He Covers

He Covers

As I laid in bed with my daughter telling her stories before bedtime, we could hear the thunder getting louder. At first it was so faint, she was unaffected by the distant rumbles.

A few minutes later, the claps of thunder got closer and louder. She stopped for a moment and held still, realizing a storm was beginning to pass over us. “Can you get closer to me, momma?”

A couple more booms and she interrupted our story. “Momma…can you get your arms and hands and hold me?”

I moved as close as I could to her and wrapped my arms around her, holding her head close to my chest. I could feel her nervousness in the tension of her little body. I hated that she so scared, but I loved being right there with her—guarding over her, wrapped around her. We finished our story and I sang our nightly lullaby. Ever so slowly her breathing softened and her muscles relaxed.

Even after she fell asleep, I laid there for a few extra minutes absorbing the sweetness of my girl’s words—“can you get your arms and hands and hold me?” I loved that I was her security. I loved that I was the one that brought her comfort and peace. I loved it because sometimes…I just need that too.

Whether it’s been one of those days, or I’m in the thick of a really challenging life issue, there are times my heart begs God, “Can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?” Some days I just need to feel that comfort and security wrapped around me and covering me completely.

God, can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?

God’s Word says that he is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), our rock, fortress, deliverer and shield (Psalm 18:2). The entire book of Psalms is overflowing with people’s pleas for God’s rescuing, as well as declarations of God’s faithfulness.

After I lost our first baby six years ago, I laid in an ER bed trying to process the emotional and physical brokenness that I had just endured. The chaplain walked in to talk with us. He laid a mint green shawl down the length of my body, covering me. It was crocheted by a hospital ministry and given to mommas who had just lost a baby. Over the next few weeks, I held it, I wrapped it around my, and I covered myself with it. And every time I physically covered my body with it, my heart was being covered too.

As humans, we all have this need to be covered in different ways. We need shelter to cover our families. We need clothing to cover our bodies. We need bandages to cover our wounds. Maybe you’ve even heard the expression, “I’m covering you in prayer.” We are all in need of covering.

Even now, as I pray at night, I ask God to cover my life and everyone and everything in it. Cover it with his protection, his blessing, his anointing.

When it seems like darkness is swallowing the world, He covers.

When evil threatens the security of our hearts and minds, He covers.

When anxiety attempts to steal our peace, He covers.

It doesn’t mean that the pain dissolves—but He promises to cover you with comfort. It doesn’t mean that brokenness disappears—but He promises to cover with restoration.

Our God is a God who covers. He sees and knows and covers. His love covers you and it destroys fear. His light covers you and it drives out darkness.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

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My baby. She was finally here. She was healthy and in my arms…and she was perfect.

We bought a new home only 3 weeks before her arrival. It had way more space than our tiny, one bedroom condo. It was a place to finally call our own. A place where we could paint every wall hot pink if we wanted to because it was ours. There was room to grow. It was perfect.

Everything was perfect…except it wasn’t.

The immediate months following my transition into motherhood were hard. Really hard. I constantly wondered how every other new parent was able to handle it all, while I was slowly crumbling.

The sleep deprivation alone was enough to break any person into a hundred pieces. But there were also the changing hormones, the new dynamic between me and my husband, and the heavy responsibility of being another human being’s everything. And on top of it all, came the constant arguing, the deep anxiety and the paralyzing panic attacks. I felt so sad that I was almost numb. The scenarios I worried about were not only irrational, they were extreme.

It was all balled up together like a bowl of tangled, spaghetti noodles—everything intertwined and knotted. One thing seemed to affect another thing which led to another, and another and another. I couldn’t find the beginning or end. And I could no longer decipher an irrational meltdown from a logical concern. It was all the same. I was tired and empty and felt completely alone.

I resented my husband for not doing more. Not taking the baby more. Not cleaning more. Not helping me more. But when he offered to help, I didn’t even know which of the moving pieces to give him. I was juggling it all and if I handed off the baby, or gave him one task or chore or action, the whole thing would fall apart. It was just easier if I did it. I felt myself getting dangerously worn but I felt too guilty to stop. There was no solution—I either resented him for not helping or I felt gut-wrenchingly guilty for asking for help. I was the mom. I was the one who was supposed to be able to do it all. Right?

But the single working part that I had become starting breaking. One person can only go or do so much before they just…can’t anymore.

And that’s where I found myself. I couldn’t. I barely recognized the woman in the mirror. Even worse, I didn’t like her anymore.

I longed to be a momma my entire life, so needing help felt like I was failing at the one thing that I always aspired to be. Nobody told me it would be this hard. Nobody told me that parenthood would test the endurance of my marriage, challenge my emotional and spiritual condition, and make me question my own self-identity.

