Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Have To Be OK With Yourself First

“You have to be okay with yourself first.” That thought flashed across my mind as I was contemplating a difference of opinion I’d shared with a loved one. I was going back over the conversation and the course of events and how – almost always – my heart wants to immediately remedy and “fix” things. How I want everything to be all right and no grievances held between me or anyone else.

Oh, how the years have taught me that that isn’t always possible! I’ve done a lot of “let-going” over the years. Sometimes I have to let go of my pride and my right to see a situation turn out in what I perceive is the “right” way. Sometimes I have to let go of someone else’s perception of me. Both are very hard.

But I’ve been learning.

I’ve been learning that through those “sometime” moments, I have to lay things at God’s feet instead of leaving them in my own hands. I have to release the “me” that tries to crop up and let prayer and fate take its course.

People are not always going to agree with me. Even if I’m right. They aren’t always going to like me. Even if I’m likeable. They aren’t always going to want me. Even if I’m valuable. It’s just the way it is. And I can make peace with that – finally.

Because I’ve been learning to be okay with myself.

If I’m okay with how I act, react, love, speak, and serve for my God – then that needs to be enough. It needs to give me the peace to carry me through the awkward and the uncomfortable. The lonely.

And – if I’m okay with myself, then most of the times, others will be too. Maybe not at first. But eventually.

I can’t give anything to anyone if I’m partly broken myself. If I’m not quite whole. Not quite complete. Not quite ME.

Controversy in my life will come. Disagreements will be many. But if I’m okay with who I am as a person, then I can get through each one knowing I gave my best and did my best.

I can feel peace.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


In the not-so-distant past, it seemed like God might be asking me to let go of something that I was holding pretty tightly on to. I felt like I might panic a little bit – and my mind went into overtime trying to figure out how to maintain my hold over something that meant a lot to me.

It turned out – that God never required me to let go.

Now, I’m ready. In fact, I’m so ready that I’m hungry. I’m hungry for that next step or adventure that He might take me on. I’m thinking ahead and trying to figure out ways to prepare. Ways to maintain some of my comforts, while also letting go of that “big thing.” It’s funny how as time went on – that “big thing” isn’t even so big to me anymore.  It’s just another “thing.”

Yet, now, it seems as if God has me on “hold.”

Why is that? Why does He sometimes move us to let go of what we aren’t quite ready to …and then when we are – He doesn’t ask it of us?

I haven’t been this “hungry” for something more from God in a long time. I’m so hungry for it that it almost moves me to tears.  And I’m trying to be patient (which isn’t easy for me.) I’m trying to remind myself that God’s timing is perfect and that I wouldn’t want any less. I wouldn’t be content with anything less!

Yet there it still exists in my heart. That longing – that desire – that dream.

I know that all the details of what I long for may not happen. I know that if I look at them in realistic eyes that they may even be impossible. But doesn’t God love to work in the impossible? And doesn’t He want us to dream audacious prayers? So I think – “Why not?” Why can’t He fulfill my heart’s desires?

If I’m sitting here saying, “God, I’m ready to be used by you in a larger way,” – why wouldn’t He take me up on my offer?

I have to remember that God’s ideas and mine don’t always mesh. And I have to remember that oftentimes blessings come with great sacrifice. Am I ready to sacrifice something that might be hard for me? When it came down to it – would I?

So I sit here thinking, “Just what would He require of me?”

And there is my answer. I think God sometimes simply wants to prepare, equip, and teach us. I think He wants to take us to that next level so IF the time should come to let go of what we aren’t wanting to, that we can do it more readily knowing there is always a cost to His call.

I’m still feeling hungry right now for God’s direction. I’m still dreaming big. I’m still of the frame of mind that my God can do what everyone else doubts. But I’m also more contemplative – more cautious, instead of ready to jump in with both feet. I’m ready to ponder those things that God might ask of me. I’m ready to look within and see just how unselfish I can be in giving up and being stretched in those areas where He may call me to sacrifice.

