What Happens When We Really Let Go (and a book giveaway!)

 

This mama always eyes me cautiously when I step under our patio cover to take the boys out to play. I smile at her, and wish I could somehow communicate to her how very much I understand her fear, and her overwhelming urge to protect her babies at all costs. The fears of motherhood are universal, and even though I know that I can trust God with my kids, I place them tightly beneath my wings, and cautiously scan the horizon for danger.

With a firm grip on the illusion of control, and a weak grasp of the true depth of God’s love for each of His children, I try with my mortal strength to keep all things in line. It never works, you know. Something will come out of left field almost as if on cue, and smash my illusion of having any sort of control to pieces. What then? I’d like to say I wave the white flag of surrender, throw my hands up to Jesus and give it all to Him, but I don’t.

I stoop low instead, gathering the shattered pieces, and promising myself I’ll just scan the horizon more intently next time, that I’ll be prepared for what comes. We moms sure love this dance with control, don’t we? We cling to it, all the while knowing that we are powerless to control the things we fear the most from happening. So how do we let go, while holding onto the truth of what matters?

My dear friend Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote a book for us. Those of us that just can’t seem to let go, even though we know that the holding on is hurting us (and our families) more than helping. “It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding A Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible(Tyndale Momentum, 2018)” releases today. It’s the answer to our control problem, friends. She gets it, because she’s LIVED it. She’s been where we stand, with a family of her own, that she fiercely loves and yearns to protect.

I know that by now you’re wanting to know where, how, and when can you get this book- I’ve got answers!

You can get it TODAY, here, here, and here.

You can also WIN this book by entering the publisher’s giveaway here. There’s also a companion bible study to the book, that is perfect for your next group, or personal study.

I hope you’ll love this book as much as I do- and you’ll learn like I have, that letting go is sometimes the only way to live the life Jesus intended us to have.

The Price of Parenthood

“How come you and Dad both have old parents?” My six year old asked randomly from the backseat the other night as we drove home. I answered with the first thing that came to mind. “Because they’ve  spent their lives raising your Dad and I,” I said, glancing in the rearview mirror to gauge his response. He smiled and said it made sense. After the small conversation that fit itself into the usual back and forth banter my boys and I have on our drives was over, I began to think about my response.

As parents, we give the best years of our lives to our children. We kiss foreheads and wipe mouths, while crinkles silently form around our eyes, and laugh lines appear around our smiles. Our hands slowly change from smooth and soft, to those with visible veins and freckles- evidence of the work they’ve done out of love every day, and every moment since they first held the weight of a tiny being with heaven-kissed breath. Grey hair appears at a frightening pace, while we feel the weight of gravity tugging a bit harder than it used to. Is this the price of parenthood? Our best years given over to sibling squabbles and scrubbing juice from carpets?

Any parent will tell you that it’s all worth it, even if it costs. The sight of chubby arms reaching high for an embrace, and tiny flat feet padding across the floor to arms waiting wide open are wonders of this life that must be experienced to understand. This love that God has given us to share with our children far surpasses the aches and pains of years passing through aging hands.

And what I’m thinking is, can we really love someone the way Christ loves us, without sacrifice? I don’t believe we can. Jesus’ body bore the scars of love, and ours do, too. We can only pour out for others what has been poured into us by Him. Jesus has given us all we need to love those He’s blessed us with. Love is always worth the cost.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

Only God truly knows what we need as parents- so that’s why I’ve created a FREE printable for you with all of the Bible verses that match the stress-inducing experiences of parenthood! Click here for your free printable, Bible Verses for Stressed Out Moms

8 Fun Summer Kid Activities (Even on a Budget!)

As both a stay-at-home mom, and a work-from-home mom (who also homeschools), I am ALWAYS looking for fun activities to do with the boys that a)don’t make me crazy, b)don’t cost a ton, and c)require very little effort on my part, yet provide entertainment.

Here’s a list of some of our regular go-to activities during the summer that seem to meet all of my goals.

  1. Pick your own produce

Chances are, somewhere around you is a local farm with a U-pick option. We love to go to a local blueberry and strawberry patch. I love this activity, because it’s a benefit for me, too. l get fresh and tasty fruit out of the deal (rather than having to drag my kids through the grocery store), and my kids are entertained, outside, and active. Not to mention, it provides a great lesson about where food comes from, and the hard work it takes to harvest it. Win-win-win!

