Are You Ready To Be Held?

Today has been a rough one. Today, like every day for the past week, my three year old cherub-faced boy has thrown a tantrum of epic proportions. We are in a season of screaming, and foot stomping that lasts longer than I have energy or patience for. Today, the trigger was simply that his shoes weren’t tight enough, and though I offered to tighten them, the screaming that ensued lasted forty-five minutes. FORTY.FIVE. During these explosions of feelings too large for my little guy to handle, I try my best to remain calm, and do what I can to make my way through the blood curdling screams without screaming myself.

Anyone that complains about the terrible twos has only one child that has not yet become three. Somewhere between the screaming and stomping he calmed enough for me to ask him a question.
“Are you ready to be held?” I asked, and inwardly winced, bracing myself for his response. As I asked the question though, I felt God ask me the same. You see, I’ve spent the last… I don’t know how long, trying to do all the things. I want to go to bed every night knowing my children feel loved, and my family feels supported. I want a clean house. I want approval. I want to feel accomplished. At my deepest core, I’m a people pleaser- and a God pleaser- constantly working to earn my place in their hearts. Maybe you can relate.

It’s not something I consciously do- and you probably don’t either. It’s the small voice in my mind telling me that the laundry should have been put away already, and the floor mopped. It’s the voice that tells me if I had just tried harder, things in just about every failed scenario I can think of would be different. It’s the grace that I strip from myself, believing I don’t deserve it- even if Jesus died for it.

It’s futile to try and earn favor with God, when we already have it. We are righteous in Him. Forgiven. Free. You probably know this. I know this. Our places in the Father’s heart are secure and unchangeable. And yet…my head continues to wrestle with the unspoken belief that if I just do more- for Him, for everyone- that my worth somehow increases. Oh, with my mouth I’ll tell you that Jesus did all the work on the cross. I’ll nod my head and tell you how confident I am of this- because I AM confident of this. In my day to day life though? I still try to earn it.

So today, I’ve decided to stop stomping my feet and screaming that I can do it all- that I can earn my way into the good graces of Jesus, because I’m already there. Today, I’m going to rest in His arms, and be held. Because today, I’m ready- and just as I stood waiting with my arms outstretched for my sweet boy to come running, I know He’s waiting for me to do the same. He’s ready for you too. Are you ready to be held?

 

Friends- would you do me a favor? If you feel like this post helped you, or that it might help someone else, would you share it on Facebook or your social media accounts? It’s an honor to serve you in this way, as always, and my prayer is that somehow, my words are a blessing to you.

5 Ways to Trust God More

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between faith and trust. Some might say they’re actually the same thing- and I wouldn’t have a very strong argument against that. I’ve been thinking, though, about how easy it is to extend prayers, confessing our faith in God- while still harboring an inner lack of trust that He will do what we ask- or even what’s for our own good.

Do you ever struggle with this? Sometimes I pray about something – because I have complete faith that God exists and loves His children- but after I say my silent “Amen” it’s as though my brain somehow still feels responsible to solve the very problem I’ve just supposedly left in the hands of Jesus. It’s so hard to let it go, isn’t it? To walk away from our deepest unspoken desires, and trust that they are safe where we’ve left them- with the One who placed those desires in our hearts to begin with in the first place (If they align with His will and Word).

I’m beginning to think that though faith and trust are very much related- if we aren’t careful, the two might not exist together as they were meant to. Not only do we need to have faith (even if it’s small), that God exists, He is good, and He loves us- but we also need to trust that He will keep His promises, His love is unconditional, and He is faithful. The Bible frequently mentions the word trust, the Lord’s trustworthiness, and that we are to trust Him. In God’s word, trust and faith are mentioned separately- because they offer us different things, I think. The word faith often feels general, while trust is specific, and intimate. When we truly trust that He will do what He says- it communicates the level of intimacy in our relationship with Jesus, doesn’t it? Any good relationship with those we love involves a deep level of trust.

How about you? Have you noticed a difference between having faith and truly trusting God? What does that look like in your own life?

Here are some ways I focus on trusting God:

  • Reading the Bible, every day- and researching any questions about the text that come up as I go.
  • Reflecting on all of the times Jesus has been faithful in my life in the past (He hasn’t failed me yet).
  • Getting honest with Jesus about my lack of trust, and repenting for it.
  • Thanking God for all of His goodness, and all of the blessings He’s given me and those I love, while thanking Him also for what He will do in the future.
  • Getting specific with God about what I fear, where I struggle, and how I need Him desperately.