I’m hoping that I can come to terms with giving more into His hands than I’d originally thought so that when He DOES call – that I will be both ready and equipped.  And that the sacrifice won’t come as a hardship at all; but as a gift to Him with arms and hands ready to hand it over.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Waiting Up When Your Child Is Out

My heart is not right when one of my kids isn’t home. The house feels empty somehow. Even with other people home and doing their “thing” – my house knows that one of us is not there. It’s as if it can feel it, as well as me.

I hate looking out at the night sky through my window and wondering what my child is doing; feeling. Who is looking at her – talking about her? Do they mean her harm or good?

The clock ticks. I know when she is due to come home and my arms and my heart won’t rest until she is there.

I text her – just to check in. Sometimes I use an excuse, other times I just blatantly ask, “How’s it going? Are you having fun?”  My eyes glance at the phone until a text comes back through showing me that she is still safe. She is well.

How do you go to sleep when you know one of  your own is out “there?” How can you rest? There have been so many nights where my eyes have grown so heavy – wanting to shut. And I’ve been so thankful when my husband looks at me and tells me that he will wait up until our little sheep is safely home in our flock again. I can then sleep – knowing that someone is on watch…on duty.

I don’t like it when my kids are out. They may be having a great time with great people. I may get time for an actual date with my spouse. But I don’t like it when my kids are out.

They belong with me. Where I know what is influencing them and who. They belong with me – the one who gave them life.

(Oh yah – GOD gave them life. Not me. I was just a vessel.)

And He has them in His hands everywhere they go even though I’d like my hands to be the ones that pull the strings.

God loves them – even more than I do. Hard to fathom. To grasp. Yet He does.

And I know that as much as I don’t feel at rest knowing they are out “there” – He never rests. He is always watching.

And that knowledge reassures me. Reminds me that they are in the best possible hands.

Still….I like it better when they are at home. With me.

For they are part of me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sometimes Your Walk Becomes a Crawl

Living life as a believer certainly isn’t always easy.

There are times in life where life really gives you a beating. As a Christian, it’s easy to feel like you shouldn’t doubt God in those times or you shouldn’t do this or that. If you do experience certain feelings, you can easily feel guilty or beat yourself up on top of the beating that you feel life already gave you.  It can become an unhealthy cycle.

Faith isn’t always easy. 

I think I’ve forgotten at times, that not just life is a struggle….but my faith life can also be a struggle.  I don’t always have the answers I search for. I’m not always kept safe or protected. Sometimes I’m out there – vulnerable. The wind hits me hard and the storm batters me. I’d long to be in where it’s dry, cozy, and protected but I can’t run there when I long to. I have to take the hits for a while and that can hurt.

I know my God is wise and trustworthy. But just knowing that doesn’t always mean I will understand His ways or even agree with them. I want to live life safe. Protected. Blessed. I want God to find favor with me.

I don’t want to make mistakes. Get hurt. Have to learn lessons the hard way. Be mistreated, overlooked, abused, or forgotten. No – those things aren’t on my agenda. Yet, they happen.

I find that I have to hold on to who I know my God to be very tightly during these times. I have to remain committed to His truths despite what the world may be shouting at me. I have to lean into Him – hard.

The Christian life isn’t always a walk in the park. Sometimes, yes, it can be a glorious run with the sun shining down on us and favors and blessings being bestowed on our lives. We can have miracles and touching answers to prayers. Other times, it is a steady walk. Things happen more slowly but we continue to grow in Him as we see and experience all kinds of things.

 Sometimes our Christian life is but a crawl. We are on our knees and are barely moving forward one hand and leg at a time as we hold on with every breath in us to our faith. When we are in those times, it’s okay to not be ministering to others. It’s okay that we are struggling to find blessings. For it’s enough that we are holding onto Him.

We WILL grow. We WILL get stronger as we crawl through those challenging times. We just need to hang in there and believe that the sun WILL shine again after the storm we are going through passes.

