Good.

Did you feed them today? Yes!

Congratulations, you’ve made it another day!

2.       You Are Alive.

An important part of being a mom is being alive.

Take a deep breath. Check your pulse. 

All good? Nice!

You’re on the right track!

3.       You Think You’re A Horrible Mother.

Every mom who thinks she’s doing terribly is actually a tremendous mother. It’s when we think we’re done growing and couldn’t be any more perfect that we need to start worrying.

Do we all have room for improvement? Yes. Do we need to kill ourselves by striving to be the best mom on the planet? No. (See #2)

4.       Your Kids Are Mostly Happy

Do your kids smile sometimes?

Laugh at all?

If so, then you’re probably even more successful than you thought!

If happy kids stem from happy moms, you are WINNING at this.

I say mostly happy here, because kids are also human beings, and they’re going to have occasional moments of dissatisfaction. Like when you refuse to watch the thirteenth episode of Peppa Pig in a row, or when you forbid any more rounds of indoor Frisbee.

(Disclaimer: If you have a moody teenager who never so much as smirks, you’re probably still doing just fine. Said teenager will most likely smile again when he reaches college.)

Sweet Mom, if you’re doing your best, your kids will see it! You’re feeding their bellies and their hearts each and every day. You are ROCKING this whole Mom Thing.

We all have moments of doubt, shame, and dread about parenting.  Showing up is 90% of the battle. Keep pressing on. Nobody could ever be a better Mom, Mommy, or Momma to your kids than you.

 Once you’ve tucked them all in tonight and thanked God for them, pour yourself a nice, refreshing drink and congratulate yourself on a job well done. 

I know you can’t see me, but I’m giving you a “thumbs up! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Micah 6:8 Part Two- Love Mercy

This is part two of a three part series on Micah 6:8.
"He has shown you O mortal what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
 To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God."

I have a confession to make. This part, the love mercy part, is tough.

Seek justice (piece of cake!)
Love mercy (for everyone?)
Walk humbly before your God. (I’ll try!)

That’s exactly what I think when I hear or read Micah 6:8.

I love the idea of mercy. It is essential to my faith. God gives me new mercy every. single. day.

But just because I receive it doesn’t mean I’m so good at doling it out. (There it is, my one, solitary Christian flaw.) (I wish there was a sarcasm font for such a time as this.)

Mercy can be defined as: the kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But Becky, you talk about being kind. And not being judgy. And not being a jerk.”  And I do believe all of that, but can I tell you something just between us? My Mercy Bone is broken.

I have big, big feelings about people in horrific circumstances. I hate to see anyone starving, or trafficked, or hurt in any way. Folks who have no control over their situation get ALLLLLL of my sympathy, empathy, and whatever else they need. I am willing to give it all up.

BUT, people who are in an unfortunate position because of the choices they’ve made? Choices that aren’t good for anyone?  I struggle. Especially when those decisions affect the people I love most.

I have a family member who is currently serving prison time. Lots of years of it. I struggle with forgiveness because I see how their absence affects my family. Nobody should ever have to grow up without their parent, and no mom should have to visit her child in prison. So, while I hate that person isn’t living a normal life, I have difficulty feeling sorry for them and showing grace. Even when an abundance of grace has been poured over me.  I pray for mercy to creep in and take away some of this anger, and slowly-but-surely, my heart is softening.

And isn’t that what God asks of us? He asks us to soften our hearts to those who deserve harsh treatment. To be gentle to those who should face stiff consequences.

In The Beatitudes, (Matthew 5:7) Jesus tells us:

“Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall receive mercy.”

I don’t know about you, but I know I’m in major need of God’s mercy.  Can you imagine if He gave us the same amount of mercy we show others? It would be detrimental to our existence. Even if we could live without it, our lives would be nothing compared to living in the fullness of His grace.

So, if you’re like me, with a broken Mercy Bone, how do we fix this?  I think I have two answers. Yeah, just two. But if we do them consistently, maybe we’ll start to figure things out?