I would love to hear about how you place your trust in Christ more every day- are there actions you take to re-center your trust in Him? Talk to me in the comments!

 

Give Your Kids- and Yourself A Break

You guys- life is hard. Parenting is hard. So many things in this world feel heavy right now- maybe heavier than they’ve ever felt before. When I was given the opportunity to help spread the word about my dear friend Kim Fredrickson‘s new book, Give Your Kids A Break, I jumped at the chance. Kim’s been a marriage and family therapist for more than 30 years, and she’s now facing a terminal illness. With no grandchildren of her own yet, she wanted to find a way to offer her children her timeless parenting wisdom that she might not be able to offer otherwise.

And so, she wrote this incredible book. It’s so full of wonderful and practical advice that Kim has clearly used and offered to parents in her counseling practice for years. Kim gives us real and tangible ways to extend compassion in not only the way we parent, but in the way we deal with ourselves. We can be so quick to judge the way we do just about everything- and to find a way out of that would feel a whole lot like a sigh of relief, wouldn’t it?

I’m so grateful she decided to offer this to the public, and not keep it hidden within her own family instead. Now, we can all benefit from her gentle guidance- and happy families and children will be the legacy she is known for.

If you’d like to order the book for yourself, you can get a copy here. The Kindle version is only $2.99! I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Kim’s accomplishment of recording her incredible knowledge for all of us- I’m so grateful. What would it look like to have more compassion for your kids- and for yourself?

Where is God

This is Where God is When Bad Things Happen

Two months ago I stood in the hallway of a hospital and heard earth-shattering news about my mother’s health. In all of the times I had imagined receiving such news, about anyone close to me, I never imagined the reaction that I actually had: peace. When fear began to eat away at the edges of the serenity Christ encircled me with, there He was again- pushing back the fear with His embrace, in the way only He can. There was pain, there was discomfort, there was uncertainty- and there was also the divine intervention of a Savior calming the storm within that none of us saw coming.

In our minds we often imagine unexpected or gut wrenching situations to knock us off our feet, to create chaos in our lives past the point of no return. The truth is, though, that in our tragic imaginings, we make the mistake of forgetting His faithfulness in the midst of heartbreak- His nearness in the center of pain. Our imaginations simply cannot conceive of His extravagant love that casts out fear and gives light in the darkest of nights. A love that rushes to comfort, to fill the cracks in a freshly broken heart.

My own faith is fraught with fragility, even when it masquerades as certain. My human tendencies forget the reality of God on a much too regular basis and I’m in desperate need of daily reminders that His grace, His presence, His love- are all more real than even the next breath I take. In stark contrast to my often fickle, forgetful faith, His faithfulness is abounding, unfailing, and trust-worthy.

Where is God when you need him most?

In those moments that feel hopeless and void of any kind of joy- He is near. When the phone call comes that brings you to your knees-He is near. In the dark of night when you lay awake imagining the worst is to come- He is near. His perfect love does indeed cast out all fear- we need only remember it’s presence. It goes ahead and behind, and circles back to cover us head to toe, so that we never ever walk alone. There is nowhere we go that He has not been- leaving peace in His wake, promise in His presence.

Allow yourself to feel the peace that His presence encircles you with. He’s enough for every struggle, and He is near.

How to Overcome Anxiety

 

 

Anxiety is as much a part of life as breathing for some of us, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be. In fact, God never planned for it to be a part of our lives at all. This week I’m over at Moretobe.com talking about 5 tools I use to overcome anxiety in every day life.

An excerpt from Moretobe.com:

As I sat in the car, clammy handed, dry mouthed, and sick to my stomach with dread, I found myself left with the task of forcing myself out of the car and putting one foot in front of the other all the way into that dentist chair I loathed thinking about. The thing is, when you come to the end of your own strength, your own willpower, and your own ability, all that’s left is Jesus. And He’s enough. Here’s what I did and how you can connect with Him to face your fear in peace and find your courage”read more.

My prayer is that when you come face to face with your anxiety, that you also come face to face with your faith…and the reality that Jesus is enough, always.