There will come a time where you once again feel like you can walk or even run as a believer and child of God. But for today, if all you feel like is you can simply crawl – then so be it. Crawl away. God is right there with you waiting till you can once again stand and He won’t leave your side.

I promise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Happened To Blog Link Lists?

I like to travel around and visit new blogs from time to time. It’s how I get to know new people and find great new spots to revisit and read.

Lately, when I travel to blogs, I find that most of them don’t have a sidebar link list anymore.  A few years ago, almost every blog carried a list of other blogs they read and linked to. I loved it. If I found a blog I liked, I’d peruse the list, bookmark a few new ones and stop back by. It was a great “recommendation” tool.

I miss seeing those.

Most blogs don’t list other blogs anymore.  Oh yes, some have the “badge” of a blog or two they follow – but the blog link list? It’s becoming extinct. I’m not sure why that is. Is it because we were trying to clean up our site and they got too cluttered? Is it because it felt like it was too much too maintain and keep up? Or….did we stop visiting other blogs?

It almost seems to me like communication between bloggers has diminished. The interaction has faded somewhat. And I miss that too.

I keep a blog link list. I keep it for myself and no one else – although if you find a great blog on my list, I’m happy to send you there.  But I keep it so I can easily access my favorite blogs to read and visit. Blogs that inspire and motivate me. Bloggers, whom I admire.

I change up my blog list here and there. For me, it’s not hard to do. I just visit a blog on there that I haven’t visited in awhile and see if their content still engages me. If not, or if they have stopped blogging frequently – I delete them. It makes room for me to always add new bloggers, for I’m always open to finding great new reads….and new friends. 

The internet has become such an easy tool at our fingertips. I hope that we don’t step away from the fact that we can still connect with one another. It’s still valued and it’s still needed.

Blogging isn’t just about views, hits, or branding
. It’s about people. It’s about relationships. 

I pray the relationship-building that used to occur online between bloggers doesn’t disappear like the blog listing has. I hope we don’t get so focused on promoting ourselves that we forget to build and engage others out there too.  For there are many women out there who may be just the friend we needed to meet.

And I think there is room for everyone.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Never Out Of His Vision

Sometimes we feel like we are about to be devoured by "lions" of the world - eager to tear us apart. But if we are God's children, God (OUR lion) will protect us and look out for us until we have reached the place He has designed for us. We underestimate His power and His love for us.

There are times where we may need to be warriors, sometimes we need to be protected, and other times - we are simply on a journey.

But we are never alone - and never out of His vision.

Friday, January 18, 2013

When You Just Want To Yell At Life

There are days when you just want to yell at life. You want to yell at people.  When you see someone diagnosed with an illness and all of a sudden everyone comes out of the woodwork to help and love on that person. You want to yell… “Where were you last month? Why didn’t you love on this person when they were well?”

You decide to move and all of a sudden everyone acts like you will be sorely missed and they are devastated – yet  you felt so ignored before.

Your child is taken advantage of – again. Because they have a kind heart and people use it.

You just want to yell. Yes?  I know I do at times! I just want to yell at life for not showing up when it should have.

To read the rest - please go here.... as I'm guest posting over at Laurie Wallin's blog today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When They Start To Drive

My oldest daughter is learning to drive.

Be still my heart.

I’ve always been a very protective mom. I don’t let my kids have sleepovers unless I know the parents. Heck, I don’t even let them ride with parents I don’t know!

I’m cautious. Careful. Intentional. Wary.

I’m the kind of parent that goes over “what if” scenarios with them like, “What would you do if you were in class at school and someone came in with a gun and started shooting?” Things like that.

I do it out of my great love for them. They are a part of me. I also do it because, let’s face it; in a way I think I can protect them from the pain and trauma of the world. At least, that’s the goal. 

But now – now driving enters the picture. And I know I can’t ride with them for the rest of their life. I can’t make every decision for them.

I have to start letting go.

It’s painful. It’s stressful. 

The easing up of my own responsibilities in their life is welcome in a way. But it’s also sad. For I know the risk is greater for them as they test out their own limits, thoughts, and boundaries in life.

