Summer Camp, teens, Youth

Opendoor Youth Camp: Overflow

CAMP OVERFLOW ||You may have heard about it, you may have sent your kids to it, you may have been a counselor for it, or you may have been a camper yourself. And if none of those apply to you, then I am truly sorry…because it is pretty awesome.

For the past 6 years, Shane & I have been bystanders watching the Opendoor Youth Camp: Camp Overflow from home like everyone else. Cheering the tribes on, stalking the numerous pictures and videos being posted from leaders at camp…and pretty much having major FOMO. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had it. And if there were a Camp Overflow for adults, every last one of us would be there with tribal gear & sleeping bags in tow.

So when we were asked to step in this year as Camp Mom & Pop, it really wasn’t a hard decision at all. Aside from the fact that it was a little intimidating because our predecessors were amazing and left big shoes to fill, we were honored & excited for the chance to be a part of such a monumental week in the lives of our youth.

Little did we know that it would be just as life-changing for us as well.

One thing we didn’t realize before signing up was the amount of preparation that goes into this camp. As an onlooker, one thinks it’s all nuts and bolts kind of preparation, but that isn’t even the half of it. From a counselor’s weekend retreat to times of worship and prayer, we spent just as much time spiritually preparing our hearts and minds as we did our lists and schedules. It was incredible. But man, did Satan ever fight against us. He saw what we were about to do, and he did everything he could to stop it. Playing on fears, planting seeds of doubt, whispering lies…no one was off limits or left unscathed by his attacks.

The battle was great…but our God is greater.

Finally, the first day of camp was upon us. That time for which we had all been waiting and preparing had arrived along with 190 campers. And they.were.PUMPED. We just hoped and prayed the coffee & red bull would give us enough energy to keep up with them all or that the heat would slow them down. In the end, I think they just put us on an even playing field.

But we were ready and expecting big things to happen this week…and we were not disappointed.

Tribal Wars started off strong with Mike, Romeo, Charlie, & Juliet competing for the much-coveted Golden J. To most, it may look like a Jordan sneaker spray painted gold; but to them, it ranks right up there with the Stanley Cup. And they fought hard to win it. The weather was hot, and the campers grew tired as the week progressed. But like the refining fire in Job 23:10, the wars tested strength and endurance to reveal true character; and in the end, Romeo came forth as gold.

Golden J, that is.

The thing about the Opendoor Youth Camp is this. From the second the students step foot onto the campground and turn in their phones until the one in which they board the departing buses, God is at work. Throughout the Tribal Wars, free time, small groups, and services…as fun as they are, God is at work. Some students and leaders don’t even understand why or how they got there; but clearly, it is because God is at work.

And man, did He ever work last week.

He worked as:

  • Pastor Aaron Kennedy preached a message on recognizing our calling.
  • Pastor Michael Chandler spoke on water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  • 90 students & leaders were baptized.
  • 34 accepted Jesus as their Savior.
  • Pastor Tyler Braden reminded us that there is always room for us at God’s Table.
  • Students soaked in His presence and wrote down the things He was saying to them.
  • Elder Elliotte Pearson challenged us to never lose the awe of God.
  • Coaches gave their testimonies.
  • Pastor Tyler spoke on dying to self and finding our purpose beyond the Table.
  • Students & leaders gave testimonies on all God had done in their lives during the week.

From the first day to the last, we could see the reservations slowly stripped away. With each service, another heart was forever changed. Many, if not all, stepped off of those buses feeling like they aren’t worthy of all God has to offer. Like they don’t belong…and if people knew what they were really like, they wouldn’t want anything to do with them.

But as each speaker reminded them throughout the week, Christ is calling us all to something. No matter what hard things we’ve endured, God never wastes that pain. He uses it and allows it to produce true joy. And as ashamed as we may feel, God isn’t scared of our mess. Just because we may have messed up in our past doesn’t mean we don’t belong. We will always have a place at His Table. But to get to where God is calling us, we can’t stay where we are. We have to move.

And move is exactly what these students and leaders did this week.

I wish I could capture the feeling in that room each service. But no picture, video or words can ever do it justice. The tangible feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence was as if He were sitting right beside us…and all around us. I’ve never felt it quite like that before, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

As I made my rounds each night to check on the girl’s cabins and pray over them, I was met with the same question over and over. Is it real? Is what we felt real? Was the Holy Spirit really there? Did we imagine that?

