Parenting

Mommas and Babies

In honor of Mother’s Day, and proof that as a mother it’s hard to get anything accomplished in a timely manner, here are some thoughts on motherhood from this momma to all of you mommas out there.

Motherhood is a state of constant learning. Just when I think I have it together, our kids get a year older and there are new challenges. Or child number two comes along and whoa….we are right back at the beginning. Ok, not the very start but boy isn’t each child different? 

It’s also a state of constant selflessness. “And what does that look like?” you may ask. It’s having my quiet moments interrupted by sweet voices saying, “Where are you?” It’s warming my teacup 3 times before drinking it. It’s holding tiny hands and letting the waves crash on our feet rather than swimming in the deep end. It’s doing chores with a baby bouncing on my hip. It’s having food disappear because it’s always better off of mommy’s plate. It’s praying and letting God show me what each child needs.  

It’s exhaustion, patience, frustration and complete joy. Every possible emotion you can imagine could be listed. Nights are long – yet very short – and days are filled with questions and messes and giggles and teaching.

There are moments of snuggles and moments of discipline. There are bedtime stories, play dates, park adventures and, if you have boys, lots of wrestle time. 

As moms, we all have a special job. Every day we get to look into eyes that adore us. We are their world. We get to provide, kiss boo boos, wipe away tears and nurture little humans who are quickly growing into their own person. We are the recipients of their creativity seen through colored pages and crafts made at school. We hold a responsibility that has eternal impact.

I often feel overwhelmed by the nonstop, “mommy, mommy, mommy” that I hear all day but I remind myself that one day that will end and my heart will be broken. They grow quickly and while the love will remain, I know that I will not always be the first one they run to, the first one they need. So, I cherish these moments. I linger in their hugs. I play with them. I put my phone down and look into their eyes.   

Moms, when you feel tired or overwhelmed or question if you’re doing it right, remember you are not alone. God has handpicked you for your children and He knows you both inside and out. Lean on Him and let Jesus guide you as you guide them. 

For all my readers – Happy (late) Mother’s Day

Devotionals

The Journey to the Miracle

I’ve heard the story of Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea since I was a little girl. There is so much encompassing this story, but let’s be honest, how often do we jump straight to the miracle part? The wow moment. 

Lately, this story has been coming back to me in full force but God has been taking me to a different part of the story – the struggles surrounding the miracle. For God is in the journey as much as He’s in the miracle. 

I’m a planner and a list person so when my daily and monthly routines suddenly get turned into complete uncertainty, it’s easy for me to fall into survival mode shrouded with stress. If I’m not doing something physical to try to figure things out, my mind is working overtime trying to find a solution. And that is where I found myself two months ago. Stressed. Confused. Frustrated. My husband is so good for me. Somehow in the midst of roadblocks and life’s surprises, he has the ability to stay calm and relax. (I’m still working on this gift.)

Through all of this, I’ve been reminded that the presence of God is beyond amazing in our lives. The miracles and provisions we’ve experienced during this challenging season have been a reminder that we serve the God who sees.

It’s been in this state that God has brought me to the story in Exodus over and over again in recent days/months. 

After the mass exodus of thousands of Israelite men, women and children from Pharaoh’s oppression, we read in Exodus 13:17-18, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.”

At the beginning of their journey, no doubt, they were already experiencing unmet expectations. They were ready to fight, probably emotionally fired up anticipating victory. But God didn’t lead them into battle. He took them another route. He took them a longer way of trekking towards the Red Sea. In retrospect, knowing their tendencies for complaining and grumbling, this could have been the onset of a stirring of discontentment. 

What they failed to realize was that God was working on many levels behind the scenes. With every difficult and exhausting step they took, they were walking out a miracle. Scripture says that God led them with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. Verse 22 says, “Neither…left it’s place in front of the people. 

So here we have them, already journeying through different circumstances than imagined, and God directs them to turn back and encamp by the sea. I’m sure emotions were really stirring at this point. While all of this was happening with the Israelites, the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials were shifting. They were regretting their decision to let their captives go and devising a plan to recapture them. 

Fast forward and once again we see God had them turn back and encamp in another place. Even in this, God had a purpose and was confusing the enemy. Finally we pick up the story where the Egyptians are pursuing the Israelites. They realize the danger and their panic turns to complaining – and lots of it. 

Moses then tells them (verses 13-14), “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

Today I can see how God fought for us. I can see how I took unnecessary stress upon myself when God was simply calling me to rest. So once again, I find myself learning to trust on a daily basis.

I pray this for each of you as well, whether you are walking in the struggles surrounding your miracle or experiencing the joy of the miracle itself, be still in the peace that comes from giving Jesus control of every area of your life.  

Kids' Corner, Parenting

The Stocking Doesn’t Match

I love – and I mean LOVE – the Christmas season. November and December hold an excitement that is certainly not contained to kids alone. You know what I mean. Like when the weather cools down enough that you want to drink a peppermint hot chocolate or eat gingerbread cookies just because. 

But here’s a transparent moment for you. I have a problem. I want everything perfect. I want to have a plan for the season, execute traditions and have the house free of clutter at least 95% of the time. Ok, 100% would be wonderful but we have three kids. I want the tree looking nice and, while I want help decorating, I want everything done the way I envision it. After all, I am the lady of the house. 

But this year, I’ve been reminded of the importance of embracing the opposite. A few weeks ago me and the kiddos decorated our tree. Or rather, they decorated the tree and I redid it after they were in bed. The night ended and I sat back and relished in the final product. The tree looked great, the nativity scene was up, and the lights added perfect ambiance to the room. It was cozy and I was happy. 

A couple of days later, I noticed there had been some additions. Three homemade ornaments that had been made last year with the kids’ pictures in them were hanging from the branches, and may I add in the smack center of the tree. My first instinct was to take them down or at least hide them in the back. Thank God for giving me the insight to think through this before impulsively following through with it. A few days later I watched as the kids excitedly showed off their ornaments to their grandparents on FaceTime. 

Fast forward a couple of days and it was a repeat moment with much more visibility. I walked into our living room where five, simple red stockings had been hanging to find the middle one replaced with a mint green stocking that had been decorated at school. Our oldest son was all smiles as he worked on his finishing touches by taking down his wooden name piece that was hanging from the original stocking. He informed me that that was no longer needed because his name was clearly written on his green one. I started to protest (at least until our parties were over and it was just going to be family at home), but his joy stopped me in my tracks and I simply asked him, “Do you really want to leave this up even though it doesn’t match?” A big, “Yes” accompanied by his lingering smile was enough to melt away some of my perfectionism. 

We had our parties and the kids’ decorations stayed put. I was a little surprised but I even had a guest comment about the green stocking and why it was different. I just smiled and told her how much our son loved it. 

So this Christmas I’m learning to both let go and embrace. I’m learning to let go of the ideas that I get stuck on, to let go of perfectionism, to let go of the traditions that aren’t conductive in this season of life (we have three boys and I have to remind myself that their idea of fun is usually quite different than mine) and I’m learning to embrace the more important things. The moments we are creating today are the memories our kids will carry with them into adulthood. So for the bullet point people, like myself, I’ve made a list of the things that really matter this holiday season and things I never want to neglect. 

I want to…

  1. Celebrate Jesus and teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas
  2. Celebrate the joy in our kids lives (if stockings and ornaments make them happy, I don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm)
  3. Teach our kids the importance of blessing and giving to others
  4. Slow down, look into their eyes and spend extra time with them doing what THEY like to do – legos, puzzles and, yes, even video games
  5. Include them in our ministry (we are a family and they need to know that they can make a difference even at their age)

If I can let go of all my preconceived ideas and remember these things, I think it’s going to be a great holiday. And I have a sneaky suspicion that we are going to make new memories and traditions that I’m not even expecting.

Devotionals

Show Up

I’m back. How I’ve missed this space! I’m sitting at my desk, the kids are in bed and I’m grabbing a few moments of quiet. What a wild ride it’s been the past two months. Here’s a little glimpse of the reason for my absence. We’ve lived out of suitcases, we’ve moved and I survived the first trimester of my fifth pregnancy (pregnancy is not nice to me) all while managing life, ministry and three kids six years old and younger. 

I love that God is in the sweet chaos and He speaks when we listen. I want to share with you one theme that He has been reiterating to me in these months of transition in hopes that it will encourage you as it has me. 

“Just show up. Speak about My goodness and I’ll do the work.”

The task oriented side of me wants to go hard and get everything done at once, but lately I’ve been reminded of my limitations. In these moments of inadequacies, Jesus’ voice of encouragement has brought a deep joy and expectancy in the midst of the exhaustion. God has reminded me over and over of His greatness. When we are weak, He is strong. When we exalt Him, He will draw others to Himself. 

Limitations are not an excuse for passivity but rather an opportunity to depend on Him and a reminder that anything good we do comes from Him in the first place. God gives us daily opportunities not only to recognize His goodness but also to share it with others. And what a privilege it is to do just that! We can trust Him to open doors for us if we are willing to show up and speak. 

The last chapter of the book of Romans has intrigued me for years and this morning I went back to it. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too interesting as Paul is simply sending greetings and closing out his letter. However, when I stop to imagine the daily lives of the people he is addressing, I’m challenged and inspired. Each person is living out their God-given opportunities and they don’t all look the same. Check it out…

  1. Priscilla and Aquila – they risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
  2. Mary – worked very hard for you.
  3. Andronicus and Junias – my relatives who have been in prison with me; they are outstanding among the apostles.
  4. Apelles – tested and approved.
  5. Tryphena and Tryphosa – women who work hard in the Lord.
  6. Persis – another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
  7. Rufus – chosen in the Lord.
  8. Rufus’ mother – who has been a mother to me, too.
  9. Timothy – my fellow worker.
  10. Gaius – whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy.
  11. Erastus – who is the city’s director of public works.

As I have been reflecting on this theme the past few weeks, I pass on the challenge to you. Examine your season. What opportunities has God placed in front of you? What are you doing with them? I go back to my original thought from God, “Just show up. Speak about His goodness and let Him do the work.” 

We may not know the outcome of showing up but we can be certain of the outcome for not showing up. 

Devotionals

The Art of Letting Go

There are a million little moments I want to tuck away in my pocket to pull out and relive. But life doesn’t pause, leaving me to be content with the memories made. 

People. Places. Events. There are so many things God has used to shape the person I am and mature me into who He has created me to be. It’s a daily process. A daily surrendering. And a lifetime of growth. 

Recently I sat in my favorite spot of our house, looking around the room at the pictures hanging on our walls and my candle and books creating the centerpiece for our coffee table and I simply reminisced the gift of the past season. My heart ached at the upcoming goodbyes but was comforted by God’s reassuring Presence. In that moment, He reminded me that I didn’t have to say goodbye to Him. 

He has been with me in every move, every transition and every season. He is my constant and He is never leaving. An overwhelming peace and joy settled in my heart as I celebrated this part of the journey with Him. Releasing anything we love is hard but when we know God is moving us on, there is comfort in the change and strength in the letting go. 

God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Remembering this gives me courage to embrace each new horizon. I can let go of what I know and walk toward the unknown because I walk with the One who knows not only my current end but also my new beginning. 

Devotionals

Stress Relieved

I’m not sure what a panic attack actually looks like, but if it’s an overwhelming feeling of stress in my gut that leads to tears every time I think of a situation then I had a mini panic attack this morning. Even while I prepared my tea and excitedly sat down for my moments of quiet before the household woke up, it took every effort to still my pounding heart. 

I’m a pretty transparent person, but this morning I’m going to leave out the details of how I arrived at this moment because that is not the point. (However, if your curiosity gets the better of you, just ask and I’ll gladly share. I’m basically an open book.) 

What I want to focus on is what happened when I sat down. It’s cliche, I know, but it was as if Scripture came alive. The “peace of God that transcends all understanding” (check out Philippians 4:32 in the Bible if you aren’t familiar with this verse) settled in the room and gently took my stress. In the short time that I sat there, God worked on my heart, shifted my perspective and gave me joy for my upcoming day. 

I write this to encourage you in your struggles. Whatever burdens you wake up to, let Jesus carry the weight and teach you how to navigate them gracefully. It doesn’t have to take a long thought out action plan. It simply takes asking God for help. 

If you’re a list person, like myself, here are some bullet points to remember when you feel overwhelmed:

-Be still

-Ask God for help

-Open the Bible

-Let go

It’s that simple. 

So, I leave you with these thoughts and trust you have a wonderful week. Come good or bad – with Jesus’ help, YOU GOT THIS!

Devotionals

Never be content

I hate being satisfied and content. Before you think I’m turning into an egotistical gal, please read on. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the seemingly high speed motion picture that we live in and put our relationship with God into neutral, but I feel a tugging in my spirit to fight this tendency, to reach for more and to challenge you to do the same. I never want to be satisfied with how close I am to God. There is always more. There are more things to learn, more ways to change and more areas in which to grow. And God is desperately waiting for us to want this enough to do something about it.

Do you ever just look around and wonder at God’s handiwork? It’s in everything around us. The mountains, the ocean, the intricate detail of flowers, the variety of personalities, a child’s smile. And in the midst of His grandeur, His voice speaks when we are listening. He is drawing us to Himself. 

My heart’s cry is to know God more. I want to hear the whispers which can only be heard in the close moments of intimacy where His love is spoken over me and I feel the deep beatings of His heart. I want to see the brokenness in this world through His eyes causing me to throw away my comfort in order to do something about it. 

Sometimes we don’t want to listen because we are afraid of what it will cost us. And often times it will cost a lot. But what we will receive in return, both now and in eternity, will far outweigh anything we sacrifice.

Even as I write this, I feel an urgency. Wherever you find yourselves today, I dare you to abandon whatever is hindering you from surrender (fear, doubt, materialism, laziness, stress, busyness, etc.) and run after God like never before. 

You may say you have no idea where to start. Open the Bible, open your heart and watch what God will show you. It’s that simple. 

My prayer for us all:

“Lord, You said that if we draw near to You, You will draw near to us. Give us hearts that desire to know You more. Give us courage to let go of temporal things that hinder a relationship with You. Teach us to slow down. Help us surrender. Mold us into Your likeness. Take us to new levels of friendship with You. Show us Your glory.”

Parenting

Real Mom Life – Part 2

Ok, so let’s talk real life as a mom. It’s busy, fun, messy, hard and absolutely wonderful! 

In my last post, I gave you a look into some of my hectic moments of motherhood and a peek into what God has been showing me through it. Today I want to show you the other side. 

If you walk around my house, you’ll find a leaf on our shelf above the sink, a pine cone in one of our baskets, a heart that shows up on the bathroom mirror after hot showers and random dying flowers at any given time. I wish you could see our four year old’s smile every time he picks little flowers and holds them up to me at the door. Or hear our little one say, “Hold you, mommy,” as he looks up with expectant eyes. I love our special songs, handshakes and memory making traditions. 

But you have your own. 

As mothers, I think we all have tendencies to fall into the comparison trap but it’s important to remember that each family is a unique unit with its own traditions and ways of doing things. And that is so awesome. With that said, when we allow God to guide us as we guide our children, then we can glean from each other and share ideas of what works and what doesn’t. 

My litmus test for a successful day of mothering has much more to do with my attitudes and reactions than the kiddos’. And truth be told, when my heart is in the right place, it usually flows over into their responses as well. But along with this I have a mental list, now an actual one because of this post, that I aim for each day. When I accomplish these things, I go to bed feeling satisfied with another day under my belt as a mom.

Every day I strive for…

  1. Time alone in prayer and Bible reading
  2. Gentle responses with my kids
  3. Limited screen time for the kids (except for special “game days”)
  4. Getting the kids active (park, trampoline, sports, etc)
  5. Spending time with them

It’s a full time job but one I would say yes to over and over. 

So to all you moms out there, remember that no matter how many bad days you’ve had, each day is a new day to try again. We can never be perfect on our own but we can be so much more than ourselves with the help of Jesus. (So spend time with Him.) And we need help because we have little eyes looking at us to be their heroes. 

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope we will all enjoy time with our kids and remember how blessed we are to own the title “Mom.”

Parenting

Real Mom Life – Part 1

Some days I have it together if I must say so myself. Other days, well, not so much. In this post I’m going to deal with the latter. Stay tuned for part two, which is a much prettier display of motherhood packaged with a little more sanity. 

Oh and spoiler alert…I’m now 2 days past the writing of this post and…I survived.

This morning my alarm went off more times than I’d like to admit and my quiet time was shortened significantly. Why do I do this to myself first thing in the morning?

I rushed around getting all three kids ready because it was a full day and Jake and I were going in different directions. I sent him off with our youngest while I wrapped up the last few morning routines with our two older boys before taking our oldest son to school.

We are in the middle of moving houses and I hadn’t been to the grocery store so my son’s packed lunch options were limited and he was less than thrilled about those options. I informed the boys that we were eating breakfast in the car because not only were we out of time but the bag of pop-tarts and cereal (don’t judge our well balanced menu) was left outside in the moving process. Only then did I realize that my keys were missing and breakfast was locked in the car. My thoughts, “If I don’t find these keys in 7 minutes, our son will be late for school.” I started a frantic search. Nothing. My panic started segueing into ideas of what we could do together if we couldn’t find them. Then we found them, well, Jake did. He accidentally took them and he wasn’t coming home for at least an hour. I called a friend who graciously came, picked up our son and took him to school. 

Problem solved. Now on to the next one. It was 8:15 and I found myself looking at our middle son who was smiling up at me, waiting for me to tell him what we were going to do. The only thing is that I had nothing for him to do (all of their toys and games were packed) and breakfast was still locked in the car. So I went into mommy mode of how I could make this an adventure. 

And so my day started…

In the midst of errands, packing, ministry, moving, meetings and office work, I’m “mostly” a stay at home mom. And with that comes a lot of refereeing, playing judge and teaching. Currently, we are teaching our youngest son not to hit and bite, our middle son to have patience with our youngest and our oldest son that he has to pay attention when we are talking to him. Sometimes I think I’m going to go crazy. I’m not sure how many times I’ve prayed, “Jesus, help me” in the past few days. 

I’ve had a kaleidoscope of emotions from anger to love to frustrations to “I’ve gotta have a moment of silence.” Just one, please! 

And then came that still, sweet voice of Jesus that always teaches me things in the chaos. 

Yesterday I was talking to the boys and wondering if they were even following me or if their stares indicated they were in another world all together. I wanted them to get along. To be kind to each other. To help each other out. 

In that moment, God reminded me that He wants that too. He wants them to know Him personally and while they, ultimately, have to choose for themselves, God has given these children to us to reflect His character to them. 

My patience, my gentleness and my kindness is what they are learning. This season is their classroom and no matter what I say, my actions are teaching them something. It’s a sober thought, but it leads me to pray, “Lord, mold my character to reflect Yours!” 

In the heat of the moment when everyone is calling my name at once, asking questions, telling stories, pulling on my shirt, I don’t usually feel patient and gentle.

Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all…” It’s not too difficult to let my gentleness be evident in public, but “to all” includes my family. This is the class I’m currently taking. 

Now that you know what I’ve been ruminating on, back to my adventure. While, internally, I wrestled with my emotions for the next 12 hours, the day actually ended with sweet memories made. My middle son and I took a walk that ended with breakfast at a bagel shop, the afternoon was filled with more packing and responsibilities and that evening the boys and I had reading time while we ate chocolate drizzled popcorn. 

At the end of the day, these are the moments we will remember.

Stress is so normal in motherhood but we can’t get stuck in the attitudes it naturally produces. May we allow God to stretch us beyond our own abilities into the best moms we can be. And in the process, let’s enjoy every moment we have with our kids, come good or bad. 

Devotionals

Influencers

I’m in the middle of a great book, Refiner’s Fire. It’s a compilation of ODGs’ (Old Dead Guys’, as we call them) words, written down by members of their congregations and unedited.  Every time I pick it up I walk away with a challenge whether I read for ten minutes or thirty. Here is an excerpt from my morning reading and some thoughts it evoked. 

“God forbid that the sheep of His pasture should ever cling to any word that proceeds from our mouth that did not first of all proceed out of the mouth of God. God forbid that any of His sheep should willfully follow any one of God’s ministers in any manner of behavior or teaching, that did not originate in the heart of God.”

It is through union with Christ and a daily infilling of the Holy Spirit that we can truly walk and live and work in His power and anointing. I’m reminded of the Scripture in Isaiah 50:4 that says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.”

As a parent, a minister, a musician, a writer and whatever other title I’m carrying in a day, I desire to be led by the Holy Spirit in every ounce of my communication. I pray that my words and actions are empowered by the presence of Jesus and that out of that flows change, encouragement and Kingdom advancement. I desire that my life glorifies the One – Jesus – who loves me immeasurably.

What could change if we all walked with the knowledge in the forefront of our minds that within the mundane of the day to day God has equipped us with a purpose that is so much greater than ourselves? We are light bearers called to illuminate the darkness. What could happen if we all woke up and lived out this Scripture? An equally crucial question can be asked. What if we don’t? 

Either way we answer these questions for ourselves, someone’s life will be changed, along with our own. 

I feel so passionate about the fact that there are people waiting for the hope we possess and we have the responsibility to share it. We must daily stay connected to the Source in order to properly portray His character and His life to the hurting.

To all my readers, I hope you will chew on these thoughts along with me and let God speak to you in the place you are at. If you’d like to share, leave me a comment below and I’d love to dialogue about what God is doing in your heart through these ideas and this verse.