Blessings,

3 Ways to Be Patient When Waiting Is Hard

My five year old spit the chewed blueberry on the dusty ground in disgust. “Yuck, this one’s sour!” I glanced to the ground where the chewed berry fell. “That’s why we only pick the blue ones, Buddy- we can’t pick them before God says it’s time.” We continued to walk the acres of green fields blanketed in blue sky, lined with endless blueberry bushes. Most of the berries still hung green on the branches, so we spent the morning carefully separating those ripe enough for picking from the majority that weren’t.

We left with blue-stained fingers and satisfaction with our half-filled bucket of berries. They were hard-won, as most things worth having are. On the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we can’t rush God’s hand. Berries won’t turn blue without the warmth of the sun, and our own plans and desires won’t come to fruition without the hand of God opening the doors ahead of us. And this is exactly as we should want it. Just as a berry picked before it’s prime tastes sour, so do any achievements without the blessing of God.

be patient

 

So what do we do in the waiting, when our hand feels tempted to pry the green fruit from its branch before He says it’s time?

We go to Him

Yes, He knows the desires of your heart. He is the God who sees, after all. Even when it feels awkward to bring your request to Him one more time, lay it at His feet, once again. God doesn’t tire of hearing your voice, your thoughts, your dreams. Confess your temptation to rush things, to take control- and then set that at His feet as well. Our first response should always be to run to His open arms, and confess our desperate need for Him to take the reins in our lives- because we will surely make a mess of it sooner or later. We don’t want to go where He isn’t- and so even when patience is difficult, we wait.

prayer 3 ways to be patient

We do our part

Sometimes I think we expect to play no role in His will in our lives- especially if it’s concerning something we really want. When we really desire something, it can feel a little self-serving to take action to make it happen. We fear we’ve made it about us, and not His will, and so we sit on our hands and wait for the miracle to arrive- whether it’s a job, healing, or finding direction- if He wants us to have it, it will happen, right? While this is true, I also think we need to understand that He moves in all things,and in unexpected ways. While He might heal you of your health condition miraculously, the miracle might also be found in a book that He leads you to that provides a path to healing. Sometimes, the miraculous looks ordinary.

3 ways to be patient

We worship while we wait

Though this sounds a bit Snow White-ish, those dwarves were onto something when they sang about whistling while they worked. Worshiping in the waiting is one way we can not only draw near to God during the difficult act of being patient, but it’s also the only way we will obtain the strength we need to do it. Instead of growing bitter or resentful as you see friends and family achieving their goals (even if they’re the same as yours!), ask God to give you eyes that see through the lens of gratitude for all the things He’s given you, and to not have a laser focus on those He hasn’t.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient.– James 5:7-8

 

What Butterflies Teach Us About God

 

I saw the yellow monarch climbing gingerly over blades of grass in our back yard, it’s torn wing catching on each blade as it made the unending journey to the side of the yard. As incredibly beautiful as butterflies are, they are equally fragile. It happened over a year ago, and yet I can recall that spring day as if it were yesterday. Our cat most likely attacked it, as she was known to be quite successful in her attempts to catch winged things. I gently explained to my boys that we needed to help the hurt butterfly, and they needed to stand back, as I began researching on my phone how to help the insect best.

The wonders of the internet told me that I could, in fact, mend its torn wings with tape and a lot of patience. I was willing to try. I gathered it into a plastic box and brought it inside. It was clearly exhausted from trying to survive in the wilderness of a backyard. Butterflies were meant to spend their time flying, not climbing. I put sugar water in front of it, and coaxed it’s long tube-like tongue down into the liquid. It drank a little but continued to sit, stunned and tired.

I cut the piece of scotch tape knowing that my efforts would most likely be useless. I carefully aligned the tape with the edge of its paper-thin wing, and pressed softly. My hands felt huge and cumbersome for such a delicate task. I then carefully cut away the excess, leaving the wing with no visible holes. From the moment I put the scissors down, I knew that my solution would not be a success. The monarch’s wing fell to rest at the floor of the plastic tub. The tape was simply too heavy, and the butterfly would not be able to fly with it. Tape was no replacement for a gossamer wing.

