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 of 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 ‭NLT‬‬

The Pleasing Pit

We don’t become people-pleasers overnight; and at the same time, it isn’t a life sentence. We can overcome the need to please, but it takes work…and Jesus.

Guess what, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you.

Gasp.

What?!?

I know…it’s shocking.

We live in a world where everyone has an opinion about everything and that includes what they think about you. But why do we care?

Hi, I’m Theresa, and I’m a people-pleaser. 

That’s why. At least, for me it is. I’ve spent a majority of my life caring far too much what people think, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

But you know what, the desire for others to like us in itself is not a bad thing. For the most part, that’s human nature and can sometimes drive us to do amazing things. It’s when it seeps into our souls like a cancer, eats away at the good inside, and consumes our every thought that it becomes a problem.

It starts out small…

When I was 4 years old, my biological father decided he didn’t want to be a husband or a dad anymore. It wasn’t a highly emotional thing for me; in fact, I don’t remember him much at all. I think the fact that my mother surrounded us with loving people went a long way to smooth the jagged edges on both of our hearts.

But not all of them. Although I was too young to truly understand what was going on, the people-pleaser in me still felt like maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I wasn’t good enough.

And so it began…

After many years on our own and a move from the beautiful mountains of Tennessee to the blustery state of Ohio, my mom remarried a wonderful man who took me on (at the age of 9) as his own. Poor guy had no idea what he was in for, but I will love him forever for taking the plunge!

In the years that followed, our lives practically revolved around church and the affiliated Christian school that I attended, but it was an environment that constantly left me feeling inadequate. It’s a feeling that is not foreign to many who grow up in church; however, I think it is often magnified in people like me. The people-pleaser in me wanted to cross all of my t’s and dot all of my i’s…but not for the right reasons. I wanted others to like me. I wanted them to think I was a good Christian girl who did all of the right things (on the outside) so they would include me.

But the truth is, I couldn’t live up to the expectations. I didn’t even understand why I was doing some of them. So I just became really good at faking it; and to be honest, I wasn’t even good at that.

“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Then came the hurt…

I won’t go into great detail, because kids do dumb things. They shouldn’t have to relive them forever, and we are all still friends to this day.

However, during my sophomore year of high school, a friend of mine became upset  with me and started a rumor that I had done something scandalous, especially for a Christian school. It wasn’t true…but people believed it. For weeks, nobody would speak to me, even my closest friends.

Just writing this reminds me of the way I felt and has convicted me of my own guilt. How many times do we believe something that’s not true simply because it’s scandalous?  (food for thought))

Thank goodness we didn’t have social media back then. I can only imagine how this would have spiraled out of control had there been an instagram, facebook, or twitter added to an already toxic situation. It’s no wonder kids are depressed and angry now with the ability to inflict emotional pain for all the world to see at someone else’s finger tips.

The people-pleaser in me was devastated. I could no more control what people believed about me than I could control my biological father not wanting to be part of my life.

“If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection.” – Rick Warren

So I focused on something I could control…

At this point, it was the early 90’s. While the fashion was really quite awful, we still had the same pressure to look a certain way that kids have in 2016. Everyone wanted to be 90210, and it didn’t help I went through a chubby stage while all of my friends were petite and could buy the cute clothes that passed dress inspection. (tall girls with boobs, I get you!!)

To this day, I’m not exactly sure what led me to stop eating, but I honestly don’t think it was any one thing. In fact, I haven’t even told this part of my story to many who didn’t walk through it with me. Partially, because I’m afraid of what people will think….and partially, because I don’t want to put ideas in impressionable minds. The hell I went through called “anorexia” is not a place I would wish on anyone. It’s not a solution, and it has long-lasting effects. Some permanent.

But it happened….and it consumed 5 years of my life.

What started out as a need to fit in and impress people turned into an avalanche of all the pent up emotions throughout the years…and it almost killed me. I thank God every day He brought me out of it, but not once have I wished it didn’t happen. It took me to a place of complete dependence on Him, and it made me identify and face what led me there in the first place. I am who I am because of where I have been.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..” Genesis 50:20

Maybe you’ve been through traumatic events in your life as well…events that created the people-pleaser that lies inside of you. Maybe you are going through one now. I see you. I understand. It’s hard, but it’s worth the fight against it.

We are all uniquely gifted. Different talents, different shapes, different sizes.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:4

We need to start embracing those things that make us special and stop worrying about what others think about them. As long as we are good with Jesus, then we are good. Claim it. Own it. And don’t forget it. He’s got us.

“The more I fill myself with God’s Truth, the less I need validation from others.” – Lysa TerKeurst

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Because we are all in this together…

I married a baller.

No, not like “the Rock” kind of Baller (although I’m sure my man wouldn’t hate the comparison), but the kind of baller that at one time or another has played, coached, or binge-watched every sport known to man. (Maybe you married one of those too, and we can hang out every Sunday afternoon from now until we die. Call me.)

So when Shane and I embarked on this little journey called “life” together, I knew at some point we would most likely produce a little baller of our own. It seemed inevitable…and became even more of a probability once we realized we could only produce boys. However, while the first two willingly participated in many sports, there never was that burning fire inside that drove them to diligently practice for hours on end or force themselves to do every day tasks with their non-dominant hands. (apparently, that is a thing)

And surprisingly enough, my baller husband was ok with it. I expected him to be all “Crazy Sports Dad,” but he had seen so many of those throughout his years of playing and coaching that he had determined not to become one himself. I was impressed.

Then came Kid #3.

If you look up baller in the dictionary, I’m sure you will see a picture of Hayes, or at least you should. Straight from the womb, this kid was on fire. So of course, we registered him for every sport possible as soon as he was eligible, because he was chomping at the bit and that’s exactly what he wanted. Happy dad.

It was pretty great until we realized we had more to work on than just form and technique.

For instance, take (age 5) when we told him he needed to stop hogging the ball and let others have an opportunity to score. After clearly struggling with the decision, he reluctantly kicked the soccer ball over to a delighted girl in pigtails who then proceeded to kick it straight into the stands. Face red and arms crossed, Hayes immediately looked over at us from across the field and yelled, “THAT’S THE LAST TIME I EVER DO THAT!!!”

Proud parenting moment right there, let me tell you.

Or how about the times his older brother advanced in either stripes or belts before he did in jiu jitsu, and he cried biguglytears…while complaining loudly about the injustice? Fun times.

I’d love to say that we were able to take these teachable moments and imprint upon his little baller brain that it is important to be a team player, cheer your friends and teammates on to success, and win or lose graciously. However, if it were that easy, there would be no Tom Brady’s, Lebron’s, or Cam Newton’s now would there. (no offense, Cam, we still love you)

No, there have been plenty of highs and lows, bad attitudes and ego trips in his 8 short years; and I am sure there will be many more to come.

So when we started off the football season this year, I was nervous…especially after he made the first touchdown and celebrated like he had just won the Super Bowl. I wondered if he would be able to give up the spotlight and cheer for his teammates, put the team first and fight together for the win; but to my surprise and relief, he did!

Somewhere along the way, he began to see that working together and celebrating each other is important. It’s what makes people love being part of a team. It’s what makes someone a true baller. 

“Someone else’s success does not rob you of anything.” – Christine Caine

So why do we grown ups often forget this important truth ourselves?

When something good happens to a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker, our worth does not become less because of it. Yet so many times, we feel like another’s success somehow magnifies our failures.

“We have an enemy, and it’s not each other.” – Lysa TerKeurst

Satan would love nothing more than to use the good things in a person’s life to alienate and damage relationships. By whispering lies, he manipulates our emotions to keep us from working together toward a common goal and building each other up. Don’t you see? If he can divide us, then he can conquer and render us useless in furthering the Kingdom. It’s been his plan all along!

But God has a better plan,

“Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up the other.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” It happens to be a favorite in our home; because as a family of five, nothing gets done unless we work as a team.

But the truth of the matter is we are all on the same team in this life. We are all working towards a common goal. My weakness may be your strength, and your weakness may be my strength. So why not capitalize instead of compete? Can you imagine what we could accomplish together if we started celebrating each other?

The devil certainly doesn’t want us to find out. He will do everything in his power to keep us divided. But thanks to our gracious Heavenly Father, he isn’t on the throne, and we don’t have to listen to his lies. The battle has already been won, our Almighty God is victorious, and we are His team. Let’s act like it.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving House

When we look past the ordinary and find the extraordinary…

Recently, our family made a long-anticipated move from a house in the city to what we consider a house in the country. It’s literally 5 minutes down the road, but everything changed from stores frequented and schools attended to farm animals and spiders the size of my fist. Not.a.fan. However, as sad as we were to leave behind the comfort of the familiar, we have quickly grown to love many things about our new home.

Whether it be watching the sun rise over the fields as we drive to school in the morning or admiring the horses, pigs, and old houses as we head into town, we’ve found new sights to see and new things to discuss.

For example, it was not long after our move that I broke from my morning pre-caffeinated trance and noticed a little old house on my way to work. Tucked back between an old billboard and a cluster of trees, the tiny shack could have easily been missed had it not been for the middle-aged woman bustling about outside that caught my eye. At first I didn’t think much of it for there are many different kinds of homes scattered along the way. Some big, some small…some mobile, and some abandoned.

This one had clearly seen better days; but for some reason it stuck with me, and I began to look for it.

Every day as I passed, I saw this same woman, coarse dark hair pulled back in a bright scarf and a dirty apron covering her simple clothing, sweeping the porch or the driveway, watering potted plants hanging from splintered beams, or sitting with a glass of tea in a weathered but colorful chair soaking in the sun or the breeze, depending on which the temperamental NC summer decided to give us.

And every day, I admired her.

I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know her story. I often like to watch people and try to imagine what that might be. However, what I do know is that she doesn’t have much as far as material possessions are concerned, but she clearly takes pride in the little she has….and that struck a chord in my heart.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.”  1 Timothy 6:6-7

Why is it that the people who seem to have so little often appreciate what they have so much more? This sweet woman doesn’t hunch her shoulders and drag her broom muttering under her breath about her misfortune. Even from my passing car, I can see she stands tall and sweeps with fervency and pride, making her little house a home where she and her family can find comfort and rest.

It pricked my conscience and made me think. There have been times in my life that I knew what it was like to have very little. When I spent years as a young child living in a small trailer with my single mother eating rice and bologna every way one can fix rice and bologna, then later in the first years of our marriage when we were in ministry and barely making ends meet…I’ll admit my attitude was not nearly as gracious, nor did I take pride in the little we had.

But now, so many years later, I am beginning to realize the error of my ways and the sobering truth of the matter. It’s not the house that makes a home. It’s not the perfectly manicured lawns or the white picket fence. It’s not the elaborate meals or the expensive toys (for both young and old).

It’s the people. It’s the life we live and the love we share. It’s coming together to help one another in times of need. It’s being thankful for the blessings God has given us.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

So as we approach Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and the Christmas season soon to follow, I want to remember what this woman unknowingly taught me with her diligence and sweet spirit in less than desirable circumstances. It isn’t about what we don’t have or what we think we need. It isn’t about perfection or impressing others.

It is all about Jesus, what we DO have, and how He graciously meets our needs in miraculous ways each and every day. 

And in case you were wondering about our sweet friend who has become so dear (in a non-stalkerish kind of way), the onset of colder days has driven her and her pretty little plants inside, but we won’t soon forget her precious example and the lesson she has taught…and we look forward to seeing her once again in the warmer days of spring.

 

 

 

Am I a Bergen or Troll?

Bergen…or Troll. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice, does it? This weekend I took my two Littles to see the new Troll movie while the Bigs went to an action flick; and to be completely honest, I’ve never in my life owned a Troll doll or even liked Troll anything. In fact, they always looked a little creepy to me. But the boys wanted to see it, they actually looked cute (kind of like rainbow Smurfs)…and Justin Timberlake is in it. Enough said. (Don’t worry, I won’t give too many spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.)

Now, I don’t know how it is with your children when you go to the theater; but once my guys step foot inside the front doors, they act as if they are suddenly dying of hunger and thirst even if they just ate 5 minutes ago. It’s no longer enough that we spend a gas tank’s worth on movie tickets, they now expect to add a grocery bill in snacks to make the movie “extra special.” I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy, and theaters in fact pump mind altering drugs from their vents giving everyone inside the munchies. Mark.my.words.

Being the professional parents that we are not, they usually get away with a drink (to share), maybe some popcorn, and some candy (that may or may not be smuggled in at times…I will never tell). So drink and candy in hand, we find our seats just as the movie starts.

Just to give you a little background information without giving anything away, the Trolls are these adorable little creatures who are always happy, sing and dance about everything, poop cupcakes, and love to hug. (and I totally want one…or ten) On the other hand, the Bergens are large ugly creatures who hate life, need major dental work, and think the only way to find happiness is by eating a Troll. (sounds legit) Every year, the Bergens hold a festival in which they each eat a Troll, that has been captured and held captive, to find their moment of “true happiness;” and this particular year is the first time the Bergen King Gristle Jr. has been allowed to participate.

Now, if you really don’t want a spoiler, you may not want to read any further. However, this part of the story is important for where I am going with this. 

So here we are at the festival, as the young Gristle Jr. is preparing to eat his first Troll so that he can finally experience “true happiness;” and at this exact moment, Hayes hands me his Skittles bag to open whispering, “I can’t open this. Can you? Make sure you don’t drop them.” Famous last words.

I’m not even kidding when I say this….but it was like slow motion.

Gristle Jr. takes a bite of his highly anticipated first Troll only to discover he has been thwarted by the escaped Trolls just as I rip open the bag of Skittles sending every.last.one. of them flying into the air and all over the people around us.

It literally rained Skittles for at least five minutes; and just when we thought it was over, someone moved and sent yet more Skittles pinging across the floor.

The look on Hayes’ face mirrored that of Gristle Jr. Complete and utter horror.

Gristle Jr.: “How am I supposed to be happy NOW?!”

Hayes: “This movie is completely RUINED. I don’t even want to watch it now!”

And I’m sitting there thinking I just stepped into the Twilight Zone and wondering if there is enough room to climb under my seat. But then it hit me.

True happiness is not in people, things, or circumstances. We say we know this, right? But while it is hard for an 8-year-old to understand this truth, it is just as hard for us as adults to accept. We think that the work promotion, new car, bigger house, or designer handbag is going to make us happy. But the truth is, we only turn around and want something else…something bigger, something better. It’s never enough, and we end up forever chasing happiness just like the ugly Bergens…only with better teeth. Bottom line is that true happiness isn’t in something tangible. It is found in Jesus and only in Him can we truly be content. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NIV

So instead of climbing under my seat (I know you wondered what happened with that), I turned to Hayes as he sat pouting and whispered, “Are you a Bergen or a Troll?”

Blank stare (but he was listening)

“Are you a Bergen who thinks the only thing that will make you happy right now is a bag of Skittles? Or are you a Troll who will be disappointed…but will still enjoy the really cute movie we are watching?”

Bingo. Light bulb. And the fact that I even suggested he was remotely close to the ugly Bergens was enough to make him sit a little taller and re-engage with the movie before us.

The fact of the matter is, this little lesson ended up being more for me than it was for him. Yes, it helped him put things into perspective. Yes, I plan to use the Bergen/Troll analogy again for other seemingly catastrophic events (of which he has many). But even more importantly, it made me ask myself the hard questions. What is true happiness to me? and Am I a Bergen or a Troll?

Oh and by the way, for those of you worried about the poor kid’s Skittles…yes, I did suck it up and go buy him a bag of ridiculously over-priced candy from the concession stand…and yes, I did leave a trail of Skittles along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Fear

Let me begin by saying that I in no way think I am a writer. I love writing. I’ve taught classes on writing. I’ve graded papers on writing. People have told me they like my writing. However, I do not consider myself a writer.

Why? Fear. 

Fear of criticism. Fear of judgement. Fear of failure.

If you haven’t noticed, we live in a world that is extremely unforgiving. People hide behind screens and keyboards spouting off whenever they disagree. They may live three states away or clear across the world, but they feel it is their moral obligation to weigh in on whether your parenting skills are up to par or your personal views match their own. It’s intimidating, to say the least.

But fear is not of God…

“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 1 Tim. 1:7

So exactly one year ago, I created this blog after many friends prodded me to do so, and even wrote a post after a particularly challenging morning. However, other than sharing it with a few of my best cheerleaders, I kept it to myself feeling the need to prove I could keep it up before making it public. At least that’s what I told myself.

Then Satan crept in with his lies and reminded me that I am not a writer, that writing a blog would only open myself up to criticism and judgement, that I am not equipped to take on something as transparent and vulnerable as this…and I believed him.

So I sat on this blog for a year. Trying to forget what I started. Trying to ignore the books, devotionals, sermons that reminded me I was ignoring a God-given gift and passion. Trying to ignore the encouragement from my cheerleaders and friends. Trying to justify my fear and inadequacies.

But,

“Lies flee in the presence of truth.” – Lysa TerKeurst

I don’t know how much a silly blog about dealing with a house full of testosterone is really going to add to the Kingdom, but I do know that Satan would love to make me feel like a failure before I even begin to try. He would love to take my past hurts and insecurities to make me feel inadequate. Less than. Unequipped.

Thank goodness,

“He does not call the equipped…He equips the called.” – Rick Yancey

“May he 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

And nothing proved this more to me than when a childhood friend started sharing a blog about his journey from heroine addiction to recovery. I had no idea what he had gone through during the years since I last saw him; but reading the transparency, vulnerability, and the courage behind his words convicted me like nothing else has in a long time. Here I am afraid to open myself up to judgy parents…and he has bared his soul and battle with inner demons.

So here I go…not a writer, not a blogger, and certainly not a perfect parent, wife, daughter, or friend. But by the grace of God, fear will no longer keep me from this.

When Mornings Suck.

This may be a given in your home…or you may not be human or have other humans living with you. But mornings at our place tend to suck. It’s an area we are constantly trying to improve, usually taking two steps back and one step forward. However, I don’t like sending my guys off for their day after World Wars 1, 2, AND 3 have been fought…and often lost; so we always try to redeem the suckage at some point before their feet hit school property.

Take this morning, for instance. My 7-year-old handed me a pair of dirty pants to iron (yes, I know…I should have ironed the night before. Like I said, “work in progress.”). And we are not talking about pants that can be snatched from the dirty clothes basket and brushed off for yet another wear. Believe me, I tried.

And apparently, he had no “tan” pants that were clean…but he had plenty of clean black and blue pants. Problem solved, right? Nope. Somewhere along the way, this child acquired an aversion to “colored” pants (please, don’t get me started). No.Worries. It’s going to be warm enough for shorts today. WRONG. He couldn’t bear the thought of wearing shorts when it is clearly fall and therefore pant weather! What.was.I.thinking.

So there were tears. LOTS of tears….and there was yelling. LOTS of yelling. And at one point, I thought, “We aren’t going anywhere today. My husband is going to come home and find us both passed out from all the tears and all the yelling.”

Finally, after a phone call to daddy and numerous empty threats (we are talking early bedtimes until he graduates college), I stopped and realized I was acting like a crazed lunatic. Seriously, people. Maury Povich would want me for his show.

Why do I let this happen? Why do I take the bait – hook, line, and sinker? The more angry I become, the more stubborn and emotional the child; but I do it all.the.time.

Hey friend, Satan knows our weaknesses. He knows our triggers. He knows I’m tired and stressed, and he knew that this morning’s fashion wars would send me straight into orbit.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…” John 10:10a

When I finally took a moment and recognized this spiritual attack for what it was, I did what I should have done in the beginning. I prayed. First by myself and then with my son.

Why is prayer so often our last resort? Satan cannot steal our joy if we do not let him.

And after we prayed, I apologized to Hayes for acting the way I did. Satan would love nothing more than to use my poor behavior as a stumbling block to my children; but what Satan means for evil, God uses for goodwhen we let Him.

“…MY purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10b

I would love to say that the rest of the morning was all Care Bears and rainbows…but then that wouldn’t be real life, now would it. The point is…from that point on, I didn’t let Satan steal my joy. Not even when the darling child refused to get out of the car. Not even when he said walking in late to class by himself was “weird” but didn’t want me to go with him either. Not even though it was HIS fault we were late in the first place. Not.Even.Then. BLESS.