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Monday, April 25, 2016

Word to Your Mother: Books Your Mom is Sure to Love

Catchy title, right? Try getting that one out of your head today.

But 90’s rap isn’t why you’re here, so let’s get down to business!

Mother’s Day is just thirteen short days away, and, like many people, you may be feeling lost as to what you’ll be purchasing for the mom(s) in your life.

As a big-time bookworm, I believe you can never go wrong with a good book, so I rounded up a few of my favorites from the past year or so, and posted the Amazon link (because PRIME SHIPPING). Also, nobody paid me, bribed me, or blackmailed me with my seventh grade yearbook photo to post nice things about their books. I just really liked these ones, and I think most moms will too.

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I’ve read this book no less than five times, and you’re all getting sick of hearing about it from me, but let me tell you something: This is an outstanding book for moms. There’s all kinds of good stuff in there! From being the mom of little ones, all the way to sending our kiddos out into the world; it’s encouraging and funny from page one. Also—recipes. Good ones!

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I “met” Kayla on the For the Love launch team, and had the privilege of reading this book over the holiday season, when life was rough. Kayla’s book about delivering her daughter, Scarlette, at twenty-five weeks’ gestation, gave me hope when it felt like there was none.

Despite the weighty topic, Kayla expertly inserts humor and godly advice into her writing. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling uplifted after I read the book. (Which happened in the middle of the night. In one sitting.)

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A blogger at The Mom Creative, Jessica reminds us moms to make time for ourselves. She encourage us to find pockets of time to do what we really love. Jessica believes taking time for self-care makes us better wives, mothers and friends. I happen to agree!

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Another For the Love launcher, Erin chronicles her struggle with, and triumph over breast cancer, while she mothered her young son. Her story is powerful and beautiful, and I highly recommend this one for moms.

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Confession: All the heart eyes go to Mindy Kaling. I just love her. Can’t help it, won’t deny it. Her book is hilarious, and if your mom loves Mindy, The Office, The Mindy Project, or simply laughing in general, you’ll be her favorite kid if you buy her this book.

*This book isn’t “religious” at all, and it has some swear words. If your mom isn’t into swearing, please don’t buy her this book. If she is into swearing, (or just doesn’t mind it) buy this immediately.

Cavallini and Co. Roma Lussa Journal found at

Some moms enjoy writing words in addition to reading them. This beautiful, high quality journal is perfect for Bible study, a gratitude journal, or for any reason mom wants to write. I received one as a gift from Joe last Christmas, and I love it. Your mom might like it, too.

The best part? You can personalize it here if you want to! 

I hope you’ve found this gift guide helpful. Even if you haven’t found something for mom, maybe you’ve found a treat for you. It doesn’t hurt to drop hints like crazy and share the heck out of this blog. I mean, I’ve never shared anything as a hint to my husband, but maybe you do.  (That was a lie. I do it for every holiday and my birthday. If President’s Day was a gift giving occasion, I’d do it then too.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my sweet friends! Keep up the good, hard, rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating work. (There are a ton of adjectives that describe motherhood, which is why we need to thank our moms!)

Do you have some other book recommendations? If so, I’d love for you to share them in the comments! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hearts and Hemlines: What Does it Really Mean to be Modest?

“You know you can’t have that one, it’s a two-piece.”

“Um, no. Those are way too short.”

“Spaghetti Straps? Think again.”

If you shopped near Mak and I at Target, these are some of the things you would have overheard me saying repeatedly.

Until a year ago, modesty was kind of a big deal around our house. Don’t get me wrong, knees and shoulders were exposed—we aren’t the Duggars—but there were rules in place, and Mak’s wardrobe was carefully monitored for modesty. We were making sure she was following the rules.

But, here’s the rub. I started to realize that what I was wearing really didn’t have much of an impact on how I served God or his people. And if the neckline of my blouse didn’t affect my ability to love and follow Jesus, then maybe the length of Mak’s shorts didn’t matter so much either.

The wrestle continued as I read the following passage from Jen Hatmaker’s latest book, For the Love:

“If they (our kids) don’t love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don’t say the F-word. We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines.”

I took a moment to reflect on my parenting and what I was placing first. Was I prioritizing the “rules” over the “relationship?” Definitely. When my child is dressed modestly and well-behaved, I get to look like a good parent, and she gets to look the part of a precious Jesus Girl. But we know appearances aren’t what God values. He looks at our hearts.