And I have to let them.

I think being a parent is the only job in the world where your soul goal is to not be needed anymore. To work yourself out of a job. To do so well, that your kids are confident, safe, and successful on their own.

But I still will not be one of those parents that just immediately releases their child to their own car. I will have to let that rope extend out slowly. Methodically.

I know what can happen in a car. I’ve made my own mistakes driving. I’ve had near-misses and close calls that have taken my breath away at the “almost.”

I’ve had friends die in car accidents. I’ve seen.

So with my priceless children? This is going to be a tough phase of life. Even when they do start driving on their own; my nerves and my fears will climb to try to take over my heart and mind.

This is the first test of release. Trusting the job you’ve done with your children. Trusting their judgment and their honesty when they are out driving.

Trusting God. Knowing He has all the control even when you feel it slipping from your own hands.

Yes, my child is ready to start driving. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s life changing for her – and for me.

But ultimately, it will show just how much I trust God with one of the things I value more than anything else in this world.  My child.

Monday, January 14, 2013

No One Wants To Feel Alone (in)RL 2013

No one wants to feel alone. And as great as online friendships and comraderies are - they can never replace REAL LIFE friendships.  

Nothing can replace a REAL LIFE hug. Nothing can replace a REAL LIFE smile or the nod of a friend who is resonating with your heart.

We need each other and we were created to be there for one REAL LIFE.

The (In)courage Community (who I've been blessed to guest post for) is excited to open registration for (in)RL 2013. It's a way for you to meet together with other women in your area and share in REAL LIFE.

Just go to register. Everyone who registers today (Monday - January 14th) gets a Dayspring (In)Courage brightener while supplies last. And EVERYONE who signs up will get a copy of their new ebook - “Best of the Beach House 2012.”

Sometimes walking away from community may seem easy - but the benefits of getting plugged in often give you the freedom and fullness your heart truly seeks.

So take a chance on the women around you and take a chance on yourself. You may just find the best friend you've always been looking for!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Love Me For Me

Have you ever felt like everyone puts a certain kind of label on you? A label that makes you feel like you have to be who they think you are? The one that makes you feel like you live inside a box at times?  Sometimes, I just want to run away from that feeling. I just want to physically run away for awhile.

I get tired of being nice.

I get tired of defending myself.

I get tired of the expectations placed on me.

Sometimes, I just want to feel like others love me for ME.

I think that’s why people love cats and dogs so much. They feel free to love them without needing to give much more than that. Animals don’t require too much of you except their basic needs. They just freely love you. When you are in a bad mood, they love you. When you are sad, they love you. When you are happy and excited, they love you. They just love to be with you.

Why can’t more people be like that? Why can’t they overlook the bad days? Why can’t they forgive more readily? Why can’t people see all the good in your heart and realize you are an imperfect person living out an imperfect life?

I think there are a lot of people out there who feel tired of the expectations placed on them at times. They feel tired of defending their actions and they are tired of being nice. They just want to feel loved for who they are. Flaws, failures, inadequacies, shortcomings…all of it.

They don’t want to be hassled about what they DON’T do. They don’t want to be reminded of who they AREN’T.

Chances are, they already know all of that. Chances are, they may even be trying to work on a lot of it.

They just want to be loved for who they are.

Thank heavens I have a heavenly Father who loves me for me. He loves me when my pride is stubborn and refuses to budge an inch. He loves me when I dwell on things that upset me. He loves me when I’m crying over my hurts or when I’m giddy with excitement of my joys.

He just loves me. ALL of me.

He loves me when I’m wearing a retainer at night and He loves me when I sweat. He loves me because He can see who I’m becoming. He sees the me that no one else sees.  He sees the beautiful me after the rough part of me is molded, chiseled, and polished away. He sees the end product of me.

Oh if only I could love others like that. And if only they could love me like that. Love me for me.

