faith, Inspiration, Marriage, Self-Image, women

Do It Afraid

This past week, I spoke at one of our Women’s Events at church along with three amazing friends. Even writing that sentence makes me laugh, because I am not a speaker nor have I ever thought I would do something like this. I’m a writer. I write words on paper, and people read them. That’s my comfort zone, wheelhouse, niche….whatever you want to call it, that’s it.

So when I was approached by my dear friend and mentor to share my story at this event, my first thought was a big, fat NOPE. I think I may have laughed. Or thrown up. I don’t even know.

But what I said was….yes. And I am still shaking my head, because I’ve questioned myself many times how that happened. The people-pleaser in me probably just didn’t want to disappoint her, but I was scared to death. And I know my friends were too.

You know, fear does some crazy things to us. It puts us in a box, locks the door, and throws away the key. It makes us hide behind the things we do best and never venture out into the unknown. It builds walls, shuts people out, and isolates us from those who care. It keeps us from sharing our true selves, scars and all.

And it is a liar.

Three years ago almost to the day, I created this blog, and I even wrote my first blog post. But other than showing it to a few close friends, I never told anyone else about it for a long time. A year, to be exact.

I was terrified. I knew that by sharing my work, I was opening myself up to being vulnerable, not only about my writing but also about what I would inevitably share. And it paralyzed me.

But throughout that year, God worked on me and brought me to a place of surrender. He reminded me that He does not call the equipped, He equips the called. He reminded me that fear is not of Him, it is a skilled liar, but lies flee in the presence of truth.

So I shared my blog with the world; and with it, a post on Fear. And after some time, encouragement, and support, I was ok with it. Comfortable. Or at least, more comfortable than I was. The introvert in me will never be completely comfortable with vulnerability; but at least, it no longer crippled me.

Then this.

Public speaking.

You’ve got to be kidding me, God.

And there it was again. The fear I thought I’d left behind was back and more powerful than before. It told me I am not a speaker. It told me my mess is ugly, un-sharable, and full of shame. It told me people would look at me differently. It told me to let someone else do it. It told me to quit.

But I didn’t.

Not because I’m brave. Not because I had conquered my fear. Nothing as grand as that. I wish!

No, it’s because of the promise God made to us in Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And it just so happens, this passage was the one we were using as our key scripture for the night, so fancy that.

He promises that nothing will be wasted. No sin, no pain, no dark day, or sleepless night. He promises to bring beauty from ashes, and we believed that sharing our stories was part of fulfilling that promise.

But I was still afraid. Terrified, really. I didn’t sleep for weeks and could think of little else. I was beginning to worry that I really couldn’t do it. If I was this afraid, then maybe I shouldn’t.

However, the night before our event, a sweet friend saw my fear and said these words to me, “Sometimes you just have to do it afraid.”

Why is it that sometimes the simplest of words can stop us in our tracks and somehow change us…

Do it afraid.

She reminded me that when God asked Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, Moses gave every excuse in the book of why he couldn’t. But God promised him that he could. And he did. Even afraid.

We tell our kids to do it all the time. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” And “Just Do It.” So why don’t we listen to ourselves?

Our youngest son plays football, and he loves playing defense. Ok, he loves to tackle. That’s his favorite. So when the Quarterback was injured at the beginning of the season, his coaches decided to try Hayes in the position. The thing is, Hayes didn’t want to play Quarterback. It scared him. Too much responsibility. Too much room for error. Too much – no, thank you.

It somewhat surprised me though. It’s an important role, and this is the same kid who told me my next tattoo should be “Hayes is the GOAT.”  So it didn’t add up. But he was mad about it. For the next week, we heard how much he did NOT want this and had to do our best to change that.

But he was scared. He had never played that position before, and he didn’t think he could do it. He was afraid to fail.

On some level, we are all afraid to fail.

But no guts no glory, right? So he finally just went out there and gave it his best shot, and he did it afraid. Turns out, he wasn’t half bad at it. In fact, he was pretty good. And better yet, he even liked it!

And the same happened when my friends and I stepped out in faith & fear and did what we felt God calling us to do. Share our stories in front of over 500 women. Now I wouldn’t say I loved it or that it was even great. My hand was shaking the entire 9.2 minutes I was talking. But I walked away knowing I had been obedient. And the testimonies that have been shared as a result of that evening have been incredible. To God be the glory.

What would happen if we would stop letting fear dictate our path? What if we stopped letting it cripple us and keep us from our God-given purpose and calling? God knows our strengths and weaknesses. He’s not going to call us to do something we can’t. If He is leading us to take a leap of faith, He’s going to equip us to carry it out.

“Now may the God of peace…equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.” – Hebrews 13:21

How many blessings have we missed because of fear? How many opportunities lost because we are afraid?

I think I’d rather not know.

But the best part of our story is that it isn’t over, and we don’t have to let it happen again. We can stop letting fear bully us and keep us from all God has in store for our lives. And we can start doing it now.

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Photo: Megan Holland//Opendoor Church

Devotional, Encouragement, health, Inspiration, Motherhood

Created to Crave

For those of us who live in the Carolinas, we just came through a hurricane. And anyone who has ever been housebound for days on end due to weather-related issues knows that this is a recipe for caloric disaster.

First, we stockpile all of the snacks. All of them. All the things you save for trips and vacations, birthdays, and Christmas. If it has carbohydrates and sugar, we buy them. If it was something we ate when we were 12, it’s a must. Nothing is off limits.

It’s like it’s the end times and calories don’t count during natural disasters. Except they do. But we can’t worry about that, because we’ve got cookies to bake.

And I did bake. Mind you, I don’t even like baking. I literally baked two pans of brownies and 4 dozen cookies which were all inhaled within a 4-day window. It was impressive, to say the least.

But have you ever noticed that the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave? I’m hypoglycemic, so I try not to eat a lot of sugar on a regular basis. Don’t pat me on the back just yet. Aside from the fact that I like to eat a fairly healthy diet, eating sugar simply makes me feel awful. Anyone who experiences it knows what I mean. It’s not fun, so most of the time it’s just not worth it.

However, sometimes I succumb to the temptation, and brownies are usually to blame. Crunchy on the corners and soft and gooey on the inside. As my youngest would say, they are manna from heaven.

The interesting thing about eating junk food is that no matter how lousy it makes me feel, I find myself craving it more than usual after I’ve eaten it. I can go months on end without one morsel of sweet, then a single bite is like a shot of crack in my veins and I’m suddenly a junkie looking for my next fix. (I don’t even know if you shoot crack..but it sounded good.)

And I learned a long time ago that our minds work the same way. When we feed our minds trash by what we watch, read, or listen to, we end up feeling yuck. Negative thoughts bombard our minds, toward ourselves and toward others. We become insecure and angry, often lashing out at those we love. We suddenly question our values and beliefs. We think maybe some things aren’t so bad after all…even though they very clearly go against everything we know is true. And we are well aware of the fact that it is happening.

But the crazy thing is that we end up wanting more of it. More trash breeding more negativity and confusion.

And the cycle goes on.

But have you ever noticed what happens after you go on a fast or clean out your system? Just about everyone I know experiences this at least once a year in January. You know the drill. The new year rolls around, so you clean out the pantry and hit the gym.

It’s like the clouds lift. We can think more clearly. Our bodies suddenly have energy. We sleep better. And the sugar cravings are gone.

It’s miraculous, and we vow to never let it happen again. Until we do.

But our mind works the exact same way.

When we feed our mind good things – healthy things that cultivate a positive thought life, we crave more of it and less of the trash.

So what do we do? Most of us are busy moms that are constantly on the go. Maybe the last book you read was before you gave birth for the first time…or for that dreadful college Lit class. We don’t always have time to sit down and read a book that isn’t on a 2nd-grade reading level or doesn’t qualify for AR points. And worship music is great…but sometimes it can only go so far.

So what do we do?

What we can.

That’s it. We do what we can in this season of life, but we have to do something. Filling our minds with nothing is almost as dangerous as filling them with the wrong things. Satan can have a field day in an empty head.

The great thing about the times in which we live is that we have so many resources at our fingertips. Resources that our moms will be the first to tell us they didn’t have. In fact, I could have used some of them myself when the boys were little.

For example, I recently jumped on the podcast train. I know I’m late to the party, but I finally gave it a try because I needed something on-the-go. And honestly, I don’t know what has taken me so long to do it. They’re fantastically easy and good. We moms spend so much time in the car that it just makes sense to utilize that time for something more than zoning out or yelling at the traffic. (even though that’s fun too)

So whatever it is that works for you in this season, do it. Read or listen to good books that build your faith, strengthen your marriage, make you a better mom or friend. Stream a podcast or watch an online Bible Study that does the same. Play worship music as you fold laundry or run errands. Join a small group or meet for coffee with an encouraging friend. And the list goes on.

But what I’m trying to say is this. Our days and minds are already filled with random (but important) clutter. Things that zap our energy and stress us out. We can’t afford to fill our heads with negative things when we have so very little room to spare. So find what encourages you, ask others for ideas, and share yours with them. We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out.

“What you feed  your mind determines your appetite.” – Tim Ziglar

What are you feeding your mind right now? What works for you in this season? What podcasts do you love? I’d love to hear it all, so feel free to share!

Here are a few podcasts my friends & I love that target various seasons of life:

Havilah Cunnington (Havilah’s Podcast) – She covers all things related to women, family, being a wife and mom, & spiritual growth, etc.

Jefferson & Alyssa Bethke (The Real Life) – A husband-wife team that talks about marriage, family, young children, and God.

Sadie Roberson (Whoa That’s Good) – She may be young and target teens and young adults, but she’s got some good stuff to say for all ages.

Sally Clarkson (At Home With Sally) – She is a veteran mother with four grown children and has so much godly wisdom to share.

Janet Lansbury (Respectful Parenting: Unruffled) – She covers parenting and behavioral issues.

John Rosemond – He is a parenting guru that covers all things parents encounter with children of all ages.

David Ramsey – He is full of financial advice and tips to motivate you to reach your financial goals.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.                      Phillippians 4:8-9

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.

________________________