And I knew without a doubt that it was real. Because there is just something about this camp that is different than anything we’ve ever seen. All of the spiritual preparation, the prayer, the intercession, the worship…we invite the Holy Spirit and God Himself into our midst, and He shows up.

You may not ever have the chance to experience a Camp Overflow in person. But as one of our young people said in his testimony at our Sunday Overflow Service…please, send your kids. If you have the chance, send them. It not only changes their lives, but it changes the lives of those around them.

Because what happens at the Opendoor Youth Camp, doesn’t stay there. It’s a ripple effect that starts that week and continues on even after everyone has returned home…and it is life-changing. For the students, for the leaders, for their friends and families, for everyone.

Some will go on to lead in ministry, some will go on to volunteer in churches, some will lead others to Christ simply by example, but ALL will be used by God.

Because no matter where we go or what we do in life, we will always have a place at His Table.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galations 2:20

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• Cover photo: by Megan Holland/Opendoor Church

Great Moms
Mom of Boys, Mother's Day, Motherhood, parenting

To The Great Mom Who Doesn’t Feel So Great

Before I became a mom, I never really understood what being a mom meant; because honestly, how can we? We grow up watching our mothers be moms and making it look easy…and I guess we just think it all snaps into place the second we give birth or adopt. But I don’t think that’s how it works. At least, it didn’t for me.

Sure, some of it is natural, but a whole lot more of it is learned; and I wish I had known that from the beginning. I think I would have cried far fewer tears and felt a lot less guilt.

But there is one thing we don’t have to learn as moms, and that is how to love.

I will never forget the time I was playing for a softball team in Chattanooga, TN, when I was 7 or 8 years old. We didn’t have much money at the time since my mom was a single mother & a Christian school teacher who made very little, but she always made sure I was able to take part in extra activities even though I’m not quite sure how she did it.

One particular day, we were playing at a ballpark that required her to pay to enter and watch. Not having the extra money to spare, she dropped me off at the gate; and instead of entering, she sat outside the fence surrounding the outfield watching from a blanket under a tree. I’m sure she never gave it a second thought and probably has long since forgotten, but the memory has stuck with me even after all of these years. She could have easily gone to the car and waited, ran errands, or gone home. But nothing was going to stop her from being there. Nothing was going to keep her from cheering me on; and believe me, she most certainly did that. I could hear her all the way from home plate.

Did she always do everything right? No, she probably did a lot of things wrong. We all do. And I’m sure there were events she had to miss. The point is that when I think back on my childhood, it’s moments like this that I recall. I remember her being there, loving me, cheering me on no matter what the occasion may be. It wasn’t important how much money we had…or didn’t. It didn’t matter that she was doing it all on her own for a while. She did what counted, and those are the things that stand out in my mind.

Pinterest birthdays and all of the things we think make us good moms? They don’t amount to much in the long run.

It’s the hugs. It’s knowing when to swoop in and save the day and when to let them learn how to do it on their own. It’s the long talks, or just listening, dreaming about the future and all it holds. It’s showing up when it really matters…and sometimes even when it really doesn’t. It’s believing in them, loving them even when they mess up.

Because when it comes down to it and they are old enough to be parents themselves, those are the things they will remember. Those are the things that will matter. And we didn’t have to learn how to do them. We just did them because that’s what moms do.

So the next time you want to beat yourself up because you didn’t check all of the boxes, made a mistake, or even forgot…give yourself a break. Then do something that’s unforgettable. Give your kid a hug and tell them you love them. Listen to them talk about something they think is cool, whether you think it is or not. Be there. Engage. Simply, do something together.

We aren’t going to get everything right all the time, and we certainly can’t kill ourselves trying, but as long as we get some of it right most of the time…that is what they will remember.

I know, because I did.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!!

Encouragement, Scripture

The Best Version Of Me

This year I turned 43. Yes, I said it. Forty-three.

When I was in my teens, 43 was next to death. You hit your 40’s, and life was over…done…no more fun. You couldn’t be cute anymore, because that would be weird. And for the longest time, I thought I would be that person who hit her 40’s and refused to reveal her age. Avoid saying it out loud, like a swear word in church.