What a better place this would be.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Faith and Fashion

I try to be fashionable. Not expensive fashionable. I am a stay at home mom afterall. But trendy fashionable.  I like to shop and I like new clothes, if I’m honest.

Sometimes people don’t view me as a lover of shopping and fashion. I don’t think it’s because of how I look – but rather, how I portray my love for it.  Let me explain.

I am very frugal. I have this dollar amount that I’ve hidden in my heart that I try to never go over when I’m shopping for clothes. This goes for me and for my family, if I’m shopping for them. It’s $15. I rarely purchase clothes that are over $15.

And I think my kids and their friends would still consider me fairly trendy.

How do I do it? I shop deals and sales. It’s as simple as that.

I have a few stores that I stop in pretty regularly because I know they have sales more frequently. But I also visit all kinds and types of retail stores because you never know when you will hit upon an amazing sale.

My faith means everything to me. And it doesn’t stop when it comes to my views on fashion and shopping.  To me, a Proverbs 31 lady is wise with her money. She doesn’t throw it around wastefully. And to be honest, I don’t have a lot of excess money to throw around! I’m raising two daughters who also love fashion and shopping, so we have to be intentional and wise as we shop. We have to spread our money out between the three of us when buying clothes, makeup, and accessories.

My faith also plays a big part in WHAT fashion is purchased. I like to stay fairly trendy even though I’m 41 –but there are certain things that I won’t purchase because of my faith in God. I won’t wear low cut blouses or shirts unless I can wear a tank top or something else underneath them. I won’t wear short shorts.  But also at 41, no one wants to see me in short shorts!!  I won’t shop at Abercrombie and Fitch because I don’t like their advertising campaign. 

It’s my faith blended in with my life. It plays a big role in my fashion. My faith isn’t put up on a shelf only for Sundays or when I type on my blog. It’s infused in my life.

How does your faith affect how you shop? How does it impact how fashionable you are or aren’t? You know, I don’t believe that God places this great emphasis on fashion. But I also see that I am His representative. I am proud of that and I want to represent Him well. That means trying to be well dressed and maintain a good image.

So yes, I do love to shop and I do love fashion. Even though I’m very frugal and try to be wise.  That’s just a part of who I am. Because I love my God and He affects everything I do.  Even my shopping.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In The Best Interest of Our Kids

Sometimes life is very unfair. It hurts when it happens to me. It’s extra painful when it happens to my kids.

The Mama Bear in me wants to fight. For there are so many injustices that I feel I’ve already let go. Sometimes I feel like I’ve just had enough and I’m ready to raise my claws and fight for what’s right.

Have you ever felt that way?  If you’re a mom, I’d almost guarantee it.

The thing is – in retrospect; sometimes I wonder if I was really fighting for what I felt was right or if I was simply pouting.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes pouting is justified. For a brief period. Life can dish out some raw deals. It can be very lopsided at times and it hurts. But what if I pout so much so that I miss what it is that God is trying to show me through the unfairness? What if my child misses what He’s trying to show them because of my interference?

It’s excruciating to let your child go through heartache in order for them to be better people. Sometimes they need to be humbled, embarrassed, or even need to feel lonely in order to get a message from God. In order to become less proud, kinder, or more empathetic to others.

I want my children to become all that they can be for the Lord. Of course I’d prefer it if they could be all they could be WITHOUT all the tough lessons involved. But it doesn’t work that way. I wish it did.

My job is to let God do His job. And sometimes I can just get in the way. I hold my kids so tightly in my heart and in my arms. It’s hard to see clearly at times. It’s hard to understand how something so clearly wrong could be for their benefit. But it can. If I’ve placed Him as the authority in their lives – it truly can.

There are some things of course, that we need to step up and take on on behalf of our kids. Some things physically, spiritually, or emotionally could harm them. These things are where God calls us into battle and we should be ready to get our armor on. But those other things – those things where we tend to snivel a bit and pout because it just wasn’t “fair”…those are the tough things that we have to get on our knees and ask God to help us let go and let Him take over.