2. Purge the playroom

things to do with kids

If you’re like me, the place where your toys are stored is a never-ending nightmare. We have bins and crates and all the organizing things- and they are good. HOWEVER- my kids have so many toys that it’s a constant battle to keep things in their place, and to keep up with what they actually play with. SO, purging the playroom is not necessarily a “fun” activity- but it can be made so, if you offer the option of selling boring toys at a weekend yard sale in order to have money to buy the latest and greatest. Donating toys is also a good option, but I’m not going to lie- the yard sale option is a big motivator for my boys to let things go.

3. Check out your local library

fun activities to do with kids

News flash(to no one, really), kids like to be independent. Getting their very own library card, and checking out books they want to read is a BIG DEAL in their little worlds. The benefits of this activity are endless- encouraging a love of reading, taking time to look through and pick out books in an air-conditioned environment, and then the excitement (and sweet quiet moments) of kids curled up with their book picks (hallelujah and amen-I’ve got about 3 minutes to finish this post before the little one finishes his Spider-Man book, so Mama’s gotta hurry).

4. Make slime

slime recipe

This sounds like it’s going to require you to do something, and it will- but not much at all. The simplest recipe I’ve found is only 3 ingredients, and my boys play with it for HOURS each day. They LOVE slime. It’s kind of sticky at first, so I recommend letting it sit uncovered for a day after you mix it up, and then let the games begin.

5. Take a local field trip

activities with kids

Have a local cheese factory? Zoo? Museum? Any parent knows that even a boring trip out is better than sitting home and watching YouTube kids open eggs all day- am I right? Seek out the local opportunities and give them a try! You might be happily surprised!

6. Water balloons

best summer activities with kids

That’s it. Two words. Fill them up, and let them go wild. It’s summer, after all.

7. Have a special dessert each week

Summer activities budget kids

Listen, I have a crazy sweet tooth- and in the summer there’s nothing I love more than baking something fun, having ice cream sundaes with all the toppings, or going out for a treat after dinner. Bed times are a thing of the past- frozen yogurt, sunsets, and sticky toes in flip-flops are where it’s at.

8. Let them figure it out

bored kid summer activity

Yeah, I said it. The joy of childhood is invention and creativity. Though they whine that they are so boooooooored, and there’s nothing to dooooooo- that’s just code for “If you ignore my whining and give me 10 minutes, I’ll figure it out on my own.” So don’t feel guilty if this is your favorite of all my suggestions. It’s mine too.

 

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5 Ways to Feel Less Frumpy As A Stay At Home Mom

Before you get worried, I’m not going to tell you to wear jeans instead of yoga pants. Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief and acknowledge that’s taking this way too far. No, what I’m about to suggest are small ways you can feel pulled together during the day, even as you step on Legos and swear you’ll be donating every toy in the play room next week.

  1. Take the time to do your makeup and hair

I know these might seem like fighting words when you barely have time to shower, but honestly- this works. On the days I don’t bother doing my hair, or swiping on some mascara, I feel more tired and less motivated to do the things that matter.

2. Wear cute earrings

Okay, so if your sweet little ones are around the 6-10 month age group I know that the long dangly earrings that we all love so much are out of the question: they’ll be ripped out of your ears and your baby’s first words won’t be ones you’re proud of. If that’s your situation, find some super cute studs that stand out, and help you to not feel so plain. My stand-by is a pair of silver hoops that go with everything, and even though they aren’t fancy by any means, I feel a bit more polished when I wear them.

3. Only wear clothes you feel cute in

When I first began staying home, I wore whatever lounge clothes I had collected in my college years. My shirts were baggy and shapeless, and my pants were sweats that sell for five dollars without even being on sale. In these clothes I felt as lazy as I looked. Over time, I realized that even if no one saw me, I needed to at least feel good- and I needed to make sure the UPS guy didn’t try to stage an intervention because I looked like I had given up on life. So, I began investing in more fitted lounge and active wear- comfortable enough to do the acrobatics required when raising two boys, and nice enough that if I answered the door, it wasn’t assumed I had checked out of life altogether. My current favorites are some active wear capris I found at Costco- and they have POCKETS. So you know, I’ve basically located the Holy Grail.

4. Take care of your hands

Even though they’ll be doing things like wiping bottoms and washing dishes- take the time to file your nails and even put some polish on them if you’re not like me. I get so annoyed when they chip even a bit that I remove all of it immediately. My solution has been clear polish-my nails look shiny and “done” and I don’t immediately go crazy if it chips because it’s not that noticeable. This is one of those small things that somehow makes a big difference. I haven’t figured out why yet, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

5. Do something just for you

Read the book. Watch the movie. Listen to a podcast. Do something every day that makes you feel connected to the outside world, especially if you’ve got little ones that make going out a chore. You’ll not only feel refreshed, but like you have more of yourself to give to your kids- and that’s the end goal, right?