But then it happened, and I didn’t hate it. In fact, 40 & 41 weren’t terrible at all. I was comfortable in my own skin for the first time. More confident than ever before. My vision clearer, my direction set. Happy! This was going to be fun!

Then 42 happened.

And I mean, overnight happened.

At first, I just felt a little worn around the edges, a little more tired than usual. I rationalized it away and blamed it on a busy life, three boys, and not enough coffee! Everybody would rather stay in and Netflix it every night…right?

But before long, I was going to bed early, waking up late…and still.so.tired.

So at my yearly physical (because I never go any other time, even when I probably should), I voiced some of my concerns to the doctor and quickly followed with, “you know, the normal 40 stuff,” and rolled my eyes.

But she didn’t buy it. Not one bit. And after a slew of tests and prayers that I wasn’t knocking on death’s door, we found out that it was something really very simple. My body doesn’t absorb B12 orally. That’s it. That was the reason I was feeling so lousy. A vitamin deficiency that had been left untreated for so long that it had reached a dangerously low point. Big sigh!

Relieved that it wasn’t worse, I didn’t even care that it meant I would need to take B12 shots for the rest of my life. The fact that there was a treatment at all was fantastic! Sign me up!! There was hope, and all I had to do was grab hold of it.

So I did…and began the weekly shots immediately.

Now, I don’t know if it was completely psychological or the fact that my body was starved for the B, but I began to see a noticeable difference almost instantly. I had a little more energy at the end of the day, my focus clearer, my outlook on life brighter. Things that didn’t seem possible before now seemed within reach!

It was a-maz-ing.

I started looking forward to each appointment knowing that I would only feel better on the other side.

Then it hit me. Isn’t that how it is with us and God?

Caught up in the hectic activities of life, we spend less and less time with Him & in His Word. Over time, we find that we have slowly become deficient in our walk with Him and increasingly weary with the burdens that we carry. It happens so gradually we don’t even notice. And when we finally do, we rationalize it away until we cannot ignore it any longer.

We need our daily time with Him. Like the air we breathe and the food we eat, His Word is nourishment to our soul. When we go without it for too long, we become tired and depressed. Hard things seem harder, and sad things seem sadder. We have no hope. Nothing to give us that extra push we need, that word of encouragement, or truth that sets us free.

But oh when we finally return to Him…

When we finally open up His Word and drink from the deep Well of Life, we feel new strength and new hope as we become saturated in His presence. We begin to look forward to each new day and our quiet time with Him, because we know that we are only going to feel better on the other side.

And we do.

He doesn’t promise to always fix things, but He does promise to give a peace that passes all understanding and to comfort us with His presence. But how can He do that if we are too busy to spend time with Him?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭

About a month ago, something happened that prevented me from getting my magical B12 shot for a couple of weeks. My doctor warned me that it would cause my levels to dip again, but I didn’t think it would affect me all that much. After all, it was just a few weeks, and I had built up my reserves and was feeling pretty good.

But it did. And by the time I was able to go in for my shot, I all but begged her for it.

Please hear me, Friends.

We think we can take a break from Jesus, and it won’t matter. We think we can handle it.

Life is busy, full of “important” things that just cannot wait. I know. I’m there every day. But the truth of the matter is, our time with Jesus is what cannot wait, because all of those “important” things hinge on Him. They are possible because of Him. We cannot do them without Him. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can.

You will find yourself lost and alone and begging for His comfort, guidance, and help. I know because I’ve been there.

Why let ourselves get to that point in the first place? We don’t have to do it.

Let’s determine to put Him first. Whether it be the early morning hours before the rest of the house is awake, sitting in our car at lunch, or after the house is quiet and everyone else is asleep. Make time for Him. Seek Him. Drink from His Word. Saturate ourselves with His presence so that we can do all of the other important things in life.

We can’t be the best version of ourselves if we don’t. And we deserve the very best, so let’s do it.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-5‬ 

Encouragement, faith, Mom of Boys

Don’t eat the yellow snow…

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has accumulated even the smallest dusting of snow, you’ve had a parent or friend jokingly (or quite seriously) say “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Having three boys and a dog myself, I know I’ve uttered these words more than my fair share even though we live in the balmy southeastern state of North Carolina.