Which led me to this question:

 Is there more to modesty than simply covering ourselves up?

As I began to think more closely about the idea of modesty and what it means, I decided to go to the source—the Word. Mostly because I’ve found it to be pretty handy when I find myself stuck in the parenting mud. Or any mud, really.

A popular verse for this topic comes from 1 Timothy.

“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)

The Greek word for modesty used in this passage is kosmios, which means “orderly” and “well-arranged.”

It’s pretty clear what Paul is instructing here: we should be dressed in an orderly way, not overly gaudy; and what should be noticeable about us is our good works—our hearts.

Modesty means so much more than not showing too much skin, as most of us believe; it is an attitude. Modesty means pointing others to God and away from ourselves. It means that our kindness and our deeds should be more glorious than our new diamond earrings or gold bracelet. People should notice how we serve before their eyes ever see our pretty new handbag.

Modesty isn't as simple as being too sexual. It has always been about giving up attention we want for ourselves and giving it to God instead. Modesty has everything to do with our intentions, and very little to do with how we clothe our bodies.

 I fear we have taken parts of these verses out of context, and placed value on covering up our bodies, instead of baring our souls. It’s easier to measure the length of our skirts or the width of our tank top straps than it is to examine the parts of our hearts that crave the attention God should receive. Likewise, it is much simpler to ask women and girls to cover their bodies than it is for men to focus their attention on God rather than a scantily clad woman.

 I’ve sat through more than one sermon, as well as youth group events, where men make the request of women and girls to “help” them avoid sin by covering themselves up. Men are smart, honorable, kind beings—and, like women, they have eyelids that open and close, and necks that turn in both directions. Both of those abilities allow men to look away from anything that might cause them to sin. Even a woman in a short skirt.

Furthermore, women from all over the world who are forced to be covered from head to toe are still lusted after, and even raped. In Matthew 5:29, Jesus tells men who look upon women with lust to gouge out their own eyes—not ask women to cover themselves up.  If we wear an outfit with no intent to seduce a man, the sin is theirs, not ours. However, if we wear an outfit solely to attract the sexual attention of a man, that is intentionally taking our brother in Christ’s eyes off of God, and we are guilty in that case.

Modesty is being intentional in our hearts, letting Christ have the attention at all times.

I have had to examine my own heart as I parent my way through this whole modesty thing. I’ve had to look at my behavior and ask where I’m lacking modesty. Am I giving the glory to God, or am I more concerned with how I look to others? Do they see me before they see him? How do I change that?

So, as we go into summer, our shopping trips will sound a little different. Instead of dictating to my daughter what she will and will not be allowed to wear, we’ll begin with her heart instead. We’ll discuss why she chooses certain clothes and talk about the intent behind each piece. I’m hoping that by examining her heart instead of demanding she wear knee length shorts, we might both learn a bit more about who we are in Jesus.

Here are some things I’m going to ask her to consider:

Dress with yourself in mind:

Where will you be wearing this outfit?

What activities will you be performing?

Are you comfortable?

 Is your outfit age appropriate?

Dress with intent:

Why are you choosing this outfit?

Are you hoping to get someone’s attention?

 If so, why do you feel you need attention from that person?

What if we looked at modesty differently? What if we asked ourselves about our intentions? About which pieces of our clothing and accessories make worship about us instead of God? What about our behavior, tone, and actions seek attention for ourselves instead of pointing others to him? The terrain gets a little more rugged when we aren’t solely focused on whether we’re dressed in a revealing manner, doesn’t it? When we have to look at the rest of our outfit, or our desire to gain admiration through attention seeking, modesty isn’t as simple as being buttoned up.

So, this summer, I won’t police the hemlines or the the width of the straps. I’ll be shepherding the heart. God is so much better at leading my daughter than I am, and I am trusting him to guide her heart in all things-- even choosing a bathing suit.

Moms of daughters, I’d love for you to weigh in here. And moms of sons, I’d love to hear from you as well. I’ve got a boy coming up next, and I need your wisdom! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One for When You're Weary

“Momma,” she peeked up from the passenger seat peering at me through heavy, dark lashes, “this Christmas isn’t very merry.” It was Christmas Eve.