The bottom line is- put your oxygen mask on first, and you’ll be able to help those that need you most. Raising kids is a marathon, not a sprint- and taking care of ourselves along the way is vital.

I know being a mom is hard work- and in the most draining moments it’s hard to remember what God has to say- That’s why I’ve created a FREE printable download, that has a bible verse for the most difficult moments of motherhood (Kids having a meltdown in Target? Got you covered. Overwhelmed by the housework? It’s in there too). I love to encourage moms on this wild and crazy journey- and I pray this free printable helps you!

When a Dream and Reality Collide: An Announcement

I was sitting on an overstuffed pillow shaped like an elephant in my boys’ playroom, and doing my best Spider-Man impersonation, when my literary agent broke the news that Harvest House Publishers wanted to publish my book. It was one of those moments in life when the world stops turning for just a moment, when the ordinary collides with the extraordinary, and dreams crash into reality. My shaking hand still held the Spider-Man action figure as I stared in disbelief at my phone. This was happening.

I haven’t stopped thanking God for His immeasurable goodness since receiving the call, and I can’t quite stop thinking about how the small steps we take every day toward God’s will in our lives can amount to something more than we could ever dream for ourselves.

I’m writing a book about my transition of leaving behind a beloved career, to become a stay at home parent- and all of the unexpected feelings of loss and grief that accompanied it. It’s been almost seven years since I lived it, and yet that period of time remains etched in my heart. I’m so impassioned to share what I’ve learned with others. There’s a way to walk into this season of motherhood at home that empowers us- and helps us become the mother God planned for us to be, and the mother our children need us to become.

I’m writing about the ways God taught me about His unending love (and patience), when I felt lost and without worth-even as I followed His call. It seems fitting(and also hilarious) that I would be sitting on the floor playing super-heroes with my three-year-old when I received word that this dream God placed in my heart of sharing my story about true identity, loss, and motherhood, was becoming a reality.

I’m holding every mother close in thought as I write, who like me, felt a sense of guilt and a loss of identity when she dove head-first into motherhood at home. You are not forgotten, and you’re going to be more than okay. It’s time to embrace the beauty of this season, of God, and of the dreams that you, too, have hidden in your heart.

If you would like updates about my upcoming book, encouragement, and a behind the scenes look at writing a book (while also perfecting the art of cutting the crust off of sandwiches), please sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Blessings,

The One Thing You Need to Remember in the New Year

I live in a town with one stop light. There’s nothing special about it- nothing remarkable or noteworthy. It’s a simple town made of every day people, and for the most part, we all live our lives in a secluded fashion-so wrapped up with the busyness of life that we rarely live in community the way I wish we did. There’s one thing, or person, though, I should say, that my little town has that warms my heart.

You see, there’s an older man in our neighborhood that cares more about others than just about anyone I’ve seen. He gets to know each family he passes on his daily bike-rides, and makes a special note to remember the names of each child he encounters. During most of the year, he’s just a friendly grandpa type with a long white beard. During Christmas, though? He’s Santa, dressed in red with boots adorned with jingle bells, and he visits each home individually for pictures by Christmas trees. He rides atop a vintage fire truck a week before the 25th of December each year, posing for photos and handing out candy canes. As he holds babies and listens intently to wish lists, he addresses every child he knows by name. 

The look on my kids’ face when Santa wishes them a Merry Christmas followed by their individual names is a thing of beauty. “Santa knows your name, buddy!” I exclaimed as we walked home from our visit to the sparkling old fire truck a couple weeks ago. I was met with an awe-filled silence, my boy’s eyes gleaming and excited. Santa knew his name.

Known. Seen. Remembered. Don’t we all want to feel that way? Rest assured, friend- you are. Jesus knows more than your name. He knows everything about you. Your details. Your quirks. Those things that no one else knows but you- He knows them. He loves you anyway.

As most of us limp instead of sprint into the new year- let’s remember this one thing. We are known by the God of the universe and loved unconditionally from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.

This world (along with social media, let’s be honest) has a way of convincing even the most confident of us that we aren’t getting much right. We aren’t doing enough, our house isn’t nice enough, our wardrobes aren’t stylish enough, the list goes on. So let’s get this one thing straight for 2018- the only thing in this world and the next that matters, is that He knows us, and we know Him. 

Happy New Year, friends. May it be blessed with the ever-present knowledge of who you are in Christ.

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.