Take recently, for instance. Not only did we experience snow while visiting our Michigan family for Christmas, but then we returned home to the biggest snow our hometown had experienced in quite some time. The boys were ecstatic, playing in it until they had their fill. And every time I looked out the window, I saw my 9-year-old son scooping up a hand full of snow and feasting on it like it was manna from heaven. In fact, I seem to remember that’s exactly what he called it. “Manna from heaven.” (He has a flair for dramatics.)

And every time, I would pop my head out the door and say, “Make sure you don’t eat the yellow snow!” Because let’s face it…between three boys and a dog, the chances of hitting a yellow patch are high.

It reminded me of a time when I was about his age, growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border where snow did not come in short supply. And much like him, I liked to eat snow. I think most kids do. In fact, I would take snow, put it in ziploc bags, and stick it in the freezer to snack on later. I don’t know where I thought that snow on the ground was going, but I guess I wanted to make sure I had plenty stocked up in case we had a warm spell.

When one day randomly, my dad called me to the freezer and pointed to my stash. Inside a couple of the bags nestled in the back of the freezer, we could clearly see a faint tinge of yellow staining the frozen snow.

“Have you been eating these? he asked, mildly amused.

I stood there in shock, trying to figure out how I could have possibly missed the yellow snow I had scooped into these bags. I thought I had been so careful, but maybe my mind wandered as it was prone to do. Then I began to wonder if I had somehow eaten some of that snow!

Wouldn’t I have tasted the difference?

What if I didn’t?

What if I had been eating yellow snow all along and didn’t realize it?

Whyyyy hadn’t I paid attention better?!?

And on and on it went until finally, I noticed that my dad was more than amused and outright laughing. Come to find out, he had squirted lemon juice in the bags to play a trick on me. And well…obviously, it worked.

But that memory made me think.

There are many things in our everyday life that we love. People, places, activities, things. And like snow and eating snow, they are mostly good. But instead of blindly eating all of the snow, it is important that we pick up the snow, check it over, and then eat carefully making sure it doesn’t look or taste like something we shouldn’t be eating.

I could give many examples of each, but the one that currently stands out in my mind the most, and has given me pause, is people. To be honest, the past year has been extremely disheartening for me. There have been several leaders I have held in high regard, both Christian and political, who have said things and taken stands with which I strongly disagree. Initially, they rocked my world and made me question how I could have missed the “yellow snow” when I began to support their ministry or leadership.

Our knee-jerk reaction is typically to stop. Stop eating the snow. Stop making the snow cream. [Stop listening to what that person has to say.] Just simply stop.

However, just because we run into some yellow snow, does that mean all of the snow up until this point has been yellow? [Has everything that person said been garbage? Has everything I believed in been wrong? Is everything they say going forward heresy?] Human nature makes us think it has and is. Human nature makes us question whether we’ve been eating yellow snow all along but didn’t know it. Human nature makes us want to boycott snow completely!!

But the truth is that no beautiful field of freshly fallen snow will remain spotless, just like no human being will ever be perfect. No matter who we hold in high regard, we must always carefully sift through their words and actions and make sure they line up with the Word of God. Nobody is exempt from this. Nobody is so infallible that we can blindly follow without caution. The only authority in which we can confidently trust is the inerrant Word of God.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs‬ ‭30:5-6‬ ‭

So yes, this past year has been disappointing in many ways. And yes, I’ve questioned my own judgment as a result. But what I’ve come to realize is that maybe I haven’t been eating “yellow snow” all along. And maybe the things I learned from those people weren’t all garbage but actually good and helpful. The fact that I recognized the detour from the truth is important.

It is their responsibility as leaders to speak truth that lines up with God’s Word…and it is my responsibility as a Christian to feast with my eyes wide open so that I don’t swallow something that isn’t truth.

And at the end of the day, God is still on the throne.

Once I made that distinction, I realized I have more control over how these revelations affect me. It is still disappointing when respected people make mistakes. Nobody likes to see a leader stumble. But at least now I can see the “yellow snow” for what it is, toss it to the side, and keep on moving.

