Keep Fighting

Each time someone shares that they are in a season of constant bickering or fighting with their spouse, I say something to the effect of,

“That’s okay. Fighting is better than apathy. Just fight fairly, and well.”

It’s true.

There are seasons. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, where you feel a constant prickly tension. There are times when you wonder why you can’t seem to get on the same page. There are moments, when you voice aloud your distaste for being at odds with one another, and there are stolen moments in quiet, when you let the tears fall with no one to see.

Keep fighting.

Literally. Don’t stop caring enough to fight.

Fight fairly, though. Don’t lose sight of what a God-honoring marriage looks like.  No two people, if they are being open and honest, agree 100% of the time. You see, a God-honoring marriage is not one that is void of disagreement. On the contrary, it may be filled with it at times, but it will come down to the position of our hearts. Are our hearts aligned with His? Are we willing to humbly accept when we are wrong? Are we willing to extend grace, despite our circumstance? Are we willing to listen, when we are bubbling over with words? Are we willing to fight fairly? Again, are our hearts aligned with His?

Keep fighting for your marriage, but please fight fairly.

And, look for the light. Because, friends, there are other, much longer, and better seasons. There are days, weeks, and often months and years, where the relationship is sweet. There are times when you realize that the path is smooth, not because it has been an easy path, but because of the rough days, weeks, and months, that wore away at the sharpest of edges. It is a well-worn path. There are moments, when you feel so strongly, there are no words to speak, and even in the quietest moments, the tears fall from such overwhelming joy.

There is always light.

Marriage is a beautiful, messy climb, full of crags. It’s craggy business. Craggy. I like it. One definition is “rough in a way that suggests strength”. Keep climbing. Keep fighting. Climb well, and fight fairly. Look for the light, because traversing one crag at a time keeps us moving upward, and the summit is just ahead. When you get there, be sure to turn around and check out the incredible view. Then, hand in hand, you can say, “Look what we climbed. Together.” Then, turn back around, because a new journey awaits. You’ll be stronger, ready to face new adventures. Together. Keep fighting, friends.

 

*PLEASE NOTE that if there is verbal, physical, mental, or spiritual abuse in your marriage, it is not my recommendation to continue in that toxic or harmful environment. If this is you, please confide in someone you trust, or call The National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

 

A Community of 4 Year Olds

My youngest son and I walked hand in hand, into the church for the Wednesday night kids’ program. He was tired from a long day and just hanging on by a thread. It’s tough to be 4, sometimes. It’s even tougher when you have an expectation and things don’t go as planned. (Don’t we know it!) An unplanned (minor) hiccup in his evening caused a colossal meltdown, and if you have been around children, you’ll know the meltdown I’m talking about. TEARS. Oh, the tears. Buried face in my shirt. “I just want YOU, mommy.” Kids pouring in from all directions. Noise. Stares. Suddenly I’m surrounded by a group of 4 and 5 year old kids. “Is Levi okay?” “Levi, what’s wrong?” Wide eyed with concern, their faces were sweet and caring. No judgment. Not wondering why this kid was having a meltdown over something that was seemingly insignificant. Just care and concern. Just community.

Community. It can be such a beautiful and rewarding part of our lives. We desire it. We crave it! I think that there are three important things that we can grow and learn from the Pre-K community.

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 1. Community takes effort and sacrifice.

Just before we left for church that evening, my sweet, tired boy was lying on the couch, watching his favorite show. Shoes kicked off, relaxing, just being 4. At the first mention of getting shoes on and going to church, his response was that he wanted to finish his show…and he didn’t want to put his shoes on (me either, kid). I casually mentioned a few friends’ names and let him know that if he wanted to see them, he would need to put on his shoes so that we could leave. He perked up, said, “Oh! I want to see my friends!”, put on his shoes and turned off the show. For him, that was sacrifice. It took effort and a made up mind to do the things he didn’t feel like doing so that he could go to church and visit with his little tribe of Pre-K friends. For us grown-ups, this might look like allowing others into our homes, carving out time for coffee with a friend, or leaving the house, even when we don’t feel like it. Community may require some sacrifice and certainly some effort, but don’t doubt that it will be worth it.

2. Community is beautiful when judgment is withheld.

Community can be messy, when we meet each other in our weaknesses, not just our strengths. As I observed the wide eyed, pudgy cheeked faces peering at their friend in distress, I was struck with the genuine concern that I saw. There was no judgment for their friend that was causing a scene and struggling. There was only love. There were no sideways glances or rolled eyes. You know, any one of those sweet little faces may have been tear streaked just hours before when their day did not go as expected. They saw a friend in need, and they responded with love. For us, this will certainly mean that we reserve judgment and see the person, beyond a situation at hand. We may not always agree or have the same situational response as another person, but we can still love the soul of who they are and extend grace.

3. Community refreshes our souls.

When we left that evening, my son was all smiles. He had pushed through the “don’t wanna”s, been refined and encouraged, and ultimately experienced soul refreshment. It is GOOD to be involved in a community that supports, encourages, and cares. We were created for community, and we will be lacking without it.

Shout out to the 4 and 5 year old cuties, for the sweet and genuine display of community that I was honored to witness. We could all learn a few things from observing the pint-sized community of children, especially those that are young enough to not be tainted by the silly, presumptuous notions of grown-ups. Perhaps we should all be a bit more childlike in our care of others.

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

 

When Selfishness Preys 

As I wiped down counters, the table, and swept the floor for approximately the 10,000th time this week, I felt worn. Honest moment, anyone? I felt angry and frustrated. How in the world did the floor get THAT dirty after just a few hours since I last swept? I made a frustrated face at my husband (I can be really mature) as he headed out the door again for another obligation, while I was here cleaning and feeding children once more. Oh, did I mention that all 3 children had fevers and sore throats? I felt resentment creeping in, ready to make my life seem miserable for awhile.

I know that this post isn’t pretty, but friends, this is the honest truth. Ladies, I KNOW that I am not the only one. I chose this life. Heck, I even love it most days. But there are certainly days when my selfishness rears its very ugly head and I become bitter because life just isn’t a walk on the beach every day (or maybe it is since it’s beautiful and annoying at the same time…hello, sand!). Ugh. I have a great life! I need someone to be on standby to slap this ugliness right out of me in these self-centered moments. Since I don’t have anyone with nothing better to do than stand around waiting to slap me, I have decided to fasten bits of truth around my house, where I know I will need to see it the most. There are certain areas that I NEED reminders from God’s word of where my heart should land when my emotions are acting like jumping beans. I definitely need a reminder in the kitchen, where I spend a lot of time preparing meals and cleaning up. I also would benefit from reminders near the laundry room, and in the bathroom. Those are the main areas where I find myself huffing and puffing with a sour attitude. I am also putting scripture on my bathroom mirror, so that each morning and evening I will be begin and end with rock solid truth.

I wonder if I could get some ladies to join me in this? I know that we all struggle, even if our struggles look different than the woman’s next to us. We all have areas of weakness! Let’s shore up those weak areas and make them stronger through the power of God’s truth in our lives.

Here are some examples of what I will be placing around my home:

“Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” -Philippians 2:14-15

“And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.” -Colossians 3:15

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23

“…understand this; Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” -James 1:19

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” -James 3:17-18

“Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men…” -Ephesians 6:7

“Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue.” -Proverbs 31:25-26

We would do well to remember that we will never be perfect and we don’t have to plaster a big cheesy smile on our face every single moment of the day. However, when we sow wisdom, peace, and joy in our hearts and minds, we will reap that harvest in our homes.
Perhaps your choices of scripture are different. Would you share below? I would love to pray for each of you that are joining this little challenge to bring more joy and peace to your homes. Please comment here to let me know, and share your scriptures that you will be leaning on as your serve in your homes! 🙂

A Momma’s Worship

I see you there, sweet, tired momma. I know that you had a little one that kept you up all night, and a toddler that was jumping with excitement at the first light of morning. I know you are beyond just being tired. You’ve crossed the threshold from “tired” to bone aching exhaustion, yet in the midst of this beautiful service you have been entrusted with, you feel dry. You feel parched and achy for refreshment. You’ve missed church for the second (or more) week because of sickness. I know that when you do go, you close your eyes in worship, to be interrupted and needed once more. I know that you wonder how you are going to fit in that Bible study, find privacy to pray in your closet or do much more than utter desperate prayers throughout your day. I know. I know that the feeling of not doing enough can be overwhelming.

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Hear me, sweet momma.

Your life is your worship. Your service to your family is your offering. Your ministry can be comforting your children, encouraging them to grow in the Lord, and speaking words of affirmation to your husband. Even in the mundane tasks such as work, school, laundry, dishes, and packing lunches, you are ministering to your family. Your sweet babies are watching. They see you. You are helping them hold their pen, as they write their story of life. You don’t know it, but you are. It is because of you that they will understand what it means to serve. It is because of you that they will understand grace and love. It is because of your life worship.

 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy,
use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
if service, in service;
if teaching, in teaching;
if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence;
showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 12:1-8

It will not be like this forever. Before you know it, your children will be sleeping all night, your bone weary exhaustion will become a once in awhile feeling, and the way that you serve will change. Just keep in mind that right here, right now, this is your service. This is your worship. So lead on, momma, with diligence. Give generously and show mercy with cheerfulness. This part of your life matters, because you are serving and growing lives that matter. You have been entrusted with greatness, even when it feels not so great. It’s good, even when you don’t feel it. So, fellow mommas (me too), let’s renew our minds and seek to serve with gladness, letting our lives be our worship.

Let’s Entertain Ourselves…

I did a quick Google search for the definition of “entertainment”. I found several suggested definitions, but the first one that came up was a good culmination of several that used the same types of words: “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.”

When I am entertained, I am being provided with amusement or enjoyment. What entertains you? What amuses you? What do you enjoy?

A quick glance around would show that we are entertained by music, movies, TV shows, social networks, books, relationships, food, …and the list goes on. We are entertained by much! We are not lacking in the entertainment department (yet, we are probably bored much of the time, but that’s a whole other post!).

I’m specifically concerned with our media entertainment. By “our”, I mean Christians. You. Me. Us, who claim to follow Jesus.

I’m bothered. I’m bothered that Christians seem okay with cranking up the latest profanity laced, sexually promiscuous, sin glorifying music and being entertained by it. I’m bothered that Christians are quick to endorse TV shows or movies that contain graphic language, sex, violence, without so much as batting an eye. I’m bothered that Christians are reading and passing around scandalous novels that are brimming with explicit sex and calling it okay, for the sake of entertainment. This bothers me. This should bother you, Jesus follower.

(Now, before you get all in a huff and start spouting “Judger!”, please stop for a moment. Please go read this, and consider what God’s Word has to say about accountability and speaking truth to one another, as believers.)

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.” -Philippians 4:8

I think that Paul’s exhortation here in Philippians sums it up nicely.

Whatever is honorable. Whatever is just. Whatever is pure. Whatever is lovely. Whatever is commendable. Moral excellence. If there is any praise. DWELL on these things.

Ouch. The radio station that comes on in your car when you start it up. Is it honorable? The movie that you rented last night. Is it pure? The book on your nightstand. Is it of moral excellence?

I can hear some of you now…

“I don’t listen to the words. She sings well, the song sounds awesome, and she is a fabulous dancer.” Okay (let’s call it like it is). Let’s sacrifice our calling as believers for the sake of entertainment by a good dancer, who dishonors God and condones impurity.

“I don’t agree with the content on that TV show (or movie), so it’s no big deal that I watch it. I’m surrounded by it every day at work anyhow.” Do we not desire to be removed from sin, whenever it is possible by our own doing? Did I mention that you are indirectly supporting the content, just by supporting the show? Networks will not keep shows that no one watches.

“It’s just a book…words on a page. It is a good story! Oh, and it keeps me interested in sex for my husband.” Yes, they are just words on a page. Words that you are reading. Words that you are tucking away in your mind and heart. Ladies, this is no different than pornography. You are bringing impurity into your marriage. You are condoning impurity in your marriage.

Friends…can we really say that we are following and desire to follow Jesus, when we are so wrapped up in the sin of this world? Can we be entertained by sexual immorality, crude language, horror, lust, etc. and still call ourselves followers of Jesus? Scripture says that we are made new, that we are a new creation, when we trust Jesus and have His Spirit living in us.

Are you being made new?

Are you resting in the freedom found in Jesus?

Freedom found through grace?

When we encounter God’s grace and love, we will naturally not wish to continue living in darkness. The very things that Jesus went to the cross to pay for, we are condoning through our entertainment choices! The very things that are destroying marriages, families, and lives, we are supporting through our entertainment choices! Our hearts and minds are holding on to things that our God despises, because we are choosing to inundate ourselves with it.

How might our hearts change and be stirred with greater affection for our Creator, if we overhaul our entertainment choices? 

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Oh, it might mean that you give up the TV show that you so desperately adore. It might mean that you abandon your favorite hip hop artist or rock band. Perhaps your radio dial is permanently dialed in to a God-honoring radio station. Maybe, it could mean that your movie choices are changed so drastically that you feel like you have nothing to watch any more. It could mean that you throw out your novels, and in doing so, lose a couple of friends who don’t understand your choices. Perhaps, after a time of elimination, your entertainment tastes, preferences and desires will no longer be what our culture deems as “good”. Perhaps, you are so desensitized to sin, you need a media fast to bring back a God-honoring focus in your life.

What does this look like for you? For your family? How might we choose truth,  honor, justness, purity, loveliness, commendableness, moral excellence, and things that are praise worthy? Is it worth it?

Praying for each of you and your families, as you strive to honor God with your lives. Remember, your entertainment choices matter.

I will close with Hebrews 10:19-39 (HCSB):

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

26 For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. 28 If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people. 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

32 Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. 34 For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession. 35 So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.

37 For yet in a very little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay.
38 But My righteous one will live by faith;
and if he draws back,
I have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.

 

 

I want my kids to want…

I don’t want them to starve from lack of food or things necessary for living. 

I want them to know what it’s like to want something and not get it. It is not healthy to get everything that we want.

I don’t want them to feel entitled. Entitlement breeds laziness and discontent.

I don’t want them to think that they are the best thing since sliced bread. Even though, to this momma, they are.

I want them to hear the word, “no”. Even when people are watching and it is difficult to follow through.

I don’t want them to find security in the sheer number or kind of toys that they have. What if it all went away?

I want them to have humble hearts. Humble hearts are not created by abundance.

I want them to understand how blessed a simple life can be. Less clutter, less distraction from the things that matter.

I want them to find contentment, not in things, but in Jesus. In trusting Him, resting in Him and serving Him.

I want them to experience times that cause them to fall on grace. Because we all need to understand our need for grace.

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An Open Letter to Girls…

Dear Girls,

Hey, let’s start with the “good girls”. I see you walking through life with the “goody two-shoes” tag on your back. I understand that at times you feel like an outcast. I put “good girls” in quotes because, really? There is no such thing as a perfect or “good” person. We’re all flawed, but I know you still carry around a “good” label that seems like a bad thing to you at times. I want you to know that being “bad” is not always good, and being “good” is not always bad.

I watched a Disney channel sitcom last week that depicted the main character trying to get rid of her “good girl” image. She didn’t like being known to the entire high school as the “good girl”. I think she thought that she was missing a great adventure in life by not rebelling in some way. Oh, yeah, then this week everyone was talking about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs. I didn’t watch the VMAs, but I looked up her performance on Youtube to see what the fuss was all about. I’m praying for Miley. I’m praying that she will find Jesus and that He would be more satisfying for her than any “bad girl” image or extreme media attention. My heart breaks for her. Please know, this letter isn’t about bashing Miley or the Disney channel. These two things, however, have prompted me to write this. I see you, girls…the “good” ones that have a squeaky clean Disney image, and the ones with stains that you don’t think will ever be gone. I see you. I feel for you.

Girls, I see you feeling like a complete weirdo when others around you are laughing at something that makes your stomach twist in uncomfortable knots. I see you walking the halls of your school as the “good girl”. I know that sometimes it seems that the hottest guys really prefer a girl that knows her way around. I know that, if you’ve never been drunk, gotten high, had sex, etc., that you often have people around you pushing you to do those things. After all, they don’t want to be alone in their choices and it seems pretty fun to taint the “good girl”. To taint your reputation seems like their goal in life – a fun challenge. I know that it is hard. I know you wonder if you are missing out on all of the fun. Let me be the one to tell you that you are definitely missing out. You are missing out on regret. I know that you wonder if it’s even worth it to stand up for what is right. It is. I promise.

Perhaps you are the one that once rebelled, that once wore the “bad” label. I know you struggle. I see you trying to explain to your friends why you don’t want to do that old stuff any more. I see you feeling like the outcast after you’ve had a taste of popularity. It’s hard. I know that some days you feel strong and ready to face the world, but that some days you feel weak and insecure. I understand. Is it worth it to press on? Absolutely.

Hey. Maybe you’re the one that’s caught up in the whirlwind of the world. Are you the one that falls right in line with the crowd? Come close and listen for just a second…you are loved. Not by a world that pulls you in to gorge on all it has to offer. Nope. You are loved by Jesus. You are loved by The One who can pull you close and redeem your broken soul. I see you walking through life, doing all that is expected of you, but still feeling a deep sense of dissatisfaction. Do you long to feel whole? Are you seeking satisfaction? Jesus heals and satisfies. You are loved.

You see, girls, “bad” equals broken. We are all broken, but Jesus came to heal our brokenness and to make us whole. The way we walk shows our condition. Are you walking in brokenness, or wholeness? Girls, I’m praying for you.

I’m praying for you, “good” church girl, that stands up for what is right. I pray that you will walk in the grace of Jesus. I pray that you would not be self-righteous, but that you would proclaim the redeeming power of Jesus with your love, life and words.

I’m praying for you, newly-changed-by-Jesus girl, that is struggling to keep your old self at bay. I pray that you will walk in the grace of Jesus. I pray that you would be strong by depending on the Holy Spirit, and not your human self. I pray that the redeeming power of Jesus would be evident in your life and that your testimony would draw others to Him.

I’m praying for you, unsatisfied girl, that is searching for wholeness. I pray that you would find the grace of Jesus. I pray that God would place people in your life that are not afraid to speak of the love of Jesus. I pray that you would become whole, satisfied, and redeemed.

Girls, listen up. “Good” does not equal boring, dumb or flawed. On the contrary, if your “goodness” is a reflection of what Jesus has done in your life, then it represents life, wisdom and redemption. Your “goodness” cannot stand on it’s own, so please remember that it means nothing if not matched with the saving grace of Jesus.

Girls, please hear me out. Junior High, High School, and even college will all be only memories one day. The world may taunt and confuse you now, but please know that Jesus is eternal and His ways are always higher. I’m praying for all of you. It is not easy. It never was and it never will be a piece of cake to choose Jesus in this world. I’m praying for you. Pray for each other. Encourage each other. Stand beside each other. It really is okay, and even admirable, to stand for what is right…even if it means you walk around with an unpopular, “good girl”, label.

Love,

Me, and a million other women who have walked in your shoes…

10 Ways to Enjoy Motherhood & Be a Better Mom

A few months ago, one of my readers sent me a message about a topic that they wanted to see talked about more often, and asked if I would consider writing a post on it. I agreed wholeheartedly with her concerns and have been mulling over this for the past several months. I have decided to team this with 10 ways for moms to enjoy motherhood more and be a better mom! 🙂

There has been a movement in churches for men to step up and lead their families. I think this is wonderful! When a husband and father is attending church regularly, studies show that the children follow suit. (More numbers here.) While these studies may not be perfect, I think they speak volumes! However, I personally know several amazing mothers who are leading their homes, unassisted, due to various circumstances that are ultimately out of their control. Some moms have husbands that have abandoned them, some have left abusive homes, and others simply have husbands that travel for work and cannot be there every day. We cannot pretend that these homes do not exist! They do exist, and while men in their churches can help to lead their children in some ways, ultimately, these mothers are responsible for the spiritual teaching of their children, and I do NOT believe that these situations or households are hopeless. I believe that every mother can be an amazing role model for their children and can set the ultimate example in her home, of Christ-likeness. I want to point out that in 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul addresses the lineage of faith that has led to Timothy’s faith and service. He does not mention a father. While Timothy may have had a father in his life(it doesn’t say), I believe that based on Paul’s writing, Timothy’s mother and grandmother played a crucial role in discipling Timothy when he was a child. We cannot ignore that mothers have an important role in raising up children to serve Jesus!

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Calling all moms! Regardless of how bleak or bright your circumstances seem, we can ALL use a word of encouragement, don’t you agree?

So, whether you stay at home, work outside of the home, homeschool, public school, have a husband to help out, or you feel alone in this journey, I think we(myself, included!), would do well to remember these 10 things:

1) Children are gifts, rewards, and blessings (Psalm 127:3-5). When we remember that we are privileged and NOT burdened (as our society would have us to think), with the responsibility of training up children, we immediately gain a new perspective. While cute, messy, challenging and life-changing, they are first and foremost a blessing from God, and we would be foolish to allow our culture and society to take away that joy!

2) Motherhood is a ministry (Titus 2:5). Remembering that we are called to be a part of our children knowing the Lord, is huge for us! Service and ministry does NOT have to occur outside the walls of your home. There is a great ministry within each home, and moms are called to share in it and lead their children to be ambassadors for Christ in the next generation.

3) There is no such thing as a perfect day. Never, ever will there be a perfect day. Children (and moms!) get sick and tired. Sometimes children act up and sometimes moms aren’t perfect. This does NOT mean you are a bad mom or that you are failing your family. Move on, and right your wrongs. You are growing, and so are your children. Model repentance for your children, exemplify humility, and gently correct. I promise that your example speaks louder than any words you could ever say to them.

4) Children have little life experience. We all mess up, including us “grown ups”. Show grace to your little ones. A 4 year old has very, very little life experience. He or she is still learning(aren’t we all?). A touch of grace and understanding can go a long way.

5) While a “break” or “alone time” can be good for mommy refreshment, we should be careful not to focus on it. Make time for it, when you can, but be careful not to neglect the present while waiting on the future. Often, when we focus on “getting away”, we become impatient and forget that we are needed here and now.

6) Pausing amidst the dishes, laundry or cleaning, for a mere 5 minutes of story time with your children, can do wonders for you and them. Allow yourself to stop the busy work and enjoy time with them. Seriously. 5 minute breaks can be magic for all of you, in the midst of a busy day.

7) Remember that no one’s social media life is an accurate depiction of their real life. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram only show the highlights. Rarely does someone show the ugly toddler tantrum, the burnt dinner, or the stressed mommy, but I promise that behind the scenes, they all exist. When you are tempted to envy someone else’s life, or to compare your life to theirs, remember that reality is vastly different from what social media reveals. No mom or family is perfect.

8) Don’t do everything for your children. We will stress ourselves to the max if we make their beds, clean up their toys, choose perfectly matching clothes, etc.. At a young age, children can begin to take learn responsibility and help out in some ways. No, I’m not saying that children are our household slaves. We all have to learn responsibility and how to be good stewards of what we have. This includes being good stewards of rooms, clothes, bodies, etc.. Check out these “responsibility” sticker charts to get your toddlers and preschoolers started with helping out!

9) Pray with your children and memorize scripture together. Pray for soft, humble hearts in your family. Pray for needs in your community and in the world. Pray that, together, your family can serve Jesus and lead others to know Him. Learn what God’s Word says about how we are to live and then hide it away in your heart (Psalm 119:11). When you hide His Word in your heart, it is never to be unavailable when you need it most. Teach, learn, and grow with your children.

10) Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer or to seek encouragement. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to find a Christian woman that is at least a few years ahead of you in raising her family, and ask her to be a prayer partner and encourager for you. Perhaps a weekly 5 minute phone call, or if time allows, lunch while the children play. These times with other women that are seeking God’s way for their families can be such a great source of accountability, encouragement and inspiration! Titus 2 talks about older women teaching and encouraging the younger women. We should take note of that and be proactive in mentoring and being mentored.

Would you add anything to this list? I would love for you to comment! Share your heart on motherhood, what encourages you, etc.. I would love to hear from you! 🙂

The Ultimate Guilt Trip

Busy-Mom-and-Housewife

It is a terrible cycle and I think that we all suffer from guilt at different times in our lives. For me, this guilt has been exaggerated throughout the course of being a mom and wife, especially since being a mom. We are darned if we do, and darned if we don’t. Really. If I spend the morning busily working to make sure that the house is clean and organized, I feel guilty because I didn’t spend enough time with my kids. If I sit down and just enjoy the day with my kids, I feel guilty when my husband comes home to a dirty house. I feel guilty when I lose patience with my kids. I overcompensate the next time and am too nice for way too long, to the point where I feel guilty for not disciplining them earlier in their behavior. I felt guilty for a long time because I only nursed my babies for the first weeks or months of their lives, for a few reasons, but I wish that I had continued longer. I feel guilty when I don’t spend enough time in prayer for my children. I feel guilty when I get snippy with my husband. I feel guilty when…well, you get the picture. There are moms out there who feel guilty because they have to work. There are moms that feel guilty because they don’t work. Strangers in Wal-Mart can make a mom feel guilty just by asking a pointed question or by giving a judgmental look to the mom with the screaming toddler. I don’t walk around moping in a mound of guilt all day long, but there have been times when I have felt the guilt nagging at my heart and putting me on the edge of despair because I am not that “magazine” mom and wife. Hey, let’s add daughter, sister, friend, etc. to that list!

Our culture tends to portray mothers and wives in a light that pushes us to believe that we should always be doing more. Our roots can’t show, that baby weight should have been gone 6 weeks postpartum, we should be doing yoga at 6am each morning, we should get our children into piano lessons by age 2, join mommy & me dance class, have a perfectly “Pinterest” home, create the cutest Valentine’s Day cards for preschool,… and the list goes on. It’s no wonder that many moms carry around excessive loads of guilt.

I don’t know if you are a mom struggling with “mom guilt” or if you are in a different place in your life. Perhaps you are struggling with guilt over sin, a decision, or expectations on your life. I don’t know your life, but here is what I do know…

Jesus came to remove that guilt from your life.

Yes. He died for your sin. Yes. He died for your guilt.

Do you see? He made the ultimate guilt trip…all of the way up Calvary’s hillside.

There is a song, made popular by the David Crowder Band, called, “How He Loves”…I’m sure that you’ve heard it. There is a line of the bridge that always gets me. He sings,

“And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like a unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…that he loves us!”

John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

When we think about the journey that Jesus made for us, we see that, yes, he came for our sin, but he also came for our guilt. When we allow ourselves to be overtaken by guilt, we cannot see clearly to see his great love for us! We cannot swim in His ocean of grace if we are shackled on the shore of guilt and shame. We cannot truly know the freedom offered through Christ, when we allow ourselves to be chained to guilt.

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Our form of slavery is sin and anything attached to it. While not all of our guilt is attached to sin, most of it is. Why do we re-attach ourselves to the sin that Christ has already defeated? Granted, we should have a “broken and contrite” heart (Psalm 51:17) when we sin, but we should act upon that with repentance, not by allowing guilt to linger.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret…”

I think that it is just as bad when we allow guilt to linger for something that was not attached to sin in the first place! Not having the cutest home or most original Valentine’s Day card for preschool should not bring on guilt…but it does for many moms. Why do we torture ourselves? While it is not a bad thing to have a cute home or creative Valentine’s Day card, if things get in the way or you just aren’t feelin’ the Pinterest craze, why beat yourself up over something that just isn’t that big of a deal in the long run? You shouldn’t.

Are you loving your family? Great job, mom.

Are you teaching your children God’s truth? Great job, mom.

Are you making sure that your family is fed and clothed? Great job, mom.

When you mess up, and we all do, let’s show our family an example of repentance and move forward. When we feel guilt begin to nag, let’s evaluate where that feeling is coming from. Is it from a magazine? From culture? From people? From God? If it is from any source other than God, then we should quickly evaluate whether or not we are draining ourselves for a purpose or if we would be better off just letting it go. If it is conviction from God, then we should quickly evaluate our hearts and humble ourselves before our Lord.

Let’s take inventory. What are your expectations for yourself? What are they based on? Culture? Popular media? People? Scripture? Whose expectations are you living for? Are you setting yourself up for failure, due to any unrealistic expectations on yourself? Let’s move toward narrowing down our expectations, so that we are not living for anyone or anything but Christ. When we do that, I believe that we can fully experience the freedom that He has so freely provided for us! We can wade past the shore, plunging into his ocean of grace. When we look up and realize that Jesus made the ultimate guilt trip for us, we can clearly see his great love for us and everything else will seem meaningless and gray. Why should we journey on a path that we do not have to travel? Let’s put aside our guilt and remember that the ultimate guilt trip was made nearly 2,000 years ago, so that we could live in freedom.

Toddler Responsibility Chart…Simple and Fun! (Free Download)

My children often struggle with remembering or being motivated to do certain things throughout the day. These are often basic things, such as brushing teeth, making their bed, getting dressed(yes, this is an issue!), picking up toys, etc.. They are young, and still learning, so this is understandable! I have been planning for awhile to create some basic “responsibility” charts for them to use, so that they have a visual of what is to be done and then they can place a sticker under the corresponding “chore” once it is completed. My kids love stickers, so this is a hit! 🙂

I have created one boy design and one girl design, and each are available at the bottom of this post as a free download. The charts are simple, easy to read and easy to use. They are designed for toddlers and preschool children, with four responsibilities already in place; make bed, brush teeth, get dressed, and clean up toys. There are two extra spaces to put in your own added responsibility if you’d like, or to use as you increase responsibility for older preschoolers. Here is a picture of my kids’ charts:

I glued theirs to colored construction paper. You could laminate(probably what we will do soon!), so that it can be reused week after week, or you can just print a new one each week. As you can see, I have added the responsibility of feeding the cat, onto Madysen’s chart (she really LOVES to feed the cat, so it doesn’t feel like a chore to her yet!). We use star stickers to add as each chore or responsibility is completed. The first three items are completed in the morning, but I usually wait on cleaning up toys until after naptime, otherwise toys will be all over the place again by the afternoon/evening! I’m sure that you other moms can relate! 😉

Here are the download links…Enjoy! 🙂

Girl Responsibility Chart

Boy Responsibility Chart