Being the sensitive soul that I am, and wanting to shield my boys from the truth, I asked my husband to take the butterfly outside in the box, and then check on it the next morning before he left for work. I asked him to take care of it, if it didn’t pull through. I know this sounds silly to some- caring so much for an insect, but in those moments of coaxing this gorgeous creature to drink, and watching her struggle against nature to survive, I became invested in this tiny life, and hoped for a miracle.

The next day my husband took care of the butterfly’s lifeless body, and I began thinking about what this experience had shown me. I came away with this: There are some things that only God can do. With all of the knowledge we’ve been given or work to acquire, the bottom line of it all is that some things in life cannot be explained by human minds or fixed by human hands.

Maybe you’ve been given a diagnosis that has shaken your faith to its core. Perhaps you’ve been begging for healing, and the doctors have no answers to offer. Maybe you’re waiting for a job offer, and it’s looking hopeless. You might be fighting an internal battle that no one else can see, but God. Can I tell you something? He sees you. He hears you. He knows you.

The very same God that dreamed a butterfly wing into creation, is the same God that knit you in your mother’s womb. He knows you so intricately, so intimately, that every hair on your head is numbered. You are personal to Him. You’re not a barcoded mass produced product. You’re his child. Human knowledge and effort will fail. We are flawed. We try to fly with our own taped wings, burdened by the weight of this world. He, however, never fails. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

I urge you to seek Him first even in the things you think you can fix yourself. He wants us to go to Him first, in all things. Don’t wait until you’ve come to the end of your abilities to reach out to Him for His. He is able to do ALL things. Ask Him to work through you, for His purpose, and you’ll have the power of the One who created the universe guiding your hands and mind in this world.

Butterflies aren’t meant to fly with taped wings, and you aren’t meant to depend on your own power. Your dependence on God isn’t weakness, it’s your greatest strength.

 

When You Feel Broken-Consider This

It probably comes as no surprise to those that know me, that I love sea glass. When I find a piece along the beach, I can’t help but pick it up and wonder about the journey it’s taken in its lifetime. Edges worn smooth over decades of rolling through water and against rough sands, sea glass has a thing or two to teach us about our own journeys in life. I did some research about the process a piece of glass tossed in ocean waters goes through, and what I found actually shocked me.

As the glass is broken down by the salt water, it becomes more and more like a gem stone. In fact, the gemstone classifications that apply to diamonds, are also applied to pieces of sea glass- only in reverse. Sea glass is considered more beautiful if it contains impurities such as pitting and frosting.

The very things that cause damage are also the things that make it the most beautiful in time. The endless tossing in relentless waves creates a harsh environment to be immersed in, day in, day out. What was once a bottle, recognizable for its value to all who held it, is now broken and useless. Salt water erodes the glass pieces, creating smooth edges that replace the jagged and harmful. Pits are formed in the glass when the very ingredients used to make it are released from the glass, leaving shallow craters behind.

Isn’t it the same with us? We are thrown into situations that feel harsh and abrasive. Rough waters threaten to break us down completely, leaving their mark behind. We are forced to let go of what can feel like the very things that once made us complete, as we surrender to this new sense of normal. The salt of change can sting, and we wonder if we will ever reach shore- and if we do- what will we have to offer? Are we still valuable in this new form?

The answer of course, is YES. Our value to Christ is not dependent on our abilities, appearances, or perceptions- thank God. Our value in the storm, and after the storm, is the same as it was before the storm. The love of Jesus is unchanging, unwavering, and unshakeable.

What we have to offer this world is only increased by the rough waters of life. Our ability to minister to others is made beautiful by our own times of pain, wrestling through waves of change and grief- our moments of brushing against sand that chafes but also smoothes our jagged edges. We are made beautiful too, if we allow ourselves to be refined in rough seasons that threaten to break us down. 

So friend, the next time you find yourself tossed about by a situation you didn’t ask for- consider the beauty that is created in the refining of rough waters. You may feel broken- but you still have value and purpose. He’s not going to leave you floating in the waves forever. You will reach the shore, and the beauty in your imperfections will be admired and used by the One that loves without condition.

 

When Independence Feels Like Isolation

He stomps his foot and scrunches his brow into a tight crinkle. “I DO IT MYSELF.” I quietly shift my weight down to one knee to get on his level and ask gently, “Can Mama help?” His determination grows fiercer with my question, and he again replies, “NO. I DO IT MYSELF. ME. I DO IT!”  His chubby fingers pinch the zipper pull of his Spiderman jacket until his fingernails whiten as he yanks harder and harder to unzip the jacket. It won’t budge. I know that he will eventually need my help, so I stand up, sigh, and wait. I busy myself in the kitchen, silently counting down to the inevitable wail that is sure to come. 3…2…”HELP ME NOW MAMA! IT’S STUCK!” When I get to him I can see beads of sweat have formed on his forehead, outward signs of the effort to outgrow a need for me. It’s hard work being two. I reach for his zipper, and this time he doesn’t pull away. He looks up at me and I can see he feels a mixture of frustration and relief. I free him of his jacket and he thanks me, while toddling off to play.

With my first son, an exchange like this would leave me exasperated- but with the second child comes understanding (and a little exasperation, let’s be honest). I know that the independence my boy is seeking is not only normal, but necessary. He’s learning that he can do some things alone- and for others, he still needs help.

It made me wonder, though, how often do we do this to God? How often do we tell Him NO. I’ll do this myself. ME. I imagine He does the same thing for us that I did with my child- surely He knows the inevitable wail for help is coming, and He patiently waits. He waits for us to try and try- for our hands to grow tired, for the beads of sweat to appear on our brows- He waits until we are ready to admit we can’t do it alone. How long this process takes is really up to us. He’s always ready to help. And even though I know this- really know this- I still find myself forcing a solution to a problem I can’t fix on my own, time after time. Our independence can build an isolation from God that was never meant to exist.

Our need to do it ourselves stems from what? Are we so brazen to demand that we receive credit for a job well done when none of it was ours to begin with? All we have is His. The internal fight for control between us and our Creator will never amount to more than tired arms and defeated surrender. I don’t believe our Father wants us to surrender in  frustrated defeat, nor does He take joy in our weakness. Gloating about my ability to remove my little one’s jacket with ease was the last thing on my mind. I was simply glad he was free. Happy to assist him so he could do what he desired. I believe God wants us to surrender in humility, with gratitude that He is able.

So the next time you feel the beads of sweat building and the strain to be independent wearing down your strength- ask Him to help. Our weakness is His strength- and He’s waiting.

When God Says Let Go

If the title above makes you uncomfortable- maybe a little twitchy, like you need to stretch a bit- you’re who I’m writing this for. Five years ago I handed in my resignation and walked away from a beloved teaching career. After giving birth to my first son who happened to have an extreme dairy sensitivity, it made sense to take some time away and be at home with my boy. I looked forward to being a stay at home mom, but I could never have foreseen the loss I would feel. At the time, I quietly fought the decision like a wild animal caught in a net- writhing within myself, battling it out in my head with self judgment and shame as my weapons of choice. I was blessed to be given the option to stay home with my child- so why was the decision so difficult? I loved my son immeasurably more than a career- so what was the real issue?

God and I had many conversations about giving up my career, and most left me anxious, and wondering why He would ever ask me to give up my career dreams. Motherhood fulfilled me in ways I could never describe, and yet I still felt as though “Teacher” was who I was. Did you catch that? It wasn’t just what I did. It was how I identified myself. It was my identity. 

What I did was not who I was. Whether I was teaching a child to read or scraping sweet potatoes off  our kitchen blinds, my worth remained the same. It took me a very long time to accept this. A. Very. Long. Time. And through it all- every angry prayer I shouted silently, every demand I made knowing that He owed me no response- He patiently waited. He waited until I took off the professional title I defiantly held in a white knuckled grip and wore the one I was meant to wrap myself in: Beloved Daughter of God. Chosen. Cherished.

Have you ever held on when He asked you to let go? Does letting go of a dream feel like letting go of yourself? Let me tell you a secret- He’s actually asking you to find who He’s created you to be.

It can feel like all of the effort you’ve spent achieving a goal, a dream, a relationship, is down the drain- but it isn’t. God uses everything- every-thing- to bring you to where you need to be. My time spent at home with my children is worth more than any credential or title.

It wasn’t a detour- it was placing me on a new and better path. I know that now. Every giggle, every snuggle- and yes, every chicken nugget picked up off the floor, is worthy of my time and my submission to His calling on my life- to stay home, stay near to Him, and reach out to others who may be resisting His call to let go and follow Him.

If He’s asking you to let go- do it. Find your purpose. He’s waiting.