Satan’s primary goal is to ruin an effective person’s influence, and we can’t keep them from making mistakes. However, we can somewhat thwart his efforts by protecting ourselves from stumbling with them.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬

So please…guard your heart, proceed with caution…and don’t eat the yellow snow.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

Kids, Mom of Boys, Mornings, parenting

Mornings Are Hard. Parenting Is Harder.

Have you ever had one of those mornings that grabbed a hold of the song in your heart and every good intention, crammed it down the toilet, threw in a few unmentionables, and flushed…repeatedly…?

Asking for a friend.

No? ok then….

Well, mornings around our house are typically borderline mayhem. People shouting, clothes flying, dog barking…the works. If you happen to be walking past our house, just keep on truckin because there is nothin’ to see here!

Every school year, we vow to be better; and every year, the first week is all cupcakes and daisies then it’s straight downhill from there. And although I consistently try to do everything I can the night before to make things more manageable, it always seems to be next level. It’s a wonder we make it to school on time.

But every now and then, mayhem isn’t good enough.

No…no, we are overachievers and have to amp it up a notch.

Or ten. And by the time we leave for school, the dog is hiding under the bed, somebody is crying (or somebodies), and we’ve made fourteen trips back into the house for things forgotten.

Bless.

Unfortunately, this morning happened to be one of those. The really bad ones. It’s been a while since we’ve gone down that road; and frankly, I thought we were past it. So this one blind-sided me. Threw me for a loop. Drop-kicked my fresh devotions and prayer time right out the window, and I spent the rest of the day trying to climb out of the funk it created.

It all started with an outfit.

Yes, an outfit. Yes, I have boys. Are we sufficiently confused yet? (some of you may remember the last time I wrote about this involved an outfit as well. When Mornings Suck.)

Jesus take the wheel.

But this wasn’t about just any outfit. It’s Spirit Week at school, and I have to say that I like Spirit Week even less as a mom than I did as a teacher. We spend the whole weekend before trying to plan out the attire for each day, and then I try not to spend a million dollars in the process. Hard to do when you have little ones with big ideas, but somehow we managed.

So my 9-year-old had his outfit all set out the night before, ready to go, and he was pumped.

And although he usually struggles with mornings and tends to be a grouch, I was hoping the excitement of Spirit Week would inspire him to be more pleasant. A girl can dream.

BUT…

Nope. Wrong. Not even close.

In fact, it was so bad that I think it wins for the all-time worst. And that’s quite an accomplishment for us.

Mr. Sunshine finally woke up after numerous attempts, copped an attitude because how dare we wake him….and suddenly the outfit wasn’t good enough, he didn’t want to wear it, and threw a fit.

And what did I do?

Of course, I calmly reminded him that….psh…yeah, right.

No, I lost it. For real. Even broke a hairbrush on the bathroom floor. You can judge me now because I deserve it. 

Back and forth we went, a battle of wills, until I finally told him to go change into normal clothes, because I was not going to drop him off at school in tears. (We moms have an image to uphold, you know.)

So here’s the thing. Was he wrong? Yes. Absolutely. And he lost some privileges and earned an earlier bedtime as a result. Something I should have done a long time ago.

But I was wrong too. Not only for losing my temper but for letting this morning routine go on for as long as I have.

What you allow will continue.

Rather than nip it in the bud, I have just dealt with it and picked up his slack all in an effort to get out the door and to school on time. Then by the time we return home, I am too tired to rehash the wreckage that was better off left behind. But that’s not fair to anyone, including him.

So why do I do it? 

Because consistency and enforcement is hard work. But if you think about it, so is this. We do no favors by being inconsistent. In fact, we create more work for ourselves in the long run and ultimately produce children who cannot face real life.

Contrary to what we may feel at times, children crave boundaries and consistency. There have to be consequences for their actions, even if it inconveniences us at the time. This creates a secure environment in which they know what to expect.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we already know this deep down inside.

Hey, tired & stressed out mama. I see you. I hear you. I AM you.

Being a parent is hard. There is no greater challenge and no greater blessing than being a mom.

We are going to mess up. A lot.

We are going to yell, and cry, and sometimes break hairbrushes.

We are going to ask forgiveness…from our children and from God. Many times over.

