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Monday, April 27, 2015

I Want A Jesus Book

Last week was a rough one for me.

Friends, I can be an emotional person, but I usually tend to keep my “butt-hurt” on the inside. I try not to be overly sensitive when my family doesn’t give me the appreciation I feel I deserve, or when things aren’t going my way. Typically, I TRY (keyword there: TRY) to let God handle the things I can’t, and make the choice to treat everyone—even the kid who complains every time a plate is put in front of them—with love, respect, and dignity.

But here’s the thing, guys. Last week… Well, I decided God had just not done His job in my life. He was supposed to put me in a position to help orphans, or sex-trafficking victims, or the homeless. I wasn’t supposed to be wiping butts and cooking elaborate breakfasts that nobody ate. I was supposed to be doing things for His kingdom, not unloading the dishwasher.

I let the simultaneous feelings of inadequacy and over qualification take root in my heart in a way I’ve never quite felt before, and I recognized that I was literally in a battle of Spiritual Warfare. Evil was trying to worm its way into my life and set up camp.

Sometimes, when we get those feelings that we could/should be doing more for God, or that we aren’t enough, it isn’t coming from Him at all. It’s Satan trying to turn us against ourselves and our families. He’s trying to cause chaos within us because we’re, in fact, doing exactly what God would have us to do! 

It took me a little while to figure this out, and when I did, I told someone. Keeping that kind of thing a secret eats us up, but letting it out diminishes the power it has over us, and we can begin to heal.  And the healing began almost instantly. (Thank you, Jesus for the friends who say “I get it.”)

Even in the midst of my anger and resentment, God began to show me some verses and a blog that I’d like to share with you today, as well as some excerpts from my journal. It’s my hope that if you’re a person who feels like me, it might help you some. 

Thursday, April 23

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice-- for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world."
1 Peter 4:12-13

"For if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you."
1 Peter 4:19

Journal Excerpt: God, I am under attack. Please let my suffering glorify you, and let it bring me closer to Your Kingdom. Please, call Satan off. He has no power here.

Friday, April 24

“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly—not grudgingly—not for what you get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.”
1 Peter 5:2

Journal Excerpt: (On mission work) I don’t know why these desires are on my heart when I am in no position to do anything about them. I feel really alone in this, but I know God is with me, and He has a plan. So, for now, I’ll watch over the little flock in my house… 

Facebook Status Update: Guys, I want to tend ALL THE SHEEP. And sometimes, I forget there are lambs living in my house. I get blinded by their first world privilege and forget, that while their bodies want for nothing, their souls still need Jesus.

Blog Share: This blog is really great for those of us who are “just moms” or anywhere we feel like we aren’t making a difference.  I needed it so, so badly.

All last week, I just couldn’t see any difference that was being made through my existence. I wasn’t hugging babies in Ethiopia, or rescuing trafficking victims in India, or giving sermons about social justice.  I was cleaning up spilled milk, and running kids to baseball practice.  I was serving dinner people cried over. I was folding towels, and making beds. How could God have been using me in any way?

But, this morning…

This morning, Mak came into my room, dressed for PJ Day at school. She said she wanted me to choose her a book to read because they get to read anything they want for part of the day.  I started going through my classroom library (which is now our kids’ actual home library) to find her something fun.

“No, mom. I want a Jesus book. Can you give me one of yours?”

You guys, I would have cried right there, but she’d have thought I was nuts, and I NEEDED TO FIND A JESUS BOOK. 

A lot of my “Jesus books” are on my Kindle, so I sent her off with Love Does by Bob Goff.  It’s one of my favorites because it's filled with REAL EXAMPLES of how to love people the way Jesus did. Crazy, loud love. Love that requires action.

Just when I felt all hope was lost. When I was sure that nothing I was doing was making a difference. When I felt like my lambs had scattered, and nobody was ever going to make their way back, God used my suffering for His glory. He showed me that by caring for the flock he entrusted to me, I AM affecting His Kingdom. 

I may never get to spend years in Africa doing orphan care, or move to far off places to rescue victims of human trafficking. I may never build clean water wells, or free modern-day slaves. But I will continue to care for the lambs inside my home. Maybe one day He will entrust me with a larger flock, but for now, I’m okay with the ones within these four walls. Even if they do complain about their dinner. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five Things To Do Before You Get Married

You guys, I have a confession.

I’m not an expert in, well, anything.

So, most of what you read here is opinion. And you know what? I could be wrong about it all. But that’s okay, because Jesus knows I have good intentions. Which brings me to today’s post. Because even though I’ve been married for a long time, I’m certainly no expert.

I recently read a blog titled 5 Reasons We Can’t Handle Marriage Anymore, and while I have my opinions on that post, I will keep them to myself because if you can’t say anything nice… well, you get it.

But that post left me thinking about some things, and then Joe made a comment about things you should know about someone before you get married, and the idea for this post was born.

Because what if you work out some important details before you ever have to face them as a married couple?  Well, some of these are important, some are just TRUE.

So, here it is.

Five Things To Do Before You Get Married:

1.       Endure a Bad Case of Intestinal Issues.

And not the throwing up kind, either.

Friends, I recently got the stomach flu, and for almost an entire week, you could find me either in the bed, or in the restroom.  I walked around a little hunched over, stepping carefully, and moving very slowly.  A few times, I had to call out through the bathroom door for more toilet paper. It was humiliating, because for the past twelve years, Joe has been under the assumption that I just don’t. do. that.

But he hung in there, plugged his nose, and threw the TP at me through the cracked door.

Future marrieds, over the next eighty years, the world is going to throw a ton of crap at you. Don’t tie yourself down to someone who bails the second things start to stink.

2.       Figure Out Your Faith Life

Faith is kind of a big deal to me, and while it might not be to you, it’s a good idea to be on the same page as your future spouse.

The Bible has some pretty laid out scriptures for getting married, so if you’re a Christian, check out 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 if you have any questions. It’s a good start.

But people who don’t affiliate with Christianity, this applies to you, too!

Because if you’re out dancing naked in the backyard, worshipping the Goddess of Grapefruit, and he only worships the Dallas Cowboys, you may run into some issues. Mainly that you’re marrying someone who likes the Cowboys, but I digress.  

Get on the same page.

What I’m saying is no religion, the same religion, or two different religions, whatever. Work it out before you get married, because marriage certainly won’t fix this one.

3.       Figure Out Your Finances

Y’all. Money can be a deal breaker.

Joe and I were together about four months, long distance, before we got married. So basically our first six months of marriage was a big, long date.

 We each had a few grand in the bank, and by our first anniversary it was all gone. We didn’t talk about money, and I just assumed because the bills were being paid, it was all good.  Wasting your savings is not what I consider “all good.”

So, work out a budget. That way your new husband doesn’t go downtown with all the druggies to sell his platelets for gas money. (Not that my new husband did that or anything.) (Yes he did.)

4.       Babysit Someone Else’s Children

And not just for a date night.

Babysit your sister’s kids for a week. Make sure their baby is teething, and that at least one child is potty-training. Throw in a mouthy, One Direction- obsessed preteen for added fun.

If you meet eyes with your partner as he mops pee off the living room floor and he manages to smile at you, hope is not lost.

Kids bring out the best and worst in adults. Figure out what kind of parents you want to be, and all that kid stuff before you get married. And don’t expect marriage to change your partner’s mind.

5.       Take a Primitive Camping Trip

And by primitive, I mean you maybe have a water spigot.

Friends, we’re super plugged in today. We have smart phones, tablets, laptops, and watches that keep us connected to the rest of the world.  We have appliances that make our hair and teeth look perfect, and makeup that gives us a little extra help when we’re looking tired. Our Precious Baby Keurig brews us a cup of coffee in mere seconds.

Get away from all of it.

See how much fun you can have just the two of you, out in the woods with no modern conveniences, sleeping in a tent. (Or separate tents, I guess. I know I’m supposed to be promoting abstinence here. Camping seemed like a good one until now!)

 Let him see you without makeup. Let her see you try to build a fire. Try to make him coffee in a percolator.  See how fun someone is to you when you’re washing your hair in a bucket.

Still having a good time? You’re all set!

Like I said, I’m no expert in the Art of Being Married. But this is practical advice, friends! If you can enjoy spending time with someone when the circumstances are less-than-ideal, marriage might end up working out great for you. Because, although being married has its rosy moments, sometimes you get diarrhea. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Sweet Berry Series Part Three: Snark Free Mothering

These babies.

I don’t know how I got so dang lucky, but I’m their momma.

For a lot of years, I’ve adopted the “snarky mom” attitude. Because kids can be difficult, and humor makes difficult things easier. Not long ago, I realized that I may be going about it the wrong way. Now make no mistake, kids are rascals, and parenting them is hysterically funny, but I think being snarky all the time took away some of the gentleness and grace I’m supposed to show them as their mother. You know, the one who teaches them how to nurture and be good moms and dads.

Y’all, if you know me, have read any of my Facebook status updates, or any of my blogs, I think it’s evident that I try to keep a sense of humor. But what if we take it a little too far, and our sarcasm is mistaken for true feelings?  Science tells us that kids understand sarcasm when they’re around six years old, but they don’t get that it’s supposed to be funny until they’re about ten. So, basically our kids are miniature Sheldon Coopers until fifth grade.

God recently showed up in my heart in a huge way, and part of the metamorphosis has been in the way I speak to my kids. Now, they, my husband, and I will all tell you that I’m NOT perfect at this, but I am trying. Speaking gently, using words that build up instead of tear down, and getting rid of sarcasm, are all part of the plan. I want the words I say to encourage and inspire, not weigh down and discourage. I’m also trying to let my actions reflect my words as well; frequent hugs, gentle pats on the back, etc. to let them know I’m there for them.

While we were at Sweet Berry, I had one of those Magic Mommy Moments. You know the ones. Where you look at your family and say to yourself “This. This is what I thought motherhood would be like. This is it!”  Kids were running through strawberry fields, and petting goats, and buying local honey. It was picturesque and beautiful; nobody threw a fit.

 It was easy to be a sweet, gentle mom that day.

I looked at Mak and saw how tall she was, and was reminded how there are mere weeks of elementary school left before the chaos of middle school.

P, with his face full of freckles, demonstrated leadership and confidence by helping G with strawberry picking and carrying heavy buckets.

G. Sweet G. She called herself the Strawberry Princess all day long. She was muddy within five minutes of our arrival, and her pigtails were crooked. Not exactly princess-like. Oh, to be three!

When I think of the dwindling years I have left to mother them, I’m both terrified and encouraged. There’s still time, but oh man, it doesn’t feel like enough! Mak is past the halfway mark, and P is just approaching it. How am I supposed to fit in all the hugs, kisses, lessons, and love? How do I make each day count and not take it all for granted? If someone has the magical answers for me, I would LOVE to know!

All I can do is sit back, thank God for them, pray I don’t screw up too badly, (Dear God, please keep them out of jail and off the pole. Amen.) and that I extend Christ-like grace to them when they make mistakes, just like my Heavenly Father does for me.

These precious gifts from God deserve more than a snarky comment and a harsh word. They deserve to be shown the same love and respect I show the rest of the world. So, while I won’t be perfect, I promise to try. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A21 on the 21st- How You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

Human trafficking.

I know. It’s not the typical cheeriness you’re used to here. But it’s something we have to talk about, because only we can help solve the issues.

Some of you have followed my blog since before IF:Austin, and have sort of been with me through the complete brokenness I felt after that beautiful weekend. A significant amount of my undoing stemmed from Ann Voskamp’s prayer (A Call for the People of the Cross) in which she talked about modern day slavery. Readers, slavery is not an antebellum issue. It is real, it is alive, and it is thriving.

Dear friends, so many of the items we use daily are manufactured using slave labor. Coffee, chocolate, cell phone parts, diamonds…are obtained by slaves (mostly children) who are living in squalor. These children have been taken from their homes involuntarily, or their parents have sold them. Others have been taken with the promise of an education and better life. Some of them never return home.

We can’t discuss trafficking without mentioning sex-slavery. Every day thousands of people (mostly young women and little girls) are trafficked all over the world and sold for sex. If you think this isn’t happening where you live, you are absolutely mistaken. Online predators all across the US befriend troubled teens, get them to run away from home, and add them to their brothels. Little girls, girls who should be playing with baby dolls, are sold and raped every day.

Friends, I just can’t take this. I can’t stand by and do nothing. But the problem seems so huge, and I am so small. So that’s where you come in. What if we all do a little? What if we take the time to gather our friends and our resources and make a difference in the fight for freedom? Because everyone deserves a chance. And because believing there's nothing we can do is a lie.

Since IF, I’ve been researching the A21 Campaign, founded by Christine Caine. This is a Christian-based organization that helps rescue and recover victims of modern day slavery all over the world. Not only do they rescue victims, but they counsel them and prosecute the criminals who hold people against their will. By partnering with volunteers and local law enforcement, A21 is making a difference in the lives of each and every victim they rescue.

Will you join me, along with A21, in fighting against human trafficking? There are many ways to help! A21 gives 21 ways that we can make a difference. Some ideas are fundraisers, others are as simple as writing a letter. I’m only one person, but if we work together we can take a stand in this fight.

I also want to ask for something that won’t cost you anything. Each Monday and Tuesday morning at 7:03, I specifically pray for victims of sex trafficking (Monday) and modern day slaves (Tuesday). Would you be willing to join me in prayer? We’re pretty small in the face of the worldwide issue of slavery, but God is so much bigger than all of it. My heart cries out to Him to deliver those precious people from the evil that holds them captive. Can we do that together?

I would love it if you would take a few moments to look that the 21 Ways To Get Involved page on the A21 website. Maybe there’s one you can do between now and May 21? If everyone who reads this post shares it, we can multiply our efforts in fighting this awful epidemic. But most importantly, we can involve more people in prayer. Because God is mighty and He can equip us to fight against the injustice enacted upon our fellow human beings.

We’re so small, friends. But we can do something huge if we all pray and act as one.

Thank you for reading. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Sweet Berry Series Part Two- Fearless

Last weekend, my family went on a little journey to a strawberry farm in the Texas Hill Country. During that half-day trip, I was inspired, convicted, and greatly blessed. This blog is part two of a three part series called The Sweet Berry Series.

I wish I were more like my three year old.

Yeah, I said it.

Wide Open!

See, I’m a naturally cautious person. I don’t jump from high things, do flips off the diving board, or cross the boundaries of a “No Trespassing” sign. I head into most relationships and adventures with my guard up until I’m sure that all circumstances and people can be trusted. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed out on some awesome experiences because of this. I definitely consider it a personality flaw. I mean, some common sense is good, but friends, we need to do scary things!

Then there’s G. She lives life WIDE OPEN. Last summer, she drove a Buzz Lightyear trike down my dad’s outdoor stairs. She busted her face up pretty good, but Dad was more of a disaster than she was. She is scared of nothing. No dog is too big, no stranger too strange, no slide is too high.

So, obviously, she terrifies me.

Going to Sweet Berry only highlighted the fact that I am the innocent bystander to G’s Iron Man. While I was hesitant to put my hand in the goat pens for fear of having it removed, G thrust her little paw in there and cackled as goat lips tickled her palm. She grabbed (and pulled!) goat horns, and even tried giving one a smooch! She had a blast because she was fearless.

Until Sweet Berry, G had never seen a horse up close. We’ve driven past them, and she’s seen them in books, but she’s never been within arm’s reach. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but imagine my shock when she marched right up to the most precious mare, sweet talked her into bringing her head down to her level, and wrapped her arms around that horse, pressing up cheek-to-cheek. Y’all, I let the horse smell the back of my hand, and gave its neck a good rub. I wasn’t putting my face in its face.

I know that part of G’s fearlessness is a lack of experience. She doesn’t know to be afraid. But secretly I’m hoping that the courageous part of her is God-breathed. I pray this bravery (coupled with a crazy amount of stubbornness) is a tool God will use for His kingdom. The Church needs brave people like G to go out and do the hard things. I pray she’ll never be afraid to do the tough stuff. Living like Jesus takes bravery. Mission work takes bravery. Rescuing lost people takes bravery.

I can learn so much from my girl’s fearlessness. The Bible tells us to “fear not,” (or something similar) over 100 times. When I trust God to lead me, I don’t have to be afraid. I get to believe that He will take care of me, even if I’m still a little scared.  My faith in God may not erase my fear, but it will overcome it.

So, while I’ll leave grabbing goat horns and coming face-to-face with horses to G, I will join her in living a bit more fearlessly. Because the Kingdom needs people who are willing to worry less about themselves, and more about living like Jesus.

How can you step out and be brave today?  I’d love to read your answers in the comments!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sweet Berry Series Part 1- Submission

Last weekend, my family went on a little journey to a strawberry farm in the Texas Hill Country. During that half-day trip, I was inspired, convicted, and greatly blessed. This blog is part one of a three part series called The Sweet Berry Series.

Submission. Every time I hear that word, my inner feminist cringes a little. I always think of submission as an attitude where we cower, scrape, and bow to someone who wields power over us. Others may think of the Fifty Shades of Grey kind.  Any way you look at submission, it seems negative.

Webster’s defines submission in this way: The state of being obedient: The act of accepting the authority or control of someone else.

Now, let me tell you something; I am a precious wife. By “precious” I mean giant pain in the butt. I can be complain-y, and grumpy, and downright opinionated. Despite my efforts at Stepford-dom, I’m a struggling housekeeper and just an okay cook. There are about a million ways I screw up. Most of them on a daily basis. Submission doesn’t always come easily to me. So, yeah, Joe has his work cut out for him.

A few years ago, a pastor of our previous church discussed submission as it should play out in a marriage. He said bowing, scraping submission isn’t what the Bible is talking about, but that being supportive of our husband’s mission for our families is. Another way to look at submission is being part of mission support. If your husband has a clear direction for your family, it’s your job to help him out.  That made sense to me, so I started trying to put it into practice.  I’m not always perfect at this.

Which brings us to Sweet Berry.

I’m going to be 200% honest with you. I did NOT want to go strawberry picking last weekend. I’d been home alone with the kids all week, and had been at baseball/ softball practices and games every single evening. Mak had another game the morning of the Great Strawberry Expedition.

Friends, I didn’t want to drive three hours round trip. And I didn’t want to pay $2.85 per pound for strawberries when I can pay $.97 at H-E-B five minutes from my house.  You guys, I don’t even LIKE strawberries.

I’m pretty sure Joe could tell I was less-than-ecstatic to go to Sweet Berry because he offered to let me off the hook. He said I could stay home and he’d take the kids out for the day. But, because I’m a precious wife (or an idiot, I haven’t decided), I said no, and that I would be joining the family for a fun day of strawberry festivities.  Because my husband had planned this adventure, and was excited about it, I, too, would be mustering up some enthusiasm and driving our kids all over creation in search of a fruit I despise. (Do y’all detect some snark?)

It took me a little while to get excited, but about 45 minutes into our drive, something magical happened. Readers, we turned off of the interstate, got on some crazy back roads, and we were in WILDFLOWER. HEAVEN. Texas is unlike anywhere else we’ve ever lived, and the absolute best part is the wildflowers. They were everywhere. Three-year-old G and I shared equal levels of gusto as we pointed to the fields of deep purple Bluebonnets, and red Indian Paintbrush.

Then we hit the Hill Country. Did you guys know Texas has hills? Canyons, even! And it’s gorgeous! Y’all. It was so breathtaking we woke our sleeping child so she could see it. We woke a sleeping child. Let that sink in.

Joe set a budget for how much he wanted to spend at the farm, so we got our big strawberry buckets and started picking our allotted amount. G was covered in mud by her fifth strawberry, P was on a mission to pick the most strawberries, and Mak was trying to find the best strawberries to use for jam. (Oldest child, much?) I actually do love to pick strawberries, so I was helping G pick the ones that weren’t still green and oooh-ing and aaah-ing over each berry she chose herself. Joe was doing his best to supervise, and carrying the buckets because they started to get heavy.

Once we had picked fourteen pounds of strawberries (Yes, FOURTEEN. Do that math at $2.85 a pound.), it was time to explore the rest of the farm. This is where it gets good, you guys.

In addition to strawberries, Sweet Berry has goats. Not just a few goats, but a plethora of sweet, precious goats, who will gently eat out of your hand. For $.25 you can buy a Jello-Shot sized (a measurement I learned in high school) cup of goat food. You walk your sweet children down to the adorable goats, and for the mere price of about two bucks, you get roughly 30 minutes of spectacular entertainment.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the goat feeding. G was so excited that the goats were following her around. She took such great pleasure in getting to feed animals. The goats were really gentle, so none of us were nervous about petting them. All three kids were delighted to choose their favorite goat. G’s favorite was one that she said had “crazy eyes.” Which, if you’ve met her, isn’t a huge surprise.  P’s favorite was the goat who kept trying to jump the fence. Again, not surprised. Mak liked a pregnant, messy-eating goat, who was pretty hilarious to watch.

After jumping on a huge bouncy thing, feeding the goats again, and petting the horses and donkey, we ate a snack under a gorgeous canopy of trees that reminded me of the picnic scene from Gone With the Wind.

Needless to say, I had a good time. We all did, and I knew we would before we even left our house. But let me tell you something: If I’d had it my way last weekend, we’d have been in our sweatpants watching movies, eating popcorn, and relaxing. We’d have enjoyed our day, but we wouldn’t have had the chance to make new memories.

We wouldn’t get to talk about the time that we all fed the goats, or when mom almost fell over the strawberry row. We’d never get to laugh about Mak and P finding a strawberry the size of an apple. We wouldn’t have known that a beautiful part of our state existed, or how many different colors, shapes, and sizes are represented in the Texas wildflowers.

Because I supported my husband’s mission for our day, I was blessed by a wonderful experience. If I’d stayed home, or asked him to call off the trip, we wouldn’t have had that special time as a family. We wouldn’t all desperately want to move to a town called Marble Falls, and we wouldn’t have eight pints of Joe’s famous strawberry jam coming our way. He knew what was best for us, and because I supported him, I was rewarded with a fun, happy day.

Over the years, there have been countless times like the one I wrote about today. We make decisions—both enormous and minute—every day. And in those moments, I get to watch my husband grow as a man. When he takes the lead, he always gets us where we need to go. If I stood in his way every time, I would sink us.

Friends, I would never compare my husband to God. But He is this way, too. If we submit to God, and support His mission for us by responding to his authority, He will reward us. Now, God isn’t a genie who grants our every request. We may never receive our rewards here on Earth, but what greater reward is there than hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.” when we meet our Father? God asks for us to give Him our hearts, and to love His people. If we submit to His desire for us, He will change our lives.

There are going to be times when we don’t want to go where God sends us, or do things He wants us to do. But if we remember that God only wants what’s good for us and we listen to him, we will live fully in His presence. And that’s even better than strawberry jam. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Finding Strength In Weakness

I don’t know about you, but I’m a person who has a difficult time asking for help. I hate needing it in the first place, so asking for assistance is pure torture. Putting people out for my own benefit isn’t my idea of fun at all; probably because it means exposing the fact that I don’t have complete control of my life and that I’m not fantastically awesome at everything.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you struggle to admit your weaknesses? I think most of us do this to some degree, even though everyone knows that we can’t be perfect at everything. But you know what?  I think it might be time to start.

This morning was my first time back at the gym after a five week hiatus. I have a bulging disc in my back, and I needed a break in order to heal. I was so excited to get the “go ahead” that I went straight home from the doctor and donned my workout attire. I love pushing myself physically. I was an athlete in high school, and love the challenge of “one more.” Just one more push-up, one more minute on the treadmill, you get the idea.  

But today was different. I really don’t want to hurt my back again. I want to be able to go back to the gym tomorrow, and I would like to be able to roll over in bed without waking up in pain. So, instead of pushing myself, I had to realize that I was a little weak. A little broken.  I had to admit my weakness and deal with it head on.

What if we all did this? What if we look at our lives and say “You know what? I can’t do this.” I’ve been there. I’ve moved two houses by myself. I’ve read deployment papers that meant a year of loneliness. I’ve had the knowledge that an actual baby was going to come out. of. my. body.

 For each of those events, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t survive. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, but I didn’t want to ask for help. Until one day, I would break down, call a friend, and confess that I wasn’t amazing, or strong, or together and “please come and help me because I’m just not as perfect as I wanted you to think I was!”

 And you know what? There was always plentiful help to be found. Friends rallied husbands and sons, and houses were packed and moved. People prayed, brought dinner, and loved on our family during deployments. Midwives helped bring three babies into this world. I could have done none of those things on my own. (I don’t care what the people who give birth in the wilderness say. I needed a midwife.)

When we admit our weaknesses to each other, we open ourselves up to be blessed by those who love us. My friend Lindsey is the best at this. She enjoys helping! Lindsey has helped me clean an empty rental house, move the junk from that house to the new one, and she’s basically P’s second mother. Lindsey loves people well, and I’m blessed to have been helped by her. But you know what Lindsey will probably tell you? That she’s the blessed one. See, some of us are blessed by blessing others. If we don’t allow those who are gifted in the art of helpfulness to help us, we’re stealing their opportunity to bless us, AND were stealing their blessing. Guys, let people help you!

Something I really battled last year wasn’t admitting to others that I was struggling, but hiding it from God. As if He didn’t know my life was a mess. I was trying to avoid Him by being silent. Instead of crying out to Him because I had a child going through severe behavior issues, my husband was away, and I was a disaster, I hid. Even though I knew God’s strength would be sufficient for my entire family, I couldn’t bring myself to that level of vulnerability. With no husband at home, and by giving God the cold shoulder, 2014 became a pretty lonely existence.

A reflective person by nature, I’m thankful to realize the error I committed when I made the conscious choice not to lay my struggles at the foot of the cross.  If I had asked, God would have provided me with peace and strength to overcome my weakness. Instead, He quietly watched. Never leaving, but waiting to answer prayers I never prayed.

Friends, if we aren’t willing to admit to being broken and weak, we’ll never be able to receive the strength that God so deeply wants to provide for us.  But God isn’t intrusive. He isn’t going to take over without our permission. He waits for us to invite Him to help.

Do you see how much strength we can find when we admit we’re weak? That we need help? That we aren’t perfect? Dear friends, God knew before you were born that you wouldn’t be infallible. That’s why He sent Jesus. Where we are weak, He is strong.  We just have to look at our broken, tired hearts and ask for help. And when we do, we get to feel a deep strength only He can provide.

How can you ask for help today? I’d love to read your comments below! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We Don't Get to Choose

You know how as a Christian- or a human being, really- something happens, and you’re like “I don’t really know how I feel about that.” You aren’t sure if it’s right or wrong, good or bad—you just can’t figure it out.

Well, that happened to me recently, and the outcome of my thoughts, prayers, notes, etc. is here for you to read. You’re welcome. Or, I’m sorry. I guess it depends on how you feel about this post.

One of our former churches made the choice to baptize a transgendered person (surgically transitioned, and legally a woman for several years) a couple of months ago. Now, some of you might have let out a “hurrah!” some might have fainted, and some of you are clutching your pearls. Me, I was just confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of what God would think of this. I mean, how can someone who has changed themselves so drastically be a candidate for salvation?

I wrestled with this a little, and watched as the dialogue unfolded on my Facebook newsfeed. People who witnessed the baptism had very different viewpoints, and everyone, of course, was “right.”  I read both sides, and it was obvious that everyone was passionate about their opinion. Me—still confused.

All the while, I wondered what the person who had been baptized (We’ll call her S) was thinking. I wondered what it must be like for her newfound “brothers and sisters” to be deciding among themselves whether she was good enough to be one of them after she had put herself out there.

I also thought about what our former pastor might have been thinking. It’s one of the basic foundations of Christianity that all people are eligible for salvation regardless of their past. He must have known some members of the church were going to lose their ever-loving minds, but he also must have known that leading people to Jesus was part of his job description, as well as his spiritual calling.

As I sat still and quiet, praying on these things, God whispered two things to me: (Well, not audibly, If I ever actually hear God whisper, please have me evaluated.)

1.       Who are YOU?

2.       Look down.

Now, these may not make sense to you, so I’ll address them separately.

Who are you?

Well, who am I?  Oh, yeah. I’m a sinner. I’ve done and said some terrible things. I’ve hurt a lot of people, and I’ve almost ruined my life a time or two. Thankfully, Jesus accepts me despite these things, and loves me like a daddy loves his little girl.  Because he could also see my repentant heart, my pastor baptized me in a muddy lake on Fort Rucker, Alabama in the August heat.

If I believe God has forgiven me for the crummy things I’ve done, don’t I have the responsibility to believe God has forgiven S as well? When He said we’re all forgiven when we repent, I’m pretty sure he meant ALL of us.  

I bet God heard S’s plea for salvation, too. I bet her prayer sounded a little like mine. She probably admitted to her mistakes and asked God for forgiveness.  I bet he forgave her and loves her in the exact same way He loves me. I bet my pastor sensed her repentant spirit, too—so he baptized her.  

Look Down.

Okay, this is a little embarrassing. And something I’ve never put on social media in my life. (Hello, transparency!)

When I look down, I see a pretty decent set of silicone breasts.  God gave me a fairly glorious rack in my youth, but after nursing two babies for a total of 15 months, the pair I ended up with wouldn’t fill out a training bra. Following a crying spell in the dressing room of Victoria’s Secret, I decided I didn’t like the way God made me, and I changed it.

S might have done something similar. She looked at her body and didn’t like what God had done. She didn’t feel right, so she altered the way He made her. (I know it’s more complicated than this, but I’m not an expert here.)

If she’s wrong, then I’m wrong, too.  If altering your body in a way that God didn’t intend is wrong, then I should never have been allowed to be baptized either.

The only difference between S and I is that her “sin” was noticeable. My sin isn’t as visible, so mine goes unnoticed. I could walk into any church any day, and people would be flailing all over themselves to dunk me in some water and tell me I’m saved by grace. Why should it be any different for her?

Why should it be different for any of us? As Christ followers, aren’t we supposed to want everyone we meet to know Jesus?

Not long ago, I heard a sermon by Jen Hatmaker out of Austin New Church. The theme of the sermon is that we don’t get to decide who gets into heaven, God does. It’s our job to love people and lead them to Christ if they want to be led. It’s our job to treat others with respect and dignity like Jesus would have. God will sort out the heaven and salvation parts. We humans just need to do our best to love God and love our neighbors the way Jesus did. He loved without conditions and without hesitation. He wanted all of us to have faith that God’s grace is sufficient.

You guys, the ground at the foot of the cross is level. None of us have an elevated status. God looks at all of us and sees us exactly the same. It doesn’t matter whether we’re absolutely right about all the nuances of our faith. It doesn’t matter if we just met Him, or we have known Him our whole lives. Nobody has an advantage.

Friends, I’m up to my big, fake boobs in sin. I’ve altered my body, and my actions aren’t always Christlike. I give The Lord indigestion on a daily basis. But I have faith in Jesus Christ, and if my faith saves me, I think it saves her, too. And it doesn’t really matter whether you and I are right or wrong, because our gracious, perfect, loving God gets to decide anyway. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's a Disastrophe!

So, I’ve been accused by a certain Blackhawk pilot of writing stuff that’s a little too heavy, and that maybe I should try writing something a little lighter from time to time. Quote: “I mean, Schindler’s List is a good movie, but I don’t want to watch it every day.” So, I thought I’d try to write about funny things my kids do or something like that. Well, the opportunity for hilarity popped up on my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago, and it. was. glorious!

My friend Charlotte, who was our neighbor in flight school, has a little girl named Chloe. Chloe invented the best new word on the planet. “DISASTROPHE.” Part disaster, part catastrophe. Disastrophe.

You guys, the opportunities to use this new word are limitless.  Starbucks spells your name wrong? Disastrophe.  Those cute flats are sold out in your size? Disastrophe.  Your shorts from last year are too tight? (Just me?) Disastrophe.

The comments on her post were hysterical, as people wrote their definitions of disastrophe, or gave examples of what qualifies as a disastrophe. As I read them, I decided to blog (with Charlotte's permission to steal her child's genius word!) about some disastrophes I’ve experienced as a wife, mom, and human being. Because sometimes the poop hits the fan and things just don’t go our way.

Disastrophe One: That time Downton Abbey killed Matthew Crawley.

What the actual what?!  How do you kill the sweetest man alive? Who else will love the snotty Lady Mary? I mean, he OVERCAME PARALYSIS and they just killed him. On the day his baby was born.  I know life isn’t fair, and the actor who played him didn’t want to be Matthew Crawley anymore, but come on, DA.  Also, this episode aired in the UK on CHRISTMAS. Happy Holidays, Matthew is bleeding from his head.  Disastrophe.

Disastrophe Two: That Time I Met My Hero and Made a Complete FOOL of Myself.

 You can read my blogabout it, or you can just read these few lines about how I met Jen Hatmaker outside of a bathroom by accident, and instead of just saying “hello,” and having my picture taken with her, I looked like a fangirling moron and a semi-stalker. I said she was like Peyton Manning. She was inching away from me, you guys. I cringe and turn red every time I think about it. Disastrophe.

Disastrophe Three: That Time All the Legal Documents Read“Hoseph.”

We thought about selling our rental house in Alabama for about a minute last week. When the realtor sent us the paperwork to sign, all of the places for Joe to sign were written “Hoseph.” You guys, I can’t even tell you how freakin’ funny it was to read “Hoseph” all over the place! I mean, we get to call him “Hoe” for short. The best thing ever to me. For Joe, you guessed it, disastrophe.

Disastrophe Four: That Time the Seahawks Passed Instead of Handing Off to Marshawn Lynch in the Superbowl.

You guys. I just don’t even know what to say about that play that hasn’t already been said. Oh, wait. Yes I do. It was a disastrophe.

The last and final Disastrophe: That Time I had Bad Hair.

(Sorry not sorry to the three boys in this photo. You didn't have traumatic mushroom hair, so you make the blog. Love you guys.)

As someone with two mothers (step and biological), it’s an absolute travesty that at some point someone allowed me to look like a mushroom. My head resembles a character from Super Mario Bros.  It was a home perm disastrophe. (My moms are okay though. This hair is only mildly traumatic and has never been mentioned in therapy or anything. Swear.)

I feel like disastrophies can come in varying degrees. Sometimes they’re miniature and you need to eat a Hersheys kiss to survive them. Other times they’re full-blown, level ten emergencies that require more than one bottle of Moscato and a good girlfriend to talk to.

So, now I’m dying to know. What do you consider a disastrophe? I can’t wait to read your comments! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

For The Love Friday: I Should Ignore Myself More Often

Welcome to the very FIRST “For the Love Friday!” Each Friday, until Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love launches, I will be taking quotes from the book and discussing how they spoke to my heart. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the blog!

“I should ignore myself more often.”
-Jen Hatmaker
For The Love

“You’re getting fat.”

You’re a bad mom.”

“You don’t have the resources to pull that off.”

“Is your house ever clean?”

“Nobody will want to be friends with you if you tell them that thing about yourself.”

“God must be so disappointed at your inaction.”

Someone I know very well tells me those things every day. It’s me. I say them to myself.
When I look in the mirror, or into my heart, or at my children’s faces, I don’t always see the good that’s happening. For some reason, it’s easier to spot the fact that I’m failing at everything than to recognize that I’m not a completely crappy human being. That my efforts might actually be paying off.

You guys, I’m typically pretty nice to other people. I compliment outfits, treat others with respect, and do my best to smother people with encouragement. It’s my life’s goal to show other people a glimpse of Jesus when they meet me. I’m shining my light all over the place—except in my own spirit.

I realize now that the things I say to myself aren’t accurate, or they’re exaggerated. (I love to exaggerate all the crappy parts of my self-image because it’s super great for my confidence.)

I should ignore myself more often.

I need to get a grip, you guys. The minute I let my own thoughts get the better of me is the moment I start trusting what I “know” about myself instead of what I know about God. I know that He thinks I’m beautiful. He created me for a purpose, and He will equip me for whatever He needs me to do.  He’s also forgiven me for the things I don’t enjoy sharing about myself.  God is so much bigger than me, and He’s got this.

When I hear that voice telling me I’m dirty, God says “Jesus washed you clean.”  When it says I’m pudgy and the cellulite is taking over, He says “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”  When it tells me I’m not enough, He says “I AM.”  You guys, this isn’t about me and what I think. It’s about God and who He says He is.

I can’t begin to explain the kind of freedom we can find when we realize who we are in Christ. When we realize that all the crap we say about ourselves isn’t true, and even if it is (which it probably isn’t!), it doesn’t matter. God looks at us like mommas look at their newborn babies. He sees his beautiful, precious child.

Y’all. Let’s start ignoring ourselves more often. Let’s take that energy and devote it to being encouragers, or teachers, or good friends. Let’s not allow our inner monologue to destroy us from the inside out.  Let’s stop looking at our butts in the bathroom mirror with disdain. (Just me?)

Let’s ignore ourselves and start listening to God. I know He has something nice to say about each and every one of us.

I’d love it if you’d share how you plan to ignore yourself in the comments section below!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

For The Love

Hello, Friends!

I’ve been struggling to write this blog, because nobody likes a braggart, and I didn’t exactly know how to word it without sounding like one. So I’ll do my best.  I’m really excited, though!

Last month, Jen Hatmaker announced via Facebook that she was going to allow her readers the opportunity to be a part of the Launch Team for her new book For The Love. They were going to accept 500 people, and it was first come, first served. Of course I had a minute to sit down and apply about seven hours after she originally posted, so I almost didn’t apply at all, but decided to “just in case.” The application consisted of submitting all of our social media handles, blog web address, and a short statement about why we wanted to participate in the launch. I honestly can’t remember what I wrote, but I do know that it was about two sentences.

A few days later, I got an email saying that 5,000 people had applied for a spot on the Launch Team, and I was one of the 500 chosen. I guess they didn’t end up doing first come first served, but clearly it was an error or a miracle that I was picked. Either way, here I am!

We were given a PDF copy of the uncorrected manuscript to read in our first Launch Team email, so I read the entire book in one day. I kept meaning to stop and savor, but For The Love is so hilarious, meaningful, and convicting that I just continued reading. 

I received my hard copy of the book on Tuesday, and couldn’t wait to start reading it on real paper. My highlighter has been working overtime capturing quotes, lessons I’ve learned, and things I definitely need to apply to my own life. 

Hands down, the best part of being selected for the launch team isn’t getting to read For the Love early, or getting the chance to write a review that will be included in the book. It’s the Launch Team Facebook group. You guys, there is a community there that I haven’t experienced before. People are sharing their struggles and celebrations. There is authenticity, transparency, and love over there. It’s its own little tribe, and I feel extremely blessed to be a part of it.

Because I’m on the Launch Team, part of my job is to help you realize that you should buy For The Love (preorder is on now!), but it also means that I get to share pieces of the book with you, so you can see why you should read it!   So from this Friday, April 3, until the book launch in August, I will be doing a series called “For The Love Friday.” I’ll share a quote from the book, and what I took away as a reader. My thoughts won’t give away the book, it’s just my way of making text-to-self connections (shout out, to my elementary teachers!).

So, I would love it if you would follow me through this journey. And I hope you’ll be willing to share what you take away from the quotes in the comments section. I love discussion and hearing others’ perspectives!