In the best interest of our kids.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

He Gets Me

Isn't it great that when we feel like the rest of the world doesn't understand who we really are ~ that God does? God gets it. He gets who we are, what our heart's desires are, how we hurt, how we love, where we want to head in life, and how we battle our own fears and failures. He gets it all.

He loves us in spite of it all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Just As It Should Be

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
Proverbs 16:3

Committing our daily endeavors to the Lord is an easy thing to forget and overlook.  It’s easy to forget that we can pray with our kiddos over their schoolwork and commit that to the Lord in prayer.

It’s easy to forget that God cares about the things we care about; even the small things. The housework that needs to get done, the groceries that need to be bought, and the time we want to invest in our marriage and our friendships.

We don’t even give it another thought when we plan a vacation or look to buy a new home. A new car purchase can be stressed over…but is it prayed over?

God cares about it all. He wants us to seek Him in it ALL.

I think sometimes the things in our life are harder than they ought to be. We stress over making right decisions when the only right decision should be to lay it before the Lord and believe that He will guide us and not lead us astray.

It’s so natural and easy for us to try and control too much – only giving God the leftovers.

Commit to the Lord WHATEVER you do. That means the cupcakes you planned to make for your child’s class party, the table you are leading at Bible Study, or the new dress you are purchasing. Commit it all to Him.

And your plans will succeed. They will work out. It is His promise to us. Everything will fall into place just as it should be because our priorities were placed in the right hands. With the right person. At the right time. They may not succeed how we think they should, but they will work out according to God’s perfect plan for our lives.

“Oh Lord, I’m so guilty of storming ahead on my own willpower with my own agenda. Never including you in my plans. Please forgive me. Help me be aware of your presence and caring in my life. Remind me that you’re ever-present and ever-watchful in my life, caring about even the tiniest of details. Help me consult you FIRST and commit everything I do – to you. Help me hand it over. The big, the small, the important and the not-so-important.

I love you. I live for you. I believe in you.

I want my plans to succeed. And I want to know that they only succeeded because I submitted my will – to Yours.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What Doesn't Kill You....Makes You What, Exactly?

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  We’ve all heard that saying. Yes?? 

I saw a post on facebook one day where someone talked about that quote and how it wasn’t necessarily true. They said that challenges and hardships in life don’t necessarily make you stronger just because you simply survive them. It’s a CHOICE to be stronger.

And I found that to be so true.

How easily we have bought into a lie. Thinking that just because we survive something or tough it out, we will be stronger for it. When in reality, a lot of times, we are weaker simply because we never made the choice to be better and stronger. 

We stay back “there” in that moment. We relive it. We dwell on it. We let it shape us. And before we know it, we stay sitting there forever…as a victim.  We certainly aren’t stronger.

We are broken.

The people who are strong in life, are strong because they chose not to be weak. It doesn’t matter what they are going through. Strength and weakness isn’t just about physical strength. It’s about emotional and spiritual strength.  It’s about choosing to let a moment either not define you at all, or define you in a different and better way than it was intended for.

For most people, others aren’t going to come in and rescue you. YOU have to rescue yourself. By reaching out and by reaching in. Reach out for help. Bury your pride and acknowledge that you need help. Reach in and do some serious talking to yourself. Pray. Read God’s Word and let HIM enter the picture if you’ve previously shut Him out or simply left Him on a shelf; only to grab Him when you want Him.

Life is crummy sometimes. The unthinkable happens. The dreams are shattered. We hurt. But we can stay used and abused or we can use IT to our advantage. Let it build us, shape us, and grow us into better, wiser, and stronger people.

Bethany Hamilton was bit by a shark and lost her arm. She could have quickly lost herself in despair and given up her dream. But she chose not to be weak but to let God help her be strong. Inspiring millions.

I know of several Christian speakers and authors who were abused as children. They could have let that dictate their lives. Instead, they turned it into a ministry.

What doesn’t kill you…well, it won’t kill you. It’s up to you to decide if it will make you weaker and stronger.

Which one will you choose?