One: pray for those who make you feel unmerciful.
Maybe it’s a once-abusive parent or a sibling who consistently makes poor choices. Maybe it’s a coworker or a homeless person you feel needs to get a job. Whoever you look at and fail to see mercy, just pray. It’s hard to stay mad or unsympathetic toward someone you’re praying for. Ask God to help you see the person the way He sees them. His perspective is always much more gentle than ours. 

(Let me tell you something. When I get real stubborn, and I want to be mad and unmerciful, I will skip this step because I know God will change my heart. I’m serious. I’m certain The Lord gives me the side-eye when I pull this.)  (I am sometimes the Christian equivalent of a selfish thirteen year old.)

Two: Intentionally reach out to people you struggle to show mercy to.
Being nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it is HARD.  Put yourself out there! Tell your sister who constantly needs a “loan” that her debt is forgiven. Slip the homeless guy on the corner five bucks. Respond with kindness when you should be seething. I know it’s crazy, and seems unnatural; but, trust me in this, your small acts of mercy start to add up. You become less hostile, less angry, and more loving.  (This paragraph is not code for being a doormat. Please don’t give your third cousin crack money. But if he needs diaper money for his kid, I think buying some diapers would be cool.)

See, the most important thing I’m learning about trying to show mercy isn’t that my mercy changes others, it changes me. Showing mercy, especially when I don’t want to, allows Jesus to capture one more piece of my heart. It allows me to be more like Him. Isn’t that the goal after all?

 Guys, I want to stay mad at people. I want to let them wallow in all their bad decisions, or the consequences they clearly deserve
. But how does withholding mercy from others make me more like Christ? It doesn’t. Jesus was more than merciful. He showed the ultimate act of mercy when He hung on the cross for my sins. If Jesus can do that for us, don’t you think we can show a fraction of that same mercy to His People? I promise to try.

How has receiving the mercy of another person changed your life? I’d love to read your story in the comments section below! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What A Warrior Looks Like

Lean in close, so I can whisper something to you.

 No really… get over here.

You, my friend. Yes, you. You are a warrior.

I know what you’re thinking. The kids have worn you down. Work has you running ragged. Family struggles are intense and emotionally draining. How are you a Warrior?

But you rocked today.

Today you got out of bed, put your feet on the floor and said “Bring it!” Sometimes that’s the only requirement to reach full Warrior status.

Maybe later in the day you’ll go to work. You’ll provide for your family, and maybe even make a little extra money to give to someone in need. Look at you go, Warrior.

This afternoon, you might read a book to your little one before his nap. You are awesome, Warrior. (Don’t forget to do the voices.)

Tonight, you may curl up with your spouse and talk. Maybe you’ll have a difficult conversation. One you’ve been putting off for a while. Warrior, you are brave.

Before you doze off this evening, maybe you’ll pray. You’ll pray on your knees, face pressed against that cold floor you put your feet on this morning. You’ll pray for cancer to go away, or your spouse to love you, or your hurting child, or simply for the strength to wake up tomorrow. Keep praying, Warrior.

You may be wondering why I chose the word Warrior to describe you. You’re an ordinary person doing ordinary things. I get that, because I am ordinary too.  But I think sometimes being ordinary requires an enormous amount of strength.

There’s a beauty in the “every day,” but there’s also pain, doubt, struggle, and even boredom. And you fight those every minute simply by letting your strength, kindness, and joy overpower the junk. You get to be a Warrior simply by doing the best you can.

Is your best always good enough? Maybe not to you. But what about those who are watching? When they witness your sacrifice, your joy in times of pain, your faith, your smile through tears, they see a Warrior. They see someone who refuses to let the stuff of today turn them into a wreck. And even when you’re a disaster, they know you’re trying.

I find Warriors all around: Moms in Target trying to keep babies in the cart, elderly men helping their wives into cars, customer service reps kindly dealing with less-than-friendly customers, friends battling crippling depression.  All Warriors. All of them simply putting one foot in front of the other.

You may be wondering why I chose to call you a Warrior.  Honestly, I just love the word. It’s got a quiet dignity that goes along with the strength. Warriors don’t brag about their accomplishments, they let their actions speak for themselves.  You, Warrior, do the “every day” quietly, allowing your actions to reflect your heart; letting your love and kindness tell others who you are. Quiet Strength is beautiful and unpretentious. It tells its story without pontificating.

Warrior, I stand in awe. You do serious battle each and every moment of your waking hours. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but it’s always perfectly you. Keep pressing on. We need you. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

When Freedom Doesn't Require Fireworks

This weekend, all of America will be lining sidewalks, gathering in backyards, and amassing in large, open (hopefully damp and nonflammable) spaces, to celebrate our freedom. Kids will be scurrying to round up candy thrown from parade floats, neighbors will host BBQs, and community members will collectively “oooh” and “aaah” over fireworks displays.

I absolutely love Independence Day. As a child, the Fourth meant swimming in my grandparents’ pool, eating a hot dog or two, then lighting off fireworks in the field across the street from their house. It’s a parking lot now, but it was a decent-sized field back then. It meant spending time with my cousin Brooke, who I loved (and still love) so dearly, and screaming together with each snap and pop of a bottle rocket.

After I married a soldier, I began to understand freedom in a new way. You hear the phrase “freedom isn’t free” all the time, but when your family is one that pays the price for it, you begin to truly understand the cost. Upon looking into the eyes of a woman whose husband paid the ultimate price, well, you pray freedom could come a little bit cheaper.

Now that I’m a Christ follower, freedom has once again taken on new meaning. Freedom now means things I once feared, or hurtful things I held on to, no longer get to control my life. I’m free of things that held me captive because I trust in God’s plan for me. This doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of stuff; it simply means that I allow my faith to overcome fear when it pops up. It also doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become perfect, but that I have the choice to be like Jesus, or to be like Becky. And y’all, you’d rather meet Jesus. I promise.

As a recovering People Pleaser, I’ve found a huge sense of relief in worrying about what makes God happy instead of what makes others more comfortable. I can’t even begin to describe how freeing it is to concern myself with God instead of busying myself with things that don’t honor Him. Not always easy, but definitely freeing.

The song “Amazing Grace” has a beautiful line:
My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, my savior has ransomed me

I love this, because there’s so much truth spoken in a simple way. Jesus’ death and resurrection breaks the chain of sin and frees us from it. Once we hold that in our hearts, we’re free in a new way.  Our hearts are no longer captive slaves to the things that kept us from Him. My favorite part about this is that Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect before we come to Him, but that He comes to us wherever we are. He frees us! We don’t have to try and liberate ourselves!

This weekend, as The United States celebrates its independence from England, I’ll be rejoicing, too. I’ll eat my hot dog, gather with friends, and snuggle with my kids as the fireworks explode around us. I’ll also say a prayer of thanksgiving for the freedom that rescued my soul, for the chains that have been broken, and for the gift of heaven.

 The freedom we experience here in the United States is beautiful. We have the ability to do (or not do) just about anything we want. But, as I am still learning, the freedom we find in knowing Jesus and living for Him is beyond description and isn’t confined to the borders of this precious country.

**I’m curious! What is one way your relationship with Jesus has freed you this year?**

My answer is definitely being a God Pleaser instead of a People Pleaser.

I’d love to read your responses in the comments box below!! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Dad: A Father's Day Letter

Dear Dad,

I know you’ve heard this about a million times, but I love you.

You and I aren’t always great with words. Mostly because whenever we try, we end up crying and making feeble attempts to avoid eye contact. We are experts at feigned stoicism.

This year, I feel like you deserve more than a phone call and a random Facebook post. Because social media can’t possibly capture the depth of what you’ve done for me over the years.

You’ve literally been there for me from the beginning, and although we didn’t always agree, and I was a Dennis Rodman fan, you always managed to find the good in me. I have no idea how, but I’m starting to believe that you think I’m perfect. Thank you for overlooking years of selfishness, and snottiness, and normal kid behavior. Times four.  

It occurred to me this year, as I was sitting at a ball field on your birthday, that you had probably spent more than a few of your birthdays that way. Maybe one of us had a game, or you were coaching. Maybe it was hot, and you’d worked all day, too. But you were there; either coaching or cheering. You might have been wishing we’d just stayed home, or that we were eating at Bojack’s, but you showed up.

Dad, I don’t have a single memory of you ever complaining about doing “Dad Stuff.” You never pointed out the sacrifices you made for us, you just did it. I still have no idea the lengths you went to make sure three out of four kids were all in name brand athletic wear for each sport, every year. For a million years. Thanks for the Swoopes. I loved those shoes.

The best part about you, Dad, is that you’ve never let me get down on myself. Whenever I felt crummy, or inadequate, you always reminded me of my value as a person. I never felt like you didn’t love me, or accept who I was. You always encouraged me to chase my dreams. 

 I always felt safe with you. Sometimes, when I come home, I fight the urge to hold your hand while walking in the grocery store parking lot, because of the vivid memories I have of your efforts to hold mine for so many years. I also fight it because we’ve been mistaken for a married couple more than once. You’ve got swagger.

You are the best Grampy. You always manage to find a way to make the kids laugh. You feed them terrible, unhealthy food, and soda, and endless popsicles, and they will love you forever for it. They’ll be good grandparents because they have such a fun example.

You taught me to “go with the flow.” One of the best lessons I’ve learned when dealing with people. Sometimes it isn’t all about me and what I want. Sometimes other people have great ideas. Going with the flow has gotten me through some tough stuff.

You were a dad to my brothers. When you didn’t have to, you made three boys your own. You parented them through some hard things, and loved them like crazy. You coached their teams, stood on sidelines, and occasionally chewed out a ref. They’re your sons and my brothers, and together with mom, we’re a family. I love talking with the boys. We’re loud, and our hands fly everywhere, and we all have such different opinions; you just smile at us. I think you’re proud of how we turned out.

Most importantly, your unconditional love helped me understand who God is. The church talks a lot about Him being our Heavenly Father. Some of my friends have a hard time seeing God as a loving Father because they didn’t have one here on earth. I’m one of the lucky people who got a front row seat to a dad’s loving presence. So, it wasn’t a stretch for me to understand that God loves me no matter what. You did that! Thank you.

There should be more than one day to celebrate you, so I promise to say more nice stuff  from now on. You’re more than deserving.

Thank you for… well… everything.

I love you. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

33 Things I've Learned in 33 Years

Yesterday, I turned thirty-three years old. This is actually impossible, because I’m really about twenty-five, but the year on the calendar says 2015, so it must be true.

I’ve lived a somewhat weird and nomadic life following Joe all over the place, and doing pieces of my life in reverse order. And I’ve learned some stuff. Most of it is important, some is just hilarious. All of it is practical.

So here they are: Thirty-Three Things I’ve learned in Thirty-Three Years.

1.       Listen to your parents. They’ve already made the mistake you’re about to make, and they’re trying to save you from it.

2.       Be nice to your siblings. Eventually they become your friends.

3.       The worst family vacations become the most hilarious family stories.

4.       The boy you’re going to marry probably isn’t the boy you’re going to marry.

5.       Start saving for retirement the minute you start working. It’s hard to live the good life in the RV at the beach when you don’t have any money.

6.       Go to college before you have kids. Yes, you can do it after, but it’s less fun and ten times the work. I promise.

7.       Get married after college. Mostly for the same reasons as #6.  Also, it’s cool to be a little independent before you get married.

8.       Keep the same best friend you’ve had since junior high. If she loved you during your awkward stage, kept all your secrets, and cried with you when things didn’t go your way, she’ll be there when you need her for the big stuff. Also, you need someone to go through your dresser drawers and burn your journals in case you die suddenly. She is the only one who can be trusted.

9.       Sometimes you only have certain friends for a season. This doesn’t mean the friendship wasn’t real. Just that people evolve, and friendships do too.

10.   Sometimes the baby won’t sleep. Ever. I promise you’ll sleep again one day. Just maybe not this day.

11.   The first baby will make you feel like an amazing parent. The second one will leave you questioning your sanity. The third one will just make you laugh.  Probably because you’re tired from raising the first two.

12.   Try everything once. Including brussel sprouts and skydiving. You’ll be glad you did.

13.   When God tells you to do something, just do it. Even if you don’t think you can. He’ll equip you. If you don’t listen, you’re just making things harder on yourself.

14.   Do things that make you ridiculously uncomfortable. It stretches your faith, and you’ll be ready to tackle bigger things each time you put your trust in God.

15.   Take lots of pictures. Include yourself in some of them. Even if you think you look fat.

16.   The grass is only greener on the other side because it was planted over the septic tank and fertilized with B.S.

17.   The Pinterest Mom is crafty and precious. You are precious at something, too. Even if it isn’t making a wreath out of Q-tips, you’ve got talent, friend! Use it!

18.   Your Mother-In-Law is the best resource you have. She knows your husband’s favorite recipes, his likes and dislikes, and she knows his heart. Be kind to her. You married her baby.

19.   Let your parents and in-laws be grandparents. Unless it’s life-threatening, let them feed your kids popsicles, chicken nuggets, and Oreos for an entire visit. Grandparents are one of life’s treasures. A little spoiling by Grampy never hurt anybody.

20.   Take Jesus’ teaching seriously. Read the words He spoke and figure out what they mean to you. Live your life the way you think He would want you to, based on what you learned. Let your faith be yours. Your parents, pastor, and friends may help shape your faith, but you’re not truly living until you make it your own.

21.   Help people with no expectations about what they will or won’t do for you.

22.   Smile at the mom whose kids are throwing a fit in Target. She needs someone on her side because her children have clearly turned against her.  You should also go up front and buy her a Starbucks. She deserves it.

23.   Go against the grain a little. Not everything Jesus did was socially acceptable. You should be a bit of a rebel, too.

24.   Teach your kids how to cook and do laundry. Then you don’t have to, and you get praise for teaching your kids a valuable life skill. Don’t tell anyone you’re just being lazy.

25.   Encourage everyone. Even those who don’t seem to need it. People who seem like Rock Stars are often the ones we assume don’t need a cheerleader. Everyone needs a cheerleader.

26.   Smile at kids. Even the stinkers. You may be the only person who smiles at them that day.

27.   Call your parents. They need to know you’re alive. Remember, they’re the ones who kept you from running into the street. They may not be fully confident in your choices.

28.   Take time for yourself. Spouses and kids are awesome, but it’s okay to have a little bit of quiet, too.

29.   Clean your bedroom. Because nothing is less romantic than someone’s dirty underwear on the floor.

30.   Keep God first. All of your relationships and priorities sort of fall into place if you let Him lead you.

31.   Life is too short to skip cookies and pizza.

32.   Go to the doctor and get your check-up! Be healthy and don’t put off your colonoscopy or mammogram or whatever. Live to be a hundred so you make the news.

33.   Love people. All of them. And love them without conditions or expectations. This may hurt a little sometimes, but what you’ll leave behind is a legacy of care and kindness.

So, that’s my list! I wasn’t sure if I could come up with thirty-three pearls when I began, but I actually had to take some off. Friends, the brevity of life has hit me lately as I get a little older, and friends begin to face things I thought were years away. We have this one awesome life to live, and we have to give it our best shot.

Now, get out there and be amazing!

What would you add to the list?