“I know, baby. I’m so sorry.” I held back tears just long enough to make it home.

The oldest, the rock, the one who blooms no matter where the Army plants her, had finally had her fill.  And I couldn’t say anything but “I know.”

It started in November: Our renters in another state abandoned our house with a few days’ notice, and left no indication of the condition of the house. Three days later, four of Joe’s friends were killed in a Blackhawk crash.

The first part of December was filled with memorials and funerals to honor the lives lost and grieve with their families. The men we lost were husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. They were funny; some of them liked fishing; all of them were friends.

Mid-December was filled with repairs done to our out-of-state home. It was destroyed, and new renters would be arriving five days after Joe got there to make what he believed would be minor repairs.  New appliances, new carpet, freshly-painted walls, re-installed cabinetry, replaced hardwood floors, and a rebuilt fence later, we lost thousands of dollars, and all of our Christmas spirit.

Adding insult to injury, we had also decided to move over the two weeks leading up to Christmas. At the time we signed the lease, none of the other events that had taken place were even on our radar. Moving to a cute house in a quiet neighborhood seemed like a great idea.

Needless to say, by the time Christmas Eve rolled around, we were huddled in our new house, tree barely up, licking our wounds. And we stayed that way until February. Hiding, just praying nothing else would happen.

When I looked at my husband and my older children, I could see the same weary expression on their faces that gazed back at me in the mirror. We lost some of our joy, some of our trust in people, and we certainly lost the secure feeling most military families have when their service members are stateside. Even being home didn’t guarantee daddy would walk through the door at night.

With financial and emotional security all but lost, we soldiered on.

 I’m really good at soldiering. Pulling myself up by my bootstraps, making a plan, relying on myself to get us back on track. Army wives don’t have time for self-pity. We get stuff done.

It’s that mentality that kept me from God—which is exactly my M.O.  When things are great, and plans are in place, and life is easy, I praise God. I pray constantly and read my Bible frequently. When I’m “soldiering,” I avoid him altogether. I don’t have time to be vulnerable or open up to him, because I’ve got this.

The worst part about my soldiering mentality, is that I know better! During Joe’s last deployment, I went to church. That’s it—no extras. I didn’t even pray much. I had an out of control child, a full-time job, two other children, and I couldn’t even pray. Because I’ve got this.

But the truth is, I’ve got this is another way of saying Don’t look at me, I’m a hot mess.

And, last winter, that’s exactly how I felt. Don’t look at me. Don’t ask me how I am. And, for the love, please text instead of calling.

God is funny though, isn’t he? Because he knew I’d need encouragement from him. He knew I’d abandon my Bible, and start to rely on myself instead of putting my trust in him. He knew I’d let my circumstances determine my faith. So, he started bringing me back in gently.

It started sometime in January with Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (NLT)  Right there, in red even, Jesus is saying I’ve got this.

Weary? Check.
Heavy Burden? Yep.
Rest? Yes, please! You’ve got this? Go ahead and take it. I’m pretty tired.

So, little by little, I started letting him in again.

And in February, the light broke through with this verse:

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’” John 8:12 (NLT)

I imagined being trapped in a mine, in total darkness. And, just as I’d given up all hope, there was a tiny pinprick of light. It was a torch, and Jesus was carrying it, leading the way to safety and freedom.


I prayed right where I was that the light of Jesus would take away the darkness in my heart, and in my family. And at the IF::Gathering in my city, I told three complete strangers that I was sick of being in the dark, and was ready to feel the light of Jesus in my heart again. (Sometimes, when you put your junk out there, Satan can’t shame you with it anymore.)

I still feel a little weary sometimes: When Easter passed, it hurt knowing my husband’s friends wouldn’t be joining their families; when I pay our credit card bill, or check in on our much smaller saving account and relive the financial devastation; or when I think of the amount of disappointment our kids must have held over the holidays. But I don’t let it bother me for long. The light, the one God placed in me, is still burning bright.

The best part of weariness is getting to the other side. When you wake up one morning and realize it’s over, you get to go back and count the ways God helped you through a difficult time. The crash taught our family to value the time we have together, and to not take one another for granted. That “routine” doesn’t mean “guarantee.”  

 He also showed up through his people: we were given a financial gift that offset our home repair costs by about half, several people from our former city showed up and helped Joe fix fence posts, paint walls, repair a play set, and do whatever else was needed. Friends opened up their home and let Joe stay with them, which saved us hundreds of dollars. We knew each and every one of those people were brought to us by God.

Weariness is something we’re all familiar with. You’ve probably got a story even more challenging than mine.  Just remember, God is with you in it. He really will give you rest if you ask him. He’ll lead you to the light. And in the meantime, while you’re stuck in the dark, remember this: Jesus’ light will sustain you. This may be long, and so very difficult, but you are not alone. He promises to be with us always.

I’d love to hear how God has gotten you through a storm! Perhaps your story might encourage another? Please share in the comments section below! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Transformation: What Playing With Toys Taught Me About Jesus

I’ve been surrounded by boys my entire life. I grew up in a house full of them, then went on to marry and have a son. Through this experience, my life has become saturated with all things male: namely Transformers.

My brothers all had them. My son has them. And, a couple of years ago, my in-laws mailed us a huge box of Transformers that used to belong to my husband.

I’ve seen every Transformers movie, and can tell you the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon. I quote Optimus Prime, and have been known to shout “Hey, look! It’s Bumblebee!” as we drive by a yellow Camaro.

Despite my decades-long experience with Transformers, I still have one problem. I can’t actually get them to transform. I mean, CANNOT.  Optimus is half himself, half semi-truck. Ratchet isn’t quite fully an ambulance. Megatron—well, he’s missing some pieces. Getting them to change into their intended shape has always eluded me. Even the ones that come in a Happy Meal.

Despite all of this, I never did quit trying to alter these complex figures. I could get them part of the way, then I’d either break off a piece, or give up and ask someone else to finish the transformation. I have no idea why this concept escapes me, but it truly does.

The other day, I was reminded that transformation is something I struggled with early on in my walk with Christ. And I still do sometimes.

As a new Christ follower, I held tightly to some beliefs and opinions that weren’t biblical: I maintained a pro-choice stance into my late twenties. I hated my enemies. I withheld forgiveness. I was openly hostile. I gossiped.

When I began to read the Bible, and to take Jesus’ words as more than mere suggestions, I realized that my opinions didn’t line up with His teachings. And, if I took Jesus seriously, my heart was going to need a major overhaul. A transformation.

Much like the Transformers that have littered many a family room floor, I began to change little by little. Often, it wasn’t pretty. Tears were shed. Pieces broke off when I tried to bend them the wrong way; when parts of who I was before didn’t match who I was supposed to be. I was trying to be me, but Jesus had a better plan.
2 Corinthians 5:17 spoke to me about who I was before, and who God was shaping me to be:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”

This thought occurred to me: “If I believe Jesus is who He says He is, then I am who He says I am.”

 I was turning into His new creation. The old stuff—the opinions, beliefs, and misconceptions. Those weren’t Jesus. Those were me. The new creation, without the extra parts and pieces, was beginning to take shape.

I would like to tell you transformation in Christ is short and easy, but it isn’t. Sometimes your heart will line up with Jesus, but it won’t line up with your best friend. Or your cousin. Or even your grandma. I can guarantee you’ll start to fight with yourself. You’ll be trying to keep a part you like, when Jesus is trying to shape it into something new. Something better. You may even say “I know this is what you want, but I refuse to change.” That’s okay, Jesus is patient. He’ll wait for you. He’ll help you bend the pieces into their correct places.

If you’re in this stage of transformation, I get you. It’s not easy to let God work on your heart. Sometimes it takes years to let go of pride, or arrogance, or a sinful relationship. Mostly, it’s tough to let go of who we are and let Jesus run our hearts. But I promise it’s worth it.

As someone who thought she would cling to her beliefs until she died, I hope these words encourage you. Transformation is not weakness. It’s not giving up who you are. It’s becoming who Jesus is. Seek strength from Him. He will give it to you.

I'd also like to tell you that the inner struggle that often accompanies these changes is only temporary, but I'd be lying, and lying isn't my thing. God is constantly working on my heart, and showing me new ways to change. Some changes are easier than others. Sometimes I still throw a fit. But He remains steadfast, never leaving me, never giving up. Always making sure the transformation brings me one step closer to Him. 

If you have struggled with transformation after becoming a Christ Follower, I would love to hear from you! How has Jesus changed your heart? Leave a comment below!