But we are going to be blessed for our faithfulness. 

We are going to be rewarded for our consistency.

We are going to be loved by our children in spite of it all.

So hang in there. Don’t give up. Keep being consistent. Don’t be their “friend.” Know when to give tough love and when to extend grace. Surround yourself with mamas both in your season and in the season ahead of you. Learn, read, ask questions, PRAY. Be willing to admit when you get it wrong and celebrate when you get it right.

We are all in this thing together, my friends. So just keep swimming.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

Monday: Before healthy boundaries. (The outfit that launched a thousand tears.)

Wednesday: After healthy boundaries.

Now to keep it going. 

We can do this.

________________________

kindness, Mom of Boys, Scripture

If You Question Whether Or Not You Should, You Probably Shouldn’t.

If in doubt, don’t.

I remember my parents often saying this to me when I was growing up. And although I have ignored it more times than I would like to admit, it has stuck with me throughout the years.

Now, please don’t take this deeper than its intent. I’m not talking about the battles that rage within us between God’s Will for our lives and Satan’s attacks. Sometimes we doubt when we really should be doing, but that’s a whole other blog post itself.

At the moment, I am talking about something that affects just about every person who has a social media account.

You know that impulsive rant, questionable picture, or funny post that may be offensive or taken the wrong way?

I’ve learned it’s just best to “don’t”.

Is it worth the likes we do receive even if it means we’ve alienated that person or group of people we have been working so hard to reach? Show love? Extend grace?

Do we really want to blow it all in one fell swoop?

Yes, it’s our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Yes, we have the right to say what we want anytime we want. Yes, last time I checked, it is still a free country. All of those things are absolutely true.

But here’s the question I have…is it worth it?

I can’t even tell you how many times I have posted something thinking it was funny or cute only to delete it minutes, or even seconds, later.

In a house full of boys, you can only imagine the things that go on here. Crazy things, politically incorrect things, gross things. Sometimes our humor is an acquired taste, borderline (and often wildly) inappropriate. Sometimes we take the frustrating things that are going on in our world today and make jokes to lighten the mood.

And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to rant about Greenville drivers, Hellmart, or politics. The rude lady that ran me over in aisle 5, the latest controversy, or the horrible refs at my son’s football game. There are a million and one thoughts that traipse through my head every day, and they.need.to.be.heard, for crying out loud. 

But do they really?

I want to be transparent, so I share a lot of real life. And I think we should all do a little more of that. But there have been many times that I have frantically typed out my thoughts (with perfectly placed caps, exclamation points and emojis, mind you) only to have that gut feeling the second before I hit “post” (or often the second after) triggering the internal debate as to whether I should share.

And 9 out of the 10 times I ignore that feeling…I regret it.

We live in a time that everyone is offended by everything. I get that. Sailing through life without offending someone is about as likely as a unicorn pooping rainbows. (or my youngest wearing underwear)

But we have a responsibility as Christians, as humans, to show love. We have a responsibility to show respect. If we can at all help it, we are to live and speak in a way that helps others instead of hurting them.

Are we to speak the truth in love even if it is the opposite of what the world is saying? Yes. Absolutely. No question about it. But nobody has ever changed his mind about anything because of a Facebook rant.

Save the rants and questionable pictures or funnies for close friends and family. Those with which we have relationship. They know our hearts.

Or don’t say it at all.

We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but as Wayne Gretzky (or Michael Scott, depending on your generation) said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If we don’t try to be kind and respectful, we won’t be. Ever.

So let’s try, because it is always worth the effort.

“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs‬ ‭18:19-21‬ 

Contentment, Encouragement

Living An Extra’ordinary’ Life

I would love to say that I’ve been on a writing hiatus because life is so incredibly busy and leave it at that…because it is. So that would be true. But it’s not the complete truth.

The truth is that life is incredibly busy…and Satan is incredibly smart.

It’s been 4 months since my last post. 4 months of busy, 4 months of excuses…and 4 months of self-doubt.  And it all started when I let the little voices inside my head take over. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just human.

The nagging thoughts…“What is the point?” “Why are you wasting your time doing this?” “You have much more important things to do.” “You’re not selling anything but truth…and that’s free. So really…what.is.the.point?”

