Learning to Trust

I am learning to trust. Not just a surface level trust, that is dependent upon circumstances, emotions, or feelings, but a deep trust that transcends my own nature and tendencies. It is a deep seated trust that stems from my heart.

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This is difficult because I like to have control. I have many traits of a “Type A “ personality, and relinquishing control is often quite challenging for me.

Merriam-Webster defines trust as assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”.

In my case, I am learning to trust God. To trust that His character is good, that his ability is more impressive than my own, that his strength is immeasurable, and that He is truly more than enough for me. I believe all of these things. I always have known these things to be true, but fully trusting and yielding to Him, in all things, can be a struggle at times.

I tend to say, “Oh, I’ve got this.”, yet I hear His Spirit tug on my heart, saying, “But you are not me. I know best. Please trust me in this.” I hear it in the smallest issues, to the larger, seemingly impossible situations. Even when it is hard.

 

His ways are higher.

 

I am growing. It is not perfect growth, and there are times when I take a step or two backwards, but there is growth, and for that I am grateful. God is patient and gentle with me through this journey. He is a gracious and kind Father. I pray that there is always growth.

It is really an issue of the heart. Is my heart yielding to His way over mine? Am I fooling myself into thinking that I still have some control over my life, when I have made a choice to follow Jesus? Do I remember that Jesus asks me to not look back, but to follow Him wholeheartedly, in every area of my life? “My” life, which is not my own anymore…indeed, it is foolish to believe that I can seek control over my life and still follow Jesus wholeheartedly.

My reliance on Him cannot be dependent on seeing the entire map for the journey. Perhaps the journey looks like Abram’s journey, when God called Him to go. Abram did not have a map or a detailed itinerary for His journey. God simply called Him to go. He, did, however, have the ultimate tour guide for his journey.

My reliance on Him cannot take on a worldly view of “well, he has to earn my trust first.” God has nothing to prove, because he has already provided the ultimate proof of His love for us. Do we really need additional proof of His good character, compassionate nature and unconditional love for us? No, we certainly do not. As a matter of fact, His provision for us, through the cross, should be sufficient for us to run quickly to Him, without abandon, thrusting it all at His feet. 

 

Jesus is enough.

 

When I trust Him, there is peace. There is assurance in giving myself away, for the joy of trusting the Lord. Oh, my sin nature fights it sometimes, but letting go is such a sweet thing. We can rest in Him, who is perfect, and not in our flawed selves. I mess up, but He is faithful and constant. My God does not mess up.

 

I can rest in Him.

 

“You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it is trusting in you. Trust in the Lord forever, because in the Lord, is an everlasting rock!” ~Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 

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! 🙂

Death, where is your victory?!?

A few days ago, I was sitting in a consultation with a soon-to-be bride, discussing her wedding (I am a photographer). She had a great question to ask, but for some reason, her question struck an uncomfortable nerve with me. She simply inquired about what would happen if something were to happen to me, before her wedding…you know, like I was in a terrible accident, I died, etc..

My stomach flip-flopped. It was simply a question, and a very good one, but it still got to me. Something about the thought of death tends to make us a little queasy and uneasy much of the time. For me, I tend to allow human thoughts and emotions to run wild at times, especially with topics such as this.

Last year, the day before Easter, my Pawpaw passed away. It was a very difficult weekend, and the past year has been tough for my family.He was the patriarch of our family, and we all loved him dearly. He had a special relationship with each person in the family, and it still feels surreal to have him gone from this earth.

Death is not easy. It is not easy to ponder and it is difficult to understand at times.

Over 2,000 years ago, a handful of people were mourning the death of their beloved friend, son, teacher, brother, and Lord. Jesus was dead. Their King had been nailed to a cross, and had suffered one of the most horrific deaths possible. He had been mocked, tortured, ridiculed, and ultimately killed. His friends and family likely felt hopeless and full of despair. It was a dark time.

I am most certain that Jesus’ friends and family, pondered and relived those last days and hours that they had with their Lord. I’m sure that the disciples wondered if they could have done more to help when Jesus was arrested in the garden. I can imagine that they each recounted conversations and interactions that they’d had with Judas, probably wondering if they had missed an important clue that would have revealed him to be Jesus’ betrayer, instead of friend. Peter, undoubtedly, felt ashamed and unworthy, due to his own betrayal and denial of Jesus. As a mother, I am certain that Mary was broken as she recalled Jesus as a tiny baby, joyful toddler, and wise son. There were likely many tears, questions, and uncertainty about the days to come. It was very dark.

But, it did not stay dark! On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, alive and victorious! We know the story, but do we know the implications of this? He is alive now, and because of that, we can have fellowship with our Heavenly Father, through Jesus. Amen! This truth is so amazing for us! We don’t deserve it, nor will we ever deserve it, but praise God, He is a gracious and loving God, who has made a way!

What a beautiful and divine plan that God has ordained for us, through the death and resurrection of Jesus! There is hope, when we know Him! There is life! There is joy!

Even more, we don’t have to fear death. Death has NO victory over us, when we follow Christ! We have hope! Check it out:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord itself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meed the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” {1 Thessalonians 4:13-18}

What a beautiful and hope filled passage of God’s Word!  “And so we will be with the Lord forever” …yes, please! While we may temporarily grieve the loss of an earthly companion, family member or friend, we are not hopeless, as those who do not know Christ. We have a promise. I am saddened for those that are not followers of Jesus, because they are missing out! What a hopeless and despairing place to be, when you don’t have the promise of life. (Perhaps you feel hopeless and don’t understand what in the world I’m talking about – email me, comment, whichever you’d like – I’d love to talk with you and pray for you!)

Let’s encourage one another in this, and above all, let’s remember the reason for our hope. Let’s strive to share this beautiful promise of life, with those that have not yet experienced Jesus. As we celebrate this Easter weekend, we should not fail to remember Jesus. We should not fail our friends, our family, or anyone that we know, by not sharing this promise of hope. We are commissioned to do so (Matt 28:19-20), by Jesus, himself! We can not be selfish with Jesus! Share more than eggs and Easter dinner this weekend. Share hope and life! Let your joy be abundant. Let your hope be seen. 🙂

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Fear – Part 2: Whom Shall I Fear?

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In Part 1 of this post, we talked about fear that is negative and not beneficial for us. Today, in Part 2, I want to address something that has been on my heart for some time as well. This post is about fear, but not the kind we discussed before. This kind of fear is good and one we should have, if we claim to follow Jesus.

The fear of the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” -Psalm 1:7

Throughout my life, I have heard many people say that this “fear of the Lord” is to have a healthy respect for God, or an awe-inspiring view of Him. After all, he created the universe! We should be in awe of Him and all of His wonders. I agree! I, however, think that there are many key parts of fearing the Lord, which we tend to disregard and treat as not important. I believe that we tend to place more importance on how people view us, what they think about our actions, words, etc., rather than what God thinks. We sugar coat the gospel of Christ.  We know whom we should fear, but the question remains, “Whom do we actually fear?”.

I think that we can determine what/whom we truly fear, when we examine our actions and motives. For instance, when we refrain from saying a curse word, is it because we have an honor and respect for our Lord, which causes us to live our lives in such a way that we are “beyond reproach”? Or do we simply refrain from speaking a certain way, at certain times, because of the company that we are near? Is it your pastor or church leaders that you fear? Do you dress a certain way, recite scripture, or listen to specific music to impress your church leaders or make them think you are more “spiritual”? Perhaps, it is your parents. Maybe you were brought up with “old fashion” teachings,  and by upholding expected morals and standards, you are living up to their expectations of you. Dig deep! Think about it. What is the driving force for you, when making moral or spiritual decisions? Are you Spirit-driven or are you people-driven? Sadly, we often do not know the difference.

It is unfortunate, but many of our churches place an emphasis on things that do not matter! We are leading people to the slaughter, while wearing a big church smile on our face. We are concerned with dressing a certain way, saying the right words, having a large attendance, being nice to people, singing pretty songs, maintaining church business, etc., and very little of what we place importance on has to do with telling people about Jesus! Whom do we fear? We fear that our church will not having enough money. We fear that people will think we are “judgmental” or mean if we talk about sin. We fear that if we lift our hands while singing, someone might think we are strange. We fear that if we don’t have all of the right, pretty and proper words, people might think we don’t know what we are doing. Guess what? We don’t. We don’t have a clue about what we are doing. We are walking through life, as if this Jesus business is all butterflies and ponies, and it’s not even close. I think that Matt Chandler, in his book, The Explicit Gospel, says it well, when he writes:

“The avoidance of the difficult things of Scripture–of sinfulness and hell and God’s notable severity–is idolatrous and cowardly. If a man or woman who teaches the Scriptures is afraid to explain to you the severity of God, they have betrayed you, and they love their ego more than they love you. In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God.

When you couple this avoidance with some of the modernist theology that has Jesus floating around like a mystical Ghandi, never angry at anybody, a dispenser of bumper-sticker platitudes and discount fortune cookies, you’ve got the perfect storm of those who have no awe, no respect, and no real worship for the God of the universe.”

We walk in the gray, eager to appease those around us. We love ourselves, our status, and our egos, as Chandler says. We do not give proper consideration to how our lives look before the Holy of Holies, who has ransomed us from a life of sin, giving us fabulous opportunity to point to Him with everything that we do! What marvelous grace has been bestowed upon us! We have moved from God’s wrath, to the infinitely wide umbrella of His grace! When we understand God’s wrath, and experience pardon from it, our level of awe and reverence for God should grow exponentially! We are divinely commissioned to live our lives in such a way (worship!) that people cannot help but ask about our Jesus, and we cannot help but share of Him! But, really…what do we do? We are nice to people. We invite people to Sunday School(when we are feeling bold). We stay inside our church walls, as if we have a magical glow that will just draw people to the church on Sunday mornings. Where is the awe of God in all of this? Does this “church life” look like the life and action of a person who has encountered the Almighty God and been given pardon for eternity, with the ability to share the experience with others? No, it doesn’t! It looks more like we are hosting a fun little birthday party that we think someone might (maybe, you know, if they are not busy) want to attend. Really? We are talking to, walking past, working with people every day, who are still living separated from their Creator, and they have the opportunity to know Him in the most intimate way! We don’t want to tell them? Where is the awe and respect for our great God, whom has called us–commissioned us–to share about Him with others? What blatant disrespect we have for the God that we claim to love with our whole hearts. We know the call, yet we choose to not yield. It is a blatant lack of fear, reverence, and awe. Our lives do not look like we are in awe. We are NOT in awe.  

I realize that this may sound harsh, but I am speaking to myself, just as much as the person reading this. This is an epidemic in our churches! It is a problem! So, how do we break the mold? How do we step out and truly follow Christ? How do we let the love of Christ and the fear of God rule in our hearts and lives? We become Spirit-led people (Galatians 5). We seek the approval of God instead of man (Galatians 1:10). We encourage others not to be complacent, but to be bold in their faith. We, ourselves, turn away from complacency! We live reverently before God, seeking to point to Him and give Him all of the glory. We fall on Scripture. We choose Truth. We choose to shake off the shackles of worldly approval, and seek to proclaim the freedom found in Christ! We cannot know true freedom, until we know what bondage feels like, so we should be honest about sin. We should be honest about hell. We should proclaim the grace and mercy found at the cross. We should point people to Jesus. Not to a preacher. Not to a church. Point them to Jesus. He is all that really matters.

“Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:26-31)

Whom do you fear?

Fear – Part 1: The Not-So-Good Kind…

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I have wrestled with writing this blog post for quite some time. Not because I don’t know what to say, but ironically, because I know exactly what to say and I struggle with this very issue, day in and day out. This topic keeps coming back to me, time and time again, because I face it each day. I am most certainly not an expert on the topic, but I know one thing: I have God’s Word to lean on and draw from. His Word is true and powerful. I also know that by diving in and writing this post, God can speak to me through my own weakness and hopefully someone out there can relate to this post. I pray that God will use my weakness for His glory.

I am afraid sometimes.

I fear that something tragic could happen to my children or husband.

I fear that I am not a good enough mom.

I fear that my children will be fearful.

Sometimes fear consumes me.

I have not even tried to list all of the fears that plague me at times, but I can assure you that the list is long. Some of my fears are rooted deep and have been around since I can remember. Some of them are ridiculous and some are legitimate. Some have actually tapered off over the years. I know that I should not let fear operate within my life, but sometimes I do. Moms…can you relate? In light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, I think we have all held our children a bit closer and gained a fresh perspective on how fragile life can be. I avoid turning on the news, because it strikes fear within my heart at times. My heart breaks for those that are suffering or have lost a child, but I quickly become fearful that something could happen to one of my own children or family. Why do we fear? Do we not have faith? Faith that our Lord will sustain us? Jesus, himself, said:

“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34

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“Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kil the soul; rather, fear HIm who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~Matthew 10:26-31

I am reminded of the time when Jesus was with his disciples in a boat, at sea, when a great storm came upon them (Mark 4). Jesus was asleep and the disciples were all fearing the worst! They cried out in desperation and doubt, saying to Jesus, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?”. Jesus awoke and, with just a command, silenced the storm. His response to the disciples was, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”. Did Jesus know that the storm was coming? Probably. Did he still maintain control, even amidst crashing waves and fierce wind? Absolutely. The storm came, but God was still sovereign.

We (I) must remember that there will be storms – probably many. We must remember that God is all-knowing and yes, he even knows about the storms. While He knows of the storm, this does not mean that he causes it or wishes us to suffer. No! It is just the opposite. He cares for us. While we may fear the storm, our God does not fear, nor does he forget about us when the waves are crashing. We may think He is not concerned, just as the disciples thought of Jesus, but the truth is that He cares more for us than anyone else possibly could.

“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the sea.” ~Psalm 46:1-2

“He[the righteous man] will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured. He will not fear.” ~Psalm 112:7-8

When we have a Heavenly Father, who loves us to the extent of sending His son to pay the price for our wretched sin, how can we doubt his care for us? How can we fear the things of the world, a broken place that is temporary, when we have the eternal hope of Christ?

All fear operates outside the bounds of faith. When we harbor fear, we are doing the opposite of having faith. We are essentially saying that we doubt that God will come through in the midst of the storm. We fear the storm because we doubt our Refuge.

I don’t know what your personal storm is. Perhaps you are in the midst of the waves and feel as if you are being pulled under, or perhaps you are fearfully anticipating a storm that may or may not ever arrive. Let’s all take a deep breath and relax for a minute. Let’s remember that our God is far bigger than any storm, and while the storms may come, He will always be sovereign. If you have a relationship with Him, you have His Spirit, our comforter. While we might be allowed to walk through storms, He will walk beside us and even carry us when we are too weak to walk. His promise is to not leave us or forsake us, “Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6.

“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me.” ~Psalm 23:4

Not only do we lack faith when we harbor fear in our lives, but we also hinder what God wants to accomplish through us! Looking back, we see Jonah, who was fearful and ran from God when he was called to go to Nineveh. Ultimately, Jonah went and an entire city turned toward the Lord! We remember Mary, the mother of Jesus, who acquiesced to the will of God and bore His Son! Our Savior! What a frightening responsibility! Paul wrote to the Corinthian church of his own “fear and trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3), yet we see God glorified through Paul’s strengthened faith and willingness to persevere. Fear can be enslaving if we allow it. Do we wish to be enslaved by fear, just as those who have no hope in Christ? For anyone who does not have salvation through Jesus, fear is a real thing and to be expected. Our lives, however, should be marked by hope, confidence and peace. Fear, trepidation and anxiety have no place in the life of a Christ follower!

“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” ~2 Timothy 1:7

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 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 there is any praise – dwell on these things.” ~Philippians 4:6-8

Will you join me as we journey toward faith and away from fear?

*Check back next week, er…*edited to say that the next blog is in the works, but definitely took longer than a week*  for Part 2 in the “Fear” series when we dive into the GOOD kind of fear!

 

The Ultimate Guilt Trip

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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.

Official First Day! (“Not Back to School” Photo Hop 2012)

This week is our official first week of school! Last week we went on a family vacation to the coast and since it was so adventurous (aka, full of sickness and a hospital visit), I will post more about that later… Although we were all exhausted, the kids were still super excited to begin school! We had not planned to begin until Tuesday, the 21st, but we did a “test run” on Monday since they were begging me to do school! I love that they are so eager to learn. 🙂

Tuesday was our official “first day” though! Before I post the pictures, I must warn you…this momma was tired and yes, even though I am a professional photographer, I pulled out my fancy pants iPhone to snap these few images! I know, I know…shame on me. Oh well! It was close, convenient and, well… it is what it is. 😉 Here are our “official” “not back to school” photos for this year!
Not Back to School Blog Hop

 

T-Man

Miss M

And…since I was gone last week and did not make it around to posting pictures of our dining school room…here is a quick one! 🙂

Well, so far, so good! We are still settling into a good routine/schedule for school since I am doing “regular” school with Miss M, preschool with T-Man, and juggling busy 15 month old, Baby L! Next week, I will be posting about what a typical day for us looks like, as well as a quick overview on how everything is going so far. We are having fun and adjusting to this new routine right now!

Steph 🙂

Not Back to School Blog Hop: 2012-2013 Curriculum

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Okay! I have been researching, reading and working hard to decide on our final curriculum choices for the 2012-2013 school year and I am proud to say that I have done it! It has all been ordered and we plan to begin school on August 21st. The first week will be pretty light and, in addition to lessons, will consist of organizing and getting adjusted to a school routine. I am linking up over at iHomeschool Network for their 4th annual Not Back-to-school Blog Hop, so be sure to head over there and check out the many great bloggers that have linked up as well! 🙂

Mady & Ty

Bible – “What We Believe” from the “Who is God?” series by Apologia and we will be using Seeds Family Worship with free printables for scripture memory from Totally Tots.

Spanish – Speekee TV

Ty (3) – Preschool

Letter of the Week Curriculum

Mady (5) – Kindergarten

Reading/Phonics – All About Reading Level 1

Handwriting – Horizons Penmanship (Grade 1)

Math – Math-U-See (Alpha)

Science – “Exploring Creation with Botany” by Apologia

History/Geography – Road Trip USA

Our core subjects will be Bible, Reading, and Math, with the others being 2-3 days per week, depending on the subject. I do NOT want to overwhelm and when looking at all of this, it can seem like a lot, but a lot of it is interactive. Spanish is something fun that they will watch and I know that they will look forward to doing that each week. We will also be doing some fun art projects throughout the year, but I am still looking into the best projects to incorporate. I am super excited to get started! I hope to post our plan and schedule soon also! Mady is so ready to start school and I think that we are going to have a lot of fun together this year. Ty will probably “help” with some of our Road Trip USA, as well as science, but I know that it will be more for Mady than anyone else. I have spent a lot of time planning this school year and I am not naive enough to think that all of this will be perfect, but nonetheless, I am excited for all of this to come together and to see how it plays out for us! I hope to give a mid-year update as well with a report on how it is all working for us. Soon, I will also be posting pictures of our dining school room and some looks at a fun toddler “busy basket” that I am putting together for the littlest one (1 year old) and Ty when they need something for entertainment during school time for Mady.

We are heading out for vacation this weekend and will be gone a little over a week, so I plan to have lots of cute beach pictures to share when we return!

Thanks for taking the time to read my little ol’ blog! ‘Til next time… 🙂

 

Only a Season

“There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:”

-Ecclesiastes 3

Life is full of seasons. This week I have been reminded of this. Mostly because, for me right now, I am in a trying and sometimes lonely season. Currently, I am mom to a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old. We have been dealing with everything from a 14 month old that just cut his 16th tooth last week, to a 3 year old who is learning to control emotion and boyish tendencies to throw, hit and jump every second of the day, to a 5 year old that sometimes can be a little too big for her britches and seems to have the emotions of a 15 year old some days. I stay at home with the children while my husband works Tuesday-Friday, and I usually work for my business on most Mondays and Saturdays. I haven’t been to church or our small group Bible Study in nearly 2 weeks, due to a fussy baby and bedtimes, and sometimes it is just plain exhausting. The laundry pile seems to grow exponentially and the floors seem to cough up dirt and crumbs 5 seconds after being cleaned. I stay up way too late many nights, just to enjoy the peace and quiet that occurs in our home once everyone is asleep. Sometimes I get cranky and have an overwhelming desire to lock myself in a closet and call it a day! (Okay, not really!)

Please do not get me wrong. I love my children more than I can begin to express and they are such a joy to me! There are many days that the hugs, kisses, and “I love you”s, bring my heart to a point where it is so full of love it might explode! There are still the other days though, when I have to work hard at being the mother that I know I am called to be. My love for my family never wavers, but my human, tired, emotional self sometimes wins. Sometimes I have to remind myself of what I know to be true and I have to pray more and take the day just a small piece at a time. Sometimes I have to come back and read my own words, just like this post from awhile back.

I am not seeking sympathy, because I am not in a position to need it. In fact, it is just the opposite – I am incredibly blessed and humbled to be gifted with 3 beautiful children. I have been entrusted with them, and the task, while sometimes daunting, is full of reward and blessing! I think sometimes we shy away from being real and letting others know that we struggle. We ALL struggle and if someone tells you otherwise, please know, that is not the whole truth. My goal here is to encourage someone else who may feel alone in their particular struggle or season of life.

I don’t know what season of life that you are in right now, but I want you to be encouraged. It is only a season. One day, you will have but only a memory from this time and the reality of it will be no more. I am reminded of this as I think back on other seasons in my life that have passed. My heart aches as I think of my children growing older and one day not being little anymore. I know how quickly time passes. I know that while some days I am just going through my day with the goal of bedtime in mind, there will come a day when I might wish this time back. I also know that the Lord is growing me through this season. I am learning patience, gentleness, and I am learning to do everything, even the mundane tasks, with the intention of bringing glory to my Maker. Without these seasons, my heart could not be shaped the way that it is being shaped.

I want to encourage you, no matter the season that you are in. Perhaps it is one of joyful abundance and you are reaping the rewards and blessings from a more difficult season that has already passed. Perhaps you are struggling in a rocky season that is laced with thorns and rough terrain. Be encouraged. It is only a season. Rejoice in the fact that, you are being shaped, according to the will of your heavenly Father. James chapter one says, Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” and 12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” Character does not just happen, it is formed. We do not and cannot see the larger picture, but rest assured, your Father does.

 

 

Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wraps

I made these last week and they were seriously AMAZING! My husband and children also loved this meal, so it was a WIN! The combo of this chicken salad, red bell peppers, and avocado is delicious! 🙂

Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wraps

Chicken Salad:

2/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 – 2 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 – 3 green onions, sliced thin
2 cups poached, diced or shredded chicken (I baked 4 chicken breasts at 350 for about half an hour, with a small bit of water in the pan and lightly seasoned with salt/pepper, then cubed it)
2/3 cup black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup corn kernels

Wraps:

Large tortillas (I used sun dried tomato and basil large wrap tortillas)

Chicken Salad

Avocado, sliced

Baby spinach (or salad greens, but I prefer spinach!)

For the Chicken Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, lime juice, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and cilantro. Whisk to combine.

Add the chicken and green onion to the sour cream mixture. Stir until the chicken is well coated.

Fold in the black beans, bell pepper, and corn. Cover and chill until serving.

To Prepare the Wraps:
Layer chicken salad, salad greens or baby spinach and avocado slices inside tortillas. Fold up the ends and roll the wrap to seal it. Slice in half. Serve with salsa on the side, if desired.

Eat and Enjoy! 🙂