I had heard of “baby blues.” What a cute, non-threatening label. I had also heard of “postpartum depression.” That term sounded more medical and serious, but still, I didn’t truly know what it was. I had never even heard of “postpartum anxiety.”

My preconception of postpartum depression led me to believe that it was uncommon, and when a woman did experience it, it was within the first few weeks of having a baby. I was far passed the few weeks mark—my baby was 5 months old—so it had to be something else. Maybe motherhood just wasn’t as natural for me as I thought it would be. Maybe I needed to get away for a while. Maybe my husband and I were growing apart. Maybe I was just losing it.

I wanted to be a mom and I loved my baby and I was healthy and young. I had a new home, a great husband, and beautiful healthy baby. What was there to be depressed about?

Yet, I was suffocating. I hadn’t expressed my feelings to anyone. Not to the degree in which they were exploding inside of me. All my mommy-friends looked like they had their lives together. It seemed as if motherhood was a breeze for them. They were happy and organized…and showered. I was barely functioning.

And after 5 months of feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted, I realized it wasn’t getting better. In fact, everything was getting worse.

I wasn’t just tired. I wasn’t just feeling the newness of being a momma. I wasn’t just “in a funk”.

It went deeper. So much deeper.

Finally, I met my breaking point. “I need help. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I wasn’t crying for help with the dishes or housework or holding the baby. I needed help with my entire life. My marriage, my mind, my body.

I called my doctor. I called my pastor’s wife. I called my mom. I talked to my husband. I went to a professional counselor. And I began to open up with the moms around me. Just saying those 3 words were freeing in itself—“I need help.”

The moment I began to feel the warmth from the intentional support of others, my hope and clarity began to restore. I had existed in hopelessness and helplessness for so long that hope felt…strange. Strange but wonderful. Like a precious friend you haven’t seen in years—you know them well, yet don’t fully recognize them.

Because there were so many different kinds of issues and struggles going on inside of me—and because new pains had mixed with resurfaced ones—it took everyone on my “team” to help me. My husband, my pastor’s wife, my counselor, my doctor, my momma-friends. Each person helped me in different, vital ways. Each contributed a level of healing.

My doctor and I came up with a 3 week plan. Three weeks of counseling, being intentional with what I was eating, how I was exercising, spending time in the sunshine, allowing myself time to be alone. After the 3 weeks, I would have a follow-up appointment to reassess how I was doing and see if there was any improvement. If there wasn’t much improvement, we would then discuss incorporating medicine. It wasn’t night an overnight “cure” but within the first few days of starting my new routine, I noticed an improvement. I could already breathe easier. Because this was an ongoing process, I remained intentional with my self-care routine and stayed aware of how I was feeling.

My senses felt crisper. I was living again, not just surviving. And it happened because I spoke out.

Postpartum depression and anxiety can vary in appearance from momma to momma. Its heaviness can gradually grow like single grains of sand slowly piling up. Or it can come on very suddenly. There isn’t a definitive list of emotions or symptoms and there isn’t an exact timeframe as to when it can happen. And I think that’s why it can go undetected or ignored for so long.

If you’ve recently had a baby—even within the last year—and you feel overwhelmed, hopeless and completely empty to the point of feeling like you can’t function as a person, I encourage you to speak up for yourself. Talk to a professional. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I know that you want to be the absolute best momma to your baby. I know you may feel guilty asking for help or wanting to take time for yourself. But in order to fill up the ones around you, you have to be filled yourself. Caring for yourself—mind, body and spirit—should remain a top priority. I’m not sure why there is still such a stigma around postpartum depression but I can tell you with complete certainty, you are not alone, you are not failing and there is nothing to be ashamed about. I promise you, there is help nearby and things are going to get better.

Being an Ok Mom

Being an Ok Mom

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“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” -Jill Churchill

I’ve read the parenting articles and the blog posts and the books. They’re meant to be encouraging. And for the most part, they are. They talk about how every little, seemingly insignificant thing you do to invest in your children is worth the effort—that the small things are ultimately making a big difference in the grand scheme of things. That every book you read to them helps make them smarter and more imaginative. That every encouraging word spoken to them is helping make them more confident, loving people. And all of that…is true and wonderful. But what about the days that I didn’t read any books to them? What about the days when the things I put into them were not life-changing words or empowering actions, but instead, only gold fish and mac ‘n cheese? What about the days where I had more meltdowns than they did and I wished someone would have made me go take a nap or sit in timeout?

What about those days?

What about the days where I barely make it to my bed, just to melt into a energy-less puddle of blah, only to lay there half-asleep (which is the highest degree moms’ sleep at) because my brain is always on, listening for little cries or voices calling for me in the middle of the night.

What about the days where I used every ounce of my energy and still feel like I don’t have anything to show for it? I gave my everything. And still, it didn’t seem to be enough.

What about on those days?

Because if I’m totally honest, I feel like a failure of a mom on those days. And it kills me because those crazy little people that I have the honor of calling my children…they’re pretty spectacular. And they deserve a great mom. Because they’re great.

But the number of OK days far exceed the great days. The days that end in a deep sigh of relief and “I’m just glad I kept everyone alive today” are far more numerous than the “Wow, I did an amazing job today. I really did the best I could have for my kids.”

It’s not like I intentionally ignore my kids. I don’t enjoy asking them to play quietly in the corner so I can make some phone calls. It makes my heart ache when I tell them mommy can’t play right now—that I can’t join in on the epic tea party that they’ve invited me to. I don’t like telling them that the living room fort will have to wait because I have to do laundry…or vacuum…or wash dishes…or pee by myself.

And after thinking about, and praying for, and longing to flourish in this momma role, I’ve noticed that this battle I seem to keep fighting boils down to 3 things:

1. I need to be ok with days that I’m just an ok mom. Yeah, no fluffy words here. No mom wakes up saying, “I’m going to be a subpar mom today!” We all want to be rockstars at this thing called parenthood. But even rockstars trip on stage and fall flat on their faces sometimes. It’s hard to be worn out and feel like a failure. Knowing your zapped energy didn’t produce anything super life enriching for your kids is a hard pill to swallow. At the end of a day like today, the only thing left to say is,”Well that sucked big time.” And when that kind of a day comes to a close and I find myself crying because I don’t have anything good to show for my weariness, I talk to Jesus and thank Him that tomorrow is a fresh day. It’s a suck-free, new beginning. And I can be OK admitting that I was just OK today…and try to be better tomorrow.

2. My lack reveals my deep need for God’s grace in my life and displays the fullness of Jesus. I can’t be everything to my kids. They need Jesus. Shocker…I can’t do it all. And not only can’t I do it all, I’m sometimes going to fail when I’m trying to do even the simple things. (Great pep talk, huh?) But when I acknowledge my insufficiencies and need for Jesus, my kids see that too. Mommy needs Jesus too. When I mess-up, I can use that to display the beautiful act of forgiveness by apologizing for my own mistakes and asking them to forgive me. I can help them see the real forgiveness of Jesus close-up and offer them the opportunity to extend grace to me. They see a flawed person who needs Jesus and depends on Him every day. Mommy needs Jesus. And so do they.

3. Even on the days I feel like I failed, my love for them wins. Every time. Every. Single. Time. Do I have days where I just want to throw my hands up in the air and scream, “I want a redo!” Oh yeah. Are there days where mommy wants to say bad words and eat a gallon of ice cream by herself in the closet? Oh heck yes. But there is not one single day that goes by where my love for them isn’t fierce. And it’s that love that fuels me to do another day well for them. It’s the gratitude I have for being given the opportunity to be their momma that pushes me to keep navigating.

Motherhood is not easy (Umm, duh.) It uses everything you have and just when you think you’re empty, it wrings out every molecule of your body. But motherhood is also really really awesome. And if we can all just stick together as moms, encourage each other on the hard days and cheer for each other on the good days—if we can just be transparent with our struggles and honest in our failures—if we can just love each other just because—I‘m pretty sure we’re all gonna make it out OK.

…even better than OK.

When New Becomes the Normal

When New Becomes the Normal

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This particular feeling of transition is familiar to me. The waiting game. The anticipation. The dreaming and preparing and eagerness and anxiety. The constantly being on edge, while trying to distract myself and not think about how I’m constantly on edge. It’s e x h a u s t i n g .

Oh yes, I know this feeling well. It’s a mixture of heartache as well as over-the-moon excitement. A haze of surrealness that we are in the last days of being a household of 4—transitioning to a household of 5.

I felt this right before each of my daughters were born too—this strange place of savoring every moment of how life currently is while impatiently awaiting what will become our family’s new normal.

I can’t remember life before my youngest daughter. It is like she has always been here. And I surely can’t remember life before my oldest daughter. I am convinced life started the day she born and it is the life that I have always wanted to live.

However, these were not my sentiments right before they were each born. During the days leading up to their births it was more of an, “OH. MAN. How the heck am I going to do this? I barely have my act together right now. Like, barely. And I’m supposed to add another human life into the mix!? This is not going to be pretty.”

But sure enough, after a little bit of time (and tears and small victories and slowly conquering the learning curve) I moved from the scary newness to a more confident rhythm of life. Trust me, we still had those days. We still have those days. I don’t think the frequency decreased. I think maybe I just figured out how to handle them better. I’m not sure. Either way, I’ll take it.

And soon…it was normal. Life with a baby was normal. Then life with 2 kids was normal. And now, with faith that that truth will continue, I know life with 3 kids will become my new normal. And eventually, the details of life before our son will become foggy. Because he will be the perfect puzzle piece that our family was missing.

As I was drying my girls’ hair this morning, (there really is nothing like the smell of fresh babies right out of the bath) one was swaying back and forth singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the top of her lungs—the other one was playing a music game on my phone. And as I ran my fingers through their hair, I held my breath a little. My lungs captured that air so very tightly. And I didn’t want to exhale. Because I loved that moment. And I love our family dynamic right now. I love my full days with my 2 little best friends. And even though those full days can be hard and wearing full days, I love them just the same.

But eventually I had to let out that precious breath and when it did my heart exploded with these words…

You are losing nothing and gaining so much. The joy of life is going about to be multiplied. Life will look different, but it will be better.

I am settled into that place—that place of absorbing the right-now as well as the soon-will-be. And I am thankful for both, because both make me a mom.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

Confessions of a Quitter and Giving It 51%

Confessions of a Quitter and Giving It 51%

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An early morning a few months ago I found myself standing in front of my kitchen sink that was once again full of dirty dishes. I was talking to my sister on the phone just staring at the task in front of me.

(I’m not sure who breaks into my house every single night just to dirty every single one of my dishes—leaving me to clean them in the morning—but if I ever catch the dirtying culprit, I’m popping him right in the nose. And I have raging pregnancy hormones right now, so it would be epic.)

My one year old hadn’t slept for oh, her entire life. Which meant this momma hadn’t slept for her entire life. Every night for the past 15 months had been broken up into sleepless segments. And then the entire previous week, 3am had become our I’m-Up-For-The-Day.

I wasn’t just sleepy, I was e x h a u s t e d—physically, emotionally and mentally depleted. I think most mommas know the place I’m talking about. And boy oh boy, I was in that place.

And on this particular morning as I stood in front of that sink of dirty dishes, I became totally overwhelmed. That sink was just the beginning of what I needed to get done. I don’t remember exactly what our topic of conversation was, but it wasn’t a serious one. However my response to whatever she said just burst out of me—and with a shaky voice attempting to hold back tears, I said,

“I don’t finish anything. I just quit…everything…all the time. I start and then…I quit.”

My vision began to blur with tears. And then I began to go down the list of all my failures and all of the projects I had started but for one reason or another, had quit.

Nothing like an early morning, lighthearted conversation with your sister, right?

My physical and mental exhaustion had stripped away my excuses (along with my good attitude and normally happy demeanor). And that rawness had suddenly and violently stirred up this regret and frustration about things I had quit.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve battled procrastination and quitting—always wishing to trade in those habits for ones of persevering and finishing. I’ve written about my journey of recovery before. This struggle isn’t a new thing for me.

Big life events…small every day tasks…friendships…ministries…workout programs. You name it, I’ve quit each of them at least once.

I would feel alone in it all. I’d watch other women who seemed to have it all together. Every detail in their lives seemed to be in place. Every project completed. Always on time. Always floating, not walking. And I would wonder why I couldn’t seem to get my act together since others seemed to do it so effortlessly.

And honestly, I still feel that way sometimes. Why the heck can’t I just figure this life thing out? Not just with keeping up with dishes (which would be a beautiful miracle), but with…projects…dreams…life.

Shortly after my dish-hating/I’m-such-a-quitter meltdown in my kitchen, I heard about a book called 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit and got an early copy of it. I love the author and the title practically screamed my name so I was eager to dive in. The book follows the life of Ruth from the Bible and pulls out truth and examples of how her steady faithfulness changed countless generations.

This book has been such an unexpected game changer for me. You know those times where you don’t need advice, or a coach or a teacher or a drill sergeant…you just need a friend? Yeah, this book has become my friend. The kind of friend that says, “Yep. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I’ve not figured it all out, but I’m on my way. Let me share with you.”

There have only been a handful of times in my life where I can look back and honestly say I feel pleased with how I stuck to something. I’m talking about the kind of somethings that took a lot of time, a lot of energy and…gulp…a lot of persistence (for like, more than a week).

But what if my definition of success simply meant staying consistent?

This book is jam-packed full of goodness. But 3 of the things that I walked away with after reading 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit:

1.) I am not alone in my struggles

2.) There is hope to change my quitter-habits and replace them with finisher-habits

3.) If I can’t give 100% that day, give 51%

That last one was a big aha moment for me. And looking back at the times I actually did finish well with large tasks, that’s sort of what I did. Even if I couldn’t hit some amazing goal that day, I did just one thing that kept me moving towards my main goal. And sure enough, enough days of doing one little thing led me to finishing that big thing.

In her book, Nicki writes about the power of 51%:

If success can be redefined as “not quitting,” it’s this idea that if we can just stay 1 percent above 50, we are heading in the right direction.

So, while you determine in your spirit you can’t handle Jillian Michaels’ bossy commands today, you choose the 51 percent route and go for a quiet walk. No, you didn’t give everything you had, but you gave it 51 percent, and so that’s a step in the right direction.

I’m really excited about the tools I learned from 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit. Particularly learning how to identify why I quit and then figuring out how to reform habits that have become obstacles. (I highly recommend snagging a copy if you too struggle with finishing things. There are too many gems in it to talk about in a short post, but it really is worth the read.)

Some days, I just don’t have the energy or time I wish I could fully devote. But instead of an all or nothing mindset on those days, I’m excited now view consistency as success. Eventually all that movement forward, despite the speed, will lead me to that finish. And I’m already seeing the benefits of those newly formed habits! How awesome!

So to all my fellow recovering procrastinators and quitters, we can do it! One habit, one step, one word, one consistent forward movement at a time.

Click here to buy a copy of 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, by Nicki Koziarz.

5 Habits cover

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

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I saw you holding your little boy’s hand as you briskly walked into the store. How old is he? Maybe 4? You both looked like winter pros as you braved the cold weather and harsh wind bundled in thick jackets, scarves, gloves and boots.

My girls left the house with coats and boots and gloves too.

But my 1 year old refused to keep her boots on. And only 70% of their other winter apparel could be accounted for before we even got out of the car.

So my littlest one was just wrapped in a fluffy blanket like a pink burrito.

Motherhood is all about improvising and going with the flow, don’t you think? I do. So I counted the burrito wrapped baby as a total win. But just so you know, my mom-experience appreciated how put together you both were. Not one element of your assemble resembled a food item. Impressive.

You stopped at the end of our aisle and said something to your son. I was slowly browsing towards your direction in search of a cutting board and knives. (I love to cook and make amazing dinners every night. Just kidding, I hate cooking and they were for my chef of a husband.)

I noticed you take both of your son’s hands abruptly and bend down right in front of him, getting right on his level. You leaned in and literally couldn’t get any closer to his face. His eyes immediately honed into you and his attention was all yours. I couldn’t hear what you were saying, but I assumed by his short little nods and your very intentional tone that he was being reprimanded. So I looked away and tried to give you both privacy and space. Well, as much privacy and space as possible in a crowded store during the height of the Christmas season.

I scanned the shelf trying to decide which cutting board was the prettiest—because I’m sure esthetics is the most important feature of a cutting board and I wasn’t going to let my husband down. (You’re welcome, babe.) As I spotted the one, I took a couple steps forward and bent down to grab it. As I reached out, I could hear you. Very clearly. And what you were saying brought me to tears.

You were right in his face. You even gave your son’s hands a few shakes. “I am so incredibly proud of you. Do you know that? You are amazing and that was just awesome. Man, I’m proud of you!”

He was staring at you, shaking his head. Absorbing it all.

I was absorbing it all.

Right there in the middle of the retail chaos and the hustle and bustle, among all the speeding carts full of “stuff” that won’t last and “things” that just don’t matter—you were giving your son the most beautiful gifts. Things that will last. Things that do matter.

Affirmation. Appreciation. You were giving love.

And your son wasn’t the only one that walked away from that conversation with a fuller heart. I did too.

Oh, momma. In a world that can feel so cold, so harsh, your words warmed my very soul.

You truly are changing your part of the world.

Keep speaking words of life to him. Keep telling him how amazing he is. Keep telling him how proud you are of him. Keep taking the time to stop in the middle of life’s chaos to show him how appreciated and loved he is. You’re affecting him. And you’re affecting those of us lucky enough to be standing in your same aisle.

You’ve challenged me to stay focused and chase what matters. To stop in this moment and find what is right and beautiful and good—and openly acknowledge it. And I am forever grateful to you.

Merry Christmas, fellow momma. Stay warm. And stay you.

When a Cup Becomes More Important Than the Person Who Is Handing It to You

When a Cup Becomes More Important Than the Person Who Is Handing It to You

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I really like coffee. There’s nothing quite like that first cup in the morning or wrapping my hands around a warm mug on a cold day and sipping on it’s hot contents.

That being said, I’m really not an avid Starbucks coffee drinker. And although I haven’t agreed with every statement or viewpoint that Starbucks has held, the reason I don’t frequently drink their coffee is simply because it’s not my favorite kind of coffee.

I’m not boycotting or advocating. Every person has the right to decide whether or not they will walk into a Starbucks and spend their time and money there.

But maybe you’ve seen the video that is spreading across social media like digital wildfire. It was made by a man who noticed this year’s Starbucks cups are simply red—void of any kind of festive decoration—saying it is a direct attack from Starbucks on Christmas. He decided to go in to Starbucks, buy a drink and tell the barista that his name was “Merry Christmas” so that the greeting would have to be written on the cup.

He says that he’s not boycotting, but starting a movement and calls for “all great americans and christians around this great nation” to join that movement. And at the end of the video he speaks directly to Starbucks saying, “just to offend you, I made sure to wear my Jesus Christ shirt into your store and since you hate the second amendment, I even carried my gun.” (There’s a link to his video at the bottom of this post.)

Now, I’m all about speaking up for those who don’t have a voice, for fighting against injustices and for banding together through persecution. But as believers, we need to be able to discern what are actual battles and what is actual persecution. We have to know the difference between a cause that deserves our action and is worthy of our voice—or simply a differing opinion that is trivial.

I have a hard time envisioning Jesus walking into a Starbucks and trying to figure out how to prank or trick the person behind the counter—looking directly in the barista’s eyes and whispering, “Followers of Jesus say ‘what?’” When the barista falls for his clever trick by asking “What?”, he responds, “Ha ha! I got you! You just confessed that you follow me!”

Now that’s how you get someone to confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, right?

I know my example is extreme and ridiculous and is dripping with sarcasm. My point is this, Jesus would not trick anyone into anything. Period. Seriously, it’s nonsense. So if we say we desire to be Christ-like, then let’s be like Christ. I have to wonder how many baristas have laid awake at night because of this “movement” and thought to themselves, “Gee, writing ‘Merry Christmas’ on that cup today really got me thinking about eternity. I think I’ll start learning more about this Jesus guy.”

From what I’ve learned about the heart and character Jesus Christ through God’s Word, I think it’s much more likely that he would have been getting to know the barista behind the counter—listening to his/her story. He would have been so focused on their heart that I don’t think he would have cared or even noticed whether or not a coffee cup said Merry Christmas on it…

Because Jesus was about people, not making political or religious statements.

When a cup becomes more important than the person who is handing it to you, we’ve completely missed the mark. Having an “I’ll show them” attitude towards the high-up executives sitting in offices far, far away by tricking or indifferently interacting with the person directly behind the counter does not make sense. Whether or not you support Starbucks, the baristas that will make your coffee had nothing to do with a cup’s design or creating company policies. Many are just trying to work and make a paycheck for themselves and their families.

If Christ had the attitude of “since you’ve offended me, I’m going to intentionally offend you”, the Gospel would look very different. In fact, it wouldn’t exist.

May we never fall for the lie that says being a “good conservative” = being a “good christian” or vice versa. Wearing a shirt with the image of Jesus on it does not mean we are truly bearing his image. And our opinion on gun control doesn’t determine how holy we are.

What makes us Christ-followers is how well we love others. It’s relationships and service and truth in love. It’s looking at the person, not their past. Loving them where they’re at, not where they’ve been. It’s accepting a person as an image bearer of God himself. And that’s when hearts change, lives transform and truth is revealed.

Fight for what lasts and what matters for eternity. Love well and don’t be easily offended by things that simply don’t matter. The world is full of hurting, hopeless and hungry people who desperately need an encounter with the love of Jesus. Let’s go to those people. That is time and energy and love well spent.

Watch the video here.

3 Things Every Mom Needs to Hear

3 Things Every Mom Needs to Hear

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I love the different forms that motherhood comes in. Each one is so beautiful, so unique. And each one is hard work! Raising a little person is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure. I mean, who in their right mind cleans poop all day long and is ready to do it the next day again? Let’s be honest, poop is the least of our worries. We’re raising a human being here. A one-of-a-kind, opinionated, independent, persistent, hilarious, wobbly emotioned, wonderful human being. We’re doing our best to help them grow into the best versions of themselves. Kind. Strong. Compassionate. Bold. Loving.

No matter what our different journeys of motherhood look like, the one factor that unifies us all is that we love our child(ren) and we would do anything for them. As you love and raise your little one(s), there are 3 things you need to hear.

1.) You Are the Exact Mom That Your Child(ren) Needs.

Of all the babies in all the world, throughout all of history, your child(ren) was assigned to you. You are the mommy they need. The Lord has equipped you with everything you need in order to love and nurture and teach and guide those crazy little people. I know you don’t always feel equipped or able. But it’s true. You are enough. You. You are enough.

2.) Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Selfish.

This one is a tough one for me. Probably the thing I struggle with the most. There’s always so much to do, so if I take time for myself, it’s very easy for guilt to swallow me up. There’s always something that needs to be scrubbed, folded or straightened. There’s always someone climbing up my leg or pulling at my sleeve that needs my undivided attention right now, right now, right now. But our babies need more than someone to keep their daily routine flowing. They need more than clean socks and a vacuumed floor. Of all your child(ren’s) needs, their biggest need is you. So take care of their mommy and her emotions.

3.) It’s Ok to Have a Bad Day…or Week.

There are days that my patience is running low, my stress is running high, my emotions are running wild—and my kiddos are caught in the middle. But even my failures are opportunities to help grow Jesus-loving, well rounded human beings. My kids need to see that I’m human too. Even mommies need to apologize for their mistakes and ask for forgiveness—from them and from Jesus. It’s ok to have a bad day. And when that bad day turns into a tough week, it’s still going to be ok. It will get better. I want my kids to see that it’s not the end of the world when we mess up. There’s always forgiveness. There’s always a fresh start.

You are doing an awesome job, momma! You’re not alone. We’re in this thing together.

Starting to Finish Well

Starting to Finish Well

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A new beginning. A fresh start. A clean slate.

Have you ever noticed how so many people get fired up about New Years resolutions? For the first few weeks following that epic 10 second countdown, the gyms are filled, healthy habits are started and new ventures are begun. The excitement of a new start is exhilarating. The idea of bettering yourself is empowering.

I ashamedly admit that I am one of “those” people. I get hyped for oh, about 2 weeks and then…life. Life doesn’t suddenly look better or the transformation doesn’t happen overnight (or at least within 2 weeks), so my full-forced run becomes a sloppy jog. And then it looks like a slow walk (kind of like that picture of Bigfoot swinging his arms through the woods. You know the one.) Until…I throw my hands in the air, fall face first on the floor and give up.

Quick side note: I’m using a running analogy here, but I am not a runner. At all. The only way I will run by choice is either a) a bear is literally chasing me, or b) some yells “free coffee!” And even then, I’d ask what size the coffee is.

How many projects have I started but quit? How many friendships have I made but didn’t invest enough energy into? How many times have I vowed to myself that I would do better, work harder, push myself, step out of my comfort zone…but then didn’t?

Too many times to count.

It’s easy to get caught back up in the rhythm of my day to day routine. And when I do, the spectacular firework emotions that got me started, begin to fade. No longer are emotions enough to propel me towards my goal.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve really been drawn to the people around me who finish things well. Because the way I see it, when it comes to starting well or finishing well, finishing well is by far the harder of the two. Generally speaking.

Emotion doesn’t carry me very far. Discipline drives me further than I ever thought I could go. Discipline will help me finish well.

There are even some things, some goals, that for years I thought I simply failed at. But I’m reevaluating that perspective. Some of those things I didn’t fail at, I gave up. Why not pick up those things and start running with them again? It’s a lot harder to live with the regret of giving up than it is to pick up that heavy thing, throw it over your shoulder and starting walking towards the finish line with it.

It’s easy to say, I want to live life well. But it takes discipline and endurance to make all the little decisions that will add up to create a life lived well. Oh, I long for that.

So that’s my heart focus right now – finishing well. Maybe you have something that you’re trying to finish well. Maybe it takes all your energy to simply finish a little piece of the big picture. Well those little pieces add up. Maybe there’s something that you thought you failed at, but maybe…just maybe…you didn’t fail…you gave up. You can do it. So let’s do it. 

Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out. Ecclesiastes 7:8 (MSG)

Lord, help us to finish well today. Help us to keep moving, even when the emotional motivation is gone. Help us to finish the little things. Because they add up. Help us to finish the big things. Because they take so much discipline. Thank you, Father.

How to Keep Your Home Immaculate While Living with a Toddler

Clean-House

For years, I struggled. I worked tirelessly to have both worlds – children and a clean house. As someone who struggled with keeping an organized and clean house before kids, those cute little ones added a whole new element to the already impossible task. I would do what I like to call “The Run Through.” That’s where I would speed around like a wild woman in each room, picking up as much as I could in the least amount of time. If I made good time with “The Run Through” (my best time being 7 minutes, 48 seconds), I would even begin on the laundry. However, 9 times out of 10, I would turn around and see what looked like a F5 tornado (also known as a toddler) had hit the entire house again when my back was turned. Well, the struggle is over. I have discovered 9 Simple Tips that solve every momma’s clutter problem and if you follow them, you too can have an immaculate house while living with a toddler.

1. Carpets

The cleanliness of your carpets are threatened by a few things. But one of these things surpasses them all. Oh sure, at first glance it seems harmless…pretty even. But looks can be so deceiving. Glitter. Once the little bottle tips over, that stuff flies through the air and it looks like a shimmery atomic bomb went off. You will find it in the carpet for the rest of your life. And just for good measure, stay away from all crafting and messy projects. Glue sticks, Play-Doh, markers, paint. I shudder to even think of what they would do to the carpets if left in the hands of a toddler.

2. Clean Windows

To keep clean windows, it is imperative to keep curious little hands and inquisitive faces from being pressed against the glass. If a firetruck drives by, a flock of birds lands on the patio, or it begins to snow, discourage the child from looking out.

3. Furniture

To keep the furniture spotless, restrict all eating to the dining room table. This includes sippy cups, suckers and all snacks in general. And no jumping. No shoes. Only sitting.

4. Living Room

The living room is the most important room in the house because that is where you will most likely socialize with your guests. As awesome as it would be to throw all the cushions on the floor and pretend that they are boats floating down a raging river, don’t. Dragging in the dining room chairs and placing them in a circle, then covering them up with sheets and blankets would make for an epic fort. But then your toddler will want to have fun. And fun is messy.

5. Laundry

Use the time that your toddler is quietly reading books or practicing algebra to make sure all laundry is separated, washed, dried, folded and hung.

6. Bath Time

To keep the floors dry and the bathtub looking neat and tidy, keep bath time simple and uneventful. No bubbles. No toys. In and out.

7. Walls

Because children’s hands are always sticky (regardless of whether or not they’ve touched something sticky) your walls will inevitably have little handprints on every wall of your home. These smudges are at exactly hip level and come in a variety of colors and textures. To avoid your walls looking like your toddler gave 6,000 sticky high fives to your home, have your toddler wear gloves at all times. No exceptions.

8. Potty Training

There’s no getting around it…this is strictly an outside-hire job. If the carpets, furniture and bedding are to stay clean, dry and poop free, potty training can not take place within the house. If the potty training child has to stay on the premises, the majority of said training should happen outside. Laying down newspapers in the child’s playroom will also work as an absolute last resort.

9. Organization

One word – Pinterest. Not only will your DIY organizers be functional, they will also be gorgeous. While you’re watching your toddler in backyard having the time of her life painting rocks, (with water, not paint of course) pull up your Organization board and get sewing! The projects are so easy and cost/time efficient. You’re sure to nail every project every time and walk away feeling really good about yourself. In only four hours, voila! You have yourself one fabric-lined, shoebox-sized organizer. Thank you, Pinterest. Thank you.

Ok, ok. So these tips are…ridiculous, to say the least. But really, I think that’s what I would have to do in order to have an always clean, always organized home. If you’re like me, you struggle to keep clean underwear washed for your husband, much less perfectly clean or organize anything in your life. There are always at least a few dishes in the sink and toys are always strewn around the house. I can’t see through the bottom half of any window or glass door of my home because the toddler handprints, face smudges and dog nose marks have fogged them all. 

But you know what my home does have? Giggles. And lots of them. We laugh and we play and make messes. Our adventures are unrivaled and I know our playtime together will not last forever. One day, my little people will grow up. My windows will be clean and the house will be more organized. My heart aches to think about it.

Oh, weary momma. Don’t feel guilty that you juggle playtime and housework all day long and feel like you have nothing to show for it. Don’t measure the success of your day by the size of the dirty laundry pile. Don’t worry that your bed is always unmade or the sink always has dishes in it.

You try so hard. You work so hard.

Did you and your child giggle today? Then you did today right.

Are there handprints still on the kitchen table from working on today’s masterpiece? Then you did today right.

The giggles. The adventures. The dance parties. The glitter explosions. Those make up the memories that your children will carry for the rest of their lives. They won’t remember how clean the windows were. They will remember all the fun you had taking turns making each other laugh by smashing your faces against the glass.

You’re awesome, momma. The mess is just for a season. So enjoy this season.

Now, go make that epic fort.