And so I listened. Believed. Fed the lies with my own insecurity and let them take root in my soul.

But thank God, He never lets it stop there. He doesn’t see our struggle and leave us to fight it alone. No, He meets us in our deepest valley and points us to the path that leads us home.

And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Through a series of devotionals and books He dropped in my lap over the summer, I began to see things from a different perspective. One that was less me and more Him. Less my glory and more His glory. Less what can He do for me and more what can I do for Him?

And before you think it was an instant revelation, let me be clear. It was an uphill battle that took every bit of 4 months to gain even the slightest bit of ground at all, and I’m still not there. But it started the journey…and there is power in the journey. There is strength in even the smallest victory. And it gives us the courage to keep going.

Have you ever felt like you really missed the boat somewhere? Like everyone is doing something really fantastic and important, and you are just sitting there doing your best to make sure your kids, pets, and plants are fed and live to see another day? For the first time in my life, I’ve successfully kept plants alive for an entire summer, and I’m fairly certain that’s award, if not HGTV, worthy.  (I once had a rock garden, so believe me when I say that this is huge.)

Do you have to hide people on social media or quit it all together because you just can’t bear to see another success, award, or fabulous sunset that isn’t your own? ouch

And in the midst of my struggle, God reminded me that success doesn’t always come wrapped in the same sparkly package.

“Everyone should examine his own conduct; then he will be able to take measure of his own worth; no need to compare himself to others.” Galatians 6:4

Some people are destined for flashy and big. Some have the drive and fortitude it requires to be entrepreneurs, CEO’s, fitness guru’s, professional athletes, and best-selling authors. They were born for it. And that’s ok. Quite amazing, actually.

Some will drive fast cars, own big boats, and live in mansions. Some will be happy, fulfilled, and use their success to help others…

And some will not.

Others are destined for a more subtle life, one that most would consider “small”.

But whether big or small, it’s what we do with that life that matters.

My grandfather worked the same factory job all of his adult life (after serving for a time in the military). By the standards of many, he was not what one would call “successful.” He wasn’t flashy or big and lived in a small two-bedroom home with his wife of over 50 years and a yard the size of a postage stamp. No, he may not have had much in the bank, but I believe he was truly successful in ways that far surpass monetary value. He was faithful, honest, kind. He loved Jesus, led a service down at the mission, and cut the church grass every week. He had that old-fashioned work ethic and loyalty that so many of our grandparents possessed, and everybody loved him. In terms of my 9-year-old son, he was the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time), and I have no doubt God met him at the pearly gates and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So why do we feel like we don’t measure up unless we make more than 6 figures and/or the whole world knows our name?

Success doesn’t always come with a paycheck. Sometimes it doesn’t come with any earthly reward at all.

If we use the gifts that God has given to us for His glory, to bless others, and to further His Kingdom….then it doesn’t matter what we do for a living or how much money we do or do not make. No matter where we are in life, our goal each day should be to look around us and find a way to help others.

If only we could change our perspective and how we measure success, our sense of purpose would sky-rocket and there is no limit to what we could accomplish.

Satan would love to challenge us on that. Make us feel inferior to those around us. Stop us from doing all that he knows we can do.

But he’s wrong…

And we don’t have to listen to him.

Here are a few things that help me when Satan has me feeling like crap and hiding from the world:

  • Listen to worship music…lots of it. It feeds my mind, heart, and soul with constant reminders of God’s goodness and grace.
  • Get in the Word. Satan shrinks when we fight him with Scripture. His lies have no power when we use the Word as a sword & shield.
  • Pray. Talk to Jesus. He’s better than a BFF, because He’s always available and ready to listen. He doesn’t have dinner to make or errands to run. He’s just waiting on us.
  • Read good books. There are so many books that have helped me fight insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Uninvited by Lisa TerKeurst, Unashamed by Christine Caine, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Surround myself with encouraging people. Those people that speak truth and encouragement into my life, cheer on my victories, and pick me up when I fall.
  • Look for ways to serve. Volunteer at church, lead a small group, feed a family going through a tough time, babysit for a friend who needs a break…nothing is too small.
  • Keep fighting the lies. Always. Don’t give up. He may not ever stop trying, but it will become easier with time and practice…and it will be worth it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie